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Pro-GOP group places billboards near closed schools where Dem races are at stake in 2022

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A pro-Republican group in a dozen congressional districts controlled by Democrats is putting up advertisements targeting the issue of reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic, Fox News reported Thursday.

On Thursday, the American Action Network (AAN) is unveiling a new issue advocacy campaign that calls for House lawmakers to support the safe reopening of U.S. schools, Fox News reported. The advertisements, which were first shared with Fox News, will appear in 12 districts represented by Democrats viewed as possibly weak in the 2022 midterm elections and who voted recently against the Reopen Schools Act sponsored by Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa).

The legislation would have provided full federal funding to schools that reopen for in-person learning during the pandemic and punished those that stay closed.

President Joe Biden’s administration, amid the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, has been pushing for schools to reopen soon, though teachers unions in major cities across the country have been fighting aggressively against this, calling for more protections and more vaccination of teachers. This has put Biden, seen by many as an ally of unions, in an awkward position as Republicans turn up the heat against him and Democrats for the slow march toward school reopenings and continued closures.

“Kids are falling behind, yet liberals in Congress seem not to care,” AAN president Dan Conston charged in a statement.

“[E]ven though the science shows it’s safe for children to return to school, teachers unions continue to keep students locked out of their classrooms,” Conston said, citing studies such as one from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicating that, when mask-wearing and social-distancing policies are practiced, the risk of COVID-19 spreading in schools remains low.

RELATED: CDC Director: Vaccinating teachers ‘not a prerequisite’ for safely reopening schools

“Liberals in Congress — awash in teacher union cash — are picking the unions over America’s kids,” he added. “Our children have fell behind enough, it’s time Congress supported safely reopening schools now.”

Across the country, several teachers unions are demanding more COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and other protection measures before returning to in-person learning. The CDC is expected to publish new and more detailed guidance later this week on reopening schools, according to Fox News.

Part of the new AAN campaign features billboards nearby shut-down schools in the districts of Democratic Reps. Andy Kim (N.J.), Susan Wild (Pa.), and Elaine Luria (Va.). Moreover, this trio and nine other House Democrats will also be hit with digital advertisements in their districts and what the AAN calls “grassroots phone calls to their district offices,” according to Fox News.

The other nine others are Reps. Josh Harder (Calif.), Cheri Bustos of (Ill.), Haley Stevens (Mich.), Chris Pappas (N.H.), Tom Malinowski (N.J.), Matt Cartwright (Pa.), Education and Labor Committee chair Bobby Scott (Va.), Abigail Spanberger (Va.), and Ron Kind (Wis.), Fox News reported.

The AAN, a nonprofit advocacy group founded in 2010 along with its sister organization, the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), raised more than $215 million during the 2020 election cycle, according to Fox News. The latter was the largest spender among outside organizations supporting House Republicans, and the AAN spent millions advocating for conservative policies in Washington, D.C., as Fox News pointed out.

In order to retake the Democrat-controlled House in 2022, Republicans only need to flip five seats. In the 2018 midterms, Democrats ended eight years of GOP control in the lower chamber, however, Republicans surprised pollsters in 2020 by eating away at the Democratic majority. A phenomenon that has often repeated itself in contemporary politics is that the party in control of the White House typically loses House seats during the first midterm elections of the new administration.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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China

REPORT: China uses psychiatric institutions to suppress dissent

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China has a vast network of psychiatric institutions that it uses to suppress dissent, according to a recent report by Safeguard Defenders, an NGO that focuses on human rights violations in China and other Asian countries. The report compiled data found on 99 victims involved in 144 instances on involuntary hospitalizations in 109 institutions from 2015 through 2021. Of the 99 victims in the report, 80 were petitioners [i.e., those who file complaints against officials] and 14 were activists.

But this is hardly a new phenomenon. “China’s regime has been torturing, maiming, and killing dissidents and others in psychiatric facilities for seven decades,” said Gordon G. Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China and The Great U.S.-China Tech War. “The only way to end the horrific abuse is to end the rule of the Communist Party.”

The report detailed especially harsh treatments, which include: forced medication (in 77 percent of cases), physical restraints on the bed (60 percent), beatings by staff or other patients (25 percent) and electroshock therapy (14 percent). Otherwise normally healthy people were given anti-psychotic and psychotropic medications, causing severe side effects like memory loss, insomnia and tremors. Electroshock therapy was often administered to the victims as they were fully conscious, rather than under anesthesia in small doses as would be clinically appropriate for certain patients.  According to the report, “[Electroshock therapy] without anesthesia is not only unimaginably painful and frightening for the patient but carries serious side effects, including the risk of bone fractures, joint dislocation, muscle tears, disruption of the heart beat and lung damage.”

Family and friends are often used as weapons against the victims. They were not permitted to call or visit the victims in 76 percent of cases, which essentially makes these cases “enforced disappearances.” 11 percent of cases were committed with the assistance of family (either voluntarily or coerced by authorities). Family and friends who petition for the victim’s release are often faced with persecution, and involuntarily commitment themselves.

The peak of psychiatric detentions occurred from 2015 through 2016, which was around the same time as China’s “709 Crackdown” where the government persecuted hundreds of human rights lawyers.

Some of the detentions are rather draconian. As a petitioner who called for local authorities to investigate a robbery in his house, Zeng Jiping was detained for almost two years. For “live tweeting herself splashing paint over a portrait of Xi Jinping,” Dong Yaoqiong received 1 year, 4 months detention. Twenty-nine out of the 99 victims in the report were hospitalized more than once. In two-thirds of cases where data was known, the authorities did not perform a psychiatric evaluation, in direct violation of China’s Mental Health Law.

The report also gives the example of Andy Li, a member of the “Hong Kong 12” pro-democracy protestors, as falling victim to involuntary detention in Hong Kong’ Siu Lam Psychiatric Center in 2021. The report noted that, as Li’s family didn’t know about his detention, “Li’s cases appears to be a worrying sign that the political abuse of psychiatry practiced on the mainland is now being exported into Hong Kong…”

Those who are finally released from their involuntary committals face lasting physical and phycological pain, and stigma within their communities. People seeking damages for their treatment are often faced with doctors and attorneys who do not want to assist them for fear of retaliation from the government.

Conclusion

According to the report, China is using “peace and health asylums” and other healthcare institutions to “punish and remove activists and petitioners from society without the trouble of going through a trial.” While the report details various Chinese laws that are supposed to protect citizens from such involuntary hospitalizations, in reality Chinese authorities do not abide by these laws and the citizens are not protected. The policy of involuntary hospitalizations show the extent to which the Chinese Communist Party will go to suppress dissent.

You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic

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