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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holds a picture of  Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman at press conference.
Further

Mississippi Goddamn: You Were Definitely Involved In This

Honoring "a story of absolute moral and physical courage," we mark the 60th anniversary of the murder of young civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner by white supremacists for the crime of working to register black voters, end apartheid in the Jim Crow South, and make a better, fairer world. Amidst right-wing assaults on our rights and history, many deem it vital we remember those who confronted America's brutal racist legacy and declared, "We are not afraid."

The killing by some of the Ku Klux Klan's "very fine people" of three young men - one black native of Mississippi, two white Jews from New York - during 1964's "Freedom Summer" became a seminal moment in the Civil Rights movement. It was a fraught time in a still defiantly-segregationist South. The previous August, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech to an impassioned crowd of 250,000 in D.C. Three weeks later, white supremacy responded by bombing Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church during Sunday school, killing four young black girls and injuring over 20; that night, several black youths were also beaten to death. In a racist war of rights viciously withheld and ardently sought, voting was viewed as key in a state where Blacks made up about 40% of the population but - subdued by poll taxes, literacy tests, threats of violence - less than 7% of voters' ranks. "We had the old raggedy buses, we got the raggedy books with somebody else's name in them," recalls Jewel Rush McDonald, 78. "My mother (thought) there was a better way somewhere, but it wasn’t here in Mississippi."

Since 1961, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) had been sending organizers to Mississippi to get out the vote: "They trudged up and down dirt roads, sat on porches, went to church, walked into cotton fields and helped with daily chores." As their numbers swelled, segregationists intent on protecting their power "went to the whip hand." The mayor of Jackson added 100 new cops to their 200-strong police force along with 200 shotguns, tear gas, three military troop carriers, two horses and two dogs, and the governor called a special session to double highway patrols and stockpile guns. The Imperial Wizard of the KKK announced they needed "a secondary, extremely swift, extremely violent, hit-and-run group as J. Edgar Hoover's complicit FBI worked to undermine and infiltrate civil rights groups. And all of this was before 1964's Freedom Summer campaign in which organizers mobilized white college students, faith activists and other Freedom Riders from the North to travel to Mississippi to bolster voting rights efforts.

Moved to action by the 16th Street Church bombing, Michael 'Mickey' Schwerner, 24, was a Jewish social worker in Manhattan before he began running CORE's Meridian office with his wife Rita; in her CORE application, she wrote she hoped to "someday pass on to the children we may have a world containing more respect for the dignity and worth of all men than that world which was willed to us." Michael was close with Black Meridian native James Earl Chaney, 21, involved with civil rights efforts since he was 16. Soon after the two convinced members of nearby Philadelphia's Mt. Zion Methodist Church to train for voting rights work and host a Freedom School, the Klan went to the church and beat congregants; they later returned to set the church ablaze. Schwerner and Chaney spent several days comforting church members. On June 20, they drove back to Meridian with a CORE newcomer: Andrew Goodman, 20, a Jewish student at Queens College. The day before, he sent a postcard to his parents saying he'd arrived safely: "Dear Mom and Dad, The people in this city are wonderful and our reception was very good. All my love, Andy.”

The sultry morning of June 21, Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman left Meridian in an old station wagon for Philadelphia for a meeting on the church fire. Schwerner told a volunteer he'd be back by 4; if he wasn't, they should launch emergency protocols. With Freedom Riders arriving daily, tensions ran high. The Klan's Edgar Ray 'Preacher' Killen told a crew of new recruits to be ready for "the occasional elimination." The KKK already kept close watch on CORE; thanks to his friendship with Chaney, they'd come to especially hate Schwerner, and routinely talked about killing him. Around 3 p.m., Sheriff's deputy and KKKer Cecil Price pulled the three men over for "speeding," put them in jail, and alerted Killen to assemble a lynch mob. The men paid a fine; Price let them go around 10 p.m., chased them down a dirt road and turned them over to a carload of KKK who began beating them. Schwerner was dragged out first - "Are you that n***er lover?” He tried to reason - "Sir, I know how you feel" - and was shot point black in the chest. Goodman was shot next. Before Chaney was shot, he was beaten with chains; he may or may not have been castrated.

Word of their disappearance quickly spread, in large part because Schwerner and Goodman were white. Lyndon Johnson strong-armed Hoover to send over 100 agents to Mississippi, where they uncovered the Klan's reign of terror - and eight previously murdered black men and boys - but not the three missing CORE workers. On July 2, the House passed the Civil Rights Act into law. On July 16, Barry Goldwater, who voted against the Act, accepted the GOP nomination for president; he told delegates, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice." On Aug. 4, an FBI informant led agents to a dirt dam that held the bodies of three men killed in the defense of what white supremacists deemed "liberty." Goodman may have been alive when buried - he had red clay clutched in his hands - and all Chaney's bones were broken. In November, 18 Klan members, including Price, were arraigned on federal charges of violating the three men's civil rights; an all-white jury found seven guilty, but none served more than six years. Preacher Killen went free on a hung jury. The State of Mississippi declined to charge any of the 18 (or anyone else) with murder.

In 1988, an acclaimed book about the murders, and the sacrifices of so many others, was published; its title: "We Are Not Afraid." That year also saw the release of the award-winning movie Mississippi Burning; many whites in Mississippi said they'd known almost nothing about the murders until they saw the movie. "People had this voluntary amnesia," says Dawn Lea Mars Chalmers, 54. "There was a whole generation that grew up and didn't know - it was a deep, dark, secret stain...We all had these feelings of disgust and shame, like we should have known how it was." In 2004, on the 40th anniversary of the murders, Chalmers was one of a group of locals who started a coalition to prosecute Edgar Ray Killen, then 80. Heeding their call, the next year the state convicted him of manslaughter and sentenced him to 60 years. Killen died in the State Penitentiary in 2018 at 92; perversely, his gravestone bears the title "Rev." Still, says Chalmers, "It was some sort of reckoning that we felt led to do...That's what (we) owe the generation that went through it - to make sure people know what those boys were fighting for."

Many others join them in tribute. Every June, Mount Zion holds a service that for years Jewel McDonald planned; she felt it was her responsibility. "They came here to help us. I feel we owe it to them," she says, teary. “If they could die, lose their lives - their lives were taken, I should say - that’s the least I could do." In 2014, Obama presented Presidential Medals of Freedom posthumously to Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner "for how they lived - with the idealism and the courage of youth." In May, at Queens College commencement, medals were awarded to Goodman's brother David for his Andrew Goodman Foundation's social justice initiatives; to the Rev. Julia Chaney-Moss, James's sister and an activist minister; and Stephen Schwerner, Mickey's brother, for his lifelong anti-war and civil rights advocacy. Last week, Robert Reich described, as a child bullied for being short, how he was protected by the same Mickey, "a kind and gentle teenager (who) made me feel safe." Today, in an America beset by bullies - of black, poor, gay, trans, female, exploited - "It is incumbent on all of us to stand up to bullies, and be each other’s protectors."

This, photographer Danny Lyon argues, "is what the Southern civil rights movement was about" - these three men and their "absolute moral and physical courage, literally ready to die for the kind of ideas that this country has always claimed it stood for, and almost never in its history actually practiced." He summons other "unsung heroes" of the movement: Diane Nash, Bob Mosses, Fannie Lou Hamer, the "sheer terror" faced by Freedom Riders, "John Lewis punched in the face as he came first off the bus, mobs of over a thousand that greeted the riders, smashing cameras, faces, and heads," black hospitals packed with riders "with broken noses, bones, lacerations from police clubs used against demonstrators who were actually praying at the moment," over 14,000 people arrested during a ten-week period in 1963 known as "Firestorm," the "action in the streets that created the pressure for social and legal change." The lesson: "That it is possible to make history, and that individual Americans have some control over their destiny. It happened once - and not so long ago."

Today, Blacks make up just over half the population of about 7,000 in a Bible-Belt Philadelphia where the Popeye's sign flashes, "Jesus is the answer." Lynch mobs are gone, there are historic Freedom Trail markers - albeit "widely scattered, easily missed" - and a somewhat incongruous Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner Memorial Highway. But a Confederate monument still stands, the state ranks at or near the bottom in poverty, health care, education and jobs, with Blacks suffering disproportionately, and a local museum features exhibits on farming, bluegrass and the beloved Neshoba County Fair but, says an elderly docent, "We don't stress the civil rights here." In the cemetery at Mount Zion Church, three weathered gravestones bear the names and cameo images of Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman; the dates of death are all June 21, 1964. When their bodies were finally found, part of the grisly mystery was solved. But a "clearly shaken" Martin Luther King Jr. posed a "deeper question: It’s not so much who killed those young men, but what killed them."

Key to the answer, argues Tim Moore, is accountability for systemic racism. To white people in Philadelphia and across the South, he asserts, "You were definitely involved in this."' Still, for black people, says Eddie Hinton, 64, who serves as pastor for four small congregations, including Mount Zion, "Even after all those years, they’re still hurting....A message of healing is what I search for most of the time." As to the better world the three men died for, suggests James Young, 68, patience is required. As a young boy, Young remembers watching his father lie on the living room floor, rifle ready, after the community got word "the Klan is riding tonight." Today, as four-term mayor and the town's first African-American leader, he says, "We have made strides to be better..I'm gonna put it just like that." Mirroring the city's brutal past, he says, "I have seen the power of the vote." He won his first race for mayor by 45 votes. "We went after every live body that was registered," he says, pleading with them to go vote. "We found out some weren't going because they couldn't read, or because they didn't want to tell folks they couldn't read. And this was 2009."

Still, while Philadelphia has changed, Leroy Clemons, 62, wonders if it's possible to truly move forward into the future without grappling with the past. A sort of ambassador for his city, Clemons works with youth and leads civil rights tours - though usually from out of state, not within a GOP-controlled state that created a new Constitution specifically for the purpose of disenfranchising African American voters. On his tours, he takes students to Mount Nebo Missionary Church, the McClelland Cafe, the town's only black-owned business that survived the civil rights era, and the wooded area where Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman were murdered. "I always say to young people, 'I'm going to tell you what happened. But I want y'all, more importantly, to understand why those things were happening.'" In that spot, he kneels and feels terror: "It immediately takes me back to that night - as a Black man, a Black person... I can see the faces of those young boys standing out there with these men, not knowing what to expect. When I’m down on my knees, and I’m telling the story, it’s like I can feel Michael there, holding his friend James, in his arms."

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A woman helps a man who collapsed due to heat at the 2024 Hajj.
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'Words Fail': More Than 1,000 Die During Hajj Amid Extreme Heat

More than 1,000 people participating in the Hajj to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, have died as of Thursday as temperatures in the holy city reached 125°F at the Grand Mosque.

The tragedy serves as an example of how the climate crisis is making mass gatherings more dangerous, especially in warmer parts of the world. Saudi Arabia is heating 50% faster than the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, and by 2050, The Washington Post and Carbon Plan estimated that temperatures would rise high enough in Mecca to make it dangerous to be in the sun for 182 days a year.

"Words fail. Words fail," the activist group Climate Defiance wrote on social media in response to the deaths.

"Stop it with your vapid odes to incrementalism. Stop it with your 2050 pledges," the group added. "Humanity is barreling to the brink. Open your eyes!"

"For so many, religious rituals are a sacred and central part of their identities," the group continued. "Now merely practicing a faith proves a literal death sentence."

"There has been a noted uptick in heat-related deaths as global warming gets worse but I have never heard of anything like what has happened over the Hajj in Saudi Arabia this year."

Mecca is the holiest city in the Islamic religious tradition, and making the Hajj, or pilgrimage, there is one of Islam's Five Pillars. The Hajj always draws hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world, with more than 1.8 million registered pilgrims attending this year. The timing depends on the Islamic calendar, which follows a lunar cycle. In 2024, it fell between June 14 and June 19 in the Gregorian calendar, coinciding with Saudi Arabia's hotter period.

"The Hajj is considered one of the Five Pillars of Islam, along with belief in Allah, prayer, fasting, and charity. It is intended to be a sacred part of life," Climate Defiance wrote. "Due to profit-driven, fossil-fueled global hearing, it is now a part of death."

At the close of this year's pilgrimage, a total of 1,081 people were reported dead as of Thursday, according to an Agence France-Presse tally based on official statements or diplomats' reports. The majority—658—were from Egypt, and a Saudi diplomat told AFP that the heat was the primary cause of death.

"Ambulances were moving nonstop, collecting people left and right," pilgrim Ahmad Bahaa, a 37-year-old Egyptian engineer who works in Saudi Arabia, toldThe Washington Post. "People were sleeping on the sidewalks… I saw someone right in front of our tent who collapsed and could not even move."

Including Egypt, deaths were reported from around 10 countries, according to AFP: They included 183 from Indonesia, 58 from Pakistan, as well as fatalities from Malaysia, India, Jordan, Iran, Senegal, Tunisia, Sudan, and Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region. Other countries including Jordan and Tunisia have said some of their citizens died because of high heat, The Associated Press reported. Saudi authorities reported more than 2,700 "heat exhaustion" cases on Sunday, according to AFP.

Due in part to the large numbers of people who attend, the Hajj can be dangerous even under ideal climactic conditions. In 2015, more than 2,400 people died in a stampede during the "Rami al-Jamarat," or stoning of the devil, ritual in Mina, near Mecca. In total, more than 9,000 people have died at mass religious gatherings in the past 119 years, and more than 5,000 of those deaths were at the Hajj. Last year, the death toll was more than 300, according to AFP.

However, as public safety expert Milad Haghani wrote in The Conversation, "while most Hajj fatalities have been due to crowd crushes and stampedes, a new threat has emerged: extreme climate."

Saudi Arabia has taken steps to protect pilgrims from extreme temperatures, such as informing pilgrims about heat risks, setting up field hospitals, and installing misting systems and portable water stations.

"Yet the extreme heat proved overwhelming," Haghani noted, "indicating more needs to be done."

There are other factors that exacerbate risk: Unregistered pilgrims, who attend unofficially to avoid paying for expensive permits, cannot enter air-conditioned areas set up for registered visitors, as AFP noted; 630 of the 658 Egyptians reported dead were unregistered, as were more than half of the overall death toll. Another factor is that many pilgrims attend the Hajj when they are older and have saved up the money to go, making them more vulnerable to heat-related complications.

"There has been a noted uptick in heat-related deaths as global warming gets worse but I have never heard of anything like what has happened over the Hajj in Saudi Arabia this year," journalist Séamus Malekafzali posted on social media. "Over 1,000 people have died over the course of a week, almost all from heatstroke."

"There is already significant infrastructure to deal with the Gulf Arab heat around Mecca and Medina, but I don't know if there is a way to outpace the massive amounts of heat and humidity that is going to beset southwestern Saudi Arabia," Malekafzali continued. "Even in December, it can get above 100°F."

Jeff Goodell, author of the book The Heat Will Kill You First, wrote on social media in response to the deaths that "our world was built for a climate that no longer exists."

The situation is likely to get worse as the burning of fossil fuels continues to push global temperatures higher. The Post analysis finding that Mecca would be dangerous in the sun for more than half the year by 2050 also found it would see 54 days dangerous even in the shade.

"Let that sink in. Fossil fuels will have caused the holiest city in Islam to be virtually uninhabitable for 50% of the year," Climate Defiance wrote.

A Saudi study published in March found that dry-bulb temperatures in Mecca had risen by 0.4°C per decade and wet-bulb (which incorporates humidity) by 2°C. A 2019 study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers concluded that, even with emissions cuts, the Hajj would take place while temperatures surpassed the "extreme danger" limit between 2047 and 2052 and again between 2079 and 2086.

"Climate change does not discriminate by religion, ethnicity, nationality," Marina Romanello, the executive director of TheLancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change, wrote on social media. "Hundreds died in the pilgrimage to Mecca, practicing their sacred ritual, as temperatures rise to nearly 50°C [122°F]. Unless we take urgent action, this will be just the beginning."

Climate Defiance concluded: "This loss of life is a tragedy and sadly it's also a harbinger of what is to come. The pilgrims who perished are there canary in the coal mine. We must mourn their deaths, but we must also ACT. It is not too late but time is running out. This is not a drill. This is a fire."

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Elon Musk addresses a crowd
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Tesla Shareholders Approve $45 Billion Pay Package for Musk, Reject Pro-Union ​Measure​

Tesla shareholders on Thursday approved a pay package for CEO Elon Musk worth more than $45 billion while rejecting a pro-union measure that sought to prevent the company from interfering with worker organizing.

The shareholder vote on Musk's pay package, the exact value of which fluctuates with the company's share price, was a response to a January court ruling that voided the package because the Tesla board that had issued it had too many personal and financial ties to Musk. The CEO's supporters expect the vote to strengthen his legal case for the money.

The unsuccessful pro-union proposal, which would have required the company to respect workers' right to assemble, had been brought by Scandinavian investors acting in solidarity with Tesla mechanics in Sweden who've been on strike since October. Tesla pays less than other carmakers and Musk has been openly anti-union, even saying that he disagrees with the idea of unions.

The shareholder votes came after the company fired 14,000 workers—more than 10% of its global staff—in April and then made further cuts shortly thereafter. More Perfect Union, a nonprofit newsroom, drew attention to the layoffs in reacting to news of the shareholder votes.

Calling the pay package "outrageous," the newsroom wrote on social media that "the vote allows Musk to further enrich himself, even as Tesla falters as a company and fires thousands of workers."

Other organizations also voiced their disapproval at the size of Musk's pay package.

"It's an order of magnitude more egregious than the most egregious ever dared to ask for," Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow, a shareholder advocacy nonprofit, said of the pay package, The Christian Science Monitor reportedon Thursday.

The $45 billion pay package would come in the form of Tesla stock, taking Musk's ownership stake in the company from about 13% to roughly 20.5%, The New York Timesreported.

"Working class people with pensions invested in Tesla could pay for the richest man on Earth to get even richer," More Perfect Unionwrote on social media last week.

Musk's contempt for unions is not just rhetorical: He is making a push in the courts to defang the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), an effort that would "gut" fundamental New Deal workers' rights legislation, according toThe Nation.

At a plant in Buffalo, Tesla management fired dozens of workers last year after one of them informed Musk of plans to organize a union. Last month, the NLRB filed a complaint against Tesla for interfering with union organizing at the Buffalo plant.

There's a strong union tradition in Scandinavia, where many workers from other sectors have acted in solidarity with the striking mechanics. "Postal workers refused to deliver license plates for Tesla cars, dockers to unload Teslas from ships, and cleaners to scrub the firm’s showrooms," The Economistreported.

Union leaders see the strike as a way of preserving the "Swedish Model" that has undergirded the country's relative high quality of life and shared prosperity for decades. But organized labor is not yet as strong in emerging green industries, leading to concerns about low wages and meager benefits, the Timesreported.

Thursday's shareholder votes for the pay package and against the pro-union proposal were both lopsided, a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing showed, indicating strong support for Musk's agenda.

In another Musk-influenced vote, shareholders agreed to move the Tesla's corporate registration to from Delaware to Texas—an effort to avoid the Delaware court system, which Musk believes has treated the company unfairly. The pay package case will remain in Delaware courts.

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
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As Boycott Grows, Ocasio-Cortez Says Netanyahu Invitation 'Should Be Revoked'

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said late Tuesday that Democratic and Republican leaders should withdraw their invitation for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak at a joint meeting of Congress next month after he released a video attacking the Biden administration for "withholding" weapons from Israel's military.

"This man should not be addressing Congress. He is a war criminal," Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) wrote on social media. "And he certainly has no regard for U.S. law, which is explicitly designed to prevent U.S. weapons from facilitating human rights abuses."

"His invitation should be revoked," she added. "It should've never been sent in the first place."

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) formally invited Netanyahu to address a joint meeting last month, roughly two weeks after the Biden administration all but acknowledged what leading human rights organizations had been saying for months: that Israeli forces have used American weaponry to commit war crimes in the Gaza Strip.

The invitation also came roughly two months after Schumer criticized Netanyahu in a speech on the Senate floor, accusing the prime minister of being "too willing to tolerate the civilian toll in Gaza" and calling for new leadership in Israel.

"The United States needs to be using its leverage, including restrictions on arms sales, as a way to advance a push toward peace in the Middle East."

Netanyahu, who is scheduled to address Congress on July 24 as he faces a possible arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court, said in his video remarks Tuesday that the Biden administration "has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel" over "the past few months." The Israeli prime minister was apparently referring to the administration's decision last month to pause a shipment that includes 2,000-pound bombs.

But the administration is still moving ahead with other weapons deals with Israel, including an $18 billion sale of F-15 fighter jets and Joint Direct Attack Munition kits that the Israeli military has used against civilians in Gaza.

Ocasio-Cortez's call for the cancellation of Netanyahu's scheduled address came as the number of Democrats planning to boycott the Israeli prime minister's speech continued to grow, with Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recently announcing their decisions to skip the joint meeting.

"Benjamin Netanyahu has created a humanitarian disaster," Warren toldThe Hill on Tuesday. "The United States needs to be using its leverage, including restrictions on arms sales, as a way to advance a push toward peace in the Middle East."

"We need a cease-fire, massive humanitarian relief, the return of the hostages, and we've gotta have a breakthrough on getting the parties to the negotiating table," the senator added. "Giving more arms to Israel is not pushing in the right direction."

In addition to vowing to boycott Netanyahu's scheduled speech, some congressional Democrats are reportedly discussing "counter-programming" plans "focused on peace, bringing the hostages home, and ending this horrible conflict," Axiosreported last week, citing an unnamed House Democrat.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is among the lawmakers pledging to boycott the Israeli prime minister's speech, said Tuesday that "it is absurd that Netanyahu has been invited to address Congress."

"We should not be honoring people who use the starvation of children as a weapon of war," said Sanders.

In an email sent out on Wednesday, the progressive group Justice Democrats urged its supporters to demand that their elected representatives either boycott or disrupt Netanyahu's July 24 address, noting that the Israeli prime minister and his government "are still actively carrying out what historian Robert Pape has called 'one of the most intense civilian punishment campaigns in history.'"

"We need our leaders in Washington to stop using our taxpayer dollars to send billions in weapons and bombs to Israel, and demand a permanent cease-fire and the release of all hostages—not roll out the red carpet for Netanyahu," the group added.

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Rep. Cori Bush
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Cori Bush Leads Charge to Defang 'Zombie' Anti-Abortion Law Eyed by Trump Allies

A group of congressional Democrats led by progressive Rep. Cori Bush introduced legislation Thursday that would repeal elements of the 151-year-old law known as the Comstock Act as allies of presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump plot to use the statute to enact a federal abortion ban without congressional approval.

Bush (D-Mo.) was the first lawmaker to call for the repeal of the Comstock Act in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's 2022 decision overturning Roe v. Wade. The new bill, titled the Stop Comstock Act, was introduced with over two dozen backers in the House and at least 19 in the Senate, where Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) put forth companion legislation.

"As a Black woman from the first state to ban abortion post-Dobbs and someone who has had abortions, I deeply and personally understand the critical need to protect and expand access to abortion care," Bush said in a statement. "Anti-abortion extremists and the Republican Party have shown they will stop at nothing when it comes to stripping away our reproductive freedoms."

"They aren't hiding their playbook: Reviving the outdated and obsolete zombie statute, the Comstock Act, is the GOP's latest hack to bypass Congress and impose a nationwide abortion ban," Bush added. "When people tell you who they are, believe them. I am proud to be working alongside my colleagues in introducing legislation to repeal the Comstock Act and protect access to abortion care."

The Comstock Act bars the mailing of any "instrument, substance, drug, medicine, or thing" that "may, or can, be used or applied for producing abortion." Legal experts have described the law, which hasn't been applied in a century, as the "most significant national threat to reproductive rights."

The Stop Comstock Act would "repeal provisions of the Comstock laws that anti-abortion extremists want to willfully misapply in order to criminalize providers and ban abortion nationwide without any congressional action," according to a summary released by the bill's supporters.

"It's time we take immediate action to stop Republicans from abusing the Comstock Act to further erode our reproductive rights," said bill co-sponsor Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vt.).

"Anti-abortion extremists have manipulated laws to ban abortion before, and they are promising to do it again."

The Democratic effort to defang Comstock comes as Trump allies are plotting to use the law to attack abortion rights if the former president wins another four years in the White House.

Project 2025, a sweeping right-wing agenda crafted by conservative organizations with the help of some former Trump administration officials, calls for the U.S. Justice Department to use the Comstock Act against "providers and distributors" of abortion pills. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of preserving access to mifepristone, a medication that is commonly used for abortion care.

Jonathan Mitchell, the key architect of a draconian 2021 Texas abortion ban and a Trump attorney, toldThe New York Times earlier this year that "we don't need a federal [abortion] ban when we have Comstock on the books."

"I hope he doesn't know about the existence of Comstock, because I just don't want him to shoot off his mouth," Mitchell, who is seen as a possible attorney general pick for the former president, said of Trump. "I think the pro-life groups should keep their mouths shut as much as possible until the election."

Madison Roberts, senior legislative counsel at the ACLU, said in a statement Friday that "Trump's advisers are quietly plotting to bypass Congress and misuse a 150-year-old law to attempt to ban abortion in every state in the country."

"They are arguing that the Comstock Act is a de facto national abortion ban already on the books, and they are wrong," said Roberts. "The Department of Justice has made clear and federal appeals courts have uniformly held for almost a century that the Comstock Act does not apply to legal abortion care. But anti-abortion extremists have manipulated laws to ban abortion before, and they are promising to do it again—even in states that have passed statutory and constitutional protections for abortion."

"We applaud leaders in Congress for introducing the Stop Comstock Act to fight back against extremists' threats to misuse Comstock as a nationwide abortion ban," Roberts added. "We will continue to work with elected leaders to raise the alarm and neutralize this potential anti-abortion attack before Trump allies get the chance to launch it."

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
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After Netanyahu Video, Sanders Says US Should Halt 'All Offensive Military Aid'

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders said Tuesday that the Biden administration should immediately halt all shipments of offensive weaponry to Israel after the country's far-right prime minister claimed in a video that American arms aren't flowing quickly enough.

"No doubt, we will hear similar complaints when he addresses Congress on July 24," Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a video statement of his own. "Virtually everyone recognizes Israel's right to defend itself from terrorism and respond to the horrific October 7th Hamas attack that killed 1,200 innocent Israelis and took hundreds of hostages. But the Israeli government did not and does not have the right to go to war against the entire Palestinian people. Yet that is exactly what has happened."

Sanders' remarks came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a brief English-language video accusing the Biden administration of "withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel."

The prime minister, who is currently facing possible arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court, added that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken "assured me that the administration is working day and night to remove these bottlenecks."

"I certainly hope that's the case. It should be the case," Netanyahu added. "During World War II, Churchill told the United States, 'Give us the tools, we'll do the job.' And I say, give us the tools and we'll finish the job a lot faster."

Netanyahu did not specify which weapons he was referring to, but the Biden administration recently paused a shipment including 2,000-pound bombs that Israel has repeatedly dropped on areas of Gaza packed with civilians. The Biden administration has continued approving other weaponry—including tank ammunition and mortar rounds—even as it acknowledges that Israel has used U.S. arms to commit war crimes in Gaza.

"Let's be clear: the right-wing, extremist Netanyahu government has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians and injured nearly 85,000, sixty percent of whom are women, children, or elderly," Sanders said Tuesday. "It is absurd that Netanyahu has been invited to address Congress. We should not be honoring people who use the starvation of children as a weapon of war."

"Instead," Sanders added, "the United States should be withholding all offensive military aid to Israel and using our leverage to demand an end to this war, the unfettered flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza, a stop to the killing of Palestinians in the West Bank, and initial steps towards a two-state solution."

Netanyahu's video reportedly led the Biden White House to cancel a scheduled Thursday meeting with Israel on Iran. According toAxios, U.S. President Joe Biden's top advisers "were enraged by the video—a messageU.S. envoy Amos Hochstein delivered personally to Netanyahu in a meeting hours after it was published."

But Netanyahu has repeatedly taken swipes at the Biden administration and crossed its supposed "red lines" with no material consequences. The administration has approved more than 100 weapons sales to Israel since October 7, and the U.S. has provided crucial diplomatic support for the Israeli government on the world stage, repeatedly thwarting efforts to secure an end to the assault on Gaza.

"The way Netanyahu relishes humiliating American officials is comical," The Intercept's Murtaza Hussain wrote late Tuesday. "The U.S. has been replenishing Israel's weapon stocks throughout the war, without which it would be economically unsustainable. Not to mention giving them diplomatic and political cover."

Sanders and a growing number of Democratic lawmakers are planning to boycott Netanyahu's scheduled address to a joint meeting of Congress next month, citing his government's creation of one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in modern history and continued indiscriminate attacks on the Gaza Strip.

"I will not attend," Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) toldNBC News on Sunday. "I said that if he wants to come to speak to members of Congress about how to end the war and release hostages, I would be fine doing that, but I’m not going to sit in a one-way lecture."

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