California Approves Lithium Tax Despite Industry’s Warnings


California on Thursday approved a plan to tax the electric vehicle battery metal lithium to generate revenue for environmental remediation projects despite industry concerns that it will harm the sector and delay shipments to automakers.

Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, approved the tax as part of a must-pass state budget on Thursday. The state legislature had signed off on the levy during deliberations on Wednesday night.

The tax is structured as a flat-rate per ton and will go into effect in January. The tax will be reviewed every year, and state officials have agreed to study potentially switching to a percentage-based tax.

The largest American state sits atop giant lithium reserves in its Salton Sea region, east of Los Angles, an area heavily damaged in the 20th century by years of heavy pesticide use from farming. Funds generated from the tax are earmarked in part to cleanup of the area.

Federal officials have praised the area’s start-up lithium industry because it would deploy a geothermal brine process that is more environmentally friendly than open-pit mines and brine evaporation ponds, the two most common existing methods to produce lithium.

Two of the area’s three lithium companies warned the tax would scare off investors and customers. Both said they may leave the state for lithium-rich brine deposits in Utah or Arkansas.

Privately-held Controlled Thermal Resources Ltd. said the tax would force it to miss deadlines to deliver lithium to General Motors Co. by 2024 and Stellantis NV. by 2025.

EnergySource Minerals LLC., also privately held, said it halted discussions with potential financiers and an automaker.

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California Passes Sweeping Measure to Reduce Single-Use Plastics


California has passed a sweeping measure to significantly reduce single-use plastics and drastically boost plastic recycling rates, setting up the toughest plastics reduction requirements in the nation.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed the measure on Thursday afternoon.

“Our kids deserve a future free of plastic waste and all its dangerous impacts, everything from clogging our oceans to killing animals—contaminating the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. No more,” Newsom said in a statement on Thursday.

“California won’t tolerate plastic waste that’s filling our waterways and making it harder to breathe. We’re holding polluters responsible and cutting plastics at the source.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom gives his State of the State address in Sacramento on March 8, 2022. (Screenshot via YouTube/California Governor Gavin Newsom)

Limiting Single-Use Plastics, Boosting Recycling Rates

Under the measure, SB 54, companies selling products that come with single-use plastic packaging, food containers, and utensils, will have a decade to cut down their use. Specifically, they’d have to reduce plastics in single-use products by 10 percent by 2027, and by 25 percent by 2032. The reduction in plastic packaging can be achieved via reducing package sizing, switching to a different material, or making the product easily reusable or refillable.

By 2032, all single-use plastic packaging in products bought or sold in the state would have to be recycled at a rate of at least 65 percent, per the new law. It sets interim requirements of at least 30 percent by 2028, and at least 40 percent by 2030. The requirement wouldn’t apply to plastic beverage bottles, which have their own recycling rates.

The new California law (pdf) also requires that non-recyclable expanded polystyrene, also known as styrofoam, will be reduced by 25 percent by 2025. If the goal is not met, the material will be totally banned. Because so little of the material is recycled, the measure is essentially a “de facto ban,” Jay Ziegler, the director of policy and external affairs at The Nature Conservancy in California told the Los Angeles Times.

Companies that don’t comply with the new law will be fined up to $50,000 a day.

The legislation will also require that plastic producers must form a “producer responsibility organization” tasked with developing a plan to meet the requirements of the new law. The plan would need approval from California’s recycling department, CalRecycle. Maine, Oregon, and Colorado have similar producer responsibility systems.

The organization must, starting in 2027, collect from producers $500 million annually for 10 years—totaling $5 billion over that period—for funds created by the legislation aimed at cutting plastic pollution and “mitigating the environmental impacts of plastic.”

Measure Prompted By Ballot Initiative

Efforts to limit plastic packaging have failed in the state’s legislature for years, but the threat of a similar initiative (pdf) going before voters on the ballot in November faced intense opposition from business groups and prompted them to come to the negotiating table.

The measure’s three petitioners withdrew the pending initiative from the ballot after saying that they would do so if Newsom signed SB 54 into law (pdf).

State Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), author of the legislation who led negotiations on the bill, expressed in a statement that the measure reflected the cooperation of the environmental and business communities on the issue.

The Nature Conservancy praised the new law, calling it “the nation’s most comprehensive and ambitious policy to reduce pollution from single-use plastic packaging and foodware.”

The environmental nonprofit is among dozens of groups and local governments that support the law, including Oceana, Ocean Conservancy, League of California Cities, Rural County Representatives of California, California State Association of Counties, National Stewardship Action Council, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Recycling Partnership, Association of Plastic Recyclers, California Public Interest Research Group, Environment California, American Sustainable Business Network, Seventh Generation, Western Growers, Waste Management, and more.

Joshua Baca, vice president of plastics of the American Chemistry Council, which represents the plastics industry, said the new law’s definition of recycling limits “new, innovative recycling technologies that keep hard to recycle plastic out of the environment and landfills.” He also expressed that the measure unfairly places an 8 percent cap on the amount of post-consumer recycled plastic that can be used to meet the 25 percent reduction requirement.

“We believe future legislation or regulations should incentivize the use of more post-consumer recycled content in plastic packaging,” he said in a statement.

Judith Enck, president of Beyond Plastics, said while California’s bill goes farther than any other state when it comes to reducing plastic pollution, it still falls short. She said it will only result in about a 10 percent reduction in overall packaging because producers can make products refillable or switch to other materials.

Plastic production is expected to triple globally by 2050, she added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Mimi Nguyen Ly

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Mimi Nguyen Ly is a reporter based in Australia. She covers world news with a focus on U.S. news. Contact her at mimi.nl@epochtimes.com



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California First to Cover Health Care for All Immigrants

California will become the first state to guarantee free health care for all low-income immigrants living in the country illegally, a move that will provide coverage for an additional 764,000 people at an eventual cost of about $2.7 billion a year.

It’s part of a $307.9 billion operating budget that Gov. Gavin Newsom was expected to sign Thursday. It pledges to make low-income adults eligible for the state’s Medicaid program by 2024, regardless of their immigration status. It’s a long-sought victory for health care and immigration activists, who have been asking for the change for more than a decade.

Nationwide, federal and state governments join together to give free health care to low-income adults and children through Medicaid. But the federal government won’t pay for people who are living in the country illegally. Some states, including California, have used their own tax dollars to cover a portion of health care expenses for some low-income immigrants.

Now, California wants to be the first to do that for everyone.

About 92% of of Californians currently have some form of health insurance, putting the state in the middle of the pack nationally. But that will change once this budget is fully implemented, as adults living in the country illegally make up one of the largest group of people without insurance in the state.

“This will represent the biggest expansion of coverage in the nation since the start of the Affordable Care Act in 2014,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a statewide consumer health care advocacy group. “In California we recognize (that) everybody benefits when everyone is covered.”

People living in the country illegally made up about 7% of the population nationwide in 2020, or about 22.1 million people, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health care nonprofit. They are not eligible for most public benefit programs, even though many have jobs and pay taxes.

Immigrants have slowly been getting access to some health care programs. Eighteen states now provide prenatal care to people regardless of their immigration status, while the District of Columbia and five states — California, Illinois, New York, Oregon and Washington — cover all children from low-income families regardless of their immigration status. California and Illinois have expanded Medicaid to cover older adult immigrants.

In California, Republicans and conservative groups have opposed expanding health care to immigrants living in the country illegally. Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said offering free health care will make California “a magnet for those who are not legally authorized to enter the country.”

“I think many of us are very sympathetic to the immigrant community, but we really wish we had better control of who enters this nation and this state,” Coupal said.

California’s expansion of Medicaid won’t be easy. A confluence of events, including the state’s slow rollout of the expansion and the end of some federal pandemic policies, mean about 40,000 low-income immigrants will likely lose their health coverage for up to a year in 2023 before being eligible to get it back — illustrating the difficulty of navigating the government-run health insurance system that is supposed to make it easier for people to get coverage.

Beatriz Hernandez came to the United States in 2007 as a 11-year-old. California taxpayers covered her health care expenses when she was a child. She lost that coverage once she turned 19 because of her immigration status, but it was restored in 2020 when the state began covering low-income immigrants 26 and younger.

Hernandez turned 26 in February. She hasn’t lost her coverage yet because of emergency federal rules during the pandemic. But those rules could expire later this year, making her one of the estimated 40,000 people who will temporarily lose their coverage before California’s new program starts on Jan. 1, 2024, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Hernandez lives in Merced in California’s Central Valley and works as an organizer with the California Immigrant Policy Center. She said her mother would benefit the most from the expansion, having never had health insurance since moving to the U.S.

But for Hernandez, she’s worried a gap in her coverage would cause her to lose access to the medication she takes to treat depression. In the meantime, she’s scheduling as many appointments as she can this year — including for the dentist, optometrist and dermatologist — before she loses coverage.

“It’s great that California is taking that step to set that example for other states,” said Hernandez, who said she does not have a work permit or other permission to live in the United States. “I do believe that we can do better by making sure that people like myself and hundreds of others, thousands of others, do not fall out of their health care simply because they turn 26.”

Previous expansions of California’s Medicaid system have taken six months to a year to implement. But the Newsom administration says it needs a year and a half to complete this expansion because it is so much larger than the previous ones.

Health care advocates say the gap in coverage is significant for low-income immigrants living in the country illegally because they don’t have other options. Citizens who lose their Medicaid coverage can purchase coverage from Covered California, the state-run health insurance exchange, and likely qualify for a significant discount.

“But for this population, that’s it. (Medicaid) is the only public program available to them,” said Sarah Dar, director of health and public benefits policy for the California Immigrant Policy Center.

Democrats in the state Legislature say they are working with the Newsom administration on speeding up the process.

“We’re doing all that we can. We’re talking to the administration, talking to the leadership in the (California) Department of Health, to make sure that we do it as fast as possible and that nobody loses it in the meanwhile,” said Democratic Sen. Maria Elena Durazo. “It doesn’t make sense to lose them and then pull them back in.”


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California ‘Low-Income’ Apartments Cost Over $1 Million to Build


Commentary

The California housing lunacy just gets worse and worse. Not long ago I commented on a Los Angeles audit revealing that the city was building housing for homeless at a cost of up to $837,000 per single unit. Now, a Los Angeles Times study of state records reveals that the state is subsidizing low-income apartments that cost in excess of $1 million each to build!

Any California developer will tell you that the biggest impediment to new housing in the state are the onerous building codes and permit requirements. California’s are among the most onerous, requiring environmental impact reviews, soil reports, coastal commission reviews, energy efficiency requirements, design reviews, and workforce and procurement rules.

The hallmark of progressive leadership is to create a problem through overregulation or bad policy, and then propose solutions that require big government solutions. And never trust the free market to solve a problem. By way of example, Los Angeles and San Francisco created a homeless problem by not enforcing their no camping laws. Their solution is to build free, permanent government housing for all of the homeless campers. Similarly, California has driven up the cost of new housing through onerous building requirements, and now seeks to solve the housing shortage problem by giving billions in government subsidies for so called “low-income” housing.

This year’s state budget includes $17 billion for housing and homelessness programs. That amounts to almost $1,000 out of the pocket of each California taxpayer. Why so much? In part because of the exorbitant building costs.

Driving the cost is not just the onerous building regulations. To get the subsidies the government requires union workers. In addition, it requires a lot of red tape. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, a 2018 study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that 14 percent of the price tag for California’s affordable housing projects was made up of consulting fees and other administrative costs—the highest in the country and more than developers spend on the land itself.

Even the king of progressives, Governor Gavin Newsom, has complained about the number of hoops developers must jump through before getting building approval. “I’ve just had enough with TCAC and CDLAC and OPRs and CalVets and HCDs and CalHFAs,” the governor mockingly said, referring to various state departments involved in financing housing projects. He made no mention of the fact that it was his party that created this hodgepodge of departments.

Then you have the fact that the projects are not placed in the least expensive parts of the state, but rather in some of the most expensive. The three most expensive projects identified by the Los Angeles Times are located in the city of San Francisco. One project was planned for the surfside town of Solana Beach, also at a cost of over $1 million per unit.

Putting low-income housing in California’s most expensive real estate markets only makes sense if you look at it through the eyes of progressives. They see everything in terms of equity, i.e., equal outcomes. In their utopian dream there should no such thing as an unaffordable place to live. Just as they believe in open borders, i.e. permitting anyone in the world to freely cross our southern border and to come live in America, they believe that people should be able to live in the neighborhood of their choosing. If it is too expensive, the government will simply correct that by building low-income housing there.

We see the same mentality in Los Angeles in addressing the homeless problem. Rather than building temporary shelters in the least expensive parts of the city, L.A. builds permanent housing in the most expensive areas. One significant project is about a block from the beach in Venice, one of L.A.’s biggest tourist destinations. The Los Angeles City Council is also studying a proposal to convert a parking lot on the beach in Pacific Palisades, one of L.A.’s most beautiful beaches, into homeless housing.

The progressives’ reason that this is where the homeless currently live, so this is where the housing is needed. But naturally the homeless are there. We would all love to live in an oceanfront property. However, most understand they cannot and instead find a place to live in a more affordable area. They commit to working hard in hopes of moving up into a better neighborhood. Progressives would favor a lottery system, whereby all have an equal chance of living in the nicer neighborhood (provided, of course, that the lottery resulted in the proper representation of each minority and LGBTQ+ community).

If you do not live in California and are enjoying a good laugh at the expense of Californians, wait until you hear this. Your money is being used for this. According to the Los Angeles Times, California is using $1.75 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds to help finance proposed low-income developments. Yes, California is taking your tax dollars, received from the federal government for the purpose of alleviating pain caused by the pandemic, and spending them on million-dollar apartments in expensive neighborhoods.

This is what “Build Back Better” looks like.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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James Breslo is a civil rights attorney and host of the “Hidden Truth Show” podcast. He was formerly a partner at the international law firm Seyfarth Shaw and public company president. He has appeared numerous times as a legal expert on Fox News and CNN.



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Reported Level of Hate Crimes in California Highest Since 9/11

Hate crimes reported in California increased approximately 33% from 2020 to 2021. Last year saw the sixth-highest number of hate crimes ever recorded in California, and according to the state’s annual report released Tuesday, hate crimes in the state are at their highest reported level since 2001.

The largest rise in hate crimes in 2021 were committed against Asian Americans, spiking over 177%, from 89 in 2020 to 247 in 2021. While approximately 8% of racial hate crimes were committed against Asian Americans in 2020, that percentage grew to 21% in 2021.

Hate crimes against Black people rose 12.5%, from 456 in 2020 to 513 in 2021. Against Latinos, that number was 29.6%, from 152 in 2020 to 197 in 2021. Hate crimes due to bias against sexual orientation increased 47.8%, from 205 in 2020 to 303 in 2021, and hate crimes due to religious bias and antisemitism increased 32%, from 115 in 2020 to 152 in 2021.

In a statement, California Attorney General Rob Bonta, a Democrat, said that ”today’s report undeniably shows that the epidemic of hate we saw spurred on during the pandemic remains a clear and present threat. In fact, reported hate crime has reached a level we haven’t seen in California since the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11.

”As our state’s top law enforcement officer, I will continue to use the full authority of my office to fight back. We will keep working with our local law enforcement partners and community organizations to make sure every Californian feels seen, heard, and protected.

”While there is no single solution, it’s up to all of us to heed the call, because when our communities feel empowered, they come forward. Now, more than ever, it is critical that we stand united — there is no place for hate in California.”

Bonta faces Republican Nathan Hochman in the Nov. 8 general election.


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Russian Superyacht Seized by US Arrives in San Diego Bay

A $325 million superyacht seized by the United States from a sanctioned Russian oligarch arrived in San Diego Bay on Monday.

The 348-foot-long (106-meter-long) Amadea flew an American flag as it sailed past the retired aircraft carrier USS Midway and under the Coronado Bridge.

The Department of Justice said the Amadea was safely docked after a transpacific journey of over 5,000 miles (8,047 kilometers) “and will remain in the custody of the U.S. government, pending its anticipated forfeiture and sale.”

The FBI linked the Amadea to the Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, and the vessel became a target of Task Force KleptoCapture, launched in March to seize the assets of Russian oligarchs to put pressure on Russia to end the war in Ukraine.

The U.S. said Kerimov secretly bought the vessel last year through various shell companies.

The U.S. won a legal battle in Fiji to take the Cayman Islands-flagged superyacht earlier this month. The Amadea made a stop in Honolulu Harbor en route to the U.S. mainland.

“The successful seizure and transport of Amadea would not have been possible without extraordinary cooperation from our foreign partners in the global effort to enforce U.S. sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war in Ukraine,” the Justice Department said.


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Amtrak Crash Kills 3 in Brentwood, California

An Amtrak train running through an unincorporated part of Brentwood, California, crashed into a car containing five people on Sunday afternoon at a private crossing. The crash resulted in three deaths and left an adult and child hospitalized with “major injuries,” CBS reported.

“It’s not uncommon that we’ve had accidents at that crossing,” East Contra Costa County Fire Protection District public information officer Steve Aubert said.

The train stopped after the collision, the public information officer added. And none of its 85 passengers were injured. But three people died, and the two others were taken to John Muir Medical Center.

The Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office, alongside the California Highway Patrol, said officials with BNSF Railway, who owns the tracks, are conducting the investigation.


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DA’s Office: California Suspect Had Enough Fentanyl to ‘Kill 12 Million People’

A suspected drug dealer in California has been charged with possessing enough fentanyl to potentially kill as many as “12 million people,” according to the Orange County District Attorney’s office.

“Alfonso Gomez-Santana, 60, of Fullerton has been charged with one felony count of sale or transport of a controlled substance and two felony counts of possession of sale with intent to sell,” the Orange County DA’s office said on Friday, through a media release.

On Wednesday, California Highway Patrol officers arrested Gomez-Santana in Orange County and found more than four kilos of fentanyl while searching his vehicle.

Later on, when officers searched the suspect’s home, they discovered “20 more kilos of fentanyl, $250,000 in fentanyl pills, and 122 grams of methamphetamine.”

Gomez-Santana faces up to 80 months in prison, if convicted on all counts.

“It is unconscionable that someone who has the ability to kill 12 million people is facing just a handful of years in jail,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer.

Spitzer also said, “Fentanyl is a national epidemic that killed more than 100,000 Americans last year, and it’s not going to stop unless we have the tools as prosecutors to hold these drug dealers and drug manufacturers accountable for peddling death.

“Every parent in America should be petrified that one day they are going to walk into their child’s bedroom and find them dead because their child thought they were experimenting with recreational drugs and instead drug dealers sold them a deadly dose of fentanyl. This is not fear-mongering; this is reality – and if we don’t start strengthening penalties for drug dealers it’s going to be the reality for you or someone you love.”

A recent media report revealed that 107,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2021 — a 15% increase from 2020.

Within that number, 71,000 Americans died of a fentanyl-related overdose in 2021 — an 18.3% increase from the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In April, Breitbart News reported that border officials seized 11,200 pounds of fentanyl at the United States-Mexico border for the 2021 fiscal year, and have already seized 5,800 pounds of fentanyl since October 1, 2021, when Fiscal Year 2022 began, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data.

“The figures indicate that fentanyl seizures under [President Joe] Biden, last year alone, have quadrupled since Fiscal Year 2019 when [former President Donald] Trump was in office,” wrote Breitbart.

In April, law enforcement officials in northern California’s Alameda County seized up to 90 pounds of fentanyl, with an estimated value of $4.2 million.


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Good Samaritans Help California Swimmer Attacked by Shark


A California man who was in the water at Lovers Point Beach in Pacific Grove was rescued by good Samaritans after he was attacked by a shark on Wednesday, police said.

“The adult male swimmer sustained significant injuries from the shark bite and was transported to Natividad Hospital by [American Medical Rescue],” said Pacific Grove Police Department Chief Cathy Madalone in a statement on Wednesday.

The beach will be closed until Saturday under State Parks protocol, police said.

Pacific Grove Police, the Monterey Fire Department, American Medical Response, and State Parks responded to the incident which occurred at around 10:35 a.m. on Wednesday.

A drone was launched to search for the shark out of “an abundance of caution” by the Monterey and Seaside fire departments, but Madalone said there were so far no additional sightings.

The police chief thanked the good Samaritans who “took immediate action and personal risk” to help the swimmer at Lovers Point Beach.

The department also thanked the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“We want to express our gratitude and appreciation to the good Samaritans that took immediate action and personal risk to assist the swimmer,” Madalone said.

“We send our prayers and thoughts to the swimmer and their family,” she added.

Video Shows Rescue

Jill Hannley identified the swimmer as her friend, 60-year-old retired professor Stephen Bruemmer, in an interview with local Fox affiliate KION.

Hannley relayed information on Bruemmer’s condition, saying that he was lucky but was in for a long recovery.

The Epoch Times has not independently verified the identity of the swimmer.

“It was a very large shark. Luckily none of his blood vessels were intruded upon but his femur was broke [sic] and they were able to fix it,” she said, recalling the information she says she received in a text message.

“He’s not going to lose any limbs. He’s going to survive. It’s just going to be a long, long recovery.”

KION published two short videos taken from a nearby beach house that appear to the show good Samaritans on paddle boards making their way to Bruemmer’s location in the water soon after the attack.

The second video shows an individual swimming atop a paddle board, while towing a second paddle board on which is another individual lying down. Behind the towed paddle board there appears to be a third individual kicking from the rear.

They swim to shore where three more individuals meet them and help bring Bruemmer ashore.

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Caden Pearson is a reporter based in Australia. He has a background in screenwriting and documentary. Contact him on caden.pearson@epochtimes.com.au





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California Plotting to Punish Medical Dissent


Commentary

I will be heading to Sacramento next Monday to testify at a Senate committee hearing on California Assembly Bill 2098. The bill, sponsored by Senator Pan—who has been in Pharma’s back pocket for years and the source of much legislative health policy mischief in my home state—would give the medical board the authority to punish any physicians who challenge the safety and efficacy of COVID vaccines.

This bill is advanced even as evidence continues to emerge of safety problems with the mRNA shots, including a study this week showing the vaccines lower sperm counts in men.

But this proposed measure seeks to enshrine in law “scientific” conclusions which are highly dubious:

Epoch Times Photo

All three of these statements are demonstrably false:

(a) The death count figures cited are grossly overestimated by hospitals failing to distinguish dying from COVID vs. dying with COVID and the financial incentives from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to overestimate COVID deaths;

(b) the efficacy of vaccines has declined with time and new variants, so the statistic cited here is no longer true of the vaccines against omicron;

(c) the CDC has consistently failed to follow-up on serious safety signals, apart from myocarditis, and the post-marketing surveillance data acquired from our FOIA request showed serious safety issues in the first three months of vaccine rollout.

If this bill passes, any physician who raises these or other inconvenient scientific facts or study findings could be disciplined by the medical board, as the text of the bill explains:

“It shall constitute unprofessional conduct for a physician and surgeon to disseminate misinformation or disinformation related to COVID-19, including false or misleading information regarding the nature and risks of the virus, its prevention and treatment; and the development, safety, and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.”

The supposed scientific “facts” mentioned in the bill make it clear just what information will be considered “misinformation” under this law. This bill will spell the end of scientific integrity and medical freedom in California. I worry that if it passes, other states could follow suit. As I have said before, California is the tip of the spear.

Here is the text of a letter I submitted last week to the committee where the bill is currently being reviewed:

13 June 2022

To: California Legislators and Committee Members

RE: AB 2098: Physicians and Surgeons: Unprofessional Conduct—OPPOSE

As a licensed physician in California I strongly oppose the proposed California bill AB 2098 and urge you to vote no and oppose as well.

Advances in science and medicine typically occur when doctors and scientists challenge conventional thinking or settled opinion. This is the very nature of scientific progress. Fixating any current medical consensus as “unchallengeable” by physicians will stifle medical and scientific advances and give undue authority to a few gatekeepers who act as guardians of the consensus. As I testified in January at a U.S. Senate panel on Covid policy: “The scientific method suffered [during the pandemic] from a repressive academic and social climate of censorship and silencing of competing perspectives. This projected the false appearance of a scientific consensus—a ‘consensus’ often strongly influenced by economic and political interests.”

One need only look at the last two years to see how frequently public health recommendations and consensus thinking about Covid changed from one month to the next with the advent of new information. It was frontline ICU physicians who discovered and spoke out about bad outcomes when patients were prematurely placed on ventilators. This shifted the consensus in the direction of avoiding ventilation as much as possible. Likewise, it was frontline physicians who discovered that placing covid patients face-down in the prone position while they were ventilated could improve outcomes, challenging another consensus. Both of these advances came by way of challenging the way things were currently being done. Other physicians challenged the early consensus, which did not recommend the use of steroids to treat Covid. Eventually, this dissenting opinion gained ground and now represents conventional thinking: corticosteroids for critically ill covid patients are now standard care. Many other examples regarding guidelines on masks, social distancing, and other Covid policies could be cited here.

Allowing the free interchange among competing perspectives is absolutely necessary for scientific and medical progress. Good science is characterized by conjecture and refutation, lively deliberation, often fierce debate, and always openness to new data. The censorship of free speech in AB 2098 spells not only the demise of civil liberties and constitutional rights, but the end of the scientific enterprise when it comes to dealing with Covid in CA.

Patients will not trust physicians if they believe their physician has been muzzled by the law and cannot speak his or her mind honestly. Patients want to know that if they ask their physician a question, including a question about Covid, they will get their doctor’s honest opinion—regardless of whether they follow that opinion, seek a second opinion, or whatever. Patients will not trust physicians if they know their doctor is simply parroting a consensus judgment that he may or may not agree with or endorse.

This bill will not help us to deal with Covid more effectively. Doctors will be punished for practicing medicine according to their best judgment. Informed consent, the foundation of good medical ethics, will be seriously compromised, and the trust necessary for the doctor-patient relationship will be shattered. I strongly urge you and your fellow lawmakers must oppose AB 2098. It will harm not only physicians and medical institutions in California, but even more concerningly, it will harm patients.

Sincerely,

Aaron Kheriaty, MD

From the Brownstone Institute

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Aaron Kheriaty

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Aaron Kheriaty is a physician, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and chief of ethics at The Unity Project.



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