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Report: US has highest income inequality in the Western world

The American dream of mobility is turning into the American illusion

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UN ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, withdrew the US from the UN Human Rights Council just days before a report was to be presented detailing the threat which poverty poses to human rights in America, and the threat which it poses to America’s democracy. Haley’s withdrawal took place on Tuesday, and UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston’s report came out on Friday. Haley’s personal position on the report was that it is ridiculous to pay attention to human rights and inequality in the US when there are issues in undeveloped nations in a sort of ‘don’t pay attention to us, look over there!’ maneuver.

In the report, Alston observes that the United States has the highest income inequality in the Western world, with 40 million Americans living in poverty, and over 18 million of them in extreme poverty. Additionally, amongst the middle class, 40% of them reportedly would be unable to cover an unexpected $400 expense. Alston goes on to describe the American dream as an illusion saying ‘In other words, the American dream of mobility, is turning into the American illusion, in which the rich get ever richer, and the middle classes don’t move.’

Included here is Alston’s statement, relative to his findings on America’s poverty to the 38th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday, added emphasis is mine:

Mr. President,
distinguished delegates,
representatives of civil society,

I am presenting three reports today, one on the USA, one on Ghana, and one on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and social protection.

1. The USA

I note with regret that United States Ambassador Nikki Haley has characterized this Council as a cesspool and chosen to withdraw from it just days before my presentation. Speaking of cesspools, my report draws attention to those that I witnessed in Alabama as raw sewage poured into the gardens of people who could never afford to pay $30,000 for their own septic systems in an area remarkably close to the State capital. I concluded that cesspools need to be cleaned up and governments need to act. Walking away from them in despair, as in Alabama, only compounds the problems.

The suggestion that this Council should only consist of rights-respecting States was made long ago by the US and others, but abandoned because there are no workable criteria to determine who should qualify under such a test, and because a body composed only of self-appointed good guys would not only be tiny but would be talking unproductively among themselves. Human rights promotion requires robust engagement, not behaving like the kid who takes his football and goes home.

Ambassador Haley complained that the Council has done nothing about countries like Venezuela. In fact I and several other special rapporteurs reported earlier this year that “vast numbers of Venezuelans are starving, deprived of essential medicines, and trying to survive in a situation that is spiralling downwards with no end in sight”. We warned of “an unfolding tragedy of immense proportions.”

Mr President, I turn now to my report on the United States. My starting point is that the combination of extreme inequality and extreme poverty generally create ideal conditions for small elites to trample on the human rights of minorities, and sometimes even of majorities. The United States has the highest income inequality in the Western world, and this can only be made worse by the massive new tax cuts overwhelmingly benefiting the wealthy. At the other end of the spectrum, 40 million Americans live in poverty and 18.5 million of those live in extreme poverty. In addition, vast numbers of middle class Americans are perched on the edge, with 40% of the adult population saying they would be unable to cover an unexpected $400 expense.

In response, the Trump administration has pursued a welfare policy that consists primarily of (i) steadily diminishing the number of Americans with health insurance (‘Obamacare’); (ii) stigmatizing those receiving government benefits by arguing that most of them could and should work, despite evidence to the contrary; and (iii) adding ever more restrictive conditions to social safety net protections such as food stamps, Medicaid, housing subsidies, and cash transfers, each of which will push millions off existing benefits. For example, a Farm Bill approved yesterday by Republicans in the House of Representatives would impose stricter work requirements on up to 7 million food stamp recipients. Presumably this would also affect the tens of thousands of serving military personnel whose families need to depend on food stamps, and the 1.5 million low-income veterans who receive them.

The US health care system already spends eight times as much to achieve the same life expectancy as in Chile and Costa Rica, and African-American maternal mortality rates are almost double those in Thailand. The World Economic Forum recently ranked the US 26th out of 29 advanced economies for promoting intergenerational equity and sustainability, and 28th for promoting inclusion. WHO data released recently shows that babies born in China today will live longer healthy lives than babies born in America. In global healthy life expectancy rankings, the US came 40th.

In an exclusive Fox News story yesterday Ambassador Haley called my report “misleading and politically motivated.” She didn’t spell out what was misleading but other stories from the same media outlet emphasized two issues. The first is that my report uses official data from 2016, before President Trump came to office. That is true, for the simple reason that there will be no Census Bureau data on the Trump era until September this year. But these data provide the best available official baseline, and my report then factors in the effects of the combination of massive tax cuts for the wealthy and systematic slashing of benefits for the less well-off.

The second criticism, as noted by Sean Hannity, is that the US “economy continues to roar to life under President Trump.” Indeed, the US economy is currently booming, but the question is who is benefiting. Last week’s official statistics show that hourly wages for workers in “production and nonsupervisory” positions, who make up 80% of the private workforce, actually fell in 2017. Expanding employment has created many jobs with no security, no health care, and often with below-subsistence wages. The benefits of economic growth are going overwhelmingly to the wealthy. Average pre-tax national income per adult in the US has stagnated at $16,000 since 1980 for the bottom 50% of the income distribution, while it has really boomed for the top 1%, a trajectory that has been quite different from that in most European countries. Even the IMF has warned that in the US “prospects for upward mobility are waning, and economic gains are increasingly accruing to those that are already wealthy”. In other words, the American dream of mobility, is turning into the American illusion, in which the rich get ever richer, and the middle classes don’t move.

My report demonstrates that growing inequality, and widespread poverty which afflicts almost one child out of every five, has deeply negative implications for the enjoyment of civil and political rights by many millions of Americans. I document the ways in which democracy is being undermined, the poor and homeless are being criminalized for being poor, and the criminal justice system is being privatized in ways that work well for the rich but that seriously disadvantage the poor. Underlying all of these developments is persistent and chronic racial bias. That bias also helps to explain the abysmal situation in which the people of Puerto Rico find themselves. It is the poorest non-state in the Union, without a vote in Congress, at the mercy of an unelected and omnipotent oversight board, and suffering from record poverty levels in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Perhaps the best illustration of the cause and effect of these trends is what might be termed the Ferguson syndrome, recalling the city in which an unarmed African-American was shot dead by a white Police Officer in 2014. What happened in Ferguson, according to the US Justice Department, and what is happening in many other cities and counties can be summed up in the following composite picture.

In a nutshell: state and county taxes are capped; public budgets are slashed; governments are left without essential resources; they instruct their police departments to impose and collect more fines to fund the general budget; these fines fall overwhelmingly upon the poor; the victims cannot pay the fines and so additional penalties and fees accumulate; most scrimp and pay but some default and are imprisoned; when they are in prison their economic and family situations collapse; and when they emerge from prison they are even less unemployable because they have a conviction.

In her statement on my report, Ambassador Haley says that “it is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America,” and claims that I should instead be looking at the human rights situations in two war-torn African countries (Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo).

“Rather than using his voice to shine a light on those vulnerable populations, and so many others, the Special Rapporteur wasted the UN’s time and resources, deflecting attention from the world’ s worst human rights abusers and focusing instead on the wealthiest and freest country in the world.”

Leaving aside the fact that this Council has published many report detailing the situations in those two countries, my view is that when one of the world’s wealthiest countries does very little about the fact that 40 million of its citizens live in poverty, it is entirely appropriate for the reasons to be scrutinized.

If this Council stands for anything, it is the principle of accountability – the preparedness of States to respond in constructive and meaningful ways to allegations that they have not honoured their human rights commitments.

The United States position, expressed by Ambassador Haley seems to be that this Council should do far more to hold certain states to account, but that it should exempt the United States and its key allies from such accountability.

In terms of recommendations, I would single out three in particular. A first step would be to acknowledge that America’s proudest achievement –a vibrant democracy – is in peril unless steps are taken to restore the fabric from which it was crafted, including the adage that ‘all are created equal’. A second step would be to stop irrationally demonizing taxation and begin exploring how reasonable taxes can dramatically increase the social well-being of Americans and the country’s economic competitiveness. And a third step would be to provide universal healthcare, as every other developed and many developing countries already do. This would rescue millions from misery, save money on emergency care, increase employment, and generate a healthier and more productive workforce.

But Nikki Haley doesn’t seem all that concerned about her fellow Americans and their plight, and what it means for the future of America’s civilization. Her concern is about the political reputation of a nation which seems to be constantly involved in violating human rights, whether it is stealing land, bombing, shooting, unjustly detaining, blockading, or otherwise conducting offensive operations against a people whose land the Jewish state presently occupies.

The Trump factor, in and of itself, however, in many ways actually owes its existence on the political scene to the economic issues which America is experiencing. And on the left, Bernie Sanders was a representation of the same issues being presented from the other side of the aisle. Poverty and wealth are not partisan, they’re not concerned about identity politics, but they are not isolated from politics.

Nothing exists in a vacuum. The poverty conditions of America are exacerbated by political policies, however, and the politics of leading politicians and parties in America are both ensuring that the wealth generated by America’s labour force is concentrated into the hands of America’s elite, and the numbers and the polls both show this. By the time of the 2016 presidential elections, it was abundantly clear that public policy needs to be changed in order to solve the problem, since, if it were just a problem of personal initiative there would exist no incentive to do anything about the crisis and presidential candidates would not have been using it as a major part of their platform. This is why Trump ran on the platform of creating more jobs, and why Sanders was campaigning on combatting poverty and on increasing wages. But once in office, Trump went about conducting business as usual, and his trade wars only threaten to worsen the situation as the purchasing power of the dollar meets the costs of Trump’s tariffs.

America may boast of its misleading employment figures, but the poverty situation tells the other side of the story. Employment, without livable wages, does not equal prosperity. Just ask the guy works in a sweatshop, or any other non supervisory or white collar position. If the wages can’t cover a lower middle class existence, then there’s a real systemic problem in America, as productivity has lost its relationship to prosperity for many Americans.

To some extent, Trump understands this, and that’s why he wants to bring back manufacturing jobs. Once upon a time, a factory worker, with no special skills or education, could work his shift, and at the end of the day pay for the living not only of himself, but of his entire family. Presently, for the overwhelming majority of American jobs, not even two jobs accomplishes this.

Even if Trump could and does convince manufacturers to bring their production back to America and hire legal Americans, without a wage adjustment, it wouldn’t significantly improve the American condition. We supposedly have full employment right now, but the poverty situation remains, and the middle class continues to shrink, retirement savings are dropping, whole industries are drying up because they can’t sell their products because their customers can no longer afford them. The problem, then, can’t be entirely lodged on whether employment exists in an adequate quantity, but whether that employment compensates the employee at a livable level.

However, it’s not realistic that America’s manufacturers will bring their production back to America, as I’ve pointed out on numerous occasions, as long as there is some other nation with lower regulatory standards and cheaper labour, and as long as these corporations can legally get away with it, their production will be accomplished elsewhere, and America will increasingly be comprised of what is being called a service economy, and those service jobs will continue to justify them as not being worthy of compensation that would even approach of the cost of living in America. Hence, not only is this problem likely to remain, but it’s likely to get worse as time goes on, as the cost of living increases, as the demographics change, as long as popular attitudes justify it, and the effects of poor policy become ever more manifest. The American dream is quickly becoming the American nightmare, and it isn’t ending any time soon.

 

 

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DenLilleAbeJNDillardtomConstantineYou can call me Al Recent comment authors
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DenLilleAbe
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DenLilleAbe

I have read the report. It is shocking. I will not comment further, let the report speak for it self in damning a system, constructed to oppress its own people. Sick.

JNDillard
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JNDillard

It is quite the report. One can only hope that Trump and Haley’s renunciation of it will only draw more attention to it, thereby causing more Americans to read it. I have posted this on my FB page and encouraged others to read it because it is so well done. It also needs to be noted that these trends cannot be laid at the foot of one party, as the data was assembled prior to Trump, but that these trends have continued under him.

tom
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tom

The bitter joke about Bill Gates walking into a working-class bar is very applicable. The moment he crosses the threshold, everyone in the bar is a billionaire – on average.

Exactly the same is true of the USA. Summary statistics tell us that it is the richest nation on Earth, but only a very few share that wealth. The great majority live lives of quiet desperation, while the rich and their professional apologists tell us the poor are poor because they “are work-shy” or “prefer to live on handouts”.

What nonsense.

Constantine
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Constantine

Another good article by Mr. Sellers. Very descriptive of the situation in the wonderland of the free US Americans and the practices of its governments.

You can call me Al
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You can call me Al

Excellent report. Full employment American style = 21% unemployed in reality. It is all smoke and mirrors.

Gonzogal
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Gonzogal

comment image comment image comment image comment image

J Roderet
Guest
J Roderet

Yep, the USA is quickly becoming a Third World country.

CumExApostolatus
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CumExApostolatus

Tariffs will help stem the tide of cheap goods brought in from elsewhere. As for a living wage, without particular skills, a living wage is difficult to come by, even if one lives in a less expensive housing area of the country. As for the poor, there are still plenty of free loaders living in Section 8 housing, which is paid for by the tax payer. Forgetting that however, WHY do we need a U.N. at all? It is, like so many other NGOs, siphoning off needed funds. Lets get rid of the U.N. and dismantle the Federal Reserve, the… Read more »

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Clinton-Yeltsin docs shine a light on why Deep State hates Putin (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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Bill Clinton and America ruled over Russia and Boris Yeltsin during the 1990s. Yeltsin showed little love for Russia and more interest in keeping power, and pleasing the oligarchs around him.

Then came Vladimir Putin, and everything changed.

Nearly 600 pages of memos and transcripts, documenting personal exchanges and telephone conversations between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, were made public by the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Dating from January 1993 to December 1999, the documents provide a historical account of a time when US relations with Russia were at their best, as Russia was at its weakest.

On September 8, 1999, weeks after promoting the head of the Russia’s top intelligence agency to the post of prime minister, Russian President Boris Yeltsin took a phone call from U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The new prime minister was unknown, rising to the top of the Federal Security Service only a year earlier.

Yeltsin wanted to reassure Clinton that Vladimir Putin was a “solid man.”

Yeltsin told Clinton….

“I would like to tell you about him so you will know what kind of man he is.”

“I found out he is a solid man who is kept well abreast of various subjects under his purview. At the same time, he is thorough and strong, very sociable. And he can easily have good relations and contact with people who are his partners. I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the nearly 600 pages of transcripts documenting the calls and personal conversations between then U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, released last month. A strong Clinton and a very weak Yeltsin underscore a warm and friendly relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

Then Vladimir Putin came along and decided to lift Russia out of the abyss, and things changed.

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Here are five must-read Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges from with the 600 pages released by the Clinton Library.

Via RT

Clinton sends ‘his people’ to get Yeltsin elected

Amid unceasing allegations of nefarious Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, the Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges reveal how the US government threw its full weight behind Boris – in Russian parliamentary elections as well as for the 1996 reelection campaign, which he approached with 1-digit ratings.

For example, a transcript from 1993 details how Clinton offered to help Yeltsin in upcoming parliamentary elections by selectively using US foreign aid to shore up support for the Russian leader’s political allies.

“What is the prevailing attitude among the regional leaders? Can we do something through our aid package to send support out to the regions?” a concerned Clinton asked.

Yeltsin liked the idea, replying that “this kind of regional support would be very useful.” Clinton then promised to have “his people” follow up on the plan.

In another exchange, Yeltsin asks his US counterpart for a bit of financial help ahead of the 1996 presidential election: “Bill, for my election campaign, I urgently need for Russia a loan of $2.5 billion,” he said. Yeltsin added that he needed the money in order to pay pensions and government wages – obligations which, if left unfulfilled, would have likely led to his political ruin. Yeltsin also asks Clinton if he could “use his influence” to increase the size of an IMF loan to assist him during his re-election campaign.

Yeltsin questions NATO expansion

The future of NATO was still an open question in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and conversations between Clinton and Yeltsin provide an illuminating backdrop to the current state of the curiously offensive ‘defensive alliance’ (spoiler alert: it expanded right up to Russia’s border).

In 1995, Yeltsin told Clinton that NATO expansion would lead to “humiliation” for Russia, noting that many Russians were fearful of the possibility that the alliance could encircle their country.

“It’s a new form of encirclement if the one surviving Cold War bloc expands right up to the borders of Russia. Many Russians have a sense of fear. What do you want to achieve with this if Russia is your partner? They ask. I ask it too: Why do you want to do this?” Yeltsin asked Clinton.

As the documents show, Yeltsin insisted that Russia had “no claims on other countries,” adding that it was “unacceptable” that the US was conducting naval drills near Crimea.

“It is as if we were training people in Cuba. How would you feel?” Yeltsin asked. The Russian leader then proposed a “gentleman’s agreement” that no former Soviet republics would join NATO.

Clinton refused the offer, saying: “I can’t make the specific commitment you are asking for. It would violate the whole spirit of NATO. I’ve always tried to build you up and never undermine you.”

NATO bombing of Yugoslavia turns Russia against the West

Although Clinton and Yeltsin enjoyed friendly relations, NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia tempered Moscow’s enthusiastic partnership with the West.

“Our people will certainly from now have a bad attitude with regard to America and with NATO,” the Russian president told Clinton in March 1999. “I remember how difficult it was for me to try and turn the heads of our people, the heads of the politicians towards the West, towards the United States, but I succeeded in doing that, and now to lose all that.”

Yeltsin urged Clinton to renounce the strikes, for the sake of “our relationship” and “peace in Europe.”

“It is not known who will come after us and it is not known what will be the road of future developments in strategic nuclear weapons,” Yeltsin reminded his US counterpart.

But Clinton wouldn’t cede ground.

“Milosevic is still a communist dictator and he would like to destroy the alliance that Russia has built up with the US and Europe and essentially destroy the whole movement of your region toward democracy and go back to ethnic alliances. We cannot allow him to dictate our future,” Clinton told Yeltsin.

Yeltsin asks US to ‘give Europe to Russia’

One exchange that has been making the rounds on Twitter appears to show Yeltsin requesting that Europe be “given” to Russia during a meeting in Istanbul in 1999. However, it’s not quite what it seems.

“I ask you one thing,” Yeltsin says, addressing Clinton. “Just give Europe to Russia. The US is not in Europe. Europe should be in the business of Europeans.”

However, the request is slightly less sinister than it sounds when put into context: The two leaders were discussing missile defense, and Yeltsin was arguing that Russia – not the US – would be a more suitable guarantor of Europe’s security.

“We have the power in Russia to protect all of Europe, including those with missiles,” Yeltsin told Clinton.

Clinton on Putin: ‘He’s very smart’

Perhaps one of the most interesting exchanges takes place when Yeltsin announces to Clinton his successor, Vladimir Putin.

In a conversation with Clinton from September 1999, Yeltsin describes Putin as “a solid man,” adding: “I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

A month later, Clinton asks Yeltsin who will win the Russian presidential election.

“Putin, of course. He will be the successor to Boris Yeltsin. He’s a democrat, and he knows the West.”

“He’s very smart,” Clinton remarks.

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New Satellite Images Reveal Aftermath Of Israeli Strikes On Syria; Putin Accepts Offer to Probe Downed Jet

The images reveal the extent of destruction in the port city of Latakia, as well as the aftermath of a prior strike on Damascus International Airport.

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Via Zerohedge


An Israeli satellite imaging company has released satellite photographs that reveal the extent of Monday night’s attack on multiple locations inside Syria.

ImageSat International released them as part of an intelligence report on a series of Israeli air strikes which lasted for over an hour and resulted in Syrian missile defense accidentally downing a Russian surveillance plane that had 15 personnel on board.

The images reveal the extent of destruction on one location struck early in attack in the port city of Latakia, as well as the aftermath of a prior strike on Damascus International Airport. On Tuesday Israel owned up to carrying out the attack in a rare admission.

Syrian official SANA news agency reported ten people injured in the attacks carried out of military targets near three major cities in Syria’s north.

The Times of Israel, which first reported the release of the new satellite images, underscores the rarity of Israeli strikes happening that far north and along the coast, dangerously near Russian positions:

The attack near Latakia was especially unusual because the port city is located near a Russian military base, the Khmeimim Air Force base. The base is home to Russian jet planes and an S-400 aerial defense system. According to Arab media reports, Israel has rarely struck that area since the Russians arrived there.

The Russian S-400 system was reportedly active during the attack, but it’s difficult to confirm or assess the extent to which Russian missiles responded during the strikes.

Three of the released satellite images show what’s described as an “ammunition warehouse” that appears to have been completely destroyed.

The IDF has stated their airstrikes targeted a Syrian army facility “from which weapons-manufacturing systems were supposed to be transferred to Iran and Hezbollah.” This statement came after the IDF expressed “sorrow” for the deaths of Russian airmen, but also said responsibility lies with the “Assad regime.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to express regret over the incident while offering to send his air force chief to Russia with a detailed report — something which Putin agreed to.

According to Russia’s RT News, “Major-General Amikam Norkin will arrive in Moscow on Thursday, and will present the situation report on the incident, including the findings of the IDF inquiry regarding the event and the pre-mission information the Israeli military was so reluctant to share in advance.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry condemned the “provocative actions by Israel as hostile” and said Russia reserves “the right to an adequate response” while Putin has described the downing of the Il-20 recon plane as likely the result of a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances” and downplayed the idea of a deliberate provocation, in contradiction of the initial statement issued by his own defense ministry.

Pro-government Syrians have reportedly expressed frustration this week that Russia hasn’t done more to respond militarily to Israeli aggression; however, it appears Putin may be sidestepping yet another trap as it’s looking increasingly likely that Israel’s aims are precisely geared toward provoking a response in order to allow its western allies to join a broader attack on Damascus that could result in regime change.

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“Transphobic” Swedish Professor May Lose Job After Noting Biological Differences Between Sexes

A university professor in Sweden is under investigation after he said that there are fundamental differences between men and women which are “biologically founded”

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Via Zerohedge


A university professor in Sweden is under investigation for “anti-feminism” and “transphobia” after he said that there are fundamental differences between men and women which are “biologically founded” and that genders cannot be regarded as “social constructs alone,” reports Academic Rights Watch.

For his transgression, Germund Hesslow – a professor of neuroscience at Lund University – who holds dual PhDs in philosophy and neurophysiology, may lose his job – telling RT that a “full investigation” has been ordered, and that there “have been discussions about trying to stop the lecture or get rid of me, or have someone else give the lecture or not give the lecture at all.”

“If you answer such a question you are under severe time pressure, you have to be extremely brief — and I used wording which I think was completely innocuous, and that apparently the student didn’t,” Hesslow said.

Hesslow was ordered to attend a meeting by Christer Larsson, chairman of the program board for medical education, after a female student complained that Hesslow had a “personal anti-feminist agenda.” He was asked to distance himself from two specific comments; that gay women have a “male sexual orientation” and that the sexual orientation of transsexuals is “a matter of definition.”

The student’s complaint reads in part (translated):

I have also heard from senior lecturers that Germund Hesslow at the last lecture expressed himself transfobically. In response to a question of transexuallism, he said something like “sex change is a fly”. Secondly, it is outrageous because there may be students during the lecture who are themselves exposed to transfobin, but also because it may affect how later students in their professional lives meet transgender people. Transpersonals already have a high level of overrepresentation in suicide statistics and there are already major shortcomings in the treatment of transgender in care, should not it be countered? How does this kind of statement coincide with the university’s equal treatment plan? What has this statement given for consequences? What has been done for this to not be repeated? –Academic Rights Watch

After being admonished, Hesslow refused to distance himself from his comments, saying that he had “done enough” already and didn’t have to explain and defend his choice of words.

At some point, one must ask for a sense of proportion among those involved. If it were to become acceptable for students to record lectures in order to find compromising formulations and then involve faculty staff with meetings and long letters, we should let go of the medical education altogether,” Hesslow said in a written reply to Larsson.

He also rejected the accusation that he had a political agenda – stating that his only agenda was to let scientific factnot new social conventions, dictate how he teaches his courses.

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