Am I Next

A Black Woman Was Assaulted. Cop's Brutal Attack on Victim Was Even Worse.

By Richard A. Webster, WRKF, WWNO, & Pro Publica

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office is investigating a deputy accused of holding a Black woman by her hair and slamming her head repeatedly into the pavement with such force that a witness to the Sept. 20 incident said it ripped several of Shantel Arnold’s braids from her scalp. A 14-second video captured the incident in the New Orleans suburb where, for decades, Black residents have accused the Sheriff’s Office of targeting them.

It was the second time that hour that Arnold had been assaulted. By the time the deputies arrived, she said she had already fended off an attack by some local boys.

In an interview, the 34-year-old Arnold, who has not been previously identified, told the news organizations she had needed the police’s protection. But protection is not what she got.

Am I Next
Photo Credit: Ted Eytan https://cswr.hds.harvard.edu/news/2020/10/09/video-spirits-whiteness-age-covid-19

The video begins with a sheriff’s deputy seen holding the wrist of Arnold, who is lying on her back on the sidewalk. The deputy appears to be dragging her along the pavement. The deputy then grabs Arnold’s arm with his other hand and jerks her upward, lifting her body off the ground. They briefly disappear behind a parked white vehicle. When they come back into view, the deputy is holding Arnold by her braids, slamming her repeatedly onto the cement. At one point, he whips her down so violently her body spins around and flips over.

The footage ends as the deputy crouches down and places a knee onto Arnold’s back.

In this case, the Sheriff’s Office is conducting an internal affairs investigation into the incident, something it has not done in some similar cases, according to court records. ProPublica and WWNO/WRKF were able to confirm the probe because Arnold, who did not file an official complaint, and her relatives have transcripts of their interviews with investigators. But Sheriff Joe Lopinto did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the incident itself or his department’s response to it.

For decades, members of the Black community have accused the Sheriff’s Office of using excessive force against them, making false arrests and failing to rein in abusive deputies. Last month, a story published by WWNO/WRKF and ProPublica revealed stark racial disparities in shootings by deputies and systemic problems with transparency and accountability.

The investigation found that more than 70% of the people deputies shot at during the past eight years were Black, more than double the parish’s Black population. In addition, 12 of the 16 people who died after being shot or restrained by deputies during that time were Black men. The investigation also found that the Sheriff’s Office could not account for how often its deputies use force or how many complaints civilians lodged against its employees.

Lopinto previously declined to be interviewed about the news organizations’ findings, saying only that when his deputies commit serious misconduct, they are arrested; he also noted that at least nine deputies, in a department of about 760 deputies, had been booked since he became sheriff in 2017.

Following the story, the ACLU of Louisiana called on federal prosecutors to launch an investigation into the Sheriff’s Office.

Arnold’s case raises many of those same issues. The evidence — based on interviews with the victim and the two witnesses, statements they provided to the sheriff’s internal affairs division and the video — makes clear that something went very wrong when a citizen of Jefferson Parish needed help.

The incident started around 2 p.m. on Sept. 20 when Arnold was attacked by three boys as she was walking down the street near her family’s trailer home. At 4-foot-8 and about 100 pounds, her left eye missing from a car accident years earlier, Arnold regularly made an easy target for the neighborhood bullies, her family said.

During the attack, which lasted several minutes and was captured in a cellphone video, the boys slammed Arnold to the ground and beat her while a crowd watched and laughed. She tried to defend herself with a stick, which is visible in the video. The assault ended only after 71-year-old Lionel Gray, whom Arnold considers her stepfather, chased the boys away.

Disheveled and covered in dirt, Arnold stumbled down the road toward her home when an unidentified sheriff’s deputy rolled up beside her in his patrol car.

In the transcript of her interview with an internal affairs investigator, Arnold says: “I’m on my way home. I ain’t make it all the way to the block, the police come out of nowhere, swarming, getting me like, ‘Come here.’ I’m like, ‘What’s going on? I just got beat up by two children, what ya’ll doing?’”

Arnold said the deputy demanded she stop and talk to him. She told him that she had just been assaulted and wanted to go home, and she continued walking.

According to Gray and another witness, Arnold’s 55-year-old uncle, Tony Givens, the officer jumped out of his vehicle, grabbed Arnold and threw her to the ground, unprovoked. Gray and Givens were standing at the foot of the family’s driveway, about 20 feet away.

In an interview with the internal affairs investigator, Gray said that Arnold didn’t pull away. “She didn’t have a chance to pull away because, you know, this guy was strong. He grabbed her arm, and some kind of move he made, and she went down to the ground. … So I was walking up to him and he told me, ‘If you come any closer I’m going to kick everybody’s ass out here.’ So, I said … ‘you don’t have to use that type of force on that little woman right there, she’s a midget.’”

What happened next was picked up on a video shared on social media and viewed more than 130,000 times. It is unclear who took the video, which is the only footage of the incident to have surfaced; the Sheriff’s Office remains one of the few large law enforcement agencies across the country that does not use body cameras. This week, however, the Sheriff’s Office announced that it had signed an $8.7 million contract for 500 body cameras that would be deployed by December.

Lopinto said that the contract had been signed in June, “well before any of these articles that were written,” and that he didn’t say anything publicly because “really nobody has asked me. It’s not like I denied it,” he said.

WWNO/WRKF and ProPublica sent the Sheriff’s Office an email on July 29 specifically asking about the fact that the office had not yet adopted body cameras. The Sheriff’s Office did not respond to that email, five follow-up emails and multiple voicemail messages, texts and a certified letter.

Arnold told investigators with the Sheriff’s Office that it was not the boys but the deputy who caused her injuries, which included bruises and scratches across her body, a busted lip and recurring headaches. Deputies on the scene called an ambulance, which took Arnold to a local hospital. She was not charged with a crime.

Alanah Odoms, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, said the video of Arnold and the deputy was “yet another testament to the shocking frequency that JPSO targets and brutalizes innocent, unarmed members of the Black community.”

Sam Walker, emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, called the deputy’s actions in the video “outrageous” and questioned whether the Sheriff’s Office properly trains its deputies in control tactics or de-escalation techniques.

“There are essentially two answers here. One is they do, and he ignored his training,” Walker said. “Or answer No. 2 is no, they don’t, which is to say their training program is completely unacceptable. So, it’s either him or the organization.”

The video of Arnold and the deputy also raises new questions about the Sheriff’s Office use-of-force policy, which activists and critics have assailed as vague and insufficient.

They have also said that the department lacks transparency around use-of-force incidents. According to the news investigation published last month, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office was unable to produce any documents related to non-shooting use-of-force incidents. The research organization Police Scorecard Project made a similar request for data on use-of-force incidents; the Sheriff’s Office responded by saying those records don’t exist.

ACLU Calls On Federal Prosecutors to Investigate the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office
Shortly after Arnold had been taken to a hospital by ambulance, her sister, Mercedes, arrived on the scene. Mercedes, 32, said the deputy accused of attacking her sister was still present and tried to convince her to call the coroner to have Arnold committed to a hospital for mental health problems. She refused.

“He was just trying to cover up what he did by saying my sister is crazy,” she said.

In the following days and weeks, Mercedes and multiple family members said, the same deputy has rolled by their house multiple times in what she believes to be an attempt to intimidate them. But she said she and her family are not afraid and will continue to speak up until the Sheriff’s Office holds its deputies accountable.


Bernie Sanders & Gaza

Why Did Bernie Sanders Vote For Iron Dome Funding?

Alex Kane, Jewish Currents

[Progressives are often caught in a bind. We want our politicians to vote and champion according to their stated values. And when they don’t, it’s easy to condemn them for making a choice with an opaque upside. Much better to hold them accountable. 

But in this case, we can see what is happening behind the scenes. Thanks to Alex Kane’s reporting, we know that Sen. Sanders didn’t simply cave by voting for more money for Israeli armaments, he leveraged his support to advocate for more aid to Gaza, which continues to be victimized by the Israeli blockade. As progressives, we don’t always get the votes we want from our favorite electeds. But we should always demand integrity. Is that what is on display here? We think it’s a question worth pondering.  — Progressive Hub.]

Ahead of a Senate vote that is expected to authorize an extra billion dollars in military aid for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system, Senator Bernie Sanders’s office says Sanders has secured a commitment from Democratic leadership that the US will also send additional humanitarian funds to Palestinians in Gaza, the coastal enclave devastated by Israel’s aerial assault this spring.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer obtained by Jewish Currents, Sanders seemed critical of the Iron Dome funding, which would fulfill an Israeli request for targeted aid to the program on top of the $3.8 billion in US military aid that goes to Israel every year. While acknowledging that Iron Dome “saves civilian lives from missile attacks,” he also noted that the anti-rocket system was already “fully funded” by the US, and that the US gives Israel “more [aid] than any other country in the world.” But Sanders is also planning to vote “yes” on Iron Dome, leveraging his vote in exchange for leadership’s backing of the humanitarian relief.

“A goal here is to make clear that it’s no longer acceptable to keep sending billions in military aid to Israel without any debate, and without any acknowledgement of the violence endured by Palestinians living under occupation and blockade,” said Matt Duss, Sanders’s foreign policy advisor.

Bernie Sanders & Gaza
Credit: Hosni Saleh, https://pixabay.com/photos/gaza-strip-palestine-3829405/

The move returns Sanders to a familiar role: that of the US Senate’s foremost advocate for increased aid for Gaza, to address the territory’s Israeli-imposed economic and humanitarian crisis. But it also serves as a reminder of the Palestinian rights movement’s weak foothold in the Senate. Palestinian rights advocates have spent the past few weeks pushing progressives to vote “no” on Iron Dome funding, arguing that additional military aid fuels Israel’s ability to carry out its policies of occupation and apartheid without facing accountability. Sanders, however, is not following their lead. In fact, it’s unlikely any Senator will vote “no” on the funding.

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india walton between byron brown and justice

Michael Moore on Supporting India Walton for Buffalo Mayor

Michael Moore, Rumble

[Today we’re reposting Michael Moore’s intro to his episode of Rumble with India Walton, a Democratic Socialist likely to be Buffalo’s next mayor. Why it matters: Buffalo is not an insignificant city. It’s the second largest city in New York state, and its political dynamics aren’t that different than many other similar sized cities. For that reason, supporters and opponents of Walton are asking the question: is this the start of something new (electing left mayors in major cities) or the high water mark of a singular candidate?

We won’t answer that question for you, but we will direct you to listen carefully to Walton’s choice of words. It’s a masterclass in how progressives ought to communicate when they are truly part of a people powered wave of change. — Progressive Hub]

The only way we will get real, necessary change in this country and defeat the 3 pandemics we face — Covid, Climate and Coup — is not only by defeating the Republican party into a Whig-like oblivion, but by also replacing corporate, Manchin/Sinema-type Democrats at every opportunity we get with good, honest, working-class candidates who represent the people and not the corporate power elite.

The only reason we may be on the brink of passing a monumental investment in childcare, healthcare and education in this country is because of the people, the movements, the organizers and the voters that have put leaders like Bernie Sanders, Pramila Jayapal, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman and several others in positions of power in Washington. This is not a “fringe” group in Congress anymore. They hold real power. The Biden’s, Schumer’s and Pelosi’s — they are now championing a Bernie Sanders-written piece of legislation. This signifies that we are winningWe are winning the war of ideas. We are winning the policy debates. We are winning elections. And when roadblocks like Manchin and Sinema threaten to get in the way of this progress, the solution is to keep winning more! Find the corporate Democrat (or Republican) who is holding up progress in your state, in your district, in your town, run against them and defeat them!

It works! Just ask AOC. Ask Jamaal Bowman. Ask Cori Bush.

This must be done on all levels of government. Which brings us to Buffalo:

india walton between byron brown and justice
caption

In June of this year, India Walton shocked the political world by defeating the four-term incumbent mayor of Buffalo, Byron Brown, in the Democratic primary, setting the table for her to become the favorite to win the Mayoral race in November because it’s a heavily Democratic city.

She would be the first democratic socialist to be elected mayor of a major American city in more than half a century, and the first woman — and first Black woman — to lead New York’s second-largest city.

India Walton is a registered nurse, a union member and organizer, a community activist, a single mother of 4 boys — and come November, we’ll start addressing her as “Mayor.”

Of course, the corporate Democratic establishment only knows how to fight like hell when they are punching left – so India is now facing a barrage of attacks, personal threats, and a write-in campaign from the man she already defeated in the Democratic primary. And it is being funded and supported by some Republicans and Trump-aligned figures. As one commentator put it, “the entire power elite in Buffalo and western New York is somewhat determined to try to stop Walton after she sort of slipped one by them in the primary.”

The general election is next month, on November 2nd. We must all circle-the-wagons and support India Walton in any way that we can. Click here to volunteer or donate to her campaign if you are able:

Volunteer or Donate To India Walton

You can also help by listening to her story in this week’s episode of Rumble with Michael Moore (above on Substack or below on Spotify or one of the other podcast apps) and sharing it with others.

It’s another example of a working-class person, respected in her community, and supported by her family and friends, who thought, “why not me? If these bozos can run cities and hold a powerful office, why can’t I?”

Some of you reading this email are the India Walton of your town. The Alexandria of your town. The Jamaal of your town. The Cori of your town. Some of you reading this are next in line to shock the political world, not because of your political connections, rich dads, or fancy degrees (though I have nothing against you earning one!), but because you care about people. You have a good heart. You are smart. You work hard and are willing to knock on every door in your district to share your story and extend your hand in solidarity to whomever is on the other side of that door. I don’t mean the bullshit “reaching across the aisle” phoniness we hear about in Washington, where corporate Democrats and corporate Republicans find a “third way” and “compromise” and get celebrated on the cable news networks for compromising-away your healthcare, your factory, and your right to an abortion. I’m talking about the real connections we must all be making in our cities, in good faith, because we believe in our values and our arguments and we believe that if we share them with enough people, we’ll be in the majority on election day. Because we are the majority.

Just listen to India Walton’s conversation with me and hear how it’s done.

-Mike

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The end of expanded UI

Ending Expanded Unemployment Benefits: Cruel & Counterproductive

Ryan Cooper, The Week

[It’s a bit surprising how little unrest flowed from the decision to end pandemic unemployment benefits. Close to 8 million people were getting them one week, and then not the next. Cooper asks the question: what was this cruelty meant to achieve? Is it working? The answers are illuminating. — Progressive Hub]

Last month, the pandemic unemployment benefits — what I’ve been calling super-unemployment — expired, with the support of both Republican governors and the Biden administration. The thinking, at least in part, was that this would help push workers into new jobs: Too many Americans had gotten fat and lazy living off unemployment benefits, and it was time to starve them into the labor market.

Today, the September jobs report came in, and that thinking has been proved wrong. Just 194,000 jobs were created last month — as compared to hopeful economist predictions of 720,000. As Matt Bruenig writes at the People’s Policy Project, “This was the worst month of job growth since Biden became president and the second-worst since May of last year when the pandemic labor market recovery began.” America is still about 5 million jobs short of the pre-pandemic total. At this rate, it will be around December 2023 before that gap is closed. Starving people into jobs isn’t working.

The end of expanded UI
Credit: https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=387542
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Julian Assange

Julian Assange: Silence in the Face of CIA Murder Plots

John McEvoy, FAIR

Yahoo! News (9/26/21) published a bombshell report detailing the US Central Intelligence Agency’s “secret war plans against WikiLeaks,” including clandestine plots to kill or kidnap publisher Julian Assange while he took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Following WikiLeaks‘ publication of the Vault 7 files in 2017—the largest leak in CIA history, which exposed how US and UK intelligence agencies could hack into household devices—the US government designated WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service” (The Hill4/13/17), providing legal cover to target the organization as if it were an adversarial spy agency.

Within this context, the Donald Trump administration reportedly requested “sketches” or “options” for how to kill Assange, according to the Yahoo! expose (written by Zach Dorfman, Sean D. Naylor and Michael Isikoff), while the CIA drew up plans to kidnap him. (Assange was expelled from the embassy in 2019 and has since then been in British prison, fighting a demand that he be extradited to the US to face charges of espionage—FAIR.org11/13/20.)

Shortly after publication, former CIA director Mike Pompeo (Yahoo! News9/29/21) seemed to confirm the report’s findings, declaring that the former US intelligence officials who spoke with Yahoo! “should all be prosecuted for speaking about classified activity inside the CIA.”

Julian Assange
Julian Assange. Original image via Acid Polly, https://www.flickr.com/photos/acidpolly/5935487106. Picture taken 2011.

Ghoulish indifference

Independent: The CIA plot to kidnap or kill Julian Assange in London is a story that is being mistakenly ignored

Patrick Cockburn (Independent10/1/21): “The scoop about the CIA’s plot to kidnap or kill Assange has been largely ignored or downplayed.”

It would seem that covert plans for the state-sanctioned murder on British soil of an award-winning journalist should attract sustained, wall-to-wall media coverage.

The news, however, has been met by Western establishment media with ghoulish indifference—a damning indictment of an industry that feverishly condemns attacks on press freedom in Official Enemy states.

BBC News, one of the most-read news outlets in the world, appears to have covered the story just once—in the Somali-language section of the BBC website (Media Lens on Twitter9/30/21).

Neither the New York Times or Washington Post, two of the world’s leading corporate news organizations, have published any articles about Assange since July 2021.

To its credit, since the story first broke on September 26, the Guardian has reported twice on the CIA-led conspiracy to kill or kidnap Assange. But to offer perspective, during the week after Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny was reported to have been poisoned by the Russian government, the Guardian published 16 separate pieces on the issue, including video reports and opinion pieces.

Similarly, a Nexis search of British newspapers for the word “Navalny” brings up 288 results from August 20–25, 2020. The same search for “Assange” between September 26–October 1, 2021, brings up a meager 29 results—one of which, a notable exception, was a Patrick Cockburn piece in the Independent (10/1/21).

Crucial relief

 

As is typical of stories that embarrass the Western intelligence services, independent media provided crucial relief to the backdrop of chilling indifference, with the Grayzone’s Aaron Maté (YouTube9/30/21) conducting a rigorous interview with one of the report’s authors, Michael Isikoff.

Indeed, the Grayzone (5/14/20) was the first outlet to provide evidence of a CIA-linked proposal to “kidnap or poison Assange” in May 2020. The story, however, was almost universally ignored, suggesting that, as Joe Lauria wrote in Consortium News (10/2/21), “until something appears in the mainstream media, it didn’t happen.”

One thing the corporate media cannot be accused of with regards to Assange, however, is inconsistency. After a key witness in the Department of Justice’s case against the publisher admitted to providing the US prosecution with false testimony, a detail that should ordinarily turn a case to dust, the corporate media responded by ignoring the story almost entirely. As Alan MacLeod wrote for FAIR.org (7/2/21):

The complete uniformity with which corporate media have treated this latest bombshell news raises even more concerns about how fundamentally intertwined and aligned they are with the interests of the US government.

Even after it was revealed that the UC Global security firm that targeted Assange had also spied on journalists at the Washington Post and New York Times, neither outlet mounted any protest (Grayzone9/18/20).

Perhaps most remarkably, UK judge Vanessa Baraitser relied on a falsified CNN report (7/15/19)  to justify the CIA’s spying operation against Assange (Grayzone5/1/21). Now, CNN’s website contains no reports on the agency’s plans to kill or kidnap Assange.

The prevailing silence has extended into the NGO industry. Amnesty International, which refused in 2019 to consider Assange a prisoner of conscience, has said nothing about the latest revelations. Likewise, Index on Censorship, which describes itself as “The Global Voice of Free Expression,” hasn’t responded to the story.

The establishment media’s dismissal of Assange supports Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s framework of “worthy” and “unworthy” political dissidents, with Assange situated firmly in the latter camp.

Only barrier is pride’

Guardian: The only barrier to Julian Assange leaving Ecuador’s embassy is pride

This James Ball column (Guardian1/10/18) has not aged well.

The present circumstances become even more deplorable upon consideration of the corporate journalists who arrogantly diminished, or even delighted in, Assange’s concerns for his own safety.

The Guardian’s James Ball (1/10/18) published a now infamous article headlined, “The Only Barrier to Julian Assange Leaving Ecuador’s Embassy Is Pride.” “The WikiLeaks founder is unlikely to face prosecution in the US,” the subhead confidently asserted. The column concluded:

Assange does not want to be trapped in Ecuador’s embassy, and his hosts do not want him there. Their problem is that what’s keeping him trapped there is not so much the iniquitous actions of world powers, but pride.

In a later article (3/29/18), Ball insisted that Assange “should hold his hands up and leave the embassy.”

Ball, at least, has written something on the latest revelations, but his article in the London Times (10/03/21) remains typically scornful of Assange’s persona.

The Guardian’s Marina Hyde (5/19/17) took a similar angle. Under the headline “The Moral of the Assange Story? Wait Long Enough, and Bad Stuff Goes Away,” Hyde wrote that “Captain WikiLeaks will get out of pretend-jail eventually.” More than four years later, Assange is in Belmarsh prison, “the closest comparison in the United Kingdom to Guantánamo,” according to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. Hyde has said nothing of the very real plans to murder or kidnap him.

In the same vein, journalist Suzanne Moore—who had previously publicly mocked Assange on a number of occasions—wrote in the New Statesman (4/12/19) after Assange’s arrest:

We are all bored out of our minds with Brexit when a demented-looking gnome is pulled out of the Ecuadorian embassy by the secret police of the deep state. Or “the met,” as normal people call them.

Moore, winner of the Orwell Prize for journalism in 2019, was not the first of her colleagues to ridicule WikiLeaks and its supporters as paranoid about an increasingly powerful state security apparatus. A column by the Guardian‘s Nick Cohen (6/23/12)  offered “supporters of Julian Assange” as a “definition of paranoia”:

Assange’s supporters do not tell us how the Americans could prosecute the incontinent leaker. American democracy is guilty of many crimes and corruptions. But the First Amendment to the US constitution is the finest defense of freedom of speech yet written. The American Civil Liberties Union thinks it would be unconstitutional for a judge to punish Assange.

And, in any case, “Britain has a notoriously lax extradition treaty with the United States.”

Blinded by propaganda

Medium: Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange

Nils Melzer (Medium6/26/19): “Once telling the truth has become a crime, while the powerful enjoy impunity, it will be too late to correct the course.”

It is of little surprise, then, that the Guardian, among other news outlets, refused to publish the words of UN special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer, who wrote in June 2019:

In the end, it finally dawned on me that I had been blinded by propaganda, and that Assange had been systematically slandered to divert attention from the crimes he exposed. Once he had been dehumanized through isolation, ridicule and shame, just like the witches we used to burn at the stake, it was easy to deprive him of his most fundamental rights without provoking public outrage worldwide.

The Assange case once again demonstrates that when erroneous reporting falls on the right side of the US and UK foreign policy establishment, editorial standards are set aside, and journalistic failures are met with zero accountability.

As such, it’s important to remember those journalists who watched on, pointing, laughing, comfortable in the knowledge that their work would never produce the impact nor risk of WikiLeaks—and then said nothing as the right to a free press was removed in broad daylight.


Alexandria Ocasio Cortez

What The Iron Dome Debate Shows About Congress & Palestine

By Mitchell Plitnick, 972 Magazine

[Mitchell Plitnick offers analysis of the Iron Dome vote, which interrupted the debate over the Reconciliation bill. The passage of this funding was never in doubt. But as Plitnick argues, under the surface the ground is shifting in favor of Palestine solidarity activists. — Progressive Hub]

In a dramatic ordeal last month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly — by 420 votes to 9 — to grant an extra $1 billion to Israel to replenish Iron Dome, a missile system used to intercept rockets fired by militias particularly from the Gaza Strip. At first glance, this move sounds like business as usual on Capitol Hill, and yet another achievement for the powerful pro-Israel lobby in Washington. But in fact, this was anything but business as usual.

While the landslide vote was certainly a mixed blessing, the public fight that unfolded over the Iron Dome funding represents a significant step forward for the Palestinian rights movement. For all the handwringing by American politicians about protecting civilians and ensuring Israeli security, the question at the heart of the U.S. debate on Iron Dome is not about the military system itself; rather, it is about who is going to pay for it. As a result, the drama on the House floor has succeeded in widening a conversation that Israel’s American supporters would prefer to avoid — if not entirely silence.

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panama papers are going unnoticed just as the panama papers were ignored , set to jurrasic park

Does Anyone Care About the Pandora Papers?

By Charles Lenchner

Yesterday we published the original reporting about the Pandora Papers – a treasure trove of leaked documents about the rich and powerful evading taxes. The story itself has appeared all over the place (New York Times, The Guardian, Democracy Now!) but much of the impact will be felt more strongly in smaller, poorer countries with unaccountable leaders.

One example is King Abdullah II of Jordan purchasing over $100 million in luxury properties around the world. As Deutsche Welle put it, “Though probably not illegal, they are still at odds with the government’s declared principles of financial transparency.” Combine that with the high level of repression in Jordan, the public’s lack of trust in its own government, and censorship of news about the Pandora Papers revelations, and it’s clear how information like this is profoundly destabilizing.

In Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky is known for promising to tackle that country’s infamous corruption. But the Pandora Papers tell a different story. We’re likely to see more shock waves around the world as a result of the information leaked. While our own political shenanigans are crowding out international news, we’ll stay on this story.

panama papers are going unnoticed just as the panama papers were ignored , set to jurrasic park

Pills

Big Pharma Makes More Off of US Sales Than Rest of the World Combined

By Sharon Zhang, Truthout

A new analysis by Public Citizen found that the U.S. is spending nearly double what the rest of the world spends combined for key drugs. The report offers further evidence that the country is in dire need of pharmaceutical drug price reformation, which progressives are fighting for through the Build Back Better Act.

The report finds that, for the 20 top-selling drugs worldwide, U.S. sales totaled $101.1 billion, while sales of the same drugs to the rest of the world totaled almost $57 billion in 2020. For 11 of the drugs, revenue in the U.S. was double that of the rest of the world combined. And for 11 of the 13 pharmaceutical companies that sell these drugs, U.S. profits made up most of their revenue.

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Haiti migrants

Haitian Migrants At The Border: How The U.S. Violates Asylum Obligations

By Karen Musalo, The Conversation

The U.S.’s top envoy to Haiti resigned abruptly on Sept. 22, 2021, over the Biden administration’s “inhumane” treatment of Haitian migrants crossing the border via Mexico into Texas.

The resignation came amid debate over the U.S. decision to deport thousands of Haitians entering the U.S. in search of asylum or a better life. Criticism over the policy mounted as images of U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback and carrying whip-like cords while encountering migrants gained widespread media attention and criticism from the White House. Border agents denied using whips on migrants.

The Conversation asked Karen Musalo, an expert on refugee law and policy, to unpack what went on at the U.S. border and whether the Biden administration is shirking its moral and legal obligations in deporting the Haitian migrants.

Haiti migrants
Modified image from France 24. https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210920-uproar-over-mounted-border-agents-turning-back-haitian-migrants

What’s behind the recent surge of Haitian refugees at the Texas border?

Haiti is beset by extraordinarily desperate conditions of political chaos and natural disasters, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021 catapulted the country into political turmoil. The post-assassination power struggle exacerbated pre-existing political violence and dysfunction. Violent gangs, often with ties to the state, are increasingly a threat.

In addition, Haiti suffered a devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake in August, just two days before being hit directly by tropical storm Grace, with a combined toll of over 2,200 dead, 12,000 injured and hundreds of thousands displaced, many in remote regions that have yet to receive aid. The pandemic has exacerbated these woes. Less than one-half of 1% of the population has received even a first dose of a vaccine.

This has undoubtedly swelled the number of people trying to leave the nation. But many of the migrants arriving in the U.S. in recent weeks left Haiti before the recent turmoil. Haitian migrants have been trapped in Mexico for several years under various Trump-era policies that limited, and then eliminated, the possibility for them to request asylum in the United States. At the same time, others who left Haiti in years past for countries in South America have suffered from deep antipathy and racism in their host countries, living in perilous conditions with only precarious legal status at best.

It appears many asylum seekers in Mexico, including Haitians, took heed of Biden’s promises during the presidential election campaign to restore the asylum system. That may have been a factor in their decision to present themselves at the Texas border seeking the protection guaranteed under law for those fleeing persecution.

It should be remembered that the U.S. has long played a role in Haiti’s troubles. When Special Envoy for Haiti Daniel Foote resigned, coverage focused on his protest against what he described as the inhumanity of returning Haitians to a “collapsed state … unable to provide security or basic services.” Overlooked was his equally damning indictment of the U.S. as a puppet master in Haiti’s political breakdown, for example by supporting the unelected prime minister and his political agenda.

Doesn’t the US have a legal obligation to process asylum seekers?

Both international and U.S. law recognize the basic human right to seek asylum. The U.S. has ratified two treaties, the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1984 Convention against Torture, which prohibit the U.S. from returning people to countries where they risk persecution or torture. As a practical matter, this means that people must be able to request asylum at the U.S. border, or within U.S. territory, so that they have the opportunity to prove whether or not they fit within the category of persons legally protected from forced return.

This international legal framework has been codified in U.S. law, primarily through the Refugee Act of 1980, along with later statutes and regulations. It is universally acknowledged, including by the Supreme Court, that in passing these laws Congress intended to bring U.S. law into conformity with the United States’ international treaty obligations.

It is entirely legal to approach U.S. borders and request asylum. Statements by the administration that people should not come, that they are doing something illegal when they seek protection, and that there is a right way and wrong way to seek asylum are, in my opinion, not only callous and cruel but also false statements of the law.

The White House has asserted that Haitians are not coming into the country through “legal methods,” which would indeed be impossible since all legal methods have been foreclosed to them.

As part of the Trump administration’s dismantling of the asylum system, the White House in March 2020 ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over the objections of its own scientists, to use a 1944 public health law known as “Title 42” to bar asylum seekers from entering the United States. This law had never been used before to dictate the movement of people across U.S. borders, which is instead the province of immigration laws. And despite the Biden’s campaign promises to restore the country’s asylum system, the administration continues to rely on Title 42 – despite most Americans now being vaccinated – to keep asylum seekers out.

Can you tell me a little more about Title 42?

Even before COVID-19 struck, Trump administration aide Stephen Miller had inquired about using the government’s public health authority to shut U.S. borders to people seeking asylum. He was told there was no legal authority to do so. The emergence of the pandemic provided a pretext for the unprecedented use of this little-known law dating back over 75 years. It formed part of the Public Health Service Act of 1944 to allow for the quarantine of anyone, including a U.S. citizen, arriving from a foreign country. It was never intended, nor until 2020 was used, to expel noncitizens from the United States. In fact, when Congress enacted the initial version of this law, references to immigration were deliberately omitted precisely to avoid the use of its provisions to discriminate against immigrants.

But the March 2020 order by the Trump administration targets one group, and one group only: noncitizens who lack documentation and arrive by land.

All other people arriving in the U.S., including American citizens, lawful permanent residents and tourists arriving by plane or ship, are exempt. As currently employed by the government, this public health law has displaced existing immigration law, which allows people to request asylum. And in doing so it has also eliminated the due process protections that are part of our immigration laws.

On Sept. 16, a federal court found the use of Title 42 to expel people seeking asylum to be a clear violation of U.S. law and granted a preliminary injunction against the practice. The court stayed its own order for 14 days to allow the government an opportunity to appeal its decision.

Is there a history of discriminatory US migration policy against Haitians?

Haitians have suffered from discriminatory treatment in immigration for decades, and it would, I believe, be naïve to attribute this adverse treatment to anything other than systemic racism, which pervades so many aspects of American society. Shortly after the U.S. enacted the 1980 Refugee Act, it began to stop Haitians on the high seas and to return them to Haiti so that they could not apply for asylum in this country. This violation of international law was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1993, and the practice continues to this day. Before the border was closed to them, Haitians who reached the U.S. and applied for asylum were denied at a higher rate than just about any other nationality – notwithstanding the dire human rights conditions in their country.

After Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake in 2010, the government gave Temporary Protected Status to Haitians already in the United States, thus shielding them from removal. In 2017 the Trump administration terminated the status for Haitians, giving them until July 2019 to leave or to face deportation.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Sept. 26 to add a denial from border agents.The Conversation

Karen Musalo, Professor of International Law, University of California, Hastings

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Steven Donziger

Steven Donziger Took on Chevron; Now He Goes to Prison

By Julia Conley, Common Dreams

Environmental justice advocates and other progressives on Friday condemned a federal judge’s decision Friday to sentence human rights lawyer Steven Donziger to six months in prison—following more than two years of house arrest related to a lawsuit he filed decades ago against oil giant Chevron.

“Chevron caused a mass industrial poisoning in the Amazon that crushed the lives of Indigenous peoples. Six courts and 28 appellate judges found the company guilty. Fight on.”
—Steven Donziger

The sentence, delivered by U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in New York City, represents “an international outrage,” tweeted journalist Emma Vigeland following its announcement.

Donziger’s sentence came a day after the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said it was “appalled” by the U.S. legal system’s treatment of the former environmental lawyer and demanded the U.S. government “remedy the situation of Mr. Steven Donziger without delay and bring it in conformity with the relevant international norms” by immediately releasing him.

Steven Donziger
via Twitter https://twitter.com/SDonziger/status/1412597692602195970

Donziger represented a group of farmers and Indigenous people in the Lago Agrio region of Ecuador in the 1990s in a lawsuit against Texaco—since acquired by Chevron—in which the company was accused of contaminating soil and water with its “deliberate dumping of billions of gallons of cancer-causing waste into the Amazon.”

An Ecuadorian court awarded the plaintiffs a $9.5 billion judgment in 2011—a decision upheld by multiple courts in Ecuador—only to have a U.S. judge reject the ruling, accusing Donziger of bribery and evidence tampering. Chevron also countersued Donziger in 2011.

In 2019, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of the Southern District of New York—a former corporate lawyer with investments in Chevron—held Donziger in contempt of court after he refused to disclose privileged information about his clients to the fossil fuel industry. Kaplan placed Donziger under house arrest, where he has remained under strict court monitoring for 787 days.

In addition to Kaplan’s own connections to Chevron, the judge appointed private attorneys to prosecute the case, including one who had worked for a firm that represented the oil giant.

Preska, who found Donziger guilty of the contempt charges in July, is a leader of the right-wing Federalist Society, which counts Chevron among its financial backers.

“As I face sentencing on Day 787 of house arrest, never forget what this case is really about,” tweeted Donziger on Friday morning, as he awaited the sentencing. “Chevron caused a mass industrial poisoning in the Amazon that crushed the lives of Indigenous peoples. Six courts and 28 appellate judges found the company guilty.”

Donziger indicated Friday afternoon that he plans to appeal the sentence.

“Stay strong,” he tweeted along with a photo from a rally attended by his supporters Friday.

350.org co-founder and author Bill McKibben said on social media that Donziger “deserves our thanks and support” for “daring to point out that Big Oil had poisoned the rainforest.”

Rick Claypool, research director for Public Citizen, tweeted that Donziger’s case “perfectly encapsulates how corporate power has twisted the U.S. justice system to protect corporate interests and punish their enemies”—noting that as Donziger is ordered to prison for six months, members of the Sackler family recently won immunity from opioid lawsuits targeting their private company, Purdue Pharma.”This ruling was done to deter ANYONE from crossing corporate special interests,” said progressive former congressional candidate Jen Perelman.