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Critics charge the legislation induces poor communities to sell off their water rights. Pexels

By Eoin Higgins

Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.

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Democratic presidential hopefuls Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders greet each other with a safe elbow bump before the start of the Democratic Party 2020 presidential debate in a CNN Washington Bureau studio in Washington, DC on March 15, 2020. Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

Unity Task Forces formed by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled sweeping party platform recommendations Wednesday that—while falling short of progressive ambitions in a number of areas, from climate to healthcare—were applauded as important steps toward a bold and just policy agenda that matches the severity of the moment.

"We've moved the needle a lot, especially on environmental justice and upping Biden's ambition," said Sunrise Movement co-founder and executive director Varshini Prakash, a member of the Biden-Sanders Climate Task Force. "But there's still more work to do to push Democrats to act at the scale of the climate crisis."

The climate panel—co-chaired by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and former Secretary of State John Kerry—recommended that the Democratic Party commit to "eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035," massively expanding investments in clean energy sources, and "achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings by 2030."

In a series of tweets Wednesday night, Ocasio-Cortez—the lead sponsor of the House Green New Deal resolution—noted that the Climate Task Force "shaved 15 years off Biden's previous target for 100% clean energy."

"Of course, like in any collaborative effort, there are areas of negotiation and compromise," said the New York Democrat. "But I do believe that the Climate Task Force effort meaningfully and substantively improved Biden's positions."

 

The 110 pages of policy recommendations from the six eight-person Unity Task Forces on education, the economy, criminal justice, immigration, climate change, and healthcare are aimed at shaping negotiations over the 2020 Democratic platform at the party's convention next month.

Sanders said that while the "end result isn't what I or my supporters would've written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families throughout our country."

"I look forward to working with Vice President Biden to help him win this campaign," the Vermont senator added, "and to move this country forward toward economic, racial, social, and environmental justice."

Biden, for his part, applauded the task forces "for helping build a bold, transformative platform for our party and for our country."

"I am deeply grateful to Bernie Sanders for working with us to unite our party and deliver real, lasting change for generations to come," said the former vice president.

On the life-or-death matter of reforming America's dysfunctional private health insurance system—a subject on which Sanders and Biden clashed repeatedly throughout the Democratic primary process—the Unity Task Force affirmed healthcare as "a right" but did not embrace Medicare for All, the signature policy plank of the Vermont senator's presidential bid.

Instead, the panel recommended building on the Affordable Care Act by establishing a public option, investing in community health centers, and lowering prescription drug costs by allowing the federal government to negotiate prices. The task force also endorsed making all Covid-19 testing, treatments, and potential vaccines free and expanding Medicaid for the duration of the pandemic.

"It has always been a crisis that tens of millions of Americans have no or inadequate health insurance—but in a pandemic, it's potentially catastrophic for public health," the task force wrote.

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a former Michigan gubernatorial candidate and Sanders-appointed member of the Healthcare Task Force, said that despite major disagreements, the panel "came to recommendations that will yield one of the most progressive Democratic campaign platforms in history—though we have further yet to go."

 

Observers and advocacy groups also applauded the Unity Task Forces for recommending the creation of a postal banking system, endorsing a ban on for-profit charter schools, ending the use of private prisons, and imposing a 100-day moratorium on deportations "while conducting a full-scale study on current practices to develop recommendations for transforming enforcement policies and practices at ICE and CBP."

Marisa Franco, director of immigrant rights group Mijente, said in a statement that "going into these task force negotiations, we knew we were going to have to push Biden past his comfort zone, both to reconcile with past offenses and to carve a new path forward."

"That is exactly what we did, unapologetically," said Franco, a member of the Immigration Task Force. "For years, Mijente, along with the broader immigrant rights movement, has fought to reshape the narrative around immigration towards racial justice and to focus these very demands. We expect Biden and the Democratic Party to implement them in their entirety."

"There is no going back," Franco added. "Not an inch, not a step. We must only move forward from here."

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.

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U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveils the Green New Deal resolution in front of the U.S. Capitol on February 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images

By Judith Lewis Mernit

For all its posturing on climate change, the Democratic Party has long been weak on the actual policies we need to save us from extinction. President Barack Obama promised his presidency would mark "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow," and then embraced natural gas, a major driver of global temperature rise, as a "bridge fuel." Climate legislation passed in the House in 2009 would have allowed industries to buy credits to pollute, a practice known to concentrate toxic air in black and brown neighborhoods while doing little to cut emissions.

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Medical personnel from Riverside (CA) University Health Systems administer a coronavirus test during drive-through testing on March 22, 2020 in Lake Elsinore, California. Bob Riha, Jr. / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

As Covid-19 cases continue to spike across the U.S.—the nation on Wednesday saw its largest daily increase in confirmed new infections since the pandemic began—the Trump administration is reportedly planning to cut off federal funding for 13 coronavirus testing sites in five states at the end of the month, a move that is in keeping with the president's vow to slow screenings for the virus.

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People wait in line to vote in Georgia's Primary Election on June 9, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images

By Isabella Garcia

Georgia's mid-June primary was the latest example of pandemic-induced voter suppression. Long lines at polling stations stretched for blocks and blocks as socially distanced voters waited for several hours to vote in person. In Fulton County, which includes Atlanta and is the state's most populated county, some voters waited past midnight to cast their ballot.

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A Greenpeace rally in front of the Democratic National Committee headquarters on June 12, 2019 in Washington, D.C., calling for a presidential campaign climate debate after DNC chairman Tom Perez rejected the request . Sarah Silbiger / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Despite mounting pressure on the party to craft a 2020 platform that includes ambitious climate policies, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez on Monday announced a drafting committee that, in the words of journalist Emily Atkin, "snubs progressive climate activists again."

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Sorrento Therapeutics in San Diego, California, is developing a COVID-19 treatment. ARIANA DREHSLER / AFP / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

On the heels of polling that showed 88% of Americans worry Big Pharma will exploit the ongoing pandemic to hike drug prices, House Democrats on Monday introduced two bipartisan bills to prevent price gouging for Covid-19 treatments and vaccines and to strengthen oversight of federal spending on coronavirus research and development.

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Hundreds of people protest Puerto Rico's neglect in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, during a march in New York City on Sept. 19, 2019. Erik McGregor / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Jeremy Deaton

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are in a dead heat in Texas, a state that has swung Republican in every presidential election since 1976. If Biden pulls off the unthinkable and defeats Trump in Texas, it will be by mobilizing Latino voters.

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President Donald Trump sent a four-page letter to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, pictured here during a daily COVID-19 press briefing on February 28, 2020 at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

President Donald Trump on Monday sent a four-page letter to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, threatening to permanently freeze U.S. funding to the United Nations agency in the midst of a global pandemic that has made international cooperation as crucial as ever.

Trump's letter, which he posted to Twitter Monday night, repeats the president's accusations that WHO is deferential to China and says that if the organization "does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding to the World Health Organization permanent and reconsider our membership in the organization."

The president also alleged that WHO ignored early warnings about the spread of the coronavirus and made "grossly inaccurate or misleading" claims about the virus. Observers noted that much of Trump's critique of WHO's handling of the coronavirus pandemic applies to the White House's handling of the crisis, which has been condemned as fatally slow and inadequate.

"This is a phenomenally damning letter—of the president's own response," tweeted HuffPost White House correspondent S.V. Dáte. "All of those early dates? Late December and January? Were known to U.S. officials and relayed to Trump. Who did nothing."

 

Trump wrote that WHO "consistently ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019 or even earlier, including reports from The Lancet."

Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, a U.K.-based medical journal, refuted the president's claim in a tweet early Tuesday.

"Dear President Trump—You cite The Lancet in your attack on WHO. Please let me correct the record," Horton wrote. "The Lancet did not publish any report in early December, 2019, about a virus spreading in Wuhan. The first reports we published were from Chinese scientists on Jan 24, 2020."

Trump's letter comes just over a month after he announced his decision to temporarily halt U.S. funding to WHO, a move Horton condemned at the time as an "appalling betrayal of global solidarity" that "every scientist, every health worker, every citizen must resist and rebel against."

Devi Sridhar, professor and chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, tweeted that the U.S. president's letter shows that he "doesn't understand what WHO can and cannot do."

"It is a normative, technical agency which needs to keep member states at the table," Sridhar said. "If he thinks they need more power then member states should agree and delegate it more. This letter is written for his base and to deflect blame."

John Cavanagh, director of the Institute for Policy Studies and former economist at the WHO, wrote in an op-ed for Foreign Policy In Focus earlier this month that while "WHO is far from perfect," the organization "is playing a key role in poorer countries, and its importance will only grow as the pandemic spreads in these nations."

"The story line from Reagan to Trump is the same: undermining global public health to serve narrow interests," Cavanagh wrote. "For Reagan, it was to help a few well-connected corporate backers. For Trump, it may be to help a single billionaire in particular—himself. Only now, we're in the middle of a pandemic that's only just begun to devastate the vulnerable regions that need the WHO the most. The United States shouldn't be cutting support now. We should be increasing it."


Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.

A woman wearing a protective mask walks her dog past a gas station amid the coronavirus pandemic on April 21 in New York City, Alexi Rosenfeld / Getty Images

By Eoin Higgins

Sen. Bernie Sanders was among critics outraged that the fossil fuel industry is using tax breaks in the CARES Act meant to help businesses keep workers employed to avoid paying millions of dollars in taxes — and then delivering that money to executives.

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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden celebrates with his supporters after declaring victory at an election-night rally at the University of South Carolina Volleyball Center on February 29, 2020 in Columbia, South Carolina. Scott Olson / Getty Images

Democratic party power players and funders, green groups, and Joe Biden's campaign rolled out multiple climate-focused initiatives this week, signaling climate change's likely starring role in the upcoming election despite the coronavirus pandemic.

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