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People marvel at a refrigerator

First They Came For My Appliances: We Are Here For the Refrigerator Freedom Act

Okay all you naysayers whining shambolic House GOPers aren't doing their job just 'cause they're blocking border solutions, ignoring infrastructure, enabling Ukrainian deaths and barely keeping the government afloat: Listen up. Boldly showcasing their astute priorities, they will fight Monday to liberate your dishwashers, dryers, fridges and other home gizmos from a Marxist "avalanche" of new "Libby Boogyman" rules aimed at keeping the planet from vaporizing into air, and c'mon who cares about that?!

Ever-steadfast in upholding their tradition of chasing fictional ills - Mike 'Election Chicanery' Johnson is now vowing to require proof of citizenship to prevent (brown-skinned) non-citizens from voting even though it's already illegal, also "not a thing" - the GOP-led House Rules Committee meets Monday to discuss six bills to prep them for final votes on the House floor. The six bills are the Stop Unaffordable Dishwasher Standards Act, the Liberty in Laundry Act, the Affordable Air Conditioning Act, the Clothes Dryer Reliability Act, the Hands Off Our Home Appliances Act and the Refrigerator Freedom Act. Yes. They are real. They're in response to a number of Biden regulations or proposals aimed at addressing climate change, part of a $369 billion Inflation Reduction Act that seeks to lower costs, reduce energy use, cut pollutants and move to more green-energy practices.

To Republicans, however, they're aimed at letting tyrants "control everything Americans are able to do on a day-to-day basis," part of an insidious plot to allow "others" to come for their stuff, their choices and their God-given rights, evidently including the right to get a back-alley abortion with a coat hanger. (One sage: "REPUBLICANS: 'Keep gubmint OUT of our toasters and dish washers!' ALSO REPUBLICANS: 'We need surveillance cameras inside every cha-cha so we can keep an eye on what women are doing!'") Thus did Arizona's Rep. Debbie Lesko, declaring she is "proud (to) stand on the side of choice for American consumers," devise the Hands Off Our Home Appliances Act to prohibit "federal bureaucrats" from issuing an aforementioned "avalanche" of new energy standards "not technologically feasible and economically justified."

In March, Iowa's Rep.Mariannette Miller-Meeks echoed her, introducing and eventually passing theRefrigerator Freedom Act to prohibit the same offenses - now "not cost-effective or technologically feasible" - because Biden has "done nothing but implement outrageous regulations" that only limit choice, increase prices, disenfranchise toilets and blenders, and move us toward dictatorship. MAGA-ites, of course, applaud these red-meat efforts to rescue heat pumps, gas stoves, washing machines, showers and air fryers from domination. "Finally, following American and not Globalist priorities," said one. "I am sick and tired of the government telling us what we can and cannot buy and use." And after 11 GOP-run states sued over some of the changes, a judge dismissed the rules as "arbitrary and capricious."

That could also apply to a House focused on fighting to be able to buy a $7 toaster even if, okay, so it may burn your house down but FREEDUMB! Of course, confronting issues like national security or infrastructure require actual, unflashy, conciliatory, negotiating, attention-to-detail legislative work, and they're barely able to co-exist with their colleagues, never mind opponents, and anyway it's probably about time for another two-week recess, so let's go with hair dryers and ceiling fans. Along with the petty stupidity is the economic irony: Most appliances are made in China, so they're protecting Chinese companies from U.S. regulations, and for things made here, they're ensuring big business can be left alone to make over-priced, planet-killing, deliberately-soon-obsolete crap. Your tax dollars at work!

Predictably, the cognitive dissonance drew its share of mockery, with Digby noting, "We all know the GOP likes to focus on kitchen table issues, but this is ridiculous." Others argued that, "Insurrectionists are now GOP Congresspersons" and that, thanks in part to such diversionary tomfoolery, "The GOP has Ukrainian blood on their hands." "First they came for my appliances," one intoned. "I was not an appliance, so I said nothing." Another suggested a key addition to the GOP agenda: a "Stop Wasting Our Time on Meaningless Legislation Act." There were also triumphant stories of deliverance born of the GOP's hard and noble work. "In honor of the Refrigerator Freedom Act, I just opened my front door and set my newly liberated Frigidaire free," one reported. "Needless to say, it's running."

Young people and scientists occupy Energy Revolution, a new gallery

UK Youth, Experts Occupy Coal-Sponsored Science Museum Gallery

A few dozen protesters from Youth Action for Climate Justice and Scientists for Extinction Rebellion this weekend occupied a new climate gallery at the Science Museum in London that is sponsored by the Indian coal and weapons giant Adani.

"To have a coal company sponsoring an exhibition on the future of energy is blatantly deceiving," Anya, a young person who occupied the Energy Revolution gallery, said in a statement. "Through this sponsorship deal, the Science Museum is helping Adani attach itself to the image of a positive and sustainable future when in reality it is a coal giant, weapons manufacturer, and genocide supporter. It's plain wrong for the Science Museum to be deceiving visitors, including young people like me, when it comes to the climate crisis."

The occupation came after over 150 people protested at the museum shortly before the gallery's opening last month. In response, an Adani representative claimed that the sponsorship—which has been condemned by climate action advocates since it was announced three years ago—was part of the company's effort to participate in the global energy transition. Ian Blatchford, director and chief executive of the Science Museum Group, defended the firm's involvement.

However, their comments didn't satisfy critics who participated in the weekend occupation. As Real Mediareported:

On Friday evening the activists smuggled in balloons and black paper which they used to create a large art piece—a mound of black coal—in the centre of the gallery. Their plan was to interact with the public on Saturday after their first night of occupation, including a People's Assembly to discuss the controversial sponsorship in the afternoon.

Police were called, but no arrests were made. However, perhaps embarrassed by the presence of the protest and their message about the climate-wrecking sponsors, the museum decided to prevent access to the gallery for the whole of Saturday, although supporters did come with more banners which they held near the entrance.

The protesters remained in the museum overnight on Saturday and ended their action on Sunday.

"It's not just Adani's brand that the Science Museum is greenwashing, they're also allowing the oil and gas giants BP and Equinor to sponsor their exhibits, disregarding the fact that these companies continue to expand fossil fuel production against the warnings of climate scientists," noted Aaron Thierry, one of the scientists who occupied the gallery.

"The latest science has shown we must leave the majority of fossil fuels unburned to prevent catastrophic changes to our climate," Thierry stressed. "That an institution like the Science Museum is working with such rouge companies is a disgrace. The museum's management needs to follow the example of Britain's other leading cultural institutions and drop all ties to the fossil fuel industry."

The young people and scientists were joined by naturalist and television presenter Chris Packham, who gave a speech Friday night.

"For me, science is the art of understanding truth and beauty and a lot of that beauty lies in the natural world. Science tells us that the fossil fuel industry is responsible for the accelerating destruction of our natural world," said Packham. "The Science Museum is a place to spark imagination, to provide answers but also to encourage us to ask questions."

"The question I'm asking today is a big one, 'Why on Earth are we allowing a destructive industry to sponsor an educational exhibition whilst simultaneously setting fire to young people's futures?'" he continued. "This is beyond greenwash—it's grotesque."

Packham emphasized that "we urgently need an 'Energy Revolution' to steer us away from the course of planetary destruction on which we are heading. We need a rapid, just transition to renewables—that revolution means an end to coal, and starts with the young people and scientists occupying this space this evening. Science tells us the truth, and the truth is that we must change."

Free food is distributed to people in need

'Let Them Eat GDP Reports': 44 Million Americans Are Food Insecure

A U.S. anti-hunger group marked April Fools' Day on Monday with a snarky statement suggesting that hungry Americans "can eat positive economic statistics about the soaring stock market or the growing gross domestic product."

"Let them eat GDP reports," Hunger Free America declared of the 44 million Americans—including 13 million children—who live in food insecure households, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

GDP is the market value of all the finished goods and services produced in a country over a certain time period. Critics have long argued against using it as the premier indicator of how a nation is doing.

"The old school way of the elites fighting hunger was to say, 'let them eat cake,'" said Hunger Free America CEO Joel Berg. "But the more modern approach is to say, 'let them eat a report of the nation's growing GDP, although the report offers empty calories.'"

"By focusing mostly on economic statistics that benefit mostly the wealthy—like stock indexes—the nation's political and media elites blithely overlook that hard evidence that the economy is still structurally unsound for large swaths of the public, and then those same elites are flummoxed as to why the public tells pollsters they are still not satisfied with the economy," Berg explained.

"The country's impoverished multitudes can now get all they can eat—assuming they can digest paper report pages."

"But the good news is that, none of that matters now, because truckloads of positive economic reports are being shipped to food banks, soup kitchens, and food pantries nationwide, and the country's impoverished multitudes can now get all they can eat—assuming they can digest paper report pages and cardboard report covers, and don't mind a bit of poisonous ink," he quipped.

While inflation has eased in the United States over the past two years in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, corporations have engaged in price gouging that has kept costs high for Americans, everywhere from gas pumps to grocery stores to fast food restaurants.

"It's one thing for corporations to pass reasonable increased costs to consumers. It's another for them to line their coffers by exploiting Americans who are just trying to get by," the Groundwork Collaborative's Liz Pancotti said in January, as the group released a related report. "It's time to rein in corporate price gouging—or families will continue to pay the price."

Data released last month by the Federal Reserve shows that the top 1% of Americans are the richest they have ever been, with a collective $44.6 trillion in wealth, a record largely driven by the stock market. President Joe Biden and some progressive Democratic lawmakers recently renewed calls for wealth taxes, but such proposals are not expected to pass the divided Congress.

Meanwhile, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, and has been so since 2009. Although state policymakers have taken action to raise pay for some or all workers, national legislation to boost wages also has not been able to get through Congress.

Mehdi Hasan

Mehdi Hasan Launches Media Platform With Naomi Klein, Greta Thunberg, and More

After a few weeks of "soft launch" mode, journalist Mehdi Hasan on Monday officially debuted his new media platform, Zeteo, and declared that "this is not a one-man band."

The former MSNBC and Peacock host—whose show was canceled in November and wrapped up in January, after his incisive criticism of Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip—revealed nine of the contributors he has lined up so far, calling them "some of the biggest, boldest, and best names from media, activism, entertainment, and beyond."

They are Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Spencer Ackerman, comedian and podcaster W. Kamau Bell, Palestinian Canadian lawyer Diana Buttu, former CNBC and CNN correspondent John Harwood, foreign policy analyst Rula Jebreal, author Naomi Klein, novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen, actor and activist Cynthia Nixon, and Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg.

"The tough interviews and knowledgeable analysis are all coming back, along with a global cast of contributors," Klein said on social media Monday. "I was honored when Mehdi asked me to be one of them, along with Rula Jebreal and Greta Thunberg and many others yet announced."

"Mehdi and I will be having a regular conversation called 'Unshocked,'" noted Klein, who authored The Shock Doctrine.

Hasan—who has also produced content for Al Jazeera, The Guardian, and The Intercept—has saidZeteo will feature "hard-hitting interviews and unsparing analysis" in a variety of forms, from op-eds and podcasts to streaming shows, beginning with "Mehdi Unfiltered."

"To keep Zeteo's journalism independent and free of advertiser and corporate influence," Hasan explained ahead of the formal launch, "and to allow us to continue investing in the future, we have to rely on our individual paid subscribers."

A Montana voter prepares to cast his ballot

Montanans Launch Push to Get Abortion Rights on November Ballot

As abortion continues to dominate this year's state and federal political contests, Montanans Securing Reproductive Rights on Tuesday launched a signature collection drive to get a citizen-initiated state constitutional amendment on the November ballot.

Since the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court reversedRoe v. Wade with Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization nearly two years ago, Republican state lawmakers have ramped up efforts to further restrict abortion care—and voters, including residents of red states, have responded by protecting reproductive freedom when weighing in on related ballot measures.

With little hope that the divided Congress will restore nationwide abortion rights, ballot initiatives for the 2024 cycle are ongoing in various states, from Arizona and Florida to Montana, where "a yes vote on Ballot Issue #14 will keep the government out of our personal lives," as the Montanans Securing Reproductive Rights website states.

"This is an exciting opportunity to secure our rights for generations to come. Now is the time to ensure power remains in the hands of the people of Montana, so everyone has the freedom to prevent, continue, or end a pregnancy should they choose," the site adds. "Politicians have no business controlling our bodies and our futures."

After a legal battle with Republican state Attorney General Austin Knudsen, the ballot language is:

CI-128 would amend the Montana Constitution to expressly provide a right to make and carry out decisions about one's own pregnancy, including the right to abortion. It would prohibit the government from denying or burdening the right to abortion before fetal viability. It would also prohibit the government from denying or burdening access to an abortion when a treating healthcare professional determines it is medically indicated to protect the pregnant patient's life or health. CI-128 prevents the government from penalizing patients, healthcare providers, or anyone who assists someone in exercising their right to make and carry out voluntary decisions about their pregnancy.

Montana currently allows abortion care up until fetal viability. In response to a legal challenge from Planned Parenthood of Montana (PPMT), a trial judge in February struck down three laws passed by the Republican-controlled state Legislature in 2021: a 20-week ban, restrictions on medication abortions, and a rule that providers must offer patients an ultrasound.

"We are relieved that Montanans will no longer live with the threat of these harmful restrictions taking effect. But make no mistake, our fight continues," PPMT president and CEO Martha Fuller said at the time. "For years anti-abortion politicians at all levels of government have made banning abortion their number one priority, despite the current protection held in our state constitution."

"During the 2023 Montana legislative session, an onslaught of anti-abortion bills was introduced, passed, and signed into law, and PPMT is working hard to beat back these attacks and more," Fuller continued. "We will never stop working to ensure that all Montanans and those who are forced to travel here for care can access the care they need."

In addition to Planned Parenthood, Montanans Securing Reproductive Rights is a campaign by the ACLU of Montana, the Fairness Project, and Forward Montana. The coalition now needs to collect 60,000 signatures by June 21.

"Anti-abortion extremists have tried to interfere in Montanans' personal healthcare choices again and again. That's totally unacceptable—Montanans deserve to make their own decisions about reproductive care, not have politicians decide for them," the Fairness Project executive director Kelly Hall said Tuesday.

"The Fairness Project is proud and excited to be supporting Montanans Securing Reproductive Rights in their campaign to pass CI-128, especially at a time when abortion rights are under attack," Hall added. "With 2024 shaping up to be the biggest year ever for abortion on the ballot, it is critical that Montanans can make their voices heard on this issue."

Destroyed car in West Bank

Israeli Settlers, Soldiers 'Wiping Palestinian Communities Off the Map' in the West Bank

Israeli soldiers have either passively watched or participated in the uprooting of at least seven communities in the West Bank since October of last year, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday in a new report documenting surging settler violence in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The rights group interviewed dozens of eyewitnesses and examined video footage showing harassment and other abuse of Palestinians in the West Bank "by men in Israeli military uniforms carrying M16 assault rifles."

Following the Hamas-led October 7 attack on southern Israel, the Israeli military drafted more than 5,000 settlers into "regional defense" units in the West Bank, Haaretzreported earlier this year. The Israeli newspaper noted that "alongside this large-scale mobilization, the [Israel Defense Forces] has distributed some 7,000 weapons to the battalions as well as to settlers who were not recruited into the army but received them as civilians whom the army considers eligible to carry military arms."

HRW's investigation found that "armed settlers, with the active participation of army units, repeatedly cut off road access and raided Palestinian communities, detained, assaulted, and tortured residents, chased them out of their homes and off their lands at gunpoint or coerced them to leave with death threats, and blocked them from taking their belongings."

"Israeli settlers and soldiers are literally wiping Palestinian communities off the map," said Omar Shakir, HRW's Israel and Palestine director.

"While the attention of the world is focused on Gaza, abuses in the West Bank, fueled by decades of impunity and complacency among Israel’s allies, are soaring."

The new report comes days after Israeli settlers—escorted by IDF soldiers—went on their latest destructive and deadly rampage in the West Bank, killing at least two Palestinians, injuring dozens, and setting homes and vehicles ablaze. At least 20 households were displaced after Israeli settlers burned down their homes.

The wave of settler violence came after a missing 14-year-old Israeli boy was found dead in the area around the West Bank city of Ramallah. The Israeli military said the boy was killed in a "terrorist attack."

Since October 7, according to the United Nations, Israeli settlers have launched more than 720 attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank, displacing at least 206 households comprised of 1,244 people—including 603 children. Israeli soldiers in uniform have been present at many of the attacks.

"Settlers and soldiers have displaced entire Palestinian communities, destroying every home, with the apparent backing of higher Israeli authorities," Bill Van Esveld, associate children's rights director at HRW, said in a statement Wednesday. "While the attention of the world is focused on Gaza, abuses in the West Bank, fueled by decades of impunity and complacency among Israel's allies, are soaring."

HRW's new report examines five West Bank communities that have come under attack by Israeli settlers, including one in which uniformed Israeli men armed with assault rifles entered tents and destroyed or stole people's belongings, abused residents, and threatened to kill them if they didn't leave the area.

"One man in uniform kicked me in the back of my neck," a Palestinian mother told HRW. "They said, 'Go to the valley, and if you come back, we will kill you.'"

None of the families forcibly evicted from the five communities examined in the HRW report have been allowed to return home.

"Palestinian children have seen their families brutalized, and their homes and schools destroyed, and the Israeli authorities are ultimately to blame," Van Esveld said Wednesday. "Senior state officials are fueling or failing to prevent these attacks, and Israel's allies are not doing enough to stop that."

Following the latest wave of settler violence in the West Bank this past weekend, a coalition of human rights organizations said in a joint statement Wednesday that "the international community must swiftly and decisively pressure the government of Israel to halt these attacks and urgently de-escalate the situation."

"With international attention centered on Gaza, the government of Israel has not only allowed settler violence to spiral but also persisted in the expansion of Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land and unlawfully seized Palestinian territory by designating it as 'state land,' blatantly violating international law," the groups noted. "Concerted efforts are needed to tackle the root cause of settler violence by permanently dismantling settlement outposts and ensuring the safe return of displaced Palestinians to their lands."