fresh voices from the front lines of change








Joy Blackwood

How Our Country Talks About The War On Drugs Is Backwards

More than sixty members of People’s Action and the Center for Popular Democracy’s Opioid Network gathered with health care experts, providers and advocates for three days in December to confront the opioid crisis through strategy, policy and direct action. This first-ever convening of grassroots leaders impacted by our country’s failure to address the opioid crisis included a legislative briefing on Capitol Hill with the Freshman Working Group on Addiction, a bipartisan group of 36 newly elected members of the House of Representatives who have come together to understand the extent of the impacts of addiction and promote policies to reduce overdoses and deaths. On Capitol Hill, those gathered shared how they have experienced the pain and loss of the opioid crisis in their own lives and in their families. “Let’s stop burying our children and loved ones,” said Brenda Siegel, from Rights and Democracy Vermont, as she told her story. She was joined in sharing powerful testimony on Capitol Hill by members of Dowh Home North Carolina, Michigan United, Community Activists and Leaders (VOCAL) from New York, the Maine People's Alliance and the New Jersey Organizing Project. Perry Hopkins, a Baltimore resident who worked closely with former Congressman Elijah Cummings, shared that if he hadn’t had access to Naloxone, an emergency intervention which can reverse the effects of an overdose, he would not have survived to tell his story firsthand. As we now enter the second session of the 116th Congress, People’s Action and the People’s Action Institute call on our representatives in both the House and Senate to advance critical pieces of legislation that will move us a step forward in responding effectively in a compassionate way to end the opioid epidemic. The evidence is in, we know how to do it, so let’s work together – elected officials, practitioners and grassroots leaders – to save lives and make it so.

Pelosi Prepares For Senate Impeachment Trial

Preparations accelerate this week for historic Senate trial of Trump. WaPo: "In a matter of days, the Senate is expected to launch a historic trial of President Trump, marking just the third time a U.S. president will have faced potential removal from office following impeachment by the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said her chamber will vote to appoint House impeachment managers and transmit the two articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — by the end of the week despite no upfront agreement with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on whether witnesses will be called. The crux of the Democrats’ case is the allegation that Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid, sought by Ukraine to combat Russian military aggression, to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a probe of an unfounded theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election."

Sanders Surges Ahead Of Iowa Vote

Sanders surges as progressives flock to him over Warren. Politico: "Something’s happening with Bernie Sanders that looked unlikely to many a few months ago: Progressive leaders and organizations are lining up behind him, not Elizabeth Warren, in the lead-up to voting. Two groups run by young people — the Sunrise Movement, which seeks to combat climate change, and Dream Defenders, which advocates for people of color — endorsed him last week. He’s also won the backing of People’s Action and the Center for Popular Democracy, which together claim more than 1.5 million members, as well as three lawmakers in the so-called 'Squad' and liberal-minded labor unions. The consolidation of left-wing support is a remarkable turnaround for Sanders. In September, the Working Families Party became the first major national progressive group to endorse a candidate when it picked Warren — despite siding with Sanders in 2016. Warren was surging at the time, and looked poised to overtake Sanders as the leader of the progressive movement and a frontrunner for the nomination. But now it’s Sanders with the wind at his back. The endorsements, on display here Sunday when Rep. Rashida Tlaib and the Sunrise Movement joined him for a rally attended by more than 900 people, are giving him a jolt of momentum weeks ahead of the Iowa caucuses and supplying him with fresh volunteers in key areas."

Ranked Choice Voting Gains Traction

Ranked choice voting gains traction for 2020. Truthout: "As an independent candidate for public office, Tiffany Bond might typically be seen as a spoiler in a conventional election. But when she ran for Congress in 2018 in Maine’s second Congressional district, she campaigned in Maine’s first major election using ranked choice voting, enacted for all state and federal elections in 2016. Ranked choice voting is now in use in 18 cities, and five states—Hawaii, Alaska, Wyoming, Kansas, and Nevada—plan to use it in their Democratic primaries and caucuses in 2020. In ranked choice voting, the electorate ranks all candidates running in an election from their first to last choice. If no candidate wins an absolute majority, the candidate winning the fewest number of votes is eliminated, and those ballots which ranked that candidate as the first choice then count toward the candidate marked as the second choice. The ballots are then recounted and the process repeats as needed until a single candidate has won an absolute majority of the votes. In the Maine election, because voters could select multiple candidates, knowing that their second or third choices would receive a vote if their first choice didn’t accrue a majority, Bond got a more serious look."

Gutting Of EPA Means Profits For Polluters

The war on the war on cancer. The Intercept: "When Angela Ramirez was 38, she felt a slight pain in her chest. At first she thought she had pulled a muscle, but when it didn’t go away, Ramirez went to her doctor, who diagnosed her with stage 2 breast cancer. A mother of three and a parent educator in a local public school in Lake County, Illinois, Ramirez had to undergo a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, and five follow-up surgeries. In 2018, she learned that she both lived and worked near two facilities that were emitting a cancer-causing chemical called ethylene oxide. The chemical industry also reacted strongly to the reports on ethylene oxide. In September 2018, after the National Air Toxics Assessment pinpointed the areas affected by the chemical, the American Chemistry Council, or ACC, a trade group that represents U.S. chemical manufacturers, asked IRIS to change its assessment of ethylene oxide. Dow Chemical, the biggest producer of ethylene oxide in the country and the second biggest in the world, also disputed the EPA’s assessment. Now, political appointees at the EPA are engaged in what appears to be an end-run around the agency’s own science. While IRIS, which is staffed by career scientists, hasn’t officially backed away from its 2016 report, the Trump EPA recently announced that it would not be calling for the level of pollution reductions IRIS laid out during the previous administration, leaving people around the country more vulnerable to the known carcinogen. And that’s only one of the changes made under the Trump administration that promise to weaken protections for Americans’ health, many of which were intended specifically to stave off cancers."

Fighting For Environmental Justice In Cancer Alley

The Corporate assault on Cancer Alley created an environmental justice warrior. DeSmogBlog: "On the evening of January 6, Louisiana state regulators issued 15 key permits to the Taiwanese petrochemical corporation Formosa for its $9.4 billion plastics manufacturing complex proposed for the historically black area of St. James Parish. Word spread today about the approvals, which pave the way for the project’s construction, opposed by local and national environmental advocates. Sharon Lavigne, a demure, 67-year-old recently retired special-ed teacher born and raised in St. James Parish, cried when she heard the news. Her community along the Mississippi River is already saddled with petrochemical plants and oil storage tanks, which release known carcinogens into the air that she fears are making her and her family sick. 'Something isn’t right about this,' said Lavigne, who founded the community group RISE St. James to oppose new industrial development in the area. After doing everything she could to raise awareness about why Formosa shouldn’t build its plastics plant in St. James, she is baffled by the state’s decision. LDEQ’s reasons for approving the project have not been made public but are expected in the coming days. Though the project still doesn’t have all the necessary permits, this week’s air permits help it clear a major hurdle. However, Rise St. James and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade recently presented to the St. James Parish Council evidence of two suspected slave cemeteries on the former plantation property where the complex is proposed."

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