In gratitude, we mark the death of Henry Kissinger, America's peerless war criminal. As U.S officials laud an "elder statesman" and "erudite strategist," the rest of us, and surely millions of brown-skinned people, celebrate the end of an "iconic napalm rights advocate" whose lies, hubris, towering inhumanity and many blood-soaked foreign policy follies left a legacy - in Vietnam, Chile, Cambodia, Argentina - of an "enormous pile of corpses" that may number four million. The consensus: "Burn hot, Henry."
The news of Dr. Death's demise at 100 was predictably, fawningly covered by an establishment press that the master of access journalism had long courted: "I'll tell you about some sleazy transgressions if you don't say I committed them and what it cost in lives or money." There were thoughts and prayers and cheesy accolades for a "towering American diplomat" who "shaped US Cold War history" and left "an undeniable legacy" - true but probably not the way they mean it. Tim Scott babbled, "While this is an incredible loss for our nation, his legacy will live on for generations to come." McConnell lauded "a titan among America's most consequential statesmen" whose "sheer force of will...changed the course of history." Chris Christie bemoaned "a very sad night" that "leaves a void all around the world." Echoing Trump's "many people say," the WaPo hedged their bets, queasily conceding with a Kissinger-like "'detached bloodlessness" that "critics held" he was kinda a sociopathic monster but who knows. Stephen Miller won the WTF-Are-You-Talking-About Award with, "May God bless Henry Kissinger, who devoted his life to the pursuit of peace," albeit with carpet bombing. Spencer Ackerman: "America, like every empire, champions its state murderers."
Some cited his inexplicable Nobel Peace Prize for ending a war that kept going - "Perhaps the vetting process needs a better vetting process"; Al Jazeera noted "the Nobel Prize-wining warmonger" had died; nobody mentioned the award was the reason Tom Lehrer retired: "Political satire became obsolete.” Few identified him as the ruthless architect of a murderous, empire-building "evil circle of power" now known as "a rules-based international order" whose deadly flaws and repercussions we still live with today, and whose crimes were so vast - of commission in Cambodia and Chile, omission in Iran and East Timor - he had to limit where he traveled to not land in the Hague. Still, Jeff Tiedrich insists, facts owe. "Good fucking riddance to Henry fucking Kissinger," he wrote of "the war criminal elephant in the room" who "never met a democratically-elected government he didn't want to topple" if they stood in his way. "There’s nothing complicated about (his) legacy. He overthrew democratic governments and bombed children on Christmas Eve" even as "DC's "power elite "sucked up to "the West Wing Playboy: "Everyone wanted this blood-spattered fuck at their dinner party." Sorry, not sorry. Voltaire: "We owe respect to the living. To the dead we owe only truth."
The truth, says historian Greg Grandin, is that during his years as National Security Adviser and then Secretary of State, Kissinger abetted or orchestrated the deaths of between three and four million civilians. His atrocities in Southeast Asia ranged from 1972's Christmas bombing of North Vietnam and Hanoi's main hospital, to devious efforts to sabotage the Paris Peace talks by passing information from them to Nixon in hopes of staying in power, to his apocalyptic, covert B-52 carpet-bombing of Cambodia, a country we were not at war with, with 540,000 tons of munitions - during all of World War ll, the U.S. dropped 160,000 tons of bombs on Japan - killing between 150,000 and 500,000 civilians in one of history's most deadly air campaigns. He and Nixon were reportedly "really excited" about the campaign - freakishly named Operation MENU, with BREAKFAST, LUNCH, SNACK, DINNER etc - born of Kissinger's order to hit "anything that moves," approving 3,875 sorties over what he claimed were unpopulated areas yielding "no significant civilian casualties." He thus galvanized Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, laying the groundwork for a genocide that killed millions; once they came to power, he secretly said they were "murderous thugs" but the U.S. "won’t let that stand in our way."
Over 10 years ago, investigative reporter Nick Turse uncovered evidence from an archive of U.S. military documents that Kissinger, who for decades dodged questions about Cambodia's killing fields, was responsible for even more civilian deaths than was known. In interviews with over 75 Cambodian survivors and U.S. witnesses, he heard tearful accounts of daily, random massacres that would kill neighbors, relatives, half a hamlet's population; of Army Rangers wildly shooting women and children before grabbing chickens, duck, cigarettes, a motorcycle; of "terrifying" air attacks by "lobster-leg" Huey Cobras wiping out families even as U.S. forces abided by the Nixon argument that, "As long as we didn’t set foot on that ground, we basically weren’t there"; of systemic disregard for, and lies about, "civilian harm" and deaths. Over his ensuing decades of impunity, Kissinger became "a visionary example for our 21st-century age of unaccountable power," a sinister template for U.S. leaders who learned they'd never face consequences for their actions in office - starting illegal wars, approving torture, dispatching drones on Afghans at a wedding - thus setting the stage for the civilian carnage of our so-called War on Terror around the world.
First came the 1973 overthrow of Socialist Salvador Allende's democratic election in Chile because, Kissinger argued, the U.S. can't “stand idly by and watch a country go communist...We will not let Chile go down the drain." Cue 17 years of of terror delivered by his military junta: Santiago's football stadium turned concentration camp with two lines - "We called them the line of life and the line of death" - wiping out "a whole generation of the working class"; entire newspaper staffs gunned down; tens of thousands imprisoned and tortured; women standing daily at bridges to look for the bodies of disappeared husbands or sons floating downriver, headless corpses with arms tied behind, fingernails ripped out, legs broken, testicles smashed, eyes gouged by cigarettes; and, later, unions decimated, multinationals enriched. Before Allende, his palace surrounded, killed himself, he urged an aide, "Tell the world." Eventually Pinochet, living in London, was extradited but ultimately let off, even as his junta agents in Operation Condor killed a former ambassador and political opponent in a D.C car bombing. Still, Kissinger stood by Pinochet, a brutal kindred spirit, telling him, "You are a victim of all left-wing groups around the world.”
And he was everywhere. In 1970, he turned a blind eye to Pakistan's slaughter of 300,000 Bengalis, most of them Hindu. In 1975, he similarly ignored Indonesian President Suharto's brutal invasion of East Timor, a former Portuguese colony moving toward independence, that killed over 200,000. In 1976, he brushed aside a military junta in Argentina that overthrew Isabel Perón and launched a savage Dirty War that "disappeared" over 30,000 civilians; when a junta official told Kissinger their main problem was "terrorism," the esteemed elder statesman responded, "If there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly.” A Republican truly ahead of his time, he even decried democracy in his own country, telling Nixon, "We’ve got to break the back of this generation of Democratic leaders (and) destroy the confidence of people in the American establishment." And he was a Jew who escaped the Nazis only to become the flunky for a vicious anti-Semite who blamed “dirty rotten Jews from New York” (Seymour Hersh) and "Jews at Harvard for exposing the My Lai massacre. "Well, Mr. President," Kissinger responded, "there are Jews and Jews." Another time he mused, "Any people who has been persecuted for 2,000 years must be doing something wrong."
Burn hot, Henry, indeed. It's equally forbidding to confront the "horrifying catastrophe" that was the man, the malignant machine that facilitated his rise to power, and the fact he was left free to shape history and the war-torn, post-truth, self-serving world we now inhabit. There was never a trip to the Hague for Wonder Warthog, but his awfulness didn't go unnoticed. One story has the venerable Gore Vidal coming upon Kissinger at the Vatican "gazing thoughtfully” at the Hell section of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment. “Look,” said Vidal to a friend, "he’s apartment hunting." The late great chef Anthony Bourdain was likewise not a fan. "Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands," he wrote in a 2001 memoir about "that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag." When he turned 100 last May and dreadful think pieces pondered "What He Can Tell Us About the World," The Nation noted he was "still at large (but) he should have gone down the rest of them. "Still a war criminal," reported David Corn. "As he blows out all those candles, let's call the roll" - Cambodia, Chile, Iran et al. "The Cubans say there is no evil that lasts 100 years," Grandin wrote. "Kissinger is making a run to prove them wrong."
With his death, many people, bitter to droll, chimed in. They suggested humans should have a shorter shelf life, he should've died "with a rope around his war criminal neck," his body should be airdropped on Cambodia "for them to defile it as they please, he belongs to the ash-heap. Many lamented they don't believe in hell but hope his apartment in the World to Come is a tiny, dark, 4th floor walk-up for groceries.They said, "Let he who has not carpet-bombed Cambodia throw the first stone," he "put Cambodia on the map and almost took it off," "Collateral damage tested much better with audiences than 'innocent victims.'" They cited Monty Python's song - 'Henry Kissinger/how I'm missing yer" - comparing him to a German parakeet and positing, like the parrot, he's "just resting" or "pining for the fjords." There were questions: Is Cheney the most evil living American now? Who gets the peace prize - Santos, Putin, Miller? Is there room for him in Hell with all the other fascist creeps? Did he have more blood on his hands than any other homicidal sociopath? When he signed a check, did he use a pen or the severed limb of a dead brown child? They said rest in piss, rest in perfidy, and in a lousy year, "It's a glorious day." And the person who runs a "Did-Kissinger-Die-Yet" account answered, finally, "YES."
Not a moment too soon, "the world awoke a little less poisoned," wrote Charles Pierce, who quoted the Revelation of St. John: "And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard (the) beast say, 'Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him." "Kissinger lived for over half a century in the world he had made. He was its hubris," wrote Spencer Ackerman in a fine, detailed piece on a "War Criminal Beloved by America’s Ruling Class," a headline he'd earlier prepped; it's also tagged, "Good Riddance." "The infamy of Nixon's foreign-policy architect sits, eternally, beside that of history's worst mass murderers. A deeper shame attaches to the country that celebrates him." Still, "no infamy will find Kissinger." Over 50 years, the millions of deaths didn't make a dent. He got rich, voiced no regrets, mocked his war criminal label, was extolled by the likes of Hillary Clinton as "a friend" whose counsel she sought in the name of a neoliberalism birthed in "Pinochet's torture chambers...a baby delivered bloody and screaming by Henry Kissinger" as U.S leaders today routinely bomb countries we're not at war with. The goal of Cold War statecraft: To maximize America's freedom to "inflict (its) will on the world, measured in impunity... The organizing principle of American exceptionalism: America acts; it is not acted upon." And it still is.
"He who lives only to benefit himself confers on the world a benefit when he dies." - the early Christian theologian Tertullian, (160-240 A.D) of Carthage, thought to have produce the first extensive body of Latin Christian literature.
Pinochet's terrifying Chile, with the help of the U.S.Getty Image
Hundreds of civil society groups and frontline voices from around the world on Saturday condemned a voluntary pledge heralded by government leaders and fossil fuel giants, calling the "Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter" unveiled at the COP28 climate talks in Dubai nothing but a cynical industry-backed smokescreen and greenwashing ploy that will allow for the continuation of massive emissions of carbon, methane, and other greenhouse gases.
"The Oil and Gas Decarbonization Accelerator is a dangerous distraction from the COP28 process," warned David Tong, the global industry campaign manager for Oil Change International, in a statement from Dubai. "We need legal agreements, not voluntary pledges. The science is clear: staying under 1.5ºC global warming requires a full, fast, fair, and funded phase-out of fossil fuels, starting now."
Backed by approximately 50 state-run and private oil and gas companies, the stated aims of the pledge, also being referred to as the Decarbonization Accelerator, is to cut upstream emissions of methane to "near-zero" levels and end "routine flaring"—that is, emissions involved with production but not consumption—by 2030 while aiming for a "net-zero operations" target by 2050.
"Voluntary commitments are a dangerous distraction from what is needed at COP28. Oil and gas companies meeting to sign a pledge that only deals with their operational emissions is like a group of arsonists meeting to promise to light fires more efficiently."
What's key, say the Charter's critics, is both the voluntary nature of the scheme and the glaring fact that it does not include 80-90% of the emissions produced by the industry, namely the downstream consumption of their products—the burning of coal, oil, and fracked gas.
An open letter released by 320 groups on Saturday accuses Sultan al-Jaber, president of COP28 and the chief executive of the host nation's national oil company, of missing a "historic opportunity" by allowing the pledge to grandstand as meaningful progress while the planet experiences its hottest year in 125,000 years.
"The COP28 Presidency appears to have been encouraging fossil fuel companies to make yet another set of hollow voluntary pledges, with no accountability mechanism or guarantee the companies will follow through," the letter states. "Releasing another in the long succession of voluntary industry commitments that end up being breached will not make COP28 a success. Voluntary efforts are insufficient, and are a distraction from the task at hand."
By only aiming to reduce "oil and gas operational emissions without sharp reductions in overall fossil fuel production," the groups argue, the Charter "will fail to achieve the cuts in methane emissions necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change."
Citing recent findings from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Climate and Clear Air Coalition released in October, the letter states that the only way to meet the 1.5ºC target established by the 2015 Paris agreement is to phase out fossil fuels completely—and rapidly.
"Cutting methane pollution from the oil and gas supply chain is an important component of near-term emissions reductions—but it is not enough on its own," the letter states.
Alongside the industry-backed Charter, 118 nations on Saturday also pledged a tripling of renewable energy by 2030, but green groups say that while welcome, this kind of effort means so much less if fossil fuels are not phased out during that same period.
"The future will be powered by solar and wind, but it won't happen fast enough unless governments regulate fossil fuels out of the way," said Kaisa Kosonen, leading Greenpeace International's COP28 delegation in Dubai.
Oil Change's Tong also pointed to national promises on renewables in the context of the overall greenwashing effort underway trying to tell the world it can have a renewable energy revolution while also allowing the fossil fuel industry to continue its existence.
"If your company digs stuff up and burns it, you’re the problem. It’s time to wind down your business."
"Bundling up the Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter with a renewable energy commitment appears to be a calculated move to distract from the weakness of this industry pledge," Tong said.
"Promising to triple renewable energy and double energy efficiency is welcome and indicates momentum for a final agreement at this year's U.N. climate talks," he added, "but voluntary pledges cannot be a substitute for a formal negotiated outcome at COP28 for countries to address the root cause of the climate crisis: fossil fuels."
Journalist and veteran climate organizer Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org and now Third Act, said it "isn't hard" to know what needs to be done or to identify who is at fault for the current crisis.
"If your company digs stuff up and burns it, you’re the problem. It’s time to wind down your business. Past time," McKibben said.
The green critics of the Charter are clear that the chief culprits should have little say in the way governments and society at large choose to manage the transition from a dirty energy economy to a more sustainable and clean one.
As the letter from the coalition argues, "Voluntary commitments are a dangerous distraction from what is needed at COP28. Oil and gas companies meeting to sign a pledge that only deals with their operational emissions is like a group of arsonists meeting to promise to light fires more efficiently."
Experts on anti-poverty policies on Tuesday urged lawmakers weighing tax legislation to consider evidence that became strikingly clear in 2021: Guaranteeing that families have money on a monthly basis to provide for their children, via the expanded child tax credit, helped ensure that far fewer kids struggled with insufficient food and other essentials.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) noted that policymakers have reportedly begun negotiating a possible year-end tax bill and have already heard from dozens of pro-business groups from across the country that have called for a tax code that "supports innovation" and enables businesses to "finance growth."
To return to what analysts have called "a historic reduction in poverty" that was observed just two years ago, CBPP called on negotiators in Congress to include "a well-designed expansion of the child tax credit (CTC) in any tax legislation considered," with the children from the lowest-income households prioritized.
"Letting 9 million children in this country live in poverty is a policy choice, as recent census data underscores," wrote Chuck Marr, Kris Cox, and Sarah Calame at CBPP. "Policymakers have an opportunity to make a different—and better—choice in the coming weeks. They should prioritize reducing child poverty—and improving the life prospects of millions of children."
As Common Dreams reported in September, the opposition of Republican senators and right-wing Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) led to the end of the expanded CTC, which helped push child poverty to a record low of 5.2% in 2021 as eligible families received up to $300 per child, per month. As a result, in 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau recorded the largest single-year increase in poverty among children in the U.S., which rose to 12.4%.
"If Congress had continued the American Rescue Plan's child tax credit expansion in 2022, about 3 million fewer children would have been in poverty, preventing more than half of the increase in the number of children in poverty last year, we estimate," wrote Marr, Cox, and Calame.
The decision to take thousands of dollars per year away from families struggling with the rising cost of living and stagnant wages was driven largely by Manchin's false claim that parents who were given money to help with the cost of childcare and groceries each month would spend the cash on drugs, but CBPP expressed hope that some Republicans facing tough reelection campaigns next year have signaled an interest in supporting the provision, which was backed by Republican, Independent, and Democratic voters in an Economic Security Project poll last year.
Civil society groups including the Maine People's Alliance (MPA) and Americans for Tax Fairness this week began calling on lawmakers to "put children first, not corporate profits" as they negotiate a tax bill.
"Right now, Congress is hearing from big business, not American families like yours," MPA told its supporters in a call to action. "We are the people who know how critical cash is to making a household work. We are the people our members of Congress need to hear from."
CBPP emphasized that "the details of any child tax credit expansion are important" and called for a particular focus on the children who have been left out of the credit in the past despite their families' struggles with the cost of housing, food, childcare, and other essentials.
The economists wrote that any tax bill must prioritize ensuring that 19 million children whose parents' incomes are too low to receive the full CTC must be "the focus of any child tax credit expansion."
Explaining that the current structure of the CTC is "upside down," they wrote that children in families with less than $2,500 in earnings are not eligible for any credit, while families with incomes below about $16,000 get less than $2,000 in total and middle- and high-income households receive the maximum of $2,000 per child.
For example, a childcare provider who has two children of their own and is a single parent might earn $15,000 per year and receive $1,875, while a married couple who employs the provider might earn $400,000 per year and receive $4,000 in CTC.
"The children who would benefit the most—children whose families face challenges affording rent, utilities, food, clothing, and transportation—often get the least," wrote the economists. "As a result, more children live in poverty than would if children in families with low incomes received the same child tax credit as children in families with higher incomes."
This inequity disproportionately affects Black, Indigenous, and Latino children whose parents are "overrepresented in low-paid work," noted CBPP.
The record low child poverty rate in 2021 was achieved by making the full CTC available to low-income families, raising the maximum credit from $2,000 per child to $3,600 for children aged 5 and younger and $3,000 for older children, and providing the credit on a monthly basis rather than a lump sum after taxes were filed.
Marr, Cox, and Calame explained that simply raising the maximum amount for the CTC would do little to help the families who need it most, and a proposal led by Rep. John James (R-Mich.) would still leave many low-income families with partial or no credit.
By contrast, the economists proposed making the current $2,000 CTC—often called the "fully refundable" credit—to the lowest-income households, which could lift an estimated 1.5 million children out of poverty and boost the income of the single parent in CBPP's example by $2,125—a significant difference for a regular household income of $15,000.
"As policymakers evaluate approaches to expanding the child tax credit" in end-of-year tax legislation, said Marr, Cox, and Calame, "they should seek to maximize the number of children with low incomes lifted out of poverty."
On the heels of approving a clean energy package to combat the climate emergency, Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday signed a series of bills to tackle another urgent issue: voting rights.
"In Michigan, we're proving through our actions that we stand for fundamental American values of freedom and democracy," Whitmer said on social media. "Let's keep working to protect our democracy and ensure our elections are free, fair, and safe."
The governor held a signing ceremony at the NAACP building in Detroit, where she was joined by local leaders, voting rights advocates, and Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who said that "we are here today to protect the people who protect democracy."
The package includes legislation to create criminal penalties for intimidating an election official or preventing them from performing their duties; allow 16-year-olds to preregister to vote when they turn 18; and expand Michigan's automatic voter registration (AVR) process, according toMichigan Advance, which published a roundup of the bills.
"The job of election officials has increasingly become politicized. It's critical that we step up to protect their safety and their ability to do their jobs," asserted state Rep. Kara Hope (D-74), who led some of the bills. "These basic safeguards are critical to addressing the threats to our democracy as we head into 2024."
Aquene Freechild, co-director of Public Citizen's Democracy Campaign, said that "we applaud Michigan for prioritizing protecting election officials, and we're proud to support Rep. Hope and Secretary of State Benson in their efforts to address this threat to Michigan elections. We hope more states follow suit to protect these essential workers of American democracy."
As part of the AVR expansion, Michigan's secretary of state will now be required to coordinate with the state Department of Corrections to register people to vote when they are released from prison—a first for the country, according to Common Cause.
"Today is a good day for democracy in Michigan because more people will have a voice at the polls, in how our state is governed, and how our tax dollars are spent," said Common Cause Michigan executive director Quentin Turner. "Voting rights are under attack in many parts of our country, but today Michigan takes a step forward to expand access to the ballot. The right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy, and our democracy is stronger when more of us [are] able to cast a ballot."
The National Voting in Prison Coalition—founded by Common Cause and allied groups—plans to champion similar bills during other states' 2024 legislative sessions. Common Cause justice and democracy manager Keshia Morris Desir stressed Thursday that "federal and local laws must allow more voices to participate, be heard, and ultimately be represented."
Whitmer also signed legislation to "regulate political ads that use artificial intelligence and tighten the election certification process that former President Donald Trump tried to disrupt following his 2020 loss," reported Bridge Michigan.
State Rep. Penelope Tsernoglou (D-75), who chairs the Michigan House Elections Committee, declared that "Michigan has sent a strong message that it rejects any attempts to deceive voters through the use of artificial intelligence."
Public Citizen said that Michigan is the fifth state to regulate artificial intelligence in election communications, and the legislation effectively bans "deepfakes," which are AI-generated images, audio, or video of people that appear real.
"Thank you Michigan for showing that we don't have to stand helplessly aside as political deepfakes threaten to destroy voters' ability to distinguish authentic content from fraudulent audio, video, and pictures," said Public Citizen president Robert Weissman. "Michigan's requirement that political deepfakes be labeled is an example for the rest of the nation—one we expect states across the country to follow."
As Bridge Michigan detailed:
The new law governing election certification aligns Michigan with the federal Electoral Count Reform Act, which was introduced in Congress with a handful of GOP co-sponsors and signed last year by Democratic President Joe Biden.
Among other things, the federal law makes clear that the vice president has a “ministerial” duty to count electoral votes that states send to Congress, contradicting Trump's claim that former Vice President Mike Pence could and should have blocked certification of the 2020 presidential election.
The new Michigan law similarly states that partisan election canvassers at both the county and state levels have a "ministerial, clerical, and nondiscretionary duty" to certify results based on results compiled by local clerks.
Biden is seeking reelection next year and could face Trump—despite the Republican's various criminal cases and arguments that he is constitutionally disqualified from holding office again after inciting the January 6, 2021 insurrection.
A year into Biden's presidency, Democratic right-wing Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.)—who switched from Democrat to Independent last December—worked with Republicans in Congress to block a federal voting rights and election reform megabill that included the Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Democrats have reintroduced both of those bills this year, but they are highly unlikely to pass the split Senate or GOP-controlled House.
Meta Platforms—which owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp—on Wednesday sued the U.S. Federal Trade Commission six months after the agency proposed an order that would prohibit the tech giant from monetizing minors' data.
The lawsuit, which also names FTC Chair Lina Khan and Democratic Commissioners Rebecca Slaughter and Alvaro Bedoya as defendants, challenges what Meta claims is the agency's "structurally unconstitutional authority."
The legal action comes after the FTC in May proposed banning Meta from monetizing children's data, a practice regulators said violates the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The FTC proposal aims to strengthen a 2019 consent decree prohibiting Meta—then called Facebook—from profiting off data collected from minors. As part of the settlement, the company agreed to pay a $5 billion fine for previous privacy violations.
Earlier this week, a federal judge denied a motion filed by Meta seeking the court's intervention in the company's dispute with the FTC.
"This is a blatant example of the company's ruthless profit-over-safety strategy," the Real Facebook Oversight Board, a watchdog group, said of the new lawsuit. "They claim they want regulation but when they realize their business model is threatened, they attack the regulator."
Emily Peterson-Cassin, digital rights advocate for the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said that "Facebook made an agreement with the FTC, and now it doesn't want to face the consequences of possible violations of that agreement."
"It's beyond cynical for Facebook to launch a legal attack on the FTC's authority to enforce an agreement the company voluntarily entered into," she added. "Facebook is accused of hurting and exploiting kids; the public needs the FTC to get to the bottom of those accusations and hold Facebook liable for any and all violations, without delay."
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said Meta suing the FTC is "like Big Tobacco trying to gut the [Food and Drug Administration] because they didn't want to be held accountable for hooking kids onto nicotine."
"The FTC has been around for over a century now," Warren added. "This agency is constitutional and using its powers to apply the law as written."
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass) also weighed in on Meta's lawsuit, saying that "Meta's baseless lawsuit is a weak attempt to avoid accountability for its repeated failures to protect kids' privacy online."
"When a Big Tech company wants to take the federal cop off the beat, it's probably because it doesn't want to be caught," the senator added. "For years, Meta has been willfully ignoring the problems it has created—including a privacy crisis, a teen mental health crisis, and an algorithmic injustice crisis—and this lawsuit is just the latest craven distraction."
According to the children's advocacy group Fairplay:
Meta has posed a threat to the privacy and welfare of young people in the U.S. for many years, as it targeted them to further its data-driven commercial surveillance advertising system. Scandal after scandal has exposed the company's blatant disregard for children and youth, with nearly daily headlines about its irresponsible actions coming from former-employees-turned-whistleblowers and major multistate and bipartisan investigations of state attorneys general. Despite multiple attempts by regulators to contain Meta's ongoing undermining of its user privacy, including through multiple FTC consent decrees, it is evident that a substantive remedy is required to safeguard U.S. youth.
"While many have noted social media's role in fueling the mental health crisis, the Federal Trade Commission has taken actual meaningful action to protect young people online by its order prohibiting serial privacy offender Meta from monetizing minors' data," Fairplay executive director Josh Golin said in a statement. "So it's not surprising that Meta is launching this brazen attack on the commission."
"Anyone who cares about the well-being of children—and the safety of American consumers—should rally to the defense of the commission and be deeply concerned about the lengths Meta will go to preserve its ability to profit at the expense of young people," Golin added.
Katharina Kopp, director of policy at the Center for Digital Democracy, said that "for decades Meta has put the maximization of profits from so-called behavioral advertising above the best interests of children and teens."
"Meta's failure to comply repeatedly with its 2012 and 2020 settlements with the FTC, including its noncompliance with the federal children's privacy law (COPPA), and the unique developmental vulnerability of minors, justifies the FTC to propose the modifications of Meta's consent decree and to require it to stop profiting from the data it gathers on children and teens," Kopp stated.
"It should not surprise anybody then that Meta is now going after the FTC with its lawsuit," she added. "But this attack on the FTC is essentially an attack on commonsense regulation to curtail out-of-control commercial power and an attack on our children, teenagers, and every one of us."
John Davisson, the litigation director at the nonprofit research group Electronic Privacy Information Center, asserted that "it seems there's no legal theory, however far-fetched, that Meta won't deploy to avoid a full accounting of its harmful data practices."
"The reason is clear," Davisson said. "A hearing before the FTC will confirm that Meta continues to mishandle personal data and put the privacy and safety of minors at risk, despite multiple orders not to do so."
"The changes FTC is proposing to Meta's exploitative business model can't come soon enough," he added. "We hope the court will reject Meta's latest attempt to run out the clock, as another federal court did just this week."
The FTC and Meta were already locked in a separate antitrust fight stemming from the agency's request for a federal court to force the company to sell Instagram and WhatsApp. That case has yet to go to trial.
Almost a million Americans signed petitions from half a dozen civil society organizations demanding that U.S. President Joe Biden and Congress push for a lasting cease-fire in Israel's war on the Gaza Strip.
Amnesty International USA, Avaaz, Demand Progress, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), MoveOn, and Oxfam America circulated similar petitions in response to the war, which Israel launched after a Hamas-led attack on October 7.
The groups delivered the petition signatures to the White House on Wednesday as the world waited to see if a temporary truce would be extended. The initial four-day pause in fighting—during which Hamas freed some hostages taken last month and Israel released some Palestinian prisoners—was extended by two days on Monday, but as of press time, no new announcement had been made.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Tel Aviv on Wednesday to meet with Israel's leaders to discuss extending the temporary cease-fire, during which two American Israelis have been released—Liat Atzili and Abigail Idan, who is 4 years old.
"It's inspiring to see the groundswell of support across the United States for an immediate cease-fire to end Israel's reckless military campaign and the total blockade of Gaza."
"The resumption of fighting for Palestinians means that there's going to be no humanitarian aid that will be allowed into the Gaza Strip. It also means there are going to be more casualties and victims alongside mass destruction of civil infrastructure and civilian homes," Al Jazeera's Abu Azzoum reported from Khan Younis. Israeli forces have already killed 15,000 people in Gaza.
MoveOn executive director Rahna Epting said in a statement Wednesday that "civilians are being killed at what is being described a 'historic pace,' the majority women and children. The loss of life is devastating."
"We must end collective punishment, return those taken hostage or wrongfully imprisoned, and let in humanitarian aid," Epting argued. "The current pause is a good step toward what is needed: a permanent cease-fire."
Demand Progress foreign policy adviser Cavan Kharrazian similarly asserted that "there is no military solution to the current conflict, and further violence will continue to erode the safety and security of Palestinians and Israelis. Only a negotiated cease-fire can pave the way to addressing the current humanitarian crisis, the release of all hostages, and a long-term solution to this conflict."
Paul O'Brien, executive director of Amnesty International USA, pointed out that the nearly 1 million people who signed the petitions "represent just a fraction of Americans who support a cease-fire today, as reflected by poll after poll."
"They know that the way the Israeli military and Hamas have been engaging in this conflict is in violation of international law," he continued. "They know that a short pause in the fighting—even as it is welcome—will do nothing to assure that this will change."
Hassan El-Tayyab, FCNL's legislative director for Middle East policy, said that "it's inspiring to see the groundswell of support across the United States for an immediate cease-fire to end Israel's reckless military campaign and the total blockade of Gaza."
"It's critical that Congress and the administration listen to these voices, and the vast majority of U.S. citizens, who want an end to this nightmare before more innocent lives are lost," El-Tayyab added.
Since October 7, the list of members of Congress calling for a Gaza cease-fire has grown to about four dozen—though as The Intercept's Prem Thakker noted Wednesday, "a closer look at some lawmakers' statements raises questions about whether they are truly pushing for an end to the violence."
The United States already gives Israel $3.8 billion in annual military aid—and after the Hamas attack, Biden announced his "unwavering" support for the country and asked Congress for $14.3 billion for its war effort.
Oxfam's petition declares that "President Biden and Congress must help immediately de-escalate this dangerous situation; failing to do so will unwittingly place a U.S. seal of approval on the suffering that is sure to only deepen."
El-Tayyab highlighted that "every major humanitarian organization working in Gaza is pleading with the international community to reach an immediate cease-fire and open up aid access so they can continue their vital work in the Gaza Strip."
Throughout Israel's air and ground assault on Gaza, Israeli forces have waged what some critics have called a "war against hospitals," three-quarters of which have had to shut down. Margaret Harris, a World Health Organization spokesperson, warned Tuesday that "eventually we will see more people dying from disease than from bombardment if we are not able to put back together this health system."
The civil society groups behind the petitions shared the testimony of a practicing nurse volunteering in a Gaza hospital: "We heard nearby explosions. I rushed to assist, only to discover it was my own family. Witnessing their extraction was heartbreaking. Some lost their lives, while others were wounded. They started pulling out dead children from under the rubble in front of me."
"This is the hardest war Gaza has ever experienced. It's the first I witnessed such injuries: amputations, burns, unprecedented in its severity," the nurse added. "Dealing with 60 to 70 people simultaneously in an emergency room designed for 13 or 14 beds poses a challenge. We have no choice but to treat some on the floor."
As Oxfam's Scott Paul put it Wednesday: "We need a permanent cease-fire in order to enable humanitarian organizations to deliver much-needed aid safely and securely. More violence is not going to produce the safety and human rights that Israelis and Palestinians deserve, but it is sure to immeasurably deepen suffering in Gaza."
"Nobody will ever hold the government to account publicly," said one climate campaigner. "We do not have the privilege of speaking out against the government."
Despite greenwashing efforts like hosting the ongoing United Nations Climate Change Conference, the United Arab Emirates—the world's seventh-biggest oil producer and sixth-largest exporter—is contributing heavily to toxic air pollution, creating a "devastating impact on human health."
That's according to a Monday report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) report—entitled 'You Can Smell Petrol in the Air': UAE Fossil Fuels Feed Toxic Pollution—which "documents alarmingly high air pollution levels in the UAE" and how toxic air caused by oil and gas production creates "major health risks" for the country's 9.4 million people.
As the report details:
The UAE government says that the country has poor air quality but mainly ascribes this to natural dust from sandstorms. However, academic studies have shown that natural causes are not the single, or in some cases even the major, factor in air pollution. A 2022 academic study found that, in addition to the dust, emissions including from fossil fuels contribute significantly to the problem in the UAE. Air pollution and climate change are directly linked, as the extraction and use of fossil fuels are the sources of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
The report's researchers analyzed levels of PM2.5—fine particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers or smaller that can penetrate human lungs and blood—at 30 UAE government monitoring stations and found that they were, on average, three times higher than the World Health Organization's (WHO) daily recommended exposure.
The WHO estimates that approximately 1,870 people die each year from outdoor air pollution in the UAE.
"Fossil fuels pollute the air people breathe in the UAE," HRW environment director Richard Pearshouse said in a statement. "But the obliteration of civil society by UAE's government means that no one can publicly express concerns, let alone criticize the government's failure to prevent this harm."
The report explains:
Those in the UAE wanting to report on, or speak out about, the risks of fossil fuel expansion and its links to air pollution face risks of unlawful surveillance, arrest, detention, and ill-treatment. Over the last decade, authorities in the UAE have embarked on a sustained assault on human rights and freedoms, including targeting human rights activists, enacting repressive laws, and using the criminal justice system as a tool to eliminate the human rights movement. These policies have led to the complete closure of civic space, severe restrictions on freedom of expression, both online and offline, and the criminalization of peaceful dissent.
"Nobody will ever hold the government to account publicly," said one climate activist interviewed by HRW. "We do not have the privilege of speaking out against the government."
Pearshouse argued: "Air pollution is a dirty secret in the UAE. If the government doesn't allow civil society to scrutinize and speak freely about the connection between air pollution and its fossil fuel industry, people will keep experiencing health conditions that are entirely preventable."
Most of those affected by air pollution in the UAE are migrant workers, who make up nearly 90% of the country's population. In addition to enduring widespread serious labor abuses, these workers—many of whom hail from some of the world's most climate-vulnerable countries—face deadly dangers from air pollution.
Migrant workers interviewed by HRW said they breathe air that burns their lungs, are often short of breath at work, and suffer from skin and other ailments they believe could be caused by pollution. However, migrant workers told HRW that they were given no information about the risks of air pollution or how to protect themselves.
One migrant worker told HRW: "Sometimes, the environment becomes dark and murky. We discuss among friends why it is that way... The conversation ends there. During such times friends also fall sick."
While the UAE government has submitted a recently revised domestic climate action plan as required by the 2015 Paris agreement, the plan has been criticized for its continued reliance upon fossil fuel production.
"Sometimes, the environment becomes dark and murky. We discuss among friends why it is that way."
The choice of the UAE and the CEO of its national oil company—Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber—as host and president of the U.N. Climate Change Conference also stunned and angered many climate campaigners around the world. In the United States, climate activists were also outraged after U.S. climate envoy John Kerry glowingly endorsed Al Jaber as "a terrific choice" for the COP28 presidency.
Late last month, internal records leaked by a whistleblower showed that Al Jaber used meetings about COP28 to push foreign governments for fossil fuel deals. In response to the allegation, former Marshallese President Hilda Heine resigned from COP28's advisory board.
Al Jaber stoked further controversy over the weekend when he insisted there is "no science" supporting the effort to rapidly phase out planet-heating fossil fuels.
"My medical opinion is that we should not be building nor permitting more LNG export terminals," one health expert said.
A group of public health organizations sent a letter to President Joe Biden Sunday asking him to stop the buildout of liquefied natural gas export infrastructure and, specifically, to rule that the proposed Calcasieu Pass 2, or CP2, export terminal "is not in the public's interest."
The letter was signed by 30 local and national groups that represent more than 70,000 health professionals. It argued that CP2 and the "malignant growth" of LNG export terminals generally would harm health by contributing both to localized pollution and the climate crisis.
"As health professionals who have committed our lives to protecting and improving health, we are extremely concerned about the environmental racism, cumulative pollution, and climate impacts of these LNG export terminals," the groups wrote.
"As a doctor, I've witnessed what happens when polluting industries are built near communities, and LNG export terminals are no different."
CP2 is an export terminal planned for Louisiana's Gulf Coast, which is already overburdened with oil, gas, and petrochemical infrastructure. The company behind the project, Venture Global, has a documented history of violating environmental permits at its original Calcasieu Pass terminal, to which CP2 would be "technologically identical." The Department of Energy (DOE) is set to approve or reject the project this fall as a growing movement of frontline community groups, climate organizations, progressive lawmakers, and now healthcare workers are mobilizing against both CP2 and the broader LNG expansion.
"LNG is a toxic, harmful fossil fuel, and President Biden and his administration should do everything they can to stop the LNG buildout," Dr. Anne Mellinger-Birdsong, who is a medical adviser for Mothers & Others for Clean Air and a member of Georgia Clinicians for Climate Action, said in a statement announcing the letter. "Producing and exporting LNG causes health problems throughout the entire LNG lifecycle—from fracking that produces methane to pipelines, compression plants, and export terminals."
CP2 would emit 190 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents each year, the same as the yearly emissions of 42.4 million gasoline-powered cars or 51 coal plants, the letter writers noted. Climate campaigner Bill McKibben had previously observed it would release 20 times the greenhouse gases of the controversial Willow oil drilling project in Alaska over the course of its lifetime. Yet CP2 is only one of 22 new export terminals proposed for the Gulf Coast. If all of them were approved and built, they would contribute as much to the climate crisis as 675 coal plants.
"This would erode into the progress the United States is making towards a renewable energy transition, with only 242 coal power plants operating in 2022 down from 557 plants in 2012," the letter authors observed.
The health professionals noted that adding to global heating harms health in and of itself.
"Climate change is the greatest public health threat of this century, and Americans are already suffering its health impacts," they wrote. "In 2023, health professionals across the country have cared for workers who collapsed under extreme heat, helped kids breathe as climate-intensified wildfire smoke choked their lungs, and comforted families traumatized and displaced by climate-driven extreme weather."
Yet CP2 and the other terminals would have localized impacts as well.
"It is unconscionable that we continue to subject people to these toxic industries when we have the technology to transition justly to renewable energy."
"As a doctor, I've witnessed what happens when polluting industries are built near communities, and LNG export terminals are no different," Dr. Regina LaRocque, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and board member of Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility, said in a statement. "They emit pollutants that cause serious health problems from asthma and respiratory illnesses to cancer and cardiovascular issues, and my medical opinion is that we should not be building nor permitting more LNG export terminals."
Export terminals would emit air pollutants including nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and fine particulate matter, which has been linked to a number of health conditions including heart disease, lung disease, and childhood cognitive problems and is responsible for 350,000 early deaths in the U.S. each year.
The terminals will also drive up demand for gas, leading to more fracking. Almost 18 million people in the U.S. live near a fracking well site, and they are disproportionately people of color, low-income, and vulnerable older adults or young children. Living near a fracking site is associated with higher risk of heart disease, childhood leukemia, kidney disease, asthma, and early death.
"While the fossil fuel industry reaps billions of dollars in profits, communities living around fracking and drilling sites and Gulf Coast residents living next to LNG export facilities will pay with their health and the health of their children," Dr. Laalitha Surapaneni, who serves on the board of Physicians for Social Responsibility and is an assistant professor of general internal medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School, said. "It is unconscionable that we continue to subject people to these toxic industries when we have the technology to transition justly to renewable energy."
The letter writers pushed back against the industry claim that LNG is a cleaner fuel, pointing to emerging evidence that methane leaks make the fuel as emissions-intensive as coal. They also dismissed plans to offset LNG emissions through carbon capture and storage as "greenwashing." Instead, they called on the administration to halt CP2 and all other new LNG infrastructure.
"We are lucky to live in a time when cleaner, healthier energy options are available," Dr. Neelu Tummala, assistant professor of surgery at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and co-director of the Climate Health Institute at George Washington University, said in a statement. "LNG is not in the public interest; we must choose energy options that prioritize health and well-being."
"When military goods can contribute to human rights violations or international humanitarian law, that export is strictly prohibited," said one campaigner. "It is incomprehensible that, despite clear warnings, the government has knowingly deviated from this."
A Dutch court on Monday heard opening arguments in a case brought by four human rights organizations that have accused the government of the Netherlands of being complicit in Israeli war crimes due to its export of military supplies as Israel kills thousands of civilians in Gaza.
Supplying the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) with parts for F-35 fighter jets, which are stored in a warehouse in the Netherlands, puts the Dutch government at risk for "becoming complicit in violations of international humanitarian law," the director of the Dutch branch of Amnesty International, one of the plaintiffs, said when the lawsuit was announced last month.
Amnesty is joined by Oxfam Novib—the Dutch chapter of Oxfam International—The Rights Forum, and PAX in the case, which is expected to result in a judgement around December 15.
The groups filed the lawsuit after government documents showed the Netherlands had allowed at least one shipment of reserve parts for F-35s since October 7, Al Jazeera reported.
The Dutch Defense Ministry wrote in a letter to Parliament that "it cannot be established that the F-35s are involved in grave violations of the humanitarian laws of war," but with nearly 16,000 people killed in Gaza in less than two months—including more than 6,600 children—the human rights groups aim to test that claim in court.
"The state must immediately stop its deliveries of F-35 parts to Israel," lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld said Monday at the Hague District Court. "That is its obligation under... Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions, it is its obligation under the Genocide Treaty to prevent genocide, and it is its obligation under export law."
Martje van Nes, PAX's director of organization, pointed out last month that "the Netherlands has a very concrete assessment framework for arms exports."
"When military goods can contribute to human rights violations or international humanitarian law, that export is strictly prohibited," said van Nes. "It is incomprehensible that, despite clear warnings, the government has knowingly deviated from this. This makes them responsible for the deployment of the equipment."
PAX noted on Monday that the call for the Netherlands to end shipments of any supplies that Israel could use to continue its massacre of Palestinian civilians—in retaliation for an attack by Hamas in October that killed 1,200 Israelis—"is all the more urgent" considering the end of a temporary cease-fire on Friday. More than 800 people have been killed since the pause in fighting ended last week, and Israel was stepping up its ground attacks on Monday.
"As far as we are concerned, the government must take action now to protect citizens," said PAX on social media. The group has demanded a permanent humanitarian cease-fire.
Dagmar Oudshoorn, director of Amnesty International in the Netherlands, said that as the host country "of both the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court," the Dutch government "likes to present itself as a champion of international law."
"Our government is losing all credibility right now," she said. "Evident violations such as food, water, and fuel blockade, the forced displacement of the population, and the bombing of schools and hospitals, are not mentioned. And by supplying armies, the Netherlands runs the risk of becoming complicit in violations of international humanitarian law."
The Netherlands has maintained since October 7 that Israel "has the right to defend itself" and has called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to adhere to international law, but the groups said the IDF is clearly not doing so and should lose the support of the country.
"This complicity must stop now," said Gerard Jonkman, director of The Rights Forum.