Canada Victory: The Supreme Court ruled today that corporations cannot claim “cruel and unusual treatment” and do not have a Charter right to this protection

The Supreme Court ruled today that corporations cannot claim “cruel and unusual treatment” and do not have a Charter right to this protection. This is a victory for human rights. CCLA was an intervenor in the case, arguing that human rights are first and foremost for human beings; human rights should not be available to corporations as a legal tool for maximizing profit.

Cod liver oil, a weapon in the fight against Covid-19? Norwegian scientists expand massive study to find out

Cod liver oil, a weapon in the fight against Covid-19? Norwegian scientists expand massive study to find out
Researchers in Norway are expanding a major ongoing study to determine whether cod liver oil can help fight off Covid-19 or whether those who take the supplement anyway tend to lead healthier lives in general.

Previously, the major national Covid-19 study (‘Koronastudien’) that began this spring, found that cod liver oil users had a lower risk of catching the virus.

“Preliminary data from our ongoing COVID-19 study, Koronastudien, suggest that cod liver oil users may have a reduced risk of COVID-19 and a lower risk of severe disease outcomes if they are infected,” says Arne Søraas, physician-scientist at the Department of Microbiology, Oslo University Hospital.

Now researchers want to expand the study into a “randomized, parallel-group treatment, quadruple masked, two-arm study” to test cod liver oil’s mettle and determine if it can help prevent or reduce both Covid-19 infections as well as other seasonal viral diseases like flu and the common cold.

The research team is calling for 70,000 volunteers to participate, half of whom will be dosed with the cod liver oil and the other given a placebo (corn oil) from November until April next year.

This hypothesis is in line with current prevailing findings in the scientific literature regarding omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, both found in cod liver oil, and how they help prevent respiratory tract infections and Covid-19.

Cod liver oil is one of the few natural sources of vitamin D for most Norwegians, whose dark winters usually limit the body’s natural production of the substance through exposure to sunlight.

The randomized study aims to determine whether cod liver oil might be a cheap but effective weapon that could easily be distributed worldwide with life-saving consequences for limited cost.

The researchers are also hoping to gain further insight into demographic-specific Covid-19 infections and whether cod liver oil doses might be of particular use to certain sections of the population.

“The target group is those who have a vitamin D deficiency. We know that people with darker skin more often have such a deficiency. So it’s very important that the study recruits as many people with a vitamin D deficiency, or with dark skin, so we can see the effects more clearly,” Saumia Shankar, a doctor at Oslo University Hospital, said.

Bolivia’s Government Will Tax Large Fortunes in 2021

  • Bolivian Minister of Economy and Finances Marcelo Montenegro announced in an interview with Bolivian media that the MAS government will place a tax on all large fortunes above 4.3 million dollars.
    Bolivian Minister of Economy and Finances Marcelo Montenegro announced in an interview with Bolivian media that the MAS government will place a tax on all large fortunes above 4.3 million dollars. | Photo: @QuienNoticias
Published 13 November 2020

Bolivia’s government will apply in 2021 a tax on those whose wealth exceeds 30 million Bolivians (about 4.3 million dollars), the Minister of Economy and Finance, Marcelo Montenegro, informed Friday.

In an interview for the Bolivian TV channel UNITEL, the minister said that the newly elected government is working on the scope of this tax, which was announced by the new Bolivian President, Luis Arce, during his political campaign.

Montenegro explained that “it is a tax on large fortunes” and would impact at least 150 people, achieving a potential collection of 100 million Bolivians (14.4 million dollars).

According to the Minister of Economy and Finance, Bolivia is one of the countries in Latin America with a considerably low tax base, meaning tax revenues are minimal.

The tax had been announced by Arce since the beginning of his campaign and was ratified after his victory in the general elections on October 18. However, he clarified that it would be applied to personal assets and not to companies to avoid the private sector’s complications and prevent decapitalization.

Arce has commented that the tax’s purpose is to generate new sources of income from those who have more and give to those who have less.

Financial analyst Luis Ballivián said this Friday to Xinhua that applying a tax on those who have more money would be a wise measure and that it would have, above all, a component of solidarity with the less favored.

A former official with the Central Bank of Bolivia (BCB) considered that such tax would significantly contribute to the country, which faces a deep economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ballivián commented that if the new government’s idea is to capture more income and create a new tax, it would also be prudent to analyze the situation of other sectors that handle large sums of capital.

Trump lost, but racism is alive and infused in U.S. history


Nov 13, 2020

The United States presidential election was a great spectacle. It was also a battle over the nation’s history and its future.

As historians will tell you, how we characterize the past has direct bearing on how we imagine possible futures. What is the vision for a post-Trump America?

In both the lead-up to Nov. 3 and its aftermath, history loomed large. More than 200 scholars of authoritarianism, fascism and populism signed an Open Letter of Concern about the imminent threat to democratic processes and institutions, drawing on histories of past regimes that have curtailed democratic rights and freedoms in moments of instability and unrest.

Fascism historians Ruth Ben-Ghiat and Federico Finchelstein warned that Donald Trump’s narcissism is more than just a character flaw; it is a clarion call to build an authoritarian state. Even in defeat, they argued, strongmen and their followers often continue to undermine institutions — just as Trump appears to be doing following the election with his refusal to accept the results. The answer? See through the rhetoric, exercise caution and remain vigilant.

For others, fascism may not be knocking at the door, but the shock of the 2016 election was not undone by the 2020 results. If anything, the strong showing of the Republican party, despite a platform of xenophobia and hatred, exposed the chasms that divide Americans by race and class.

Trump is reminiscent of far-away strongmen like Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A good portion of the electorate likes what he’s selling anyway. That’s a bitter pill for a country that came of age on pledges of allegiance to fundamental freedoms.

As historian Adam Tooze put it in the Guardian immediately after the election, Trump supporters love “his aggression, and his gleeful slaughter of liberal sacred cows.” Will the defeat of a single politician silence his millions of supporters and change a system rife with inequality and abuse?

People carrying anti-Trump signs gather with the White House seen in the background.
Americans celebrate the election’s outcome outside the White House, in Black Lives Matter Plaza, on Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Changed the playing field

Even in defeat, Trump has already changed the playing field. His linguistic disobedience, alternative facts, lies and media manipulation have given false claims some legitimacy, paving the way for others to carry the baton forward in a politics of hate, recriminations and denial of truth.

Without serious social and electoral reform, the next authoritarian to make a play to lead the U.S. may be much more capable. Trump may have been stopped from his “autocratic attempt,” but the party he transformed has yet to renounce his politics. Trump lost, but Trumpism is alive and well, along with the conditions that propelled him to power in the first place.

Trump supporters carry signs alleging an illegal election
Trump supporters protest outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia on Nov. 8, 2020, a day after the 2020 election was called for Biden. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

At best, the post-election future might be one of regrouping and rebuilding; at worst, there will be more challenges to legal norms and truths by the outgoing president and the Republican Party.

Americans rose to the challenge?

Biden supporters, meanwhile, have tapped into other American pasts. While they acknowledge Trump’s brutalism has been concerning, they saw Americans rising to the challenge, “taking back the conversation” and placing renewed faith in institutions.

They saw glimmers of hope in the record-breaking voter turnout, and in efforts to replace Confederate emblems from state flags and remove racist language from state constitutions.

They revelled in America’s diversity, praising the herculean efforts of African American and Indigenous activists and voters for defeating Trump. But they did so often without recognizing that these same groups had the most to lose from a Republican victory during a global pandemic that hit their communities particularly hard.

Some saw this election as an extension of Civil Rights movement struggles, going so far as to compare Kamala Harris, the vice-president-elect, to Ruby Bridges, the girl who desegregated her Louisiana elementary school. This is a broken democracy, the argument goes, not a defeated one.

Yet American democracy wasn’t under attack simply by the Trump presidency. It has never adequately accounted for minority experiences in the first place.

Trump’s everyday racism is not an aberration. Although it may be extreme, it’s at the core of America’s history.

Tiffany Florvil, a scholar of transnational Black activism, put a fine point on it when she echoed the words of historian Thomas Holt: In the United States, “race lives because it is part and parcel of the means of living.” Racism is woven into the very fabric of American life. It is a feature of American democracy, not any authoritarian aberration.

What this means is the Civil Rights movement is not a thing of the past. It is an ongoing, unfinished project.

Scholars of African American history and law have been saying this for a long time. America’s institutions, economy and media are all built upon a history of what UCLA historian Robin D.G. Kelley has called racial capitalism — a system of exploitation with repercussions into the current day.

As Kimberlé Crenshaw put it in Time magazine, referring to Trump’s directive to all federal agencies to stop anti-bias training to address white privilege:

“It’s an approach to grappling with a history of white supremacy that rejects the belief that what’s in the past is in the past, and that the laws and systems that grow from that past are detached from it.”

America’s past — borne of stolen land, slavery, head taxes and segregation — is evident in the dog whistles of Trump’s rigged election speechciting Detroit and Philadelphia as notoriously corrupt, and the chatter on the far right about the need to turn the election result into a justification for another civil war.

But it also surfaces when Democrats too quickly forget the struggles racialized populations endure to safeguard a democracy that has not always protected them.

Read more: Trump has made America nostalgic again for a past that never existed

All of these facets of America’s past and future are circulating right now as Americans ponder Trump’s exit and whether he will go peacefully.

But the lessons drawn from history should not be solely focused on patterns that repeat themselves; they should also guide us in shaping policy and law.

Only an honest engagement with the full scope of American history, including the crushing role racial inequality has played for generations, will help its citizens imagine an alternative future in which freedom and equality might indeed be possible.

Another 709,000 file for unemployment in the US as evictions resume, food lines grow and job cuts continue

For the 34th straight week in a row, over 700,000 people filed for unemployment in the US according to the Department of Labor’s latest report. The 709,000 state claims coupled with an additional 298,154 initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance brings the weekly total once again to over 1 million new claims.

Nearly 67 million claims have been filed since mid-March as the worst economic crisis to befall the working class in the United States since the Great Depression of the 1930s leaves millions on the brink of destitution. While the 709,000 marks a slight reduction from the previous week’s nearly 755,000 claims, the staggering figure is still three times higher than the pre-pandemic average, exemplifying the ongoing job apocalypse that has decimated workers, particularly in entertainment, hospitality, education and transportation sectors.

People wait for a distribution of food in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, April 18, 2020 [Credit: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File]

Telecommunications giant AT&T, which posted over $42.3 billion in revenue in the third quarter of this year, announced possibly “thousands” of layoffs in North America as part of a “restructure” of its WarnerMedia division this week. A company spokesman declined to state the exact number to the Wall Street Journal but indicated that over 1,000, and up to 2,000, out of the company’s 25,000 workers will be fired. News of the mass layoffs sent shares of AT&T up nearly 2 percent as the financial oligarchy continues to enrich itself off desperation and death.

Even as layoffs continue, unemployment benefits are expiring for millions. For the week ending Oct. 24, a total of 21,157,111 people were receiving some form of assistance, a drop of roughly 375,000 people from the previous week. While a small number of those dropped off due to finding work, for the majority it is simply a matter of running out of state unemployment benefits which for most is capped at 26 weeks, although several states such as Florida and North Carolina limit the number of regular unemployment payments to a mere 12 weeks.

While the official national unemployment rate is now 6.9 percent—a gross underestimation of the true extent of joblessness—several states are much higher with Hawaii leading the country at 9.9 percent. This is followed by California at 8.9 percent; New Mexico, 8.5 percent; Nevada, 8.2 percent, while Massachusetts is at 7.0 percent. In Los Angeles and Las Vegas, cities heavily reliant on entertainment, travel and dining, the unemployment rate is at 15.1 and 14.8 percent, respectively.

However, a large driver in job losses in Nevada is not just due to the lack of tourism. Previewing the austerity measures teachers and students can expect under a Biden administration, massive cuts in education funding were rammed through a Democratic-controlled legislature and signed by Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak in a special session in July. The $160 million in cuts led to a nearly 20 percent reduction in public education jobs compared to 2019, representing roughly 10,900 fewer teachers and support staff according to the Pew Research Center.

While Nevada has the highest percentage reduction in education jobs out of all US states, nearly every state, except for North Dakota and Utah, recorded year-to-year reductions in public education workers. Pew estimates that overall state and local education employment in the US is down 8.8 percent compared to October the previous year. Florida, West Virginia, New York, Maine and California have all posted double digit percentage reductions in education jobs, with California shedding over 100,000 public education workers compared to the year before.

Officially 25.7 million people are considered “temporarily” laid off, unemployed or have seen a reduction in hours or pay since the pandemic has begun. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that due to job losses and reductions in hours, over 12 million people have lost their employee-based health insurance.

The historic job losses are compounded by the out of control spread of the coronavirus in the US, which is mirrored internationally by capitalist governments that have embraced a genocidal policy of “herd immunity.” Eschewing lockdowns and financial assistance to workers, small businesses and their families, the “back to work” and “back to school” policies championed by Democratic and Republican governors alike have led to over 248,000 deaths in the US while millions of jobs have been lost and will never return.

It has been 15 weeks since unemployed workers last received the $600 enhanced federal unemployment benefit, included as part of the misnamed $2.2 trillion CARES Act Wall Street bailout passed at the end of March. By December 26, two federal programs, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, will expire leaving some 13.6 million workers, an overwhelming majority of whom have already used up their state benefits, with nothing. The end of the year will also see the expiration of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s limited eviction moratorium, although this hasn’t prevented some mayors, like Miami-Dade’s Carlos Gimenez, from resuming evictions, which he announced would begin again today.

In what has become commonplace in the richest country on the planet, food lines continue to snake around blocks in large cities and rural communities alike. The latest Household Pulse survey data collected by the US Census Bureau from October 14–26 found that nearly 11 percent of US adults, 24 million people, reported that their household sometimes or often did not have enough food to eat within the last week, a more than 7 percent increase from the same period last year.

Despite the disastrous situation facing millions of workers and families, through no fault of their own, the US government and the two parties of capital have no plans to pass much needed relief.

“Hopefully we can get past the impasse we’ve had now for four or five months and get serious,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday. McConnell has been appointed by the Trump White House to lead coronavirus relief negotiations during the lame-duck session before inauguration day on January 20.

On Friday, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in between hosting a dinner party for new members of Congress, gave another half-hearted call for “negotiations” with Republicans on a stimulus bill using the $2.2 trillion Heroes Act as the baseline for negotiations. The massive bill was shot down by McConnell months ago and has no chance of being passed, even in a Biden administration.

Their opposition to passing meaningful relief is contrasted with the speed the two parties exhibited in passing funding for the US Postal Service prior to the election, revealing the charade of the so-called “negotiation” process. This same duplicity is echoed in Biden’s declarations to “follow the science” in regards to the pandemic, while refusing to support the closure of non-essential factories and schools to control the spread of the coronavirus. In both cases the response of the Democratic Party is guided by the financial concerns of the ruling class, not the health and safety of the population.

The decisive factor in ending the pandemic and reorganizing society on human need, not private profit, remains the independent intervention of the working class fighting for socialism.

What could go wrong?! US Air Force adds ‘semi-autonomous’ robot dogs to patrols on Florida base (VIDEO)

What could go wrong?! US Air Force adds ‘semi-autonomous’ robot dogs to patrols on Florida base (VIDEO)
A Florida air force base has announced it will become the first US base to add “semi-autonomous robot dogs” to ground security – while stressing the computerized quadrupeds are not meant to replace military working dogs.

A ‘pack’ of four dog-like surveillance robots will soon be patrolling Tyndall Air Force Base, the facility revealed on Friday. The release hinted the Panama City base would merely be “one of the first” to receive four-legged assistance after the creatures were demo’ed in an on-base event earlier this week.

The announcement took pains to note that “while these robots walk on all fours and resemble a dog, they are not intended to replace the military working dogs,” and canines concerned about their jobs need not lie awake at night. Instead, they will “aid in patrolling operations,” allowing flesh-and-blood servicemembers to focus their attention on meatier tasks.

These robot dogs will be used as a force multiplier for enhanced situational awareness by patrolling areas that aren’t desirable for human beings and vehicles,” Jordan Criss, commander of the 325th, said in the statement, bragging that “We are the first unit within the Department of Defense to use this technology for enhanced security patrolling operations.”

The “unmanned ground vehicles” will regularly roam the base with a set patrol path, while supervising humans can intervene and “drive” them with a virtual reality headset if needed to see what the robot is encountering during its travels. “These dogs will be an extra set of eyes and ears while computing large amounts of data at strategic locations” around the base, Criss enthused, adding that a radio attached to the dog will also be able to give orders to nearby personnel.

ALSO ON RT.COM‘Shoot on sight’: Boston Dynamics robot dog spotted out on city street triggers fear — and defensivenessWhile the “dogs” superficially resemble the ‘Spot’ robot sold by Boston Dynamics, which has been deployed in Singapore to enforce social distancing measures during the Covid-19 pandemic and was recently spotted on the streets of Canada, they are actually manufactured by Philadelphia-based Ghost Robotics. Like Spot, Ghost’s “Vision 60” model is ostensibly unarmed, though the company’s CEO told local media they can be souped up with various types of cameras, thermal sensors, even gas-detecting equipment.

Prototypes were deployed in September at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada to provide advance surveillance of an airfield during an Advanced Battle Management System exercise, and have also been used during the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Subterranean Challenge, a competition to use robotics to infiltrate underground military areas.

Despite their apparent peaceful function, the notion of an infrared-equipped autonomous robot dog on the loose is unlikely to put Black Mirror fans’ minds at ease, especially when they start barking orders.

Pandemic puzzle solved as scientists decode why Covid-19 largely spares children

Pandemic puzzle solved as scientists decode why Covid-19 largely spares children
Scientists have unravelled one of the mysteries of Covid-19, why the virus strikes down older people while seeming to leave children untouched. The breakthrough could pave the way for new treatments to combat the pandemic.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center figured out that children have lower levels of a receptor protein that SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes Covid-19 – needs to invade the lungs.

“Our study provides a biologic rationale for why particularly infants and very young children seem to be less likely to either get infected or to have severe disease symptoms,” explained Jennifer Sucre, an assistant professor of pediatrics who led the research.

When a virus particle is inhaled into the lungs, protein ‘spikes’ latch on to the ACE2 receptor, which lies on the surfaces of certain lung cells.

A cellular enzyme produced in mammals called TMPRSS2 then chops up the spike protein, allowing the virus to “break into” the cell by fusing with the cell membrane. After completing the infiltration, the virus then hijacks the cell’s genetic machinery and uses it to replicate itself.

The scientists were inspired to investigate whether the TMPRSS2 enzyme could explain why older people experienced much more severe symptoms than children.

“Our research has always focused on understanding lung development and how infant lungs differ from adult lungs in their vulnerability to injury,” Sucre said. “In this study, we actually took the opposite approach, and were able to see how the developing lung by its differences is protected from SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

In a study carried out on mice, the experts used a technique that can detect the expression of genes in individual cells of lung tissues. This allowed them to track the expression of genes known to be involved in the body’s response to Covid-19 over time.

They found that the gene for the ACE2 receptor was expressed at low levels in the mouse lung. Meanwhile, TMPRSS2 had a striking trajectory of increased expression during development.

The team then carried out an analysis of human lung tissue collected from donors of different ages and found similar results as they had seen in mice. The enzyme that lets the virus break into the cell increases significantly with age.

The boffins believe that the enzyme could be utilized in treating people who contract the virus and as a means of preventing high-risk people from being exposed.

G77, China call for immediate lifting of sanctions against Iran


US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

Representatives of the Group of 77 at the United Nations and China participate in a meeting in Santa Cruz, Bolivia in 2014.

The Group of 77 (G77) and China have highlighted the negative effects of unilateral sanctions on the Iranian nation’s prosperity, calling for the lifting of the inhumane measures as soon as possible.

In a declaration issued on Thursday, the foreign ministers of the coalition of 134 developing countries plus China expressed their objection to the anti-Iran sanctions.

The statement followed the 44th annual meeting of the group, which was held via virtual platform.

“The Ministers reaffirmed their rejection of the unilateral economic sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran, which have a negative impact on the development and prosperity of the people of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and in this regard called for an immediate lifting of those sanctions,” the declaration read.

Iran has been under a series of illegal sanctions imposed by the US since 2018, when President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The US unleashed the so-called maximum pressure campaign and targeted the Iranian nation with the “toughest ever” restrictive measures.

In recent months, Washington has been tightening its oppressive sanctions against the Islamic Republic, defying warnings from Tehran and international human rights organizations that the restrictions are severely hampering the Iranian health sector’s fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

Elsewhere in their statement, the G77 and Chinese foreign ministers hailed the JCPOA as an example of “a successful multilateral action for resolving outstanding global issues.”

“The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of supporting and strengthening multilateralism, and, in this regard, recognized that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the other parties is a concrete case of a successful multilateral action for resolving outstanding global issues, stressed that such model sets a real example for further accelerating the achievement of sustainable development including by strengthening international cooperation, through enhanced means of implementation,” they said.

The ministers further exchanged views on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic as well as the recent developments in the world and the particular challenges faced by developing countries in the economic, social and environmental areas.

They also stressed that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions remains the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.