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Captains of Conscience

On today’s program, Ralph welcomes two guests who have worked as civic advocates for more than fifty years—chemical engineer and environmentalist Barry Castleman, and solar energy advocate Ken Bossong. How do they maintain their civic stamina over more…

On today's program, Ralph welcomes two guests who have worked as civic advocates for more than fifty years—chemical engineer and environmentalist Barry Castleman, and solar energy advocate Ken Bossong. How do they maintain their civic stamina over more than five decades? That's what Ralph wants to know. Then, Ralph is joined by our resident international law expert Bruce Fein, to discuss breaking news from the International Criminal Court. 

Barry Castleman is a chemical engineer, environmentalist and researcher specializing in health issues. He is the author of Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects and has worked with public interest groups around the world over the past 50 years on the control of asbestos and chemical hazards. Mr. Castleman has been involved in rule-making on asbestos by numerous federal agencies as a consultant to the agencies and to environmental groups. He has testified as an expert witness in civil litigation in the US on the history of asbestos as a public health problem, and the reasons for failure to properly control asbestos hazards.

I remember speaking to students at Johns Hopkins about 30 years ago about careers in international public health, and talking to them about how they should try and listen into themselves and think about what it is they'd really like to do, what they're really interested in, and try to follow that. Rather than following the money or auctioning themselves off to the highest bidder when they graduate from Hopkins.

Barry Castleman

You lose your innocence reading these corporate documents. They're unbelievable in terms of showing that all of these decisions about health and safety and environment are business decisions to the people who make them. And the wanton, reckless, willful disregard of public health is clear. So making these documents publicly available is an extraordinary public service.

Barry Castleman

Ken Bossong is the Executive Director of the Sun Day Campaign, a non-profit research and educational organization he founded in 1992 to aggressively promote sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels. Mr. Bossong has advocated for solar energy and other renewable energy for more than 50 years, and he previously served as Director of the Critical Mass Energy Project at Public Citizen

Nearly 100% of all the new generating capacity in the United States in the month of March—which is the most recent month for which there are statistics—came from solar alone. There was none from coal. There was only one megawatt from natural gas. There was, I think, three megawatts from oil. And there was zero from nuclear. So the only resource that's growing and scaling up rapidly is solar. Coming in second place is wind. The fossil fuel technologies and nuclear power combined are producing very little.

Ken Bossong

What keeps me going? Basically the bad guys. I am always ginned up by the challenge of confronting people who are doing things which I consider to be socially, environmentally irresponsible. And as you pointed out with the example of the oil companies, there's never been a shortage of people who are trying to do things that I think are damaging. 

Ken Bossong

Bruce Fein is a Constitutional scholar and an expert on international law.  Mr. Fein was Associate Deputy Attorney General under Ronald Reagan and he is the author of Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for Our Constitution and Democracy, and American Empire: Before the Fall.

Although it doesn’t really change a whole lot on the legal chessboard, the more countries that recognize a Palestinian statehood, the more pressure there will be on the United States to do something that acknowledges their right…The one other element that comes into play, however, is that there are various tribunals, jurisdictions that can be employed only by a state... So the more that we have international recognition of a Palestinian state, it then would have standing instead of South Africa to go to the International Court of Justice and say—we want a declaration that genocide is being committed against us by Israel. So there are small ways in which I think the greater the recognition, the greater the legal standing Palestine has as in at least some international body.

Bruce Fein

In Case You Haven’t Heard with Francesco DeSantis

News 5/22/24

1.  On May 20th, the International Criminal Court announced it would seek arrest warrants related to the ongoing atrocities in Gaza. Bucking pressure from western governments, the ICC will pursue arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on charges including “Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare…[and] Extermination…as a crime against humanity.” The Court also announced it would seek arrest warrants for Hamas leaders, including Yahya Sinwar, Ismail Haniyeh, and Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri for their alleged international offenses. The ICC’s decision was met with indignation by Israel and its western allies, including President Joe Biden, who said “What’s happening is not genocide,” per the Guardian. Mousa Abu Marzouk – the first chief of Hamas’ politburo, and the head of Hamas' international relations – writes in Media Review Network “Hamas stands ready to appear before the ICC with witnesses and live testimony and bear the burden of any judicial finding against it or its members after a full and fair trial with rules of evidence; with examination and cross examination into [what] we have done or not over the many years of our leadership as a national liberation movement. Is Israel?”

2. On May 19th, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was killed when his helicopter was forced to make a “hard landing” near the Iranian/Azerbaijan border. Many suspect Israeli involvement in this crash, largely due to Israel’s history of assassinating Iranian officials. Israel however denies any involvement. The Middle East Monitor, relaying what Israeli officials told Channel 13, reports “The message Israel is sending to the countries of the world is that Tel Aviv has nothing to do with the incident.”

3. Israeli ambassador Michael Herzog has sent a letter to dozens of congressional Democrats “accus[ing] lawmakers of aiding…Hamas…misrepresenting Israeli policy and…inappropriately trying to influence President…Biden,” per the Huffington Post. This letter – a response to moderate Democrats Jason Crow and Chris Deluzio’s May 3rd letter alleging that Israel is breaking U.S. law – has rankled Democrats in Congress. One staffer told the Huffington Post that multiple parts of the letter “verg[ed] on offensive,” and another said “the tone of this letter is not reflective of the fact that the U.S. is the primary guarantor of Israel’s security. An unaware reader would assume that Israel is the superpower in this relationship and the U.S. the recipient of aid.” Yet another aid put it this way, “Never before have we received such a harsh letter from the Israeli government. But then again, never before have we been so critical of their actions.”

4. Independent investigative journalist Ken Klippenstein reports “The National Counterterrorism Center, created in the wake of 9/11 to combat al Qaeda, is now working overtime to find evidence of foreign funding of pro-Palestinian student protesters.” Klippenstein continues “The effort follows repeated calls by Congress for the federal government to investigate university protesters’ purported links to Hamas, and coincides with a push by the FBI and homeland security bureaucracies to link the campus demonstrations to foreign actors. Tempting as it might be to laugh off the specter of foreign powers directing undergraduate protesters, evidence of this would provide the legal basis for the intelligence community to spy on Americans. Absent a foreign connection, the protests are constitutionally-protected speech.” Civil liberties advocates have long warned of the American anti-terrorism apparatus being weaponized against internal dissent. During the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, the Trump administration infamously worked feverishly to cook up some connection between foreign governments and supposed domestic “antifa” leaders. The fact that the Biden administration is seeking to do the same speaks to just how enticing it is for the federal government to use trumped up terrorism accusations to silence legitimate protests.

5. In a chilling new installment of the campus crackdown on pro-Palestine activity, POLITICO reports the California State University system has “placed Sonoma State campus President Mike Lee on leave… after he agreed to protesters’ demands to involve them in university decision-making and pursue divestment from Israel.” In a statement, CSU Chancellor Mildred García derided president Lee for his “insubordination and the consequences it has brought upon the system.” The message is clear: any degree of violence in confronting the student protesters is acceptable, engaging with their demands is not.

6. In more higher education news, the Harvard Graduate Student’s Union – organized under the UAW – has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the university over their response to campus pro-Palestine protests, per Bloomberg labor reporter Josh Eidelson. “[The union is] claiming the school's retaliation violated students' right as employees to protest over workplace issues.” This charge will test the limits of workplace speech protections and we will be watching closely to see where the board lands.

7. Last week, workers at two Alabama Mercedes-Benz plants voted against joining the United Autoworkers by a margin if 2,045 to 2,642, per 1819 News. UAW President Shawn Fain blamed the loss on union busting by the corporation, stating “Mercedes engaged in egregious illegal behavior. The federal government as well as the German government are currently investigating Mercedes for the intimidation and harassment they inflicted on their own workers. We intend to follow that process through…This is a David and Goliath fight. Sometimes Goliath wins a battle. But David wins the war.” Fain went on to say “Justice isn’t about one vote or one campaign. It’s about getting a voice, getting your fair share. And let’s be clear: workers won serious gains in this campaign. They raised their wages, with the 'UAW bump.' They killed wage tiers. They got rid of a CEO who had no interest in improving conditions in the workplace. Mercedes is a better place to work thanks to this campaign, and thanks to these courageous workers.” Finally, Fain noted the similarities between this campaign and the previous attempts to unionize Volkswagen plants, stating “[Mercedes] told the workers to give the new CEO a chance. That’s exactly what Volkswagen told its workers in 2019. And in 2024, Volkswagen workers realized it’s not about a CEO. It’s about a voice on the job, it’s about getting our lives back, and getting our time back. The only path to do that is through a union contract.”

8. CNN reports that on Tuesday May 14th, the Justice Department  “notified Boeing that it [had] breached [the] terms of its 2021 [deferred prosecution] agreement in which the company avoided criminal charges for two fatal 737 Max crashes.” This report goes on to say “Families of victims and lawyers representing them met with the Justice Department late last month to persuade the Biden administration to end the agreement in light of multiple safety lapses at Boeing this year and in past years after the 2021 agreement was reached.”  Following this meeting, attorney Paul Cassell said the deferred prosecution agreement was “rigged” and “pledged to hold Boeing accountable for its ‘fraud and misconduct.’” 

9. On Monday May 20th, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange won the right to appeal his extradition to the United States. Per Democracy Now! “Assange’s lawyers argued before the British High Court that the U.S. government provided ‘blatantly inadequate’ assurances that Assange would have the same free speech protections as an American citizen if extradited from Britain. Assange…faces up to 175 years in prison for publishing classified documents exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.” This is a major victory for Assange. Yet, as Chip Gibbons, policy director of Defending Rights & Dissent puts it “[Assange is] not out of Belmarsh [Prison] yet…This could still end in him being sent to the U.S. And the person who can stop this is Joe Biden.”

10. Finally, according to Washington Post labor reporter Lauren Kaori Gurley, “[Over 400] physicians have filed to unionize with SEIU, in what they say would be the first doctor's union in Delaware and the Mid-Atlantic.” These physicians – employed by ChristianaCare, Delaware's largest private employer – have laid out a list of grievances they hope to address by organizing, including “patient safety concerns due to understaffing and inadequate resources…the erosion of the physician-led model of care...[and] the moral injury caused by the pressure to prioritize...profit over patient needs.” Gurley further highlighted that a key priority of this doctor’s union is “combating excessive corporatization,” in healthcare.

This has been Francesco DeSantis, with In Case You Haven’t Heard. 

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This content originally appeared on Ralph Nader Radio Hour and was authored by Ralph Nader.

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