Saturday, March 30, 2024

Gaza day 176


As ALJAZEERA notes in the video above, lawyers for the United Kingdom's government have found that the government of Israel is breaking international law.   Toby Helm (THE OBSERVER) explains:

The British government has received advice from its own lawyers stating that Israel has breached international humanitarian law in Gaza but has failed to make it public, according to a leaked recording obtained by the Observer.

The comments, made by the Conservative chair of the House of Commons select committee on foreign affairs, Alicia Kearns, at a Tory fundraising event on 13 March are at odds with repeated ministerial denials and evasion on the issue.

On Saturday night, Kearns, a former Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence official, who has repeatedly pressed ministers, including foreign secretary David Cameron, on the legal advice they have received, stood by her comments and called for the government to come clean.

“I remain convinced the government has completed its updated assessment on whether Israel is demonstrating a commitment to international humanitarian law, and that it has concluded that Israel is not demonstrating this commitment, which is the legal determination it has to make,” she said. “Transparency at this point is paramount, not least to uphold the international rules-based order.”

The revelation will place Lord Cameron and prime minister Rishi Sunak under intense pressure because any such legal advice would mean the UK had to cease all arms sales to Israel without delay.

While this finding should prevent the UK from furnishing more weapons to Israel, the US government will, no doubt, continue to supply the death machine.  Yolande Knell  (BBC News) explains:

Despite a week of tensions with Israel over its conduct of the Gaza War, Washington is reported to have authorised arms transfers to its ally worth billions of dollars.

These include more than 1,800 MK84 2,000lb (900kg) bombs and 500 MK82 500lb bombs, as well as 25 F35A fighter jets, The Washington Post and Reuters news agency have said.

The larger bombs have previously been linked to air strikes in Gaza causing mass casualties.

Washington gives $3.8bn (£3bn) in annual military assistance to Israel.

But the latest package comes as the Biden administration has been raising concerns about rising civilian deaths in Gaza and humanitarian access to the territory, which the UN says is on the verge of famine.


Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi called on the international community to stop supplying Israel with weapons.

“UN agencies are telling horror stories of suffering in Gaza. Over 30,000 killed. Over two million people starved. These facts shame the world,” he posted on X.

“Weapons must stop flowing to Israel. Israel must be forced to end this catastrophe. This is what international law, what human values, demand,” he added.

If you think the US government can't look more insane on the world stage, you don't know the GOP.  Todd Spangler (USA TODAY) reports:

A video surfaced Friday night that appears to show U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Michigan, suggesting that nuclear weapons be dropped on Gaza. In the video, Walberg, while being asked about the Israeli-Hamas conflict suggested nuclear weapons be used in an attempt to "Get it over quick."

Walberg wasn't pictured in the video. But a voice that clearly sounded like his responded to a constituent's question asking why the U.S. − as President Joe Biden proposed in his State of the Union address this month − would "be spending our money" to build a temporary port off the Gaza coast to move humanitarian aid into that region. Walberg said he disagreed with doing so and that Israel was perhaps America's greatest ally in the world.

"We shouldn’t be spending a dime on humanitarian aid," Walberg said. "It should be like Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Get it over quick." The 47-second video ended immediately after that, so no other comments were captured.

Melissa Nann Burke (DETROIT NEWS) adds:

One of Walberg’s House colleagues, Democratic U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens of Birmingham, criticized Walberg’s remarks without using his name Saturday in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

“Threatening to use, suggesting the use of, or, God forbid actually using nuclear weapons, are unacceptable tactics of war in the 21st Century,” wrote Stevens, a staunch supporter of Israel. “As W.J. Hennigan recently & accurately described for the NYT, the use of nuclear weapons creates hell on earth.”

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, also condemned the remarks from Walberg, a former pastor.

“This is a reprehensible thing for anyone to suggest, especially an elected official and someone who considers himself a man of faith,” Slotkin said in a statement. “Rep. Walberg should take back his comments, and try to put himself in the shoes of the many Michiganders who see themselves in the casualties in Gaza.”

In response to the shocking and inhumane comments by Tim Walberg, CAIR issued the following statement:

The Michigan chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI), a local chapter of the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today condemned a recent call by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) to end humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people in Gaza facing Israeli-imposed starvation, ethnic cleansing and genocide, and instead drop nuclear weapons on the civilian population.

In a video of a talk Walberg reportedly gave March 25, he allegedly said: “We shouldn’t be spending a dime on humanitarian aid. It should be like Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Get it over quick.”

In a statement CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid said:

“This clear call to genocide by a member of Congress should be condemned by all Americans who value human life and international law. To so casually call for what would result in the killing of every human being in Gaza sends the chilling message that Palestinian lives have no value. It is this dehumanization of the Palestinian people that has resulted in the ongoing slaughter and suffering we see every day in Gaza and the West Bank.”

He noted that yesterday, CAIR strongly condemned a new American military aid package including 2,000-pound bombs and aircraft to Israel, saying that support for Israel’s genocide makes President Biden a “war criminal.” CAIR Deputy Executive Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said: “Arming a war criminal makes you a war criminal.”

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.                

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.                

Become a Fan of CAIR-Michigan on Facebook

Subscribe to CAIR-Michigan’s  Twitter Feed    

At COMMON DREAMS, Julia Conley notes that these calls for murder have been made by other Republicans in Congress:

Earlier this month, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) told a group of Palestinian rights advocates, "Goodbye to Palestine"—leading Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vt.) to say he had called "for the genocide of the Palestinian people."

Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) in February told an activist, "I think we should kill 'em all," when asked about Palestinian children who have been killed by Israel with U.S. military support, while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called for Israel to "level the place" soon after the war started. 

Death merchant Tim is due to his 73 next month.  When not in Congress, the dottering idiot worked for Moody Bible Institute out of Chicago as both a desk jockey and a pastor -- remember that when you see Moody Bible Institute on a resume.

The crazed fanatic belongs in a mental institution and should have been stripped of his Congressional office long ago.  From WIKIPEDIA:

On October 8, 2023, Walberg gave a keynote speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in Uganda, at the invitation of Ugandan legislator David Bahati. Walberg's trip to Uganda was paid for by The Fellowship, which sponsored the breakfast. During his speech, Walberg urged Uganda to "stand firm" against international pressure to "change you", apparently referencing sanctions by the United States government against Uganda over the recently enacted Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023, which prescribes lengthy prison sentences and in certain instances the death penalty for homosexual activities. “Worthless is the thought of the world, worthless, for instance, is the thought of the World Bank, or the World Health Organization, or the United Nations, or, sadly, some in our administration in America who say, ‘You are wrong for standing for values that God created,’ for saying there are male and female and God created them," said Walberg. Bahati, the original sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, stated that Walberg had told him “Uganda is on the right side of God,” when he asked Walberg if he were comfortable associating with Bahati. Walberg additionally praised Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, who also spoke at the breakfast, and who signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law. [37][38][39][40]

He's a death merchant and so is anyone who votes for him.

Let's note this from Friday's DEMOCRACY NOW!

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

In Gaza, the death toll has now topped 32,600, including 14,000 children, with over 75,000 people wounded. At least 31 people, including 27 children, have already died of malnutrition and dehydration.

For more, we go to Rafah in Gaza, where we’re joined by James Elder, spokesperson for UNICEF, which stands for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, James Elder. Thank you so much for joining us as you stand outside a hospital in Rafah. Talk about where you’ve been in Gaza and what’ve you found.

JAMES ELDER: Amy, hi there.

Look, I’ve been south to north, north to south. If we start here in the south, in Rafah, this is a city that’s normally 300,000 people, and it’s now about 1.5 million, so you can imagine the congestion. I’m looking now at a field hospital. The number of times, Amy, well, I’ll walk around and just think this place feels like a war zone. Now, of course, it is a war zone. So, if I’m in a hospital, you’re talking about being in a hospital, and it is absolutely heaving with people. So, the corridors are now no longer corridors. They are tented up, people using blankets, whatever they can, thousands and thousands of people trying to take refuge in hospitals, and, of course, thousands and thousands of people with the wounds of war in hospitals. So, here, Rafah, this is a city of children, Amy. This is where most people from Gaza have now fled, with a very real fear of an offensive here.

When you go further north, to the very north, as I’ve been to Jabaliya and Gaza City, well, first you see the devastation. I’m seeing, Amy, entire cities turned to rubble, more or less, things I’ve never seen before, every street. When I go with people from that city, drivers who — drivers who grew up in that city, and who simply don’t know how to get around anymore, Amy, because they’ve lost those landmarks to direct them. And then you see the nutritional status, those children you spoke about. More children died overnight in the last couple of days, dehydration, malnutrition. I see those families, Amy. I see mothers in tears, crouched over cots with children and babies who are paper thin, thousands of people on the street doing that universal sign: food now.

That’s some sense, north to south. Whatever it is, it’s desperation, and it’s exhaustion. People have done everything. They break their last piece of bread to share if they have four or five families stay with them. But I’ve sat with families this morning that I can speak to. They’re exhausted. And yeah, they’re confused as to why they don’t have the world’s attention.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to get your response to the latest news, James Elder.

JAMES ELDER: I’ve got no hearing, guys.

AMY GOODMAN: The International Court of Justice has ordered Israel to ensure unhindered aid could get into Gaza. The legally binding order was issued after a request by South Africa, which brought the genocide case to Israel in January. The court noted in its latest order, “Palestinians in Gaza are no longer facing only a risk of famine, but … famine is setting in.” The judges also cited U.N. data which finds at least 31 people, including 27 children, having already died of malnutrition and dehydration. The court is ordering Israel to submit a report within a month showing how it’s implemented the order. The significance of this, as the U.N. warns famine is imminent in northern Gaza? And the number of children who have been affected, James?

JAMES ELDER: Yes. I mean, we saw a report, Amy, almost two weeks ago by the most respected nutrition body in terms of crises on the planet, and it is talking about more people now being in that, what we call catastrophic food insecurity than in their 20 years of reporting. If we look at the north of Gaza, where before this war, less than 1% of children under the age of 5, less than 1%, suffered acute malnutrition. Now if we look at those north, to 2-year-olds, the most vulnerable, Amy, it’s one in three. One in three. This is the speed at which we’ve seen this catastrophic decline.

So, yes, at the United Nations, from my own executive director to the secretary-general, have been calling for months and months for unhindered, safe — sort of very difficult place to work — safe access for aid. Now, that’s road access. The most efficient and effective way to get supplies, lifesaving supplies, food — food, water, medicines, to people is on the road network, not just from the south, because that can be difficult. It’s 30 or 40 — 30 miles, doesn’t sound like a long way. It is a long way when you’ve got tens of thousands of people on the street. Amy, there are crossings that are 10 minutes away from those people who are hand to mouth, from those mothers who are cradling children who are severely malnourished. Ten minutes away.

So, in the same way that this crisis, this nutritional crisis affecting children and civilians in Gaza, is man-made and preventable, it can be turned around. Now, if you want to be a glass half-full, that’s good news. This can be reversed. But we do need those decisions to be made. We need all hindrances gone, all obstructions gone. We need safety. You know, we know that more my United Nations colleagues have been killed in this war than in any war since the creation of the United Nations. We’ve seen those horrendous videos of desperate people, desperate because they see a truck of food once a week — there is no consistency — desperate people being killed accessing food. There are crossings in the north. If those are opened, we can flood the Gaza Strip with aid, and this is solved within a matter of weeks, magic pace that UNICEF has, changes their lives dramatically.

But we’re not seeing that. Instead, UNRWA, the biggest U.N. agency here, the backbone of humanitarian aid on the Gaza Strip, that was sending 50% — Amy, 50% of the food to the north, they’ve been blocked. So we have to be very clear and very, very honest in terms of what the restrictions are. The restrictions currently are why we are seeing this level of malnutrition, particularly among children.

AMY GOODMAN: So, why — what is Israel saying to you, to the international body, the United Nations, to you particularly at UNICEF, why they’re not letting this aid go, and particularly saying they will not work with UNRWA at all in northern Gaza?

JAMES ELDER: Yes. Look, obviously, you know, we function here based on our impartiality, and we talk to anyone. So you’re right to ask. I’m not privy to the exact conversations. Like anyone else, you hear the statements made that there is, you know, limitless access here. The reality on the ground says differently. In the first three weeks of March, one-quarter of aid convoys were denied. As I say, the restrictions on UNRWA are immense.

I can speak to my own experience of the complexities of even getting that food aid to the north, which is why if you come in from the north in those crossings, that’s a game changer. In the same way that the world has focused a little bit on airdrops and ships, obviously, right now the desperation is so great that those people who have been forcibly put into this position will take food aid wherever it comes from. It shouldn’t be the case, when, I mean, in the north, you’re talking about an area that was famed for strawberries — not for malnutrition, for strawberries. But we have to be clear that when a ship comes in, it has the equivalent tonnage of around 12 trucks. There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of trucks, you know, five miles from where I am now. You could get hundreds and hundreds of trucks within 10 minutes, if that border crossing was open in the north, to those people who are cut off. That’s an important thing to remember.

When I was in the north, Amy, those people are cut off. You’re past the last checkpoint when we access those people. When I’m on the street, every person, the first thing they want to tell me, in English or Arabic, is “We need food. We need food.” Now, I know this, of course. This is my work. But of course I listen to them. What was revealing is why they’re saying that. They are saying that because their assumption is the world doesn’t know, because how would this be allowed to happen if the world knew?

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the effects on children of malnutrition? If they don’t die of hunger, the effects of the dehydration and malnutrition that they’re experiencing now?

JAMES ELDER: Yeah, look, in one sense, it’s one of the saddest things you’ll see, because a malnourished child, literally, their body starts to feed on itself in its last desperate acts. As my executive director said when she was — she’s been in malnutrition centers around the world. Remember, in UNICEF, we are serving children around the world, and critical, critical scenarios for children particularly on nutrition, from places from Sudan to Ethiopia. And she spoke of just the silence in a malnutrition ward, because babies do not have the energy to cry.

But what usually kills children with this most severe form of malnutrition is a disease, a simple thing, pneumonia, a simple childhood disease. Children with severe acute malnutrition are 10 times more likely to be killed by that. And that is something that UNICEF has been warning about here for months. Because now Rafah has become a city of children, because the water system and the sanitation system have been devastated, it’s impossible to have the services here that children need. I mean healthcare. Never before in Gaza have so many children needed healthcare. Only one-third, one in three, hospitals are partially functioning. Toilets — toilets, both in terms of dignity but in terms of sanitation, Amy — the global standard in an emergency is one toilet for 20 people. Here we’re looking at about one toilet for 800. For a shower, multiply that by four, one shower for three-and-a-half thousand people. Imagine for a teenage girl, much less, yes, a pregnant woman or a child. So, our great fear, which we are starting to see, is when you have severe malnutrition and you add in disease, this is the perfect storm. This is when this horror show for children becomes just as lethal on the ground as it currently is from the skies.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, of course, this is aside from the — I think the number has topped 14,000 of children who have died, uncounted number of them still in the rubble. If you can talk about this death toll, and also compare Gaza to other conflict zones you’ve been in, James Elder? You’ve been all over the world, to say the least.

JAMES ELDER: Yeah, look, for me, Amy, in a way, I’m loath to make the comparison, simply because, for UNICEF and myself, of course, a child is a child wherever they are. And when you see what’s happened to children, you know, from Ukraine to Afghanistan, it’s horrendous, and that’s why my colleagues are frontline workers in all of these places.

Yes, though, there is something particular here, the intensity of devastation. Obviously, it’s such a big child population in a compact space with, let’s be clear, indiscriminate attacks. The numbers you’re sharing there, it’s unprecedented. And when you see in a hospital those wounds of war to children, Amy, remembering that when there is a missile or a bomb on a family home, it’s not just one injury to a child. It’s the broken bones. It’s the burns. It’s very hard to look, but we must keep looking, the burns on a child. And it’s the shrapnel. These are the images that I turn, every time I turn around in a hospital, and I don’t think I’ve seen that, that consistency.

You have these rare moments, Amy, of clutching onto some hope. And once was a moment in a hospital, a little boy Mohamed, now, he had bad burns, but as I walked in to Mohamed, he made this little effort — it hurt him — to put a little thumbs-up, an unsolicited movement. And I just thought, “Wow! What a character!” And then the adult with him explained that Mohamed was also the best student in his school, showed me photographs of this beautiful little boy receiving awards. And I thought, “This little guy’s going to be OK.” And you hold onto these moments. Then that adult explained to me that when the missile hit Mohamed’s home, it killed everyone. And because families are hunkering down, I mean everyone — mother, father, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. Mohamed didn’t know this yet, but Mohamed is now the last surviving member of his entire family.

These horror stories, Amy, are being normalized here. I didn’t think I’d ever hear such a thing in Gaza, but I’m hearing it time and again, time and again. So, yes, and these wounds of war, I should add, you know, in the last two days, I made a point to go to hospitals since the ceasefire decision, which was a cause of great hope here. Great hope. Well, that hope has been well and truly drowned out right now by bombs. And I saw many children who doctors did not think would still be alive today based on the bombings that have occurred since Monday’s decision.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re standing, James Elder, in Rafah. If you can talk about what’s happening right now in Rafah? You have Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying, absolutely, an invasion, ground invasion, will happen. It’s not a matter of “if,” it’s a matter of “when.” You have talked about a possible ground invasion in Rafah. What would this mean?

JAMES ELDER: The horrors in Gaza do start to outstrip our ability to describe them. And it would be a catastrophe. But, of course, that word has been rightly used many times. But this is a city of children, as I say. This city, Rafah, now has twice the population density of New York City, but — I don’t know what you can see, OK, but that’s as tall as they get. This is ground level. And most people — most people are in tents. They’re in street corners. They’re on beaches. They’re in what was agriculture, what was agriculture. They’re ground level, 600,000 children here.

And what they’ve endured, I mean, we’re in uncharted territory when it comes to the mental health of these children. Amy. Night after night, even for me — and I get to leave this place — for me, I lie in bed, and you hear the bombardments that wake you, and your building shakes, and you lie there feeling like lying in a coffin. Like, what are the chances of waking tomorrow morning? Children here go through that with their families every night. Every night with a mother and child, there’s no lullaby you sing to a child to drown that out.

And so, for those people here, not only are they just holding on, their coping mechanisms at a wit’s end, they have nowhere to go. We have to understand that. It’s not — the social services are devastated. Khan Younis, the city next door, as I say, I’ve never seen that level of annihilation. Gaza City, further north, the same. There’s talk of an area near here, al-Mawasi. It’s a beach. You know, literally, you’d be doubling the population density again. So, it’s a terrifying thought, Amy. I didn’t imagine it would come to this, but, yes, as you rightly say, the conversation is very commonplace now. I just wish people could see the density of people here, could see the exhaustion, could listen to a doctor as I speak to him in a hospital as he’s treating a child with massive head wounds, and the doctor’s in tears, saying, “What did this child do?” Well, we will see that on a scale I don’t think any of us, certainly not me, can imagine.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, what would an immediate ceasefire mean for the children of Gaza, for the whole population there?

JAMES ELDER: You know, I’m glad you end like that, because that gives me a chill. Everyone asks still: Do we have hope? Is there hope? And most people hold on to this idea, Amy, of like, as a mother said, “I’ve lost my — I’ve lost two children. I’ve lost my home. I’ve lost my ability to earn income. I’ve lost my ability to feed my remaining child. All I have is hope.”

Now, a ceasefire is a game changer. Ceasefire. Firstly, let’s get the hostages home. There are children somewhere, after five-and-a-half months. End the torment. End the torment for they and their families. A ceasefire enables us finally to flood the Gaza Strip with aid and bring this nutritional crisis, imminent famine — make no doubt about it, imminent famine. And a ceasefire, Amy, means that those families that I spoke of, who tonight again will endure what I mentioned there, they will go to bed, if there’s a ceasefire, a mother and her child, and they will know, for the first time in months, that they will wake up tomorrow.

AMY GOODMAN: James Elder, UNICEF spokesperson — UNICEF stands for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund — joining us today from Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Thank you so much, and be safe.

Gaza remains under assault. Day 176 of  the assault in the wave that began in October.  Binoy Kampmark (DISSIDENT VOICE) points out, "Bloodletting as form; murder as fashion.  The ongoing campaign in Gaza by Israel’s Defence Forces continues without stalling and restriction.  But the burgeoning number of corpses is starting to become a challenge for the propaganda outlets:  How to justify it?  Fortunately for Israel, the United States, its unqualified defender, is happy to provide cover for murder covered in the sheath of self-defence."   CNN has explained, "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."  ABC NEWS quotes UNICEF's December 9th statement, ""The Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. Scores of children are reportedly being killed and injured on a daily basis. Entire neighborhoods, where children used to play and go to school have been turned into stacks of rubble, with no life in them."  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."   The death toll of Palestinians in Gaza is grows higher and higher.  United Nations Women noted, "More than 1.9 million people -- 85 per cent of the total population of Gaza -- have been displaced, including what UN Women estimates to be nearly 1 million women and girls. The entire population of Gaza -- roughly 2.2 million people -- are in crisis levels of acute food insecurity or worse."  THE NATIONAL notes, "Gaza's Health Ministry said that at least 32,705 Palestinians have been killed and 75,190 injured in Israel's military offensive since October 7."  Months ago,  AP  noted, "About 4,000 people are reported missing."  February 7th, Jeremy Scahill explained on DEMOCRACY NOW! that "there’s an estimated 7,000 or 8,000 Palestinians missing, many of them in graves that are the rubble of their former home."  February 5th, the United Nations' Phillipe Lazzarini Tweeted:

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." 

In Israel today, DW reports:

Anti-government protests sprung up in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on Saturday as the war in Gaza approaches the six-month mark and more than 100 hostages remain in captivity.

Protesters in Tel Aviv blocked the city's ring road while demanding early elections as well as calling for the release of hostages by Hamas.

In Jerusalem, hundreds of protesters picketed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's private residence, blaming his far-right government for failing to secure the release of the around 130 hostages believed to still be in Gaza — 33 of whom are presumed dead.

CNN notes, "The IDF admitted to killing two Palestinian men and burying their bodies with a bulldozer after Al Jazeera published a video purportedly showing the incident Wednesday. The IDF claimed in a statement to CNN that the men approached its 'operational area' in central Gaza 'in a suspicious manner' and didn’t respond to a warning shot. The Israelis killed them and bulldozed their bodies, fearing they carried explosives, the IDF said."  That's a cute way to describe it.  Not accurate, but cute.  CNN leaves out so much -- including the white flag being waived.  Jake Johnson (COMMON DREAMS) reported earlier this week:

  Video footage broadcast Wednesday by Al Jazeera shows Israeli soldiers gunning down two Palestinians on the coast of northern Gaza, even as one of them waves what appears to be a piece of white fabric.

The footage shows one of the men walking in the direction of an Israeli military vehicle with both hands raised. Despite the absence of any clear evidence that the man posed a threat, Israeli forces shot him from a short distance away. Another man is seen on the ground not far behind.

Al Jazeera's Tareq Abu Azzoum said the killings took place near where World Central Kitchen recently dropped off food aid.

The video then shows Israeli soldiers burying the bodies with a bulldozer.

"Probably certain words should be invented for this sort of thing," Marwan Bishara, AI Jazeera's chief political analyst, said in response to the footage. "I am not sure we have the sufficient vocabulary to describe this sort of twilight zone of Israel's fantasy of being the world's most moral army."

"It's a fantasy that meets the reality of a genocide," Bishara added. "An attempt to kill or destroy much of Palestine and Palestinians and hide the evidence and lie about it. When the Israeli army can do these things and get away with it, it can only then do more of it knowing that it will not meet any punishment." 

Lastly, THE NATIONAL notes:

The French, Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers have called for an "immediate and permanent ceasefire" in Gaza and the release of all hostages held by militants groups in the enclave.

Speaking at a joint press conference in Cairo, France's senior diplomat Stephane Sejourne said his government would put forward a draft resolution at the UN Security Council setting out a "political" settlement of the war.

The three ministers also renewed their governments' support for the UNRWA.

 The following sites updated:

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Congressman Robert Garcia Secures Long Beach City College Nearly $1 Million in Federal Funding to Train “Space Beach” Workforce and Bolster Aerospace Program


Congressman Robert Garcia Secures Long Beach City College Nearly $1 Million in Federal Funding to Train “Space Beach” Workforce and Bolster Aerospace Program

March 27, 2024

Long Beach, CA. – Thanks to the advocacy of Congressman Robert Garcia, Long Beach City College (LBCC) will receive $963,000 from the Community Project Funding to update the college's engineering and aerospace programs. The federal investment will fund advanced manufacturing equipment to train LBCC students as skilled technicians for the growing "Space Beach" aerospace industry hub in Long Beach.

The funding will allow LBCC to purchase equipment like 3D printers, a laser wire additive printer, a surface grinder, and more to update LBCC teaching labs. Purchases will be made with guidance from aerospace partners like SpaceX and Relativity Space. The revitalized aerospace industry in Southern California, nicknamed "Space Beach", has led to a surge in demand for skilled workers. Aerospace job postings in LA County grew nearly five times from 2012 to 2022, with technician roles paying $30-36 per hour.

"I am thrilled to see the hard work of our community and the collaboration with NASA come to fruition with this significant opportunity for Long Beach City College. By securing these resources, we are ensuring that LBCC can offer an education that'll keep our workforce at the forefront of innovation and our industry ahead in the global arena," said Congressman Garcia." This funding is not just an investment in cutting-edge manufacturing equipment; it’s an investment in the future of Long Beach, in the bright minds that will lead our space industry, and in the economic mobility of our community.”

"We are so grateful to Congressman Garcia for his work to secure this vital funding, which helps LBCC boost its Space Beach curriculum into the future,” said Dr. Mike Muñoz, LBCC Superintendent-President. "With over 47% of current aerospace employees having an associate degree or less, community colleges are critical for training this workforce. Key funding like this ensures that LBCC remains prepared to fulfill this need and enables us to grow our aerospace, engineering and other STEM programs.”

“In the last 20 years, Southern California has experienced tremendous losses in middle-skill aerospace jobs,” said Vivian Malauulu, Long Beach Community College District Board of Trustees President. “Major companies like Spin Launch and Relativity Space created a new ecosystem of technology companies in the wake of Boeing’s scaling down in Long Beach in 2005, and I am so excited about the job opportunities they provide to our LBCC students. We are so fortunate to have a champion like Congressman Garcia fighting for our students in DC.

The Long Beach City College investment continues Congressman Garcia’s long-time support for our local educational institutions. He will continue to ensure that federal dollars support local city and university and college needs. Since coming to Congress, Congressman Garcia has helped secure transformational grant money for community investments for the Long Beach area, including $15,775,000 to purchase new electric school buses for Long Beach Unified School District. 


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Baldwin Introduces Bill to Improve Safety for Bicyclists and Pedestrians and Honor Wisconsinite Killed in Bike Accident


Baldwin Introduces Bill to Improve Safety for Bicyclists and Pedestrians and Honor Wisconsinite Killed in Bike Accident

Legislation is named after Wisconsin’s Sarah Debbink Langenkamp who was killed in a bicycle accident in 2022; In 2021, one bicyclist was injured or killed every 14.4 hours in Wisconsin

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Sarah Debbink Langenkamp Active Safety Transportation Act, legislation to make it easier for local governments to access federal funds to improve safety for vulnerable bicyclists and pedestrians. The bill honors Sarah Debbink Langenkamp, a mother, wife, and American diplomat raised in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, who was killed while riding her bike in the summer of 2022.

“Regardless of how you are traveling, everyone should feel safe on the roads. Sadly, for too many Wisconsin families, that has not been the case and now they have an empty seat at the dinner table,” said Senator Baldwin. “I am proud to help honor Sarah’s legacy with this bill and give our local communities the tools they need to make our streets safer for bikers and pedestrians.”

“Sarah’s death meant we lost a mother, a wife, a friend and an incredible diplomat, and she was just one of the thousands caught up in a worsening trend of traffic death in America,” said Sarah’s husband Dan Langenkamp. “We have to do more to protect people, and this bill, by helping communities build the walking and biking infrastructure they need, will do just that.”

The Sarah Debbink Langenkamp Active Safety Transportation Act:

  • Gives states flexibility to fund bicycle and walking safety projects with 100% federal funds, including for locally identified safety priorities.
  • Makes it easier for states and local governments to fund the safety projects identified in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law-funded Safe Streets for All planning grants.
  • Allows biking and walking network projects eligible for funding under the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP).

The Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) was created in 2012 to give local governments access to a percentage of federal transportation funds for local priorities. Under the Baldwin-backed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the federal government expanded the successful TAP to give state Department of Transportations the opportunity to use safety funds as local matches for TAP projects that address local safety concerns. However, that language has had the effect of requiring the state to identify every specific project that would be eligible, rather than allowing for local governments to identify projects. Baldwin’s legislation would clarify the language, making it easier for state and local governments to use HSIP dollars to cover the local cost share of safety projects under the program, allowing up to 100 percent of the project to be covered. In turn, it would provide states with additional flexibility to support locally identified and initiated projects to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians. 

The TAP program includes a set aside for communities with a population under 5000. It is those rural communities, and low-income communities, that have the hardest time finding a local match.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), bicyclists and pedestrians account for 12% of transportation trips but 20% of fatalities. In 2021, overall traffic fatalities decreased slightly, while bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities increased by 10% and 2%, respectively. In 2021, one bicyclist was injured or killed every 14.4 hours in Wisconsin. 

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reports that bicycle lanes can reduce total crashes by up to 49 percent on urban four-lane undivided collector and local roads and reduce total crashes by up to 30 percent on urban two-lane undivided collector and local roads. In addition, FHWA reports that sidewalks can reduce pedestrian crashes by 65-89 percent in neighborhoods and that adding a shoulder on a rural road can reduce pedestrian crashes by 71 percent.

Bill text is available here.


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Congressional Democrats File Amicus Brief Urging Supreme Court to Affirm that EMTALA Requires Hospitals to Provide Emergency Stabilizing Care Including Abortion Care, Preempts Idaho’s Draconian Abortion Ban


Congressional Democrats File Amicus Brief Urging Supreme Court to Affirm that EMTALA Requires Hospitals to Provide Emergency Stabilizing Care Including Abortion Care, Preempts Idaho’s Draconian Abortion Ban

258 Members of Congress ask Supreme Court to affirm district court decision that under EMTALA, hospitals participating in Medicare must provide emergency stabilizing treatment to patients, including abortion care when necessary

In amicus brief—led by Sens. Schumer, Murray, Wyden, Durbin and Reps. Jeffries, Clark, Pallone, Neal, Nadler, DeGette, and Lee—lawmakers argue that congressional intent, text, and history of EMTALA make clear that covered hospitals must provide abortion care when it is the “necessary stabilizing treatment” for a patient’s “emergency medical condition,” and that EMTALA clearly preempts conflicting state law

Members: “In this case, respecting the supremacy of federal law is about more than just protecting our system of government; it is about protecting people’s lives.”

Washington, D.C. — Today, 258 Members of Congress—led by U.S. Senators Schumer, Murray, Wyden, and Durbin, and Representatives Jeffries, Clark, Pallone, Neal, Nadler DeGette, and Lee —submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in Moyle v. United States and Idaho v. United States, two consolidated cases concerning the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) that the Supreme Court will hear this April. EMTALA is a federal law that requires hospitals that receive Medicare funding to provide necessary “stabilizing treatment” to patients experiencing medical emergencies, which can include abortion care.

After the Dobbs decision in 2022, a draconian anti-abortion law in Idaho went into effect that makes it a felony for a doctor to terminate a patient’s pregnancy unless it is “necessary” to prevent the patient’s death. The United States sued the State of Idaho, arguing that the state’s law is preempted by EMTALA in those circumstances in which abortion may not be necessary to prevent imminent death, but still constitutes the necessary stabilizing treatment for a patient’s emergency medical condition. The district court agreed; it held that in those limited, but critically important situations, EMTALA requires Medicare-participating hospitals to provide abortion as an emergency medical treatment.

In their brief in support of the Justice Department, the lawmakers ask the Supreme Court to uphold the district court’s ruling. They argue that the congressional intent, text, and history of EMTALA make clear that covered hospitals must provide abortion care when it is the necessary stabilizing treatment for a patient’s emergency medical condition, and that EMTALA preempts Idaho’s abortion ban in emergency situations that present a serious threat to a patient’s health.

“[T]he 99th Congress passed EMTALA to ensure that every person who visits a Medicare-funded hospital with an ‘emergency medical condition’ is offered stabilizing treatment,” the Members write in their amicus brief. “Congress chose broad language for that mandate, requiring hospitals that participate in the Medicare program to provide ‘such treatment as may be required to stabilize the medical condition.’… That text—untouched by Congress for the past three decades—makes clear that in situations in which a doctor determines that abortion constitutes the ‘[n]ecessary stabilizing treatment’ for a pregnant patient… federal law requires the hospital to offer it. Yet Idaho has made providing that care a felony, in direct contravention of EMTALA’s mandate that it be offered.”

Importantly, the Members note that in this case, “respecting the supremacy of federal law is about more than just protecting our system of government; it is about protecting people’s lives. If this Court allows Idaho’s near-total abortion ban to supersede federal law, pregnant patients in Idaho will continue to be denied appropriate medical treatment, placing them at heightened risk for medical complications and severe adverse health outcomes. And health care providers, forced to let Idaho’s abortion law take precedence over their medical judgment about their patients’ best interests, will continue their exile from Idaho, creating maternity-care ‘deserts’ all over the state.” The Members point to numerous reports of OB/GYNs leaving Idaho en masse since the state’s abortion ban went into effect—Idaho has since lost fifty-five percent of its maternal-fetal medicine specialists and three rural hospitals have shut down maternity services altogether.

“These are not hypothetical scenarios. Because Idaho’s abortion ban contains no clear exceptions for the ‘emergency medical conditions’ covered by EMTALA, physicians are forced to wait until their patients are on the verge of death before providing abortion care. The result in other states with similar laws has been ‘significant maternal morbidity,’” write the Members, pointing to harrowing reports of pregnant women with severe health complications being denied necessary abortion care. “Federal law does not allow Idaho to endanger the lives of its residents in this way.”

In their brief, the Members also clarify that the references to “unborn child” in EMTALA were intended to expand hospitals’ obligations with respect to providing stabilizing treatment—not contract them or take away the obligation to provide abortion care in certain circumstances.

The Members’ brief also counters an argument from Idaho and its amici that the Supremacy Clause does not apply in this case because EMTALA was passed using Spending Clause authority, and therefore acts only as a condition on Medicare funding. The Members make clear that all laws passed by Congress are entitled to preemption—regardless of their source of constitutional authority—and states cannot pass laws that make it impossible for private parties to accept federal funding, inhibiting the purpose of the federal law. 

“Once this Court recognizes that EMTALA requires abortion when necessary to stabilize a patient presenting with an emergency medical condition, it is clear that Idaho’s near-total abortion ban is preempted to the extent that it prevents pregnant patients from receiving that care,” the Members write. “Petitioners and their amici offer remarkably little argument about the Idaho law itself to refute that point. Instead, they assert that EMTALA is not entitled to preemptive effect because it was enacted pursuant to Congress’s spending power. This Court should reject that argument, as it has many times before. Under the Supremacy Clause, all ‘the Constitutional laws enacted by [C]ongress’ constitute ‘the supreme Law of the Land.’… As this Court has repeatedly held, the principle of federal supremacy applies to laws, like EMTALA, enacted pursuant to Congress’s spending authority no less than it does to laws effectuating other enumerated powers.”

“In sum, EMTALA plainly requires hospitals that participate in the Medicare program to provide abortion care when, in a doctor’s professional judgment, it constitutes the ‘[n]ecessary stabilizing treatment’ for a patient’s ‘emergency medical condition.’”

The lawmakers conclude by asking the Supreme Court to affirm the district court’s decision that EMTALA requires Medicare-participating hospitals to provide abortion care when it is necessary as emergency medical treatment.

In the Senate, the amicus brief was signed by 49 U.S. Senators: Schumer, Murray, Wyden, Durbin, Sanders, Blumenthal, Baldwin, Bennet, Booker, Brown, Butler, Cantwell, Cardin, Carper, Casey Jr., Coons, Cortez Masto, Duckworth, Fetterman, Gillibrand, Hassan, Heinrich, Hickenlooper, Hirono, Kaine, Kelly, King, Klobuchar, Luján, Markey, Menendez, Merkley, Murphy, Padilla, Peters, Reed, Rosen, Schatz, Shaheen, Sinema, Smith, Stabenow, Tester, Van Hollen, Warner, Warnock, Warren, Welch, Whitehouse.

In the House, the brief was signed by 209 U.S. Representatives.

The lawmakers’ amicus brief to the Supreme Court can be read in full HERE.


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Congresswoman Bush Urges Walgreens to Reverse Decision to Close North St. Louis Pharmacy

 March 28, 2024

Congresswoman Bush Urges Walgreens to Reverse Decision to Close North St. Louis Pharmacy

Nearly 45,000 people in St. Louis City live in a pharmacy desert; Black residents make up 53%

Washington, D.C. (Mar. 28, 2024)—Today, Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01) sent a letter to Walgreens CEO Tim Wentworth urging the pharmacy chain to reverse its decision to close its store in North City on Grand Boulevard in St. Louis. This comes after last year’s closure of two Walgreens stores on Gravois Avenue and South Grand Boulevard. 

In her letter, Congresswoman Bush explains that these closures further exacerbate the issue of pharmacy deserts in her district. A pharmacy desert is defined as a geographic area that is not serviced by any pharmacies within a radius of one mile, or a half mile in areas where residents have limited access to transportation. Nearly 45,000 people in the City of St. Louis live more than a mile away from a pharmacy, and 53% of those people are Black.

“As a result of the large market share Walgreens and other big-box pharmacies have, local, community-based pharmacies have often been forced to close or drastically reduce their services rendered,” wrote Congresswoman Bush. “A closure of a large pharmacy would only make matters worse. The most medically vulnerable patients in our communities include people with disabilities, seniors, and low-income residents. With this most recent closure, countless patients will lose access to their neighborhood pharmacy, which means potential gaps in procuring lifesaving prescriptions and over-the-counter medications.”

“I saw the devastating effects of pharmacy closures firsthand and how it negatively impacted my constituents,” continued Congresswoman Bush. “This will particularly impact people with mobility or transportation barriers, or those who do not have reliable internet access or fluency to order online. Our most marginalized community members—our unhoused neighbors—are unable to take advantage of temporary stop-gaps proposed by Walgreens, such as 1-2 day prescription delivery because they do not have a fixed address. We need permanent solutions, rather than temporary.”

Congresswoman Bush requested a response from Walgreens to the following questions by next week, Friday, April 5:

  1. Will Walgreens reverse the decision to close its store located at 1400 N Grand Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63106?
  2. How many Medicare and Medicaid recipients has this location serviced in the last 90 days?
  3. What are the metrics used to determine which Walgreens pharmacies remain open in an urban area?
  4. How, if at all, does Walgreens solicit community, local, state, and federal stakeholders’ feedback about the impact of potential pharmacy closures prior to plans being announced?
  5. Within the next 12 calendar months, does Walgreens plan to close any more storefront locations in either the St. Louis region or the state of Missouri?
  6. How does Walgreens plan to reduce the number of residents living in pharmacy deserts in St. Louis and ameliorate the impact of this closure on the most vulnerable residents in the long-term?

A full copy of this letter can be found HERE.

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The BlackCommentator Issue 994 Women's History Month - Black Women are Struggling

The Black Commentator Issue #994 is now Online

  March 28, 2024

Read issue 994


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