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GOP representatives have worn AR-15 pins in Congress

A Sickness In Our Souls, But Get Your "Bulletproof" T-Shirt Now

Whew. In this quicksilver, "terrible moment," be careful what you wish for. Amidst our pious assertions political violence is always wrong, the tinpot candidate of ever-erratic political violence who's celebrated, advocated, excused and craved violence just got it in unexpected ways. Relishing his martyr's moment - and clad in a little "ear diaper" - he shows no sign of slowing his fascist march to power, proclaiming to supporters, fist in air, “I am Donald J. Trump. FEAR NOT!" Actually, we think we'll fear.

After Saturday's shooting, Biden echoed other Dems, did the sober, responsible thing and declared, "There is no place in America for this kind of violence or for any violence ever. Period. No exceptions." The founders, he went on, "created a democracy that gave reason and balance a chance to prevail over brute force. That’s the America we must be...Violence in America like this is just unheard of." Sadly, not so, writes David Frum, who notes that "assassinations, lynchings, riots, and pogroms have stained every page of American political history." Now, "Violence stalks the president who has rejoiced in violence to others," entirely, historically apt when "fascism feasts on violence." "Trump and his supporters envision a new place for violence as their defining political message," says Frum. "Fascist movements are secular religions (that) offer martyrs as their proof of truth...The Trump movement now improves on that: The leader himself will be the martyr in chief, his own blood the basis for his bid for power and vengeance."

Thus did Trump, with his showman's flair after having possibly, barely been grazed by a random bullet or more ingloriously nicked by flying glass from his teleprompter, respond not with checking on others or seeking to calm them, but with a histrionic fist in the air and clarion call, three times, to "Fight!" - the same word he used on January 6. Similarly, predictably, did inveterate grifters rush to hawk rock-band-like assassination merch - mugs, stickers, sweatshirts, trading cards. Within hours came Amazon's No. 1 best-seller "novelty t-shirts," emblazoned with that instantly iconic image - the flag, the blood, the fist - blaring "Bulletproof," "For God and Country," "Legends Never Die," "You Missed," "Impeached, Arrested, Convicted, Shot, Still Standing." Just as quickly, Trump's campaign set up a shiny new fundraising site featuring the same flashy image shrieking, "I am Donald J. Trump. FEAR NOT!" Also, "I will always love you for supporting me. Unity. Peace. Make America Great Again.”

Alas, the plea for "unity" and "peace" was as self-serving as it was short-lived by a party who've embraced anger and violence in their messaging and a leader who blithely, viciously uses threats of and incitement to that violence to quell opposition. The bland calls to lower the rhetorical temperature were met with a sick rush of threats, taunts, and crackpot charges, though the shooter was a Republican fan of Demolition Ranch videos about guns and explosives and his parents were flagged in 2016 by the Trump team as "strong Republicans" likely worried about gun rights. The "rhetoric of the radical left," Republicans raved, "led directly" to the shooting. Georgia Rep. Mike Collins: "Joe Biden sent the orders." Some blamed fake news - Fox chyron: "MEDIA LAYED (sic) GROUNDWORK FOR VIOLENCE AGAINST TRUMP" - or a complicit Secret Service led by a "DEI hire," aka woman. Whatever: Wingnuts on social media declared it their "last damn straw." "Let’s give it to them," one snarled. “CIVIL.FUCKING.WAR."

In truth, Aaron Rupar notes, "Multiple things are true about Trump's shooting. Political violence is wrong, and nobody has done more to worsen the climate of political violence in this country." He's spewed ceaseless violent rhetoric, threatening countless "others," aka anyone not a MAGA freak. He urged rally attendees to beat up protesters, Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by,” "2nd Amendment people" to attack Hillary Clinton, police to "don't be too nice" to suspects, fans to "go after" New York A.G. Tish James, the military to "just shoot" BLM protesters and migrants, Gen. Mark Milley be executed for a phone call he didn't like. He belittled an attack on Paul Pelosi and a plot to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer. He vowed "when the looting starts, the shooting starts," "there has to be retribution," "you'll never take back our country with weakness," "big, big trouble" if he's indicted, and "a bloodbath" if he loses the election. He watched Jan. 6 with glee, champions its insurrectionists as "hostages" and promises to pardon them.

Cult members, often armed, have followed ugly suit. A Kansas fundraiser offered a Biden effigy to punch, Don Jr. touted an image of Biden bound and gagged, Kari Lake warned millions of NRA members "are going to put on the armor of God, and maybe strap on a Glock," Tom Cotton urged MAGA-ites to "take matters into your own hands" to get "pro-Hamas mobs (out) of the way," Matt Gaetz urged "we hunt down" BLM "terrorists," Ted Cruz said his job is to "grab a battle axe (and) fight the barbarians," Mark Robinson said, "Some folks need killing." House Repubs wore AR-15 lapel pins or sent "kinda murdery" Christmas cards of loved ones cradling assault weapons. GOP candidates ran bonkers, vengeful ads featuring Dems in Klan hoods, armed thugs "hunting RINOs," AR-15 "liberty machines" to stay "safe from looting hordes in Atlanta or a tyrannical government in Washington"; Klan Mom MTG, who once urged Nancy Pelosi be executed, hefted a big-ass gun and "blew away the Democrats' Socialist agenda." They all seem nice.

In MAGA's us-and-them world, they're all good with targeting the “them” - migrants, trans kids, Marxists, people with weird names or skin any shade suspiciously darker than their own. Because Trump has always denied his deadly rhetoric contributes in any way to the country's divisions - "It brings people together" - his acolytes can argue straight-faced his innocent victimhood at the lunatic hands of the latest AR-15-fueled, much-aggrieved white guy. "Almost any criticism of Trump is already being spun by MAGA as an incitement to assassinate him," writes Edward Luce of the Financial Times. "This is an Orwellian attempt to silence what remains of the effort to stop him from regaining power." It's also a good way to distract from his wildly unpopular authoritarian plans and the fact - see wildly unpopular - the only way Republicans can gain power is by lying and cheating while celebrating his Nietzschian powers of shamelessness. "They try to jail him. They try to kill him. It will not work," raved Greg Abbott. "He is indomitable.”

He is also, arguesThe New Yorker's David Remnick and other sane people, "the most violent person in contemporary U.S. politics," a "man who seeks power through the humiliation and subordination of disdained others," a wannabe authoritarian who wants to destroy democracy running on an openly authoritarian platform: "This isn't a smear, it's a fact." A clumsy pot-shot from a sick kid does nothing to change that, Remnick notes, "nor does it absolve him of his past misdeeds." Unlike earlier fringe outliers from Joe McCarthy to Islamic Jihadists posing a "radical challenge" to America, Trump has formed "stable coalitions with accepted stakeholders," from colonizing one of two major parties to transforming SCOTUS into a fiery pit of Christo-fascism; he's also defeated or stalled every legal impediment to his rise and brought his thugs and felons into "the summit of the American elite." Now, a grazed ear "secures his undeserved position as a partner in the protective rituals of the democracy he despises."

The shooting has prompted "appropriate expressions of dismay and condemnation from every prominent voice in American life," notes Remnick of "polite hypocrisy" and conventional calls for unity that are socially useful but singularly dangerous by giving Trump an unseemly sheen of legitimacy. "The familiar practice is (to) proclaim Americans have more things in common than (those) that divide them," he writes. "Those soothing words, true in the past, are less true now. Nobody seems to have language to say: We abhor, reject, repudiate, and punish all political violence, even as we maintain that Trump remains himself a promoter of such violence" - and even as he and his right-wing collaborators rush to exploit a gunman's folly "as their path to exonerate past crimes and empower new ones." As a result of rightly denouncing violence, "We are extending an implicit pardon... absolving and inscribing Trump into a place in American life that he should have forfeited beyond redemption on January 6, 2021."

It's easy to see and hear how emboldened Trump et al now feel in their goose-stepping parade to power. After Judge Aileen Cannon dismissed his classified documents case in a ruling "so bereft of legal reasoning as to be utterly absurd" - Lisa Needham: "Special counsels are unconstitutional if they make Trump sad" - he gleefully celebrated the dismissal of a "Lawless Indictment (as) just the first step" and noxiously called for ditching "ALL the Witch Hunts - the January 6th Hoax, Manhattan D.A.’s Zombie Case, New York A.G. Scam, Fake Claims about a woman I never met (and) Georgia “Perfect” Phone Call." Jesus. In what was deemed a "shocking" announcement after coyly pretending he knew nothing of and nobody from the fascist Project 2025, he promised to give an Administration post to career cop, former ICE thug and primary author Tom 'Epic-Flood-of-Illegals' Homan. "I have Tom lined up," he beamed. "We have the greatest people" - the evident descendants of his infamous "best people."

Then he tapped "naked authoritarian," spineless opportunist and "alarm bell in the night" J.D. Vance, an anti-abortion and America First zealot with "all the fascist instincts of Trump but a better brain," to be VP and toss out election results they don't like. Despite having called Trump a "cynical asshole," the "fruit of the party's collective neglect," "loathsome," "cultural heroin," and most famously "America's Hitler," Vance stepped boldly up to charge that Biden likening Trump to Hitler "led directly to Trump’s attempted assassination." An authoritarian piece of work, he's raged against the "childless left," called rape "an inconvenience" and universal day care "class war," praised Alex Jones as "a truth-teller," and opined "the devil is real." Tell us about it. Hear a scorching, hilarious Trae Browder, who once hung out with Vance trashing Trump as an "existential threat to America," on "a Machiavellian sycophant with less integrity than a Boeing 737" only good at "when, where and to what precise angle he should bend over. Fuck J.D."

Fans (again) claim Trump's magically pivoted into a somber, presidential figure - Tucker Carlson: "Getting shot in the face changes a man" - but he seemed the same arrogant asshole as he lumbered into the first day of the GOP convention "like he just survived the Tet offensive." As Lee Greenwood sang "God Bless the USA," he was met with cheers that lit up his lumpy face like an 8-year-old basking in the love he'd always wanted from his Nazi dad but never got. He wore an oversized bandage on his war wound - "the doctor said he never saw anything like it" - widely mocked as an "ear diaper" and a Mr. Pillow mini-pillow he reportedly didn't wear golfing the next day; still, rabid fans donned their own "Maxi-pad of courage" in solidarity. As the warrior hero entered, many in the crowd chanted, “Fight, fight, fight!" with arms straight up, Nazi-style. Soon he was seen asleep. "Should we be traumatized by his shooting?," a viewer asked "for a nation tired of double standards," "or just pretend it was a school shooting and get over it?"

Unsurprisingly for a convention of bigots, yahoos and Putin apologists offering nothing but hate and fear, the lofty "let's lower the temperature and unite" shtick quickly evaporated. Wisconsin's Ron Johnson opened the speeches by blasting a Democratic "radical far-left agenda" that poses "a clear and present danger to America," only to later mumble it was a pre-shooting attack mistakenly loaded into the teleprompter. But he did unapologetically trash "biological males competing against girls," the "sexualization and indoctrination of our children,” and the fact we're "horribly divided and it's all about Critical Race Theory," thought it's unclear how a white Republican man shooting a white Republican man fits that charge. "Democrats wanted this to happen," MTG screeched of the shooting. ”The Democrat (sic) Party is flat out evil (and) they tried to murder President Trump," but God saved him, also "there are only two genders." Tim Scott: "A devil came to Pennsylvania holding a rifle, but a lion got back on his feet and he roared.”

While the event's general refrain was "Fire the Biden/Harris regime," each day had a theme. The first was "Make America Wealthy Again," wherein people raged about "Biden's inflation" and touted Trump's (fictional) "rip-roaring economy," which even before COVID was disastrous: The worst jobs president ever, he oversaw soaring unemployment, cratering GNP and fat-cat tax cuts that caused most of today's inflation. Hate-and-fear-mongering seeped in around the edges. Repulsive Senate candidate Bernie Moreno, born to a rich family in Colombia who immigrated here as a child, said "the American dream I lived is under attack" from Biden's "millions of illegals...They’ll destroy America if we don’t stop them." Improbably, they all just got more loathsome, from vicious and whining Don. Jr to Ted Cruz - "Your family is less safe" - to Kari Lake - "Build the wall!" though it doesn't work - to MTG: "They promised normalcy and gave us Transgender Visibility Day on Easter Sunday!" Cue booing hordes and smirking Marge.

In the end, everyone drank the Kool-Aid and kissed the ring, from Rod DeFascist to Nikki Haley: "We have a country to save." Some reality TV person wailed her parents were serving time for millions in fraud because of "rogue prosecutors" and what about Hunter? Mike Johnson lauded his "law and order team" headed by a 34-count felon, and quickly walked off the stage when a teleprompter broke even though he'd just blasted Biden for needing a teleprompter. Keynote speakers included a puppy killer and a model who preaches Satanism, Dems were "far-left lunatics fueling ludicrous hysteria," trans jokes were told, Rudy Giuliani fell drunk to the floor, a bickering Matt Gaetz and Kevin McCarthy almost came to blows after Gaetz kept interrupting and taunting MCarthy, probably because he insisted Gaetz be investigated for sleeping with a minor, until an exasperated bystander repeatedly urged Gaetz, "Don't be an asshole," a big ask. A good, nasty, toxic, other-hating time was had by all.

On Tuesday, about a mile from a convention patrolled by about 4,000 law enforcement but within its "operational zone," five police officers from Columbus, Ohio shot and killed an unhoused man fighting with another man in an unrelated encounter. One of them may or may not have pulled a knife; when they began scuffling, witnesses said both men were startled to see over 100 cops quickly appear. The man killed, nicknamed Jehovah, was well-known in a nearby tent encampment where about 70 people live; he had a pit bull later seen being loaded into a police van. A volunteer worker said Jehovah had used an on-site showerthe day before, and when he left he said, "I love you guys." "He was a person. He was human," she said. "This is more trauma on top of trauma." The same day, police arrested a Florida man with mental health issues for making multiple threats against Joe Biden to "slit his throat." Both events took place on the convention's second day; its theme was, "Make America Safe Once Again."

On April 5, 1968, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated outside the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, a pained, eloquent Robert Kennedy spoke to the Cleveland City Club about the "mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land (and) our lives." In a "mournful cadence," writes David Remnick, Kennedy urged we remember that "those who live with us are our brothers....Surely we can learn (to) look at those around us as fellow men and begin to work a little harder (to) bind up the wounds among us." Kennedy decried "a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity," the access to weapons to "men of all shades of sanity," the urge to find scapegoats or conspiracies, the mob that's "only the voice of madness, not the voice of the people." "Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer," he argued, "Only a cleaning of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul." Two months later, he was shot and killed at 42.

Update: We feel compelled to share. Idiocy unbound.

Tony Chang (L) and Sal Miranda install no-cost solar panels

New EPA Funding Boosts Clean Energy Projects Across US

More than $4 billion in new funding for the Inflation Reduction Act's anti-pollution grants will help to "deliver a better, cleaner future for America," said one climate action coalition on Monday as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would fund 25 new renewable energy and other projects across the country.

The agency unveiled $4.3 billion in new spending, the result of nearly 300 applications that were submitted by state, local, and tribal governments for the Climate Pollution Reduction Grants (CPRG) included in the IRA—President Joe Biden's $396 billion infrastructure and climate bill passed in 2022.

The 25 applications that were chosen for this round of grants came from 13 states and state coalitions, 11 cities and towns, and one native tribe.

The EPA said the grants could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 971 million metric tons by 2050, roughly equivalent to the emission of 5 million homes.

The climate action group Evergreen Action noted that during negotiations over the IRA, it championed the CPRG program because it recognizes that "states, tribal nations, and local governments have a central role to play in America's clean energy transition."

"Thoughtfully implemented, these grants will help alleviate pollution and health risks for millions of overburdened and underserved people in our region."

The implementation funding announced by the EPA will turn plans for a renewable energy expansion "into a reality" for cities and states across the country, said Rachel Patterson, Evergreen Action state policy adviser.

"We appreciate the EPA team for ensuring that this program will deliver new reductions in climate pollution alongside tangible benefits for communities across the country," said Patterson. "Let's get to work."

The funding that will be distributed by the EPA in the early fall, said EPA Administrator Michael Regan, includes:

  • $450 million for the New England Heat Pump Accelerator in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, speeding up the adoption of cold-climate air-source heat pumps, heat pump water heaters, and ground source heat pumps in more than 500,000 residential buildings;
  • $248.9 million for the Clean Corridor Coalition in New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, and Maryland, to build electric vehicle charging stations for commercial trucks on Interstate 95;
  • $430.2 million to advance building and industry decarbonization, freight electrification, climate-smart agriculture, and renewable energy deployment in Illinois, which aims to achieve 100% carbon-free power by 2045;
  • $396 for the Reducing Industrial Sector Emissions in Pennsylvania (RISE PA) program; and
  • $307 million to reduce agricultural waste and improve energy efficiency in homes and buildings in Nebraska.

The Native tribe that will receive funding is the Nez Percé Tribe, which submitted an application for funds to retrofit homes.

The U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of governors who represent 55% of the U.S. population and 60% of the nation's economy, said it had collectively secured approximately $2.6 billion of the newly announced grants, providing "direct funding to 14 alliance states to implement ambitious measures that deliver significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and substantial community benefits."

Casey Katims, executive director of the alliance, said the coalition's members "are home to many of the world's most impactful climate solutions."

"With this huge new injection of federal funding, leading states will turn their innovative plans into bold action," said Katims.

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) applauded the funding awarded to southern states including Virginia, which is set to receive nearly $100 million to improve air quality in underserved communities by controlling methane pollution from current and former coal mines and landfills, and South Carolina, where cities will receive $8 million to deploy municipal solar power and "smart surface" projects to reduce extreme heat and flooding.

"EPA created an unprecedented opportunity for state and local leaders to take climate action in the south," said SELC climate initiative leader Alys Campaigne. "Thoughtfully implemented, these grants will help alleviate pollution and health risks for millions of overburdened and underserved people in our region."

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Daniel Werfel

Democrats' IRS Crackdown on Millionaires Draws in $1 Billion

As the U.S. Internal Revenue Service announced Thursday that it had recovered $1 billion in unpaid taxes from wealthy individuals, economic justice advocates said the news served as a reminder of a top priority for the Republican Party: ensuring that tax evasion can continue among the richest Americans.

The IRS was able to recover the tax payments "thanks to historic funding from Democrats," said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.). "Every single Republican in Congress voted against it and Republicans are hellbent on helping millionaires [to] keep stealing from you."

The Biden administration and Democrats in Congress pushed for the inclusion of $80 billion for the IRS in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in 2022, with the money earmarked to allow the agency to hire more tax evasion enforcement staff and hold wealthy people and corporations accountable for tax avoidance.

When former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) took the gavel last year, he said a proposal to repeal the funding would be the "very first bill" introduced by the party, claiming the Democrats aimed to force working Americans to pay more in taxes.

The GOP managed to repeal $20 billion of the funding as part of a deal to suspend the debt ceiling in May 2023.

"Our message for these taxpayers is that now that we are resourced, we can do the job of ensuring that they pay."

Stopping the IRS from cracking down on wealthy tax cheats, said Bobby Kogan, senior director of federal budget policy for the Center for American Progress, "is THE biggest GOP priority."

Under former Republican President Donald Trump's administration, an analysis by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) showed last year, the IRS audited low-income Americans at a higher rate than millionaires for the first time.

The IRS said the new funding allowed it to track down and contact 1,600 taxpayers with more than $1 million of income who owed more than $250,000 in tax debt.

"Our message for these taxpayers is that now that we are resourced, we can do the job of ensuring that they pay," said IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel.

Last month the IRS proposed a rule to stop "partnership basis shifting," which allows a business or individual to move assets to avoid paying taxes. The rule could recover more than $50 billion in revenue over a decade, according to the Treasury Department.

The results announced Thursday come from the agency's spending of $5.7 billion—about 10%—of its IRA funding.

"This is what happens when you fund the IRS," said ATF. "Anyone trying to cut IRS funding just wants to protect rich tax cheats."

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sanders Pushes Harris to Pursue Agenda That 'Speaks to the Needs of the Working Class'

As labor unions, advocacy groups, and progressive lawmakers rallied around Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday, Sen. Bernie Sanders held off on formally endorsing her for the 2024 Democratic nomination, saying he wants to ensure she will pursue an ambitious agenda that prioritizes the needs of the country's working class.

In an appearance on CBS News, Sanders (I-Vt.) said he believes Harris will defeat Republican nominee Donald Trump in November if she is "prepared to campaign around an agenda that speaks to the needs of the working class of this country."

"The issue that concerns me is that for too long, Democrats have kind of turned their backs on the pain that millions of working-class people, people who are elderly, children, lower-income people are experiencing," Sanders told CBS' Robert Costa, who reported late Monday that the Vermont senator spoke with Harris on the phone after President Joe Biden exited the 2024 race and endorsed her.

Sanders, who competed against both Harris and Biden in the 2020 Democratic primary, said in Monday's interview that he wants Harris to make clear that "it is not acceptable that 60% of our people are living paycheck to paycheck while the billionaire class has never, ever had it so good."

"It's not acceptable," Sanders continued, "that we've got millions of seniors who can't afford dental care, hearing aids, eyeglasses, that we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on Earth, and almost all of the new wealth and income is going to the people on top."

In a separate interview Monday with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Sanders said he is "sure" he will ultimately endorse Harris for the Democratic nomination but stressed that he wants to see her put forth an agenda "that speaks to the long-neglected needs of working families," specifically calling for a permanent expansion of the child tax credit and an increase in the stagnant federal minimum wage.

"I just want to make sure that her campaign understands that for too many people in this country, when they look at Washington, D.C., they feel ignored. They feel insulted that people are not understanding what is going on in their lives," said Sanders. "Life expectancy for working-class people is 10 years shorter than it is for the rich. And working-class people want a government that represents them and not corporate America."

Sanders' interviews came shortly before Harris secured the backing of enough Democratic delegates to win the party's presidential nomination, less than two days after Biden dropped out of the race. The Democratic National Committee's rules panel is set to meet Wednesday to schedule a date for a virtual roll call vote that would cement Harris' spot at the top of the party's ticket before the convention in Chicago next month.

"This election will present a clear choice between two different visions," Harris said in a statement late Monday. "Donald Trump wants to take our country back to a time before many of us had full freedoms and equal rights. I believe in a future that strengthens our democracy, protects reproductive freedom, and ensures every person has the opportunity to not just get by, but to get ahead."

While Harris rapidly clinched the support of the Democratic establishment and congressional progressives, some have voiced concerns about her corporate ties and record as a U.S. senator and California's attorney general.

As Fortunereported Monday:

Harris has extensive ties to the tech industry—unsurprisingly for someone who was a San Francisco prosecutor as well as a California attorney general and senator. She was at the wedding of early Facebook executive Sean Parker and is close to the likes of LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman, billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs, and venture capitalist John Doerr. 'We're family,' she told Google employees in 2010 when successfully campaigning for the AG role.

According toThe Washington Post, Harris recently brought in attorney Karen Dunn as an adviser. Dunn "sits at the nexus of the Democratic establishment and Big Tech," as The American Prospectput it, having represented corporate behemoths such as Google and Uber.

The Post noted Monday that "Tony West, Harris' brother-in-law who is the chief legal officer at Uber, traveled with the vice president on Monday to Delaware and has been assisting" in the shift to a presidential run.

Lee Hepner, an antitrust lawyer and senior legal counsel for the American Economic Liberties Project, wrote Monday that "it's incredibly important that Senator Sanders and others keep pushing this campaign to reflect the needs of working Americans, not corporate America."

"I'm more optimistic than not that Harris will adopt a big tent approach to her campaign," Hepner added, "but folks who think that just happens, or that others aren't pushing really hard against a coalition-based approach, are mistaken. Politics is about pressure, leverage, and influence."

Sanders wasn't among the lawmakers who urged Biden to drop out of the 2024 race. The Postobserved Tuesday morning that "as Biden bled support after his disastrous debate in late June, Sanders was able to extract a new campaign message from Biden" that "included many of Sanders' priorities, including medical debt forgiveness, expansion of Medicare for hearing and dental, and an expansion of Social Security benefits."

"He's looking for a similar commitment from Harris," the newspaper added.

Cardona and Biden

Student Loan Payments Paused for Millions Amid Court Fight Over Relief Plan

The Biden administration responded to an appellate court temporarily blocking one of its student debt relief programs by pausing payments for the 8 million borrowers already enrolled—a move welcomed by advocates, even as some called for further action.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona acknowledged in a statement that the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling against President Joe Biden's Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) plan "could have devastating consequences for millions of student loan borrowers crushed by unaffordable monthly payments if it remains in effect."

"It's shameful that politically motivated lawsuits waged by Republican elected officials are once again standing in the way of lower payments for millions of borrowers," Cardona continued. "Borrowers enrolled in the SAVE plan will be placed in an interest-free forbearance while our administration continues to vigorously defend the SAVE plan in court. The department will be providing regular updates to borrowers affected by these rulings in the coming days."

The appellate court's Thursday ruling was just the latest in a series of legal decisions endangering one of the administration's surviving policies to help Americans with burdensome student loans. Biden's attempt to roll out a broader debt cancellation program last year was thwarted by the U.S. Supreme Court's right-wing justices.

Despite that setback, the Democratic president has continued to pursue relief programs while seeking reelection in November. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are preparing to face former Republican President Donald Trump and Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio). Analyses have warned that Trump's return to the White House would worsen the U.S. student debt crisis.

"It wasn't so long ago that a million borrowers defaulted on their student loans every single year, mainly because they couldn't afford the payments," Cardona noted Friday. "The SAVE plan is a bold and urgently needed effort to fix what's broken in our student loan system and make financing a higher education more affordable in this country. The Biden-Harris administration remains committed to delivering as much relief as possible for as many borrowers as possible."

"Already, we've approved an unprecedented $169 billion in relief for nearly 4.8 million Americans, including teachers, veterans, and other public servants, students who were cheated by their colleges, borrowers with disabilities, and more," he added. "And from larger Pell Grants to free community college, President Biden, Vice President Harris, and I continue to believe that college affordability is a cause worth fighting for—and we're not giving up."

The Student Borrower Protection Center, which had advocated for a payment pause after Thursday's ruling, thanked Cardona "for taking swift action to protect the millions of borrowers enrolled in SAVE."

"Opponents of SAVE have inflicted mass confusion and chaos across the entire student loan system—all borrowers are at risk," the group added. "Halt student loan payments and protect borrowers ASAP!"

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten put out a statement on Friday praising the administration's action "to stave off this reckless attack from extremist politicians and judges."

"But we shouldn't even be in this situation," she stressed. "These borrowers are on a roller coaster that's being forced off the rails by far-right politicians who will do anything in their power to hurt them, rather than help them get the relief they deserve."

"We are grateful that the Biden-Harris administration will continue to push for affordable monthly payments as bad faith actors continue to throw up roadblock after roadblock," she added. "In the end, broad-based debt cancellation is the only solution—and we will continue to advocate for it through every avenue available."

While also welcoming the pause as the court battle continues, the Debt Collective said Friday: "But no need to stop there—pause everyone's payments. Unburden them from what has been."

Recalling when student debt payments were halted because of the Covid-19 pandemic, initially under Trump and then Biden, the group also said that the president "never should have restarted student loan payments," calling it "an unforced error."

A Palestinian girl carries the representative shroud of a child

Israel's West Bank Assault Sparks 250% Surge in Killings of Palestinian Kids

Three days after the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion stating that Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is unlawful, the United Nations children's rights agency said that after decades of being "exposed to horrific violence," the number of children who have been killed in the West Bank since last October has skyrocketed.

Since Israel began its bombardment of the Palestinian territories nearly 10 months ago—with Gaza the primary target of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) attacks, but with West Bank communities also subjected to raids and other violence—143 Palestinian children have been killed in the West Bank, according to the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF).

The number represents a 250% increase compared to the nine months preceding the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel, after which the IDF began retaliating in the occupied territories.

"The situation has deteriorated significantly, coinciding with the escalation of hostilities inside Gaza," said Catherine Russell, executive director of UNICEF. "We are seeing frequent allegations of Palestinian children being detained on their way home from school, or shot while walking on the streets. The violence needs to stop now."

More than half of the killings have been reported in the cities of Nablus, Tulkarm, and Jenin, the latter of which was the site of a major raid by Israeli forces earlier this month, in which 12 Palestinians were killed. All three cities have seen a rise in "militarized law enforcement operations" over the last two years, said UNICEF, as Israeli soldiers and settlers have stormed parts of the territory " to scare Palestinians out of" their homes, as the International Crisis Group reported last year.

Some of the killings of children in the West Bank over the last 10 months have received international attention, like the Israeli forces' shooting of two children, Basil Suleiman Abu al-Wafa and Adam Samer al-Ghoul, during a raid on the Jenin refugee camp in November.

Al-Ghoul, who was nine, was shown on CCTV footage trying to run away from IDF soldiers when he was gunned down.

"Children's right to life must be upheld and children should never be the target of violence, no matter who or where they are," said UNICEF in a statement, noting that more than 440 Palestinian children have also been injured by live ammunition in the West Bank since last October.

The agency said that as the death toll has risen in the West Bank, children have reported being afraid to walk through their own neighborhoods or attend school.

The children killed there since October are among more than 500 Palestinians killed in IDF raids and settler attacks over the last 10 months—more than three times the number killed there in 2022.

Since October, two Israeli children have been killed in fighting the West Bank, said UNICEF.

"The true cost of the violence in the state of Palestine and Israel will be measured in children's lives—those lost and those forever changed by it," said Russell. "What the children desperately need is an end to violence and a lasting political solution to the crisis, so that they can reach their fullest potential in peace and safety."