Friday , September 24 2021
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Articles by Yves Smith

NYC Set to Pass Food Delivery App Laws Securing Workers Minimum Pay, Bathrooms and More

11 hours ago

Yves here. Even though workers seem to be clawing back some of their lost ground via wage increases, we’ve still seen very little in the way of successes in bargaining situations. And with ever-more employer surveillance and forcing workers to meet almost impossible production schedules, the losses in control over conditions are at least as bad as the long-term decay in pay levels. So a victory in the “gig economy” space is particularly welcome. Some heads will explode over the the requirement that food delivery workers be allowed to use restaurant bathrooms.
By Josefa Velasquez and Claudia Irizarry Aponte. Originally published at THE CITY on September 22, 2021
De Blasio supports first-in-the-nation bills scheduled for Thursday vote, seeking better working conditions in the booming

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Links 9/23/2021

14 hours ago

New genomic analysis sorts out when Polynesians reached which islands ars technica (Kevin W)
Coral Reef Protection in Exchange for Debt Relief: Could it Really Work? Credit Slips
Ghost forests creep up U.S. East Coast NBC
Boris Johnson: Time for humanity to grow up on climate change BBC
Metals supercharge a promising method to bury harmful carbon dioxide under the sea University of Texas at Austin (Chuck L)
Baby Poop Is Loaded With Microplastics Wired
‘We Need Software Updates Forever’ SpectrumIEEE
This Microchip With Wings Is The Smallest Flying Structure Humans Have Ever Built ScienceAlert (David L)
New optical ‘transistor’ speeds up computation up to 1,000 times, at lowest switching energy possible Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Chuck L)
Mathematicians discover music

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CalPERS Devises “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose” Gamble for Long-Term Care Policyholders in Settlement

16 hours ago

Yves here. We’ve written from time to time about the CalPERS long-term care insurance trainwreck. This post by policyholder and financial analyst Lawrence Grossman brings readers up to date. It describes how a proposed settlement of a class-action lawsuit over allegedly verboten increases puts policyholders in the ugly position of having to gamble when CalPERS has a vastly better grasp of the relevant odds than they do.
By way of background, the entire long-term care insurance industry made overly-optimistic assumptions about how (not) long policyholders would live and how many would lapse (just about none), and so insurers have been putting through big premium increases and greatly curtailing new policy-writing. CalPERS is in vastly worse shape than most because it grossly underpriced its

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The European Energy Crisis Is About To Go Global

19 hours ago

Yves here. It’s been hard to miss the way gas prices have been rising in the US. Of course, per Washington, rising energy charges are dastardly Russia’s fault. From the Financial Times:
The US has vowed to support European countries hit by an energy supply crunch blamed by some officials and traders on Russia, and said it would “stand up” to suppliers accused of manipulating prices.
Surging gas costs due to tight supply and low reserves have forced European governments to draw up plans to provide emergency aid to households and utilities. Energy market participants said moves by Kremlin-controlled energy giant Gazprom to restrict supply have contributed to fears of a crippling energy crisis this winter.
Perhaps some readers are well informed enough to have a basis for disagreeing, but I

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The Lasting Impact of the Covid Crisis on Economic Potential

1 day ago

Yves here. It’s useful to see economists starting to put pen to paper (or more accurately, creating models) to estimate how much damage Covid has done to growth, although some readers point out that less growth is to be keenly desired given climate change.
However, it’s also a bit perplexing to see the tacit assumption that we’re far enough past the worst of Covid to make estimates with confidence. As we’ve pointed out repeatedly, if hospitals reach the breaking point (as in someone run over by a car or suffering from a heart attack can’t get treated in a nearby ER), we’re going to see lockdowns. Their capacity has already shrunk due to doctors and nurses resigning due to burnout and/or reluctance to keep taking health risks.
By Luke Bartholomew, Senior Economist, Aberdeen Standard

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Links 9/22/21

2 days ago

Dear patient readers,
Please give a big round of applause to Lambert, Jerri, and Nick for manning the site while I took some time off in Maine. The weather and seafood were great, but I was hampered by my progress with my new hips going into reverse at week 6 and my surgeon not having any suggestions as to what to do (I am getting a second opinion down here but the lead time for new patient appointments is long). So I missed out on one of my favorite activities, walking around and enjoying the ocean and nature views.
The cat is back: Wild Amur tigers rebound in China, thanks to govt policies Mongabay (furzy)
Living orbs of light aeon. Fireflies!
Under New Zealand’s Dark Skies, Insects Recover and Humans Reconnect with a Lost View Atlas Obscura (Chuck L)
Melbourne earthquake: Tremor rattles

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Matt Stoller: #OccupyWallStreet Is a Church of Dissent, Not a Protest

4 days ago

Yves here. We are in the midst of a spate of “Ten years after OccupyWallStreet” articles. Keep in mind that OccupyWallStreet lasted in its original form, actual “occupations,” as in continuous gatherings in specific locations, for all of two months. Recall that by 2011, it was all too evident that the financial crisis bailouts had constituted the biggest looting of the public purse in history, yet pols around the world were so captured that they failed to prosecute any executives (we pointed out why the initial go at two Bear Stearns hedge fund execs was misguided; your humble blogger and many others, such as Charles Ferguson of Inside Job, cited specific legal theories and evidence that looked mighty viable, yet were never tested).
The Obama Administration coordinated a 17 city

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Can the Economy Afford NOT To Fight Climate Change?

4 days ago

Yves here. If humans are fortunate enough merely to suffer a Jackpot rather than a full-bore collapse, perhaps future historians will try to make sense of why individuals and governments did pretty much squat to prevent climate change even when they recognized it really was well underway and would produce very bad outcomes. I imagine that one of those things that they will find unfathomable, being on the other side of the climate disaster, is the ability to rationalize inaction. A big aid in this “apres moi, le deluge” behavior is how businesses and governments analyze investment returns, specifically net present value analysis. For the 2007 IPCC report, economist Nicholas Stern was tasked with estimating the economic impact of climate change. Stern concluded that major action had to be

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CalPERS’ Long-Term Care Fiasco: Private Burial to Hide Malfeasance, Failure to Implement Legislation

9 days ago

Yves here. Please welcome Lawrence Grossman, who has provided a second post on the CalPERS long-term care policy train wreck. Grossman, a financial analyst, describes the extreme underfunding of this zombie program in his earlier piece: CalPERS’ Long-Term Care Program Bleeds Policyholders Dry via 10X Higher Premiums, Gross Mismanagement, Bad Faith Dealing. The rate increases that CalPERS is putting through, a 900% increase over the rates charged at the outset, are wildly disproportionate to the level of any other significant long-term care program. In other words, even by the standards of an industry that is in deep financial trouble, CalPERS’ rate increases are such an outlier that it is hard to explain them solely as a result of the original underpricing. It is not unreasonable to

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Social Security COLA for 2022 To Be Near 5.8%, Could Match 2009, Biggest Since 1982

9 days ago

Yves here. Retirees are typically worried if their limited incomes are losing too much ground to inflation. Wolf Richter argues that the upcoming Social Security increase will fall short of inflation. Mind you, that’s what it’s been designed to do as a result of “reforms” implemented in the early 1990s. What I wonder is how the mix of goods showing hefty price increases (new and used cars, lumber, food) matches up with the typical senior consumption basket. Seniors do eat but they tend to underconsume home renovation and car purchases, for instance.
By Wolf Richter, editor of Wolf Street. Originally published at Wolf Street
Among the inflation data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), which is

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The Counterinsurgency Myth

9 days ago

Yves here. The American fantasy of supporting counterinsurgency movements to change the fundamental values of countries we wanted to tame is utterly nuts when you unpack what its sponsors actually believed. It’s another layer of the propaganda devised to make the Project for a New American Century sound dimly feasible.
By Nicholas Guarnaccia, a freelance writer and researcher. His recent work focuses on militarization, particularly the connection between coloniality and counterinsurgency. He has a master’s degree from the Fletcher School at Tufts University in Boston where he studied conflict transformation and social/political movements. Originally published at openDemocracy
In early December 2001, just nine weeks after invading Afghanistan, the US military overthrew the Taliban

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Port Authority Cop Who Survived 13 Hours Under Collapsed Towers Shares Message of Darkness and Light

13 days ago

Yves here. There’s going to be a lot of misplaced sentimentality and emotional manipulation on this anniversary of 9/11. As someone who was in NYC when the towers fell and had worked in One World Trade Center, I’m generally not a fan. Yes, ~3200 people died, but the US has inflicted far more damage in our many undeclared wars, even before getting to our greater dedication to nation-breaking after the attacks. But as with Covid, the immediate costs fell most heavily on lower and lower middle class workers. Those who perished in New York consisted mainly of the “bridge and tunnel” crowd. McKinsey, with its extensive financial services network, had only one link to lower Manhattan fatalities. No one connected to any clients died, but the fiance of a secretary did.
And first responders and

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Elite Educators Have Milked the System for Long Enough

13 days ago

Yves here. I am impressed that a UK think tank was able to do the heavy lifting to document the spending differences between elite and public schools as well as give examples of the outcomes, such as vastly better ability to adapt teaching approaches to Covid limitations. It would be revealing to see a similar study in US. Admittedly we have more types to consider: public schools, charter schools, and no bones about it private schools. But hint, hint, perhaps readers can provide anecdata in the meantime.
By Sol Gamsu, a geography PhD student at King’s College London. His research examines social and spatial inequalities in post-16 education in and outside of London, focussing in particular on unequal patterns of entry to university. Twitter: @SolGamsu. Originally published at

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US as Failed State: Covid Booster Shot Mess

16 days ago

It should come as no surprise that the US is regularly exposed as being incapable of managing its way out of a paper bag. We had the early 2020 Covid test kit fiasco, which never really ended. Even though it was obvious that Delta was coming, the US is already experiencing test shortages, with Covid infections set to worsen as schools open. And that’s before getting to inexcusable data failures, like trying to shift vaccine complaints to VSafe, which was impossibly buggy, and being late with updates to VAERS (and having non-medical admins reject physician reports for arbitrary reasons) and refusing to track breakthrough cases among the vaccinated. And now that the CDC has reversed itself, it’s not clear what the follow through is like on the state and county level.
And the list goes on…the

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US Has No Intention of a Global Military Retreat Despite Biden’s Promise

16 days ago

Yves here. While I agree with the headline conclusion, I suspect readers will take issue with some of the claims and assumptions in this article, such as:
Biden has been diminished by the Afghanistan exit. Nope. Despite the press banging on, most Americans didn’t care about Afghanistan or wanted the US out. Biden is damaged, but it’s due to the Covid spike and the ongoing effort to pretend that the Administration hasn’t flip-flopped repeatedly on policy
Kamala Harris may move to the fore. Even the qualified “may” is too generous. Harris has pretty clearly been relegated to a more marginal VP role than usual. What would elevate her is a diminution of Biden’s health
The assumption that America was ever serious about nation building. We don’t know how to do it. The pretense that we might is

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The Bizarre Civil War-Stoking Impulses of the Professional-Managerial Class in the US

16 days ago

Love your enemy, for you will become him.
-Israeli saying

A couple of years ago, when Lambert would talk about professional pundits and official Democratic spokescritters behaving as if they were trying to stoke civil war in the US, I thought he’d been spending too much time on Twitter and might benefit from a dose of smelling salts. It now looks like he was correct, albeit so early it was still possible that the impulse could have fizzled out or moved in another direction.
One of the reasons it’s hard to talk about this obvious yet diffuse and multifaceted development of actively fomenting class hatred is that it doesn’t fall tidily along demographic lines, as much as some factions would like to have you believe otherwise. It’s psychographic.
Hatred of The Other was supposed to a

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‘America Has a Monopoly Problem’: Coalition Backs Legislation to Break Up Big Tech

20 days ago

Yves here. Now that we have far too many billionaires, demonstrating how wonderful monopoly profits can be, the officialdom in the West is rather late in waking up to the seriousness of the problem. And unlike a one party state, they can’t take our answer to Jack Ma and put him under indefinite house arrest pour décourager les autres.
Matt Stoller believes continuing supply chain disruptions will keep monopolies in the hot lights:

We’re going to have a fun experiment with monopolies and shortages. https://t.co/LbCYOY6lDP
— Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) August 28, 2021

By Julia Conley. Originally published at Common Dreams
Government watchdog Public Citizen led dozens of organizations on Thursday in calling on Congress to pass several pieces of legislation to rein in the power of

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Links 9/3/2021

21 days ago

Dolphins Alert Rescue Crew To Save a Lost Swimmer Who Was Stranded at Sea for 12 Hours MyModernMet (David L)
The 2021 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards Have Just Announced Their Finalists, And Here Are 40 Of The Funniest Photos Bored Panda (Kevin W, furzy)
Going up: Birds and mammals evolve faster if their home is rising Phys.org (Kevin W)
Ghostly Satellite Image Captures the Arctic ‘Losing Its Soul’ Atlas Obscura (Chuck L)
California’s massive wildfires are doing something no wildfire has ever done before Salon (David L)
Hurricane Ida Reversed the Course of the Mississippi River Gizmodo (Chuck L)
High-speed German train inches its way through floods Boing Boing (resilc)
Climate crisis likely creating extreme winter weather events, says report Guardian
US attorney details illegal acts in

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CalPERS Election Dirty Tricks: Hit Piece Depicts Board Member Margaret Brown as Safety Harrasser

21 days ago

Your humble blogger has gotten many agitated e-mails from CalPERS beneficiaries who’ve never before written to me about a hit piece targeting the pro-transparency, pro-accountability board candidates, Margaret Brown and Tiffany Emon-Moran, who are running in the election now underway. These voters are upset about the false content, the misrepresentation of its sponsors, and the fact that a third party somehow got their names and addresses.1
It is bizarre that SEIU, which is behind the mailers, would oppose protecting worker pensions by having a strong and effective board, as CalPERS’ Sacramento sister CalSTRS does. And CalSTRS beneficiaries have been rewarded with better financial returns and a curious absence of scandals.
It also seems even odder that SEIU2 would be threatened by the

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Northeast Pummeled with Colossal Flooding, Destructive Tornadoes

21 days ago

Yves here. Bringing you the very best in disaster porn! I don’t mean to sound cheery, but it isn’t pleasant knowing that citizens at large are interested in natural disasters, whether out of awe of nature, knowing people personally who might be at risk, trying to get a sense of how extensive and severe the damage and human costs were, or prurient interest. But I am not even sure that the word disaster will remain appropriate. More extreme weather means more extreme outcomes, like the tail-end-of-Ida flooding. Will we need new nomenclature as this sort of thing becomes normal, or at least not rare?
By Bob Henson and Jeff Masters. Originally published at Yale Climate Connections
Some of the worst urban flash flooding in U.S. history struck the New York City area on Wednesday night, as the

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Mask Mandates Save Lives

21 days ago

Yves here. The problem with mask use is that in our terribly selfish libertarian-oriented culture, doing something for the benefit of others is a hard sell. Masks reduce contagion but have a meaningful impact only if widely used. Only a lucky few can lay hands on a fitted N95 mask, which would protect the wearer well; N/KN95s that leak, which most do, are presumably better than a procedure-type mask but I am not sure how much.
I have taken to wearing double four ply procedure masks with a badger seal as maybe better than a KN95 that leaks, but I have no way of knowing either way (the badger seal does not exert enough pressure to seal the tougher material in a N/KN95, otherwise I’d go that route).
And I actually have in my possession a super duper mask. But if I tried wearing it on an

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The Cost of Corporate America: Checking Your Conscience at the Door

22 days ago

In a remarkable comment earlier this week, which we are reproducing below, reader Henry Moon Pie recounted, with remorse, how his role in a job he’d not wanted to take helped secure the right to construct CO2 pipelines. That included providing assurances that no way, no how could they ever be dangerous. Experience has proven otherwise. From an article last week in The Verge:
Last year, a pipeline carrying compressed carbon dioxide mixed with hydrogen sulfide ruptured, engulfing the small town of Satartia, Mississippi, in a green haze, leaving many residents convulsing, confused, or unconscious. That explosion serves as a vivid warning about the risks posed by what could be the next generation of pipelines to crisscross the US, in a new investigation by HuffPost and the Climate

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‘Catastrophic Injustice’: Judge OKs Purdue Pharma Bankruptcy Plan Shielding Sacklers

22 days ago

Yves here. I have to confess to not following the Sackler/Purdue Pharma gimmie, um, settlement closely because it was clear justice was not going to be served. Give enough money to art museums (the Sacklers bought Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum an entire new building in the early 1980s) and hospitals and you become immune to prosecution.
Top bankruptcy expert, professor Adam Levitin, has been critical of the open way that Purdue venue-shopped to get Judge [Down the] Drain:
Purdue Pharma continues to peddle some malarkey about why it filed for bankruptcy in White Plains, New York. In response to my House Judiciary testimony yesterday, Purdue told the Stamford Advocate:
Purdue Pharma Inc., the general partner of Purdue Pharma LP, has been a N.Y. corporation since its incorporation on Oct. 1,

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Lack of a Vaccine Mandate Becomes Competitive Advantage in Hospital Staffing Wars

22 days ago

Yves here. We had warned that efforts to impose Covid vaccine mandates, as the Biden Administration has announced for nursing homes receiving Medicare and Medicaid funds, was certain to exacerbate existing staffing shortages. Hospitals have already suffered resignations of nurses and doctors due to burnout and their own fears of contracting Covid. One of our aides quit her job in a local hospital last month. Her floor supposedly had a specialized role, but she said the facility was fabulously disorganized so they got all kinds of patients.
Her floor was converted to a Covid floor: “Two cases the first day. Four the second, Eight the next. I could see where this was going. I resigned.”
This article is frustratingly misleading by omission on several issues. First it does not acknowledge weak

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Star Trek Versus Imperialist Doctrine

22 days ago

Yves here. Despite being allowed to watch only one hour a day of TV as a kid, the Star Trek original series was a staple of my viewing diet. And I’m surprised and pleased to see that Yanis Varoufakis thinks there was and is a place for its idealistic stab at enterprising non-intervention.
By Yanis Varoufakis. Originally published at Project Syndicate; cross posted from his website

America’s liberal imperialist doctrine has been responsible for appalling carnage in places like Vietnam, Iraq, and Central America. But America has also produced a liberal anti-imperialist doctrine that remains ensconced in a TV series that has been captivating US audiences since 1966.
On February 9, 1967, hours after the US Air Force pounded Haiphong Harbor and several Vietnamese airfields, NBC television

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Links 9/1/2021

23 days ago

Road runner stopped by Trump’s border wall wins Bird Photographer of the Year ScienceFocus (David L)
Birds of prey face global decline from habitat loss, poisons Associated Press (resilc)
Up to half of world’s wild tree species could be at risk of extinction Guardian

Because the city of Iqaluit is located on the #Arctic Ocean and often surrounded by snow and ice, it is not often likely to see lightning, which requires both warm air & moisture. However, lightning struck there over the weekend. Learn more @arctic_today: https://t.co/rPeqqA6cKL
— National Snow and Ice Data Center (@NSIDC) August 31, 2021

America’s Climate-Change-Prone Areas Are Seeing Their Populations Swell Redfin. Resilc: “USA USA=JimJonesistan.”
To Save Lake Tahoe, They Spared No Expense. The Fire Came Over the Ridge

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Behold the Watered Stock’s New Variant!

23 days ago

Yves here. Please welcome back Sebastien Canderle, a former private equity insider who has written here from time to time on private equity. Today he turns to a con innovation which true to financial services industry form, is old wine in new bottles. Promoters have come up with a new implementation of an old scam dating back railroad share manipulation: that of watering stock.
Mind you, methods as crude as the ones used nearly 150 years ago don’t fly in the US stock market. But private markets are a new Wild West. And leverage plus persuading investors to use questionable profit measures like “Adjusted EBITDA” as the basis for valuation creates new opportunities for chicanery.
By Sebastien Canderle, a financial consultant, a lecturer at Imperial College London, and the author of The

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Michael Hudson v. George Soros on China’s Rejection of “Market” Capitalism

23 days ago

Earlier this week, the Financial Times posted a comment by famed investor George Soros, Investors in Xi’s China face a rude awakening. This article would have been very useful if it had stuck to its headline warning, which is more or less along the lines that Xi has made very clear that he’s not going to allow investors, above all foreign investors, to exercise more influence in Chinese business and society.
However, Soros then goes on in a vein that the article subhead accurately summarizes: “The leader’s crackdown on private enterprise shows he does not understand the market economy.” Oh, contraire, China’s success has been built on learning from the mistakes of other Asian countries that developed quickly but then fell prey to financialization, particularly Japan, and had difficulties

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Prominent CalPERS Retiree Group Warns California Secretary of State About Illegal, Hacking-Friendly Voting Methods

23 days ago

Due to voting for CalPERS’ board elections just having stared, it’s a busier period than usual, so please forgive the flurry of coverage. One development is that the voting methods themselves, which we have regularly criticized, have come back into focus due to a protest of sorts by the prominent CalPERS retiree group, Retired Public Employees Association (“RPEA”).
RPEA sent a letter to the California Secretary of State, Dr. Shirley Weber, which we have embedded at the end of this post. I encourage you to read it in full. It provides a detailed description of how CalPERS pretends to count votes in its board elections, which I anticipate readers will find to be revealing.
This missive is noteworthy since CalPERS operatives have done a very good job of cowing stakeholder groups into

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Afghan Crisis Must End America’s Empire of War, Corruption and Poverty

23 days ago

Yves here. Michael Hudson made a point similar to the one made in this post, based on the release of archival documents from the USSR. When the Soviets left Afghanistan, they were worried that there was a path to success for American that wasn’t open to them: foreign aid spending on a scale to improve the quality of life for the Afghan people. Instead, as this and other articles have documented, the funds instead went in considerable degree to open corruption (blatant skimming and non-performance by contractors).
By Medea Benjamin, cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and author of several books, including Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Nicolas J. S. Davies is an independent journalist, a researcher with CODEPINK and the author of Blood On Our

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