A group of Afghan children pose for a photo

Absent Federal Guidance, Activists Take Afghan Refugee Resettlement into Their Own Hands

By Bareerah Zafar, Prism

Before arriving in the U.S. six years ago, Besemellah Khuram experienced firsthand the invasion and occupation of his home country of Afghanistan by U.S. military forces in the name of democracy and freedom. Over the past few days, he bore witness from Sacramento, California, through TV screens and phone calls with family as the nation’s major cities fell to the Taliban. Now, in the wake of this week’s events—coming on the heels of decades of years of war, chronic poverty, natural disasters, and a pandemic—the 36-year-old community group leader is anticipating a fresh wave of people fleeing Afghanistan.

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Workers offload aid boxes from a truck to Gaza residents

Progressives in House Demand Biden Ensures Aid to Gaza

By Middle East Eye

More than 50 House Democrats have called on the Biden administration to work with Egypt and Israel to ensure the delivery of aid into Gaza, as the lawmakers cited concerns over the prohibition of materials entering the besieged strip months after Israel’s offensive left a devastating humanitarian toll on the country.

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Activists speak under a large BLM flag at a Black Lives Matter rally

Black Lives Matter Activists Deliberately Targeted by Feds, Per New Report

By Associated Press

The federal government deliberately targeted Black Lives Matter protesters via heavy-handed criminal prosecutions in an attempt to disrupt and discourage the global movement that swept the nation last summer in the wake of the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, according to a new report released Wednesday by The Movement for Black Lives.

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Protestors carry a banner and fist-shaped placards in a protest

Climate Activists Raise Urgent Alarm on Day of Action

By Sravya Tadepalli, Prism

Thousands of environmental justice advocates are taking to the streets today to call on Congress to act boldly on climate change. The Green New Deal Network (GNDN), a coalition of climate justice advocacy organizations, is hosting a day of action in cities and towns across the nation calling on policymakers to “seal the deal” on a $3.5 trillion budget framework to fund clean energy, universal preschool, affordable housing, and other investments. With 68 events currently planned across the country, organizers are pushing Congress to pass the current spending plan without introducing cuts.

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An outdoor Stop Line 3 protest with chalking in the foreground and a banner in the background

Amid Violent Police Suppression, Line 3 Activists Meet with UN Human Rights Experts

By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams

Indigenous women who are leading the fight against Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline met virtually with a United Nations expert on Tuesday to discuss human rights abuses of those who have joined the movement opposing the polluting project.

“We met with the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights defenders because gross human rights violations are occurring at the hands of police in [a] financial relationship with Enbridge,” Giniw Collective founder Tara Houska of Couchiching First Nation said in a statement.

Houska and Honor the Earth executive director Winona LaDuke of White Earth Nation have submitted a formal complaint about actions by law enforcement in Northern Minnesota to Mary Lawlor, the U.N. special rapporteur.

LaDuke and Houska, with support from the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN), shared with Lawlor details about what Line 3 opponents have endured while protesting the Canadian company’s effort to replace an aging pipeline with one that will have larger capacity and cross 200 waterways as well as Anishinaabe treaty territory.

When approving Line 3 in 2018, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission required a Public Safety Escrow Trust funded by Enbridge to reimburse law enforcement for policing costs related to the pipeline—an arrangement that has angered activists on the ground.

Motherboard reported earlier this month that the company has paid police $2 million through the trust. According to the Pipeline Legal Action Network, more than 700 water defenders have been arrested for actions opposing Line 3 in Minnesota.

“Minnesota law enforcement has used pain compliance, psychological trauma, threats, rubber bullets, mace, and chemical warfare on people standing up for water,” Houska explained, “which it then bills to a fund Enbridge pays into to the tune of $2 million to date—most of these charges are misdemeanors, all of them are nonviolent.”

“We pose no threat. Enbridge threatens Anishinaabe cultural survival, the drinking water of millions, and the public’s trust,” she added. “Since the U.S. government is yet again failing Indigenous people and future generations, we turn to the international community. The world is watching.”

LaDuke thanked Lawlor “for putting attention on what’s happening in Northern Minnesota, where an international fossil fuel corporation is once again brutalizing Indigenous people to expand the footprint of its toxic and unneeded tar sands oil project.”

“State and local government are working directly at the behest of the Enbridge corporation, and the Biden administration has turned a blind eye,” she said, “so we hope that international attention can protect the rights of our people and the water we all depend on.”

The meeting occurred on the same day as a national day of solidarity against Line 3 held by U.S. health professionals—who sent a letter to President Joe Biden echoing activists’ demands, urging him to block the project like he did the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline earlier this year.

“Line 3 cuts through the heart of the Anishinaabe territory in Minnesota, violating treaty rights, damaging sacred wild rice beds, and threatening the health of our Indigenous communities, who have already experienced generations of oppression and trauma due to exploitation of their land and their people,” the letter says. “Health professionals across the country stand in solidarity with our Indigenous leaders who are putting their bodies on the line to defend sacred water, land, and climate.”

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Tracks in a coal mine lead to a sliver of light

Besieged by Deteriorating Conditions and Strike Busting, Mine Workers Continue to Suffer

By Kari Lydersen, In These Times

Mining companies increasingly rely on cheaper contractors who face longer hours and higher risk of accidents.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom against a green background

PH COMMENTARY: How California’s Top Democrats Paved the Way for a Republican Governor This Fall

By Norman Solomon

Four weeks from now, a right-wing Republican could win the governor’s office in California. Some polling indicates that Democrat Gavin Newsom is likely to lose his job via the recall election set for Sept. 14. When CBS News released a poll on Sunday, Gov. Newsom’s razor-thin edge among likely voters was within the margin of error. How this could be happening in a state where Republicans are only 24 percent of registered voters is largely a tale of corporate-friendly elitism and tone-deaf egotism at the top of the California Democratic Party.

Newsom has always been enmeshed with the power of big money. “Gavin Newsom wasn’t born to wealth and privilege but as a youngster he was enveloped in it as the surrogate son of billionaire Gordon Getty,” longtime conservative California journalist Dan Walters has pointed out. “Later, Getty’s personal trust fund — managed by Newsom’s father — provided initial financing for business ventures that made Newsom wealthy enough to segue into a political career as a protégé of San Francisco’s fabled political mastermind, Willie Brown.” In 1996, as mayor, Brown appointed Newsom to the city’s Parking and Traffic Committee. Twenty-five years later, Newsom is chief executive of a state with the world’s fifth-largest economy.

Last November, Newsom dramatized his upper-crust arrogance of “Do as I say, not as I do.” Photos emerged that showed him having dinner with a corporate lobbyist friend among people from several households, all without masks, in a mostly enclosed dining room — at an extremely expensive Napa Valley restaurant called The French Laundry — at a time when Gov. Newsom was urging Californians to stay away from public gatherings and to wear masks. The governor’s self-inflicted political wound for hypocrisy badly damaged his image.

After deep-pocketed funders teamed up with the state’s Republican Party to circulate petitions forcing a recall election, initial liberal optimism gladly assumed that the GOP was overplaying its hand. But the recall effort kept gaining momentum. Now, there’s every indication that Republicans will vote at a significantly higher rate than Democrats — a fact that speaks not only to conservative fervor but also to the chronic detachment of the state’s Democratic Party from its base.

Newsom’s most fervent boosters include corporate interests, mainline labor unions and the California Democratic Party. Just about every leader of the CDP, along with the vast majority of Democrats in the state legislature, is pleased to call themselves “progressive.” But the label is often a thin veneer for corporate business as usual.

For instance, the CDP’s platform has long been on record calling for a single-payer healthcare system in California. Such measures passed the legislature during the time when Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor from 2003 to 2011, and he surprised no one by vetoing the bills. But the heavily-Democratic legislature has obliged the latest two Democratic governors, Jerry Brown and Newsom, by bottling up single-payer legislation; it’s been well understood that Brown and Newsom wanted to confine the state party’s support for single-payer to lip service.

In the same vein, the CDP’s current chair, Rusty Hicks, signed a pledge that the state party would not accept fossil-fuel money. But he went on to do exactly that to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars.

As an elected member of the California Democratic Party’s central committee during the last decade, I’ve often witnessed such top-down maneuvers. Frequently, the CDP’s most powerful leaders are in a groove of thwarting the progressive aspirations of the party’s bedrock supporters — and blocking measures that would materially improve the lives of millions of Californians.

“This is what happens when the culture of high-priced consultants and cult of personality meets a corporate-controlled legislature and party,” said Karen Bernal, a Sacramento-based activist who chaired the CDP’s large Progressive Caucus for six years. She told me: “The campaign promises and vows of support for progressive policy are revealed to be nothing more than performative, while the hopes and dreams of the party’s progressive base are sent to die in committee and behind closed doors. The end result is a noticeable lack of fight when it’s most needed.”

Now, with the recall election barreling down on the state, the routinely aloof orientation of the state party’s structure is coming back to haunt it. Overall, the CDP’s actual connections to grassroots activists and core constituencies are tenuous at best, while Newsom comes across as more Hollywood and Wall Street than neighborhood and Main Street. No wonder Democrats statewide are less energized about voting on the recall than Republicans are.

If Newsom loses the recall, his successor as governor will be determined by who gets the most votes on “part 2” of the same ballot. In that case, you might logically ask, isn’t the “part 2” winner a safe bet to be a Democrat in such a heavily Democratic state? Actually, no.

On the theory that having any prominent Democrat in contention would harm his chances of surviving the yes/no recall vote on the ballot’s “part 1,” Newsom and party operatives conveyed to all of the state’s prominent Democrats: Don’t even think about it.

The intimidation was successful. Not a single Democrat with substantial name recognition is on “part 2” of the ballot, so no reasonable safety net contender exists if the recall wins. As a result, Newsom’s replacement looks as likely to be an ultra-right Republican as a Democrat. And if the replacement is a Democrat, it would almost certainly be a highly problematic fellow — a financial adviser and YouTube star named Kevin Paffrath, whose grab bag of ideas includes a few that appeal to Democrats (like marriage equality, higher teacher pay and promotion of solar and wind farms) but features a lot of pseudo-populist notions that would do tremendous damage if implemented.

Paffrath’s proposals, as described by the Southern California News Group, seek “to make all coronavirus safety measures optional, to ditch income tax for anyone making less than $250,000, to use the National Guard to get all unhoused Californians off the streets and to give trained gun owners more rights.” As a clue to the inclusivity of the “centrist solutions” that Paffrath says he’s yearning for, he introduced himself to voters with a video that “features clips from Fox News and from conservative media host Ben Shapiro.” Recent polling shows the 29-year-old Paffrath neck and neck with the frontrunning Republican on the ballot — bombastic Trumpist talk-show host Larry Elder.

Whether Newsom will remain governor past mid-autumn now looks like a coin flip. And what’s at stake in the recall goes far beyond California — in fact, all the way to the nation’s capital.

California’s 88-year-old senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, is widely understood to be in poor health and suffering from cognitive decline as she — with increasing difficulty — navigates the U.S. Senate, now evenly split between the two parties. Under state law, if she dies or otherwise leaves her seat vacant, the governor gets to appoint the replacement. In a worst-case scenario, a Republican becomes governor when the recall election results are certified in October and thus for at least 14 months would have the power to select Feinstein’s replacement, thereby making Mitch McConnell the Senate majority leader.

Given the looming political dangers, Sen. Feinstein should resign so that Gov. Newsom could appoint a Democratic replacement. But such a selfless move by Feinstein is highly unlikely. Despite all the talk about loyalty to their party and determination to defeat the extremism of the Republican Party, corporate Democrats like Newsom and Feinstein routinely look out for number one. That’s how we got into this ominous recall mess in the first place.

____________________________

Norman Solomon is the national director of RootsAction.org and the author of many books including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 and 2020 Democratic National Conventions. Solomon is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

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People walk in front of a row of multicolored homes

While the COVID Housing Crisis Rages, Financial Firms Are Gobbling Up Rental Properties

By Laura Jedeed, Truthout

As the eviction moratorium sputters uncertainly onward, a new genre of news article has emerged from the chaos: the woes of the so-called “mom-and-pop landlord.” These landlords — individuals with just a handful of rental properties — are hard-pressed to keep up mortgages and maintenance due to their inability to collect rent during the COVID crisis. Most landlords featured in such stories agree that ending the moratorium is the answer.

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The Only Clear Winners of the War in Afghanistan? Arms Manufacturers and their Shareholders

By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams

As the hawks who have been lying about the U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan for two decades continue to peddle fantasies in the midst of a Taliban takeover and American evacuation of Kabul, progressive critics on Tuesday reminded the world who has benefited from the “endless war.”

“Entrenching U.S. forces in Afghanistan was the military-industrial complex’s business plan for 20+ years,” declared the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Public Citizen.

“Hawks and defense contractors co-opted the needs of the Afghan people in order to line their own pockets,” the group added. “Never has it been more important to end war profiteering.”

In a Tuesday morning tweet, Public Citizen highlighted returns on defense stocks over the past 20 years—as calculated in a “jaw-dropping” analysis by The Intercept—and asserted that “the military-industrial complex got exactly what it wanted out of this war.”

The Intercept’s Jon Schwarz examined returns on stocks of the five biggest defense contractors: Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics.

Schwarz found that a $10,000 investment in stock evenly split across those five companies on the day in 2001 that then-President Georg W. Bush signed the authorization preceding the U.S. invasion would be worth $97,295 this week, not adjusted for inflation, taxes, or fees.

According to The Intercept:

This is a far greater return than was available in the overall stock market over the same period. $10,000 invested in an S&P 500 index fund on September 18, 2001, would now be worth $61,613.

That is, defense stocks outperformed the stock market overall by 58% during the Afghanistan War.

“These numbers suggest that it is incorrect to conclude that the Taliban’s immediate takeover of Afghanistan upon the U.S.’s departure means that the Afghanistan War was a failure,” Schwarz added. “On the contrary, from the perspective of some of the most powerful people in the U.S., it may have been an extraordinary success. Notably, the boards of directors of all five defense contractors include retired top-level military officers.”

“War profiteering isn’t new,” journalist Dina Sayedahmed said in response to the reporting, “but seeing the numbers on it is staggering.”

Progressive political commentator and podcast host Krystal Ball used Schwarz’s findings to counter a key argument that’s been widely used to justify nearly 20 years of war.

“This is what it was really all about people,” she tweeted of the defense contractors’ returns. “Anyone who believes we were in Afghanistan to help women and girls is a liar or a fool.”

Jack Mirkinson wrote Monday for Discourse Blog that “it is unquestionably heartbreaking to think about what the Taliban might inflict on women and girls, but let us dispense with this fantasy that the U.S. has been in Afghanistan to support women, or to build democracy, or to strengthen Afghan institutions, or any of the other lines that are deployed whenever someone has the temerity to suggest that endless war and occupation is a harmful thing.”

“We did not go into Afghanistan to support its people, and we did not stay in Afghanistan to support its people,” he added. “It is astonishing, given what we know about the monsters that the U.S. has propped up time and time again around the world, that the myth persists that we do anything out of our love for human rights. We went in and we stayed in for the same reason: the American empire is a force that must remain in perpetual motion.”

As Common Dreams reported Monday, while the Taliban has retaken control, anti-war advocates have argued diplomacy is the only path to long-term peace, with Project South’s Azadeh Shahshahani emphasizing that “the only ones who benefited from the U.S. war on Afghanistan were war-profiteering politicians and corporations while countless lives were destroyed.”

Responding to Shahshahani’s tweet about who has benefited from two decades of bloodshed, Zack Kopplin of the Government Accountability Project wrote, “Adding war-profiteering generals to the mix too.”

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Afghan women stand outside tents housing refugees

While Afghan Refugee Crisis Grows, Europe Turns Its Back on Resettlement

By Nathan Akehurst, Jacobin

After the Taliban seized Kabul, Emmanuel Macron led EU governments in declaring the need to “protect ourselves” from a fresh wave of refugees. The West’s intervention fueled chaos in Afghanistan. Now, it is punishing the victims.

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Afghanistan Congressional Call Script


Instructions for call script (google doc)

Find your Senators and Representatives:


https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm

8/18 IMMEDIATE PRIORITY


Hello, My name is ____ and I live at _______ in ______. My number is _____.

I am calling to urge my representative to support the immediate evacuation of women, civil society activists, LGBTQ+, religious and ethnic minorities, and other vulnerable groups from Afghanistan.

The US must supply government-run evacuation flights for these vulnerable Afghans. US military aircraft evacuating US personnel left the tarmac at Kabul airport and Afghans clung to its wheels, desperate to leave the country, and fell to their deaths. The US must use its influence to keep the Kabul airport safe and operational for Afghans — including both evacuation and commercial flights.

The government should also set up a centralized crisis line to assist in the evacuations of US citizens, green card holders, and other vulnerable Afghans who ought to be evacuated.

We must also broaden visa eligibility and expedite processing for SIV, P1, and P2 visas. Particularly, expand the P2 program to include designation for Afghan nationals and their immediate family members who worked to further democratic ideals, with focus on women activists, journalists, human rights defenders, and persons dedicated to gender equality. The US must also leverage its diplomacy to ensure that third-party processing countries drop visa requirements for those fleeing Afghanistan. These requirements are difficult to meet in the best of times, let alone during a humanitarian disaster and political collapse of a country.

Further, the Department of Homeland Security must designate Afghans for Temporary Protected Status to prevent deportations or other returns to Afghanistan, which would be almost certain death sentences. USCIS must also expedite the adjudication of pending affirmative asylum cases of Afghan nationals.

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the forceful resurgence of the Taliban is deplorable, and a disgrace upon the United States. After pursuing 20 years of failed policies that have engendered a humanitarian crisis, the absolute least the US can do is provide refuge to those seeking it. I implore you to act now. Thank you.


ADDITIONAL / ON-GOING DEMANDS


We continue to urge the Biden Administration to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable by using diplomacy to pressure the Taliban into an immediate, unconditional ceasefire. The only solution to Afghanistan’s crisis is peace. We are continuing our call on all parties to the conflict to agree to an immediate, unconditional ceasefire.

Support H.R. 4736, the Improving Access for Afghan Refugees Act, and acts akin to the same including the Afghan Allies Protection Extension Act, Afghan Allies Protection Act, Save Our Afghan Allies Act, Hope for Afghan SIVs Act.

Dedicate additional funding to be made immediately available to the remaining NGOs, especially those focused on protecting Afghan women, children, and religious and ethnic minorities.


(RE)SOURCES


Updated, compiled list of resources
Mobilize 4 Change Congressional petition
Afghans For A Better Tomorrow urgent message (8/14)
Congressional letter and links to established emergency aid orgs working in Afghanistan
Pathways to migration to the US, UK, EU and Canada 
Afghanistan Relief Card (helpful for sharing on social profiles)
Resources on Afghanistan - for finding Afghan perspectives, donating, volunteering, and learning more