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.


Senator Sinema stands against a green background with a Wall St sign in the corner

They Elected Sinema. Now They're Primarying Her.

By Igor Derysh, Salon

Senator Sinema stands against a green background with a Wall St sign in the corner
Photo by Gage Skidmore

A committee of Arizona organizers who have helped turn the state blue since 2018, when Sinema narrowly won her seat, launched the conditional fundraiser to pressure the senator to stop undermining her party’s agenda. Sinema opposes the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending bill, balking at both the price tag and key measures like drug pricing reform and tax hikes on the wealthy and corporations. She has also vehemently defended the filibuster, which has prevented any progress on the Democrats’ voting rights legislation as well as a minimum wage increase, immigration reform, gun violence measures, police reform, LGBTQ protections, protections for workers’ right to unionize and other bills that have already passed the Democratic-led House.

“It’s time to send a message that she can’t ignore,” the group’s CrowdPAC page says. “Either Sen. Sinema votes to end or reform the Jim Crow filibuster this year or we fund a primary challenge to replace her with someone who will.”

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'Bipartisan' Means They're Doing It Wrong

By Cody Fenwick, Alternet

When Joe Biden ran for president, he touted his history in the Senate and as vice president of making deals across the aisle and working with Republicans. He said that he would be able to productively cooperate with the GOP if he were elected — and that the fierce partisan divisions would cool.

“With Donald Trump out of the way, you’re going to see a number of my Republican colleagues have an epiphany,” he said in November 2019. “Mark my words.”

And it’s not just Biden. Many Democrats, especially the more conservative members of the coalition, hold up bipartisanship as a virtue in itself, much more often than Republicans do.

But about eight months into the Biden presidency, this strategy isn’t paying dividends. Arguably, it’s been dramatically weakening the Democrats’ strategic position and backfiring on them.

Photo for illustration purposes only. Nancy Pelosi
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For illustration purposes only

Seattle Cops Just Can't Help Themselves

By Shaun Scott, Crosscut

[This devastating report showcases something police reform advocates have known for a long time: what’s broken in American policing is so deep, even the police department of a wealthy, progressive city can barely improve itself — even when under the microscope. – Progressive Hub]

Both detractors and defenders of the Seattle Police Department must reckon with this fact: since renewed calls for police accountability began after the murder of George Floyd last year, Seattle cops have been on their best behavior — at least, the best that they can manage.

Already under a federal probe that began in 2012 when President Obama’s Department of Justice found the Seattle Police Department repeatedly used force unconstitutionally, Seattle police have been the center of much attention and scrutiny for the past year. In the glare of last summer’s spotlight, Seattle police did not rise to the occasion, but rather reverted to the level of their training, exposing their institutional raison d’être by responding to criticism the only way they know how.

A small boy surveys wreckage from a bombing
Photo for illustration purposes only. Photolibrium
Photo by Felton Davis

For the first time since Saudi Arabia’s offensive in Yemen began six years ago, Democrats hold both chambers of Congress and the White House, putting them in the strongest position to finally enact change. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., has revitalized the FY-20 NDAA provision and introduced it into this year’s defense bill. In addition to outlawing intelligence sharing with the Saudis, Khanna’s amendment would prohibit U.S. logistical support and the transfer of spare parts to Saudi warplanes, effectively grounding them. The House of Representatives is set to vote on the measure today.

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Getting $3.5 Trillion To Pass: Progressives Are The Good Guys

By Ryan Skolnick

Remember this whole infrastructure mess next time anyone dares to call progressives “divisive.” Here are the facts:

  • Bernie Sanders supports a 3.5 trillion dollar reconciliation bill.
  • Joe Biden supports a 3.5 trillion dollar reconciliation bill.
  • Nancy Pelosi supports a 3.5 trillion dollar reconciliation bill.
  • Chuck Schumer supports a 3.5 trillion dollar reconciliation bill.

The vast majority of the Democratic base supports a 3.5 trillion dollar reconciliation bill.

The original agreement was that the two bills were going to be voted on in tandem. The Exxon bill (the smaller infrastructure bill) would not have passed the Senate without that agreement; several Democratic Senators were quite clear about that. When it made it to the House, Nancy Pelosi was quite clear that she would honor the deal.

Conservative Democrats (stop calling them ‘moderates’) are attempting to torpedo the agreement and get their (Exxon) bill without upholding their end of the bargain.

The consequences arising from the failure of both bills to pass fall squarely on the conservative Democrats, Manchin & Sinema in particular. Consequences like Republicans sweeping the midterms and taking back the House and Senate. You’ll be able to thank the conservative Democrats for it all.

They have always been the source of actual division in the Democratic Party. Now, they are showing their asses.

[Lightly edited for clarity. Ryan Skolnick works as a community organizer for National Nurses United.]


9/11 & The War On Terror: A Queer Afghan Reflects

Queer Crescent

Today’s news cycle runs the risk of elevating the self-serving, jingoistic apologetics for the U.S. Global War on Terror. To help counter that narrative, we’re amplifying the voice of an Afghan LGBTQ person living in the U.S. Their perspective is part of the antidote our country needs to reverse course and adopt a pro-peace national agenda. – Progressive Hub

As the 20-year anniversary of the so-called “War on Terror” (WoT) approached, I was filled with dread, anger, and immense grief. With the Taliban seizure of Kabul on August 15, and the events and turmoil in Afghanistan that followed, those feelings have only intensified. Alongside this grief, I also hold pride and solidarity with the continued resistance from Afghanistan and all other peoples colonized by the United States — and rage at the imperialist violence that continued for decades amidst what felt like so much silence.

A lot happened after 9/11, but one salient impact on my life was becoming a spokesperson for my people at the tender age of 11 years old.

Representing Afghans felt like my one opportunity to humanize and clarify the persistent misinformation that constantly confronted me through ignorant questions, stereotypes, and discrimination.

As an 11-year-old, I knew enough to feel resentment that the American public didn’t know anything about our people, thought we were backwards people that needed saving, or all terrorists. Then and still now, I feel the burden of having to demonstrate that my ancestral homeland deserves to exist, and that my people are human and multi-faceted, with a rich history and resistance, and deserve to have the opportunity to thrive. This is just one of the many ways we have had to bear the weight of structural Islamophobia.

I have come to realize that this xenophobic violence is an essential insurance for the U.S.military project. The masses in the U.S. have known so little about what is happening in Afghanistan — the violence inflicted during the U.S. occupation, and the history of intervention that resourced corrupt, violent leaders and put them in positions of power. The fabricated facade and one-dimensional story that has been used to justify this colonial project has thrived, at the expense of so many lives.

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