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[l] at 2/29/24 2:10pm
Reacting to the massive fires in the Texas Panhandle, the largest in Texas’ history and burning through 1.1 million hectares: Ian Duff, Head of Greenpeace’s Stop, Drilling Start Paying campaign said:“These fires are an unfolding tragedy. Our hearts go out to those who are experiencing loss across the state.The blazes we’re seeing in Texas are not just fueled by high winds and exceptionally dry weather. As emissions from burning more oil and gas makes the climate crisis worse, we can only expect to see more of these out of control disasters.The UN projects that the number of wildfires will rise worldwide by 50% by 2100, and that climate change is expected to make these fires more frequent and intense. As the largest oil driller and producer in the United States, oil companies in Texas are literally fueling the flames on their doorstep.The corporations threatening our planet and its people – including Chevron, Exxon, Equinor, Eni, BP, Shell, and TotalEnergies – have just announced mind-boggling annual profits. They must stop drilling and start paying. Oil and gas drilling and production from ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel giants needs to be rapidly phased out – and their billions in profits must pay for the damage they’ve caused.”
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[l] at 2/29/24 1:37pm
Today, Social Security Works and Data for Progress released new polling showing that voters overwhelmingly reject Social Security cuts, as well as the idea of a closed-door “fiscal commission” to determine Social Security’s future. Instead, they want Congress to raise taxes on wealthy Americans to protect Social Security. Currently, Social Security contributions are capped at $168,600 and people do not contribute on their wage income above that amount (unearned investment income is also exempt from Social Security contributions). That means that people making $1,000,000 a year are about to stop paying into Social Security for the rest of 2024.In an op-ed about the polling, Social Security Works President Nancy Altman and Representative John Larson (D-CT) wrote that:“We need to provide the 70 million Americans who pay into the system and rely on these benefits with the security to know it is solvent and working for them — and they deserve a direct answer on how Congress is going to address it. For more than 40 percent of them, Social Security is the only retirement plan they have. That’s why — across party lines — Americans are so adamant about fixing, maintaining, and enhancing Social Security, not cutting their hard-earned benefits.”Key results from the polling include: 92% of voters, including 94% of Republicans, reject cutting Social Security to reduce the national debt.71% of voters want Congress to protect Social Security by increasing taxes on wealthy Americans.70% of voters, including 71% of Republican voters, oppose the creation of a commission aimed at cutting Social Security, Medicare, and other programs.70% of voters think the future of Social Security should be decided through the regular lawmaking process in Congress, not through a new closed-door commission.
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[l] at 2/29/24 9:25am
The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas today granted a motion for preliminary injunction to block Texas Senate Bill 4 (88-4), which would permit local and state law enforcement to arrest, detain, and remove people they suspect to have entered Texas from another country without federal authorization. The legislation is one of the most extreme anti-immigrant laws ever passed by any state legislature in the country. A lawsuit from civil rights groups argues that the S.B. 4 violates the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution and is preempted by federal law, as Texas judges would be required to order a person’s deportation regardless of whether a person is eligible to seek asylum or other humanitarian protections under federal law. Advocates have warned that the law will separate families and directly lead to racial profiling, subjecting thousands of Black and Brown Texans to the state prison system, which is rife with civil rights abuses.The lawsuit was filed in December 2023 by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, and the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) on behalf of El Paso County, American Gateways, and Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center. It was subsequently consolidated with a lawsuit by the Department of Justice.The court’s decision will temporarily block the law from going into effect as the case is litigated. Without an injunction, the law would have gone into effect on March 5, 2024. This ruling is likely to be appealed by the state.The following reactions are from:Anand Balakrishnan (he/him), senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said: “The federal court’s decision confirms over a century of Supreme Court precedent, affirming that immigration enforcement is squarely within the federal government’s authority. S.B. 4 is a blatantly unconstitutional attempt to bypass federal law. We applaud the court’s decision, but we must ensure this harmful law is struck down altogether.”Edna Yang (she/her), co-executive director of American Gateways, said: “This decision is a victory for all our communities as it stops a harmful, unconstitutional, and discriminatory state policy from taking effect and impacting the lives of millions of Texans. Local officials should not be federal immigration agents, and our state should not be creating its own laws that deny people their right to seek protection here in the U.S. While we are thankful for this court decision, we know that too many people fleeing persecution are being denied their legal rights to make their case and seek political asylum. The only way to fix our broken immigration system is through federal congressional action, not individual state action.”Jennifer Babaie (she/her), Director of Advocacy and Legal Services with Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, said:“With today’s decision, the court sent a clear message to Texas: SB 4 is unconstitutional and criminalizing Black, brown, indigenous, and immigrant communities will not be tolerated. This crucial decision allows us to continue to focus our efforts on building a safe, legal, humane immigration system not contingent on abuses like racial profiling and harassment. We must continue to be vigilant against Texas’ politics of fear and hatred. But today, immigrants and Texans of color get to pursue living lives of hope, opportunity, and family. It’s a win worth celebrating.”David Donatti (he/him), senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Texas, said:“The court’s decision to block this anti-immigrant law from taking effect is an important win for Texas values, human rights, and the U.S. Constitution. Our current immigration system needs repair because it forces millions of Americans into the shadows and shuts the door on people in need of safety. S.B. 4 would only make things worse. Cruelty to migrants is not a policy solution.”Aron Thorn (he/him), senior attorney, Beyond Borders Program at TCRP, said:“We celebrate today’s win, blocking this extreme law from going into effect before it has the opportunity to harm Texas communities. This is a major step in showing the State of Texas and Governor Abbott that they do not have the power to enforce unconstitutional, state-run immigration policies. While this is only the first step in abolishing the law, people across the state can breathe a sigh of relief knowing they will not be needlessly arrested or deported by Texas under S.B. 4.”Iliana Holguin (she/her), El Paso County Commissioner Precinct 3, said:“El Paso County applauds the court’s clear confirmation today that immigration policies rest solely under Federal jurisdiction, and the state of Texas’ interference with the U.S. Constitution will not be tolerated. A piecemeal approach from individual states on federal matters such as immigration enforcement would put an undue burden on local taxpayers, while opening the door to potential civil rights violations for border residents and immigrants alike.”The order granting a preliminary injunction is available here: https://www.aclu.org/documents/las-americas-v-mccraw-order-granting-preliminary-injunctionAccess “Know Your Rights” under S.B. 4 materials in English here: https://www.aclutx.org/en/know-your-rights/know-your-rights-under-texas-deportation-scheme-sb4Access “Know Your Rights” under S.B. 4 materials in Spanish here: https://www.aclutx.org/es/know-your-rights/conozca-sus-derechos-segun-el-plan-de-deportacion-sb4-de-texas
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[l] at 2/29/24 9:19am
Killer robots threaten to become the immoral and destabilizing norm unless urgent action is taken to curtail the military use of artificial intelligence (AI), according to a Public Citizen report released today. The report, “A.I. Joe: The Dangers of Artificial Intelligence and the U.S. Military,” details a host of novel problems and concerns that arise as the U.S. military increasingly relies on and operationalizes AI systems, in addition to the dangers posed by autonomous weapons – “killer robots” programmed to make their own decisions about use of lethal force. These risks include: The possible launch of nuclear weapons by automated systems;Reliance on AI intelligence processing that increases the use of violence; andBattlefield deepfakes. This analysis is timely, as the Department of Defense (DoD) just requested $300 million for its first installment of drones under the Replicator Initiative, a program to fund and deploy fleets of many small “attritable” weapons to out-compete China in the domain of AI-empowered systems. In addition, recent on-the-ground reports show that Israel has used AI-assisted technologies in its drone strike campaign on Gaza. AI-supported warfighting is not science fiction; it is already here.New Silicon Valley AI tech firms are campaigning for new Pentagon spending on AI weapons and technology. Following the longstanding practices of old-line military contractors, firms like C3.ai, Anduril Industries, Rebellion Defense, and Palantir are working the revolving door and the Washington influence game. A singular figure driving the campaign for more Pentagon reliance on AI is Eric Schmidt, the former Google executive who is now heavily invested in the sector.“Desperate to feed at the Pentagon trough, a new set of AI military contractors is urging the Pentagon to recklessly embrace dangerous AI technologies,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “We need safeguards in place – including a ban on autonomous lethal weapons – before these corporations become entrenched in the military-industrial complex and it’s too late.”“AI technologies are advancing faster than the everyday American can track,” said Savannah Wooten, People Over Pentagon advocate at Public Citizen. “The risk of empowering the U.S. military to become a tech-enabled killing machine is sky-high. We have months, not years, to demand that no AI systems are permitted to launch nuclear weapons, kill without human oversight, or generate deepfakes that undermine global democracy.”“AI absolutely cannot become the next military spending ‘Gold Rush’. The Pentagon is rife with waste and excess spending as it is,” Wooten added. “If top brass wants to fund AI advancements, they must strategically reinvest their own budget, not demand billions more in taxpayer funding.”Key recommendations from the report include: The U.S should pledge not to develop or deploy autonomous weapons, and should support a global treaty banning such weapons;The U.S. should codify the commitment that only humans can launch nuclear weapons;Deepfakes should be banned from the battlefield; andSpending for AI technologies should come from the already bloated and wasteful Pentagon budget, not additional appropriations.
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[l] at 2/29/24 9:14am
We’re witnessing killings and repression at a scale unprecedented in the recent history of Israel and Palestine. The High Commissioner’s report underscores the gravity and severity of the abuses taking place on the ground. More than 1,200 Israeli and foreign nationals in Israel and 29,700 Palestinians in Gaza, the majority of them civilians, have been killed since October 7, according to local authorities, amid hostilities between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups that have included unlawful attacks and mass atrocities. Meanwhile, killings, administrative detention, displacement and settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank reached years-long highs.The heinous crimes carried out by Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups since October 7 are the abhorrent legacy of decades-long impunity for unlawful attacks by all parties and Israel’s crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution against Palestinians. The international community’s long-standing unwillingness to act to hold perpetrators to account has fueled grave abuses.As Israeli authorities contemplate forcing the over 1 million Palestinians in Rafah to again flee when there’s nowhere safe in Gaza—a move that would be unlawful and have catastrophic consequences — states should act to prevent further atrocities.Human Rights Watch has found that Israel is not complying with at least one of the binding provisional measures issued by the International Court of Justice in the genocide case brought by South Africa. States should use all forms of leverage, including targeted sanctions and an arms embargo, to press the Israeli government to comply with the binding order and to press the Israeli government and Palestinian armed groups to end unlawful attacks and other grave abuses. The lives of millions of civilians hang in the balance.
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[l] at 2/28/24 10:13pm
Declaring "I will no longer be complicit in genocide," airman Aaron Bushnell set himself on fire Sunday to protest Israel's annihilation of Palestinians in Gaza. His "extreme action born of desperation" has stirred wildly divergent responses. To the right, he was ill, extremist, contributing to "political violence" in the name of imaginary crimes; to the left, his was a brave, dire act of justifiable rage at an ongoing "stream of horrors in Gaza." Grievously, "Bushnell died so that Gaza may live.""My name is Aaron Bushnell. I am an active-duty member of the United States Air Force, and I will no longer be complicit in genocide," Bushnell says tensely on his livestream, breathing fast as he walks in fatigues toward D.C.'s Israeli Embassy. "I'm about to engage in an extreme act of protest, but compared to what people have been experiencing in Palestine at the hands of their colonizers, it's not extreme at all. This is what our ruling class has decided will be normal. Free Palestine!" At the embassy he sets down his still-recording phone, dons his cap, walks to the gate, douses himself, tosses a metal container that loudly rolls away, lights himself ablaze and yells "Free Palestine!" as flames engulf him. Most recordings blur his body as he repeats "Free Palestine," then screams in agony and collapses. Frantic police and Secret Service rush in shouting "Get on the ground"; one imbecile trains his gun on the burning body as another figure yells, “I don’t need guns - I need fire extinguishers!” Bushnell died soon after.Since Oct. 7, the Israeli military has killed almost 30,000 Palestinians - now 29,878 - two-thirds women and children; thousands more are dead under rubble, with over 70,215 wounded, most displaced, and many facing starvation as Israel blocks aid; in its latest war crime, Israel halted a medical evacuation convoy in Khan Yunis, detaining a paramedic and making others remove their clothes. Yet the U.S. fast-tracks billions in weaponry and has vetoed three UN ceasefire resolutions supported by the world's international organizations, millions of protesters and the Hague. Israel and the U.S. now stand alone as what Veterans For Peace rightly deem "madmen arsonists (abetting) the slaughter of innocents"; they specifically blast U.S policymakers "swaddled in privilege" who take their orders from corporate powers - Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics and other "merchants of death" - who "as much as lit the match for Aaron Bushnell, the collateral damage of the ongoing conflagration in Palestine."Bushnell joined the Air Force in 2020; after graduating from basic training “top of flight and top of class," he was a cyber-defense operations specialist stationed at San Antonio-Lackland Air Force base in Texas. He reportedly grew increasingly disillusioned with the military, especially after George Floyd’s killing, and became involved in left-leaning groups, including helping the unhoused in San Antonio. Though he considered leaving the military, he decided to stay until his time was up in May, after which he was enrolled in computer science classes at a New Hampshire college. His social media profile featured a Palestinian flag; friends describe him as "a force of joy," "an amazingly gentle, kind, compassionate person," principled, "with a strong sense of justice." He had earlier asked the Atlanta Community Press Collective to preserve and report on footage of his fiery protest; it was also posted by a freelance journalist, with the self-immolation blurred, after Bushnell's family consented to her sharing it online.Bushnell's death has prompted fierce debate across the political spectrum, with the media often twisting, diluting or misconstruing his action. Digging for easy or ugly answers, "smearmeisters" found Bushnell had grown up in a Massachusetts religious group called the Community of Jesus; in a successful lawsuit last year, former members alleged abuse in a "charismatic sect" that "created an environment of control, intimidation and humiliation (that) inflicted enduring harms." Other coverage omitted all context with headlines that didn't mention Gaza, hysterically charged "the Left" is "a death cult," and primly noted U.S. military policy forbids service members from engaging in "partisan political activity" or wearing their uniform during "speeches, interviews, marches, or other activities," presumably including burning yourself to death to protest genocide. And friggin' Tom 'Red Scare' Cotton huffed about "this individual," "extremist leanings," and "compromising national security" by having a functioning moral compass.Meanwhile, hawks and Zionists who for months have been cheerleading a fascist government's carpet bombing of two million trapped Gazans, over half of them children, were outraged by what Israeli Consul-General Anat Sultan-Dadon called an act of "hate and incitement toward Israel." In a head-spinning op-ed, the Jerusalem Post argued "an act of suicidal political protest is another step toward more political violence," with "the line between self-immolation and a suicide bombing" so thin one can easily "extend that violence onto others." "The far-Left already believes it is grappling with an evil that justifies violence," it went on. "Bushnell was deluded into thinking there was a 'genocide' occurring...Another devil in the radical-left’s pantheon of demons (is) calling Israelis "colonizers.' Israel is also accused (of) 'apartheid'...and protesters in New York City have called for 'resistance'...There may be many more Bushnells waiting in the wings...Those willing to kill themselves for a cause may have no qualms about killing others."Their delirium sharply contrasts with the pained, wrenching, mournful, empathic responses of those who, like Bushnell, are consumed by helpless rage at the devastation wrought by Israel on innocents - with US money and complicity - but who still feel horror at what Bushnell felt he had to do. "I am moved by his conviction and his anger, but grieved by the loss of his life," one wrote. "More death will not heal the wounds of war." Still, they hotly refuted the inevitable mental health trope too often dredged up with, "Anyone who thinks he was mentally unwell needs to check their humanity." "Please, stop saying Aaron Bushnell was mentally ill," wrote Joshua Frank of CounterPunch. "The real mental illness is witnessing a genocide taking place and not doing a thing to stop it." Bushnell was "rational and clear about his political reasoning, which resonates with (the) majority of the world," wrote another of his "legitimate moral outrage and courage." "May his sacrifice not be in vain, may his last words on this earth ring true." At protests and vigils, many held responsible Joe Biden, "who has ignored every peaceful form of protest." "In a few minutes," one said, "Aaron Bushnell exhibited more courage than every member of Congress." Others hoped he will inspire "more soldiers with a conscience to raise their voices," and we will "honor the message he left." Electronic Intifada's Ali Abunimah: "He gave his life so people in Gaza might live. There’s no greater love than that." The Palestinian Youth Movement praised his moral clarity as a ‘shaheed,’ or witness,’ "whose final moment in life is as a witness to injustice." Caitlin Johnstone, who watched the uncensored video - "I figured I owe him that much" - cited a Buddhist monk on self-immolation: "It is done to wake us up." In this, she echoed Bushnell's wrenching Facebook post the morning before his death. “Many of us like to ask ourselves, ‘What would I do if I was alive during slavery? Or the Jim Crow South? Or apartheid? What would I do if my country was committing genocide?’” he wrote. "The answer is, you’re doing it. Right now."
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[l] at 2/28/24 11:05am
Ahead of this morning’s hearing in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee on the retirement crisis in America, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the committee, released a stunning new report exposing the depth of the crisis, while also exploring solutions that will allow all Americans to retire with dignity and security – not just the very wealthy.Key findings from the report include:Nearly half of Americans 55 and older have no retirement savings.52 percent of Americans 65 and older are living on less than $30,000 annually and one in four survive on less than $15,000 per year. Nearly 5.3 million Americans 65 and older live in poverty, roughly 1 in 10 seniors.Nearly half of all Americans are at risk of a financially insecure retirement, up from one in three workers in 1983.The average monthly Social Security benefit in 2023 was only about $1,782, or $21,384 annually. The top 20 percent of earners receive 63 percent of the $202 billion in annual income tax breaks for retirement accounts, while the bottom 60 percent receive just 13.4 percent of these breaks.“In the richest country in the history of the world, a secure and dignified retirement should be available to every American, not just the extreme wealthy,” said Sanders. “Right now, more than half of older Americans have no retirement savings. More than 50 percent of our nation’s seniors are trying to survive on an income of less than $30,000 a year. That is absurd. Congress must address the retirement crisis facing working class Americans across our country.”The report finds that defined benefit plans, which provide workers with monthly pension payments, are the most cost-efficient way to provide a secure lifelong retirement. A defined benefit plan typically is 49 percent more cost effective than a defined contribution account, which leave workers beholden to individual investment returns. Yet roughly 27.2 million workers participated in defined benefit plans in 1975, versus 11.2 million workers participating in defined contribution plan. In 2019, 85.5 million workers participated in defined contribution plans versus 12.6 million defined benefit plan participants.The Congressional Budget Office found the shift from defined benefit to defined contribution plans may explain about one-fifth of the increase in wealth inequality from 1989 to 2019.The report also examined how workers are 15 times more likely to save for retirement if they can do so via payroll deduction and 20 times more likely to save if access to a workplace retirement plan is automatic. Today, roughly 57 million Americans do not have a way to save for retirement easily and automatically out of their regular paycheck and only 13.5 percent of workers have a pension.To read the report, click herere.
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[l] at 2/25/24 10:47pm
CPAC is back! Weirder, shriller, fringier, more paranoid than ever, with many empty seats but God allegedly still on the side of the cranks and zealots. Cue vapid, vicious, fear-mongering goons who, now saying the ugly part aloud, bray about evil trans people, stampeding "aliens," looming communists and pet-marrying while heralding Christian nationalism, "cool" dictators, the "Bible Uncancelled" and the glad "end of democracy." A republic if you can keep it: Welcome to today's forsaken, brutish GOP. Of course CPAC 2024, in all its shabby lunacy, reflects the increasingly rabid party - Free J6! - from which it sprang. Once a marquee conservative event that drew top GOP lawmakers and presidential contenders, it's become an "emptier, jankier, lower-rent" affair by a party lunging ever further into the wingnut galaxy, its hapless denizens endlessly spouting stupid, awful things. Klan Mom MTG: Judge Arthur Engeron should be "disrobed" for undervaluing Mar-A-Hellhole. Trump lackey: His overlord's "Never Surrender High-Tops" will get him black votes because "Black America loves sneakers, especially in the inner city." DeSantis: Their V.P. should be a white man because "we don't want people representing 10 or 15% of the party to be in the driver’s seat." Tommy Tuberville: "These socialists and Marxists (want) to control our children" like Hillary's "it takes a village" because "she doesn’t like your home (and) she wants to indoctrinate your children"; also, the government "has become the father, they hate Christianity, they are going to come after you." The creepy avatar for this assemblage of "craven rodeo clowns" is House Speaker Mike Johnson, a smarmy, doe-eyed, coup-plotting, Christian fundamentalist who's spent his career working for hate groups, arguing deviant" homosexuals will destroy democracy, same-sex marriage is like people marrying their pets, and abortion is the killing of both "unborn children" and potential "able-bodied workers in the economy." Boasting the Bible is "my worldview," he took his then-13-year-old daughter to a Purity Ball where she pledged to him and God her "purity of mind, body and soul," he promotes a "Covenant Eyes" app that allows him and his 17-year-old son/ "accountability partner" to monitor each other's porn habits - clean slates all around! - and before he became Speaker God began waking him at night to prepare him to serve as Moses leading the nation through a "Red Sea moment...The Lord impressed upon my heart something was going to occur." And it was: The House was in such chaos they chose a backbench demagogue who thought governance meant saving America from heathens.Evidently, it doesn't. Teetering with a bare majority and boisterous hard-right clique, having lost another special election, seen its fake Biden impeachment implode and failed to address not just a looming shutdown but in fact anything at all, the bumbling House threw a dim-witted Hail Mary and decided to impeach Homeland Security head Alejandro Mayorkas - a move widely derided as "ridiculous" - for failing to fix the border after they sabotaged a bi-partisan bill to fix the border. Then they holed up at a Miami resort to lick their wounds at a leadership retreat where, rather than giving them leadership, Johnson gave them a sermon complete with Biblical references about America's ungodly moral decline, which made lawmakers worried about keeping their jobs grumble they were "not at church" and what the hell? Meanwhile, with the GOP's SCOTUS-facilitated war on women, IVF, and even "recreational sex" in full swing, Johnson fudges on his past (and future?) efforts to go after contraception - "I really don't remember any of those measures" - and lurches ahead crafting the patriarchal theocracy of his dreams.In that he's in step with The Big Orange Guy, who says once in power he'll create a task force to fight imaginary "anti-Christian bias" by "Marxists and fascists" (FYI not the same); he's also plotting with a right-wing think tank whose mission is to re-define America as "a nation under God," with a mandate declaring, "Freedom is defined by God, not man." In pursuit of Gilead - and because last month his PAC raised $8,508 as he spent $3.9 million, mostly on lawyers - he just spoke to a gathering of evangelical broadcasters while hawking gold IRAs "to protect your retirement from D.C.'s policies" and Ivermectin: "Make Care Great Again." He decried Dems murdering babies, "taking away knocker fields from children" and creating "dirty roads, crime, graffiti, swastickers." He also boasted "everybody on both sides" agrees Roe had to go, he's beating Haley by 91 points, "Israel is the capital of Israel," and "you're going to say as you want (and) believe in God" through "the love of Christ and the voices of famed...evangell...lllical....people and...eee-vangelis." Ok, so he can't say evangelical, but sure he's your guy. — (@) Big Awful Guy's implausible fervor was dutifully, garishly replicated at CPAC, held at the fantastically named Gaylord Convention Center outside D.C., where his and God's faithful touted "the greatest nation in all the world," except for, you know, the swastickers. Amidst red, white and blue everything and pounding bad music, the meager crowd drifted through a half-empty exhibit hall offering a Jan. 6-themed pinball game, a vibrating board to stand on to magically lose weight, an 18th-century-style booth likening Biden to King George lll, and a mountain of tawdry MAGA merch: "Woke Tears" water - "identifies as transparent" - rhinestone hats blaring "I Love Jesus" and "Fuck Biden," Trump shirts, hammocks, bobbleheads, sparkly gun-shaped purses. Sponsors were fewer and tackier: Moms For America, many groups with the word "liberty," Newsmax with ads shouting "you don't need those woke streaming services," and now they're letting their fascist flag fly proudly, the previously banished John Birch Society. Streaming was by the insurrectionist-favored Rumble; links often didn't work, but went to a donation page.Attendance was much sparser than previously, down from around 13,000 to the hundreds; when photos emerged of speakers facing a sea of empty seats, a right-wing site wailed, "What an embarrassment." Country singer Natasha Owens sang the national anthem in a huge black dress declaring "2nd Amendment Protects the First," and a banner trumpeted the new theme, tweaked from the unfortunately DeSantis-themed "woke" shtick: "Where Globalism (WHO and the UN) Goes To Die." Speakers were mostly not totalitarian BA-listers: The mayor of Riverton, Utah, an Oklahoma rep, the head of CPAC Australia, Peter Navarro who's headed to jail, a "businessman" who like everyone railed against transgender health care: "Woke doctors should be in prison." But there were several big shots: Stephen 'Goebbels' Miller, Mike 'Pillow' Lindell, Disgrace to All Brain Surgeons Ben Carson, the new authoritarian presidents of Argentina and El Salvador, and a ragged array of VP hopefuls - Noem, Vance, Scott, Stefanik, Gabbard, Ramaswamy - all of whom, in a relative universe, Big Guy has called "good" and "solid."Welcome speeches were by CPAC's devout Queen and molesting King, Mercedes and Matt Schlapp. Greeted with limp applause - "Lemme hear you! Wake up!" - Mercedes declaimed, "Be not afraid!" before telling her 17 listeners, "We're gonna take this country back (from the) leftist propaganda machine." "You are instruments," she said. "God has put you here at this time to do this great work that needs to be done...Communism pushes the culture of death, we push the culture of life. You are assembled here in front of God to be the front line in this battle." Facing multi-million-dollar sexual assault - and now document-shredding - charges by several young men, Matt announced, "This is our time, this is our moment." Pledging his support for the "unique American who is being persecuted, who is being tortured" by communist "lawfare," he turned to his sorcerer in the sky: "Lord God, you said that if we trust in you we will mount up with wings like eagles. Well, God, we're ready to soar." Like many, Tik Toker Incrediberry is dubious in a country where, in an election between Jesus and Satan with an "R" by his name, "Jesus would lose in a landslide." — (@) Still, they gathered for workshops titled The Bible Uncancelled, No Woke Warriors, God's Children Are Not For Sale, Bidenomics: Bad For America's Health, Would Moses Go to Harvard?, Putting Our Heads in the Gas Stove, Ramaswamy Unplugged, Going Full Hungarian: Stopping Georgey (sic) Soros, From Gaza to Greenwich Village: A Guide to Fighting Contemporary Jew-Hatred, and What You Talkin' Bout Fani Willis, presented by esteemed legal scholar and Black linguist Jim Jordan. He was also among a host of out-Trumping-Trump speakers - paranoid losers, zealots, liars, a "who’s who of who won’t accept the results of the election" with wildly unintelligible notions and short attention spans - to offer 20-minute rants about an amorphous, all-powerful "left" who control damn near everything, which is why they can't have nice things. "The left controls big media, big tech, big corporations, big sports, academia, Hollywood, the Senate and White House," he whined, before bravely adding, "But the left doesn’t control we the people." But we the people, it turns out, often make little sense. Lara Trump said Dems think "you can change your gender like you change your shoes, and that at night she and the other son lead their kids in saying their prayers and the Pledge of Allegiance. Elise Stefanik said Ivy League campuses are "dens of anti-Semitism" where "radical leftist rot (is) destroying the minds of the next generation." The Daily Wire's Michael Knowles, quoting Humpty Dumpty - "the question is which is to be master?" - said trans people reveal the decline of religion and marriage, which is "nothing other than a sign of God's love." "Liberals think they're God, but they can't really turn a couple of men, or a couple of women, or three men and a billy goat for that matter into a marriage." Former Trump something Monica Crowley warned patriots to beware an upcoming "CATFIGHT: Michelle v. Kamala" - it was a workshop - because "Democrats (are) communists, and communists always have a plan...The left has a host group of power brokers working with the deep state, which is real." Kristi Noem said right now "there are people who love America and there are those who hate America" and "Joe Biden is destroying America." Stephen Miller said Trump's legal cases "are proof big broad laws will be used to crush us." Kurt Schlichter said "Joe Biden is the capo of a criminal organization." The U.K.'s Liz Truss said "we need a bigger bazooka against the deep state" after Joe Biden helped destroy her 7-week reign; nobody knew who she was, but one guy thought her speech was "on the same parallel" as U.S. politics. El Salvador's Nayib Bukele, "the world's coolest dictator," who's detained 80,000 people in his.war on gangs, said he welcomes the fight against "dark forces" in America. And conspiracist Jack Posobiec said when liberals "say democracy, they mean authoritarianism." "Welcome to the end of democracy! We’re here to overthrow it completely," he crowed. "We didn’t get all the way there on Jan. 6, but we'll endeavor to get rid of it and replace it with this right here.” Going full clerical fascist, he clutched a cross. "Because all glory is not to government. All glory to God.” Meanwhile, Orange Jesus keeps jabbering. On Friday, he told a Black Conservative Gala his criming makes him just like them: “I got indicted and a lot of people said that's why the Black people like me." At CPAC on Saturday, after a tinny national anthem by Jan. 6 rioters on a prison phone, he launched into a garbled, bilious, endless tirade, spewing apocalyptic visions of a fever-dream country and "Judgment Day" that will be "my ultimate and absolute revenge." He said "millions of illegal aliens (are) stampeding across our border" from insane asylums like Hannibal Lecter and "they have languages that nobody in this country has ever heard of - it's a very horrible thing." He said "ruthless gangs will explode (into) the suburbs" and while "weaponized law enforcement hunts for conservatives and people of faith, Hamas and Antifa will terrorize our streets (with) their brutal iDEEEo-ology." He said he's "a proud political dissident," Biden is "surrounded by some very bad fascists," he flew into Iraq with "the best-looking human beings I've ever seen" and maybe a guy named "Raisin Cane," and "they'll say 'he rambled'" but "it's total genius." Sweet Jesus. Be afraid.
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[l] at 2/23/24 11:59am
As the war in Ukraine marks its second tragic anniversary, CODEPINK stands firm in its belief that there is no military solution to a conflict provoked by US-backed NATO expansion. We oppose funding this proxy war and instead urge the United States government to prioritize peace talks and diplomatic efforts. We urge Congress to oppose an additional $61 billion towards prolonging the stalemate in Ukraine. We recognize the only winners will be the war profiteers; Raytheon, Northrop Gumman, Lockheed Martin, the weapons manufacturers. The costs of this war and all war is unsustainable. Even though the United States has already spent more than $113 billion over the past two years on weapons and assistance for Ukraine, Ukrainians are no closer to peace and stability than they were when Russia invaded in 2022. They are farther away now than in March 2022, when Russia and Ukraine were close to a neutrality agreement, which the United States and the UK sabotaged. The costly pursuit of a fictional military solution is not limited to dollars. The war has resulted in staggering human costs. Tragically, over 10,000 civilians, including over 560 children, have been killed as well as an estimated 500,000 soldiers. Beyond the horrific human cost is the cost to the environment and the global climate crisis. Homes and hospitals, transportation networks and farmland, energy and civilian nuclear facilities, drinking water and wastewater systems, chemical and steel plants, mining facilities, and vital seed banks have been destroyed or severely damaged, leading to environmental degradation that will last decades after the last shot is fired. The United States cannot continue to fund the spiral of death and destruction to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, while millions of its citizens face homelessness, lack of healthcare, and unaffordable education. Insisting that Russia is our greatest threat instead of the climate crisis leaves the U.S. population defenseless in the face of the ever-increasing climate disasters that require global cooperation and demilitarization. Prolonging the war in Ukraine will not stabilize the region nor bring peace to Ukrainians; only peace talks and diplomacy can do that. Stop the weapons. Start the talks.Negotiations now - for people and the planet.
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[l] at 2/21/24 1:33am
Fresh off his latest legal triumph - payment due of $355 million - and his yuge win in historians' annual presidential ranking - dead last as Worst. President. Ever. - the "greatest con artist in world history" has unveiled his latest trashy, loutish grift: $400, ugly-ass, gold-spray-painted "Never Surrender" high-top sneakers, "Bold, gold and tough, just like President (sic) Trump." And just like his steak, water, vodka, airline, deodorant, board game, casinos and mugshot mugs, he says, "I think it’s gonna be a big success."Lately, it's true, success has been scant for the one-time master of The Art of the (crooked) Deal. President's Day brought the glum news that, while political scholars ranked Abe Lincoln America's best leader - Obama was #7, Biden #14 - they again deemed the orange former president and current 91-count perp the worst president in America's history, by the biggest margin on the list: "It’s bad. Like, way behind James Buchanan bad." Days before, there was the stunning $355 million fine imposed by Judge Arthur Engeron in Trump's civil fraud trial - plus court-imposed interest of $100 million that will increase daily - bringing the total he owes to $542 million and counting. And Engeron didn't hold back: On chicanery and fraud "that shock the conscience," he offered a blistering "road map to Trump's thievery" as a "remorseless con artist" whose every act is "based on consistent and shameless cheating, deceiving, falsifying documents and lying" in order to "rip off everyone he can."Trump responded to yet another loss in court with his usual contrition and grace. Just kidding. Obviously, he raved. Engeron is a "CORRUPT AND MANY TIMES OVERTURNED ‘JUDGE.’" James is a "RADICAL LEFT SOROS BACKED SLOB OF AN ATTORNEY GENERAL." Once again, "NOTHING LIKE THIS HAS EVER HAPPENED IN OUR COUNTRY BEFORE," also, "THIS IS COMMUNISM." Because he's 12, it is "ALL POLITICAL PROSECUTIONS OF YOUR FAVORITE PRESIDENT, ME." In an especially baffling, depraved touch, he even managed to make Putin's political assassination of Navalny not about a murderous thug eradicating a courageous man of conscience, but about himself and his own petty, greedy crimes. "The sudden death of Alexei Navalny has made me more and more aware of what is happening in our Country," he jabbered. "It is a slow, steady progression, with CROOKED, Radical Left Politicians, Prosecutors, and Judges leading us down a path to destruction."Then he turned to what he's always turned to in a self-serving, small-minded life: grifting. And hawking his endless crap with pitches as tawdry as the soulless ghoul whose name it bears: "The world's greatest steaks," vodka that's "taken off like crazy," an airline that "had more people than anyone else," suits to "guarantee you're always board-room ready," mattresses, vitamins, casinos, shirts, ties, water, wine, candles, cookies, earrings, robes, blankets, speakers, pickleball paddles (on sale for $147.45!). There's Trump the Game - get "everything you ever wanted to own!" - Success and Empire deodorants - from reviews: "Smells like flop sweat, Adderall and cowardice," "There is nothing about this product I find acceptable," "No one loves Empire Deodorant more than me..We're going to have so many Empire Deodorants you're going to get sick of Empire Deodorant." It all crashed and burned. This year, he added digital trading cards - "the greatest trading cards in history" - pieces of a suit he wore to court - "it was a great suit" - and mugs saying "Never Surrender" with the mugshot from his surrender. — (@) Now there are sneakers. The day after Citizen Trump got that $355 million slap from Judge Engeron, he turned up at two events. One was a campaign rally in Michigan, where he bellowed to 2,000 supporters in a freezing plane hangar about "repulsive abuses of power" by miscreant judges and prosecutors - "crooked," "a lunatic," "an animal" - who are "set(ting) fire to our laws like no one has ever seen in this country before." The other was, incongruously, Sneaker Con, “The Greatest Sneaker Show on Earth," in (very blue) Philadelphia, where before an atypically young, diverse, weed-wafting crowd he launched his very own "official sneaker" - the hideous, cheesy, gold--sprayed "Never Surrender High-Tops," with flag and T, just $399. "I have some incredible people that work with me on things, and they came up with this," he said, clutching the garish monstrosities in his teeny hands as the crowd began booing. "This is something I’ve been talking about for 12 years, 13 years, and I think it’s gonna be a big success."Except for a red sole, and in keeping with his Richie-Rich Trump vision of wealth, his "incredible people" had slathered the entire shoe plus laces in gold spray, inevitably inviting jokes about golden showers, clown shoes and trippy Democratic competitors. "That's the real deal," he boasted of his blinding creation. Except for one shrieky MAGA hysteric - "We need him! He's a good man! "- sneakerheads were not impressed. Boos rose from the crowd, along with a wave of "Go Biden!" chants. “Wow, a lot of emotion, there’s a lot of emotion in this room! Thank you!," Trump burbled above the din. Then the old, desperate ploy: "The nice thing is...We have lines going around the block..They've never seen anything like it!" One observer: "A needier man has never existed." Other skeptics summoned visions of Four Seasons Total Landscaping and My Pillow Guy morphing into My Sneaker Guy. Michael Steele: "This is what it's come to." Charlie Pierce: "He's one step from selling counterfeit CDs from a card table on 2nd Avenue."The shouty GetTrumpSneakers website - "For the First Time Ever! Buy Now! Special Offer!" - warns they're "Super Limited!" so "with millions of fans, get these before they sell out!" "Join Trump's sneaker community!" it gushes about a tubby loser who's likely never worn a sneaker. "Be a part of history!" There are 1000 pairs, each is numbered, 10 will be autographed, limit 3 pairs per person, buy 2 or more for a (lousy) 5% off, "bonuses" include extra laces, an "exclusive Trump Superhero charm" (don't ask), a chance for 2 tickets to a launch party, date TBD, no guarantee the perp will attend. There are also low-top, "45"-bedecked sneakers in "T-Red” or “POTUS” white for $199. Also Victory47 perfume in a golden bottle with a Trump-head stopper for $99: "Our fragrances are curated to capture the essence of success and determination...symbolizing victory and strength." Or per wiseacres: "That sweet smell of guilty verdict and federal prison chow," also (diluted) turpentine, cat urine, bleach, but drink or inject? It's "a tribute to the Trump legacy, blending premium craftsmanship with a distinctive style...symbolizing leadership and patriotism." Just one glitch: The sneakers evidently don't exist. The FAQs tell the tale. Shipping dates are 5 and 6 months away; the response to, "Why such a long lead time?" is that they're "made to order." Scammers gonna scam: They also haven't been made, though they'll be coming any day like the health, infrastructure, immigration etc plans. To the query, "Will I be getting the exact sneaker on the site?" comes, "The images shown are for illustration purposes only...WE MAKE NO WARRANTIES (sic) IN RELATION TO THE ACCURACY OF ANY INFORMATION ON THE WEBSITE." So, you might get, like, a Trump steak or Empire deodorant stick instead? Hey, if you're lucky you'll get this fabulous Trump Doll Collection with the whole family: Melania, who came from a Ukrainian website, Don Jr., "my other son," and two anatomically correct Ivankas, "a personal fantasy of mine, actually." Act now, this offer is going fast. — (@) Likewise suspiciously, less than a day after his gold-spray-painted grotesqueries appeared, the website announced they were "SOLD OUT!" Theories abound. A single, foreign entity - starts with R, ends with a, symbolized by a bear? - "bought" them all in an illegal cash transfer to Trump in exchange for stolen U.S. military secrets. The too-reasonable price is only for the right sneakers; the left were in a container ship shot up by the Houthis, were pushed overboard, washed ashore and are being sold on Craig's List in Yemen. The sneakers that don't yet exist will be made in Ivanka's Chinese sweat shops for $4.50 a pair, to then surface online for insane prices. (Wait, that's already happened: At the launch some imbecile paid $9,000 for a pair, and several pairs are on sale or have sold on eBay for up to $7,500.) Or the whole scheme is already a wash because French designer Christian Louboutin, who has trademarked red-soled shoes and won several lawsuits on the issue, represents one courtroom too far.Given Trump's sketchy legal and financial history, the last option seems plausible. He's had at least 15 failed businesses, apart from a failed presidency, and been involved in over 4,000 related legal cases in federal and state courts. He's been a crook most or all of his life, with associations to prove it: Over the years, his "crime-infested" Trump Tower has been shady home to a long list of felons, fraudsters, money launderers, tax evaders and Russian mobsters. Just recently, over a dozen of his lawyers have quit, abandoning his bourgeoning legal quagmires. A narcissistic asshole who's never been held to account, he's also had a running cease-and-desist battle with over a dozen artists whose music he regularly, heedlessly rips off; they've blasted his "craven political purposes," told him, "Fuck you. Stop playing my song," and called him "the anti-Christ." His crappy high-tops will presumably suffer the low-life fate of all his other shoddy ventures, whether before or after his 91 felonies do him in. — (@) Above all, regardless of legality, is the crude, dumpster-fire vulgarity of it Behold, a sort-of former president and current OMFG presidential contender peddling bootleg, cheapjack, "fashion-mangled" off-whites "designed with all the crayons and colored sharpies he didn’t eat or stick up his nose." It's beyond unseemly, even for him. "I've seen many, many tasteless things in my nearly 64 years on Earth, but as God is my witness those shoes are the absolute most tacky items I’ve ever seen," writes one horrified patriot. "It’s as though all that Trump is has been boiled down and molded into sneaker form." Another suggests they look like "Trump's arrogance in shoe form," the "kind of sneaker you’d expect from a man who created a fake university named after himself and had to pay $25 million to settle lawsuits accusing him of fraud. They’re the go-to athletic shoe for people fleeing responsibility." Or, per the kitschy, tatty Trump brand, "cheap and ugly,...and very, very dumb."To be fair, Never-Surrenders have their fans. "Perfect to distract my Labrador from destroying my 5th pair of Birkenstocks!" says one. Also, "Perfect for slowly walking down ramps!" And adequate for Halloween if they make it to the $4.99 bin at K-Mart. Others suggest Trump should stick with Nazi jack-boots, or get $14.98 high-tops at Wal-Mart along with $5.98 Rustoleum gold spray paint and $1.99 little flag thingies and call it a day. Also, there were questions: Do they come with a built-in ankle monitor? Do they cause or fix bone spurs? Can you say 'child labor'? Will he ever run out of stupid shit to slap his worthless name on? And "who in the time-altered universe is going to WEAR these monstrosities? I mean, LOOK AT THEM!!!!!!" Most vitally, "People should see what a hollow figure he is. Evil, traitorous, immoral, yes. But ultimately a sad little man." And, "Someday he’ll be scratching his brand name onto his cell wall painstakingly with a toothbrush. Then he’ll realize he forgot a letter and have to scratch it out and start over again. He’ll have time."
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[l] at 2/20/24 12:14pm
Government watchdog Accountable.US calls the major announcement Capital One will buy out Discover Financial Services — merging two of the biggest U.S. credit card companies — nothing but a raw deal for American consumers. The proposal comes on the heels of a new report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) finding Capital One is among largest credit card issuers that offer cards with a maximum purchase APR over 30 percent, needlessly costing American families an extra $400 to $500 per year. The CFPB found lack of competition “likely contributes to higher rates at the largest credit card companies” – a problem that can only get worse under this proposed anti-competitive merger. The deal also portends more junk fees, including higher service charges and late fees. Capital One boasted of $4.9 billion in profits after the company raked in nearly $1.7 billion from “service charges and other customer-related fees.” “Banking giants like Capital One have long exploited the lack of competition to price-gouge families with predatory credit card interest rates and hidden junk fees. Even less competition under this merger means these companies will have less incentive to check their greedy practices that nickel and dime consumers into the billions of dollars. "Federal regulators should take a hard look into whether this deal runs afoul of antitrust rules at the expense of consumers. It’s a reminder why the Biden Administration’s ongoing efforts to crack down on excessive and hidden junk fees from big banks are a critical step towards lowering costs for Americans,” added Zelnick. READ MORE ON THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION’S COST-LOWERING INITIATIVES: New Non-Sufficient Fund Action From Biden Administration Will Cut Costs for Millions New Overdraft Rule from Biden Administration Will Lower Costs for Families to Ire of Congressional Republicans in Pocket of Big Banks Megabanks Raked in Billions in Overdraft Revenue as the CFPB Unveils Fee Crackdown
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[l] at 2/20/24 12:08pm
News coverage over the weekend reported that the EPA is considering a weakened rule as the agency prepares to release one of its most significant rules to slash climate-disrupting emissions, tightening emission standards for cars across the country.The rule remains under interagency review and is expected to be finalized this spring. The EPA’s clean car standards are expected to lead to clean, electric cars making up as much as 67 percent of new passenger vehicles sold in the country by 2032. The rule represents the next step in the environmental agency’s decades-long arc of safeguards to cut vehicle pollution.A weaker final rule than the EPA’s proposal would give leniency to automakers and could allow them to wait until after 2030 to produce cleaner cars that help deliver health benefits.According to the EPA’s own analysis, the transportation sector accounts for 29 percent of greenhouse gas emissions—more than any other sector in the US—and is the fastest growing emitter of GHG emissions. In response to the coverage, Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous released the following statement: “Strong EPA vehicle standards are essential to protecting clean air for communities across the country. Lobbying by auto manufacturers to stall the transition to electric vehicles could have severe consequences: Millions of Americans breathing deadly car pollution, suffering from the impacts of climate change, and spending too much on volatile gas prices. "Enough excuses from the auto industry. Automakers have had more than enough time to prepare for the EV transition, and funding from the Inflation Reduction Act is rolling out the infrastructure necessary to support it. We can and must have union-made clean vehicles. We urge the EPA to remain steadfast in finalizing a strong rule that will improve public health and protect our future.”
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[l] at 2/19/24 6:32am
Israel must end its brutal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which it has maintained since 1967, said Amnesty International, as public hearings begin at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to examine the legal consequences of Israel’s prolonged occupation. The public hearings are taking place in the Hague from 19 to 26 February after the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in December 2022 to request an advisory opinion from the ICJ on the legality of Israel’s policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and the consequences of Israel’s conduct for other states and the UN. More than 50 states, the African Union, the Arab League and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation are scheduled to participate in the proceedings. The world must recognize that ending Israel’s illegal occupation is a prerequisite to stopping the recurrent human rights violations in Israel and the OPT. Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General “Israel’s occupation of Palestine is the longest and one of the most deadly military occupations in the world. For decades it has been characterised by widespread and systematic human rights violations against Palestinians. The occupation has also enabled and entrenched Israel’s system of apartheid imposed on Palestinians,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. “Over the years, Israel’s military occupation has evolved into a perpetual occupation in flagrant violation of international law.“The current conflict raging in the occupied Gaza Strip, where the ICJ has ruled there is a real and imminent risk of genocide, has brought into sharp focus the catastrophic consequences of allowing Israel’s international crimes in the OPT to continue with impunity for so long. The world must recognize that ending Israel’s illegal occupation is a prerequisite to stopping the recurrent human rights violations in Israel and the OPT.” ‘Perpetual’ occupation Under international humanitarian law, occupation of a territory during a conflict is meant to be temporary. The occupying power is required to administer the territory in the interest of the occupied population and to preserve as much as possible the situation that existed at the beginning of the occupation, including by respecting existing laws and refraining from introducing demographic changes and tampering with the territorial integrity of the occupied territory. Israel’s occupation has failed to align with these basic principles of international humanitarian law. The duration of Israel’s occupation – spanning more than half a century – coupled with the authorities’ illegal official annexation of occupied East Jerusalem and de facto annexation of large swathes of the West Bank through land confiscation and settlement expansion, provide clear evidence that Israel’s intention is for the occupation to be permanent and for the benefit of the occupying power and its own citizens. The Gaza Strip remains occupied even after the withdrawal of Israeli forces and removal of settlers in 2005 as Israel has retained effective control over the territory and its population, including through its control of its borders, territorial waters, air space, and population registry. For 16 years, the occupation has been experienced in Gaza through Israel’s illegal blockade that has severely restricted movement of people and goods and has devastated Gaza’s economy, and through repeated episodes of hostilities that have killed and injured thousands of civilians and destroyed much of Gaza’s infrastructure and housing. “All states must review their relations with Israel to ensure that they are not contributing to sustaining the occupation or the system of apartheid. As European foreign ministers gather in Brussels today, the need to make a clear and united call for an end to Israel’s occupation has never been more urgent,” said Agnès Callamard. Life under occupation Palestinians living under Israeli occupation are subjected to a myriad of human rights violations, maintained by an institutionalized regime of systematic domination and oppression. The discriminatory and repressive laws, ostensibly adopted as part of the occupation but effectively serving the objectives of the Israel’s system of apartheid, have fragmented and segregated Palestinians across the OPT, while unlawfully exploiting their resources, arbitrarily restricting their rights and freedoms and controlling almost every aspect of their lives. Even before the latest hostilities, Palestinians in Gaza had been subjected to numerous Israeli military offensives – at least six between 2008 and 2023 – in addition to an enduring land, air, and sea blockade, which has helped maintain Israel’s effective control and occupation of Gaza. During those offensives, Amnesty International documented a recurrent pattern of unlawful attacks, amounting to war crimes and even crimes against humanity, while the enduring blockade constitutes collective punishment, also a war crime. For 56 years Palestinians in the OPT have been living trapped and oppressed under Israel’s brutal occupation, subjected to systemic discrimination. Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General In the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, Palestinians routinely face excessive use of force, unlawful killings, arbitrary arrest, administrative detention, forced displacement, home demolitions, confiscation of land and natural resources, and denial of fundamental rights and freedoms. Israel’s multi-layered closure system, fortified by mass surveillance, physical barriers and legal restrictions, including an illegal wall/fence, hundreds of checkpoints and roadblocks, and an arbitrary permit regime, has curtailed Palestinians’ freedom of movement and perpetuated their disenfranchisement. Among the most emblematic examples of Israel’s outright disregard for international law has been the establishment and incessant spread of Israeli settlements throughout the OPT and the illegal annexation of occupied East Jerusalem immediately after the 1967 war which was constitutionally enshrined in 1980. There are currently at least 300 illegal Israeli settlements and outposts in the West Bank, including in occupied East Jerusalem, with a population of over 700,000 Israeli settlers. “For 56 years Palestinians in the OPT have been living trapped and oppressed under Israel’s brutal occupation, subjected to systemic discrimination. Every aspect of their daily lives is disrupted and controlled by Israeli authorities, who place restrictions on their rights to move around, earn a living, pursue educational and professional aspirations, and enjoy a decent quality of life, as well as depriving them of access to their land and natural resources,” said Agnès Callamard.“Israel has also continued its vicious land grab policies relentlessly expanding illegal settlements in violation of international law with devastating consequences for Palestinians’ human rights and security. Violent Israeli settlers have been attacking Palestinians for decades with virtually total impunity.” A draconian system of control Israel’s draconian system of control over the OPT includes a large network of military checkpoints, fences/ walls and military bases and patrols as well as a string of repressive military orders. Israel’s control of the OPT’s borders, the population registry, the supply of water, electricity, telecommunication services, humanitarian and development assistance, and the imposition of its currency have had devastating effects on the economic and social developments of the Palestinian people in the OPT.This control has reached unprecedented levels of cruelty in the Gaza Strip where Israel has maintained a 16-year illegal blockade which has been further tightened since 9 October 2023. The blockade, coupled with Israel’s recurrent military operations have plunged the Gaza Strip into one of the gravest humanitarian and human rights crisis of modern times. “As the occupying power Israel has an obligation to ensure the protection and welfare of all those residing in the territory it controls. Instead, it has perpetrated gross and systematic human rights violations with impunity. Israel cites the need to maintain security as the reason for its cruel policies. But security can never justify apartheid, illegal annexation and settlements, or war crimes against the protected population. The only way to ensure security for Israelis and Palestinians is to uphold human rights for all,” said Agnès Callamard. Ending the occupation would mean restoring Palestinians’ rights by lifting the brutal blockade on Gaza, dismantling Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and reversing its illegal annexation. It would allow Palestinians to move freely in the areas where they live and allow families separated by different identification legal statuses – such as the Jerusalem residency and West Bank or Gaza Strip – to be reunited. It would alleviate mass suffering and end widescale human rights violations.It would also contribute to tackling one of the root causes of the recurrent violence and war crimes against Israelis, thus helping to improve human rights protection and secure justice and reparation for victims on all sides. Background On 30 December 2022, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/77/247, in which, it requested the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on key questions regarding the legal consequences arising from its prolonged occupation, and settlement and annexation of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, how the policies and practices of Israel affect the legal status of the occupation and what legal consequences arise for all states and the UN from this status. The Court is expected to issue its advisory opinion later this year.For six decades, Amnesty International has been documenting how Israeli forces have committed grave human rights violations in the OPT with impunity. In 2022, the organization issued Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel system of domination and crime against humanity, a report which highlights the entrenched role that Israel’s military and its occupation have had in perpetuating the system of apartheid. Many of the report’s findings and recommendations underline the urgent need for an end to Israel’s occupation to remove the environment that enables the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
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[l] at 2/17/24 11:15pm
The grotesque madness of the first live-streamed genocide persists as Israel daily commits acts once unimaginable. They are bombing hospitals, shooting doctors, forcing Palestinian prisoners to issue evacuation orders before murdering them, starving women and children before targeting them as they scavenge for grass, leaves, animal feed, terrorizing civilians frantically fleeing first south, then north when in truth "there is no sanctuary." And still - what the ever-loving-fuck - America sends arms.The numbers stun. The total of Palestinians killed nears 30,000, including at least 13,000 children; almost 70,000 wounded; at least 8,000 more unaccounted for and presumed dead, now decomposing, under rubble. Hundreds more have been shot in random violence in the West Bank. Every day sees "an undetermined number" of more dead or wounded. And a heedless Netanyahu repeats his savage, hollow, phantasmagoric edict, "We will continue to fight until total victory" even in the face of furious global condemnation, a Hague ruling confirming genocidal acts, and more reports from both Israeli and U.S intelligence that Israel is "not close to eliminating" Hamas, which regardless will survive as "a terror group and a guerrilla group.” At this weekend's Munich Security Conference in Germany, Israeli's coordinator for the so-called effort to return captives declared Israel and Hamas remain far apart on ceasefire negotiations because "Hamas' demands are disconnected from reality - delusional." Mournful pot/kettle. This week, after days of shelling, Israeli ground forces attacked Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, the largest of Gaza's few hospitals still functioning, where conditions were already "catastrophic." Word that hundreds of exhausted staff, critically wounded patients and about 10,000 Palestinians sheltering there would be forced to flee posed what Doctors Without Borders called "an impossible choice" - stay and become potential targets or leave "into an apocalyptic landscape" of bombings, snipers and dead bodies. The IDF promised a "precise and limited mission" and "secure passage." But surviving staff described panicked, pushing, screaming people who, once they left, were often shot at within the gates; many of those who reached checkpoints beyond were arrested, and the hospital was quickly stormed by soldiers shooting and police dogs. Video inside shows a chaotic hellscape of smoke and noise, with staff frantically trying to roll bedridden patients to safety and shouting, "Gunfire, gunfire! Heads down, everyone!" Palestinian officials reported the deaths of at least six patients in intensive care and three in the children's nursery; most died of lack of oxygen after an Israeli-imposed power shortage. Video shows staff scrambling to treat a bloodied doctor shot in the chest by a sniper through a window of the operating room, and two women were said to have given birth in "abhorrent conditions, without electricity, water, food, or heat." Amidst the sound of gunfire, staff reported bodies lying outside in the courtyard where over a dozen people have been shot, or left in the street after trying to get to shelter. "We can see from the hospital a lot of dead bodies...and cats and dogs around these bodies." The Israeli military, who refused WHO entry, said they captured "dozens of terror suspects" in the assault, claims Hamas refuted as "lies to justify war crimes." Before they entered, video from Palestinian journalist Mohammed El Helou shows, IDF soldiers manning bulldozers outside yelled through loudspeakers, "Get out, you animals! Get out!" — (@) One of just two remaining journalists at Nasser, El Helou reported having seen Jamal Abu Al-Ola, a young wide-eyed Palestinian, arrive at the entrance dressed n white PPE, his hands bound in front of him. Abu Al-Ola had evidently tried to leave the hospital earlier when Israeli soldiers seized him, beat him, and sent him back in to tell those remaining they had to leave the hospital "because they are going to blow it up." After he relayed the evacuation order, El Helou said, Abu Al-Ola'a mother, also sheltering there, begged him not to go back out, but he said soldiers had told him he must or the civilians would be in danger. Video by Mohammad Salama, the other journalist there, shows Abu Al-Ola walking out with several people who then trail away; when he is still inside the gates, he is shot three times in the chest by an Israeli soldier. (An IDF spokesman later said "the incident in question (is) being reviewed.") El Helou ended his video quietly noting people were leaving "in search of safety that does not exist in Gaza."Shortly after, two Israelis were killed and four wounded at a bus stop when a Palestinian attacker arrived in a car and opened fire; he was shot and killed by an IDF soldier. An almost gleeful Netanyahu used the incident to again reject the nation of a ceasefire - "Now is not the time to be speaking about gifts for the Palestinian people" - and argue, "The entire country is a front and the murderers, who come not only from Gaza, want to kill us all." His rabid rhetoric was echoed by former Mossad official Rami Igra, who both repeated and wildly inflated the genocidal claim of President Herzog that there are “no uninvolved (civilians) in Gaza." "Every house in Gaza is a Hamas HQ, weapons, Al Aqsa, everything, all the signs are there," Igra said in an interview. "In Gaza, everyone is involved. Everyone voted Hamas. Anyone over the age of four is a Hamas supporter." When the not-quite-yet-Nazi interviewer clarified that perhaps kids under four could be deemed innocent, a big-hearted Igra agreed, albeit reluctantly. — (@) Still, America is obscenely, reportedly preparing to send Israel more genocidal weaponry, including a thousand each of MK-82 500-pound bombs and KMU-572 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), without which Israel might have to curtail its slaughter in 19 weeks. The Intercept's Jeremy Scahill excoriates Biden for refusing to "use his leverage as Israel’s arms dealer," evidently because, "There is no Israeli war crime too extreme for (him) to consider pausing," never mind ending, the flow of weapons. Besides timid ceasefire requests to his "great, great friend" Netanyahu, Biden and his spin doctors merely issue "occasional public platitudes" about Gaza's suffering, and gently denounce Israeli attacks as not quite "surgical" enough. It didn't help that on Super Bowl night, as Israel launched its "next stage of genocide" with air strikes on Rafah, a "night full of horror" that killed over 70 - "there were a lot of body parts," said one hospital - Biden released one of his jokey Dark Brandon memes ripped as "tone-deaf to the cries of humanity." Meanwhile, the mournful, bloody evidence of Israel's less-than-precise campaign of annihilation is everywhere in Gaza. Along with its murder of journalists, doctors, aid workers, grandmothers "older than Israel" and academics in a place with one of the world's highest literacy rates to "inflict maximum damage on the Palestinian community," there are, of course, the children. Perhaps 20,000 children, many wounded, who've been orphaned; up to ten a day losing limbs to massive injuries from air strikes; an entire young population of over a million, already emotionally battered by years of violence, facing more trauma "beyond their age and endurance," needing support scarce at best. And, now, children homeless, hungry, thirsty, sick, so famished they go scouring for food under skies full of Israeli planes. Hit by bombs, they lie at one hospital wounded, bandaged, spectrally skinny, faces blurred. "Our children are dying," says one father. "No one is helping us...But they are children just like any other child in the world." — (@) In Rafah, a "25-square-mile death cage" where 1.5 million Palestinians have fled and are trapped, people are "desperate, hungry and terrified." Having been told by Israel to "evacuate" to the south, "Rafah is as far south as anyone can go - they have nowhere else to evacuate to." A reported Israeli ground assault looms; so does starvation. With Israel using hunger as a weapon and blocking most aid, rights groups say “every single person in the Territory is now experiencing extreme levels of hunger." Hungry children fight over stale bread, walk and scavenge for hours, cry dazed in the rain until, given a can, they retreat to their tent.People often block the rare aid truck - twice a week, UNRWA tries to bring each 2 water bottles, three biscuits, an occasional can of food - and devour what they find. Children suffer from diarrhea, turn yellow from malnutrition, wake up screaming for food; in the north, some go without food for days. One elderly man: "We live in complete hunger." One mother: "We are dying slowly." Another:"We are humans, starved."People have resorted to grinding animal feed into flour, but supplies are dwindling. They are combing fields to eat grass, weeds, leaves. A daughter angrily notes, "We are eating leaves from the trees"; her mother mournfully adds there isn't even water to cook them. Some families have sought shelter if not food at empty farms outside Rafah, turning chicken cages into children's beds; from the cages - "they are very cold and dark at night" - kids can see the border where Egypt is ominously building an enclosed refugee camp. Others who've moved "from one place to another like chess pieces" are leaving Rafah - "We eat grass and drink polluted water" - to return north to bombed-out homes. Months ago, Abu Ahmed Jaber pulled his pregnant daughter and her one-year-old from the rubble; they fled south to a packed U.N. school with no food, water, toilets; now they're back in the ruins of the house "I built with my hands, stone by stone." At night, unable to sleep, he cries, asking, "What have I and my family done?" Nothing, just like the 66 Palestinians most recently killed by Israel in "a very bloody day." How many, we wonder, were children. The Poem by Lisa Suhair Majaj The poem was found in the rubble of a six-story residential building in Khan Yunis, destroyed by a 2000 pound bomb that sent fire to the sky and death to the burning earth. The poem was alive, but bloodied beyond recognition, trapped beneath heavy chunks of concrete. The blast had severed its legs and arms. The poem could not move. It could not reach out to rescuers. It could not find its wounds. The poem’s face was unrecognizable. A deep gash across its forehead revealed the bone within. The poem’s eyes were filled with blood. It could not see. The poem’s mouth was a gaping wound. When it tried to scream, no sound came out. The rescuers knew it was important to save the poem. They dug frantically with bare hands in the debris, begging the poem to hold on. When they finally extracted it from the rubble, passing it hand to hand to the waiting stretcher, watchers erupted with joy. The poem was alive, was returned to its people! Later, in the hospital, the poem lay on the bloodied ground, listening to the screams of children undergoing amputations without anesthetic, to the wails of mothers clutching the bodies of babies to their chests, refusing to allow them to be taken to the refrigerated ice cream trucks, pleading that it was too cold there, that they could not leave them alone, that the children would be frightened. The poem tried to move its absent legs, its arms, to sense what was left. It understood that something had been irrevocably ripped away. That even if it lived, there were things it would never do again. The poem closed its eyes and tried to imagine a body of light filling the gaping absence where its limbs used to be. The poem’s pain was beyond anything it had experienced before. It tried to imagine its mouth moving without pain, tried to imagine a voice emerging from the bloodied crevice of its jaw, wondered if it would ever speak again. The poem wanted it all to stop— the enormous pain, the cries of anguish, the echo of how it had sounded when the bomb hit with its unimaginable fury, how it felt when walls crashed down like the hand of death. Just then aid workers brought in a wounded child, laying it on the floor nearby. The child was covered in blood, screaming for its mother. The poem lay there listening. Slowly it mustered every bit of strength it had, and began to hum. It couldn’t get a voice out; This was the best it could do. The child’s whimpers subsided a little, and it turned its face toward the sound. The poem realized that even without arms or legs, even with its face practically torn off, it still had a job to do. The poem searched inside itself for the body of light that had stayed with it in the rubble, the body of light it could barely imagine. Exhausted but determined, the poem continued to hum. It was difficult, but better than staying silent. The poem thought to itself that later on, when it could manage, it would try to sing a lullaby, something to comfort the children whose light still shone in their bodies, who would need some kind of music to survive. Copyright 2024 Lisa Suhair MajajLisa Suhair Majaj is a Palestinian-American writer living in Cyprus.
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[l] at 2/16/24 3:08pm
ExxonMobil’s dangerous proposal to truck massive amounts of oil along California highways is dead after the company dropped its lawsuit challenging Santa Barbara County’s denial of the plan.Exxon’s plan would have helped the company restart three drilling platforms off the Santa Barbara coast. The platforms, built in the 1980s, have been shut down since the disastrous 2015 Refugio oil spill that leaked more than 140,000 gallons of heavy crude on the Gaviota Coast and into the ocean. Exxon notified the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California late Thursday that the company is dismissing its lawsuit.The Environmental Defense Center and the Center for Biological Diversity successfully intervened in the lawsuit in 2022 on behalf of several environmental and Indigenous groups opposed to the trucking plan and the company’s intent to restart its platforms.“ExxonMobil’s plan to restart its offshore platforms and truck millions of gallons per week through Santa Barbara County was reckless, dangerous and totally unwelcome by this community,” said Linda Krop, chief counsel of the Environmental Defense Center, which represents Get Oil Out!, Santa Barbara County Action Network, Surfrider Foundation and Sierra Club. “Recent oil tanker truck accidents and offshore oil spills show just how dangerous this plan was. Our research revealed that there have been eight serious accidents involving tanker trucks along the proposed route in the last several years, resulting in deaths, oil spills, injuries, fires, and road closures.The county’s denial was based on the project’s significant and unavoidable harms to biological, water and cultural resources in the event of a spill, as well as threats to public safety.“Santa Barbara hosts some of the most spectacular coastlines and natural coastal resources in our country,” said Angela Howe, Surfrider Foundation senior legal director. “This dismissal affirms the action of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, protecting the area from the additional risks of oil spills, traffic accidents, as well as air and water pollution from ExxonMobil’s dangerous project to transport crude oil through this sensitive region.”The court upheld the county’s rejection of the plan in a September 2023 decision but had not ruled on all the claims brought in the case. Exxon’s dismissal will terminate the lawsuit entirely. The company’s abandonment of its remaining claims coincides with its sale of its Santa Ynez Unit assets to Sable Offshore Corp.“The dismissal of this case puts an end, once and for all, to this ill-conceived proposal,” said Michael Lyons, board president of Get Oil Out! “Each tanker truck and its full load of oil would have been a ticking time bomb, threatening the lives of those on the highways and our environment. An oil spill catastrophe has been prevented.”ExxonMobil’s proposal would have allowed the company to truck vast quantities of oil on coastal Highway 101 and Route 166. The plan to haul millions of gallons of oil per week through Santa Barbara County would have been a step towards restarting the company’s offshore platforms and resuming operations at its Las Flores Canyon processing facility, which was the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the county.“It’s welcome news that Exxon’s dangerous trucking scheme is done with, but the fight to keep California’s coast safe from oil spills is far from over,” said Julie Teel Simmonds, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “All oil companies should take note that California’s coastal communities don’t want oil drilling and transport that puts people and wildlife at risk. We’ll work hard to make sure no company has an opportunity to cause California’s next catastrophic oil spill or accident.”“Exxon has long been one of the most heinous polluters of Chumash homelands,” said Mati Waiya, executive director of the Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation. “We celebrate this massive victory against Exxon and warn any and all future resource extractors that we will not stop fighting.”“From corroded pipelines to tanker trucks to attempting to finance a sale of this troubled project to Sable to avoid direct liability, Exxon will stop at nothing to endanger the Santa Barbara coastline,” said Sierra Club Santa Barbara-Ventura Chapter director Jonathan Ullman. “The whole aging oil operation should be withdrawn along with the lawsuit.”California suffers hundreds of oil-truck incidents a year, and many result in oil spills. There were 258 trucking accidents along the planned route from 2015 to 2021. Since 2007 eight oil tanker truck accidents have occurred that resulted in six deaths, multiple injuries, fires, road closures, and oil spills. In 2020 Santa Barbara County planning staff recommended a prohibition on oil tanker trucks on Route 166 after a major accident spilled more than 4,500 gallons into the Cuyama River.
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[l] at 2/15/24 2:46pm
In a split decision handed down today, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a Presidential Permit and granted authorization to allow Oklahoma-based Oneok Inc. to build the Saguaro natural gas export Pipeline. FERC’s order exposes Americans to higher domestic energy prices, will increase greenhouse gas emissions and financially benefit China by exporting fracked natural gas from the Texas Permian basin to planned LNG export terminals on Mexico’s Pacific coast to supply the Chinese economy Public Citizen is a legal intervenor in the proceeding and will request rehearing of today’s flawed order. In December, Public Citizen called on the U.S. Department of State to explain why it granted a “favorable recommendation” for this same pipeline without requiring an analysis of the impacts it will have on exacerbating climate change. The State Department’s approval came after the Bureau of Energy Resources ignored a request just two weeks earlier by the State Department’s Office of Global Change for a comprehensive emissions review.Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, issued the following statement: “The Commission’s decision ignores the harm record methane gas exports have on raising Americans’ energy bills and exacerbating climate change, all to prioritize feeding more gas to China. The Saguaro export pipeline’s only purpose is to bypass the log-jammed Panama Canal to send U.S. produced gas to planned LNG export terminals on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Public Citizen, as a legal intervenor in the FERC proceeding, will ask for rehearing of today’s flawed FERC order.”Further Reading on Public Citizen’s Work on the Saguaro pipeline: January 2023: Public Citizen’s Protest of Oneok’s Proposed Natural Gas Export PipelineFebruary 2023: Fact Sheet: Three LNG export terminals planned for Mexico’s Sea of CortezDecember 2023: Biden’s State Department Fossil Fuel Surrender In Endorsement of Methane Export PipelineDecember 2023: State Dept letter in response to Public Citizen’s request
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[l] at 2/15/24 8:31am
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is wrongfully withholding test data and other vital information about the presence of dangerous perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and other toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in millions of fluorinated plastic containers, according to a federal lawsuit filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Center for Environmental Health (CEH). The suit contends that EPA is violating its disclosure obligations under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by improperly treating health and safety data as “confidential business information” (CBI) and denying the public access to the results of testing showing the levels of PFAS in plastic containers and their contents along with the identities of the products in which these toxic materials are present. PFOA and twelve other PFAS chemicals are formed during the fluorination of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic containers by Inhance Technologies, LLC of Houston, Texas. Inhance is the sole U.S. company conducting this type of fluorination. Studies by EPA, independent researchers, and Inhance itself show that PFAS leaches from the walls of containers into their contents, thus exposing millions of people to PFAS without their knowledge. Exposure to PFAS is associated with liver, kidney, and testicular cancer, thyroid problems, reduced immune function and vaccine efficacy, and impaired fetal development, among other harmful health effects. Inhance fluorinates 200 million containers a year which are used to package diverse products ranging from fuels to foodstuffs, cosmetics, and cleaning products which consumers and workers use on a daily basis.On January 5, 2023, PEER and CEH submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents shedding light on the health risks associated with PFAS in fluorinated containers. In its response, the agency withheld the results of extensive testing for PFAS conducted by Inhance and detailed information received from the company about the products packaged in fluorinated containers. In so doing, the suit charges, EPA has granted trade secret protection at Inhance’s request for information that TSCA requires the agency to make available to the public.“The cloak of confidential business information cannot be used to hide health and safety studies as EPA is currently doing,” stated Colleen Teubner, PEER’s Litigation and Policy Attorney. “By sitting on this critical information, EPA is advancing the private interests of a corporate violator and shirking its public health responsibilities.”PEER and CEH filed their FOIA enforcement suit against EPA in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. In addition to withholding health and safety data required to be disclosed by TSCA, EPA is still processing their FOIA request and has not yet produced hundreds of responsive documents.On December 3, 2023, EPA issued orders under TSCA determining that the PFAS in fluorinated containers constitute “an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment” and directing Inhance to stop producing PFAS during fluorination no later than February 28, 2024. A full response to the FOIA request, including disclosure of the unlawfully withheld data, will better enable the public to understand the basis for these orders and the risks to consumers and workers of handling and using PFAS-containing fluorinated containers. The EPA orders are currently being challenged in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals by Inhance.“EPA has found that these containers constitute a public health threat, a long-awaited determination that also should encompass the public’s right to know,” added CEH counsel Bob Sussman, a former senior EPA official. “Given the unquestionably major public health stakes, EPA should be stepping up and maximizing access to health and safety data, but the agency is disclosing vital information only grudgingly and with lingering secrecy even though disclosure is mandated by TSCA.”###Look at the lawsuitView an example of how EPA cloaks PFAS dataPEER CEH letter to EPA on unjustified withholding of informationPEER CEH Presentation on Inhance SNUN PFAS CBI IssuesRevisit EPA finding that Inhance’s fluorination process is an “unreasonable risk” to public healthExamine the dangers of PFAS-laden shipping containers
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[l] at 2/15/24 6:58am
Big Oil and the plastics industry have created and perpetuated a decades-long campaign of fraud and deception about the recyclability of plastics that has directly fueled the plastic waste crisis, according to a new report from the Center for Climate Integrity that features never-before-published internal industry sources. “ The Fraud of Plastic Recycling: How Big Oil and the plastics industry deceived the public for decades and caused the plastic waste crisis” lays out evidence that could provide the foundation for legal efforts to hold fossil fuel and other petrochemical companies accountable for their lies and deception. Combining newly unearthed industry documents with existing research, the report shows how fossil fuel and other petrochemical companies have deceptively promoted recycling as a solution to plastic waste management for more than 50 years despite long-standing internal knowledge that plastic recycling is not technically or economically viable at scale. Among the new pieces of evidence in the report: Petrochemical companies, including oil majors such as ExxonMobil, have long known that, in the words of one 1980s industry report, "recycling cannot be considered a permanent solid waste solution [to plastics], as it merely prolongs the time until an item is disposed of." The founding director of the Vinyl Institute, an industry trade group, explained to conference attendees in 1989, “Recycling cannot go on indefinitely, and does not solve the solid waste problem.” An Eastman Chemical Company employee in 1992 admitted that, “it is more likely that we will wake up and realize that we are not going to recycle our way out of the solid waste issue.” Discussing the industry’s commitment to plastic recycling demonstration projects, an Exxon employee told staffers at the American Plastics Council in 1994, “we are committed to the activities, but not committed to the results.” An APC staffer’s notes from 1995 highlighted the fact that recycled plastic cannot compete in the market with virgin material: “virgin supplies will go up sharply in near future and kick the shit out of PCR prices.” This new evidence shows, as described in the report’s introduction: “Despite their long-standing knowledge that recycling plastic is neither technically nor economically viable, petrochemical companies—independently and through their industry trade associations and front groups—have engaged in fraudulent marketing and public education campaigns designed to mislead the public about the viability of plastic recycling as a solution to plastic waste. These efforts have effectively protected and expanded plastic markets, while stalling legislative or regulatory action that would meaningfully address plastic waste and pollution. Fossil fuel and other petrochemical companies have used the false promise of plastic recycling to exponentially increase virgin plastic production over the last six decades, creating and perpetuating the global plastic waste crisis and imposing significant costs on communities that are left to pay for the consequences.” CCI Says Industry Must Be Held Accountable for Plastic Recycling Fraud “This evidence shows that many of the same fossil fuel companies that knew and lied for decades about how their products cause climate change have also known and lied to the public about plastic recycling. The oil industry’s lies are at the heart of the two most catastrophic pollution crises in human history,” said CCI President Richard Wiles. “When corporations and trade groups know that their products pose grave risks to society, and then lie to the public and policymakers about it, they must be held accountable. Accountability means stopping the lying, telling the truth, and paying for the damage they’ve caused.” “Big Oil and the plastics industry’s decades-long campaign to deceive the public about plastic recycling has likely violated laws designed to protect consumers and the public from corporate misconduct and pollution,” said Alyssa Johl, CCI’s vice president of legal and general counsel. “Attorneys general and other officials should carefully consider the evidence that these companies defrauded the public and take appropriate action to hold them accountable.” California is Investigating ExxonMobil’s Role in Plastics Crisis Two years ago, California Attorney General Rob Bonta publicly launched an investigation “into the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries for their role in causing and exacerbating the global plastics pollution crisis.” Bonta’s office announced that it subpoenaed oil giant ExxonMobil, the world’s biggest producer of single-use plastic polymers. The CCI report is available at climateintegrity.org/plastics-fraud
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[l] at 2/14/24 9:36pm
Wow. Just when the times were feeling pretty dark, it turns out love still (sort of) makes the world go round. With his usual grace, the former "president" sent his beloved wife a Valentine thanking her for not leaving him "even after every single INDICTMENT, ARREST, and WITCH HUNT," so can we please send her $47 or $3,300? AKA, "Cheap-ass grifter piece of shit begging for money." Also, Nikki Haley sent valentines for him to the dictators he loves. We feel better already.Perhaps because some MAGA supporters aren't the sharpest tools in the shed, the Bad Orange Guy's romantic if felony-themed missive explains at the top in big yellow all-caps, "THIS IS A VALENTINE'S DAY LETTER." Released by his Save America Joint Fundraising Committee, it begins subtly, sexily with, "Dear Melania, I love you!" Then, it gets even more mushy. “Even after every single (YELLOW HIGHLIGHTED) INDICTMENT, ARREST, and WITCH HUNT, you never left my side," he or one of his flunkies gushes. "I wouldn’t be the man I am today without your guidance, kindness, and warmth." He ends with, "You will always mean the world to me, Melania!", despite the times he had mushroom sex with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, raped E. Jean Carroll, and sexually assaulted at least 20 other women - those who came forward - even though he "never met these people." Having signed it, “From your husband with love, Donald J. Trump," he gets to the grifty point.If his eloquence and devotion "inspired you to want to SEND YOUR LOVE to Melania," he or someone writes, click on one of those crass, red, screaming invites to "leave some kind words for the First Lady this Valentine’s Day!" The links go - duh - to a donation page asking if you'd like to support his latest stab at fascism with $20.24, $47, $3,300 or “other"; choose $47 "if you think Donald J. Trump is (sic) the greatest president of all time!", even though he's a sick 12-year-old. Thanks to his largesse, any amount gets you pop-up hearts. After signing it "Donald J. Trump. 45th President of the United States" because who could forget, he adds a mobster touch to any cheapskates: "WAIT, BEFORE YOU GO! No matter how many vicious lies and attacks they throw our way, President Trump will NEVER SURRENDER our great country to the Left’s tyranny!" He's "counting on YOUR support to finish what we started" - dismantling the rights and machinery of democratic governance to "SAVE AMERICA" - so fork it up. In tribute to and perfect synchronicity with his goals, rival Nikki Haley also stepped up to celebrate the day by releasing "Love Letters from Trump," a faux campaign nod to the murderous likes of Putin, North Korea's Kim Jong-Un and China's Xi Jinping. "Over the years," she notes, Trump has professed his love for the world’s most brutal dictators and praised their strength and leadership skills." Aptly for targeting a malignant narcissist, first is a love letter to himself: “Roses are red. Violets are blue. I love dictators & they love me too." The others all quote from his own blundering words. On Kim Jong-Un's "beautiful letters" in 2018: "We fell in love." On Xi Jinping: He's "strong like granite” and rules "with an iron hand." On congratulating Putin on his "win": "Getting along with Russia is a good thing." Ending with a bang, And he praises the Taliban in 2021 as "good fighters - you have to give them credit for that." He helpfully adds, of a group founded in 1994, "They’ve been fighting for a thousand years." — (@) Seemingly undismayed, the Trump campaign brushed off the maneuver from Haley - who served as Trump’s US ambassador to the UN and often cites her foreign policy expertise - in their customarily professional, insightful, grown-up fashion. "Nikki ‘Birdbrain’ Haley," they said, "has a minor league brain in a major league world." (Takes one to know one). Meanwhile, the "most unfit guy to run for president in all of American history" is busy tilting at improbable legal windmills in his fight against myriad criminal charges. Monday, in an emergency plea to SCOTUS to block a lower-court ruling allowing his election subversion case to proceed, he repeated his already oft-rejected argument he's immune from prosecution because otherwise "the Presidency as we know it will cease to exist" - a "very bizarre" claim one legal expert likened to "déjà vu all over again," maybe this time from Yogi Bear, not Berra. Wednesday, Jack Smith forcefully refuted the notion of a magical new "novel form of absolute immunity."Whether or not that case moves forward, it seems unlikely Melania, who's "never left my side," will show up in court any time soon. Since 2020, she's been noticeably missing on the campaign trail and at multiple trials; it's unclear when in fact he last saw her or if, unlike that time with Marla/E. Jean, he'd recognize her if he did. A New York Times report adds an intriguing backstory to her sabbatical: New financial filings show the Trump PAC Make America Great Again, Again (LOL) was paying her to shill for him - in one case, $155,000 for what was dubbed a “speaking engagement" at a Mar-a-Lago fundraiser. The fee was paid to one Designer’s Management Agency; curiously, Melania is listed as a client. Endless skullduggery, thy name is. Still, it looks like the happy couple will soon be reunited: Trump told Fox News his wife "wants to make America great again, (again) too," and will soon "play a big role” in his campaign. "I think she’s going to be very active in the sense of being active," he said, and what's not to believe?
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[l] at 2/14/24 9:51am
With Republican leaders in Congress considering action to cancel out President Biden’s recent decision to temporarily halt new approvals for liquified natural gas (LNG) export facilities, the latest science confirms LNG’s devastating impact on climate stability. New research from noted climate scientist Robert Howarth, Ph.D., demonstrates that LNG is at least a 24 percent greater climate emissions source than coal.“Liquified gas exports are a threat to public health, our coastlines, and our climate. Republican extremists are doing the bidding of their fossil fuel industry backers by taking aim at a commonsense policy to review the environmental and climate costs of the unprecedented expansion of a polluting industry. Senate leaders should make sure that this Republican anti-science ploy is a failure.” – Jim Walsh, Policy Director, Food & Water Watch“LNG is made from fracked shale gas. Developing shale gas is an energy intensive process, and the greenhouse gas emissions from shale gas are comparable to those from burning coal. To make and transport LNG from the shale gas requires substantially more energy to liquefy the gas and ship it in tankers, increasing emissions even further. The overall greenhouse gas emissions for LNG are quite large, substantially larger than for coal.” – Robert Howarth, Ph.D., The David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology & Environmental Biology, Cornell UniversityIn December, 170 climate scientists, including Howarth and Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D., sent a letter to President Biden to permanently cease approving new LNG export facilities throughout the country.“Not only do LNG facilities pour climate-wrecking methane into our atmosphere when operational, their construction wipes out coastal habitat that serves as our best protection against climate-fueled hurricanes and rising storm surges. In this way, LNG facilities add climate insult to climate injury. Happily, the plunging costs of renewable energy obviate the need for further investments in the capital-intensive, energy-intensive process of turning methane gas into a bubbling, super-cold, leaky, explosive liquid for export.” – Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Science and Environmental Health Network
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[l] at 2/13/24 1:14pm
A bill to require the California Public Utilities Commission to consider the wider community benefits of rooftop solar was introduced today in the state Assembly. Assembly Bill 2256, sponsored by the Center for Biological Diversity and Environment California, is intended to unwind the commission’s 2023 net-metering policy that gutted the state’s rooftop solar industry.“This bill will force state regulators to stop shirking their duty and consider renewable energy’s wide-ranging benefits so rooftop solar is available to everyone,” said Roger Lin, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The commission’s decision to tank the state’s rooftop-solar policy was a gift to corporate utilities and a gut punch to communities and our environment. We’re in a climate emergency, and it’s reckless for the commission to ignore the harm fossil fuels do to our health and environment when it’s making energy decisions.”The prior net-metering rules were integral to helping California meet the state’s 2020 climate target. Yet in December 2022, the commission dramatically revised the program and slashed compensation for rooftop-solar investments, including for renters in disadvantaged communities. Since these changes took effect last April, rooftop-solar project sales have plummeted up to 85% and layoffs have been widespread.The Center, The Protect Our Communities Foundation and the Environmental Working Group challenged the policy, but the commission and a state appeals court refused to reconsider it. In January the groups asked the California Supreme Court to overturn the policy.The bill’s introduction comes as a new report celebrates the dramatic growth of rooftop-solar power over the past decade. The report, from Environment California Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group, recommends policies to keep rooftop solar growing, including considering all of its benefits. These benefits include reducing fossil fuel dependence, easing strain on the grid during high electricity demand, increasing resilience to threats like extreme weather, and limiting the amount of land needed for clean energy — all at a steadily falling cost.The California Air Resources Board has said the state needs to double its rooftop solar to meet California’s next climate targets, which include reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030.“How can we weigh the costs and benefits of rooftop solar without considering all the benefits to our health, our neighbors and what’s left of our open spaces?” said Lin. “This is not a zero-sum game. We can’t ignore our climate, the urgent need for energy justice, and the significant community benefits of rooftop solar and expect to have a fighting chance against climate change.”

As of 3/3/24 3:04pm. Last new 2/29/24 2:35pm.

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