Slithering ever further down a timeworn slippery slope into fascism, Texas Republicans just took one small step for white supremacy by rejecting a resolution to ban members from consorting with anti-Semites, Nazi-sympathizers or plain ole Nazis in a state already crawling with them. Critics claimed the move - born of furor over a meeting between a big-wig GOP fundraiser and Hitler-fanboy Nick Fuentes - was "too vague" and akin to a "Marxist" decree, evidently in that it seeks to differentiate between "good" and "bad" guys.
The GOP reluctance to distance itself from neo-Nazi extremism is, of course, part of the nationwide lunge to the right of a party so devoid of principles, policies or goals - they already killed Roe - they're left with only fear-mongering and hate. Let us (briefly) count the ways. They are "led" by a vengeful, authoritarian criminal who poses "a direct existential threat" to democracy. Their ranks include Stephen Miller, a literal Nazi whose America First Legal is zealously working to sue out of existence any public or private efforts at diversity, even targeting NASCAAR: “So instead of its drivers being 99.999% white, we need them to be 2,000% white?" Across red states, Popular Information's Judd Legum has chronicled their sordid efforts to ensure power remains in the hands of the white, straight, bigoted: In North Carolina, they've created a powerful Gov Ops "secret police" to target political enemies; in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, they've sought to impose a Christian, anti-sex, pro-slavery curriculum aimed at eliminating "ideology," aka ugly historical truths, in schools; in Florida, they've feverishly removed pernicious books suggesting two male penguins can love each other, arguing the purpose of public school libraries is to "convey the government’s message."
Deep-dark-red Texas, a longtime, flourishing hotbed for right-wing extremism, is a logical place for the GOP to take on the devil's work. The home base for the white nationalist Patriot Front, Texas boasts the largest number of Jan. 6 rioters and roughly 80% of the nation's white supremacist propaganda, with racist and anti-Semitic flyers routinely infesting Dallas and north Texas; hundreds once made their way to windshields at Fort Worth's pastoral Botanical Gardens. In May, a neo-Nazi gunman killed 8 people - the victims came from Korea, India, Venezuela, Mexico - and wounded 7 at a shopping center in a diverse Dallas suburb; the Latino shooter bragged online that he'd decided to "take my chances with the white supremacists." Most recently, in Forth Worth, burly neo-Nazis had to be escorted out of a gun show, and a group of swastika-wearing Nazis showily gathered in and sauntered through a Torchy's Tacos, (even though they're presumably made by brown people). Last week, a report found anti-Semitic incidents in Texas have soared 89% since 2021; there's also been six "terrorist plots" and 28 "extremist" rallies. And their governor is a stand-your-ground fascist goon who's never met a worker, migrant, pregnant woman or left-wing protester he didn't try to abuse.
Texas GOP "crackpots and ideologues" have likewise, predictably crawled rightward to join the Nazis looming on their fringe. In 2020, when Allen West became chairman, he pushed the party to adopt a new slogan: "We Are the Storm." Though it weirdly, precisely echoes the slogan of QAnon, which argues Democrats are Satan-worshiping, child-eating drug-traffickers, West says his inspiration was a popular "anonymous" quote - "The devil whispers to the warrior slyly, can it withstand the coming storm? The warrior responds, 'I am the storm," - that's evidently used by both Spanish fascists and/or ultra-runner Adharanand Finn, but it pretty much sounds like QAnon to us. In June 2022, to burnish its far-right credentials, the Texas GOP also adopted a platform that described homosexuality as "an abnormal lifestyle choice," argued Biden was not "legitimately elected," urged Texas legislators to affirm the state's right to secede, demanded Texas students be taught "life begins at fertilization," and called for the repeal of the Voting Rights Act. It also started posting on the fringe white nationalist social network Gab, and tweeted its months-long support for the anti-Semitic unholy trinity of "Trump, West, Musk," only taking down the post after Ye boldly came out as pro-Hitler.
This weekend's vote to essentially follow Ye's example was sparked by two recent events exposing a growing internecine squabble about just how far right the party should tilt. The first was the impeachment of scandal-beset A.G Ken Paxton, whose subsequent acquittal by the Texas Senate - shades of Orange Guy - "marked a screaming milestone in a (long) career that has seen Paxton harness the state’s increasingly conservative politics (to) stay in power longer than his vulnerabilities would suggest." Paxton is a key ally of Defend Texas Liberty, a powerful, oil-billionaire-funded PAC that bankrolls a vast network of far-right candidates, media outfits and initiatives that serves as the GOP's puppet-master. Vexed their bestie Paxton had (almost) been held to account, they undertook a "scorched-earth campaign" against the party's (likely Marxist) RINOS until a second, fraught, saying-the-quiet-part-out-loud incident in October when the Texas Tribunerevealed Jonathan Strickland, a former pest-control-geek-turned-head of Defend Texas, had hostedwhite supremacist Nick Fuentes, who has urged a "holy war" against Jews and might be viewed as a fascist too far. The same day, Texas GOP chair Matt Rinaldi was also seen entering the same hotel, but he said he was seeing someone else so OK, yeah, sure.
Since then, both the GOP-controlled legislature and Defend Texas Liberty have sought to downplay their coziness with Fuentes and the extremist thugs he represents. Defend Texas Liberty issued a brief outraged statement trashing those who've tried to connect them to Fuentes’ "incendiary" views; they also may or may not have fired Stickland as president. House Speaker Dade Phelan called on GOP colleagues to fork over some of the millions they get from Defend Texas Liberty to pro-Israel charities; then he was blasted for crassly politicizing anti-Semitism. A prominent Republican also at the scene of the Nazi crime that day dismissed all the fuss as (likely Marxist again) nonsense, blaming "hearsay,", "fuzzy photographs," and "narratives." Thus did the Texas GOP’s Executive Committee gather this weekend for their quarterly meeting in hopes of putting to rest the ugly rumor - and given the times, really, we're kinda astonished it's still deemed "ugly" - that they're into Nazis. Their original plan, endorsed by about half the committee, was to call for severing ties with Defend Texas Liberty and its allies until Stickland was removed and a full explanation for the Fuentes fiasco was forthcoming; the move would have been part of a broader pro-Israel resolution.
But in our current pay-to-play politics - thanks Citizens United! - that proposal was quickly watered down to a resolution to bar any association with individuals or groups "known to espouse or tolerate anti-Semitism, pro-Nazi sympathies or Holocaust denial." That doesn't seem like too much to ask, so we were sure even the Texas GOP could manage to quit flat-out, holy-war-declaring Nazis.... But nope. Too much. After a tense debate, the Committee voted it down 32-29; in an almost equally appalling move, almost half the board tried to prevent their vote from being recorded - almost like, if they had it in them, they were ashamed. Still, naysayers argued the words "tolerate" and "anti-Semitism" were "too vague" and "could create future problems" for lawmakers; others thought the phrasing of the ban could "create a slippery slope"; another said it felt akin to "Marxist" (again!) and "leftist" tactics, and would incite "guilt by association"; one said the Fuentes meeting was "a mistake" but there's "no evidence" Stickland/Defend are anti-Semitic. "I've had meetings with transgenders, gays and lesbians - does that make me a transgender, gay or lesbian? he said. “We don’t need to do our enemy’s work for them." And no, we have no idea what any of this gibberish means.
Chairman Rinaldi abstained, but insisted that despite Nazi clowns regularly parading through north Texas and growing GOP links with them, with , the GOP's all good: "I don't see any anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi or Holocaust denial movement on the right that has any significant traction whatsoever." A colleague argued "our position as a party" is that people who want to slaughter Jews are "not welcome" and "the overwhelming majority of Republicans in Texas" would agree, a ringing endorsement if we've ever heard one. Still, some were distressed. Speaker Phelan called it "despicable" that members "can’t even bring themselves to denounce neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers or cut ties with their top donor who brought them to the dance," and Morgan Cisneros Graham impugned the arguments of her name-calling, linguistically-challenged colleagues. "I just don’t understand how people who routinely refer to others as leftists, liberals, communists, socialists and RINOs don’t have the discernment to define what a Nazi is," she said, which was a good point, especially for a Republican. This whole don't-pal-around-with-Nazis thing shouldn't be so hard. Helpful hint: If they're named Adolf, wearing a Swastika, calling people "vermin" or talking up Aryan victory, just friggin' steer clear.
Environmental protection groups on Tuesday warned that the Norwegian government's new deal with two right-wing minority parties to open the Arctic Ocean to deep-sea mining would be "a disaster" and flies in the face of warnings from scientists about companies' exploration of the seabed.
The Labor and Center Parties, which have control of the government, reached an agreement with the right-wing Hoeyre and Progress Parties to allow Stortinget, the Norwegian parliament, to approve the first projects by deep-sea mining firms such as Loke Marine Minerals.
The plan would gradually open areas of the Greenland and Barents seas in the Arctic, and proponents claimed it would set strict environmental survey requirements. The proposal is set to be formally debated by the Stortinget on January 4, followed by a vote.
Despite the promises of environmental protections, Greenpeace Norway said the government cannot claim to know "what consequences this will have for the ecosystems in the sea, for endangered species such as whales and seabirds, or for the fish stocks on which we base our livelihood."
Norway is "giving up any pretense of being an environmental leader" by embracing deep-sea mining, said the group.
The European Academies Science Advisory Council in August said the push to extract metals like cobalt and copper from the fragile seabed—ostensibly to support the production of batteries for electric vehicles, wind turbines, and other products—is "misleading" and could cause "irreparable damage" ecosystems where thousands of newly discovered species live.
The minerals are already mined elsewhere on Earth, scientists have pointed out, and the deep sea could be placed at risk for chemical leaks and spills as well as harmful noise and light pollution.
More than 800 marine scientists have called for a global moratorium on deep-sea mining, and 119 members of the European Parliament have called on Norwegian lawmakers to reject the proposed opening process.
Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway, called Tuesday's proposal "shameful" for the country.
"The Norwegian government is not only ignoring hundreds of concerned scientists, but also showing disregard for its international obligations and national environmental legislation," said Pleym. "By opening up for deep-sea mining, Norway has lost all credibility as a responsible ocean nation that signed the United Nations ocean treaty."
Martin Sveinssønn Melvær of the Bellona environmental group in Norway said it would be "a dangerous derailment in the fight against climate change to open up seabed minerals."
Pleym pledged that the fight against deep-sea mining in Norway "doesn't end here."
"Across the Greenpeace network, we will work to stop every deep-sea mining project presented to the Norwegian parliament," he said. "The wave of protests against deep-sea mining has just started to grow... We will not allow Norway to destroy the unique life in the deep sea, not in the Arctic nor anywhere else."
The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday disputed more than 100 patents held by pharmaceutical companies that make asthma inhalers, EpiPens, and other items listed in the Food and Drug Administration's so-called "Orange Book," which identifies products the agency considers safe and effective.
The FTC sent letters to 10 companies—including AbbVie, AstraZeneca, and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals—notifying them that the commission believes some of their patents are improperly listed in the FDA's Orange Book.
Drug companies have long been accused of abusing the FDA patent listing system to undercut generic competition. In its warning letters to the pharmaceutical companies, the FTC notes that "patents improperly listed in the Orange Book may delay lower-cost generic drug competition."
"By listing their patents in the Orange Book, brand drug companies may benefit from an automatic, 30-month stay of FDA approval of competing generic drug applications," the agency's letters explain. "In addition to delays resulting from such a stay of approval, the costs associated with litigating improperly listed patents may disincentivize investments in developing generic drugs, which risks delaying or thwarting competitive entry. The Supreme Court recognizes that improper Orange Book listings have prevented or delayed generic drug entry since at least the 1990s."
While the letters state that the FTC has chosen to make use of the FDA's formal dispute process to target the allegedly improper listings, the agency said it retains "the right to take any further action the public interest may require," including legal action.
"Instead, we have found that firms are listing device patents that have absolutely nothing to do with the active ingredient," said Khan. "So they're instead covering the dispenser cap on a multidose eyedropper or the cap strap on an inhaler, which just keeps the inhalers in place."
"We've identified patents covering these components of devices," Khan added, "and that may in fact be resulting in Americans having to pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars more than they should be."
"Big Pharma has been intentionally gaming the United States' drug safety system to block other manufacturers from making and selling the same treatments at lower prices."
Consumer advocates applauded the FTC's move as a key step toward challenging the pharmaceutical industry's profit-seeking manipulation of the U.S. patent system.
"We're thrilled to see the FTC crack down on over a hundred sham Orange Book listings, which keep lifesaving medicines like asthma inhalers and epinephrine prohibitively expensive for those who need them most," said Erik Peinert, research manager and editor at the American Economic Liberties Project. "Big Pharma has been intentionally gaming the United States' drug safety system to block other manufacturers from making and selling the same treatments at lower prices."
Public Citizen also welcomed the FTC's action in a social media post:
The FTC's warning letters to drug companies came after the agency issued a policy statement signaling that it intends to "scrutinize improper Orange Book listings to determine whether these constitute unfair methods of competition."
The statement notes that "patents listed in the Orange Book must claim the reference listed drug or a method of using it."
"Brand drug manufacturers are responsible for ensuring their patents are properly listed," the statement continues. "Yet certain manufacturers have submitted patents for listing in the Orange Book that claim neither the reference listed drug nor a method of using it. When brand drug manufacturers abuse the regulatory processes set up by Congress to promote generic drug competition, the result may be to increase the cost of and reduce access to prescription drugs."
A report published earlier this year by the American Economic Liberties Project estimated that antitrust violations by the pharmaceutical industry—including shame Orange Book listings—cost U.S. patients, insurers, and federal health programs more than $40 billion in 2019 alone.
After visiting Israel last week, Westchester County Executive George Latimer on Monday filed paperwork to launch a primary challenge against Democratic New York Congressman Jamaal Bowman, a critic of the Israeli government and its devastating war on the Gaza Strip.
The 70-year-old county executive, who previously served in the New York State Senate and Assembly, has been openly considering a run for the 16th Congressional District—which Bowman has represented since 2021, after successfully primarying former Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel.
Latimer suggested toThe Washington Post early last month that if he ran against Bowman, "it might be that this becomes a proxy argument" between "the left and the far left." He later toldPolitico that Israel would be a "big issue" but "not the whole issue," and his campaign would focus on his record as "the most progressive" county official in the state.
Bowman is the fourth "Squad" member to face a serious primary challenger for 2024, joining Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Summer Lee (D-Pa.), and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). They are all among the eight progressives who in October voted against a bipartisan House resolution expressing unconditional support for Israel's government as it waged war on Gaza.
The four of them also support a resolution demanding a cease-fire in Gaza. While the number of House members calling for a cease-fire has grown to more than four dozen as Israeli forces have killed thousands of Palestinians over the past two months, as The Intercepthighlighted last week, "a closer look at some lawmakers' statements raises questions about whether they are truly pushing for an end to the violence."
Latimer does not support a cease-fire. As Politico reported on his trip:
The county executive and former state lawmaker said that his time with Israelis, such as meeting with President Isaac Herzog, taught him that there is "no animosity directed toward the Palestinian people."
"There's people that are protesting that they're pro-Palestine, as if the Israeli position is anti-Palestinian," he said in an interview while waiting to board his return flight at Ben Gurion Airport.
"There wasn't a 'let's go get those bastards' kind of mindset," he said. "The anger and fear is directed at Hamas as the terrorist organization that runs the country and that's a differentiation you don't often pick up."
Since declaring war in retaliation for a Hamas-led attack on October 7, Israel has killed nearly 15,900 Palestinians in Gaza and wounded another 42,000 in airstrikes and raids, according to health officials in the besieged enclave. At least hundreds of those killings have come after the seven-day pause in fighting that ended late last week.
Responding to Latimer's filing on Monday, Slate's Alex Sammon said, "There it is: after weeks of unnecessary hemming and hawing (during which he stockpiled an extra helping of cash from the Israel lobby), George Latimer is challenging Jamaal Bowman, aiming to [replace] one of the party's rising stars as a 70-year-old white freshman congressman."
It was Sammon who reported in mid-November that the lobby group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is set to "spend at least $100 million in 2024 Democratic primaries, largely trained on eliminating incumbent Squad members" including Bowman, Bush, Omar, Lee, and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who had a U.S. Senate candidate reject an offer of $20 million if he instead primaried her, the only Palestinian American in Congress.
Ocasio-Cortez's 2024 campaign said in a Monday email that "AIPAC's top recruit to challenge Jamaal Bowman officially filed his candidacy" and asked supporters to "please chip in right now to help us defend Jamaal and our progressive values."
Along with stressing his support for a cease-fire in Gaza, her campaign pointed out that Bowman is "his district's first Black representative" and "one of the only members of Congress with actual experience working in public education."
Westchester's News 12reported Monday that while Latimer "is preparing a video announcement over the next 24 hours and will formally launch his campaign by Wednesday," he is not Bowman's only challenger—Democratic "Dobbs Ferry investment banker Martin Dolan also plans to run."
While the contest is considered a test of whether politicians can survive criticizing Israel, some observers noted Monday that in March 2021, as many elected officials—including Bowman and Ocasio-Cortez—called on then-Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign over outrage about his Covid-19 pandemic response and sexual misconduct allegations, Latimer said the claims should be taken seriously but also drew a comparison to Emmett Till, which he later retracted.
Who wins the next primary for New York's solidly Democratic 16th District could depend on an effort to replace the GOP-friendly map drawn by a court-appointed expert for the 2022 election cycle. City & Statereported last month that a new order could mean "the Independent Redistricting Commission—which is led by Latimer's deputy, Ken Jenkins—will have the opportunity to change the boundaries."
"The district currently includes much of Westchester and a sliver of the northern Bronx and is home to many Jewish voters who have turned against Bowman," the outlet explained. "Should the district lines change, it will change the dynamics of the race."
Florida governor and 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis made a return to capital punishment in his state a key element of his "tough on crime" campaign messaging this past year, and the result was an overall increase in the use of the death penalty in the United States, according to a new annual report.
The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) found that although a majority of U.S. states—29 of them—have now either abolished the death penalty or enacted a moratorium on executions, the number of people killed by state governments rose from 18 in 2022 to 25 in 2023.
The group attributed the rise to Florida's return to capital punishment after a four-year hiatus, with DeSantis moving forward with the executions of six people—the highest number in the state since 2014.
The state's new pattern of putting Floridians to death showed no sign of slowing down in the coming year, as it also imposed five new death sentences—the most of any state in 2023.
The DPIC catalogued other laws signed by DeSantis this year as he joined the Republican presidential primary race, in which he is currently trailing former Republican President Donald Trump by more than 47 points, with an average of 12.6% of Republicans backing him according to the latest polls.
In April Florida passed a law allowing the state to execute people convicted of sexual battery of a child under the age of 12 in cases in which the victim is not killed—a law that conflicts with a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a similar statute in Louisiana.
DeSantis also approved a law giving Florida the lowest threshold in the U.S. for permitting juries to sentence a convicted criminal to death, allowing a death sentence if only eight out of 12 jurors agree. Only Alabama and Florida allow non-unanimous juries to impose a death sentence, and Alabama's threshold is 10 jurors.
Florida also holds the country's record for the highest number of exonerations from death row, with 30 people exonerated—the majority after being sentenced by non-unanimous juries.
"It should be hard to send someone to the death penalty," Randolph Bracy, a former Democratic Florida state senator who pushed to require a unanimous jury vote for death sentences, toldThe New York Times when DeSantis signed the bill. "Florida has the highest rate of wrongful convictions, I think, in the country. We needed that threshold to make sure that we were doing the right thing."
As DeSantis' policies led to an increase in executions in the U.S., the DPIC reported that the Florida governor is out of step with a growing number of Americans. For the first time this year, Gallup found that 50% of Americans believe the death penalty is administered unfairly, while only 47% believe it is used fairly.
"That important change can also be seen in the unprecedented show of support for death-sentenced prisoners from conservative lawmakers and elected officials this year, some of whom now oppose use of the death penalty in their state," said Robin M. Maher, executive director of DPIC.
Richard Glossip, who was convicted of a 1997 murder in Oklahoma and sentenced to death earlier this year, was issued a stay of execution in May after the state's Republican attorney general joined campaigners who had long advocated for Glossip's life to be spared.
The DPIC found that a majority of the people who were executed in 2023—79% of whom had impairments such as brain injuries, serious childhood trauma, or developmental disabilities—would likely not have received death sentences had they been tried today, "due to significant changes in the law, prosecutorial decision-making, and public attitudes over the past few decades."
"Today," said the group, "they would have powerful arguments for life sentences and decisions from juries who better understand the effects of mental illness, developmental impairments, and severe trauma."
As the number of Gazans killed, maimed, or left missing by Israeli bombs and bullets—many of them manufactured in the United States— tops 60,000, a group of U.S. senators on Tuesday urged President Joe Biden to boost oversight of how American arms are used against Palestinian civilians.
Noting that Israel's response to the Hamas-led attacks of October 7 "has killed over 15,000 Palestinians in Gaza, the vast majority of whom are civilians," Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) asked the White House for "information on the accountability and oversight measures that ensure any use of U.S. weapons is in accordance with U.S. policy and international law."
"U.S. allies and human rights groups have argued many of these deaths were preventable," the senators wrote in their letter. "In its campaign, Israel has also repeatedly targeted areas it previously designated as 'safe zones,' after telling Palestinians to move to these locations for safety."
"[Israel Defense Forces] airstrikes have also hit the densely populated Jabalia refugee camp multiple times," the lawmakers noted. "The first strike killed 'more than 100 people' and injured 'hundreds' more. The second strike left dozens wounded and rescuers said those killed included 'whole families'... Other strikes and operations have targeted hospitals."
A growing number of legal, human rights, and other experts have called Israel's war on Gaza a genocide.
The senators' letter continues:
While these strikes were aimed at Hamas, we have concerns that strikes on civilian infrastructure have not been proportional, particularly given the predictable harm to civilians. The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has said these strikes are 'clear violations of international humanitarian law.' Even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has admitted that his government's efforts to minimize civilian casualties to date are 'not successful.'
The letter singles out 155mm artillery shells, unguided explosive rounds with a "kill radius" of about 50 meters, with shrapnel able to kill and wound people hundreds of meters away.
"The IDF requires its ground forces to stay 250 meters away to protect its own forces," the letter states. "The IDF has previously used these shells to 'hit populated areas including neighborhoods, hospitals, schools, shelters, and safe zones,' causing a staggering number of civilian deaths."
"Over 30 U.S.-based civil society organizations warned against providing Israel 155mm shells in an open letter to [U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd] Austin calling the shells 'inherently indiscriminate' and 'a grave risk to civilians,'" the lawmakers added.
Claiming that "civilian harm prevention is a cornerstone of American foreign policy"—a curious assertion given that the United States has killed more foreign civilians by far than any other armed force on the planet since the end of World War II—the senators argued that "we must ensure accountability for the use of U.S. weapons we provided to our ally."
"As you have acknowledged, Israel's military campaign has included 'indiscriminate bombing,'" they wrote. "Your administration must ensure that existing guidance and standards are being used to evaluate the reports of Israel using U.S. weapons in attacks that harm civilians in order to more rigorously protect civilian safety during Israel's operations in Gaza."
To that end, the senators ask Biden to answer 13 questions, including:
- Are U.S. officials aware of the IDF's current policy on preventing civilian harm?
- What insights does the U.S. government have into how the Israeli military assesses issues of proportionality?
- What systems does the Israeli government have in place to investigate allegations of civilian harm?
- Does the U.S. Defense Department or State Department plan to provide Israel with guidance on how 155mm shells should be
used when civilians are nearby?
- Are you aware of any requests for inspector general reviews or audits of U.S. military assistance provided to Israel?
The senators' letter came ahead of Wednesday's procedural vote on whether to begin debating a $106 billion "national security" spending package requested by Biden, which includes more than $10 billion in additional U.S. military aid to Israel atop the nearly $4 billion it receives each year from Washington.
On Tuesday, Sanders—who has
angered progressives by failing to demand a Gaza cease-fire—said he opposes sending billions of dollars in unconditional U.S. armed aid to the "right-wing, extremist" Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"Israel must dramatically change its approach to minimize civilian harm," he said, "and lay out a wider political process that can secure lasting peace."
Amnesty International said that the October 13 Israeli tank strike that killed Issam Abdallah and blew the legs off Christina Assi was "likely a direct attack on civilians that must be investigated as a war crime."
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International on Thursday called for an official investigation of a deadly Israeli attack on a group of journalists, which HRW called "apparently deliberate" and a likely "war crime."
HRW, Amnesty, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse on Thursday all published their own separate investigations into the October 13 Israel Defense Forces (IDF) attack that killed 37-year-old Lebanese Reuters videographer Issam Abdallah and wounded half a dozen other journalists who were covering cross-border clashes between Israeli and Hezbollah troops near the village of Alma al-Shaab in southern Lebanon.
"This is not the first time that Israeli forces have apparently deliberately attacked journalists, with deadly and devastating results."
Reutersdetermined that an Israeli tank crew "fired two shells in quick succession" at the journalists, who HRW said were "clearly identifiable as members of the media, and had been stationary for at least 75 minutes." HRW "found no evidence of a military target near the journalists' location."
"This is not the first time that Israeli forces have apparently deliberately attacked journalists, with deadly and devastating results," HRW Lebanon researcher Ramzi Kaiss said in a statement. "Those responsible need to be held to account, and it needs to be made clear that journalists and other civilians are not lawful targets."
Amnesty International, meanwhile, asserted that the IDF strike was "likely a direct attack on civilians that must be investigated as a war crime."
The organization said it "verified over 100 videos and photographs, analyzed weapons fragments from the site, and interviewed nine witnesses. The findings indicate that the group was visibly identifiable as journalists and that the Israeli military knew or should have known that they were civilians yet attacked them anyway in two separate strikes 37 seconds apart."
Aya Majzoub, Amnesty's deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, noted that "direct attacks on civilians and indiscriminate attacks are absolutely prohibited by international humanitarian law and can amount to war crimes."
"Those responsible for Issam Abdallah's unlawful killing and the injuring of six other journalists must be held accountable," Majzoub added. "No journalist should ever be targeted or killed simply for carrying out their work. Israel must not be allowed to kill and attack journalists with impunity. There must be an independent and impartial investigation into this deadly attack."
According to HRW:
The journalists interviewed said that the first munition struck Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah and a short concrete wall, killing him instantly and badly injuring an Agence France-Presse photojournalist, Christina Assi. Thirty-seven seconds later, another attack destroyed the car belonging to Al Jazeera, igniting it in flames, and injuring six journalists, including Carmen Joukhadar and Elie Brakhya from Al Jazeera, Dylan Collins and Christina Assi from AFP, and Thaer al-Sudani and Maher Nazeh from Reuters.
Brakhya, an Al Jazeera cameraman, told Amnesty: "I was looking at Issam when we heard the [first] explosion. I saw Issam's body fly, with the glow and the heat behind his back… [I] ran up the hill, heard Christina shouting 'I can't feel my legs,' ran back to where she was, saw Dylan searching for the tourniquet."
Collins, an American deputy editor at Al Jazeera English, said that "as soon as I turned around, I heard Christina's voice saying, 'Oh my God!' I say, 'You're okay.' I ran to her directly and I see that her legs are blown off at the kneecap."
The second Israeli shell exploded as Collins tried to tie a tourniquet around Assi's legs.
"When the second blast hit, I was stunned and dizzy, but in my blurry memory, I remember Issam's leg falling in front of me, I remember looking up and seeing Carmen by the car, her face is black and she is walking like a zombie," he recalled. "Her entire back is covered in shrapnel."
The day after the attacks, IDF spokesperson Richard Hecht said that the Israeli military was "very sorry for the journalist's death."
Presented with Reuters' findings, Hecht later said that "we don't target journalists."
However, Kaiss argued that "the evidence strongly suggests that Israeli forces knew or should have known that the group that they were attacking were journalists."
"This was an unlawful and apparently deliberate attack on a very visible group of journalists," he added.
"They don't want us to see the truth. That's why they're taking out the journalists."
Numerous international observers accused Israeli forces of intentionally targeting journalists in an effort to prevent them from reporting the truth about what many critics call a genocidal war against Palestinians.
"I believe that it is in the military strategy of Israel to kill journalists so that they kill the truth," Lebanese Information Minister Ziad Makary told Reuters.
U.S. journalist Abby Martin toldMiddle East Eye Wednesday that Israel is "killing the truth."
"They don't want us to see the truth," she said. "That's why they're taking out the journalists."
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) responded to the rights groups' and media probes into the October 13 attacks by demanding an "immediate, independent, and transparent investigation that holds the perpetrators to account."
CPJ cited its May 2023 report, "which showed a pattern of lethal force by the Israel Defense Forces that left 20 journalists dead over the last 22 years. No one was ever held accountable."
According to the report, "The majority of the 20 journalists killed—at least 13—were clearly identified as members of the media or were inside vehicles with press insignia at the time of their deaths."
Since the IDF launched its war on Gaza following the October 7 Hamas-led attacks on Israel, CPJ has documented the killing of at least 63 media professionals, including 56 Palestinians, three Lebanese, and four Israelis.
"CPJ emphasizes that journalists are civilians doing important work during times of crisis and must not be targeted by warring parties," said Sherif Mansour, the group's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator.
Last month, after also concluding that the group in Lebanon was "deliberately targeted," the international press freedom group Reporters Without Borders called on the International Criminal Court to formally investigate the deaths of all journalists killed by Israeli troops and Hamas militants during the war.
"Journalists across the region are making great sacrifices to cover this heartbreaking conflict. Those in Gaza, in particular, have paid, and continue to pay, an unprecedented toll and face exponential threats," Mansour said. "Many have lost colleagues, families, and media facilities, and have fled seeking safety when there is no safe haven or exit."
Nazeh, a Reuters camera operator who survived the October 13 attack, demanded justice for his slain colleague Abdallah.
"We can't bring Issam back. Issam is gone," he said. "But he hears us, he sees us, and he's waiting for us to do something for him... to expose who hit him, who killed him, to the world."
One critic said the GOP aims "to give Donald Trump something to say when it's pointed out he has been twice impeached and is a proven fraudster, sexual assailant, and defamer of women who now faces 91 felony charges."
As a Republican congressman on Thursday introduced an impeachment inquiry resolution targeting U.S. President Joe Biden, leading House Democrats called out the GOP for serving former President Donald Trump and not the American people.
House Resolution 918, led by Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.), formally directs the House Oversight and Accountability, Ways and Means, and Judiciary committees to continue ongoing investigations into whether sufficient grounds exist to impeach Biden. A markup is scheduled for next Tuesday, so a vote may be held as soon as Wednesday.
"This impeachment inquiry is a complete political stunt with zero evidence. What a joke,"
responded Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), president of the House Democratic freshman class.
Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) declared that "this MAGA-extremist Biden impeachment resolution is a giant fishing expedition and a continued example of this GOP do-nothing Congress."
House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Jamie Raskin (D-Md.)—a constitutional scholar who was the lead manager for Trump's historic second impeachment after the January 6, 2021 insurrection—released a lengthy statement blasting the panel's chair, Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), for the "sham" impeachment inquiry.
"Voting to launch an impeachment inquiry will not change the fact that, following many months of endless investigation by House Republicans this Congress and by Senate Republicans in 2020, the evidence plainly shows no evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden, much less an impeachable offense," he said. "Chairman Comer cannot even identify what crime he thinks President Biden has committed."
Raskin highlighted the abundance of evidence collected regarding unfounded allegations of the president's misconduct related to his son Hunter Biden's business dealings and legal issues:
This is what we have assembled from House Republicans' 10-month investigation: more than 37,000 pages of subpoenaed private bank records, more than 2,000 pages of suspicious activity reports (SARs) made available by Treasury, more than 20,000 pages of emails regarding Hunter Biden released by the National Archives, with more than 62,000 additional pages being produced in the next few days, and dozens of hours of witness testimony from Hunter Biden's business associates, then-Vice President Biden's former financial adviser, and nine witnesses from agencies across the administration... All of it shows no misconduct by President Biden.
We also know that Hunter Biden has offered to testify and answer the committee's questions, under oath and in public, for as long as the committee seeks to go. But, embarrassingly, Chairman Comer refuses to take yes for an answer. He has insisted Hunter Biden must be deposed by lawyers in secret, behind closed doors. There is no reason for a secret deposition because the committee can adopt any format it chooses for a public hearing, including having lawyers questioning Hunter Biden. Obviously Chairman Comer does not want the American people hearing Hunter Biden's testimony or seeing the evidence free from GOP spin, editing, and manipulation.
"Everyone knows that the floundering Biden impeachment probe is designed to give Donald Trump something to say when it's pointed out he has been twice impeached and is a proven fraudster, sexual assailant, and defamer of women who now faces 91 felony charges in federal and state court," Raskin added. "But the price of this stupidity is huge constitutional damage as Republicans try to turn the extraordinary device of impeachment into a meaningless political event, plunging the nation into further lawlessness and nihilism."
Biden is seeking reelection in 2024 and Trump—despite his performance during his first term, four criminal cases, and arguments that inciting the insurrection constitutionally disqualifies him from holding office again—remains the front-runner for the Republican nomination.
On the campaign trail in recent weeks, Trump has pledged to be a dictator only on "
day one" to "close the border and... drill, drill, drill" as well as to "root out" what he called "radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country," fascistic language that drew comparisons to Nazi rhetoric.
"House GOP leaders should be ashamed for trying to thwart the EPA, and its authority under the Clean Air Act, to limit dangerous and deadly pollution," said one campaigner.
Climate and environmental campaigners on Wednesday bristled as the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives voted to block a proposed Biden administration rule meant to accelerate the transition from gasoline-powered to electric automobiles.
House lawmakers voted 221-197, almost entirely along party lines, in favor of H.R. 4468, the so-called Choice in Automobile Retail Sales Act of 2023. The office of House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) claimed the bill "stops President [Joe] Biden's agenda to force Americans to drive electric vehicles, which will cede our auto future to China."
However, Democratic Congressman Paul Tonko of New York condemned the measure during a House floor speech Wednesday, asserting that "we should be putting our clean energy standards in overdrive to protect consumers and our planet, not reversing course on vital electric vehicle policies."
"We should be putting our clean energy standards in overdrive to protect consumers and our planet, not reversing course on vital electric vehicle policies."
When the Biden administration unveiled its proposed clean transportation standard in April, progressive critics argued that it did not go far enough. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) projects that under the most robust version of its
proposal—which, if implemented, would take effect in 2027—electric vehicles could account for two-thirds of all new U.S. light-duty automobile sales by the 2032 model year. Last year, just 6% of new vehicles sold in the U.S. were electric.
A coalition of green groups slammed H.R. 4468 this week, writing to congressional leaders that "rather than recognize the twin crises of unmitigated climate change and public health impacts from transportation pollution and the transition to zero-emission vehicles underway, this bill aims to stem the tide of progress towards clean air and a healthy future."
"We need to move forward," the groups added, "not backward."
Margie Alt, director of the San Diego-based Climate Action Campaign, said in a statement that "today's vote on H.R. 4468 is a cynical and tremendously harmful attempt by some in Congress to placate their deep-pocketed fossil fuel executive and lobbyist allies."
"House GOP leaders should be ashamed for trying to thwart the EPA, and its authority under the Clean Air Act, to limit dangerous and deadly pollution from light duty and medium duty vehicles and trucks," she continued. "Cleaner cars standards protect all Americans from the significant respiratory and other health impacts of tailpipe pollution, not to mention limit the impacts of the climate crisis from a key source of climate pollution."
"Vehicle pollution endangers millions of Americans," Alt added, "particularly vulnerable Americans living near highways and high-traffic corridors."
H.R. 4468 has little chance of passing the Senate and even if it did, the White House has signaled that Biden will veto the measure. The White House Office of Management and Budget said Monday that the GOP proposal "would catastrophically impair EPA's ability to issue automotive regulations that protect public health, save consumers money, strengthen American energy security, and protect American investments in the vehicle technologies of the future."
Republican lawmakers on Wednesday also advanced a raft of what GOP leaders called "American energy solutions" that critics slammed as damaging to the climate, environment, Indigenous rights, and frontline communities. These bills include H.R. 6009, a measure introduced by Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) that would force taxpayers to foot the bill for cleaning up oil and gas wells on federal lands.