Saturday, November 18, 2023

Iraq and Gaza

VATICAN NEWS reports, "Pope Francis on Saturday received in audience the President of the Republic of Iraq, Abdul Latif Jamal Rashid. The Iraqi President then met with the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations."  Azhi Rasul (RUDAW) adds:

Four months ago, Rashid revoked a 2013 presidential decree that formally recognized Chaldean Patriarch Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako and granted him powers over Christian endowment affairs. Rashid cited constitutional grounds as a basis for the revocation of the decree that was issued by late Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

The decision followed a meeting between Rashid and Rayan al-Kildani, a rival of Sako and leader of the Christian Babylon Movement, a party and militia affiliated with the pro-Iran Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF, or Hash al-Shaabi in Arabic).

The Babylon Brigades, the paramilitary wing of the Babylon Movement, "is presented as a local Christian force but has been recruited largely from Shia Muslim communities in Baghdad's Sadr City, al-Muthanna, and Dhi Qar," and its objective is domination of the Nineveh Plains, a March profile by the Washington Institute concluded.

The brigades have been accused of illegally seizing historic Christian land in Nineveh province after ISIS was driven out of the area. Human rights abuses committed by the group ultimately led to the United States Treasury sanctioning Kildani in 2019 for the abuses as well as corruption.

Now let's move over to AP and their distortion of reality, "The U.S. on Friday imposed sanctions on six people affiliated with the Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Kataeb Hezbollah, which is accused of being behind a spate of recent attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria following the October 7 attacks by Hamas against Israel."  Oh, look, they name a group!  They don't identify it correctly, but they name it.

For years, we opposed the notion of folding militias into the Iraqi forces because of their history of abuses.  But the Iraqi leaders decided to go for it.  Kateb Hezbollah is a part of the government force, the official military.  Opening sentence of their WIKIPEDIA entry, "Kata'ib Hezbollah (Arabic: كتائب حزب الله, lit.'Battalions of the Party of God')[36] -- or the Hezbollah Brigades -- is a radical Iraqi Shiite paramilitary group which is part of the Popular Mobilization Forces, staffing the 45th, 46th, and 47th Brigades.[37]"

Again, we spent years here calling out the notion of merging the militias with the Iraqi military.  And for years, it didn't happen.  But the CIA's long choice for prime minister, Hayder al-Abadi, became prime minister in 2014 and, at the end of 2016, he did what Nouri al-Maliki had been unable to, made the militias part of the Iraqi army.

Stop pretending this is a renegade.  It's a part of the Iraqi military.  

And though the US is condemning its actions (as a radical renegade) there's no outcry in the Iraqi press over the attacks.  They have the blessing on the Iraqi government, of the Iraqi people.  Like most people around the world, the Iraqis are appalled by the slaughter taking place in Gaza.

The slaughter continues.  It has displaced over 1 million people per the US Congressional Research Service.  Jessica Corbett (COMMON DREAMS) points out, "Academics and legal experts around the world, including Holocaust scholars, have condemned the six-week Israeli assault of Gaza as genocide."  CNN's Abeer Salman, Eyad Kourdi, and Jo Shelley report:

CNN spoke to some of the hundreds of Palestinians fleeing northern Gaza for the south on Saturday. 

Crowds of people — women, children, the elderly and wounded — made their way down Salah al-Din street, carrying bags, food and water. Most were on foot. A few moved by donkey and cart.

Some said their journey would be more than 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) long.

Israeli tanks could be seen at the side of the road and at times the sound of gunfire sent people running, with parents separated from their children amid the chaos.

At one point, the evacuees put cardboard over blankets that appeared to cover bodies on the street.

Among the evacuees were those who had sought refuge at Al-Shifa hospital, including Gaza health ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qidra and journalist Ibrahim Shaqoura.

“The Israeli soldiers bombed the intensive care unit at Al-Shifa hospital, and they threatened us to bomb the lower floor, so we decided to leave,” Shaqoura told CNN.

“The hospital is not a hospital anymore. It is a military station. There were not people attacking them from there.”

A woman who was carrying her child recalled the moment when the school they were sheltering in, in Jabalya, collapsed.

“My daughter was killed, [and] my nephew was martyred,” Shirin Joudeh said.

“Three [other] girls and three women also lost their lives. I managed to pull this child out from under the rubble. All my children are barefoot. I grabbed them and we just ran away."

Um Muhammad Hamada, a mother from Sheikh Radwan, sat by the roadside with her three children and two bird cages.

The crack of gunfire made her flinch and her daughter cover her ears.

"These birds mean a lot to me. They are like spirits that God saved, just like we were saved," she said.

"I couldn't leave them behind."

Hundreds of patients, staff and displaced people left Gaza's largest hospital Saturday, health officials said, leaving behind only a skeleton crew to care for those too sick to move and Israeli forces in control of the facility.

One evacuee described a panicked and chaotic scene as Israeli forces searched and face-scanned men among those leaving and took some away.  

The World Health Organization said that Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital is a "death zone," and urged a full evacuation, reported Agence France-Presse. 

The outlets note that the Israeli government insists no one has been asked to leave the hospital; however, those present tell the reality:

[. . .] Medhat Abbas, a spokesman for the Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza, said the military had ordered the facility cleared, giving the hospital an hour to get people out.

"I was inside Al-Shifa hospital, and we were forced to evacuate by the Israelis," Dr. Ramez Radwan told Reuters. "May God save us." 

"We left at gunpoint," Mahmoud Abu Auf told the Associated Press by phone after he and his family left the crowded hospital. "Tanks and snipers were everywhere inside and outside." He said he saw Israeli troops detain three men.     

The Israeli government continues bombing and targeting civilians.

Many women and children were among those killed when a blast rocked a United Nations school in northern Gaza on Saturday, a UN relief agency confirmed. Video from the scene shows bloodied bodies in a series of rooms on two floors of the building, which had been used as a shelter for displaced Palestinians.

Saturday’s incident was the second time in 24 hours that a school run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees had been hit, the agency said. It did not have any further details about what caused the explosion or who was responsible.

Americans are funding a genocide and no one asked our permission.

We are being dragged, unwillingly, into a war that is decimating a people. We are being forced to become involuntary accomplices to mass slaughter.

Palestinians, on the basis of their legal right against being wiped out, have filed a major lawsuit against President Joe Biden’s administration for funding Israel’s ongoing pogrom in Gaza, one that has killed more than 11,000 people, including 4,700 children. Represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the plaintiffs include Palestinians who have collectively lost at least 116 family members to U.S.-funded Israeli military attacks.

The U.S. has sent Israel a total of about $317 billion in inflation-adjusted tax-payer money, which amounts to more than $4 billion annually. Almost all that funding has gone toward the Israeli military. Israel is the largest recipient of American foreign aid, receiving more money than what we give to far larger, far poorer nations, ones that have a far greater post-colonial claim to Western aid.

Now, the U.S. Congress and the Biden administration want to give even more of our tax dollars to Israel, specifically to continue bankrolling the unfolding genocide. They are quibbling over the political strings attached to the aid but are united in their desire to send the supplemental funds.

But, according to CCR, “The United States has a duty under Article 1 of the Genocide Convention to prevent and punish acts of genocide, an obligation the U.S. Congress made law in 1988.” It’s not just the number of dead Palestinians that ought to result in a withholding of U.S. aid but the fact that Israeli officials have been overt about their genocidal aspirations.

The lawsuit offers evidence of how various Israeli politicians have referred to Palestinians with dehumanizing language such as Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who promised that the “human animals” in Gaza would suffer the consequences of his order for “a complete siege on the Gaza Strip,” resulting in “no electricity, no food, no fuel.”

Days into Israel’s bombing campaign, United Nations Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese warned on October 14, 2023, of a grave danger of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, saying, “The international community has the responsibility to prevent and protect populations from atrocity crimes.” Referring to the first great displacement that Palestinians suffered, Albanese added, “There is a grave danger that what we are witnessing may be a repeat of the 1948 Nakba, and the 1967 Naksa, yet on a larger scale.”

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

As we continue to look at Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, I want to turn to the words of the British Palestinian surgeon Ghassan Abu-Sittah describing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. He had been working in the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, which was one of the last functioning hospitals in the Gaza Strip.

DR. GHASSAN ABU-SITTAH: Day before yesterday, there was a major airstrike, over 50 killed, on a mosque. And Al-Ahli was completely inundated with the wounded, and we were operating all through the night. And by the early hours of yesterday morning, we had realized that we have basically run out of medication for the anesthetic machines, and we had to stop the operating room. We had finished early, and that is when we made the decision.

At the same time, in the early hours of the morning, there was heavy bombing all around the hospital. I mean, we — close to the hospital, you could feel the building being shook. And we were being — and it sounded like tank fire. It didn’t sound like air raids. And so we made the decision that it was time for at least the operating room staff, since we were being — not going to be able to provide a service, to evacuate. And so, yesterday morning we left. And we could — you could hear the sounds of the tanks around the hospital when we walked out. And we literally walked all the way to Nuseirat camp in the central zone.

When we left, there were over 500 wounded needing the urgent medical care, needing surgical intervention, that we cannot provide because we had run out of medication. We had run out. The operating room could no longer function. And at the best, there were two operating rooms in Al-Ahli. We were always overwhelmed with the number of wounded, compared with what we were able to provide.

AMY GOODMAN: The British Palestinian surgeon Ghassan Abu-Sittah, speaking through his surgical mask in Gaza. We’ve been trying to reach people there, but it’s the second straight day of a telecommunications blackout. This is only the latest one.

To talk more about Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, we’re joined now by independent journalist Sharif Abdel Kouddous, produced the award-winning documentary The Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh for Al Jazeera’s documentary series Fault Lines and has reported from Gaza for Democracy Now! and other outlets.

Sharif, it’s so important to talk about what’s happening there even as this telecommunications blackout is happening. Also, the leaflets that are being dropped on Khan Younis, which is where so many thousands of Palestinians have been instructed to go, to head south, from northern Gaza south — now leaflets are being dropped there, saying they must move further south. Can you respond to this overall situation?

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, I mean, you have a situation where the northern part of Gaza, north of Wadi Gaza, and Gaza City itself, which was home to nearly 1 million people, is now a hollow shell. Most neighborhoods in Gaza City and in northern Gaza, in general, have been very badly damaged or destroyed. You have these armored columns of Israeli forces going in and tearing up the roads. Electricity, water, sewage infrastructure basically no longer exist.

And, you know, there are reports that the smell of death is everywhere, as an untold number of bodies are lying under the rubble. The U.N. estimates that about 2,700 people, including 1,500 children, are missing and believed to be buried under the ruins. And there’s reports of the people that have remained in the north digging with their bare hands, trying to find their family members. And the streets have been turned into graveyards.

So, only a fraction of the people who lived in northern Gaza remain there, and most have been forcibly displaced to the south in scenes that are reminiscent of the Nakba. One-point-five million people have been displaced in Gaza. That’s nearly double the number that were ethnically cleansed in 1948 and were never allowed to return to their homes. And many of these people are people who were displaced, or their descendants, from 1948. We have to remember that 80% of Palestinians in Gaza are not from Gaza. They’re refugees. So, most of the Palestinians in northern Gaza are now packed into the south. There’s no indication if or ever they’ll be able to return to the north. The Israeli military effectively controls most of the northern area. And northern Gaza is basically uninhabitable now. You know, it’s been destroyed.

And there’s hardly any aid coming in. You know, Gaza is now receiving only about 10% of its needed food supplies. Dehydration, malnutrition are growing. Nearly all of the people in Gaza, the 2.3 million people, are in need of food, according to the U.N. And as you mentioned, the communications systems are down now for second day. And this is a more serious telecommunications blackout, because it’s the result of no fuel to power the internet and phone networks, so it may be a more permanent communications blackout. And this communications blackout is actually causing disruptions to the little amount of cross-border aid deliveries that were coming in.

And as you mentioned, the Israeli forces now have dropped these leaflets just the other day telling Palestinians in areas east of Khan Younis, which is, you know, a bigger city in the south of Gaza, to evacuate. Where are these people supposed to go? It increasingly seems that, you know, Israel is trying to push Palestinians into Egypt, which is a long-standing colonial fantasy. And, you know, there are plans that have been documented for this. There was a document leaked last month from Israel’s intelligence minister that detailed a durable postwar situation solution for Gaza, which includes the long-term transfer, forcible transfer, of Palestinians to northern Sinai. There’s something called the Eiland plan, which is named after a retired major general, who outlines a proposal to forcibly transfer Palestinians to Sinai.

But right now, yeah, we don’t know what the situation is. Egypt has staunchly refused this kind of mass displacement of Palestinians into its territory, and it has tried to negotiate aid to come in. But there’s increasing pressure right now on Egypt, because at the end of the day, this is an Egyptian border, the Rafah border crossing. It’s the only border crossing into Gaza that is not controlled by Israel. Egypt right now is letting in maybe 50, maybe 80, maybe a hundred trucks a day, just a fraction of the amount of aid that used to come into Gaza even before October 7th. And the reason it’s only letting in a fraction is that it’s allowing Israel to dictate the terms. So it gets approval from Israel of how many trucks can enter the Rafah border crossing. Those trucks then enter. They go up to an Israeli border crossing, where they’re checked. They come back down and then enter into Gaza.

And there’s increasing pressure on Egypt from civil society in Egypt, from people around the world, for Egypt to just open the border and let the aid in. If Israel wants to bomb U.N. aid trucks, then, you know, that’s something else. But right now Egypt is coordinating with Israel on how much aid gets in, and people are beginning to starve, and infectious disease is spreading because of no water, and it’s an incredible crisis.

AMY GOODMAN: Sharif, the number of journalists who have been killed, I think Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 42 journalists and media workers have been killed since October 7th. It’s the deadliest month for journalists since the group began collecting information in 1992. If you can talk about the global response, the global journalist response? And then we’ll talk a bit about the latest on Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed not in Gaza by the Israeli forces, but was killed last year outside the Jenin refugee camp.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Yeah. I mean, what can you say? I don’t know what the number is even now. You know, it’s at least 35. Maybe 40 Palestinian journalists have been killed in just over a month, by far the highest number of journalists killed in such a short amount of time. And, you know, foreign journalists can’t get into Gaza. Israel is not letting them in, and nor is Egypt. So you have a situation where you’re killing most of the journalists, the registered journalists in Gaza. You’re not letting other journalists in. And then we’ve seen very problematic coverage from newsrooms, Western newsrooms, of what’s happening on the ground, problematic language, and people have been protesting this. And we just saw — you know, people have been resigning from The New York Times. The poetry editor of The New York Times just resigned from there, you know, because of the language used by The New York Times in this coverage.

But also, you know, you haven’t seen the type of outcry that one would imagine from the journalistic community for their colleagues who are being killed in Gaza. And the ones that aren’t killed in Gaza have lost so much. They’ve lost their families. They’ve lost their homes. When Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered by the Saudi government, there was massive condemnation from Western news outlets for the murder, and rightly so. When Evan Gershkovich, The Wall Street Journal reporter, who remains in prison in Russia, was arrested, there has been and still remains a massive outcry over his arrest. But we haven’t seen the same kind of outcry over this record number of journalists, Palestinian journalists, that have been killed in Gaza. I think it’s deeply, deeply problematic and reveals a bias that is being laid bare in many ways.

And as you mentioned Shireen Abu Akleh, you know, when this all kind of — the assault on Gaza began on October 7th, we saw people post on Twitter, on social media kind of photos of Shireen and just saying that — kind of wishing that she was around, that she was alive to report, because she was such an incredible journalist and so needed in a time like this. You know, even the Lebanese journalist who was killed in shelling in southern Lebanon by Israel — 

AMY GOODMAN: Issam Abdallah.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: — one of his last tweets — Issam Abdallah, yeah, Issam Abdallah — one of his last tweets was a photo of Shireen. And he just wrote, “Shireen,” with a heart. And then, after he was killed, someone put up his photo and said “Issam,” with a heart.

AMY GOODMAN: And the latest news —

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: So, yeah, Shireen — go ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: — about the Israeli army bulldozing the memorial for her where she was killed?

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Right. I mean, as we heard in headlines, you know, Israel has repeatedly conducted very brutal raids on Jenin, on the Jenin refugee camp, which is the heart of militant Palestinian resistance in the West Bank. We’ve seen drone strikes on Jenin. Just a few days ago, a drone strike killed about 14 Palestinians in Jenin, one of the deadliest days in the West Bank since 2005. And we saw drone strikes just the other day, as well, and raids on the hospital.

And during one of these raids, they came in — the site where Shireen was shot by an Israeli sniper has become a memorial area. When I went there last year to report on her killing, there’s photos of her everywhere. There’s flowers. There’s written pieces of tribute that are all hung up. The tree where she was killed under, you can still see the bullet holes. And it’s a place where family and friends have sought some solace by visiting this area and remembering Shireen. And an Israeli bulldozer came in during one of these raids and completely destroyed this road and this area where this memorial was. And it doesn’t seem — it seems to just be some kind of vindictive act, because there was no reason to destroy this road that leads to the entrance of the Jenin refugee camp.

They’ve also — you know, in an earlier raid, they destroyed this memorial which was in the shape of a horse, which was kind of well known in Jenin, in a main roundabout, and was built from the pieces of an ambulance that was blown up in an airstrike by Israel in 2002. And it was — they used the parts of the destroyed ambulance to kind of create this horse monument, which was a testament to Jenin’s spirit of resistance. They also came in and kind of removed that. So there seems to be also an attack on symbols of resistance to Israel, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Sharif, we’re going to ask you to stay with us. We’re going to switch gears. Sharif Abdel Kouddous is a journalist who won a George Polk Award for documentary The Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh for Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines series. After the break, Sharif will stay with us, and we’ll be joined by another guest to talk about his new documentary and all the latest developments around Cop City in Atlanta. Back in 20 seconds.

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    Senator Baldwin Supports Bipartisan Bill to Cut Insulin Costs for Millions More Americans

    From Senator Tammy Baldwin's office:

    Senator Baldwin Supports Bipartisan Bill to Cut Insulin Costs for Millions More Americans

    Baldwin helped pass legislation to cap the cost of insulin for seniors at $35 per month, now working to address the cost for others

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in supporting legislation to comprehensively address the skyrocketing costs of insulin and lower prices for Wisconsinites. The Improving Needed Safeguards for Users of Lifesaving Insulin Now (INSULIN) Act of 2023 would remove barriers to care, limit out of pocket costs for patients, and make insulin more accessible for millions of Americans.

    “Americans should not have to choose between putting food on the table and the lifesaving medications they need to stay healthy. This bill builds on the historic gains we’ve made in capping the cost of insulin for seniors by lowering the out-of-pocket costs for all Wisconsinites living with diabetes,” said Senator Baldwin. “I’m proud to work with Republicans and Democrats to lower the price of insulin and give families some much needed relief.”

    A new report from the American Diabetes Association that shows the cost of diabetes in America, including the cost of insulin, continues to skyrocket for patients and the federal government. More than 37 million Americans live with diabetes, including over 400,000 Wisconsinites. The disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, claiming over 100,000 lives in 2021. It is also the most expensive chronic condition in the nation, costing Americans a combined total of $412.9 billion per year. The rising cost of insulin presents a barrier to care for a growing number of Americans living with diabetes; 1 in 4 individuals report reducing insulin use due to cost.

    The INSULIN Act would directly address the root problems in the insulin market causing high list prices, while simultaneously extending vital patient protections, fostering competition, and broadening access to needed insulin products. Specifically, the INSULIN Act of 2023 would:

    • Limit out-of-pocket costs for patients with diabetes by ensuring that group and individual market health plans must waive any deductible and limit cost-sharing to no more than $35 or 25% of list price per month for at least one insulin of each type and dosage form.
      • Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) would be prohibited from placing utilization management tools – prior authorization, step therapy, etc. – on products with capped out-of-pocket costs.
    • Mandate PBMs pass through 100% of insulin rebates and other discounts received from manufacturers to plan sponsors, reducing perverse incentives in the insulin market that encourage high list prices and helping patients in the form of reduced premiums. 
    • Promote generic and biosimilar competition to lower costs to patients by:
      • Creating a new expedited FDA approval pathway for biologic drugs lacking biosimilar competition, similar to FDA’s current Competitive Generic Therapies pathway;
        • This will improve the timeliness of resolving regulatory barriers slowing down market entry of lower cost products;
      • Ensuring adequate oversight of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) citizen petition process, easing approval of generic and biosimilar drugs;
      • Allowing Medicare Part D plans to place biosimilar drugs on formulary immediately after entering the market, identical to other generic drugs; and,
      • Requiring the Department of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and FDA, to issue a report to Congress on issues and market dynamics delaying or restricting biosimilar insulin competition.

    The legislation was led by U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME), and also co-sponsored by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Katie Britt (R-AL), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Angus King (I-ME), Mike Braun (R-IN), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

    Senator Baldwin has long advocated for holding big drug companies accountable and expanding access to affordable health care for Wisconsinites. Last year, she helped pass the Inflation Reduction Act, which for the first time allows Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices and caps the cost of insulin at $35-a-month for Medicare recipients. Earlier this year, Senator Baldwin’s bipartisan legislation requiring pharmaceutical companies to be transparent with their customers and explain to the public why they are raising drug prices on working families passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.

    A full text of this legislation is available here.


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    Baldwin Bill to Connect Veterans with Earned Benefits Passes the Senate with Unanimous Bipartisan Support

    From Seantor Tammy Baldwin's office:

    Baldwin Bill to Connect Veterans with Earned Benefits Passes the Senate with Unanimous Bipartisan Support

    Bill supports County Veterans Service Officers, like those who helped sound the alarm about a Tomah VA doctor who was misdiagnosing veterans

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday evening, U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Dan Sullivan’s (R-AK) Commitment to Veteran Support and Outreach Act passed the U.S. Senate unanimously. Baldwin’s bipartisan legislation would expand and support Tribal Veterans Service Officers and County Veterans Service Officers (CVSO), the community-based employees who work directly with veterans to inform them of eligibility for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) programs and services, file pension and compensation claims, and help them enroll in job, housing, disability, and education benefits. CVSOs play an outsized role in helping veterans in rural, native, and other hard to reach communities connect with VA services.

    “Our veterans have sacrificed so much to serve their country and we owe it to them to make it as easy as possible to access the benefits they’ve earned,” said Senator Baldwin. “I am proud my bipartisan legislation to help our veterans access their hard-earned benefits is moving forward so we can do right by those who served us.” 

    “Less than half of Alaska’s more than 75,000 veterans are currently enrolled in the VA system, meaning a majority are not accessing the benefits and health care services that they have earned, including those struggling with mental illness,” said Senator Sullivan. “That is unacceptable. Alaska’s vast size and sparse population certainly contribute to this challenge, but local partners and veteran service officers present an opportunity to reach these off-the-grid veterans. I’m grateful that the Senate passed the Commitment to Veteran Support and Outreach Act, introduced by Senator Baldwin and me. This legislation will reinforce the VA’s mission to expand its reach and ensure veterans who live in rural, frontier states—like Alaska—do not get left behind.”

    Out of the estimated 19 million veterans in the United States, only a small fraction utilizes the care and benefits they are entitled to.

    While CVSOs work tirelessly to connect veterans with their federal benefits, they currently receive zero funding from the federal government. Specifically, the legislation would create a grant program to improve outreach to veterans and increase the number of county and tribal veterans service officers. By increasing the number of CVSOs, states will also be better able to leverage their local and federal resources to serve our veterans.

    In Wisconsin, several CVSOs helped sound the alarm about a doctor at the Tomah VA who was misdiagnosing veterans who were suffering from traumatic brain injury. In part because CVSOs identified a troubling pattern, Senator Baldwin and impacted patients successfully got the VA to identify, reexamine, and in appropriate cases, deliver those misdiagnosed their earned benefits.

    Earlier this year, Senator Baldwin traveled around Wisconsin on her “Delivering for Our Veterans Tour,” meeting with veterans and advocates in New Richmond, Wausau, Green Bay, and Racine to discuss the need to pass the Commitment to Veteran Support and Outreach Act and highlight new benefits for veterans harmed by toxic exposure. Click here to hear how CVSOs help veterans connect with the benefits and services they are owed.

    “I would strongly encourage your support and passage of this 'first of its kind' legislation to expand and continue to provide CVSO services to those who have served our great country,” said Joseph Aulik, Brown County CVSO Veterans Service Office Director.

    “CVSOs are the ‘boots on the ground’ for veterans and returning service members. They serve as local, responsive advocates connecting those in need with services. Every additional dollar CVSOs nationwide would receive could assist in outreach and claim submission, and improve access to VA mental health, homeless services and healthcare our nation’s veterans richly deserve. Furthermore, local CVSO offices would be able to hire additional staff to keep up with rising demand. I am very hopeful the CVSO Act will be passed by Congress to assist our returning heroes in obtaining the benefits to which they are entitled,” said Phillip Landgraf, St. Croix County Director of Veterans Affairs.

    The Commitment to Veteran Support and Outreach Act is supported by the National Association of Counties, the National Association of County Veterans Service Officers, the Wisconsin and Alaska Departments of Veterans Affairs, the Wisconsin State Association of County Veterans Service Commissions and Committees, the Wisconsin Association of Counties, and the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs.


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    Calls for Ceasefire Grow in Month Following Introduction of Ceasefire Now Resolution

    From US House Rep Cori Bush's office:

    November 17, 2023

    Calls for Ceasefire Grow in Month Following Introduction of Ceasefire Now Resolution

    Washington D.C. (Nov. 17, 2023) — On October 16, 2023, Congresswomen Cori Bush (MO-01) and Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), alongside André Carson (IN-07), Summer Lee (PA-12), Delia C. Ramirez (IL-03), introduced H. Res. 786, the Ceasefire Now Resolution, which urges the Biden Administration to call for an immediate de-escalation and ceasefire in Israel and occupied Palestine, and to send humanitarian assistance to Gaza. Upon introduction, this resolution had 13 cosponsors, marking the first group of Members of Congress to demand a ceasefire. One month later, this resolution has 18 cosponsors and has served as a springboard for a growing coalition of 34 Members of Congress, including a United States Senator, across 21 states who have come out in support of a ceasefire to save lives. 


    In the four weeks since the introduction of the Ceasefire Now Resolution, hundreds of thousands of constituent calls have been made to Congress and the White House, and dozens of Ceasefire Now marches, rallies, and direct actions have been organized across the world. Heads of state, the United Nations, domestic and international organizations, faith leaders, labor unions, veterans, municipal and world leaders, activists, Holocaust survivors, celebrities, and other public officials have all joined the call for a ceasefire. Recent polling has indicated a majority (68%) of the American public, including 75% of Democrats and 50% of Republicans support the call for a ceasefire.


    As the devastation in Israel and Gaza continues to claim more lives and displace more people, our calls for a ceasefire grow wider, louder, and stronger every day across the world,” said Congresswoman Bush. “In the month since we introduced the Ceasefire Now Resolution and in the days following the horrific October 7th attack, we have seen enough pain, death, and destruction for a lifetime. The violence must end. The only way to ensure a stop to the violence, deploy humanitarian aid, and safely release all hostages is to mediate a negotiated bilateral ceasefire that ends bombing and air strikes on both sides and the ground invasion in Gaza.


    Our movement for a ceasefire is growing every single day,” said Congresswoman Tlaib. “The majority of Americans, including over 70% of Michigan Democrats want a ceasefire. While there are growing attempts to silence the diverse coalition of people advocating for peace, fighting to save lives no matter their faith or ethnicity should not be controversial. We will not be intimidated, we will not be silenced, and we will not stop calling for an end to this violence. I urge my colleagues to listen to their constituents and call for a ceasefire now to save innocent lives.


    Upon the introduction of the Ceasefire Now Resolution, Congresswomen Bush and Tlaib hosted a press call where they spoke about their push for an immediate ceasefire. In the days that followed, the Congresswomen participated in several events and actions to continue their push for a ceasefire. On November 9th, Congresswoman Bush and Congresswoman Tlaib met with veterans who traveled to DC to advocate and call for a ceasefire ahead of Veterans Day. The Congresswomen joined Rabbis 4 Ceasefire in a press conference calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and urging Congress to support the Ceasefire Now resolution to save lives.


    A full list of members of Congress who have called for a ceasefire in the one month since the Ceasefire Now Resolution was introduced includes: Representatives Cori Bush (MO-01)*, Rashida Tlaib (MI-12)*, André Carson (IN-07)*, Summer Lee (PA-12)*, Delia C. Ramirez (IL-03)*, Jamaal Bowman (NY-16)*, Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12)*, Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04)*, Jonathan Jackson (IL-01)*, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14)*, Ilhan Omar (MN-05)*, Ayanna Pressley (MA-07)*, Nydia Velázquez (NY-07)*, Barbara Lee (CA-12)*, Pramila Jayapal (WA-07)*, Greg Casar (TX-35)*, Alma Adams (NC-12)*, Maxwell Frost (FL-10)*, Jim McGovern (MA-02), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Al Green (TX-09), Maxine Waters (CA-43), Kweisi Mfume (MD-07), Don Beyer (VA-08), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-07), Hank Johnson (GA-04), Becca Balint (VT), and Gabe Vasquez (NM-02), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-10), and Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). 


    Beyond the United States, international heads of state and world leaders have also called for a ceasefire, including: French President Emmanuel Macron, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Colombian President Gustavo Petro, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, and Pope Francis.


    Several human rights, racial justice, faith-based organizations, and labor unions have also come out in support of a ceasefire in the past month, including: Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam, the King Center, the Carter Center, World Health Organization, United Nations Children's Fund, World Food Programme, Save the Children, Center for Constitutional Rights, Rabbis for Human Rights, American Postal Workers Union, Chicago Teachers Union, Restaurant Workers United, Unemployed Workers United, Massachusetts Teachers Association, American Federation of Teachers - Oregon and more.


    A growing coalition of over 100 organizations has also endorsed H.Res 786, the Ceasefire Now Resolution. Endorsing organizations include:, About Face: Veterans Against the War, ActionAid USA, Action Center on Race & the Economy, Adalah Justice Project, American Center for Justice, American Federation of Ramallah, Palestine (AFRP), American Muslims for Palestine, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Americans for Justice in Palestine Action, Amnesty International, Arab American Civil Rights League (ACRL), Arab American Institute, Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC), Avaaz, Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), Center for Constitutional Rights, Center for Jewish Nonviolence, Center for Popular Democracy Action, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Churches for Middle East Peace, Common Defense, Communities United for Status & Protection (CUSP), Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Defense for Children International - Palestine, Demand Progress Action, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), Democratic Socialists of America, Detroit Action, Dream Defenders, Emgage Action, Freedom Forward, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), Gen Z For Change, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Highlander Research & Education, Hindus for Human Rights, The House of the Lord Churches, IfNotNow, Institute for Middle Eastern Understanding (IMEU), International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), IRAP Osgoode Hall Law School, IRAP Rutgers, IRAP UVA Law, IRAP University of Virginia School of Law Chapter, IRAP The George Washington Law School Chapter, Institute for Policy Studies New Internationalism Project, International Refugee Assistance Project at Berkeley Law, Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis, The Jerusalem Fund for Education and Community Development, Jewish Voice for Peace Action, Just Foreign Policy, Justice Is Global, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, MADRE, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Michigan United, Migrant Roots Media, Movement for Black Lives, Movement Law Lab, Movement Generation, MoveOn, MPower Change Action Fund, Muslim Advocates, Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), Muslims for Progress, National Campaign for Human Dignity, National Domestic Workers Alliance, National Iranian American Council Action, National Lawyers Guild, Detroit & Michigan Chapter, National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC), NYC-DSA, Pax Christi USA, Peace Action, Peace Action Montgomery, Peace, Justice Sustainability NOW!, Progressive Democrats of America, Progressive Jews of St. Louis (ProJoSTL), Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), Project48, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Refugee Council USA, ReThinking Foreign Policy, Rising Majority,, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Institute Justice Team, Southeast Asian Freedom Network, Sunrise Movement, Transgender Law Center, UndocuBlack Network, Union of Palestinian American Women, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, United We Dream Network, Until Freedom, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR), US Council for Muslim Organizations, Vietlead, Women Cross DMZ, Women for Weapons Trade Transparency, Working Families Party, Zero Hour.


    * cosponsors of H.Res 786, the Ceasefire Now Resolution



  • Roberta Flack - First Time Ever I Saw Your Face 1972

    Senator Murray on New Biden Admin Rule to Strengthen Head Start Workforce and Better Serve Families

    From Senator Patty Murray's office:

    Senator Murray on New Biden Admin Rule to Strengthen Head Start Workforce and Better Serve Families

    Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement on the Biden administration’s new proposed rule to strengthen Head Start’s ability to recruit and retain qualified staff, raise wages for its workforce, and serve children and families.

    “In every corner of the country, families count on high-quality Head Start programs to help their kids learn, grow, and thrive. But the workforce that makes these programs possible has been stretched thin, just as Head Start struggles to hire and retain the early educators they need—all of which limits options for families.

    “The Biden administration’s new proposed rule is an important step forward to tackle the growing workforce challenges Head Start is facing, better support already-underpaid teachers, and ultimately: better serve kids and families across the country.

    “There’s a lot more we must do to make sure every kid has access to high-quality early childhood education—and every family can find and afford options that work for them. So I’m going to keep fighting to strengthen Head Start and ensure every family can get the child care they need by passing my Child Care for Working Families Act.

    Senator Murray, a former preschool teacher herself, has led the fight to tackle the child care crisis and fought to strengthen the Head Start program—using every tool at her disposal to make progress for families. Earlier this year, she reintroduced her Child Care for Working Families Act, comprehensive legislation to solve the child care crisis and ensure families across America can find and afford the high-quality child care they need. In addition to ensuring families can afford the child care they need, the legislation would also support full-day, full-year Head Start programs and increase wages for Head Start workers. Senator Murray has also consistently worked to boost annual funding for Head Start—securing a $960 million increase in last year’s funding package. This summer, as Chair of the Appropriations Committee, she secured another $275 million increase for the program in the Senate’s draft funding bill despite the tough constraints imposed by the Fiscal Responsibility Act.


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    New Issue of The BlackCommentator - Nov 16, 2023 - Cover Story: Biden and the Democrats Are Failing To Read the Room on Gaza - Issue 978

    The Black Commentator Issue #978 is now Online
    November 16, 2023

    Read issue 978

    Our email address is

    Our voicemail number is 856.823.1739

    Your Love - Diana Ross @ UK Tv show- 1994-

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    Friday, November 17, 2023

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    Roland OBLITERATES Biden/Harris, Black Specific Policies Misinformation And Disinformation

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    Sharif Abdel Kouddous on Targeting of Journalists, Israel's "Colonial Fantasy" to Depopulate Gaza


    Iraq snapshot

    Friday, November 17, 2023.  The assault on Gaza continues, where's Joe?

    CNN's Lauren Kent in London and Abeer Salman report this morning:

    Communications services remained down in Gaza on Friday, with the UN saying the blackout was due to a lack of fuel to run generators.

    CNN has been unable to reach its stringers and other contacts on the ground in the Gaza Strip.

    Telecommunications services shut down on Thursday afternoon due to the fuel used to operate generators running out, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in an update on Thursday night. 

    The repeating Israeli airstrikes on the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza are beyond my own comprehension.  For at least 10 of the last 40 days, missiles have rained down on the most densely populated refugee camp in all of Gaza.

    And it is not just the days; it is also the nights. The bombing is done in the dark, when the power is off and the only light is from the fires that burn. It is done when the internet is cut, when the journalists are shot dead, to hide their crimes, the burning of children.

    I have a long history and strong connection to the people in this camp. My friends, former coworkers, patients, and people I have known for decades through my work as a doctor at Gaza’s Al-Awda hospital are living in this camp. There are the children who grew up coming to the library I founded in Jabalia, who are now young men and women, who have their own children, their own families. There are my beautiful neighbors and friends and patients, who are not my relatives but are my family. They are generation after generation of refugee families living in one of the most crowded places on earth.

    After the latest massacre, I cannot reach any of them.

    I see these same families in the video sent to me of my neighbors pulling children from the rubble.  I see them in my memories as we lived and struggled under dual occupations, and Israeli bombings and apartheid.  I hear what it sounds like in the aftermath when women and children, the overwhelming majority of those living in, injured, and killed in Jabalia, scream and mourn in anguish and wake up to do it again. I can taste the chemicals, the poisons that linger in the air for hours and days after these indiscriminate explosions. I can smell the acrid odor of white phosphorus, used by Israel in Gaza and caked on the walls of burning buildings and bodies.  I can feel the collective hunger: for food and for justice and for all of it to stop.

    Those in Gaza risk starvation given the lack of food and water, according to the United Nations World Food Programme.

    “Supplies of food and water are practically non-existent in Gaza and only a fraction of what is needed is arriving through the borders. With winter fast approaching, unsafe and overcrowded shelters, and the lack of clean water, civilians are facing the immediate possibility of starvation,” the program's Executive Director Cindy McCain said in a statement.

    The organization said the amount of food supplies that have entered Gaza since the beginning of the war only accounts for 10% of what's needed. The only passage into and out of Gaza at Rafah isn't enough and McCain pushed for the opening of another way to get supplies into Gaza. 

    ALJAEERA notes, "The head of the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency has warned of a 'deliberate attempt to strangle' its operations in the Gaza Strip and said it risks shutting down all its humanitarian work because of a lack of fuel."  As the assault continues, the world watches.  And they're not watching in silence.  Protests are taking place around the world, leaders in other countries are calling this assault out. Lili Bayer (GUARDIAN) notes:

    Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is travelling to Germany today, amid tensions over the war between Israel and Hamas.

    Earlier this week, Erdoğan called Israel a “terror state”. The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, meanwhile, has repeatedly defended Israel’s right to defend itself, saying “the charges being brought against Israel are absurd”.

    The Turkish leader will meet with Scholz and the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

    When the Israeli defence minister declared on 9 October a “complete siege” in which “no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel” would be allowed into blockaded Gaza, and called its 2.3 million inhabitants “human animals”, there was not a single protest from an official in a western capital. It is easy to see Palestinians as standing alone against Israel’s military onslaught. Egypt and Israel, at peace since 1980, jointly blockade Gaza. In recent years, the region’s US-backed authoritarian governments such as the United Arab Emirates have been signing a series of accords to normalise relations with Israel without any gains for the Palestinians. The widespread support that Palestinians received from Arab governments five decades ago has virtually evaporated.

    Yet looked at on a global scale, there is overwhelming support for Palestinian self-determination, and condemnation of Israel’s latest attack on Palestinians in Gaza. Currently, 139 out of 192, or 72%, of UN member states recognise Palestine, against the express wishes of the US and Israel. This constitutes almost the entirety of Asia, Latin America and Africa, along with several European countries such as Sweden. Recent additions include Mexico, which broke with decades of fealty to the US by recognising Palestine in June.

    [. . .]

    Israel’s current war on Gaza has become another example of the stark gap that has emerged between the G7 and the rest of the world. Israel is unlikely to benefit from its longstanding association with former imperial powers. If the current crisis has driven Israel and the G7 even closer together, it has also increased the sense of alienation that the vast majority of the world’s population feels towards the small elite that claims for itself the power to rule the world. The untrammelled support of powerful states for Israel as it commits what a former UN official called “a textbook case of genocide” in Gaza has contributed to a growing sense that the current international order lacks legitimacy. At the UN last Tuesday, the Indonesian representative said that the world was heading towards an “international law abyss”.

    Where is US President Joe Biden?  Where is his leadership?  Andrew Solender (AXIOS) reports, "Dozens of House Democrats led by their Jewish colleagues are calling for the Biden administration to press Israel to allow fuel shipments to Gaza, Axios has learned. [. . .]  The letter's 48 signers range from leading progressives like Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the Progressive Caucus, to more moderate members like Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Susie Lee (D-Nev.)."

    Where is Joe?

    This is not an Onion headline, apparently, but an apt description of Biden’s entire political strategy on everything from Gaza, Ukraine, climate change, health care, the border wall and student loan forgiveness …


    "Democratic Staffers Told To Let Constant Calls For Cease-Fire 'Got To Voicemail'."

    Since Israel’s complete siege on Gaza began, Hazem Saeed Al-Naizi, the director of an orphanage in Gaza City, had been gripped with fear, worried about when food, water and other basic necessities might run out for the dozens of children and young people in his care, most of whom are living with disabilities.

    When a strike hit a mosque near the Mabarat Al-Rahma orphanage on October 27, blowing out windows, scattering the building with debris, igniting a fire and filling the air with smoke, Al-Naizi said he was confronted with the agonizing decision of whether to evacuate the children and young people.

    “There was chaos in the place, children crying, and smoke and fire spread,” Al-Naizi told CNN, sharing videos of the aftermath. “We quickly moved the children to a safe place and extinguished the fire to get rid of the smoke that almost killed us all.”

    For Palestinians trying to escape the fighting in Gaza, living with a disability can be its own effective death sentence.

    People who are deaf or blind are less likely to know about evacuation orders and cannot hear or see the strikes, disability advocates and aid organizations told CNN.

    Others with intellectual disabilities may be unable to communicate their whereabouts to relatives or rescue workers, while people with physical disabilities who rely on wheelchairs and other assistive devices are unable to navigate rubble, let alone walk miles south.

    Where's Joe?

    Progressives in Congress and Jewish advocates for Palestinian rights were among those applauding Thursday as U.S. Rep. Becca Balint became the first Jewish federal lawmaker—and the first representing Vermont—to support a cease-fire in Gaza.

    Balint (D-Vt.) reversed her earlier position, writing in the VTDigger that the anguish she has felt since Hamas killed about 1,200 Israelis and kidnapped 240 people "has only grown" in the past month as Israel's "ensuing siege has killed thousands of civilians in Gaza who were already struggling under Hamas rule and Israeli blockade."

    Echoing 31 other members of Congress who have demanded the Biden administration call for a cease-fire—an action that would likely put a swift end to the deadly bombing of hospitals, refugee shelters, and homes in Gaza—Balint strongly condemned Hamas and said stopping the bombardment could facilitate the return of hostages.

    Where's Joe?

     A group of Palestinian Americans on Thursday urged a federal court to issue a preliminary injunction barring the Biden administration from providing any additional weaponry or diplomatic support to the Israeli military as it carries out mass atrocities in Gaza.

    The "urgent motion" comes days after the group, represented by the U.S.-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), sued President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a federal court in California, arguing that the top officials are "failing to prevent an unfolding genocide where they have influence over the state of Israel to do so, and directly abetting its development with weapons, funds, and diplomatic cover" in violation of international law.

    Where's Joe? 

    Yesterday, DEMOCRACY NOW! spoke with a Middle East expert, Ruth Ben-Artzi who teaches political science at Providence College and who is the niece of the prime minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu.

    AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

    We spend the rest of the hour with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s niece, a Providence College political science professor and Middle East expert. She’s the niece of Netanyahu’s wife, Sara Netanyahu. This month she was one of the signatories to a letter from Jewish and Israeli residents of Rhode Island that asks the state’s federal delegation to support ceasefire in Gaza.

    In March, Ruth Ben-Artzi spoke out about distancing herself from all contact with the prime minister’s family. When asked by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz why she chose to speak out, she said, quote, “The answer is that I am ashamed, sad and angry. Ashamed that my relatives have no shame. That they are in a position of power that promotes and encourages violence, racism, nationalism and fascism. These are not the Jewish values I absorbed and to which I feel connected. Israel could remain a country in which Jews find a safe and free haven of equality and partnership with all the population groups within the state’s borders.”

    Well, professor Ruth Ben-Artzi joins us now, again, a Providence College political science professor and Middle East expert. She’s an Israeli and U.S. citizen.

    We welcome you to Democracy Now! Thank you so much for being with us. Your voice has so much power because you are the prime minister’s niece. Can you speak directly to him, to the people of Palestine and Israel and the world about what you want to see happen right now, Ruth Ben-Artzi?

    RUTH BEN-ARTZI: So, I, first of all, speak as an Israeli citizen, as an American citizen, as a person who is observing everything that is happening, with my experience having grown up in Israel, and also as a political scientist who studies and researches these issues for many, many years now. From all of those different perspectives, I come to this realization, or that we came to this decision that a ceasefire is really the only way that any solution can ever be achieved.

    I think that any — the continued violence that begets violence that begets violence is only going to bring us further away from a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And, you know, it’s really important to remember that we’ve been hearing also from policymakers, from American policymakers and even from Israeli policymakers, military experts, that there’s no military solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And if there’s no military solution to the conflict, there is no military way to eradicate Hamas, as well. The more harm that we’re inflicting, the more violence that is occurring, whatever anybody wants to — as a backdrop to either justify it or to explain it, does not make sense for the future. It only brings us further away from finding that solution, from being able to move toward that political solution.

    And it’s clear that the day that this war is over is going to be the day that a political solution is going to have to start to be implemented. The occupation in the West Bank, the siege in Gaza that happened until October 7th, all of these kind of — what we typically call status quo, what we traditionally call status quo, but it’s not really status quo because things are changing. People are — the population is changing. The demographics are changing. The infrastructure is changing over all of these years of occupation. That can’t continue. The management of the conflict that has been the policy of the Israeli government at least since 2009 isn’t — it was never going to work. And it has no long-term prospects. The ceasefire is the only — we’re seeing the number of innocent civilians who are caught in the crossfires, the number of those who are victims of this war grow every single minute. And that is in addition to the humanitarian — to all the humanitarian concerns that — and the experts that you had on the show before me, the legal concerns, in addition to that, that also bring us further away from being able to implement the kinds of policies that we need to implement the day after the war.

    NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Professor Ben-Artzi, you’ve also, like many, of course, expressed concern about the well-being of the hostages who are in Gaza still, about 240 of them. If you could talk about how you think a ceasefire might make it possible for their safe return? I mean, it was just reported that Israel and Hamas appear close to an agreement whereby 50 women and children, Israeli civilians, would be released in return for 50 Palestinian women and children prisoners being freed. So, if you could talk about the impact a ceasefire may have on the release of the Israeli civilian hostages in Gaza?

    RUTH BEN-ARTZI: Right. So, in Jewish tradition, we have a tradition that is called pidyon shvuyim, which means that the release of the hostages comes first and at all costs. And that is to save lives. The bombing of Gaza — those hostages are in Gaza. When Gaza is being bombed, when we are — when we don’t know where those hostages are, it puts them in danger, too. There is going to be a day, or already, there’s a judgment for Hamas and for those who have inflicted the horrible violence on Israel on October 7th. But right now the focus has to be the release of those hostages. And the bombing, that is clearly not very specifically targeted and is putting those hostages in harm’s way, is only exacerbating the situation and putting the — I think, is putting the — and not just myself, but including the Rhode Islanders who signed this letter. I’ve also joined hundreds of political scientists who signed a letter to demand immediate ceasefire, for some of those same strategic reasons, humanitarian reasons, and also for what is for me in the front of my mind, the release of the hostages.

    We buried today a peace activist who was murdered on October 7th, who was — who had spent decades in activism trying to help to bring a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and continuing that tradition. There’s Israelis who are continuing that tradition. There’s Israelis in Israel now and abroad. There’s organizations, both Palestinian and Jewish organizations, that are working towards that solution, to find a peaceful solution.

    And to bring the hostages back, we have to have those negotiations. And if the negotiations have to — they have to happen with the group, with the terrorist group, that is holding those hostages. There is no other way. There is no other — there’s no other solution for this. Get the hostages out. This is what the families of the hostages are demanding. And then we can continue the political work of rehabilitating Gaza, removing Hamas from power, and finding a political solution, which is really the only way that the roughly 7 million Jews and 7 million Palestinians who live between the river and the sea will ever be able to find peace.

    AMY GOODMAN: Professor Ben-Artzi, we just have 30 seconds, but as the niece of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have the two senators from Rhode Island spoken to you, Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, or Seth Magaziner and Gabe Amo, the congressmembers?

    RUTH BEN-ARTZI: As Rhode Islanders, we speak to our delegation all the time. Our group that signed this letter and that sent them this letter spoke to our delegation. We’re in contact all the time. We have various connections in our small state. And I think that we have a listening ear to all the different voices —

    AMY GOODMAN: Well —

    RUTH BEN-ARTZI: — that are part —

    AMY GOODMAN: — we have to leave it there. We thank you so much, Providence College political science professor Ruth Ben-Artzi, niece of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

    Bigotry and hate can be found around the world.  But Moms For Bigotry are a unique homegrown threat to democracy.  Fortunately, Americans are fighting back -- wise people like the man in the video below.

    During an MSNBC "Morning Joe" panel discussion on recent pivotal losses at the polls by Republicans and conservatives, co-host Joe Scarborough and guest Molly Jong-Fast pointed the finger at the extremist Moms for Liberty as the main culprit when it comes to saddling Republicans with the "crazy ideas" contributing to defeat.

    Noting setbacks in recent elections that have Republicans worried about the 2024 November general election, the Jong-Fast claimed the GOP is at the mercy of their base which is demanding more and more extreme policies.

    "I mean, the book bans, Moms for Liberty had a really bad night. All of this stuff is because Republicans cannot control their base. Their base runs the show, and so you have these crazy ideas being shopped, and Republicans are losing on these ideas and, quite frankly, they should."

    "They're morally reprehensible," she added. "You know, it's overreach. people don't want the government in their bedroom and in their schools and in — I mean, they want them in the schools but ..."

    "Yet, and yet, there's actually an outfit called Moms for Liberty who support freedom being taken away from their daughters," Scarborough interrupted.


    We're all sick of Moms For Bigotry.  Paige Skinner (HUFFINGTON POST) notes:

    LeVar Burton hosted the 74th National Book Awards on Wednesday and during his opening speech, he took a jab at the right-wing group Moms for Liberty.

    “Before we get going, are there any Moms for Liberty in the house?” Burton asked, while the New York audience laughed. “Moms for Liberty? No? Good. Then hands will not need to be thrown tonight.”

    Burton, who hosted the children’s show “Reading Rainbow” for over two decades, has been outspoken about his disgust for Moms for Liberty. The extremist group has described itself as defending “parental rights” in government while also seeking to have books removed from libraries. During last week’s U.S. elections, Moms for Liberty set out to take over various school boards but ultimately wasn’t successful.

    In an Esquire interview published Wednesday, Burton said he was “thrilled” that “hardly any candidates backed by Moms for Liberty won their races.” 

    “These are people who would rather children not know the truth,” Burton told Esquire. “Those kids will never know what they’re missing, but it’s our job to stand up for them, to be their voices and their advocates. That’s what being an elder in this society means to me.”

    During a 2022 appearance on “The View,” Burton said it’s “embarrassing” that people are trying to ban books in America.

    Moms For Bigotry are Ronald DeSantis in drag.  Scary, isn't it?  They don't want American children to know about African-Americans or LGBTQ+ or women's rights.  Strange, isn't it?  How these 'submissive' women are everywhere but in their homes cooking and cleaning all day.  Pink's not standing for it:

    Pink has partnered with PEN America to advocate for LGBTQ+ and free speech rights in Florida.

    Earlier this week, during Pink’s TRUSTFALL Tour in Miami and Sunrise, Florida, she gave her first 1,000 fans new copies of the frequently banned books, courtesy of the partnership with PEN America.

    Pink has selected books addressing racial and sexual identity themes for the giveaway, including titles like Todd Parr’s picture book “The Family Book,” a Girls Who Code series book for middle-aged readers, Toni Morrison’s novel “Beloved,” and Amanda Gorman’s poetry book “The Hill We Climb.”

    The Pop star’s partnership coincides with Florida’s recent laws limiting free speech in education.  The Individual Freedom Act, passed in July 2022, restricts teaching about systemic racism, while Governor Ron DeSantis signed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill last year, aiming to limit LGBTQ+ topic discussions in schools.


    The hate Moms For Bigotry keeps spreading poisons our entire culture.  And those who enable Moms For Bigotry like Naomi Wolf who is also now co-signing with Libs of Tick-Tock.  The hate you spread is impacting our country and we can't afford your nonsense.  Brooke Migdon (THE HILL) reports:

    More than 700 incidents of violence and threats targeting LGBTQ people have occurred over the past year, including murder, harassment, assault and vandalism, according to an updated tally released Thursday by GLAAD, an LGBTQ media advocacy organization, and the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.

    At least 26 transgender people since November 2022 have been killed in crimes motivated by an anti-transgender bias, according to Thursday’s count, released three days before the one-year anniversary of a mass shooting carried out at Club Q, a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs.

    Five people — including two transgender people — were killed and 18 were injured in the Nov. 19 attack, which came on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance, recognized each year on Nov. 20 to honor the lives of transgender people killed in acts of anti-transgender violence.

    The shooter, 23-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in June after pleading guilty to five counts of murder and 46 counts of attempted murder. 

    “It’s been one year, one heartbreaking year since Daniel, Kelly, Ashley, Derrick, and Raymond were killed, and more than a dozen were injured, in the unthinkable attack in Colorado Springs,” GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said Thursday, using the victims’ first names. “When GLAAD spoke out in the hours after the devastating violence last November, we had one plea for elected, media and corporate leaders: stop the spread of anti-LGBTQ disinformation, which incites violence.” 

    Politicians like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Ronald DeSantis and Mike Johnson must have misheard the plea and thought GLAAD asked for everyone to 'spread anti-LGBTQ disinformation and incite violence.'  That's the only excu -- Wait.  There is no excuse.  None at all.  These are people's lives. Rachel Levine is a woman doing her job.  Does Marjorie Taylor Greene have a problem with Dr Levine's job performance?  Because calling her crazy and lying that she's a "groomer" and all the rest?  There's no excuse for any of it.  And shame on the Republican Party and everyone who enables them.  This is not the behavior of elected officials.  Their peers in Congress should be holding them accountable.  Rachel is a doctor, a sixty-six year old woman.  There's no excuse for lying and calling her a "groomer." 

    Is there anything worse than Marjorie?  Her equal is Mike Johnson who has 'gay face' and rumors of past male lovers.  Is that why he attacks LGBTQ+ people?  I have no idea.  I do know he's coming off like Tallulah Bankhead in DIE! DIE! MY DARLING!  Tim Dickinson (ROLLING STONE) reports:

    In an October prayer call hosted by a Christian-nationalist MAGA pastor, Rep. Mike Johnson was troubled that America's wickedness was inviting God's wrath.

    Talking to pastor Jim Garlow on a broadcast of the World Prayer Network, Johnson spoke ominously of America facing a "civilizational moment." He said, "The only question is: Is God going to allow our nation to enter a time of judgment for our collective sins? … Or is he going to give us one more chance to restore the foundations and return to Him?"

    The segment was filmed Oct. 3, just weeks before Johnson's unexpected rise to become speaker of the House. Garlow pressed the clean-cut Louisiana congressman to say "more about this ‘time of judgment' for America." Johnson replied: "The culture is so dark and depraved that it almost seems irredeemable." He cited, as supposed evidence, the decline of national church attendance and the rise of LGBTQ youth - the fact, Johnson lamented, that "one-in-four high school students identifies as something other than straight." 

    He sounds like a raving closet queen.  And that's probably what he is.  People like that refuse to come out of the closet and hate those who have. 

    The Supreme Court on Thursday denied a request by Florida officials that would have allowed the state to enforce prohibitions on drag shows for now.

    The case deals with a law aimed at restricting drag shows where children are present. An Orlando bar called Hamburger Mary’s sued over the law, asserting it violated the First Amendment.  

    The following sites updated: