An icbm ballistic missile launches from the coast into the air

Biden Urged To Eliminate Land-Based Nuclear Missiles

Even if the ICBMs facilities were closed, the U.S. would still retain a devastating nuclear arsenal that could respond to attacks across the world

By Mike Ludwig, Truthout

As the Biden administration considers changes to Trump-era nuclear policy, 60 national and regional organizations released a statement this week calling for the elimination of 400 land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that are “now armed and on hair-trigger alert in the United States.”

“Intercontinental ballistic missiles are uniquely dangerous, greatly increasing the chances that a false alarm or miscalculation will result in nuclear war,” the statement reads. “There is no more important step the United States could take to reduce the chances of a global nuclear holocaust than to eliminate its ICBMs.”

An icbm ballistic missile launches from the coast into the air
Photo by Combined Military Service Digital Photographic Files

Progressives, scientists and some Democrats in Congress are also pushing President Joe Biden, who has pledged to reduce U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons in its defense strategy, to adopt a “no first use” policy and declare that the U.S. will never be the first to launch a nuclear attack. Taking such a stance would strengthen the U.S. position in global nonproliferation talks, advocates say.

The White House is slowly pursuing such talks with other nuclear-armed governments including Russia, the United Kingdom and France, which recently issued a joint statement declaring that “nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” Pakistan and India, two regional rivals armed with nuclear weapons, issued statements calling the joint statement a positive development in international arms control.

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man with hands tied

Elderly Palestinian American Found Dead After Detainment In Israeli Raid

The State Department says it supports an investigation into the death of 80-year-old Omar Asaad, who was arrested by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank.

By Sanjana Karanth, HuffPost

The U.S. Department of State has voiced its support for an investigation into the Wednesday death of an elderly Palestinian American man who his family and local officials said was detained by Israeli soldiers during a raid on an occupied West Bank village.

Omar Abdulmajeed Asaad, 80, was a U.S. citizen whose body was found in Jiljilya early Wednesday morning, the State Department confirmed. He was found with a plastic zip tie still around one wrist, according to Reuters.

man with hands tied

“We can confirm the death of the U.S. citizen Omar Assad in a city near Ramallah. We have been in touch with Mr. Assad’s family to express our condolences about this tragedy. We are providing, as you would expect, all appropriate consular assistance to the family at this time,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

“We’ve also been in touch with the government of Israel to seek clarification about this incident. And, as you may have seen, the Israeli Defense Forces have indicated there is an ongoing investigation into the matter,” Price continued. “We support a thorough investigation into the circumstances of this incident. Of course, out of respect for the family during this time, we have little more that we’re able to offer.”

The Israeli Defense Force told Reuters that soldiers carried out an overnight raid in Jiljilya and that a Palestinian was “apprehended after resisting a check.” The IDF claimed the man was alive when soldiers released him, despite other detainees claiming they witnessed otherwise. Israeli army spokesperson Amnon Shefler said the incident would be investigated “in a thorough and professional manner.”

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marijuana and a checkbox marked yes with a pen

Anti-Marijuana Group's Own Poll Shows Big Support For Legalization

Even when Seventy-two percent of respondents said they preferred some form of legalization, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) made a chart that said the majority opposed legalization measures.

By Kyle Jaeger, Marijuana Moment

A set of new national and state surveys funded by the prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) found that a large majority of Americans think cannabis should be legal for either medical or recreational purposes.

That’s not how SAM is presenting the findings of the Emerson College polls, though. The group is attempting to argue that when people are presented with several marijuana reform options that only a minority support full adult-use legalization.

The survey found that, of the four separate options included, support for recreational legalization was highest, with 38 percent of U.S. voters backing it. That was followed by support for medical cannabis legalization (30 percent), decriminalization (19 percent) and prohibition (14 percent).

marijuana and a checkbox marked yes with a pen

In other words, about 68 percent of Americans favor some form of legal, regulated marijuana—the types of systems that SAM regularly works to oppose when proposals go before lawmakers during legislative sessions or voters at the ballot box.

But the group is really leaning into the fact that recreational cannabis on its own only got a plurality of support. In one chart, they contrasted adult-use responses with all three other options to make it look like people prefer “Other Non-Legalization Marijuana Policies.”

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barbed wire and fences in front of tattered american flag at Guantanamo bay Cuba

I’ve Been Held At Guantánamo For 20 Years Without Trial. Mr Biden, Please Set Me Free

Despite how many times, under how many presidential administrations, I have been disappointed, I hold out hope

By Khalid Qasim, The Guardian

Injustice takes many forms. After 20 years in US custody, most of that time spent in Guantánamo, you could say I am an expert.

It may surprise you to know that I think America has a very good justice system. But it is only for Americans. In the cases of those like me, justice is not something that interests the US. I wish that people understood how Guantánamo is distinct.

In Guantánamo, the torture we are exposed to is not isolated to the interrogation rooms; it exists in our daily lives. This intentional psychological torture is what makes Guantánamo different. There is interference in every aspect of my existence – my sleep, my food, my walking.

barbed wire and fences in front of tattered american flag at Guantanamo bay Cuba

For the first nine years at Guantánamo, I was held in solitary confinement. It was a harsher, more violent place then. The communal blocks that opened in 2010 made a difference, but the deliberate mental torture remains the same. The rules change constantly and without warning. Some guards and some administrations are more cruel than others.

Imagine you’re watching TV and someone comes up behind you and starts lightly kicking you. If it only happens for a little bit, it won’t be a problem. But say they just keep kicking you, endlessly, no matter how often you tell them to stop, and there is nothing you can do about it. Imagine what kind of torture that would be.

The only freedom I have here is to protest. On aggregate, I have been on hunger strike for seven years. Seven years, feeling that I am not dead but also not alive. I believe in facing my jailer. They control my body, but not my heart. They tried to prevent me from learning, but I have anyway.

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coal emissions

U.S. Emissions Surged In 2021: Here’s Why In Six Charts

The nation’s carbon dioxide emissions headed back to pre-pandemic levels after years of small but steady declines, powered by freight and coal.

By Ariel Gans, Inside Climate News

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions boomeranged toward pre-pandemic levels in 2021, a turnaround from more than a decade of downward trends, and freight transportation and coal are major culprits, according to a report released Monday by the Rhodium Group, an independent research firm.

America’s greenhouse gas emissions grew 6.2 percent last year as the American economy largely recovered from pandemic lockdowns, the Rhodium report estimated. In comparison, between 2005 and 2019, U.S. emissions fell nearly 1 percent annually, on average, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The uptick occurred largely due to a 17 percent jump in coal-fired power generation, the first annual increase in coal generation since 2014, and a rapid resurgence of road transportation. Coal’s comeback was driven largely by a hike in natural gas prices, which made coal power more economically attractive.

coal emissions

While last year’s emissions remained 5 percent below 2019 levels, the increase marks a reversal of early pandemic reductions.

The findings echo end-of-year emissions numbers from Carbon Monitor and the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Carbon Monitor, an academic group that tracks emissions, concluded U.S. emissions ramped up 7 percent through the end of October. A year-end report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasted a 7 percent increase in energy-related CO2 emissions…

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Daniel Ellsberg and an ICBM launch

Abolish ICBMs To Avert 'Global Nuclear Holocaust,' US Groups Demand

Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg says no other immediate action would go further “to reduce the real risk of a false alarm in a crisis causing the near-extinction of humanity.”

By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

More than 60 U.S. organizations issued a joint statement Wednesday calling for the total elimination of the country’s land-based nuclear missiles, warning that the weapons are both an enormous waste of money and—most crucially—an existential threat to humankind.

Organized by the advocacy groups RootsAction and Just Foreign Policy, the statement argues that intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are “uniquely dangerous, greatly increasing the chances that a false alarm or miscalculation will result in nuclear war.”

Daniel Ellsberg and an ICBM launch

“There is no more important step the United States could take to reduce the chances of a global nuclear holocaust than to eliminate its ICBMs,” continues the statement, which was signed by Beyond the Bomb, Global Zero, Justice Democrats, CodePink, and dozens of other anti-war groups.

“Everything is at stake,” the groups warn. “Nuclear weapons could destroy civilization and inflict catastrophic damage on the world’s ecosystems with ‘nuclear winter,’ inducing mass starvation while virtually ending agriculture. That is the overarching context for the need to shut down the 400 ICBMs now in underground silos that are scattered across five states—Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming.”

The statement comes just two weeks after President Joe Biden signed into law a sprawling military policy bill that allocates billions of dollars to research, development, and missile procurement for the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program, an initiative that is expected to replace the current Minuteman III ICBMs in the coming years.

Ahead of the $778 billion legislation’s passage, some progressive lawmakers—most prominently Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)—called for a pause in GBSD development, a demand that went unheeded.

Daniel Ellsberg, the legendary whistleblower and longtime proponent of nuclear disarmament, told Common Dreams in an email that “most of the so-called ‘defense’ budget is legislative pork.”

“But some of it—in particular, the maintenance and proposed replacement to the current ICBM program—is toxic pork,” he added. “It’s not just unnecessary, it’s positively dangerous, to our own security and that of the rest of the world.”

Before leaking the Pentagon Papers to the press in 1971, Ellsberg specialized in nuclear weapons and operational planning for a possible nuclear war during his time as a consultant to the Defense Department, an experience he recounts in his 2017 book The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.

“We should have gotten rid of our silo-based ICBMs no less than half a century ago, when they had become totally vulnerable to attack,” Ellsberg told Common Dreams. “Ever since then, deterrence of a nuclear attack should have been based solely on our invulnerable submarine-launched missile force, which is itself far larger than that function requires or should permit.”

Echoing the anti-war coalition’s fear that a potential “false alarm” could spark nuclear catastrophe, Ellsberg noted that “the survival in wartime of hundreds of land-based missiles depends on their being launched, irrevocably (unlike bombers), on electronic and infrared warning before attacking missiles might arrive.”

“Such a warning, however convincing, may be false; and that has actually happened, more times than our public has ever become aware,” he said. “No other strategic weapons besides ground-based ICBMs challenge a national leader to decide, absurdly within minutes, whether ‘to use them or lose them.’ They should not exist.”

“No other specific, concrete American action would go so far immediately to reduce the real risk of a false alarm in a crisis causing the near-extinction of humanity,” Ellsberg concluded.

In a statement, RootsAction national director Norman Solomon lamented that recent public discussion surrounding U.S. nuclear weapons policy “has been almost entirely limited to the narrow question of whether to build a new ICBM system or stick with the existing Minuteman III missiles for decades longer.”

“That’s like arguing over whether to refurbish the deck chairs on the nuclear Titanic,” said Solomon. “Both options retain the same unique dangers of nuclear war that ICBMs involve. It’s time to really widen the ICBM debate, and this joint statement from U.S. organizations is a vital step in that direction.”

automated drones and LAWS, lethal autonomous weapons systems

Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems And The Fight To Contain Them

The continued construction and deployment of killer robots is not inevitable. Indeed, a majority of the world would like to see them prohibited.

By Rebecca Gordon, Tom Dispatch

Here’s a scenario to consider: a military force has purchased a million cheap, disposable flying drones each the size of a deck of cards, each capable of carrying three grams of explosives — enough to kill a single person or, in a “shaped charge,” pierce a steel wall. They’ve been programmed to seek out and “engage” (kill) certain human beings, based on specific “signature” characteristics like carrying a weapon, say, or having a particular skin color. They fit in a single shipping container and can be deployed remotely. Once launched, they will fly and kill autonomously without any further human action.

Science fiction? Not really. It could happen tomorrow. The technology already exists.

automated drones and LAWS, lethal autonomous weapons systems

In fact, lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) have a long history. During the spring of 1972, I spent a few days occupying the physics building at Columbia University in New York City. With a hundred other students, I slept on the floor, ate donated takeout food, and listened to Alan Ginsberg when he showed up to honor us with some of his extemporaneous poetry. I wrote leaflets then, commandeering a Xerox machine to print them out.

And why, of all campus buildings, did we choose the one housing the Physics department? The answer: to convince five Columbia faculty physicists to sever their connections with the Pentagon’s Jason Defense Advisory Group, a program offering money and lab space to support basic scientific research that might prove useful for U.S. war-making efforts. Our specific objection: to the involvement of Jason’s scientists in designing parts of what was then known as the “automated battlefield” for deployment in Vietnam. That system would indeed prove a forerunner of the lethal autonomous weapons systems that are poised to become a potentially significant part of this country’s — and the world’s — armory.

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dick cheney should be in jail

Dick Cheney Should Be In Jail, Not Praised As A Hero By Democrats

Dick Cheney is an enemy of democracy in America and a war criminal. His warm reception on the floor of Congress by Democrats yesterday at the January 6 Capitol riot commemoration was shameful and disgusting.

By Chip Gibbons, Jacobin

Yesterday marked one year since pro-Trump fanatics stormed the US Capitol under the belief that they could halt the counting of electoral votes and install the loser of an election as president. Democrats marked the occasion by remembering the breaching of the Capitol as an attack on democracy (featuring a bizarre musical interlude from the cast of Hamilton); Republicans were less eager to do so. During the official congressional ceremony, only two Republicans chose to attend. One was Liz Cheney, currently a US representative for Wyoming; the other was her father, Dick Cheney (as a former member of Congress, Cheney has lifetime congressional floor privileges). Numerous Democrats reportedly walked over to Cheney to shake his hand.

I find it difficult to put into words how shameful venerating Cheney like this is by anyone, much less the country’s supposed left-wing party — and it’s particularly jarring given that Cheney has dedicated his career to attacking democracy, the very thing the ceremony was supposedly in opposition to.

dick cheney should be in jail
Photo by Gage Skidmore

It’s necessary to remember a bit of history here.  Cheney was the most powerful vice president in US history. He is most remembered for his role in promoting the Iraq War, an illegal war of aggression predicated on lies, as well as pushing the nation to the “dark side” after 9/11, which included torture, detention without trial (including of US citizens), warrantless surveillance, and other egregious departures from liberal norms of democracy.

All this was predicated on a shocking legal theory that gave the president sweeping wartime powers that neither Congress nor the courts could check. As they were fighting a global war with no borders, this meant that not even US citizens in the United States were safe from the wartime president’s rampages. This was illustrated by the case of José Padilla, who was arrested at the Chicago airport, declared an enemy combatant by George W. Bush, and held in a military prison for three and half years.

These are not the actions of a “defender of democracy” but of someone who constantly attacked and undermined and disregarded it. And while Cheney’s worst abuses came during the “war on terror,” they were the culminations of decades of his scheming against American democracy. Cheney’s long political career has been devoted to skirting and ignoring democratic norms however he sees fit.

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marijuana and money

States Have Collected More Than $10 Billion In Marijuana Tax Revenue

The marijuana revenue doesn’t even include tax revenue from separate medical cannabis programs that are in place in a majority of U.S. states.

By Kyle Jaeger, Marijuana Moment

States that have legalized marijuana have collectively garnered more than $10 billion in cannabis tax revenue since the first legal sales started in 2014, according to a report released by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) on Thursday.

The adult-use legalization movement that started in Colorado and Washington State has greatly expanded in the years since, with 18 states having moved to end prohibition and most taxing and regulating marijuana sales. As of December 2021, sales have translated into about $10.4 billion in tax revenue for states that are now using those dollars to fund various programs and initiatives, the report found.

marijuana and money

That doesn’t even include tax revenue from separate medical cannabis programs that are in place in a majority of U.S. states.

The report from MPP—which expands on an earlier analysis it released in May—breaks down revenue numbers from legal states, how those tax dollars are being used and what kinds of tax schemes will soon be in effect as more states like New York, New Jersey and Montana implement legalization.

“States that have legalized cannabis for adults are reaping significant economic benefits. The legal adult-use cannabis industry has now generated over $10 billion in new tax revenue, and in many instances that revenue is being distributed to much needed public services and programs, including reinvesting in communities that were devastated by the war on drugs,” Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at MPP, said. “This is in stark contrast to prohibition, which costs taxpayers billions of dollars each year to enforce.”

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wildifre and climate change protest sign

Colorado Suburbs A New Frontier For Climate-Driven Wildfires

Backyard fences, decks and landscaping helped spread the wildfire flames through suburban neighborhoods and shopping malls baked by global warming.

By Bob Berwyn, Inside Climate News

When he saw smoke in the air around Boulder, Colorado on Dec. 30, Tom Veblen walked up a trail near his home to check it out. Veblen, a professor emeritus of geography at the University of Colorado Boulder who has been studying forest ecology, wildfires and climate change since the mid-1970s, said he could see that the Marshall Fire, on the southern edge of the city, was already jumping over distances of several hundred yards.

The winds were so strong that he said he struggled to open his car door, and to stay on his feet in the powerful gusts. Wooden fences separating yards in the suburbs sprawling in the distance looked like burning fuses, as winds gusting faster than 100 mph pushed the flames along them to ignite decks, roofs and residential landscaping. The firestorm would eventually engulf shopping malls and a hotel.

wildifre and climate change protest sign

As a resident of a neighborhood he had previously believed to be a safe distance from the fire-prone forests, Veblen felt a sudden and unfamiliar sense of vulnerability.

“Sure, I knew that Chinook winds could drive winter grassland fires to spread very rapidly, but in the past we just did not have all the driving factors align so perfectly—wet spring producing abundant grass fuels, one of the warmest and driest June-Decembers on record and then an ignition at the base of the mountains.” Local topography also contributed to the intensity, with a canyon opposite the fire acting like a nozzle, blasting  winds from the peaks onto the flames and pushing the fire east into suburban neighborhoods.

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