Hoo boy. Hopefully you missed the GOP "trash fire," "play date," "darkest saddest game of MadLibs ever" and "rancid buffet of bigotry" that was the final debate among four also-rans who again confirm the party isn't sending their best, or there aren't any. In an ugly, hollow, extremely loud and incredibly dumb display, Haley, Christie, DeFascist and "the most obnoxious blowhard in America" yelled at each other in a sordid effort to out-hate anyone who isn't a straight white Christian male. The result: They/we all lost.
Full disclosure: We didn't watch it. Honestly, we just couldn't. But we read some accounts, viewed some clips, looked at the pictures. It was enough, and then some. According to breathless, horse-race, mainstream media, the current status of the "casting couch for B-actors" auditioning for the slow but implacable debasing of American democracy shows Nikki Haley in a wobbly lead - albeit one that remains about 50 points behind the guy Chris Christie has taken to calling, "He who shall not be named." Nobody's sure why Christie's still there, but he retains the honor of being the only candidate who ever calls out our own monstrous Lord Voldemort, and who dares to suggest maybe bigotry isn't the best governing principle. DeSantis is said to be flailing because he's weird as fuck and obsessed with "genital mutilation," aka transgender health care. And evidently everyone agrees with Aaron Rupar's sentiments on "one of the most insufferable people around" - "Vivek Ramaswamy, please go away."
Despite fitful, malignant mentions of China, fentanyl, Ukraine, the border, most of the two-hour "debate" consisted of the candidates, faces twisted by rage, hammering each other. "While almost entirely irrelevant, it did give viewers a dreary view into the mind and soul (sic) of the GOP," writes Noah Berlatsky of a "compulsive xenophobia and fear-mongering (that) shows they've thrown off any pretense of offering anything other than white grievance." "If you're not a white Christian man," he notes, "the GOP probably hates you." Speakers moved from "denigrating one marginalized group to the next, targeting each for hate" while vying with each other to see who could be most virulent. Topping the list of targets were trans people; immigrants came a close second. "Trump wasn’t on that sad debate stage in Alabama. But his orange spirit hovered, spreading its miasma of fear and paranoia," notes Berlatsky. "The GOP, now more than ever, is a party that defines itself by who it hates."
Its immersion in white grievance and unapologetic racism - no talk of hope, unity, achievement here - offers more grim proof the GOP is now utterly Trump's party: "His cruelty has won." One sage likened the pleasure factor of watching its denizens gather and snarl at each other to that of Alaska's 4th of July Glacier View Car Launch, wherein junk cars go careening over a 300-foot cliff as revelers gawk and cheer. And the GOP brawlers were ready out of the gate: It took 30 seconds for DeSantis to assail Haley on what bathrooms transgender people should use, after which they sparred about who'd more quickly deny them health care. He bragged (again) about shooting drug-smugglers and, pivoting to the old stand-by anti-Semitism, bragged about fighting the pernicious influence of George Soros: "I have a record of standing up and doing what's right." (Haley: "You have a record of lying.") Asked if he thinks Trump is fit for office, DeSantis went deeper than those junk cars: "Father Time is undefeated." Umm, ok.
Often targeted by the three men - see wobbly lead, also girl - Haley argued "they're just jealous" because she's getting Koch money now. On the attack, she was mostly wrong and/or paranoid: Iran knows "the easiest way" to enter the U.S. is at the southern border (Iranians are unheard-of there); China, not Mexico is the main source for fentanyl (not); she wants a Muslim travel ban in places where "they say 'Death to America'" like Yemen and Iran (home to fierce pro-democracy protests); the biggest issue women face is trans women playing sports, but tell it to those forced to give birth. She inspired extra venom from Ramaswamy, who held up a lame “Nikki=Corrupt" sign to charge she's bought and paid for by the GOP (but aren't they all?), questioned her knowledge of Ukraine - "Foreign policy experience is not the same as foreign policy wisdom" - and pumped up his "spoiled-frat-boy-on-coke" shtick to blast the intriguing if incoherent insult, "You can put lipstick on a Dick Cheney, and it’s still a fascist neocon.”
Mostly, he spewed bizarro conspiracy theories: Jan. 6 was "an inside job," "Big Tech" stole the 2020 election, Dems are all about "the Great Replacement." Nobody challenged him. Nor did anyone mention guns, though the U.S. just recorded its highest number of mass shootings - most recently in Texas, Washington, Las Vegas - and Senate Republicans just refused to reauthorize 1994's Assault Weapons Ban, which worked. But he did, alone among the rabble, mention climate change - to say it's "a hoax." He really said that. "If you thought COVID was bad, what’s coming with this climate agenda is far worse," he babbled. "We should not be bending the knee to this new religion. We are flogging ourselves and losing our modern way of life bowing to this new god of climate, and that will end on my watch." Yeah, sure, let's make any of these vile, petty, dithering, bigoted, malevolent morons president. James Baldwin: "Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”
So Long, Ronwww.youtube.com
Environmental protection groups on Tuesday warned that the Norwegian government's new deal with two right-wing minority parties to open the Arctic Ocean to deep-sea mining would be "a disaster" and flies in the face of warnings from scientists about companies' exploration of the seabed.
The Labor and Center Parties, which have control of the government, reached an agreement with the right-wing Hoeyre and Progress Parties to allow Stortinget, the Norwegian parliament, to approve the first projects by deep-sea mining firms such as Loke Marine Minerals.
The plan would gradually open areas of the Greenland and Barents seas in the Arctic, and proponents claimed it would set strict environmental survey requirements. The proposal is set to be formally debated by the Stortinget on January 4, followed by a vote.
Despite the promises of environmental protections, Greenpeace Norway said the government cannot claim to know "what consequences this will have for the ecosystems in the sea, for endangered species such as whales and seabirds, or for the fish stocks on which we base our livelihood."
Norway is "giving up any pretense of being an environmental leader" by embracing deep-sea mining, said the group.
The European Academies Science Advisory Council in August said the push to extract metals like cobalt and copper from the fragile seabed—ostensibly to support the production of batteries for electric vehicles, wind turbines, and other products—is "misleading" and could cause "irreparable damage" ecosystems where thousands of newly discovered species live.
The minerals are already mined elsewhere on Earth, scientists have pointed out, and the deep sea could be placed at risk for chemical leaks and spills as well as harmful noise and light pollution.
More than 800 marine scientists have called for a global moratorium on deep-sea mining, and 119 members of the European Parliament have called on Norwegian lawmakers to reject the proposed opening process.
Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway, called Tuesday's proposal "shameful" for the country.
"The Norwegian government is not only ignoring hundreds of concerned scientists, but also showing disregard for its international obligations and national environmental legislation," said Pleym. "By opening up for deep-sea mining, Norway has lost all credibility as a responsible ocean nation that signed the United Nations ocean treaty."
Martin Sveinssønn Melvær of the Bellona environmental group in Norway said it would be "a dangerous derailment in the fight against climate change to open up seabed minerals."
Pleym pledged that the fight against deep-sea mining in Norway "doesn't end here."
"Across the Greenpeace network, we will work to stop every deep-sea mining project presented to the Norwegian parliament," he said. "The wave of protests against deep-sea mining has just started to grow... We will not allow Norway to destroy the unique life in the deep sea, not in the Arctic nor anywhere else."
The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday disputed more than 100 patents held by pharmaceutical companies that make asthma inhalers, EpiPens, and other items listed in the Food and Drug Administration's so-called "Orange Book," which identifies products the agency considers safe and effective.
The FTC sent letters to 10 companies—including AbbVie, AstraZeneca, and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals—notifying them that the commission believes some of their patents are improperly listed in the FDA's Orange Book.
Drug companies have long been accused of abusing the FDA patent listing system to undercut generic competition. In its warning letters to the pharmaceutical companies, the FTC notes that "patents improperly listed in the Orange Book may delay lower-cost generic drug competition."
"By listing their patents in the Orange Book, brand drug companies may benefit from an automatic, 30-month stay of FDA approval of competing generic drug applications," the agency's letters explain. "In addition to delays resulting from such a stay of approval, the costs associated with litigating improperly listed patents may disincentivize investments in developing generic drugs, which risks delaying or thwarting competitive entry. The Supreme Court recognizes that improper Orange Book listings have prevented or delayed generic drug entry since at least the 1990s."
While the letters state that the FTC has chosen to make use of the FDA's formal dispute process to target the allegedly improper listings, the agency said it retains "the right to take any further action the public interest may require," including legal action.
"Instead, we have found that firms are listing device patents that have absolutely nothing to do with the active ingredient," said Khan. "So they're instead covering the dispenser cap on a multidose eyedropper or the cap strap on an inhaler, which just keeps the inhalers in place."
"We've identified patents covering these components of devices," Khan added, "and that may in fact be resulting in Americans having to pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars more than they should be."
"Big Pharma has been intentionally gaming the United States' drug safety system to block other manufacturers from making and selling the same treatments at lower prices."
Consumer advocates applauded the FTC's move as a key step toward challenging the pharmaceutical industry's profit-seeking manipulation of the U.S. patent system.
"We're thrilled to see the FTC crack down on over a hundred sham Orange Book listings, which keep lifesaving medicines like asthma inhalers and epinephrine prohibitively expensive for those who need them most," said Erik Peinert, research manager and editor at the American Economic Liberties Project. "Big Pharma has been intentionally gaming the United States' drug safety system to block other manufacturers from making and selling the same treatments at lower prices."
Public Citizen also welcomed the FTC's action in a social media post:
The FTC's warning letters to drug companies came after the agency issued a policy statement signaling that it intends to "scrutinize improper Orange Book listings to determine whether these constitute unfair methods of competition."
The statement notes that "patents listed in the Orange Book must claim the reference listed drug or a method of using it."
"Brand drug manufacturers are responsible for ensuring their patents are properly listed," the statement continues. "Yet certain manufacturers have submitted patents for listing in the Orange Book that claim neither the reference listed drug nor a method of using it. When brand drug manufacturers abuse the regulatory processes set up by Congress to promote generic drug competition, the result may be to increase the cost of and reduce access to prescription drugs."
A report published earlier this year by the American Economic Liberties Project estimated that antitrust violations by the pharmaceutical industry—including shame Orange Book listings—cost U.S. patients, insurers, and federal health programs more than $40 billion in 2019 alone.
As Israel continued to wage what critics are calling a genocidal war on the Gaza Strip, just 13 U.S. House Democrats and one Republican on Tuesday voted against a GOP resolution that conflates anti-Zionism and antisemitism.
House Resolution 894 passed with support from 95 Democrats and 216 Republicans, including its sponsors, Reps. David Kustoff (Tenn.) and Max Miller (Ohio), who are both Jewish. Almost as many Democrats—92—voted present.
The resolution, which embraces the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's controversial working definition of antisemitism, was widely condemned by progressive and Jewish groups this week ahead of the vote.
Republican Congressman Thomas Massie (Ky.) joined the 13 Democrats who opposed H.Res. 894: Reps. Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.), Cori Bush (Mo.), Gerry Connolly (Va.), Jesús "Chuy" García (Ill.), Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Summer Lee (Pa.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Delia Ramirez (Ill.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.).
"This extreme and cynical Republican resolution does nothing to combat antisemitism, relies on a definition that conflates criticism of the Israeli government with antisemitism, paints critics of the Israeli government as antisemites, and falsely states that anti-Zionism is antisemitism," Omar said in a statement about her vote. "We must stand against any attempt to define legitimate criticism of this war and the government perpetrating it as antisemitism."
According to The Hill, Bowman said after the vote that while he "strongly condemn[s] antisemitism and hate in all of its forms," he voted against H.Res. 894 because "it fuels division and violence, conflates criticism of the Israeli government with antisemitism, and ignores one of the greatest threats to the Jewish community, white nationalism."
Bowman and Omar are among the House progressives facing serious primary challenges for the next cycle, in part because of their criticism of the Israeli government and its war on Gaza that has killed nearly 16,000 Palestinians in under two months.
They joined with Bush, Lee, Massie, Ocasio-Cortez, Ramirez, Tlaib, and Reps. André Carson (D-Ind.) and Al Green (D-Texas) in October to oppose a bipartisan resolution, which declared that the House unconditionally "stands with Israel as it defends itself against the barbaric war launched by Hamas and other terrorists," and did not mention Palestinian suffering.
At the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, families whose loved ones are among the tens of thousands of Americans who have died of opioid use disorder each year over the past two decades rallied to push the nine justices to reject a proposed bankruptcy plan that would give the former owners of Purdue Pharma legal immunity—with many joining the U.S. Justice Department in arguing that the company should not be released from accountability for the opioid epidemic.
Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy in 2019, as the number of Americans killed by opioids hit 50,000 and the OxyContin manufacturer faced thousands of lawsuits alleging its aggressive marketing of the addictive painkiller had fueled the rising death toll.
The company agreed to settle the lawsuits for $10 billion, with the Sackler family—which oversaw Purdue when OxyContin was introduced and flooded communities across the U.S.—contributing $4 billion. In exchange, the Sacklers would be shielded from future lawsuits.
The bankruptcy plan—which now includes $6 billion from the Sacklers following a push from lawsuit plaintiffs—has been approved by state and local governments, tribes, and families and individuals who would be entitled to money.
But the U.S. Trustee Program, a watchdog at the Justice Department, has joined some families in arguing that the Sacklers should not be shielded from liability for the opioid crisis.
"No Sackler immunity at any $$," read one sign held by a woman outside the Supreme Court on Monday, while another said, "My dead son does not release Sacklers."
The issue at hand in the case, Harrington v. Purdue Pharma, is whether it is legal to give a third party—the Sackler family—legal immunity in a bankruptcy case even though they themselves have not declared bankruptcy, also known as nonconsensual third-party release.
A lawyer for groups and individuals told the court that families and governments are highly unlikely to get any more out of Purdue and the Sacklers than the money the company and family have offered as part of the deal.
The plan would include $161 million in a trust set aside for Native American tribes and $700 million to $750 million in a trust for families and individuals who were able to file claims, with payouts expected to range from about $3,500 to $48,000. Governments would use the money to set up addiction treatment centers and other programs to mitigate the opioid crisis.
"Forget a better deal—there is no other deal," lawyer Pratik Shah told the Supreme Court on Monday.
Curtis Gannon, representing the U.S. Trustee Program, noted that the Sackler family already showed that a "better deal" could be possible when it offered $6 billion for the plan instead of $4 billion. The Justice Department is advocating for a new settlement that would not include nonconsensual third-party releases, saying the current bankruptcy deal violates federal law.
"We do hope there is another deal at the end of this," said Gannon.
The justices appeared split on the case, in which a ruling is expected next summer. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson noted that appeals courts do not allow bankruptcy plans that take away the rights of alleged victims to sue parties that have not declared bankruptcy.
Outside the court, Alexis Pleus, who lost her son to opioid use disorder, told Aneri Pattani of KFF Health News that many families, including hers, will not be entitled to money under the current deal because they are required to provide records such as the original opioid prescription.
Beth Macy, author of the book Dopesick, told CNN Monday morning that while some families "are divided" about whether the bankruptcy plan and payouts should move forward, as the U.S. Trustee Program "has pointed out, only 20% of the families who were eligible to vote on [the proposal], even voted."
"I don't want their money," Jen Trejo, whose son Christopher was prescribed OxyContin at age 15 and died of an overdose when he was 32, told Pattani. "I want them in prison."
With over 16,000 Palestinians dead just two months into Israel's war on the Gaza Strip, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday demanded immediate action by the U.N. Security Council.
For the first time since becoming secretary-general nearly seven years ago, Guterres invoked Article 99, a rarely used section of the U.N. Charter empowering him to bring to the attention of the council "any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security."
U.N. spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said that Guterres was invoking Article 99 "given the scale of the loss of human life in Gaza and Israel, in such a short amount of time."
"I think it's arguably the most important invocation," Dujarric told reporters at U.N. headquarters, "in my opinion, the most powerful tool that he has."
"The international community has a responsibility to use all its influence to prevent further escalation and end this crisis."
Guterres wrote to José Javier De la Gasca Lopez Domínguez, the Ecuadorian president of the Security Council, that "more than eight weeks of hostilities in Gaza and Israel have created appalling human suffering, physical destruction and collective trauma across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory."
The U.N. chief reaffirmed his condemnation of the October 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel—in which around 1,200 people were killed and over 200 others were captured—that led to the war. He called accounts of sexual violence "appalling" and stressed that the remaining hostages "must be immediately and unconditionally released."
He also emphasized that "civilians throughout Gaza face grave danger," with the Israeli airstrikes and raids damaging more than half of all homes and displacing about 80% of the 2.3 million residents. Over a million of them have sought shelter at U.N. facilities, "creating overcrowded, undignified, and unhygienic conditions," while others "find themselves on the street."
"The healthcare system in Gaza is collapsing," he noted, pointing out that only 14 of 36 hospitals are operating at all. "I expect public order to completely break down soon due to the desperate conditions, rendering even limited humanitarian assistance impossible. An even worse situation could unfold, including epidemic diseases and increased pressure for mass displacement into neighboring countries."
Already, conditions in Gaza are making "it impossible for meaningful humanitarian operations to be conducted," Guterres added. "The capacity of the United Nations and its humanitarian partners has been decimated by supply shortages, lack of fuel, interrupted communications, and growing insecurity."
"The situation is fast deteriorating into a catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians as a whole and for peace and security in the region. Such an outcome must be avoided at all cost," the U.N. leader warned. "The international community has a responsibility to use all its influence to prevent further escalation and end this crisis."
"I urge the members of the Security Council to press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe," he wrote. "I reiterate my appeal for a humanitarian cease-fire to be declared. This is urgent. The civilian population must be spared from greater harm."
The United States—a supporter of Israel's war and one of the U.N. Security Council's five permanent members—vetoed a mid-October resolution condemning violence against civilians in Israel and Gaza and urging "humanitarian pauses" for aid delivery.
Roughly a month later, the Security Council approved a Gaza resolution that calls on all parties to abide by their obligations under international law and advocates for "urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors."
Dr. Christos Christou, international president of Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, said at the time that "the unacceptably jumbled and sluggish process finally led to the adoption of a text that does not come close to reflecting the severity of the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza."
"Federal agencies have shown themselves reluctant to act against unreasonable prices, and this new proposal may give them permission to continue to do nothing," said one expert.
While welcoming the White House's willingness to tackle pharmaceutical companies' patent abuse and high prescription drug prices, progressive critics argued Thursday that U.S. President Joe Biden must do more to challenge Big Pharma's monopoly power.
The White House on Thursday announced "new actions to promote competition in healthcare and support lowering prescription drug costs for American families, including the release of a proposed framework for agencies on the exercise of march-in rights on taxpayer-funded drugs and other inventions."
Under the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980—legislation meant to promote the commercialization and public availability of government-funded inventions—federal agencies reserve the right to "march in" and authorize price-lowering generic alternatives to patented medications developed with public funding.
The federal government has never invoked march-in rights, which are staunchly opposed by the pharmaceutical and other industries and interests.
"American taxpayers pay more for research than any country in the world: Hundreds of billions of dollars on research relevant to developing new drugs through the [National Institutes of Health] and other agencies," White House domestic policy adviser Neera Tanden said at a Thursday press briefing, according toThe Hill.
"But at the same time, pharmaceutical companies charge Americans two to three times—and sometimes even more than that—for the same drugs than what they can charge in other countries," she added.
The White House said Thursday that the Department of Commerce and Department of Health and Human Services "released a proposed framework for agencies on the exercise of march-in rights that specifies for the first time that price can be a factor in determining that a drug or other taxpayer-funded invention is not accessible to the public."
The issue of greedy pharmaceutical companies charging exorbitant prices for publicly funded drugs took center stage during the Covid-19 pandemic, when corporations reaped record profits selling vaccines and other treatments developed fully or partly with taxpayer money.
U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—a leading congressional critic of Big Pharma greed—called Thursday's announcement "a step forward in the right direction."
But, in my view, much more must be done. The American people are sick and tired of seeing hundreds of billions of their tax dollars going to the research and development of new treatments and cures only to end up paying, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. In my view, the administration should reinstate and expand the reasonable pricing clause to require the pharmaceutical industry to charge affordable prices for new prescription drugs developed with taxpayer support. It should also move to substantially lower the price of the prostate cancer drug Xtandi by allowing companies to manufacture generic versions of this treatment. This is a drug that was invented with taxpayer dollars by scientists at UCLA and can be purchased in Canada for one-fifth [of] the U.S. price.
In March, patient advocates blasted the Biden administration's refusal to compel Pfizer to lower Xtandi's price, even though the lifesaving prostate cancer drug—which has a nearly $190,000 annual price tag—was developed completely with public funds.
Peter Maybarduk, director of the Access to Medicines program at the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said: "March-in can be, should be, a powerful tool to support fair pricing and access to publicly funded medicines, as President Biden importantly suggests. Unfortunately, the administration's march-in policy is far more limited than the statute allows."
"It should be quickly revised to recommend use of march-in wherever publicly funded medicines are unreasonably priced," he continued. "Where most drug prices already are egregious and force rationing, few drugs will seem 'extremely' priced by comparison. Federal agencies have shown themselves reluctant to act against unreasonable prices, and this new proposal may give them permission to continue to do nothing."
"Unfortunately, the administration's march-in policy is far more limited than the statute allows."
"The examples the announcement offers evade the main and important use case: Where drug corporations abuse their monopoly power to charge exorbitant prices, ignore the government contribution to [research and development], and charge Americans more than people in other countries," Maybarduk asserted.
"The final guidelines must be adjusted so they explicitly cover these scenarios and establish commonsense criteria for what constitutes an unreasonable price," he added. "Falling short risks doing nothing to lower the prices of taxpayer-funded medicines for patients, and instead perpetuating an unacceptable status quo. Americans have a right to expect not to be price gouged for medicines they paid for in the first place."
"People are standing up like never before," said one organizer. "They know that standing up to join the union is how you win fair treatment, fair pay, and a better life."
Workers at Volkswagen's only U.S. plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee announced Thursday that they're launching a public organizing committee with the goal of joining the United Auto Workers, which is aiming to expand its membership to include employees at more than a dozen nonunion car companies after winning historic contracts at the Big Three.
In less than a week, more than 1,000 workers at the Volkswagen plant signed union authorization cards, giving the nascent union drive more than 30% support so far at the Chattanooga location.
The UAW narrowly failed to organize the plant in 2014 and 2019. But leaders of the new unionization push expressed confidence that the outcome would be different this time around as the newly emboldened UAW puts special emphasis on the South, where the unionization rate is significantly lower than in the rest of the country.
"People are standing up like never before," said Steve Cochran, a lead organizer of the Chattanooga union drive. "There are a lot of young workers in the plant now and this generation wants respect. They're not okay with mistreatment by management. They see what's happening at Starbucks and Amazon. They know that standing up to join the union is how you win fair treatment, fair pay, and a better life."
Organizers pointed to the $184 billion in profits that Volkswagen Group has brought in over the past decade while workers' wages have stagnated or declined.
"In the last three years, we've seen VW make nearly a trillion dollars in revenue and $78 billion in profit, but we haven't seen our fair share in Chattanooga," reads the union campaign's website. "Now we're ready to fight for a better job, a better life, and a better future."
Josh Epperson, a member of the organizing committee who has worked at the Chattanooga plant for more than a decade, said the facility has high turnover because newer employees aren't given "the tools and support they need to thrive."
"With the union, we can improve working conditions," said Epperson. "If there's an issue in our work area, we'll have a way to address it. We'll find common ground so we can make it a good job and people will want to stay."
Amnesty International said that the October 13 Israeli tank strike that killed Issam Abdallah and blew the legs off Christina Assi was "likely a direct attack on civilians that must be investigated as a war crime."
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International on Thursday called for an official investigation of a deadly Israeli attack on a group of journalists, which HRW called "apparently deliberate" and a likely "war crime."
HRW, Amnesty, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse on Thursday all published their own separate investigations into the October 13 Israel Defense Forces (IDF) attack that killed 37-year-old Lebanese Reuters videographer Issam Abdallah and wounded half a dozen other journalists who were covering cross-border clashes between Israeli and Hezbollah troops near the village of Alma al-Shaab in southern Lebanon.
"This is not the first time that Israeli forces have apparently deliberately attacked journalists, with deadly and devastating results."
Reutersdetermined that an Israeli tank crew "fired two shells in quick succession" at the journalists, who HRW said were "clearly identifiable as members of the media, and had been stationary for at least 75 minutes." HRW "found no evidence of a military target near the journalists' location."
"This is not the first time that Israeli forces have apparently deliberately attacked journalists, with deadly and devastating results," HRW Lebanon researcher Ramzi Kaiss said in a statement. "Those responsible need to be held to account, and it needs to be made clear that journalists and other civilians are not lawful targets."
Amnesty International, meanwhile, asserted that the IDF strike was "likely a direct attack on civilians that must be investigated as a war crime."
The organization said it "verified over 100 videos and photographs, analyzed weapons fragments from the site, and interviewed nine witnesses. The findings indicate that the group was visibly identifiable as journalists and that the Israeli military knew or should have known that they were civilians yet attacked them anyway in two separate strikes 37 seconds apart."
Aya Majzoub, Amnesty's deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, noted that "direct attacks on civilians and indiscriminate attacks are absolutely prohibited by international humanitarian law and can amount to war crimes."
"Those responsible for Issam Abdallah's unlawful killing and the injuring of six other journalists must be held accountable," Majzoub added. "No journalist should ever be targeted or killed simply for carrying out their work. Israel must not be allowed to kill and attack journalists with impunity. There must be an independent and impartial investigation into this deadly attack."
According to HRW:
The journalists interviewed said that the first munition struck Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah and a short concrete wall, killing him instantly and badly injuring an Agence France-Presse photojournalist, Christina Assi. Thirty-seven seconds later, another attack destroyed the car belonging to Al Jazeera, igniting it in flames, and injuring six journalists, including Carmen Joukhadar and Elie Brakhya from Al Jazeera, Dylan Collins and Christina Assi from AFP, and Thaer al-Sudani and Maher Nazeh from Reuters.
Brakhya, an Al Jazeera cameraman, told Amnesty: "I was looking at Issam when we heard the [first] explosion. I saw Issam's body fly, with the glow and the heat behind his back… [I] ran up the hill, heard Christina shouting 'I can't feel my legs,' ran back to where she was, saw Dylan searching for the tourniquet."
Collins, an American deputy editor at Al Jazeera English, said that "as soon as I turned around, I heard Christina's voice saying, 'Oh my God!' I say, 'You're okay.' I ran to her directly and I see that her legs are blown off at the kneecap."
The second Israeli shell exploded as Collins tried to tie a tourniquet around Assi's legs.
"When the second blast hit, I was stunned and dizzy, but in my blurry memory, I remember Issam's leg falling in front of me, I remember looking up and seeing Carmen by the car, her face is black and she is walking like a zombie," he recalled. "Her entire back is covered in shrapnel."
The day after the attacks, IDF spokesperson Richard Hecht said that the Israeli military was "very sorry for the journalist's death."
Presented with Reuters' findings, Hecht later said that "we don't target journalists."
However, Kaiss argued that "the evidence strongly suggests that Israeli forces knew or should have known that the group that they were attacking were journalists."
"This was an unlawful and apparently deliberate attack on a very visible group of journalists," he added.
"They don't want us to see the truth. That's why they're taking out the journalists."
Numerous international observers accused Israeli forces of intentionally targeting journalists in an effort to prevent them from reporting the truth about what many critics call a genocidal war against Palestinians.
"I believe that it is in the military strategy of Israel to kill journalists so that they kill the truth," Lebanese Information Minister Ziad Makary told Reuters.
U.S. journalist Abby Martin toldMiddle East Eye Wednesday that Israel is "killing the truth."
"They don't want us to see the truth," she said. "That's why they're taking out the journalists."
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) responded to the rights groups' and media probes into the October 13 attacks by demanding an "immediate, independent, and transparent investigation that holds the perpetrators to account."
CPJ cited its May 2023 report, "which showed a pattern of lethal force by the Israel Defense Forces that left 20 journalists dead over the last 22 years. No one was ever held accountable."
According to the report, "The majority of the 20 journalists killed—at least 13—were clearly identified as members of the media or were inside vehicles with press insignia at the time of their deaths."
Since the IDF launched its war on Gaza following the October 7 Hamas-led attacks on Israel, CPJ has documented the killing of at least 63 media professionals, including 56 Palestinians, three Lebanese, and four Israelis.
"CPJ emphasizes that journalists are civilians doing important work during times of crisis and must not be targeted by warring parties," said Sherif Mansour, the group's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator.
Last month, after also concluding that the group in Lebanon was "deliberately targeted," the international press freedom group Reporters Without Borders called on the International Criminal Court to formally investigate the deaths of all journalists killed by Israeli troops and Hamas militants during the war.
"Journalists across the region are making great sacrifices to cover this heartbreaking conflict. Those in Gaza, in particular, have paid, and continue to pay, an unprecedented toll and face exponential threats," Mansour said. "Many have lost colleagues, families, and media facilities, and have fled seeking safety when there is no safe haven or exit."
Nazeh, a Reuters camera operator who survived the October 13 attack, demanded justice for his slain colleague Abdallah.
"We can't bring Issam back. Issam is gone," he said. "But he hears us, he sees us, and he's waiting for us to do something for him... to expose who hit him, who killed him, to the world."