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New Yorkers protest police brutality after the murder of Tyre Nichols

Nobody Has A Gun Except You: The Village Comes Through

In the wake of Tyre Nichols and too many others, heart-stopping video shows a neighborhood confront "thugs with a badge and gun" after Seattle cops respond to a false call about gunfire and quickly target the first black man they see - holding a cell phone. Police depart the volatile encounter - "We’re here with rifles to protect and serve and make sure someone gets shot" - after bystanders shield, film, vouch for the distraught guy and beseech cops, "Calm the fuck down."

Once again displaying the terrifying tendency of inept U.S. law enforcement to freak out, draw weapons, scream, bully, panic and otherwise mindlessly escalate any chance contact - especially with a person of color - at least four hyped-up East Precinct officers in three red-flashing cars screeched onto the scene around 7 p.m. after reportedly getting a 911 call of gunshots. Four-minute video shows police take combat positions down the street as one aims his assault rifle at a young black guy in a yellow sweatshirt, yelling at him to drop his (imaginary) weapon and get on the ground. "I'm so confused," the guy yells back, shrugging. "I don't have a gun. I don't have anything, sir." The cop keeps yelling, residents start to gather and film, a woman across the street shouts, "He's holding a phone." Tensions rise, people shout - "He has no weapon! He has nothing! Nobody has a gun except you!" - as the distressed victim pulls off his jacket, puts his hands in the air, sits on the ground, proclaims, "I have nothing on me, bro. I didn't do anything." "We’re much more scared of the fucking police in this situation than this guy,” another person shrieks at the cops. “Can you guys fucking calm down?!"

When the cop holding the rifle demands the guy come closer to him, one bystander walks over to him, pointedly stands in front of him, asks if he wants him to walk up with him. A woman walking her dog joins him. People keep screaming at the cops to back off: "My brother didn't do anything! This is crazy! You've got guns aimed at him!" Through it all, cars weirdly, blithely stream past, because police are so intent on getting their (imaginary) bad guy they didn't bother to cordon off the street. After more, tense minutes of terrorizing an innocent young man, the cops evidently decide he's no threat, or there are too many cameras and too much possible bad P.R. One radios in, “We’re going to disengage," after which - no apology, no explanation - they all nonchalantly climb back into their police cars and pull away. Later, the guy told one resident he'd had an argument with someone, went outside to cool off, slapped the stop sign as he walked past, and was listening to music on Bluetooth when police roared up: "He was terrified and sobbing when it was all over." The neighborhood, meanwhile, had "come together to save an unarmed man from a bunch of maniacs with assault rifles and badges."

Afterwards, said maniacs issued a police "report," aka master class in gaslighting. Spotting the "possible suspect," they tried to "detain (him) by giving him verbal commands at a distance." But "multiple community members encircled the subject and attempted to obstruct officers’ paths (while) filming the incident"; they described "20 bystanders with four surrounding the suspect.” Despite cops' best efforts at fear-mongering, citizens "continued to interfere and became increasingly hostile." Regrettably deciding they had the radish, they left. Oddly, they found "no victim or shell casings" at the scene. There was almost no media coverage; onTwitter, one patriot noted he's "paying for this stupid blue check-mark" (so) people can see what's going on in this country." Many ranted about trigger-happy police who "want a cookie and a gold star for not committing murder: DAMN WE GOT THAT DISCRETION THING DOWN PAT!" "We give them military-style weapons and then assure them there'll be no accountability - what could go wrong? "This happens every damn day. Just stop KILLING people for being black. Stop KILLING people for being. Stop KILLING people. STOP."

But they're not. Seattle's Office of Police Accountability just found that two cops who shot and killed a man carrying a knife last year "failed to first try to defuse the situation or use other defensive strategies before resorting to using deadly force." An investigation in Nashville found that, following a 911 call, police fatally shot a black man with a gun even as the 911 caller shouted "Don't shoot him!"; the interaction lasted 20 seconds. Also in Tennessee, as sheriff's deputies tried to serve a warrant on a man who refused to leave his truck, things "escalated"; yes, they killed him. And of course, Michael Moore notes, there's the "execution of Tyre Nichols" in a country "known for our police executions." The murder of Nichols shows we still "haven’t scratched the surface of accountability"; the actions taken in the aftermath by Memphis police, he argues, are "merely damage control being sold as 'justice.'" The only heroes in these stories, he adds, have to be "you, me, all of us, taking community action...We have to do better." In Seattle last week, people who cared did just that. "This should be the example going forward," wrote one supporter of the uproar and outrage of East Precinct residents. "The village came through."

Capitol Hill SPD Standoff Feb 1 2023youtu.be

Greenpeace campaigners set up a mock gas station price board outside of Shell's London headquarters

'Shell Is Richer Because We're Poorer': UK Oil Giant Sees Record $40 Billion Profit

The London-based oil giant Shell reported Thursday that its profits more than doubled in 2022 to a record $40 billion as households across Europe struggled to heat their homes, a crisis that campaigners blamed on the fossil fuel industry's price gouging.

Global Witness estimated that Shell's full-year profits for 2022 would be enough to cover the annual energy bills of nearly half of all U.K. households. The group also calculated that Shell's profits could fund "the £28 billion that the U.K. government estimates would be needed to give all public sector workers—including nurses, teachers, police and firefighters—raises in line with inflation."

"For those facing exorbitant energy bills, and for all of our nurses, firefighters, and teachers on the picket line this week, Shell's profits are an insult. Shell is richer because we're poorer," Jonathan Noronha-Gant, a senior campaigner at Global Witness, said Thursday. "If oil and gas companies were properly taxed, and if our government stopped handing them billions of pounds in the form of tax breaks and other subsidies—then that would free up the money that's desperately needed to give Brits long-term support with the cost of their energy bills, and to give our key workers the financial recognition they deserve. But so far that hasn't happened."

"So we have to ask ourselves—whose side is our government on?" Noronha-Gant continued. "Are they on the side of those of us living in cold, draughty homes, or are they on the side of an industry that is riding the wave of the energy crisis in Europe and the war in Ukraine, and is wrecking the planet in the process? All in the name of enriching its shareholders."

With its new earnings report, Shell joined ExxonMobil, Chevron, and other major oil companies in posting record-shattering profits for 2022, a year that saw massive energy market disruptions stemming from Russia's war on Ukraine.

"The announcement of yet another obscene profit for Shell shows the scale of the harm that these companies are inflicting on households and businesses."

Shell announced Thursday that it returned a total of $26 billion to shareholders last year through dividends and share buybacks. The company said last month that it expects to pay just $2.4 billion in windfall taxes in the U.K. and E.U. for 2022.

"Our results in Q4 and across the full year demonstrate the strength of Shell's differentiated portfolio, as well as our capacity to deliver vital energy to our customers in a volatile world," Shell CEO Wael Sawan said in a statement. "We believe that Shell is well positioned to be the trusted partner through the energy transition."

Climate advocates countered that far from helping alleviate Europe's energy crisis, Shell—which has been accused of overstating its renewable energy spending—is a big part of the problem.

"The announcement of yet another obscene profit for Shell shows the scale of the harm that these companies are inflicting on households and businesses," said Freya Aitchison, an oil and gas campaigner with Friends of the Earth Scotland. "Oil company bosses and shareholders are being allowed to get even richer by banking huge profits, while normal people are facing enormous energy bills and millions are being forced into fuel poverty."

"Shell is worsening climate breakdown and extreme weather by continuing to invest and lock us into new oil and gas projects for decades to come," Aitchison added, pointing to the company's Jackdaw gas project. "These profit figures are further evidence that our current fossil-fueled energy system is seriously harming people and the climate."

Earlier this week, as Common Dreamsreported, four Greenpeace campaigners boarded and occupied a Shell-contracted platform in the Atlantic Ocean to call attention to the company's contributions to global climate chaos. The Shell platform is headed toward a major oil and gas field in the U.K. North Sea.

On Thursday, Greenpeace activists set up a mock gas station price board outside of Shell's London headquarters to spotlight the firm's record-shattering profits.

Elena Polisano, a senior climate justice campaigner for Greenpeace U.K., said in a statement Thursday that "Shell is profiteering from climate destruction and immense human suffering."

"While Shell counts their record-breaking billions, people across the globe count the damage from the record-breaking droughts, heatwaves, and floods this oil giant is fueling," said Polisano. "This is the stark reality of climate injustice, and we must end it."

A factory farm is seen in Ione, Oregon.

How US Policy Devastated Small Dairy Farms and Boosted Corporate Monopolies

Food & Water Watch on Tuesday released an analysis of the U.S. dairy farming industry—the climate and food justice group's third in-depth report on the economic costs of food monopolies—revealing how corporate consolidation has helped push small family farms out of business over the past two decades, while worsening the climate emergency.

In The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies: Dirty Dairy Racket, Food & Water Watch (FWW) explains how factors including the gutting of farm supply management policies and higher production costs have helped cause rapid consolidation in the dairy sector, with 70% of family-scale dairy farms shutting down between 1997 and 2007.

"Corporate consolidation is at the heart of our food system's dysfunction," said Rebecca Wolf, food policy analyst for FWW. "Corporate-directed policymaking is throwing America's dairy industry into crisis. Family-scale dairies are collapsing at an alarming rate, and those that manage to hang on face rising costs, negative returns, and mounting debt, while consumers are sold an illusion of pastoral, sustainable milk products."

Just 30% of U.S. milk is now produced at family farms, while 83% of milk sales are controlled by just three dairy cooperatives: Land O' Lakes, DFA, and California Dairies, Inc.

In addition to forcing small farms to shut down, the consolidation of the dairy production industry has "serious climate implications," said FWW, with the shift to factory farms resulting in the doubling of annual methane emissions from the sector between 1990 and 2020.

"We can and must build better, more sustainable systems that support people, communities, and the environment," the group tweeted.

FWW traced the loss of family-scale farms back to factors including the loss of dairy price supports in the early 2000s, which caused production prices to rise even more sharply than they previously had for two decades, while sale prices rose far less quickly. This left the average family farm almost entirely unable to turn a profit—doing so just twice between 2000 and 2021—and in many cases, forced them to eventually close.

The "disastrous 1996 Farm Bill" also ended commodity grain supply management policies, allowing oversupplies to flood the market and "ushering in the era of factory farms," with family farms unable to compete with large facilities. Milk production rapidly increased since 1997, further driving down sale prices.

"We need prices that are fair, covering our cost of production and giving us a return to maintain our businesses and make a living. Overproduction and consolidation in the industry are making this increasingly difficult if not impossible."

Wisconsin dairy farmer Sarah Lloyd told FWW that dairy farm families "have our backs against the wall."

"We need prices that are fair, covering our cost of production and giving us a return to maintain our businesses and make a living. Overproduction and consolidation in the industry are making this increasingly difficult if not impossible," said Lloyd. "We need to manage the growth of dairy supply and we can do this with solid dairy policy that looks out for farm families and rural communities and not corporate profits."

The report argues that "there is a clear way forward," making recommendations including "a comprehensive federal supply management program that actively works to match supply with demand and does not use the export market as a dumping ground for oversupply."

"Curbing overproduction can bring a higher price to farmers through the market instead of through taxpayer-funded government payments and bailouts," reads the report. "It will also reduce the pressure to expand herd sizes and thereby avoid more factory farms and the entailing climate emissions."

FWW also called Congress to "stop the megamerger frenzy among agribusiness" by passing legislation to halt agribusiness mergers and ultimately ban factory farms, phasing them out and investing in a "just transition" for factory farm workers by 2040.

"The next Farm Bill is a critical opportunity to reverse course, by restoring supply management and reforming the farm safety net," said Wolf. "Passage of the Farm System Reform Act and Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act will help ensure we stop digging a deeper hole by halting consolidation and factory farm proliferation."

DNC Chair Jaime Harrison appears at the committee's winter meeting

'We Will Keep Fighting,' Says Head of Nevada Democrats as DNC Panel Blocks Dark Money Ban

Nevada Democratic Party Chair Judith Whitmer said Friday that progressives won't stop working to stem the flow of untraceable cash into national primary contests after the DNC Resolutions Committee blocked a vote on her proposed dark money ban for the second time.

Whitmer, a DNC member, told Common Dreams that "time and time again, we've watched 'dark money' used to silence the voices our party most needs to hear."

"Our party and our country need strong Democratic candidates willing to speak truth to power, but when their messages can be drowned out in a flood of untraceable expenditures, many candidates are questioning why they should even run," Whitmer said. "Restoring faith in our democracy has never been more urgent, and that all-important work should start in our own primary elections."

Whitmer sponsored the proposed dark money ban alongside fellow DNC member James Zogby, who previously served as chair of the resolutions panel. If approved, the resolution would have prohibited dark money donations in Democratic primary contests and established guidelines for investigating any violations of the ban.

On Thursday, members of the DNC Resolutions Committee—who likely faced pressure from DNC leadership—stayed quiet when the proposed ban was put up for consideration, so the measure did not receive a vote. Had the committee approved the proposal, which was backed by dozens of DNC members, it would have gone to the full DNC for a vote this weekend. (The DNC doesn't publicize membership lists for its standing committees.)

"Although we were disappointed that the Resolutions Committee once again chose not to move our resolution forward, we will keep fighting to make our primaries a fair and level playing field for all candidates," Whitmer told Common Dreams.

Democratic leaders, including President Joe Biden, have repeatedly railed against the scourge of dark money, decried its corrupting influence, and pledged to rein it in—only to balk at pressure for substantive action.

The party's platform, adopted in 2020, states that "we will bring an end to 'dark money' by requiring full disclosure of contributors to any group that advocates for or against candidates."

Yet as the DNC leadership, headed by Chair Jaime Harrison, refuses to act on its rhetoric—and as congressional Republicans block broader legislative efforts to curtail dark money—Democratic incumbents continue to benefit from untraceable donations, which are frequently used to undercut progressive challengers.

Last year, the newly formed dark money group Opportunity for All Action Fund spent around $600,000 to bolster Reps. Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), and Danny Davis (D–Ill.).

All three went on to defeat their progressive primary opponents and win reelection. That pattern played out across the country, though some candidates—including Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.), who was aggressively targeted by AIPAC's super PAC—were able to overcome torrents of opposition spending and prevail in November.

"In races around the nation, we've seen these underhanded tactics used to silence debate on critical issues, with competing views buried under an avalanche of dark money-funded messaging."

According to an August 2022 study by the Wesleyan Media Project, nearly 70% of pro-Democratic Senate ads up to that point in last year's election cycle were funded by groups that don't disclose any of their donors.

"Letting our primaries devolve into auctions, rather than elections, has done more than simply create an unequal and unfair playing field," Whitmer said during the DNC Resolutions Committee's last gathering in September. "In races around the nation, we've seen these underhanded tactics used to silence debate on critical issues, with competing views buried under an avalanche of dark money-funded messaging."

At this weekend's DNC meeting in Philadelphia, members approved a presidential primary calendar that would bump South Carolina up to the first-in-the-nation primary slot for 2024—a plan that has drawn criticism from some progressives.

But the issue of dark money was brushed aside once again.

"It was deeply upsetting that the Democratic Party refused to even vote on our resolution to ban 'dark money' from primaries," Zogby tweeted Saturday. "Using millions of 'dark money' from questionable billionaire sources to target and smear progressives is damaging to democracy and party unity."

While Democrats in Congress continue to push legislation to curb dark money across the board in federal elections, progress will be virtually impossible with a closely divided Senate and a Republican-controlled House, leaving internal party rule changes one of the only viable paths toward genuine campaign finance reform in the near future.

Larry Cohen, a DNC member and the board chair of Our Revolution, wrote in an email Friday that the DNC and state-level Democratic parties "have extensive rules relating to the nominating process, which provide many opportunities to block dark and dirty money."

"What happens inside the Democratic Party and inside party caucuses of elected Democrats is frequently ignored by progressives, who are generally more comfortable protesting and working solely outside the party. Of course, protest is essential, and new party-building is fine," Cohen wrote. "But for those of us who believe we must fight in every possible way to advance progressive issues and win real power, we ignore party reform at our peril, even as we demand broader electoral reforms, such as fusion and ranked-choice voting, proportional representation, and more."

Sindy Flores is reunited with her daughter Juliet at San Francisco International Airport

Nearly 1,000 Migrant Children Separated From Families Under Trump Still Not Reunited

As some families seek restitution for the suffering caused by former President Donald Trump's family separation policy, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Thursday acknowledged that nearly five years after the policy was first enforced, 998 children have yet to be reunited with their relatives.

On the two-year anniversary of the establishment of President Joe Biden's Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families, the DHS said it has reunited more than 600 children who were taken from their families under Trump's so-called "zero tolerance" policy, which called for the prosecution of anyone who attempted to cross the U.S.-Mexico border without going through official immigration channels.

Many children were reunited through a court process before Biden took office, but of the nearly 4,000 children who were taken from their families and sent to locations across the country with recordkeeping about their identities and whereabouts that was "patchwork at best," according to DHS, roughly a quarter of them are still separated.

"This cruelty happened nearly five years ago," said Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of the Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service. "That's an unimaginably long time for children to go without their parents."

Many of the children who were separated arrived at the border from Central American countries, with their parents traveling to the border to seek asylum from violence and conflict—exercising a protected human right under international and domestic law.

The DHS noted that the number of families coming forward to identify themselves as having been forcibly separated continues to grow.

"We understand that our critical work is not finished," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. "We remain steadfast in our commitment to fulfill President Biden's pledge to reunify all children who were separated from their families under the 'zero tolerance' policy to the greatest extent possible, and we continue to work diligently to incorporate the foundational principle of family unity in our policies and operations."

"The real world human impact of the Trump administration's depravity still reverberates today."

The agency is currently in the process of reuniting 148 children with their families, and has contacted 183 additional families regarding reunification.

Aside from the attempting to reunite families, the Biden administration said it is also meeting with recently reunified families "to hear directly from them and better understand their experiences and current needs," including support for the trauma the federal government inflicted on them.

On Wednesday, the day before the DHS made its announcement, Selvin Argueta and his son, who is now 21, filed a federal lawsuit seeking monetary damages for the forced separation they suffered in 2018 under the policy. Argueta's son, Selvin Najera, was 16 when they arrived at the border from Guatemala, where they had faced threats from gangs.

Argueta was deported while Najera was sent to a detention center where, the lawsuit alleges, he faced physical and emotional abuse.

Father and son were reunited in January 2020 after a federal judge ruled that Argueta's deportation was unlawful. Their lawsuit seeks restitution for "intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, abuse of process, and harboring a minor."

"The real world human impact of the Trump administration's depravity still reverberates today," said journalist Ahmed Baba.

Rights advocates have condemned the Biden administration for continuing other anti-immigration polices including Title 42, under which families are still being separated. The Texas Observerreported in November that between January 2021, when Biden took office, and August 2022, at least 372 cases of family separation were documented by the government.

"Though family separation is no longer explicitly used as a weapon in U.S. immigration policy," wrote Erica Bryant at Vera Institute of Justice last June, "it is still a horrifying result."


NIAC Statement on Israeli Strikes in Iran

War is never the answer.

NIAC president Jamal Abdi released the following statement following reports of Israeli strikes against military facilities inside Iran:

"We are deeply concerned by the gathering clouds of war in the Middle East, and what these escalating tensions mean for innocent people in the region and Iranians already struggling under a brutal and oppressive government in Tehran and crippling sanctions from Washington. This latest act of sabotage conducted via a military attack inside Iran is a dangerous escalation and should be cause for concern for everyone who opposes war.

With current American and regional diplomatic measures with Iran on pause if not at a dead end, a drift towards violent military alternatives looms large. The Islamic Republic’s brutal crackdown against the Iranian people, its assistance in Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, and its rapidly expanding nuclear program freed from the restraints of the JCPOA have pushed tensions to a boiling point. This, coupled with the rise of a hardline administration in Israel that appears determined to push the envelope militarily, an increasingly assertive Saudi royal family, and a U.S. that has been unable to turn the page on the Trump administration’s destabilizing Middle East policies, makes for an exceedingly volatile cocktail. We urge all sides to step back from the abyss and invest in a reinvigoration of diplomatic means to address mounting challenges and reduce tensions and threats.

War will only further empower the most violent and repressive forces inside Iran at the expense of ordinary Iranians demanding freedom, and will embolden reactionary elements in Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. For those of us who favor democracy, human rights, and peace, it is vital that we call for all sides to exercise restraint and to prioritize non-military solutions to the tensions threatening the region.”