Saturday, November 25, 2023

Gaza and Iraq

BBC NEWS reports:

Tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators have marched through central London calling for a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

It was the first London march since Armistice Day, when more than 100 counter-protesters were arrested.

Police said 15 people had been arrested at the march, though the "overwhelming majority" protested lawfully.

The protest coincided with a four-day pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas. 

The pause has seen violence.  CNN notes:

Three boys were shot and wounded with live ammunition near Ofer prison earlier Saturday evening, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society.

A CNN team on the ground near Beitunia crossing, which is about 200 meters away from the Israeli prison, had witnessed many Palestinians waiting in the area for the expected release of the prisoners. The team heard three gunshots over the course of an hour and witnessed three boys being carried away on a stretcher over the same time period.

The Red Crescent said two of the boys were 17, and one was 16.

 CNN explains, "The Gaza Strip is 'the most dangerous place' in the world to be a child, according to the executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund."  NBC NEWS notes, "Strong majorities of all voters in the U.S. disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll. The erosion is most pronounced among Democrats, a majority of whom believe Israel has gone too far in its military action 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."  ABC NEWS notes, "In the neighboring Gaza Strip, at least 14,854 people have been killed and 36,000 have been injured, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry."  In addition to the dead and the injured, there are the missing.  AP notes, "About 4,000 people are reported missing."  And the area itself?  Isabele Debre (AP) reveals, "Israel’s military offensive has turned much of northern Gaza into an uninhabitable moonscape. Whole neighborhoods have been erased. Homes, schools and hospitals have been blasted by airstrikes and scorched by tank fire. Some buildings are still standing, but most are battered shells."  Kieron Monks (I NEWS) reports, "More than 40 per cent of the buildings in northern Gaza have been damaged or destroyed, according to a new study of satellite imagery by US researchers Jamon Van Den Hoek from Oregon State University and Corey Scher at the City University of New York. The UN gave a figure of 45 per cent of housing destroyed or damaged across the strip in less than six weeks. The rate of destruction is among the highest of any conflict since the Second World War."

It's about destroying Gaza and that includes the living and that includes the living that provide care.  CNN notes, "The Israeli military said it is still detaining the director of northern Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital, Dr. Mohammed Abu Salmiya. Earlier Saturday, the World Health Organization called for the legal and human rights of detained health workers to be respected. Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of using the hospital for combat and command purposes, which Hamas and hospital officials deny. So far, Israel has provided limited evidence of such use, with an alleged Hamas underground network having been viewed by only some Israeli reporters."  ALJAZEERA reports:

The UN office for humanitarian affairs (UNOCHA) has said that Israeli forces are reportedly arresting people moving from north and central Gaza towards the south through a checkpoint that Israel is describing as a “corridor”.

According to UNOCHA, people are being made to pass through an “unstaffed checkpoint” where they are asked to:

  • Show IDs
  • “Undergo what appears to be a facial recognition scan”

In one case in the last week, the UN says a child was left to pass through the checkpoint alone after his father was arrested at the checkpoint.

The UN is also raising concerns about the need for more child protection services to assist unaccompanied children.

Julia Conley (COMMON DREAMS) reports:

Humanitarian workers in Gaza on Thursday said their daily experiences struggling to take care of pregnant people and babies demonstrate why a four-day pause in fighting is far from sufficient to save the lives of the blockaded enclave's most vulnerable residents, including newborns who have begun to die from preventable causes.

As Israel's blockade continues to keep Gaza authorities from providing clean water, food, sanitation, and heat to homes and hospitals, babies aged three months and younger "are dying of diarrhea, hypothermia, dehydration, and infection," said Oxfam International.

Juzoor, an organization partnering with Oxfam in northern Gaza, said premature births have increased by 25-30% since October 7 when Israel began its bombardment of Gaza in retaliation for an attack by Hamas. 

Let's turn to Iraq.  Climate change is harming Iraq already.  At some point, the discoveries will become less 'fascinating' as the horrors of climate change become more clear.  For now?  EKATHIMERINI notes:

An inscription written in Aramaic and Greek that means “giver of the two brothers,” and a coin, a silver drachma, suggest to archaeologists at the British Museum in London the discovery of a temple in Iraq that was built at the request of Alexander the Great and was dedicated to Greek deities and to the warrior king himself. 

Archaeologists at the museum who are excavating the ancient Sumerian city of Girsu, in the modern-day town of Tello, last year unearthed the remains of a 4,000-year-old ancient temple. They believe that within the site there was a Greek temple dedicated to Alexander and his “brother,” the demigod Hercules.

PROTOTHEM also notes this story:

One of the last acts by Alexander the Great before dying at the tender age of 32 might have been dedicating a Greek temple to honor ancient gods and confirm his own divine status. This is according to archaeologists from the British Museum working in the ancient city of Girsu in southern Iraq who have unearthed a 4,000-year-old Sumerian temple. The later Greek inscriptions, extremely cryptic and tough to gauge, had made no sense to the archaeology team, until now.

Girsu, also known as Tiris, was an ancient Sumerian city located in southern Mesopotamia, in what is now modern-day Iraq. The city flourished during the Early Dynastic and Ur III periods of Sumerian history, roughly between the 26th and 21st centuries BC. Girsu was a significant city of the Sumerian civilization, the first in the world, and played a crucial role in the development of early Mesopotamian culture.


The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights observes:

Jassim Al-Asadi was born in a boat in the marshes of southern Iraq. Sixty-six years later, his life still revolves around the marshes, now as an environmental activist and a water-resources engineer fighting to save them from extinction.

“This used to be green pastures and reeds, but the place has dried up,” said Al-Asadi as he walked in blistering heat in a landscape of barren, cracked earth. “Over there is a house where a buffalo rancher used to live, but he abandoned it and moved near the Euphrates River. There are no more buffalo pastures.”

The Marsh Arabs, the wetlands' indigenous population of Iraq, have fished and cultivated crops here for 5,000 years, raising water buffaloes and building houses from reedbeds on floating reed islands at the place where the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers meet before flowing into the Gulf.

But climate change, water pollution, oil exploration and the construction of upstream dams are threatening the survival of this delicate ecosystem and its ancient Mesopotamian culture, which some trace back to the Sumerians.

Al-Asadi, head of the leading conservation group Nature Iraq, said a drought now in its fourth year is turning vast areas of once flourishing wetlands and agricultural land into desert. Salinity is rising in the shrinking channels and waterways, killing fish and making buffaloes sick.

“There is a change operating in the environment,” said Al-Asadi, who worked for more than 30 years as an engineer in Iraq’s Ministry of Water Resources. “One of the reasons is climate change and the effect of climate change on water levels in the Euphrates and Tigris in Iraq.”

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Baldwin Pushes to Crack Down on Big Oil Mergers and Prevent Price Hikes at Pump for Wisconsinites

Baldwin Pushes to Crack Down on Big Oil Mergers and Prevent Price Hikes at Pump for Wisconsinites

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ahead of Thanksgiving and increased travel, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) joined her colleagues in pushing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate and crack down on Big Oil mergers that greatly reduce competition and drive up gas prices at the pump for Wisconsin families.

The letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan urges the FTC to closely review two newly-proposed mergers by the two largest oil companies in the United States. ExxonMobil’s proposed $60 billion acquisition of Pioneer Natural Resources and Chevron’s proposed $53 billion acquisition of Hess Corporation are two of the largest petroleum deals in American history.

“Exxon’s and Chevron’s operations downstream would enable them to redirect Pioneer’s and Hess’s crude supply to themselves, away from (and possibly to the detriment of) their midstream competitors,” wrote the Senators. “These new market dynamics could result in price hikes for midstream customers, and such added costs are often passed downstream to retail customers, including drivers at gas stations.”

Americans have felt the negative effects of unchecked Big Oil mergers for decades. A wave of nearly 3,000 mergers in the 1990s caused the number of major American energy companies to plummet, creating a Big Oil oligopoly in which oil companies have continued to see increasing profits, and consumers are left with higher gas prices. 

“By 2005, due to the wave of mergers, the top five controlled 55 percent of the market, and the largest ten had 81.4 percent. This increase in concentration enabled the largest players to manipulate the industry by withholding supply in order to drive up prices, and since most of the firms were also vertically integrated, they benefited from higher prices at the retail level, as well,” the senators continued.

Senator Baldwin has pushed to hold Big Oil accountable and keep prices at the pump down for Wisconsin families. Earlier this year, she introduced legislation to crack down on Big Oil price gouging by clawing back windfall profits from the five biggest producers to deliver relief for consumers in the form of rebates.

Full text of the letter can be found here and below.

Dear Chair Khan:

We write regarding our concerns about two blockbuster oil-and-gas deals announced in October: ExxonMobil’s (Exxon) proposed $60 billion acquisition of Pioneer Natural Resources (Pioneer) and Chevron’s proposed $53 billion acquisition of Hess Corporation (Hess) – two of the largest oil-and-gas deals of the 21st century. By allowing Exxon and Chevron to further integrate their extensive operations into important oil-and-gas fields, these deals are likely to harm competition, risking increased consumer prices and reduced output throughout the United States. At the regional level, the deals threaten to harm small operators and suppress wages. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) must carefully consider all of the possible anticompetitive harms that these acquisitions present. Should the FTC determine that these mergers would violate antitrust law, we urge you to oppose them.

This Industry Is Already Too Concentrated, and Americans Are Already Paying the Price.

In the 1990s, over 2,600 mergers occurred throughout all segments of the U.S. petroleum industry. Between 1990 and 2001, the number of major U.S. energy companies plunged by more than half, dropping from 19 to 9, due to merger activity. Most notably, Exxon merged with Mobil in 1999; Chevron merged with Texaco in 2001 (after Chevron had already acquired Gulf Oil and Texaco had already bought Getty Oil in the 1980s). Such consolidation enabled anticompetitive coordination in the industry, and the remaining firms were well aware that they were members of an oligopoly with a “small number of companies involved, all of whom share[d] a motivation to recoup costs and not undermine the market.” For example, according to internal Mobil and BP documents, the majors understood that “[f]looding the market and depressing margins on the base volume” they marketed was unprofitable.  Likewise, they knew that directing their individual supplies into, or away from, particular regions of the country enabled them to achieve “price uplift scenarios” and to “leverage up” prices. The Government Accountability Office found that five specific mergers from that time period – Marathon-Ashland, Shell-Texaco I (Equilon), BP-Amoco, MAP-UDS, and Exxon-Mobil – led to wholesale gasoline price increases ranging from 0.39 to 5.00 cents per gallon. Of those five, the price increase due to the Exxon-Mobil merger was the greatest.

After these huge mergers took place, the majors’ upstream operations were skewed to the detriment of consumers. Studies at the time demonstrated that spending on drilling for new oil supplies by the merged giants fell significantly compared to the drilling budgets before their mergers. Strangely enough, the majors cut back on upstream production at a time when crude prices were sky high and exploration costs had fallen by more than half, “one of the biggest potential disconnects between supply and demand in the 150-year history of the oil business.” These anticompetitive tactics resulted in a fragile supply for the nation where isolated mishaps at refineries or broken pipelines caused enormous price spikes for consumers (as took place in 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2005) – all of which financially benefited the oligopolists, providing them no incentive to stabilize national supply.

Consolidation in midstream operations hurt Americans consumers, as well. In 1993, the largest five oil refiners had a collective share of about one-third of the American market, and the largest ten controlled 55.6 percent. By 2005, due to the wave of mergers, the top five controlled 55 percent of the market, and the largest ten had 81.4 percent. This increase in concentration enabled the largest players to manipulate the industry by withholding supply in order to drive up prices, and since most of the firms were also vertically integrated, they benefited from higher prices at the retail level, as well.

Similar market dynamics exist today. The oil-and-gas industry is still dominated by a handful of corporate giants, led by the top-two players Exxon and Chevron. Any further consolidation could harm American consumers. This is especially true given the inelastic demand for gas products; those who drive to work rarely have substitutes for gas, so as prices rise, people do not purchase less gas. In April 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic began, retail gasoline prices averaged $1.84. Prices steadily rose for two years, hitting a historic height of $4.93 in June 2022, and remain relatively high today at $3.84. Meanwhile, Exxon and Chevron posted their own historic heights in 2022: $56 billion in profits for Exxon and $36.5 billion for Chevron. They were not alone; Big Oil corporations collectively earned an industry high of nearly $200 billion last year. President Biden rightfully called for the FTC to investigate the oil industry for price gouging since such surges cannot be explained away by increased production costs from the pandemic or inflation, especially in light of these firms’ astronomical profits.

The Deals Could Harm Competition and Lead to Even Higher Prices for Americans.

Exxon is the largest oil-and-gas corporation in the United States, operating up and down the supply chain and across the entire industry. Its acquisition target, Pioneer, is an upstream petroleum operator drilling in Texas’s Permian Basin. Pioneer owns more drilling acreage than any other producer in the Permian where Exxon is also a top producer. A merged Exxon-Pioneer could produce a staggering 1.2 million barrels per day – more than twice the amount of the next competitor. Accordingly, this deal would enable the new Exxon to dominate the Permian – the most prolific oil-and-gas field in the world and America’s most important.

Chevron is America’s 2nd largest oil-and-gas firm with integrated operations rivaling Exxon’s. Hess is one of the largest producers in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale, the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, and offshore Guyana.

Supporters of the deals have argued that the global market for oil and gas is so enormous that dominant firms in the relevant basins would not have enough supply to restrict capacity or raise prices in any meaningful way. Focusing only on the global market is improper. Even if these energy firms represent a small fraction of the global petroleum market, the question before the FTC is whether these proposed transactions may substantially lessen competition in any line of commerce. Thus, the FTC must consider how Exxon’s or Chevron’s vertically integrated operations may harm American competition in any national or regional market. For example, Exxon owns extensive midstream operations in the Permian Basin, meaning Exxon controls storage, refining, and transportation for a significant amount of capacity in the region where it will acquire Pioneer’s drilling operations. Exxon has an extensive pipeline system that transfers crude supply from the Permian to the Texas Gulf Coast. Recently, Exxon expanded its refinery operations on the Texas Gulf Coast by an additional capacity of 250,000 barrels per day and announced plans to ramp up its exporting operations on the Texas Gulf Coast, suggesting that Exxon-Pioneer intends to move significantly more oil and gas out of the United States than the two companies exported separately. Exxon’s CEO Darren Woods put it more bluntly in 2020: “These projects are export machines, generating products that high-growth nations need to support larger populations with higher standards of living. Those overseas markets are the motivation behind our investments. The supply is here; the demand is there. We want to keep connecting those dots.” This export strategy – in the nation’s most important oil-and-gas field, no less – could reduce the amount of their capacity ultimately available to American consumers and thereby increase prices throughout the energy supply chain, including at the gas pump. Furthermore, as we described above, the major energy firms already have a history of artificially reducing supply and increasing prices following rounds of consolidation.

If this “consolidation trend in the US” continues accelerating, competing exploration-and-production companies will find it increasingly difficult to operate without Exxon’s and Chevron’s networks, which creates new abilities and incentives for Exxon and Chevron to engage in anticompetitive tactics. Exxon’s and Chevron’s operations downstream would enable them to redirect Pioneer’s and Hess’s crude supply to themselves, away from (and possibly to the detriment of) their midstream competitors. These new market dynamics could result in price hikes for midstream customers, and such added costs are often passed downstream to retail customers, including drivers at gas stations.

We also urge you to investigate how an Exxon-Pioneer merger might impact local operators in the Permian as well as oilfield employees such as geologists and engineers. Potential anticompetitive harms at any level of the supply chain and in any market merit consideration by the FTC. 

The FTC Must Protect Americans from Big Oil. These deals also demonstrate how corporate consolidation can frustrate self-governing democracy. At a time when Americans overwhelmingly support governmental efforts to clean up the environment and protect our nation from climate disasters, Exxon and Chevron are doubling down on fossil-fuel production. The proposed transactions would augment these corporations’ outsized political power, further enabling them to spend millions on lobbyists to thwart climate legislation, litigation to slash environmental rules, and a coordinated campaign to mislead consumers and discredit climate science – all to protect their billions in profits. By taking actions to promote competition, the FTC would also prevent the fossil-fuel industry from further subverting our democratic processes.

Under President Biden, the FTC has been willing to stand up to Big Oil. Just last year, the FTC required an energy private-equity fund to divest its entire crude-oil business in Utah before allowing a similar transaction to close, expressing concerns that the deal would lead to higher prices for refiners and consumers at the pump.

The fight against Big Oil is not new. When the Justice Department took on Standard Oil in the early twentieth century, the Supreme Court protected competition by breaking up Standard Oil into 43 different firms. Eventually, the global industry reorganized into seven dominant global players, including five prominent American companies – three of which (Standard Oil of California, Gulf Oil, and Texaco) combined into today’s Chevron, and two of which were Standard Oil of New Jersey (now known as Exxon) and Standard Oil of New York (now known as Mobil). In our view, the FTC should not have approved the ExxonMobil merger in 1999, which created the largest corporate successor of Standard Oil’s original illegal monopoly, or the merger between Chevron and Texaco in 2001. Lax enforcement during that period resulted in market manipulation, unstable supply, and price hikes for Americans. We must avoid similar mistakes going forward. It is incumbent upon the FTC to closely review the Exxon-Pioneer and Chevron-Hess acquisitions and take appropriate action should such reviews uncover any possible anticompetitive effects enabled by the acquisitions. 

If anything, the FTC should be investigating the past anticompetitive mergers of Big Oil conglomerates like ExxonMobil and Chevron to determine whether these energy giants should be broken up once again.

We appreciate your attention to these serious matters.



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Tlaib Statement on Temporary Pause in Violence in Gaza


Tlaib Statement on Temporary Pause in Violence in Gaza

Nov 22, 2023

DETROIT — Today, Representative Rashida Tlaib (MI-12) released the following statement:

“A temporary pause in the violence is not enough. We must move with urgency to save as many lives as possible and achieve a permanent ceasefire agreement. Over 14,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since this violence began, including thousands of children, and 1.7 million Palestinians have been displaced from their homes.

“Further displacement of Palestinians and forced annexation of their land will only perpetuate this conflict. Expanding the illegal occupation will never lead to a just and lasting peace. We must address the root causes of this conflict.

“When this short-term agreement expires, the bombing of innocent civilians will continue. We need a permanent ceasefire that saves lives, brings all the hostages and those arbitrarily detained home, and puts an end to this horrific violence.”


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Congresswoman Bush Statement on Hostage Release, Temporary Pause in Violence in Gaza

November 22, 2023

Congresswoman Bush Statement on Hostage Release, Temporary Pause in Violence in Gaza

Washington, D.C. (Nov. 22, 2023)— Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01) released the following statement upon the announcement of a U.S.-brokered agreement between Israel and Hamas:


“Tonight’s announcement of a temporary pause in violence and the release of women and children who are being held hostage and arbitrarily detained is a welcome and necessary start. It further proves the effectiveness of de-escalation and diplomacy—not military force—as a means of saving lives and affirms why we must keep up our push for a permanent ceasefire. Already over 14,000 Palestinians have been killed, including nearly 6,000 children, more than 30,000 have been wounded and thousands more are at risk of death due to the lack of medicine, food, and water brought on by the ongoing siege of Gaza. When this agreement expires, the bombing will continue, thousands more will die, and millions of people will continue to be displaced. We must continue to vigorously push for a permanent ceasefire that ends this violence, protects and saves lives, and ensures the safe return of all hostages, including those who are being arbitrarily detained.”


On October 16th, Congresswoman Bush, alongside Representatives Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), André Carson (IN-07), Summer Lee (PA-12), and Delia C. Ramirez (IL-03) led their colleagues in introducing 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.



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Senator Murray Announces Nearly $2 Million to Clean Up Hazardous Sites, Research Impact of Environmental Stressors on Children


Senator Murray Announces Nearly $2 Million to Clean Up Hazardous Sites, Research Impact of Environmental Stressors on Children

Senator Murray: “Cleaning up hazardous brownfield sites and understanding the effects that agricultural pesticides have on children’s health are important steps towards protecting our environment and families in Washington state.”

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced $1.9 million in combined funding for the cleanup and development of brownfield sites in western Washington state, and for a University of Washington study into the impact of environmental stressors on early childhood development in agricultural communities. The brownfield cleanup grants are administered by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Brownfields and Land Revitalization Program and funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which Senator Murray helped pass as Assistant Majority Leader.

A brownfield is a property polluted by a hazardous substance or contaminant that prevents the redevelopment or reuse of the land for homes and businesses. The EPA Brownfield Grants Program funding awarded to Tumwater and Kelso provides resources to characterize, assess, and carry out cleanup activities at brownfield sites.

“Cleaning up hazardous brownfield sites and understanding the effects that agricultural pesticides have on children’s health are important steps towards protecting our environment and families in Washington state,” said Senator Murray. Living up to our promise of environmental justice for all communities is something I take very seriously, and these federal dollars for brownfield cleanup and critically important environmental health research at UW will help us fulfill this commitment.”

The three projects awarded EPA funding are:

  • $500,000 for the City of Tumwater for brownfield cleanup and development.
  • $500,000 for the City of Kelso for brownfield cleanup and development.
  • $910,00 for the University of Washington to support a research project characterizing environmental stressors on early childhood development in agricultural communities. The project will study impacts to children in who are exposed to chemical and non-chemical stressors in the early stages of their life from nearby farms.


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Designation of Former Colombian General Jésus Armando Arias Cabrales Due to Involvement in a Gross Violation of Human Rights

From the US State Dept:

The United States is designating former Colombian General Jésus Armando Arias Cabrales due to his involvement in a gross violation of human rights during the retaking of the Palace of Justice of Bogotá in November 1985.  As a result of today’s action, Arias Cabrales, his wife Martha Paulina Isaza de Arias, and his children Francisco Armando Arias Isaza and Martha Lucia Arias Isaza, are ineligible for entry into the United States.

The United States steadfastly supports Colombia’s 2016 Peace Accord and joins the Colombian people in commemorating its seventh anniversary.  The United States congratulates Colombia on this anniversary, and we value its continuing achievements thus far. We also commend the Special Jurisdiction for Peace’s (JEP) work to end impunity for conflict-related crimes.  The JEP integrates reparative justice and acknowledgment with criminal prosecutions to ensure victims play a central role in all stages of the peace process.

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Iraq snapshot

Friday, November 24, 2023.  The pause passed off as a 'cease-fire' has already seen Israeli forces kill two Palestinians as the assault on Gaza continues, US President Joe Biden is upsetting the government of Iraq with his ordered assault on their military forces, and much more.

Scott Newman, Daniel Estrin and Brian Mann (NPR) report, "A four-day [pause] between Israel and Hamas in Gaza went into effect early Friday. The temporary truce sets the stage for the first exchange of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners in the nearly seven-week conflict."  The pause has not stopped the violence.  CBS NEWS reports, "CBS News producer Marwan al-Ghoul saw Israeli forces open fire Friday on Palestinians who decided to risk heading back to their homes in northern Gaza despite leaflets dropped by the IDF warning them against it. Al-Ghoul said thousands of displaced civilians left the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis to head back north, but when they reached a crossover point in central Gaza, they encountered a line of Israeli tanks and were fired on by Israeli forces."  And, no, these weren't 'warning' shots.  AFP adds, "Israeli troops fatally shot two Palestinians and wounded 11 others as they headed toward the main combat zone in northern Gaza despite warnings by the Israeli army to stay put.  An Associated Press journalist saw the two bodies and the wounded as they arrived at a hospital in the town of Deir al-Balah in the southern half of Gaza."  CNN notes, " A journalist told CNN that Israeli tanks were seen and gunfire could be heard on Salah Al-Din street."

Cease-fire?  It was never a cease-fire, it is a pause.  And if that's not clear, the two Palestinians shot dead by Israeli forces this morning prove there has been no cease-fire.

Yes, the assault on Gaza continues.

 CNN explains, "The Gaza Strip is 'the most dangerous place' in the world to be a child, according to the executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund."  NBC NEWS notes, "Strong majorities of all voters in the U.S. disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll. The erosion is most pronounced among Democrats, a majority of whom believe Israel has gone too far in its military action 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."  ABC NEWS notes, "In the neighboring Gaza Strip, at least 14,854 people have been killed and 36,000 have been injured, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry."  In addition to the dead and the injured, there are the missing.  AP notes, "About 4,000 people are reported missing."  And the area itself?  Isabele Debre (AP) reveals, "Israel’s military offensive has turned much of northern Gaza into an uninhabitable moonscape. Whole neighborhoods have been erased. Homes, schools and hospitals have been blasted by airstrikes and scorched by tank fire. Some buildings are still standing, but most are battered shells."


The rhetoric of ‘humanitarian pause’ is illustrative of a media disinformation campaign designed to affirm certain attitudes and stigmatize others. For instance, the Israeli pledge to resume the war after this brief interlude of relative calm rarely includes critical comments on the sinister nature of this commitment to reengage Hamas by recourse to genocidal warfare. In contrast, when released hostages report humane treatment by their captors this is either belittled or altogether ignored, whereas if released Palestinian prisoners were to make analogous comments about how they enjoyed Israeli prisons their words would be highlighted. We can only imagine the harsh response of Western media outlets to Russia’s participation in a comparable pause in the Ukraine War, dismissing any humanitarian pretensions by Moscow as cynical state propaganda.

Unless properly addressed the whole provenance of ‘humanitarian pause’ is misunderstood. Remember that Israel’s political leaders went ahead with such an alternative only when it was made clear that Israel had no intention of converting the pause into a longer-range ceasefire, to be followed by ‘day after’ negotiations as to the viability of continuing occupation and a new agreement as to governance arrangements for Hamas. Rather than sustaining their nationalist cult by dismissing Hamas as ‘terrorists’ the security of Israel might be enhanced by treating Hamas as a legitimate political entity, which although guilty of violations of international law, is far less guilty than Israel if a fair evaluation is made, and some account is taken of Hamas’ long-term ceasefire diplomacy is considered as a preferable security alternative.

In retrospect, I understand better the rationale behind this apparently genuine Hamas efforts, which I received first-hand evidence of due to extended conversations with Hamas leaders living in Doha and Cairo while I was UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories a decade ago. Israel could not take seriously what appeared to be beneficial from its security perspective of such Hamas initiatives or the 2002 Arab Peace Proposal issued in Mecca. Both Hamas and the Arab proposal conditioned peace on withdrawal from the Occupied Territory of the West Bank, which has long been in the gun sights of the settler wing of the Zionist Project, and consistently given priority over Israeli security by its leaders, long before Netanyahu’s Coalition made this unmistakably clear when it took over in January of 2023. Israel never accepted the internationally presumed notion that a Palestinian state would include the West Bank and have its capital in East Jerusalem.

It is this unwillingness to take account of the master/slave structure of prolonged occupation that gives a specious plausibility to both sides’ narratives embodying the delusion that Israel and Occupied Palestine are formally and existentially equal. Such narratives equate, or invert, the Hamas attack with the Israeli genocidal onslaught that followed, regarding the former as ‘barbaric’ while the latter is generally sympathetically described as Israel’s reasonable and necessary entitlement to defend itself. Variations of such themes are integral to the apologetics of former US mediating officials such as Dennis Roth or liberal Zionist casuists such as Thomas Friedman.

The efforts to control the narrative have failed.  In the US, for example, those under 50 tend to grasp the realities and the younger in adulthood you go, the greater the percentage.  Yet people continue to attempt to censor and practice thought control.  Jessica Corbett (COMMON DREAMS) reports on one such attempt:

The Nation this week published a piece about Israel's genocidal war on the Gaza Strip that the Harvard Law Review commissioned from a Palestinian scholar but then refused to run after several days of internal debate, a nearly six-hour meeting, and a board vote.

The essay—"The Ongoing Nakba: Towards a Legal Framework for Palestine," by Rabea Eghbariah, a human rights attorney and doctoral candidate at Harvard Law School—begins: "Genocide is a crime. It is a legal framework. It is unfolding in Gaza. And yet, the inertia of legal academia, especially in the United States, has been chilling."

The controversy over Eghbariah's own piece helps prove his point. In an email to Eghbariah and Harvard Law Review president Apsara Iyer, online chair Tascha Shahriari-Parsa, one of the editors who commissioned the blog article, called the bid to kill it an "unprecedented decision" by the academic journal's leadership.

The Interceptreported on that email and others from those involved:

"As online chairs, we have always had full discretion to solicit pieces for publication," Shahriari-Parsa wrote, informing Eghbariah that his piece would not be published despite following the agreed-upon procedure for blog essays. Shahriari-Parsa wrote that concerns had arisen about staffers being offended or harassed, but "a deliberate decision to censor your voice out of fear of backlash would be contrary to the values of academic freedom and uplifting marginalized voices in legal academia that our institution stands for."

Both Shahriari-Parsa and the other top online editor, Sabrina Ochoa, told The Intercept that they had never seen a piece face this level of scrutiny at the Law Review. Shahriari-Parsa could find no previous examples of other pieces pulled from publication after going through the standard editorial process.

In a statement, the Harvard Law Review said that it "has rigorous editorial processes governing how it solicits, evaluates, and determines when and whether to publish a piece. An intrinsic feature of these internal processes is the confidentiality of our 104 editors' perspectives and deliberations. Last week, the full body met and deliberated over whether to publish a particular blog piece that had been solicited by two editors. A substantial majority voted not to proceed with publication."

According to The Nation, 63% of editors who participated in the anonymous vote opposed publication.

"At a time when the Law Review was facing a public intimidation and harassment campaign, the journal's leadership intervened to stop publication," 25 editors said in a statement shared with The Nation and The Intercept. "The body of editors—none of whom are Palestinian—voted to sustain that decision."

"We are unaware of any other solicited piece that has been revoked by the Law Review in this way," they added. "This unprecedented decision threatens academic freedom and perpetuates the suppression of Palestinian voices. We dissent."

Eghbariah wrote in an email to an editor: "This is discrimination. Let's not dance around it—this is also outright censorship. It is dangerous and alarming."

It is also part of a broader trend identified by more than 1,700 lawyers and law students. In a letter to the American Bar Association last week, they noted "increasing instances of discrimination and censorship faced by Palestinian, Muslim, Arab, South Asian, Black, Indigenous, immigrant, and other communities within law schools, universities, law firms, and other corporate entities, particularly due to their expression of support for the Palestinian people." 

In a post on X, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the start of the humanitarian pause and the entry of aid into Gaza, calling it a “step in the right direction”.

“But much more is needed,” he warned.

“We continue to call for a sustainable ceasefire to end further civilian suffering.”

Around the world, protests have taken place with people demanding a cease-fire -- not a pause, a cease-fire.  The world has said "enough."  The world has said a cease-fire is a must.  AP notes, "Thousands of people led by Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel marched along Havana’s iconic boardwalk Thursday in a show of solidarity with the Palestinian people and demanding an end to the war between Israel and Hamas."  WSWS adds, "In Germany, too, many thousands are defying the pro-Israel stance of the Social Democrat-led Federal Government and Bundestag (parliament), to participate in pro-Palestine demonstrations. In Berlin, a demonstration of more than 5,000, including whole families with children, moved from the main train station to the Großer Stern on Saturday afternoon."  And they note, "High school students across the city of Melbourne went on strike Thursday against Israel’s genocide in Gaza. A crowd of students, estimated at over 1,000, gathered outside Flinders Street Station in the city centre. This marked the first of other planned school strikes around Australia this week, including today in Sydney, Adelaide and Wollongong."  Australia's ABC NEWS notes:

Pro-Palestinian rallies have been going on for weeks across the country. The protests are dominated by young people.

That's not a surprise for Associate Professor Tanya Notley, who leads the Advancing Media Literacy research program at Western Sydney University.

"Young people who are really highly engaged with news are also more likely to be taking a range of civic actions in their communities, and on the issues that matter to them," the media academic said.

THE DAILY SABAH notes, "Outcry in Türkiye has been one of the most intense among global protests against Israel’s brutal war on Gaza, which is now in its seventh week, data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) showed."  They protested in NYC at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day ParadeJoe Gill (MIDDLE EAST EYE) explains:

Once again, it is our western governments that have endorsed and supported Israel’s war of annihilation. And like the invasion of Iraq 20 years before, millions have taken to the streets to protest against a war launched in their name.

Gaza is also a war of narratives, of governments against their people, with western corporate media attempting to hold a line in favour of Israel’s legitimacy while millions in western countries are increasingly seeing the scales fall from their eyes.

Last week, a group of 50 people drove onto the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge during the morning rush hour and stopped their cars, throwing their car keys into the bay and blocking traffic for hours. “Fifteen protesters covered themselves in shrouds and laid down in front of vehicles to represent dead bodies in Gaza,” the New York Times reported. 

Meanwhile, in Washington State on 7 November, hundreds of pro-Palestinian demonstrators rallied at the Port of Tacoma to block a military supply vessel they believe was carrying weapons from the United States to Israel. 

“We want a ceasefire now. We want people to stop getting murdered now. We want a real examination and action on US foreign policy and US funding to Israel,” said Wassim Hage, community outreach coordinator with the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, an organiser of the Tacoma rally.

Other groups have blocked ports to prevent weapons shipments being loaded onto ships for Israel, in California, Belgium, Australia, and at a BAE arms factory in Kent, UK. This kind of direct action protest to block weapons shipments is spreading.

As our political elites give carte blanche support to Israel’s total war on the Gaza Strip’s 2.2 million Palestinians, global protests, including direct actions and sit-ins at major rail terminals from New York to London, are sweeping European and American cities.

Again, the world is demanding a true cease-fire; not a four day "pause" passed off as a cease-fire.  Jordan Shilton (WSWS) writes:

The brief lull in Israel’s savage onslaught on the defenceless civilian population of Gaza scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. local time Thursday is widely being presented as a “ceasefire,” or at least a “humanitarian pause.”

Assuming the agreement is fulfilled, which is by no means assured, it will amount to little more than an operational pause in Israel’s military offensive to ethnically cleanse Gaza by carrying out a genocide against the Palestinian people.

The terms of the agreement, mediated by Qatar and the United States, include the release by Hamas of 50 women and children among the approximately 240 Israelis captured by Hamas fighters during the October 7 incursion into Israel. In return, Israel will release 150 Palestinian detainees, halt fighting in the Gaza Strip for four days, and permit 200 trucks carrying aid to enter the enclave each day. The number of Palestinian detainees being released is minuscule compared to the over 10,000 Palestinians held in detention by Israel under the most brutal conditions, including routine torture.

The agreement remains highly unstable, illustrated by the announcement late Wednesday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser that the release of the first hostages would be delayed by up to 24 hours and only take place Friday. During the four-day pause, Israel will refrain from operating aircraft and drones over southern Gaza, but in the north they will only do so during a short window between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. each day.

All Israeli ground forces will remain in place, ready to resume battle at a moment’s notice. As Netanyahu put it at a press conference Wednesday evening, “When the pause is done, we resume the war. It may be that we are forced to do so much earlier.” He also rejected any suggestion that the pause applied to Israel’s northern border, where the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have been striking Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon. Underlining the point, War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz told the same press conference, “What’s happening now in northern Gaza can also happen in southern Lebanon and Beirut.”

The US government is not listening to its citizens.  And it appears to be offended by protests in other countries.  Iraq, especially in Baghdad, has seen one protest after another against the assault on Gaza.  They have rightly tied in the occupation of Gaza to the occupation they experience from the US -- the US government recently gave 'independent' Iraq the permission to do a gas deal with Iran.  

US President Joe Biden has put all US forces in the Middle East at risk, painted a target on their backs, by refusing to support the Palestinian people.  We've noted that repeatedly.  We've noted that the attacks in Syria and Iraq on US forces, over fifty such since the assault on Gaza began, are not by "Iranian-backed militias."  We've explained repeatedly that these attacks are carried by Iraqi forces.

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.

On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, the US government attacked Iraqi forces.  Not "militias linked to Iran."  They are Iraqi forces and that didn't start yesterday.  

Guess what?  The US government did not scare off Iraqi forces.  No, they've attacked the US military sites multiple times since Wednesday.

Now I've said Joe painted the target on the backs of US service members.  And he has but, let's be clear, the US media has assisted him.  They continue to lie and pretend that these attacks come from Iran.  No.  Stop lying.

The United States has conducted two retaliatory airstrikes against Iraqi militias this week after ballistic missile attacks against America’s Al Asad Air Base, the latest in a troubling tit-for-tat between the U.S. and Iran-backed militias in the region that was triggered by the Israel-Hamas conflict.

CENTCOM appears to believe that the status quo of attack and reprisal with Iraqi militias is sustainable. There’s an assumption that Washington, Iran, and Iraq’s militias understand each other’s red lines. However, this assumption comes with a lot of risks.

The potential for one-upmanship between various Shi’a militias, each trying to prove they’re more hostile toward Americans than the others, is a concerning possibility. A deadly attack on U.S. troops could prompt the Biden administration to respond more forcefully, especially in an election year. What is the administration’s plan to manage escalation and prevent a larger regional war (with heavy U.S. involvement) if this were to occur?

While the timing and scale of the war in Gaza may have been unpredictable, it was always evident that the presence of scattered U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria posed a risk of escalating the U.S. into greater conflict in such an unpredictable region. That’s why I’ve long argued for rethinking America’s military posture in Iraq, including in new research this year exploring how Washington could conduct a phased withdrawal of troops and successfully recalibrate our approach to the country and region.

It is true that the presence of U.S. military advisors in Iraq helps maintain cohesion and a working relationship between competing factions of Iraq’s military. U.S. troops also offer critical capabilities in the fight to contain ISIS. But it is time for Washington to consider whether these benefits are outweighed by the risk of malign actors using U.S. troops to provoke a wider conflict – either intentionally or inadvertently.

While the risks of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq are apparent, the overall utility of their presence is unclear (particularly in deterring attacks on themselves). With each new day comes a fresh opportunity for crisis. It’s past time Washington grappled with the true costs and benefits of our military presence.

I've reposted that in full to be fair because that think tank is far to the right of me.  That's their opinion and in their words.  Again, It's not a 'militia.'  It is part of the Iraqi military forces.  But grasp that even the people at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft grasp what the US press keeps ignoring.

Still not getting it?

Why don't we turn to the Iraqi press. Amr Salem (IRAQI NEWS) reports:

The Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fuad Hussein, confirmed on Wednesday that the recent US escalation is dangerous and violates the sovereignty of Iraq.

Hussein’s statements took place during his meeting with the US Ambassador to Iraq, Alina Romanowski, according to a statement cited by the Iraqi News Agency (INA).

The Iraqi Foreign Minister conveyed the government’s disapproval of the recent US strikes against sites belonging to the Popular Mobilization Forces in the Babylon governorate’s Jurf Al-Nasr, without the Iraqi government’s knowledge.

Earlier on Wednesday, the spokesperson of the Iraqi government, Basem Al-Awadi, mentioned in a statement that the Iraqi government considers the recent escalation a dangerous step involving an unacceptable violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

At least five people were killed in the early hours of Wednesday after PMF sites southwest of Baghdad were targeted by air strikes carried out by US forces.

The US press -- and US think tanks -- can lie all they want but the reality is that on Wednesday, the US government physically attacked the Iraqi military.  And that's not just how the Iraqis see it -- which would be bad enough -- that's how it actually is.  Tom O'Connor (NEWSWEEK) notes, "Iraq, considered by the United States to be a regional security partner, has strongly condemned President Joe Biden's decision to conduct airstrikes against militias accused of attacking U.S. forces in the country, warning that a cycle of unrest threatens to destabilize the nation."  Julian Benocha (RUDAW) reports:

The Iraqi government said it “vehemently condemns” the US airstrikes on Iran-backed Iraqi militia positions in Jurf al-Nasr on Wednesday as a “blatant violation of sovereignty” as the strikes took place without government knowledge.

“We vehemently condemn the attack on Jurf al-Nasr, executed without the knowledge of Iraqi government agencies. This action is a blatant violation of sovereignty and an attempt to destabilize the security situation,” Basem al-Awadi, spokesperson for the Iraqi government, said in a statement. 

The statement came hours after US warplanes struck pro-Iran fighters in Jurf al-Nasr (formerly Jurf al-Sakhar) in northern Babil province, around 60 kilometers southwest of Baghdad. Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF, or Hashd al-Shaabi) confirmed to AFP that the strikes left eight fighters dead. 

Wednesday’s strike came hours after the US Central Command (CENTCOM) announced its first retaliatory strike targeting Iran-backed groups in Iraq since the start of the attacks on American personnel in Iraq and Syria over Washington’s support for Israel in its war against Gaza. The first retaliatory strike resulted in “several enemy casualties,” according to CENTCOM. 

“The Iraqi government is solely dedicated to enforcing the law and holding violators accountable, a prerogative exclusively within its purview. No party or foreign agency has the right to assume this role, as it contradicts Iraqi constitutional sovereignty and international law,” the government statement said, labeling the recent escalations as “a dangerous development.” 

He further criticized the US-led global coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS) for steering away from its intended mission of supporting Iraqi armed forces in the fight against the jihadist group. 

“The recent incident represents a clear violation of the coalition’s mission to combat   [Arabic acronym for ISIS] on Iraqi soil,” the statement added. 

It would be bad enough if the American government was falling blindly into these actions but that's not the case.  Multiple people at the US State Dept have lodged complaints about the US government's position on Gaza and warned that it harming the opinion of the US in the Middle East.  Joe has ignored those warnings when they've reached him.  

His blind-support of the Israeli government is bad enough for what's happening to the Palestinians but he's now also threatening whatever stability the US had imposed on Iraq with its continued occupation.  He's putting US service members at risk and he's risking destabilizing Iraq.

This is the time when people need to get real and tell him reality not just agree with him.  That's for the good of the Palestinians and for the good of human rights but also good for the United States.

In case we're not getting how fragile things are starting to get in Iraq, let me pull this from last night's entry:

Iraq?  As we focus on the assault on Gaza, we mention Iraq, we do not focus on it.  Cilia e-mailed asking if there was anything I felt we missed re: Iraq?

Yeah, Speaker of the House Mohammed al-Halbousi was removed from his post.  By the country's Supreme Court.  He was removed from office over an accusation that he forged the signature of MP Laith al-Dulaimi.  The court removed al-Dulaimi from office as well.

The story we didn't have time for.  I read over the Iraqi Constitution and there's nothing in there that gives the Federal Court the power to remove any MP from office.  The Council of Representatives has the power to remove one of its members.  But the Court has no say in that at all.  They can't even arrest for a felony (in Iraq, forgery is a felony) without the permission of the Council of Representatives.

They've created a power for themselves that does not exist.

By removing both the accuser and the accused (al-Dulaimi and al-Halbousi), they've also made clear that they didn't determine guilt in the matter.  Now they would have had to have had permission to do that from the Council.  That's in the Constitution.  So removing both the accuser and the accused?  That makes no sense.  One was telling the truth, one wasn't.  I have no idea which.

But the Supreme Court has no power to remove a member from the Council -- Speaker or otherwise.  This should could cause an outcry in Iraq for that reason.  It should also alarm legal observers around the world. 

The Supreme Court in Iraq now believes it can remove any member of Parliament.  And no one got convicted, by the way.  Grasp that as well.  So anytime the Court doesn't like a member of Parliament or that members politics, it's now claiming it can remove the member.  That is not how the government and its checks and balances are structured in the country's Constitution.

The following sites updated: