Rights & Justice
War & Peace
Hungry Palestinian children hold out empty pots to get donated food in Rafah.

What Would You Do: This Is What Our Ruling Class Has Decided Will Be Normal

Declaring "I will no longer be complicit in genocide," U.S. airman Aaron Bushnell set himself on fire Sunday to protest Israel's annihilation of Palestinians in Gaza. His "extreme action born of desperation" has stirred wildly divergent responses. To the right, he was ill, extremist, contributing to "political violence" in the name of imaginary crimes; to the left, his was a brave, dire act of justifiable rage at an ongoing "stream of horrors in Gaza." Grievously, "Bushnell died so that Gaza may live."

"My name is Aaron Bushnell. I am an active-duty member of the United States Air Force, and I will no longer be complicit in genocide," Bushnell says tensely on his livestream, breathing fast as he walks in fatigues toward D.C.'s Israeli Embassy. "I'm about to engage in an extreme act of protest, but compared to what people have been experiencing in Palestine at the hands of their colonizers, it's not extreme at all. This is what our ruling class has decided will be normal. Free Palestine!" At the embassy he sets down his still-recording phone, dons his cap, walks to the gate, douses himself, tosses a metal container that loudly rolls away, lights himself ablaze and yells "Free Palestine!" as flames engulf him. Most recordings blur his body as he repeats "Free Palestine," then screams in agony and collapses. Frantic police and Secret Service rush in shouting "Get on the ground"; one imbecile trains his gun on the burning body as another figure yells, “I don’t need guns - I need fire extinguishers!” Bushnell died soon after.

Since Oct. 7, the Israeli military has killed almost 30,000 Palestinians - now 29,878 - two-thirds women and children; thousands more are dead under rubble, with over 70,215 wounded, most displaced, and many facing starvation as Israel blocks aid; in its latest war crime, Israel halted a medical evacuation convoy in Khan Yunis, detaining a paramedic and making others remove their clothes. Yet the U.S. fast-tracks billions in weaponry and has vetoedthree UN ceasefire resolutions supported by the world's international organizations, millions of protesters and the Hague. Israel and the U.S. now stand alone as what Veterans For Peace rightly deem "madmen arsonists (abetting) the slaughter of innocents"; they specifically blast U.S policymakers "swaddled in privilege" who take their orders from corporate powers - Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics and other "merchants of death" - who "as much as lit the match for Aaron Bushnell, the collateral damage of the ongoing conflagration in Palestine."

Bushnell joined the Air Force in 2020; after graduating from basic training “top of flight and top of class," he was a cyber-defense operations specialist stationed at San Antonio-Lackland Air Force base in Texas. He reportedly grew increasingly disillusioned with the military, especially after George Floyd’s killing, and became involved in left-leaning groups, including helping the unhoused in San Antonio. Though he considered leaving the military, he decided to stay until his time was up in May, after which he was enrolled in computer science classes at a New Hampshire college. His social media profile featured a Palestinian flag; friends describe him as "a force of joy," "an amazingly gentle, kind, compassionate person," principled, "with a strong sense of justice." He had earlier asked the Atlanta Community Press Collective to preserve and report on footage of his fiery protest; it was also posted by a freelance journalist, with the self-immolation blurred, after Bushnell's family consented to her sharing it online.

Bushnell's death has prompted fierce debate across the political spectrum, with the media often twisting, diluting or misconstruing his action. Digging for easy or ugly answers, "smearmeisters" found Bushnell had grown up in a Massachusetts religious group called the Community of Jesus; in a successful lawsuit last year, former members alleged abuse in a "charismatic sect" that "created an environment of control, intimidation and humiliation (that) inflicted enduring harms." Other coverage omitted all context with headlines that didn't mention Gaza, hysterically charged "the Left" is "a death cult," and primly noted U.S. military policy forbids service members from engaging in "partisan political activity" or wearing their uniform during "speeches, interviews, marches, or other activities," presumably including burning yourself to death to protest genocide. And friggin' Tom 'Red Scare' Cotton huffed about "this individual," "extremist leanings," and "compromising national security" by having a functioning moral compass.

Meanwhile, hawks and Zionists who for months have been cheerleading a fascist government's carpet bombing of two million trapped Gazans, over half of them children, were outraged by what Israeli Consul-General Anat Sultan-Dadon called an act of "hate and incitement toward Israel." In a head-spinning op-ed, the Jerusalem Post argued "an act of suicidal political protest is another step toward more political violence," with "the line between self-immolation and a suicide bombing" so thin one can easily "extend that violence onto others." "The far-Left already believes it is grappling with an evil that justifies violence," it went on. "Bushnell was deluded into thinking there was a 'genocide' occurring...Another devil in the radical-left’s pantheon of demons (is) calling Israelis "colonizers.' Israel is also accused (of) 'apartheid'...and protesters in New York City have called for 'resistance'...There may be many more Bushnells waiting in the wings...Those willing to kill themselves for a cause may have no qualms about killing others."

Their delirium sharply contrasts with the pained, wrenching, mournful, empathic responses of those who, like Bushnell, are consumed by helpless rage at the devastation wrought by Israel on innocents - with US money and complicity - but who still feel horror at what Bushnell felt he had to do. "I am moved by his conviction and his anger, but grieved by the loss of his life," one wrote. "More death will not heal the wounds of war." Still, they hotly refuted the inevitable mental health trope too often dredged up with, "Anyone who thinks he was mentally unwell needs to check their humanity." "Please, stop saying Aaron Bushnell was mentally ill," wrote Joshua Frank of CounterPunch. "The real mental illness is witnessing a genocide taking place and not doing a thing to stop it." Bushnell was "rational and clear about his political reasoning, which resonates with (the) majority of the world," wrote another of his "legitimate moral outrage and courage." "May his sacrifice not be in vain, may his last words on this earth ring true."

At protests and vigils, many held responsible Joe Biden, "who has ignored every peaceful form of protest." "In a few minutes," one said, "Aaron Bushnell exhibited more courage than every member of Congress." Others hoped he will inspire "more soldiers with a conscience to raise their voices," and we will "honor the message he left." Electronic Intifada's Ali Abunimah: "He gave his life so people in Gaza might live. There’s no greater love than that." The Palestinian Youth Movement praised his moral clarity as a ‘shaheed,’ or witness,’ "whose final moment in life is as a witness to injustice." Caitlin Johnstone, who watched the uncensored video - "I figured I owe him that much" - cited a Buddhist monk on self-immolation: "It is done to wake us up." In this, she echoed Bushnell's wrenching Facebook post the morning before his death. “Many of us like to ask ourselves, ‘What would I do if I was alive during slavery? Or the Jim Crow South? Or apartheid? What would I do if my country was committing genocide?’” he wrote. "The answer is, you’re doing it. Right now."

Aaron Bushnell felt he had to do something else. May he rest in peace.

Homes are partially toppled onto the beach after Hurricane Nicole came ashore on November 10, 2022

Climate-Fueled Extreme Weather Costs US Nearly $100 Billion a Year

The climate crisis is already having a major impact on the U.S. economy, and the damages are only going to increase.

A new report from the reinsurance company Swiss Re estimates climate change is currently costing the U.S. roughly $97 billion per year. This cost comes from the increased frequency of natural disasters that are connected to climate change, which is driven by the burning of fossil fuels.

"Climate change is leading to more severe weather events, resulting in increasing impact on economies," said the Swiss Re group's chief economist Jerome Jean Haegeli. "Therefore, it becomes even more crucial to take adaptation measures."

Swiss Re looked at data from 2022 and analyzed the impact of natural disasters on the GDP of 36 countries, including the U.S., to establish its findings. The report focused on the effects of floods, tropical cyclones, winter storms, and severe thunderstorms.

While the effects of climate change on the U.S. economy were significant, the country that was most affected by it was the Philippines. The report says climate change impacted 3% of the country's GDP. The U.S. saw a 0.4% impact on its yearly economic output.

The report states that all countries must do whatever possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to help lessen the potential economic costs of climate change-related natural disasters. It says countries must also better prepare for the effects of climate change to reduce these costs.

One effect of climate change, increased heatwaves, was not factored into this report. A study from 2022 found that human-caused increases in heatwaves potentially cost the global economy over $29 trillion between 1992 and 2013.

Some experts have suggested the effects of climate change are actually costing the U.S. over $120 billion per year. While there's no universally agreed upon number, it's clear that the costs of the climate crisis are high, and they'll only increase as it gets worse. Decarbonizing the economy isn't a cheap endeavor, but letting climate change spiral out of control would have much more dire economic effects.

Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine, Ohio

Norfolk Southern CEO Got a Pay Boost After Toxic East Palestine Crash

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw got a large raise last year after the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio that devastated that community. Shaw's total compensation rose by 37% in 2023, which put it at over $13 million for the year.

The train derailment occurred in February of last year and exposed the community to toxic chemicals that caused a large fire. Though there were no human fatalities, the wreck sparked grave public health concerns and the company has faced major criticisms for what have been described as lax safety practices.

Jonathon Long, general chairman of the American Rail System Federation (ARSF) of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (BMWED), wrote about the problems with the rail company in a letter last year.

"I am writing to share with you the level of disregard that Norfolk Southern has for the safety of the railroad's workers, its track structure, and East Palestine and other American communities where NS operates," he wrote. "They gamble with your money, and you hold all the risk if they lose by putting a toxic train in the ditch in your community."

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) criticized Shaw's compensation raise in a tweet on Monday.

Shaw's compensation increase last year came despite the fact the company's net income decreased by 44% in 2023. The company also increased its spending on lobbying by 30% last year. A group of shareholders from the firm Ancora Holdings is trying to replace Shaw and other members of the company's management with new leadership, because it doesn't feel Shaw is leading the company in the right direction.

"It's alarming that the board rewarded Mr. Shaw with a massive raise and total compensation of $13.4 million during the same year he presided over industry-worst operating results, sustained underperformance, and a tone-deaf response to the derailment in East Palestine," the group told CNN in a statement. "This failure of corporate governance … reinforces the need for sweeping changes to Norfolk Southern’s well-paid board."

The Department of Justice sued Norfolk Southern for violating the Clean Air Act last year, and the Supreme Court ruled in June of last year that a former Norfolk Southern employee who alleged he developed colon cancer after being exposed to hazardous chemicals could proceed with a lawsuit.

It remains to be seen how long Shaw will be in charge of Norfolk Southern, but the company has certainly had a tumultuous year since the disaster in East Palestine, and it doesn't seem he's yet paid a major price for what's happened under his leadership.

"Mr. Shaw and his boardroom allies have no credible plan and no viable record to run on," the investors from Ancora told CNN.

George Galloway

George Galloway Wins UK Parliament Seat in Landslide After Pro-Palestinian Campaign

British politician George Galloway warned the Labour Party leadership Thursday evening that his victory in the town of Rochdale's parliamentary election signaled "a shifting of the tectonic plates" following a campaign in which he vehemently defended Palestinian rights and condemned the U.K. government for backing Israel during its monthslong slaughter of civilians in Gaza.

"Keir Starmer, this is for Gaza," Galloway said after declaring victory, addressing the Labour Party leader. "You have paid and you will pay a high price for the role you have played in enabling, encouraging, and covering for the catastrophe presently going on... in the Gaza Strip."

Galloway easily won the by-election, which was called after the death of Labour MP Tony Lloyd in January, garnering 12,335 votes—nearly twice as many as the runner-up, independent candidate David Tully.

The Labour Party had run Azhar Ali, but pulled its support after he was heard saying Israel had "allowed" Hamas to attack the southern part of the country on October 7. The attack prompted the Israel Defense Forces to begin a relentless bombardment of Gaza that has now killed more than 30,000 people and implement a near-total blockade that has left at least a quarter of the population "one step" away from famine, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The fact that Israel knew of the battle plan for the Hamas-led attack has been widely reported.

Without the support of the party, Ali came in fourth in the by-election.

Galloway focused heavily on Gaza during his campaign, as well as a lack of healthcare services in impoverished Rochdale.

Having been forced out of the Labour Party in 2003 for his condemnation of the British and U.S. invasion of Iraq—referring to British Prime Minister Tony Blair as a "wolf" and urging the military to ignore orders that violated international law—Galloway ran as a member of the left-wing Workers Party of Britain.

His victory marks the first time the party will be represented in the House of Commons.

Galloway focused his campaign heavily in the Muslim community, which makes up about 30% of the population of Rochdale.

He told voters that his first move as a member of Parliament would be to "ask the prime minister to meet me urgently to hear from the frontline, what millions of British people think about what's happening in Gaza."

Starmer has expressed strong support for Israel since October, even as it has waged attacks on hospitals, refugee camps, and crowds of people trying to access humanitarian aid. The Labour leader waited until late February to call for a "cease-fire that lasts."

Galloway warned the Labour leader that his victory would "spark a movement" in the government of a country where two-thirds of the public in a recent poll said Israel should stop its bombardment and call a cease-fire.

"I want to tell Mr. Starmer above all, that the plates have shifted tonight," said Galloway.

Labour's support for "one of the great crimes of our age" led to Galloway's triumph in Rochdale, said journalist Owen Jones.

"His victory," Jones said, "shows how angry natural Labour voters are."

Biden arrives at San Francisco International Airport

As Biden Heads to Border, Amnesty Says Ditch 'Cruel' Anti-Migrant Policies

Just ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden's planned trip to a Texas border city, Amnesty International USA on Wednesday urged the Democrat to "abandon cruel anti-immigrant proposals" he is weighing after a controversial package opposed by rights groups and progressive lawmakers recently failed to get through the divided Congress.

"With President Biden visiting the border this week, he should remember that he once campaigned on a promise to restore the United States' role as a safe haven for refugees and asylum-seekers. Instead, his policies of deterrence have caused a humanitarian catastrophe along the border," said Amy Fischer, the group's director of refugee and migrant rights, in a statement.

Biden, who is seeking reelection in November, is scheduled to travel to Brownsville "to meet with U.S. Border Patrol agents, law enforcement, and local leaders," according toPolitico. The White House confirmed those plans Monday, after it was announced former President Donald Trump, the likely GOP nominee, is set to visit Eagle Pass, Texas, the same day.

"President Biden must use this visit to meet with asylum-seekers who had to flee extreme violence and insecurity in their home countries, only to face extortion, kidnapping, and sexual violence as they were waiting in Mexico due to his cruel asylum ban," Fischer said. "And he must also meet with the incredible organizations and volunteers who are on the frontlines of our migration crisis, welcoming people seeking safety, and exemplifying a model for what safe and welcoming border systems can look like."

"Days after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's attack on Annunciation House's long history of welcoming immigrants, it is critical for Biden to hear ideas and solutions from the frontline nongovernmental organizations who know first-hand the solutions of a functional asylum reception system," Fischer continued.

Paxton, a Republican, is trying to shut down the faith-based organization that has aided migrants in El Paso for decades, claiming that "information strongly suggesting Annunciation House is engaged in legal violations such as facilitating illegal entry to the United States, alien harboring, human smuggling, and operating a stash house."

The Catholic group said in a statement last week that "the attorney general's illegal, immoral, and anti-faith position to shut down Annunciation House is unfounded," and its efforts to help migrants are "no different from that of the schools who enroll children of refugees, the clinics and hospitals who care for the needs of refugees, and the churches, synagogues, and mosques who welcome families to join in worship."

While groups like Annunciation House have welcomed migrants, Republican Texas leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott, have prioritized limiting access to the state and sending away those who make it there, often with legally dubious actions. Rights advocates, including Amnesty, are urging Biden to distinguish himself from the likes of Abbott and Trump—who has threatened mass deportations if he returns to power.

According toThe New York Times:

Mr. Trump plans to deliver remarks from the border to highlight the immigration crisis and lay blame at the feet of Mr. Biden, according to a person close to Mr. Trump who was not authorized to discuss the plans publicly.

Mr. Trump is expected to highlight crimes committed by migrants in New York and in other cities, as well as the arrest of a Venezuelan undocumented immigrant in the recent high-profile killing of a 22-year-old nursing student in Georgia, the person added.

"We challenge President Biden to stop his blatant disregard for the right to seek asylum and his continued politicizing of migrant rights and lives," said Fischer. "We challenge him to abandon his cruel proposals that echo Trump's anti-immigrant playbook, and instead to advance policies that would ensure both the protection of human rights and an orderly border."

"President Biden needs to find the political courage to rise above the growing tide of xenophobia and return to his promise to push for commonsense solutions that center safety and human rights," she added. "Until he does that, he'll only be on a race to the bottom as far as who can be the cruelest to those who need protection."

Lloyd Austin speaks during a House hearing

Pentagon Backpedals After Austin Says Israel Killed 'Over 25,000' Women and Kids in Gaza

The Pentagon attempted damage control Thursday after U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during a congressional hearing that "over 25,000" Palestinian women and children have been killed during Israel's 146-day assault on Gaza.

Austin's remark came in reply to a question from Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) during a House Armed Services Committee hearing focused on his recent hospitalization for prostate cancer and his dayslong delay in informing President Joe Biden and members of Congress of his whereabouts.

"About how many Palestinian women and children have been killed by Israel since October 7?" Khanna asked, referring to the date when Israel launched its retaliatory war on Gaza immediately following the Hamas-led attacks on southern Israel.

Austin replied, "It's over 25,000."

Within hours, Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh attempted to walk back her boss' admission, claiming Austin was citing figures by the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health and that the defense secretary was referring to the total number of Palestinians killed in Gaza.

However, Singh's explanation did not add up. According to the Gaza Ministry of Health figures cited by The Times of Israel Thursday, Israeli forces have killed a total of at least 30,189 Palestinians in Gaza since October 7. Of these, at least 13,230 are children and 8,860 are women, for a total of 22,090. Palestinian health officials say that at least 10,000 other people are missing and presumed dead and buried beneath the rubble of bombed buildings, and that even that figure is probably a significant undercount. Assuming even half of the missing people are women and children—who account for 73% of known deaths—then the number of women and children killed far exceeds 25,000.

In late October, U.S. President Joe Biden was accused of genocide denial after he said he had "no confidence" in Palestinian officials' casualty figures—even though such data has been deemed reliable by United Nations agencies, human rights groups, Israeli and international media, and even the Biden administration in past reports on Israeli attacks on Gaza.

In November, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf contradicted Biden by asserting that the Gaza death toll may be "even higher" than reported.

Leaf's assessment came during a congressional hearing interrupted by CodePink peace activists. Members of the women-led anti-war group were again present at Austin's hearing, during which Khanna also noted that the United States has provided 21,000 precision-guided munitions to Israel.

"The secretary of defense is supporting a genocide," CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin said before being removed from the hearing.

Separately on Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Matt Miller responded awkwardly during a press conference when pressed by Palestinian journalist Said Arikat on why "it so difficult for this government to say we condemn the killing of Palestinian women and children."

"We don't wanna see anyone die," Miller answered during a four-minute exchange with Arikat in which the spokesperson refused to say the word "condemn" and blamed Hamas for the more than 100,000 Palestinians killed or maimed by U.S.-backed Israeli forces.