Vigils For Tortuguita: Land Defenders Erupt In Solidarity

Land defenders and justice movements everywhere will not be terrorized into silence. They will not let the story of their sibling’s murder be controlled by their killers, nor by the powers who hide behind the killers

By Alexandria Shaner, Z Network

On the evening of January 21, a couple dozen people came out in the rain and grouped together in a circle outside of Whatcom District Court, in Bellingham, Washington. These members of the Bellingham Forest Defenders, a group working to defend a public forest called “Box of Rain”, peacefully gathered to mourn the death of a fellow forest defender on the other side of the country.


The vigil was held to mourn the death of Tort, a protestor in Atlanta, Georgia who was killed on January 18 by police while defending the Weelaunee Forest from clearcutting and construction of a massive police training facility, known as Cop City, to those who oppose it.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesperson claims that Tortuguita, a nonbinary person who had been a vocal proponent of nonviolence, refused orders to leave a tent and shot a state trooper. Other law enforcement officers then returned fire, killing them. No body cameras captured the event. “Although we have bodycam footage from the day of the operation, we do not have bodycam footage of the shooting incident. The law enforcement officers wearing bodycam were not close enough to the shooting itself to capture it,” GBI’s Nelly Miles said. Calls for an independent investigation are growing.

Forest defenders, like Tort, are occupying the forest by living in trees and destroying equipment to resist the building of the campus. The city calls them “domestic terrorists” and police treat them like enemy combatants.

Cop City will be a $90 million state-of-the-art police training facility into which major corporations are investing millions of dollars and financially pressuring politicians to push the plan forward. Though the land designated for Cop City is owned by the City of Atlanta, the nonprofit Atlanta Police Foundation is working to raise millions from private sector companies to fund over 80% of its construction. The Atlanta Police Foundation’s Board is filled with executives from nearly all of Atlanta’s big-name companies like Delta, Waffle House, the Home Depot, Georgia Pacific, Equifax, Carter, Accenture, Wells Fargo and UPS, among others. It reads like a ‘who’s-who’ of corporate Atlanta.

Thousands of miles away, at the edge of another precious forest ecosystem endangered by capital’s encroachment, Bellingham’s vigil participants did more than grieve. They honored their comrade by learning about the movement work being done in Atlanta and shared stories, songs, and poems of love and grief for protestors, for the forests, and for their communities. Information was also shared about ongoing local work to protect old, ecologically significant forests in Whatcom County and Western Washington.

One member of the Bellingham Forest Defenders, Hayley, commented, “While none of us knew Tort personally, his death by police has certainly hit many of us hard. We offer public solidarity with the movement in Atlanta while reminding ourselves of why we actively struggle to protect public forests here in Whatcom County. We hope that folks in Atlanta might see this coverage and know they are in our hearts and minds.”

Over the last few days, a growing number of such solidarity vigils have been held across the US, from Cincinnati to New Orleans to Los Angeles, by organizations and communities on the front lines of ecological destruction and racialized violence, where brutal, militarized police response to protesters has become commonplace. Declarations of international solidarity have come from as far as Germany, the UK, and Kurdistan. Tort’s death has made it clear that there is no place left on Earth where people do not share the pain and rage of ecocide and murder carried out on behalf of corporate and state powers.

These are just some of the multiplying events now sprouting up in cities and towns across the world…




New Orleans

May be an image of text that says 'Vigil for Tortuguita Tortuguita was killed by Georgia state troopers on Wednesday, January 18th while protecting the Weelaunee or "Atlanta' Forest We will gather to honor their life and mourn their loss Krutch Park Tuesday, January 24th 6:30pm Bring candles, flowers, music, and friends Solidarity from Knoxville to Atlanta @firstaidcollectiveknox'


May be an image of 1 person, fire and text that says 'Vigit Honoring Tort Sunday, January 22 7PM ฺ Los Angeles City Hall *on Spring across from Grand Park Bring candles and posters to honor and mourn our lost sibling Tortuguita'

Los Angeles

May be an image of 1 person, tree, outdoors and text that says 'SOLIDARITY VIGIL FOR TORTUGUITA Tuesday the 24th 24th 5:30- 7:30pm Location in Akron TBD'


May be an image of 1 person, tree, outdoors and text that says 'Vigil for Cami Tortuguita Monday, January 23 7:00 pm Bank of America 5636 Lemmon Ave, Dallas Tx 75209'



New York City

May be an image of text that says 'Candlelight Vigil For Tortuguita Atlanta Forest Defender Killed by Police Saturday, January 21st at 5:30 pm Miller Park, Chattanooga TN On Wednesday,Ja 18, 2023, Atlanta police killed Tortuguita, a cherished friend, community organizer, activist, and Atlanta forest defender. We gather to honor their life, mourn their loss, and stand in solidary with the Defend the Forest movement and those continuing to protect communities from violence. Bring: candles, flowers, art, other offerings, music, and friends. Chattanooga to Atlanta Stop Cop City!'


May be an image of sky and text that says 'Vigil for Tort Murdeved by Gorgia State Police for defending the Weelaunee Jovest in Attanta NW 4 St and NW 3 Ave, Miami Sat. 1/21 @ 7 PM Wear black and bring candles'


May be an image of 13 people and text that says 'fnb_tally Tallahassee, Florida ROER MANUEL TORTUGUITA PAEZ TERAN'


May be an image of book


May be an image of tree, mountain and text that says 'STS SOLIDARITY CO0 S5SSS QITY VIGIL TLANT 00087 FOREST On 1/18/23, a Forest Defender was murdered by police in Atlanta, Georgia for protesting EFEN deforestation and "Cop City", a new police training compound. We will come together to mourn and honor their life. Wear black. Saturday 1/21 8:30 pm Clark Park 002-68 Philly oeEO FOREST'


May be an image of outdoors and text that says 'VIGIL FOR ATLANTA FOREST DEFENDER Oakland Park in Pontiac PM 1/20 bring candles, flowers friends ಸ wear black in mourning SOLAENINI'


May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'Pooo rivercityclimatecollective St. Louis, Missouri VIGIL FOR ATI ANTA FOREST DEFENDER MURDERED BY POLICE Fissst Justice for Tortuguita Labr Mt Sat Jan 21 6:30PM Stone Shelter Tower Grove Park St. Louis TOnS Stop Cop City ~Defend Atlanta Forest'

St. Louis

May be an image of 2 people and text


May be an image of text that says 'VIGIL FOR TORTUGUITA ANDLAND DEFENDERS EVERYWHERE On Wednesday January 18th, cops in Atlanta shot and killed an activist defending the Weelaunee Forest. We will gather to mourn Tortuguita and to stand together in rage and solidarity with all our friends and comrades defending the forest in Atlanta: against cops, against prisons, against the life- destroying forces of capitalism- everywhere. SUNDAY JANUARY 22ND RATHAUS NEUKOELLN 15H Bring candles, bring words of strength and love for comrades in Atlanta, bring flowers and offerings, bring your voice.'


May be an image of 6 people, people standing, outdoors and text that says 'DEFEND ATLANTA FOREST STOPCOPCITY'


May be an image of 6 people and text


May be an image of 1 person, flower and outdoors

Solidarity Vigil Images Courtesy of @DefendAtlantaForest

The international outpouring of rage and solidarity at this most recent act of police brutality has a common thread – that land defenders and justice movements everywhere will not be terrorized into silence. They will not let the story of their sibling’s murder be controlled by their killers, nor by the powers who hide behind the killers. The Atlanta Forest Defenders and other local organizations like Community Movement Builders have begun publicly demanding an independent investigation into Tort’s death, into the charges of domestic terrorism for arrested forest defenders, and into the wider police raid of January 18th.

Further outrage and support is coming from diverse groups beyond land defenders and social movements. It turns out, you don’t need to be a police abolitionist or even an environmentalist to oppose Cop City – but Cop City is creating more police abolitionists and environmentalists. On Jan 23, Doctors from Emory’s School of Medicine published this scathing condemnation:

“As health care workers, we strongly condemn the repeated escalation of police violence in their interactions with members of the public protesting the construction of Cop City. On various instances, in both the streets of Atlanta as well as in the Weelaunee Forest/Intrenchment Creek Park which is under threat of destruction, police have used violence including reports of toxic chemical irritants such as tear gas, rubber bullets and now live ammunition which most recently resulted in the police killing of one of the forest defenders, Manuel ‘Tortuguita’ Teran. A year after police in the U.S. killed more people than any prior year since records started to be tracked in 2013, we recognize violence perpetrated by police to be harmful to public health. We are also concerned by the detentions and the charges of domestic terrorism levied at individuals arrested while protesting the destruction of the forest. This fits within the context of a disturbing pattern and threat to public health whereby the USA has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world; perpetuated by a judicial and legislative system that targets Black and Indigenous peoples, migrants, those living in poverty, those who are unhoused, as well as environmental and social activists.

The construction of Cop City will not solve a government’s failures to listen to the wishes of members of the community, its failure to stop the widening gap between rich and poor, the lack of affordable housing, the negative effects of gentrification and racism, or the poor and unequal access to nutritious food, healthcare and mental health services. As physicians, we recognize that these failures have negative consequences on the public’s mental and physical health. Instead of strengthening community health, Cop City will be a dangerous attempt to invest in harmful and violent solutions, strengthening the corporate and political powers that seek profit over the well-being of the people, while simultaneously eroding and transforming natural and public spaces into privately owned property. The public health evidence for developing healthy and thriving communities strongly opposes the expansion of policing and its subsequent violence. All Atlanta communities deserve more life affirming investments, not those that value private property over human life.

For the well-being of the city and its residents, it is imperative that all police forces cease their continued escalation and violent activity by permanently withdrawing from the forest. We call on Georgia State University to end its support of the Cop City project and also the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) project. We also call on Atlanta mayor Andre Dickens, the Atlanta city council and the Dekalb County government to withdraw from all plans regarding the construction of Cop City; and for the Dekalb County government to withdraw from the land swap with Ryan Millsap and instead keep Intrenchment Creek Park a public park. We also call on Brasfield & Gorrie to end their contract with the Atlanta Police Foundation and cease all construction that furthers the destruction of the forest which has and will harm the community and the public health.

Michel Khoury, MD, Co-director of Georgia Human Rights Clinic
Amy Zeidan, MD, Co-director of Georgia Human Rights Clinic
Mark Spencer, MD, Co-Leader, Internal Medicine Advocacy Group
Suhaib Abaza, MD, Co-founder, Campaign Against Racism ATL chapter
Social Medicine Consortium”

Weelaunee Forest Defenders “tree-sitting”

If one life might become a beacon to galvanize a movement, we owe it to that life to pause and mourn their death. Rejoining the circle of forest friends holding hands in the rain, the below speeches were shared during Saturday’s vigil by Bellingham Forest Defenders in memory of Tort and in solidarity with all who are on the front lines of direct-action…

Carly, Bellingham Forest Defender:

“In the anarchist group Invisible Committee’s piece To Our Friends, they say:
“’Friend’ and ‘free’ in English … come from the same Indo-European root, which conveys the idea of a shared power that grows. Being free and having ties was one and the same thing. I am free because I have ties, because I am linked to a reality greater than me.”

Forest defense movements in Bellingham have given me freedom through my friends. My friends have shown me how radical love can be fuel for movements. In bowls of homemade soup, in tightly linked arms on frontlines, in holding my hand when news like Tort’s death comes. My friends trust each other to keep momentum building, to bring each other along, especially when we falter in the face of everything working against us. I want to share with you some words from Tortuguita’s friends and comrades in hopes that by sharing parts of their love and grief, we can help carry everyone touched by Tort’s death along with us as we keep building momentum for a more just future, one that Tort lived and died fighting for.

The first reads:
“I remember Tortuguita as one of the softest and most generous people in the woods, a perpetually positive presence, ready with a smile and anything else they could offer to brighten your day. They were an optimist, assuming the best of people and demonstrating through their own actions just how good humans can be. I miss them already. Condolences and solidarity to all their family, friends, and comrades. We lost one of our best.”

The second reads:
“I didn’t know Tort for very long, but I am honored to have met them. In the short time I knew them, they were constantly putting a smile on my face, they had a laugh that was so infectious and always wanted to help others however they could. They had a deep love for music and would send me whatever their favorite song was at the moment. They were sweet, kind, and believed in a better world for all and the generations that will come after us, free from violence, destruction, and evil. Their love for the forest should be instilled in all of us, and their passion for protecting human life is an example we should all look up to. You fought hard, friend, and brought so much good to this world; now it’s time for you to rest, we will carry on your legacy and ensure you are never forgotten.”

Building strong community ties and a deep connection to place is vital in standing for the protection of old forests across the country and in Western Washington. We would love to have you along in this work, which involves seeking out threatened forests and standing up for them in front of decision and policy makers. This momentum for forests and for the communities that depend on them for clean water and air, connection to place, and habitat support is building. Moments like this, when we lose a comrade, however far away, offer time to pause, grieve, and gather ourselves to keep the fight going. Thank you for being here.”

Weelaunee Forest

Sophie, Bellingham Forest Defender:

“Tortuguita was a friend, lover, street medic, mutual aid organizer, and forest defender. They were loved and cherished deeply by the people in their lives and the movements they were a part of. Known as Manual Teran, they chose the alias ‘Tortuguita’ for themselves because it means Little Turtle, and is a nod to the Indigenous man who led victorious Native American resistance to white settlement in the Ohio river valley.

On January 18th, Tortuguita was tragically killed at the hands of the police while camped in the Welaunee forest in Georgia, where they and other protestors had been living in community since November of 2021 in order to stop the development of what is nicknamed “Cop City”. Cop city is proposed to be the largest police training facility in the United States, which plans to include military-grade training facilities, a mock city to practice urban warfare and riot control, and dozens of shooting ranges – it’s not a coincidence that cop city is being built in Atlanta, a city that lost two thirds of its police force in the midst and wake of the BLM riots.

The death of Tortuguita is a heart wrenching and brutal reminder that the work people do to preserve and generate life can be dangerous, traumatizing, and sometimes even fatal – especially when it’s effective, especially when we are winning. We mourn the death of Tortuguita because they were a kind, brave, and loving person who did not deserve to die, and we also mourn their death so that the work they did and the example they set is not forgotten, so that we remember the power and importance of resistance and relationship. The protests in the Welaunee forests are not just about stopping one violent project or saving one forest, they are about the collective power and responsibility we have to implement, for ourselves, the systems of care and community that will sustain our world.

In Tortuguita’s honor, we will keep creating poetry and art, participating in mutual aid, fighting for abolition, mending, knocking down borders, transitioning, putting our bodies in between the state and its victims, and building radical models of care and community. At the foundation of all this is deep and loving support for one another, until the systems in place become irrelevant. The state’s interests are not and have never been the preservation of life, equity, or prosperity. The state’s aims are to maintain power and generate capital, and in its attempt to do this it does not care about who or what is hurt along the way.

Today and everyday we remember those who were killed at the hands of the police. The following names are a few of those who have died because they were either working to rebuild a faulty nation, or simply surviving in it. May they inspire us to continue to work towards a world where there are no police and no need for cop cities or coal terminals or prisons.

George Floyd
Breonna Taylor
Trayvon Martin
Fred Hampton
Mark Clark
Oscar Leon Sanchez
Keenan Anderson
Dante Wright
Andre Hill
Manuel Ellis
Aura Rosser
Atatiana Jefferson
and Manual Teran, or Tortuguita

Please join me in a minute of silence. In this time, if you would like to speak out a name to add to this list, please feel free to do so.”

Reach out to Weelaunee Forest Defenders or Community Movement Builders in Atlanta, to or the Center for Responsible Forestry in Bellingham, or to an organization close to home. 

monroe doctrine meeting

The Monroe Doctrine Is Thriving And Must Be Undone

The case that the Monroe Doctrine is not dead extends far beyond explicit use of its name.

by David Swanson, World Beyond War

David Swanson is the author of the new book The Monroe Doctrine at 200 and What to Replace It With.

monroe doctrine meeting

A poorly maintained tradition begun with the Monroe Doctrine was that of supporting Latin American democracies. This was the popular tradition that sprinkled the U.S. landscape with monuments to Simón Bolívar, a man once treated in the United States as a revolutionary hero on the model of George Washington despite widespread prejudices toward foreigners and Catholics. That this tradition has been poorly maintained puts it mildly. There has been no greater opponent of Latin American democracy than the U.S. government, with aligned U.S. corporations and the conquistadors known as filibusterers. There is also no greater armer or supporter of oppressive governments around the world today than the U.S. government and U.S. weapons dealers. A huge factor in producing this state of affairs has been the Monroe Doctrine. While the tradition of respectfully supporting and celebrating steps toward democracy in Latin America has never died out entirely in North America, it has often involved firmly opposing the actions of the U.S. government. Latin America, once colonized by Europe, was recolonized in a different sort of empire by the United States.

In 2019, President Donald Trump declared the Monroe Doctrine alive and well, asserting “It has been the formal policy of our country since President Monroe that we reject the interference of foreign nations in this hemisphere.” While Trump was president, two secretaries of state, one secretary of so-called defense, and one national security advisor spoke publicly in support of the Monroe Doctrine. National Security Advisor John Bolton said that the United States could intervene in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua because they were in the Western Hemisphere: “In this administration, we are not afraid to use the phrase Monroe Doctrine.” Remarkably, CNN had asked Bolton about the hypocrisy of supporting dictators around the world and then seeking to overthrow a government because it was allegedly a dictatorship. On July 14, 2021, Fox News argued for reviving the Monroe Doctrine in order to “bring freedom to the Cuban people” by overthrowing the government of Cuba without Russia or China being able to offer Cuba any aid.

Spanish references in recent news to the “Doctrina Monroe” are universally negative, opposing U.S. imposition of corporate trade agreements, U.S. attempts to exclude certain nations from a Summit of the Americas, and U.S. support for coup attempts, while supporting a possible decline in U.S. hegemony over Latin America, and celebrating, in contrast to the Monroe Doctrine, the “doctrina bolivariana.”

The Portuguese phrase “Doutrina Monroe” is in frequent use as well, to judge by Google news articles. A representative headline is: “‘Doutrina Monroe’, Basta!”

But the case that the Monroe Doctrine is not dead extends far beyond explicit use of its name. In 2020, Bolivian President Evo Morales claimed that the United States had organized a coup attempt in Bolivia so that U.S. oligarch Elon Musk could obtain lithium. Musk promptly tweeted: “We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it.” That’s the Monroe Doctrine translated into contemporary language, like the New International Bible of U.S. policy, written by the gods of history but translated by Elon Musk for the modern reader.

The U.S. has troops and bases in several Latin American nations and ringing the globe. The U.S. government still pursues coups in Latin America, but also stands by while leftist governments are elected. However, it has been argued that the U.S. does not any longer need presidents in Latin American nations to achieve its “interests” when it has coopted and armed and trained elites, has corporate trade agreements like CAFTA (The Central American Free Trade Agreement) in place, has given U.S. corporations the legal power to create their own laws in their own territories within nations like Honduras, has massive debts owed to its institutions, provides desperately needed aid with its choice of strings attached, and has had troops in place with justifications like the drug trade for so long that they are sometimes accepted as simply inevitable. All of this is the Monroe Doctrine, whether we stop saying those two words or not.

David Swanson is the author of the new book The Monroe Doctrine at 200 and What to Replace It With.

usa to ukraine weapons export boxes

'Global Catastrophe' Coming If West Keeps Arming Ukraine

Russian lawmaker Vyacheslav Volodin threatened nuclear war as NATO members debate whether to send more tanks to Ukraine.

by Kenny Stancil, Common Dreams

Should the West continue to ship arms to Ukraine, Moscow will retaliate with “more powerful weapons,” a top Russian government official and close ally of President Vladimir Putin said Sunday, referring to the use of nuclear missiles.

usa to ukraine weapons export boxes

“Deliveries of offensive weapons to the Kyiv regime will lead to a global catastrophe,” Vyacheslav Volodin, chairman of the State Duma, Russia’s lower house, said in a statement shared on the Telegram messaging app.

“If Washington and NATO countries supply weapons that will be used to strike civilian cities and attempt to seize our territories, as they threaten, this will lead to retaliatory measures using more powerful weapons,” said Volodin.

Ukraine, with the support of its Western allies, is seeking to reclaim territory illegally annexed by the Kremlin in recent months—not seize Russian land, as Volodin asserted.

Volodin’s threat “comes amid arguments over whether Germany will send Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine to fight the Russian invasion,” Politicoreported. “Kyiv has requested the German-made tanks, which it says it needs to renew its counteroffensive against Moscow’s forces.”

This is not the first time that Russian officials have threatened to use nuclear weapons since Putin attacked Ukraine last February. On Thursday, one day before NATO and other military leaders met in Germany to discuss how to defeat Russia in Ukraine, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy chairman of the country’s security council, said that a loss by Moscow could lead to nuclear war.

“Berlin has so far resisted the call from Ukraine and its allies to send the tanks without the U.S. making the first move, over fears of an escalation in the conflict,” Politico noted Sunday. “Berlin also hasn’t approved deliveries of the tanks from its allies, as Germany gets a final say over any re-exports of the vehicles from countries that have purchased them.”

The news outlet previously reported that the $2.5 billion military package announced Thursday by the White House excludes the Army’s 60-ton M1 Abrams tanks due to maintenance and logistical issues, not because sending them would intensify the war.

NATO has sent more than $40 billion worth of weapons to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s invasion. The U.S. government, de facto leader of the military alliance, has authorized more than $26.7 billion alone.

On Sunday, Volodin urged U.S. and European lawmakers to “realize their responsibility to humanity.”

“With their decisions, Washington and Brussels are leading the world to a terrible war: to a completely different military action than today, when strikes are carried out exclusively on the military and critical infrastructure used by the Kyiv regime,” said Volodin.

Contrary to Volodin’s claim, Russia has not limited its ongoing assault to military assets. According to a top Kyiv official, more than 9,000 Ukranian civilians have been killed since Russia invaded 11 months ago. The United Nations has confirmed more than 7,000 civilian deaths in Ukraine but says the real figure is much higher.

A strike on a Ukrainian apartment building last week, Russia’s deadliest attack on civilians in months, killed dozens of people. Meanwhile, fighting near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant has sparked fears of a disastrous meltdown on multiple occasions.

“Given the technological superiority of Russian weapons,” Volodin continued, “foreign politicians making such decisions need to understand that this could end in a global tragedy that will destroy their countries.”

“Arguments that the nuclear powers have not previously used weapons of mass destruction in local conflicts are untenable,” he added. “Because these states did not face a situation where there was a threat to the security of their citizens and the territorial integrity of the country.”

Volodin was echoing points made recently by other Russian officials. Asked Thursday if Medvedev’s remarks that day reflected an attempt to escalate the war, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “No, it absolutely does not mean that.”

Peskov argued that Medvedev’s comments were consistent with Russia’s nuclear doctrine, which permits a nuclear strike after “aggression against the Russian Federation with conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is threatened.”

As Reutersnoted, Putin has portrayed Russia’s so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine as “an existential battle with an aggressive and arrogant West, and has said that Russia will use all available means to protect itself and its people.”

Last January, one month before the start of the largest war in Europe since WWII, Russia, the United States, China, France, and the United Kingdom—home to more than 12,000 nuclear weapons combined—issued a joint statement affirming that “nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” and reaffirming that they plan to adhere to non-proliferation, disarmament, and arms control agreements and pledges.

Nevertheless, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council continue to enlarge or modernize their nuclear arsenals. For the first time since the 1980s, the global nuclear stockpile, 90% of which is controlled by Moscow and Washington, is projected to grow in the coming years, and the risk of weapons capable of annihilating life on Earth being used is rising.

In early October, U.S. President Joe Biden warned that Russia’s war on Ukraine has brought the world closer to “Armageddon” than at any point since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Less than three weeks later, however, his administration published a Nuclear Posture Review that nonproliferation advocates said increases the likelihood of catastrophe, in part because it leaves intact the option of a nuclear first strike. The U.S. remains the only country to have used nuclear weapons in war, destroying the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs in August 1945.

Experts have long sounded the alarm about the war in Ukraine, saying that it could spiral into a direct conflict between Russia and NATO, both of which are flush with nuclear weapons. Despite such warnings, the Western military coalition has continued to prioritize weapons shipments over diplomacy.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin admitted last April that the U.S. wants “to see Russia weakened,” implying that Washington is willing to prolong the deadly conflict as long as it helps destabilize Moscow.

Peace advocates, by contrast, have repeatedly called on the U.S. to help secure a swift diplomatic resolution to the Ukraine war before it descends into a global nuclear cataclysm.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres recently told attendees of the World Economic Forum in Davos: “There will be an end… there is an end of everything, but I do not see an end of the war in the immediate future. I do not see a chance at the present moment to have a serious peace negotiation between the two parties.”

joe Biden in front of flags

Biden 2024 Decision Pits The Party’s Elites Against Most Democrats

If he runs in 2024, Joe Biden would be the foremost symbol of the status quo — not a good position to be in when faux populism will predictably be the name of the Republican game.

by Norman Solomon

Denial at the top of the Democratic Party about Joe Biden’s shaky footing for a re-election run in 2024 became more untenable over the weekend. As the New York Times reported, investigators “seized more than a half-dozen documents, some of them classified, at President Biden’s residence” in Delaware. The newspaper noted that “the remarkable search of a sitting president’s home by federal agents — at the invitation of Mr. Biden’s lawyers — dramatically escalated the legal and political situation for the president.”

joe Biden in front of flags

Donald Trump’s obstructive refusal to cooperate with the federal investigation into the far more numerous classified documents in his possession stands in sharp contrast with Biden’s apparently full cooperation with the Justice Department. Yet Biden now faces a documents scandal that’s sure to fester for quite a while — the average length of special counsel investigations has been upwards of 900 days — and the impacts on his plans to seek re-election are unclear.

Meanwhile, here’s an assumption so routine that it passes as self-evident among power brokers and corporate-media journalists: Democratic voters are presumed to be mere spectators awaiting Biden’s decision on whether to seek a second term. Hidden in plain sight is a logical question that remains virtually off-limits to raise in standard political discourse: Why not ask them?

What a concept. Biden could actually seek guidance from the Democratic base — the people who regularly turn out to vote for the party’s candidates, give millions of small-dollar donations and do priceless volunteer work in support of campaigns to defeat Republicans.

Biden’s decision on whether to run again should be seen as much more than just a matter of personal prerogative. Rather than treating it as such, Biden could put party and country first by recognizing that the essential Democratic task of defeating the Republican ticket in 2024 will require widespread enthusiasm from grassroots Democrats. Biden would be boosting the chances of beating the GOP by including those Democrats in the decision-making process as he weighs whether to officially declare his candidacy.

But there’s one overarching reason why the Biden White House has no interest in any such idea. The president doesn’t want to ask the question of loyal Democratic voters because he probably wouldn’t like the answer. His stance is clear: It’s my party and I’ll run if I want to.

A glimmer of that attitude showed through during a news conference shortly after the midterm election. Noting that “two-thirds of Americans in exit polls say that they don’t think you should run for re-election,” a reporter asked: “What is your message to them?” Biden’s reply: “Watch me.” Later, CNN and CNBC polls found that nearly 60 percent of Democrats didn’t want Biden to run again. Yet from all indications, he still intends to do just that.

Defying the wishes of most of the party’s voters could be spun as leadership, but a more fitting word is hubris. Whatever the characterization, it runs a serious risk of self-defeat. For instance, only wishful thinking leads to a belief that the Democratic presidential nominee next year can win without a strong turnout from those who represent the party’s bedrock base and its future — the young.

Biden’s “watch me” attitude is especially out of whack in relation to youthful Democratic voters. A New York Times poll last summer found that a stunning 94 percent of them under age 30 said they didn’t want Biden to be the party’s nominee. Such a disconnect spells trouble if Biden does run. Too many young people might heed the “watch me” attitude by declining to volunteer or vote for Biden before he goes down to defeat.

In normal times, a president’s renomination has been his for the taking. But in this case, when most of the party’s supporters don’t want him to run, exercising raw intra-party leverage to get nominated would indicate a high degree of political narcissism. It’s hardly a good look or an auspicious path.

If he runs in 2024, Joe Biden would be the foremost symbol of the status quo — not a good position to be in when faux populism will predictably be the name of the Republican game. In a poll last November, only 21 percent of registered voters told Hart Research that the country was “headed in the right direction” while 72 percent said it was “off on the wrong track.”

For the president, gaining the Democratic nomination next year would likely be much easier than winning the White House for a second time. If Biden is content to become the party’s nominee again while ignoring the majority of Democrats who don’t want him to run, he’ll be boosting the chances that a Republican will get to work in the Oval Office two years from now. To prevent such a catastrophe, grassroots Democrats will need to directly challenge the party elites who seem willing to whistle past the probable graveyard of Biden’s second-term hopes.

Norman Solomon is the national director of and the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of a dozen books including War Made Easy. His next book, War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine, will be published in June 2023 by The New Press.

Poll after poll confirms:
Americans are ready to move on from Joe Biden.

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Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange take part in a protest against the NATO leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium June 13, 2021

Joe Biden's Disturbing Hypocrisy On Julian Assange

Ben & Jerry’s co-founder: Joe Biden stood up for press freedom as a candidate — but backtracked in the White House

by Ben Cohen, Salon

It is time for President Biden to live up to his rhetoric on press freedom.

Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange take part in a protest against the NATO leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium June 13, 2021

As a candidate in 2020, Biden released a powerful statement on the importance of press freedom, writing:

Reporters Without Borders tells us that at least 360 people worldwide are currently imprisoned for their work in journalism. We all stand in solidarity with these journalists for, as Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1786, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

Biden left out the fact that one of those imprisoned people is WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, and that he is languishing in solitary confinement in a maximum-security prison in London because the U.S. government wants to make an example of him.

Assange was indicted by the Trump administration in an aggressive, precedent-shattering move that was widely condemned by journalists and human rights groups. President Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland have had almost two years to do the right thing and drop this dangerous prosecution.

They have failed to deliver.

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Israel elections Netanyahu set for comeback with far right's help

Israel’s Hard-Right Turn Fails To Raise Alarm In US Media

Netanyahu has vowed the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories and the government is now banning public displays of Palestinian flags.

by Ari Paul,

There is a political crisis in Israel—particularly for Palestinians, minorities and anyone who believes in secular democracy. But US press coverage has had trouble recognizing that the new government of Benjamin Netanyahu is anything other than business as usual.

Israel elections Netanyahu set for comeback with far right's help

There is a political crisis in Israel—particularly for Palestinians, minorities and anyone who believes in secular democracy. But US press coverage has had trouble recognizing that the new government of Benjamin Netanyahu is anything other than business as usual.

The recent Israeli elections thrust Netanyahu back into power and the prime ministry (Reuters12/28/22), prompting major protests that called his new government a “coup d’etat” and urged a “preventative strike against dictatorship” (Jerusalem Post1/7/23i241/8/23). Middle East observers are alarmed, not just at Netanyahu’s own military hawkishness, but the fact that his ruling coalition includes religious and nationalist fringe elements, including followers of the late Meir Kahane, who advocated for the expulsion of Arabs from Israel (New York Times11/6/90). While Israeli politics have been on a rightward trajectory for two decades, the most recent election has put the country into a dark zone of outright illiberalism that almost seems irreversible.

Americans for Peace Now president Hadar Susskind summarized the new coalition:

It includes racists, theocrats, homophobes and ultra-nationalist zealots. It may have been democratically elected, but many of its senior members are deeply anti-democracy. We are horrified by the incoming government’s stated plans to intensify the process of de facto annexation and further entrench the Occupation. In the past, we congratulated incoming Israeli governments and wished them success. This time, given the makeup of the government, the dangerous views and background of its members and their stated goals, we cannot but sound our alarm.

The election results were also a near-total electoral vanquishing of what remained of the Israeli left. The once mighty Labor Party finished in last place among the parliamentary parties with four seats, and the Hadash and Ta’al coalition got only one more, despite the fact that Hadash’s charismatic leader was once thought to be the Arab minority’s political hope (New Yorker1/17/16). Meretz, Israel’s social democratic party, now has zero seats. Israel’s government isn’t just far right, it’s serving without any meaningful political counterbalance.

Palpable alarm

Times of Israel: 78 retired judges warn against incoming government’s judicial reforms

There is a palpable sense of alarm in Israeli media—Ha’aretz has called the election results “fascist” (1/13/23) and referenced a government of “thugs” (1/12/23). The paper (12/28/22) has reported that the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, has passed a “bill that would give more authority over police to the far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir.” The paper (12/27/22) also reported on “legislation [that] paves the way for Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich to appoint a minister in the Defense Ministry who will oversee the West Bank, including responsibility over the civil administration.”

An incoming minister has suggested “that Israeli doctors should be allowed to refuse treatment to LGBTQ patients on religious grounds” (Guardian12/26/22). “Israel will not ratify the Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women” (Ha’aretz12/26/22), thanks to the new government.

Jurists and legal scholars (Times of Israel12/28/22) have warned against the “destruction of Israeli democracy,” citing the new government’s mission to weaken the Israeli Supreme Court, including “passing a so-called override clause that would let the Knesset reinstate laws invalidated by the court.” They have also  introduced “plans to revamp the panel that selects judges, giving a majority to the government’s representatives and its appointees,” and moved to “weaken anti-discrimination laws.”

One former Supreme Court chief judge, Aharon Barak (Financial Times1/8/23), “likened the plans to the attacks on judicial independence carried out by authoritarian governments in Poland, Hungary and Turkey.”

The Times of Israel (12/27/22) noted that

executives from mainstream American Jewish organizations warned a visiting senior Israeli diplomat…that the policies being promoted by incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition partners risk seriously damaging the Jewish state’s ties with the Diaspora.

Israelis are already feeling the impact. A left-wing Israeli journalist was detained by police on suspicions that his pro-Palestine tweets could incite terrorism (Middle East Eye12/27/22). One law professor (Jewish Telegraphic Agency1/8/23), when asked what countries he’d compare Israeli to right now, said, “The two most prominent recently are Hungary and Poland, which are not necessarily countries that you want to compare yourself to.” Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai (Times of Israel12/2/22) declared, “Israel is being transformed from a democracy to a theocracy.”

For Palestinians, the new government means heightened tension. Netanyahu has vowed the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories (Deutsche Welle12/28/22) and the government is now banning public displays of Palestinian flags (Sky News1/9/23). The new government is already retaliating against recent Palestinian efforts to push the International Court of Justice to move against the decades-old Israeli occupation, including “imposing a moratorium on Palestinian construction in some areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank” (Al Jazeera1/6/23).

‘No longer a bedrock of stability’

NYT: The Ideal of Democracy in a Jewish State Is in Jeopardy

But the alarm felt by those close to the situation is not reflected much in the US press. The New York Times editorial board (12/17/22) lamented the move to the right, and called for US pressure on the Jewish state, but as Jewish Currents editor Arielle Angel said in a letter to the editor (12/23/22), the editorial “doesn’t urge any specific actions.” Instead, it “echoes the president in emphasizing the inviolability of the US/Israel alliance—a bromide that assures Israel that its blank check is guaranteed.”

Times columnist Thomas Friedman (12/15/22) fretted about the future of Israel, noting that the new government is creating a “total mess that will leave Israel no longer being a bedrock of stability for the region”—a point of view completely divorced from the experience of Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese, who have never known “stability” from Israel.

The Washington Post (12/21/22) said the “new government has already sparked concern among Israelis and members of the international community over bills that seek to prioritize Israel’s Jewish character over its democratic one.” This echoes the Times editorial’s headline, “The Ideal of Democracy in a Jewish State Is in Jeopardy.”

This impossible wish for a country that is both an ethno-state and a democracy is at the heart of the problem with the mainstream US press’s view of Israel/Palestine.

The historic extremism of the new government has certainly been documented in the United States, as the AP has covered the response to Israel’s right-wing government in straight reporting, including a report (12/26/22) on Israeli Air Force veterans who worry about the coalition’s impact.

But the Wall Street Journal (12/27/22) ran an editorial by Religious Zionism’s Smotrich that defied criticism, insisting that the government he belongs to will “strengthen every citizen’s freedoms and the country’s democratic institutions, bringing Israel more closely in line with the liberal American model.” He added, “Israel is a Jewish and democratic state and will remain so.”

‘Radicals’ on both sides

NY Post: Biden and Netanyahu must put aside their differences and work to stop Iran

Alan Dershowitz, former Harvard University law professor and outspoken Israel supporter, and Andrew Stein, a former New York City Council president, wrote an op-ed in the  New York Post (12/21/22) that painted President Joe Biden and Netanyahu as two sides of the same coin. Biden, they said, was “influenced by the Democrats’ increasingly radical left-wing elements,” while Netanyahu had a coalition with the far right. Their solution, then, was for the two leaders to embrace their essential centrism and work together—not to protect democracy in either country, but to gang up on Iran.

Of course, this “both sides” logic is all too common in US media. Netanyahu’s extremists include followers of a racist ideology that was once considered toxic even on the right. Biden’s “extremists” say they want universal healthcare. These things are just not the same.

US press coverage of Israel’s political situation ranges from support to muted concern, as opposed to an existential crisis for a place that calls itself a democracy. It is slowly dawn on US media that political affairs in Israeli have deteriorated, even though it’s been plenty of time to digest this since two of the most prominent human rights organizations—Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International—have labeled Israel’s ethnic segregation a form of apartheid (FAIR.org2/3/22).

Israel’s political turn should be treated with the same urgency as Donald Trump’s election in 2016 and his desire to remake the US government into an autocracy. The problem may be that Netanyahu is a more talented politician than Trump, and his coalition has little opposition in its path. Given Israel’s importance in US foreign policy, the nation’s spiral into extremism is cause for dismay, not just among observers with an interest in the country, but for news outlets that claim to defend the global democratic order.

stop the war in Ukraine demilitarize everything invest in peace

Give Peace A Chance

Is there a world beyond war?

by Nan Levinson, TomDispatch

I like to sing and what I like best is to do so at the top of my lungs when I’m all alone. Last summer, taking a walk through the corn fields in New York’s Hudson River Valley with no one around but the barn swallows, I found myself belting out a medley of tunes about peace from my long-ago, summer-camp years. That was the late 1950s, when the miseries of World War II were still relatively fresh, the U.N. looked like a promising development, and folk music was just oh-so-cool.

stop the war in Ukraine demilitarize everything invest in peace

At my well-meaning, often self-righteous, always melodious camp, 110 children used to warble with such sweet promise:

“My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean
and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine
but other lands have sunlight too and clover
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine”

It seemed such a sensible, grown-up way to think — like, duh! we can all have the good stuff. That was before I got older and came to realize that grown-ups don’t necessarily think sensibly. So many years later, as I finished the last chorus, I wondered: Who talks, let alone sings, that way about peace anymore? I mean, without irony and with genuine hope?

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chess pieces and money

America's Inequality Problem In One Statistic

If you work for a big corporation, your boss likely made more money on January 2 than you will this whole year.

by Sarah Anderson, Otherwords

If you work for a big corporation, there’s a very good chance your boss has already raked in more cash than you will all year.

chess pieces and money

If the typical CEO of a large U.S. corporation clocked in at 9 am on January 2, by 3:37 pm that afternoon he’d made $58,260 — the average annual salary for all U.S. occupations. In less than seven hours on the first workday of the year, that CEO made as much as the average U.S. worker will make all year long.

I recently took a look at the even wider disparities for various types of essential workers. My calculations are based on average S&P 500 CEO pay of $18.3 million in 2021 (the most recent figure available), which works out to $8,798 per hour, or $147 per minute.

I started by looking at the fast food workers who often toiled straight through the holidays. Most McDonald’s restaurants were open even on Christmas Day. Average pay for this labor force is just $26,060 for the whole year.

A typical CEO banked that by noon on his first day back in the corner office suite.

Then I thought of the home care aides who may have been the only people around to cheer up their homebound elderly and disabled clients over the holidays. They earned an average of just $29,260 in 2021.

The typical CEO of a big U.S. corporation pocketed that much by lunchtime on his first workday of the year. And he had to work less than one hour more to make $36,460, the average annual pay for a pre-K teacher.

CEOs put in just a couple more hours to earn as much as the annual pay for roofers, many of whom are swamped helping families by taking on the treacherous job of repairing winter storm damage.

For this dangerous work, the average roofer made $48,890 in 2021. Auto mechanics who rescue stranded travelers from roadsides and help them get where they need to go make about the same as roofers, with an average annual paycheck of $47,990.

By afternoon tea time — or perhaps early Happy Hour — on January 2, CEOs claimed as much as the annual pay for another dangerous occupation on which we all depend: firefighters. Their average annual pay of $55,290 is the equivalent of about six hours and 20 minutes of CEO pay time.

These figures are disturbing, but the good news is that Americans increasingly reject the old myth that CEOs make so much money because they’re just that much smarter and harder-working than the rest of us. Public outrage over these extreme pay gaps is now so high that a majority of Americans across the political spectrum favor a cap on CEO pay relative to worker pay, regardless of company performance.

We are seeing broadening support for an array of strategies to address these obscene pay gaps, including proposals to use tax and contracting policies to rein in executive excess. This year, let’s commit to building on this momentum towards a more equitable economy.

Pfizer and money

Pfizer Pays To Change The Story

The pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, is using Semafor to brag about its generosity abroad as it hikes U.S. drug prices.

by Andrew Perez, The Lever

Pfizer recently made headlines for hiking prices on roughly 100 drugs in the United States, shortly after the company announced plans to quadruple the price of its COVID-19 vaccine. Now, the pharmaceutical giant is paying news outlets to tell a different story — a fawning tale about how the company has been altruistically working to expand access to its products overseas.

Pfizer and money

On Tuesday, the news website Semafor ran a sponsored post from Pfizer bragging about the drugmaker’s efforts to “increase access to health care innovation” in low-income countries. Pfizer has also sponsored Semafor’s D.C.-focused “Principals” newsletter for Washington insiders in recent days. Next week, The Hill will host an event sponsored by Pfizer entitled “Expanding Adult Vaccine Access,” which will feature several D.C. lawmakers and a top federal health care regulator.

The Pfizer sponsorships are just the latest examples of how, when the news coverage gets rough, big businesses can pay corporate media to change the narrative and run counter-programming — with the hope that policymakers and consumers will be sufficiently distracted from the stories that really matter.

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rich guy lighting cigar with burning money

World’s Richest 1% Captured Over 63% Of All Wealth Created Since 2020

An Oxfam report notes that the richest 1% of the world’s population captured over USD 26 trillion (nearly 63%) of the USD 42 trillion created since 2020, nearly twice the USD 16 trillion (37%) that went to the rest of the population

by Peoples Dispatch

The world’s richest 1% captured over two-third of all wealth created by humanity since 2020, leaving just one-third for the other 99% of the population, claims a report published by Oxfam on Monday, January 16.

rich guy lighting cigar with burning money

The report, titled ‘Survival of the Richest,’ notes that the richest 1% of the world’s population captured over USD 26 trillion (nearly 63%) of the USD 42 trillion created since 2020, nearly twice the USD 16 trillion (37%) that went to the rest of the population.

Oxfam notes that the rate of the concentration of wealth has been faster in the first two years of the new decade than ever before. In the previous decade the super-rich had expropriated nearly 54% of the total wealth created.

The report was released on the occasion of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, which began on Monday and will continue until Friday. It is being attended by more than 50 heads of state and hundreds of corporate bosses from across the world. This forum has been the advocate of low tax, pro-corporate policies over the last few decades.

Oxfam underlines that the Davos meet is happening at a time when “extreme poverty and extreme wealth have increased simultaneously for the first time in 25 years.”

The report notes a billionaire earned USD 1.7 million for every dollar earned by 90% of the world’s population while a billionaire’s wealth increased by USD 2.7 billion every day. This unchecked concentration of wealth has resulted in both the total number of billionaires and their wealth doubling in the last ten years.

This is happening at a time when billions of workers live in countries where their wages are outpaced by the inflation

Higher taxes on the rich is extremely necessary now

The Oxfam report notes that nearly half of the world’s total billionaires live in countries where there is no inheritance tax and that they will pass nearly USD 5 trillion of their wealth – more than the total GDP of the African continent – to their heirs. This practice creates a new set of “aristocratic elites” living on an income that is completely “unearned and derived from returns on their assets,” contributing to an increase in extreme inequality.

In a press release on Monday, Oxfam’s executive director Gabriela Bucher said that “while ordinary people are making daily sacrifices on essentials like food, the super-rich have outdone even their wildest dreams.”

Nearly 820 million people are going hungry globally, even as excess corporate profits are contributing to rising inflation. According to the report, in the UK, US, and Australia, the profits the rich are making have contributed 54%, 59%, and 60%, respectively, to the inflation in these countries. In Spain corporate profits have contributed more than 80% to inflation, making essential commodities unaffordable for a large proportion of the people.

The report notes that women and girls constitute a majority of the world’s hungry, nearly 60%, as they eat the least and often the last.

Oxfam suggests that if a 5% tax on the world’s top billionaires were imposed, it would yield nearly USD 1.7 trillion, enough to lift nearly 2 billion people out of poverty.

Bucher asserts that “taxing the super rich and big corporations is the door out of today’s overlapping crisis. It’s time we demolish the convenient myth that tax cuts for the richest result in their wealth somehow ‘trickling down’ to everyone else. Forty years of tax cuts for the super-rich have shown that a rising tide does not lift all ships—just the superyachts.”

The report notes that current tax regimes, which focus on indirect taxes, disproportionately harm those who earn less and contribute to inequality.

Rising inequality has also led, in some countries, to concerns about democracy. For example, in India, which has the largest number of poor in the world, just 10 individuals own more than 40% of all national wealth, the report notes.

“Taxing the super-rich is the strategic precondition to reducing inequality and resuscitating democracy. We need to do this for innovation. For stronger public services. For happier and healthier societies. And to tackle the climate crisis,” Bucher says.

Higher taxes can also help poorer countries solve problems created by prioritizing paying debts over increasing public spending on basic services such as health, infrastructure, or education. As of now, the poorest countries are spending four times more on repaying debts to rich countries than on health care.

The report notes that policy preferences for low tax rates have no rational basis. The high-tax regimes adopted after the second world war in most countries, including the rich west, “played a key role in expanding access to public services like education and healthcare” as well as leading to the “most successful years of their economic development.”