To be clear, we welcome the modest mercies in Gaza: the "pause" in slaughter, release of hostages, freeing of Palestinian prisoners, most stone-throwing teenagers who've been warned they'll be re-arrested if their families show "joy." But as a handful of innocents get swapped, Palestinian children, victims of a racist hierarchy of victimhood, still suffer and die. Asks Abu al-Walid, who lost his son, daughter, seven nieces and nephews, his whole beloved "gang," "How will I live (when) these children are gone?"
Gaza officials estimate Israel has now killed over 16,000 civilians, almost half children, and injured at least 34,000; another 6,000 Palestinians are believed dead, trapped under rubble. With a health system all but collapsed, many more will likely continue to die of untreated wounds, spreading disease, winter rains and cold, lack of food, water, medical supplies. Along with wiping out hundreds of families, Israel's deliberate targeting of civilian homes has left over 1.7 million people homeless; most are crammed into U.N. facilities in the south without adequate food, water, toilets or care. Monday's news of a two-day extension of the "pause" was welcomed on all sides, as was the UN's first delivery of drinking water and other humanitarian aid, but rights groups said it "barely registers" in light of the massive need, "breathtaking" death toll, and vast destruction wrought by the Israeli equivalent of two nuclear bombs. During this relative calm, scarred, stunned Gazans have emergedto try and recover relatives' bodies under the debris, stand in lines for flour, water, fuel, take their kids to the beach, travel north to see what's left of their ravaged homes after a brutal, US-backed Israeli campaign of collective punishment that rights advocates widely deem "a stain upon our souls."
In the face of that devastation, UN experts have urged investigations into war crimes by both Israel and Hamas; Jordan has joined much of the world in declaring Israel's assault within "the legal definition of genocide"; the EU's Josep Borrell has demanded a permanent ceasefire - “It makes no sense to give food to somebody that will be killed the day after" - and the UN warns "the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is getting worse by the day." None of that has stopped ongoing Israeli aggression: IDF forces have fired at people returning to inspect homes, killed over 200 Palestinians in the West Bank, including children, and arrested 3,200, "seized" $1.3 million from "Hamas homes" amidst Gazan stories of stolen jewelry and other items, and have escalated the rampant abuse of Palestinian political prisoners. This week, Israel's far-right Finance Minister proposed a budget with billions for the war and hundreds of millions to expand illegal settlements and arm settlers in the name of "empowerment and readiness," even as a monomaniacal Netanyahu vowed to "continue the war in full force until we achieve all our goals," however genocidal, refuting all that Biden malarkey about "freedom and dignity" to swear he's "the only one" who can erase a Palestinian state.
Still, the ever-corrupt Netanyahu has said he's open to extending the truce, one day for every 10 additional hostages, because he's "moved to the depths of my heart" by seeing families reunited, and definitely not because he's hungry for good press that could save his own political skin. With the four-day pause due to end Tuesday now extended two days, the media has largely obliged, offering up a flood of empathic coverage about Hamas' release of what are now 69 captives, most Israeli women and children. Strikingly, doctors have found the hostages in "satisfactory" health, at least physically; the trauma they likely endured remains an open question. "They don’t have any serious sickness, but you can see they're not in the best condition," said a doctor, adding they're monitoring the hostages' "sodium balance" as they reintroduce "routine eating." Many hostages lost their homes, they added, "so they've nowhere to return to, and that's also hard to accept." To date, none of the extensive coverage has noted that the same or worse hardships - sodium imbalances (with no water), no foreseeable chance to return to "routine eating" (no food), and no homes to return to (with dead relatives trapped under them) - afflict hundreds of thousands of Gazans.
Meanwhile, mainstream Israeli media have barely covered the release of up to 300 Palestinian prisoners, all women and minors; most recently, Monday saw 30 teens and three women freed from Ofer prison in the West Bank and a prison in Jerusalem. "It would never occur to them, even for a moment, to tarnish the Jews’ feelings of happiness with the happiness of Arabs," writes Haaretz's Odeh Bisharat, quoting Psalms: "He that keepeth Israel doth neither slumber nor sleep." As proof "there’s no prouder form of nationalism than making 'the other' miserable," police "worked (for) hours to tamp down the joy" of female Palestinian prisoners," including enforcing a ban - the fine is $18,700 - on giving candy to well-wishers by confiscating it from the home of prisoner Amani al-Hashim in Beit Hanina. Days before the release, right-wing National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir had urged his "fine boys" in the Israeli Police to use "an iron fist" to ensure Palestinian unhappiness. “My instructions are clear - there are to be no expressions of joy," he said. "Expressions of joy are equivalent to backing terrorism. Victory celebrations give backing to those human scum, those Nazis." Deuteronomy 32:35: "Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip."
On Sunday, Israel published a list of Palestinian prisoners being freed and their alleged "crimes," mostly stone-throwing, that reveals a flagrant "stratification of victimhood” wherein one captive Israeli child gets more public attention than thousands of Palestinian children imprisoned for trifling acts, along with thousands killed in bombings and even more thousands captive to an occupying force that routinely terrorizes, ghettoizes, and arrests them in the middle of the night. The list is also "a dizzying testament to just how central detention and imprisonment are to Israel’s occupation and control over Palestinians," and how inequitably that control is wielded. Each year, up to 700 Palestinian children as young as 12 are detained as "security prisoners"; by far most of those being freed - 287 - are 18 or under, and of 146 who are 18, most came of age in prison. So far Israel has freed 150 prisoners, 117 children and 33 women; over the same four days, they arrested at least 133, and 3,160 since Oct. 7. Still, despite the no-joy edict, crowds have gathered in the West Bank to collectively celebrate the releases, united by both grief for their losses and determination to embrace resilience and happiness as part of their resistance. Said one celebrant, "We are dancing with broken hearts."
“The cries of Palestinian and Israeli children sound no different to me," said Rep. Rashiba Tlaib, calling for a ceasefire. "What I don’t understand is why the cries of Palestinians sound different to you all." But they do, here and in Israel, where a Knesset member once quoted an Israeli writer who called Palestinian children "little snakes." Most of the teenagers being freed, who were often held in isolation under indefinite "administrative detention," haven't been convicted or even tried, which in Israel, alone among "developed" countries, would occur in not a civil but military court that boasts a nearly 100% conviction rate. Yet under the Israeli government's hierarchy, they can be arrested based solely on "intention" to do...something. A 17-year-old served two years for throwing stones at an Israeli police car in Jerusalem, where Jewish settlers regularly riot, attack Palestinians and storm mosques without constraint, never mind arrest. One 18-year-old was arrested for “incitement on Instagram," another for declaring, "Allahu Akbar," God is great - this in an Israelwhere soldiers enforcing apartheid are deemed innocents, and calls for genocide "a legitimate way to raise national morale." Thus are "the roles of occupier and occupied, predator and prey, abuser and victim," reversed.
In all this, writes Jonathan Cook, "History is repeating itself." He cites Israel's genocidal consistency - and Western complicity - since 1948's Nakba, when up to 900,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their land, farms, olive groves by Israelis who then blithely claimed they were "making the desert bloom." What followed was decades of a carefully crafted, deeply fraudulent narrative - Palestinians never belonged there, weren't massacred, chose to leave - and a steadfast rejection of all non-violent Palestinian resistance to it. When Gazans gathered at the fence marking their seige, they were shot; when they hurled flaming balloons in a plea for visibility, it was called terrorism; when a movement to boycott Israel for its crimes took root, it was dubbed anti-Semitism. Even chants - “From the river to the sea" - were deemed an existential threat to Israel, though it was a critique of apartheid, not Judaism, and Likud's own charter declares of Jews' "eternal and indisputable" right to Israel, "Between the Sea and the Jordan, there will only be Israeli sovereignty." The problem, says Cook, isn't a slogan. It's "settler colonialism's mission" - as always, to replace a native population - and the "collective and wilful refusal" of observers of Israel's establishment "to join the dots in Gaza."
Echoing him is British-Palestinian surgeon Ghassan Abu-Sittah, who argues Gaza represents "the continuation of the Nakba." Its aim: "An uninhabitable Gaza Strip (and) the destruction of all the components of modern life," with a now-razed health system "the main military objective." In London after six weeks shuttling between Gaza's al-Ahli and al-Shifa hospitals and seeing "a massacre unfold," he dismissed multiple Israeli claims to justify their slaughter: That Hamas used Al-Shifa as a base of operations - he saw no evidence; that tunnels, some of which Israel built in the 1980s, proved their case; that civilians weren't targeted: "It appears the numbers tell a different story." So did his experience. Having spent 30 years in war zones in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Gaza, he described "medieval" conditions: Surgery without anaesthetic, soap or vinegar to clean wounds, patients screaming "in agony," children, again - 7 or 8,000 wounded, with up to 900, at times 12 a day, undergoing "very tough" amputations from being hit by fragmentary missiles. He also began to see burns from white phosphorus bombs; Israel denies using them, but Abu-Sittah plans to give war crime testimony to Scotland Yard. "If we live in a world where it’s okay to do this," he says, "that world is a dangerous place.”
Because that world is also infused with the message that Palestinian lives are of lesser value, last month a group of Gazan children held a "press conference" outside al-Shifah to plead for their existence. "We came to shout as children, urging you all to protect us," said a boy acting as spokesperson. "Stop the death. We want life." One can only hope they never saw the now-deleted video titled "Love Sanctified By Blood," created by warmonger and “crisis-communication expert" Ofer Rosenbaum, featuring a chorus of wide-eyed Israeli children singing, "Look the IDF is crossing the line/to annihilate the swastika-bearers/In another year there will be nothing there/And we will safely return to our homes/We will show the world/How today we destroy our enemy." "The bitter reality for us in Gaza," says Haidar Eid, a professor at Al-Aqsa University, "is that we are alone, beleaguered, under siege, and seen as undesirables even by some of those who are supposed to be our brethren." He denounces "the cowardice and hypocrisy" of Arab states, as well as the UN and EU, who have declined to help end a 17-year siege, and now genocide, evidently, incomprehensibly, because "thousands of corpses of women and children have failed to convince them of the need to act."
Photographer Majd Arandas, 29, felt the same isolation, declaring, "We are for Gaza, and Gaza has no one but us." Yet he chose to document the richness of Palestinian life, its land and sky and pockets of joy, "so the world knows there are people in Gaza who love life and beauty." Self-taught, Arandas often shot his images wide and in motion; said a mentor, "You got the sense he was trying to fit as much of the world into each frame as possible." "I am the living dead," Arandas wrote in 2016, but he held out the hope "our voice and cause reach the largest number of people." He was killed Nov. 1 by an Israeli airstrike near his home in Deir al-Balah. There are too many wrenching losses to count, and too many kids. The mother of Waseem Abedrabou, 8, wouldn't "let him sleep a meter away from her." But one night Waseem said he wanted to see his grandma, and she let him and his father Husam go stay with Husam's mother in Nuseirat. An airstrike killed them both; an uncle pulled his body from the rubble to return him to his mother; his aunt recalled a bright kid who'd won chess and engineering contests, and worried about losing his trophies if the home they'd left in Gaza City was bombed. "I don’t want him to be a number," she said. "Waseem’s eyes were full of dreams."
Abu 'Raed' al-Walid, a cheerful swimmer, volleyball player, Barcelona fan and muezzin "aged quickly" when his mother was killed, then his sister, children, nieces and nephews. "They took away Asma, my dear daughter and love of my soul," Raed laments. "My son Walid. My brother Ahmad’s four children. My sister Ilham’s daughter Najwa. My sister Reem’s children Yamen and Rawan." He made his "gang" kites from colored paper and flour-and-water glue, took them to the beach, built them a water-tank pool: "I die a hundred times a day as I remember how they died, how I couldn’t protect any of them." But in one small victory, award-winning poet Mosab Abu Toha, 32, has been released by the IDF after they detained and beat him as he tried to leave Gaza with his wife and three kids. He's been writing about fraught life in Gaza - "I am being killed every day with my people" - and, often, about kids. He was 8 when he first saw a rocket; his son Yazzan, 8, just asked him, "Are our toys still alive?" "Upon birth, mask up your children and leave them unnamed /so/ the angel of death won't find them," he writes. When bombed, "Turn off the lights in every room.../ have a bottle of water nearby/big enough to cool down/children’s fear." In 5th grade he saw a poster at the library claiming, "If you read books, you live more than one life." Now, "Whenever i look at faces/ around me...I read, 'If you live in Gaza, you die several times.'"
"Death was born here. It never left our neighborhoods." - Mosab Abu Toha
Seeking to celebrate what was once "the joy and beauty of Gaza," Majd Arandas caught boys leaping in the air at the beach. Photo by Majd Arandas
Palestinian prisoner Khalil Zama’ra hugs his mother after being released from an Israeli jail.Photo by Mamoun Wazwaz/APA Images
A national conservation group sued the Biden administration on Tuesday for failing to respond to a public records request pertaining to the Interior Department's dismissal of a petition that called for a phaseout of oil and gas extraction on federal lands and waters.
Submitted last year, the petition from more than 360 environmental and Indigenous organizations called on the Interior Department to initiate a rulemaking process aimed at reducing oil and gas production on public lands and waters by 98% by 2035.
The department rejected the petition earlier this year, claiming that it "has a robust rulemaking agenda already underway to address the climate crisis and implement reforms to our conventional energy programs" and doesn't have adequate resources to "undertake the proposed rulemaking at this time."
CBD is now taking legal action against the Interior Department again, this time for violating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
In July, CBD requested that the Interior Department turn over records related to the agency's deliberations about the fossil fuel phaseout petition and its response.
"At the time of the filing of this complaint, over 130 days have passed since the Center submitted its FOIA request to Interior. To date, however, Interior has not provided any requested records," the new lawsuit states. "Accordingly, the Center challenges Interior's FOIA violations resulting from its failure to respond to the Center's request and seeks declaratory and injunctive relief to require Interior to promptly search for and produce all responsive records without further delay."
"The administration needs to explain its failure to take bold, urgent action but instead it's hiding public records."
Taylor McKinnon, CBD's southwest director, said in a statement that the lawsuit "will shed light on the Biden administration's dumbfounding refusal to align our country's federal fossil fuel programs with its own climate goals."
"All-time high federal oil production is causing our planet's life support systems to shut down under the stresses of the climate emergency," said McKinnon. "The administration needs to explain its failure to take bold, urgent action but instead it's hiding public records."
Under Biden's leadership, U.S. crude oil production is on pace to surge to a record 12.9 million barrels this year. During his first two years in office, the Biden administration approved more than 6,400 permits for oil and gas drilling, exceeding the number of approvals during former President Donald Trump's first two years.
According to a CBD analysis released Monday, drilling projects that the Biden administration has approved could "erase" emissions-reduction progress from the Inflation Reduction Act, the president's signature legislative achievement.
"The Biden administration is canceling out its own climate progress by greenlighting major oil and gas projects," said Shaye Wolf, CBD's climate science director.
Experts on anti-poverty policies on Tuesday urged lawmakers weighing tax legislation to consider evidence that became strikingly clear in 2021: Guaranteeing that families have money on a monthly basis to provide for their children, via the expanded child tax credit, helped ensure that far fewer kids struggled with insufficient food and other essentials.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) noted that policymakers have reportedly begun negotiating a possible year-end tax bill and have already heard from dozens of pro-business groups from across the country that have called for a tax code that "supports innovation" and enables businesses to "finance growth."
To return to what analysts have called "a historic reduction in poverty" that was observed just two years ago, CBPP called on negotiators in Congress to include "a well-designed expansion of the child tax credit (CTC) in any tax legislation considered," with the children from the lowest-income households prioritized.
"Letting 9 million children in this country live in poverty is a policy choice, as recent census data underscores," wrote Chuck Marr, Kris Cox, and Sarah Calame at CBPP. "Policymakers have an opportunity to make a different—and better—choice in the coming weeks. They should prioritize reducing child poverty—and improving the life prospects of millions of children."
As Common Dreams reported in September, the opposition of Republican senators and right-wing Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) led to the end of the expanded CTC, which helped push child poverty to a record low of 5.2% in 2021 as eligible families received up to $300 per child, per month. As a result, in 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau recorded the largest single-year increase in poverty among children in the U.S., which rose to 12.4%.
"If Congress had continued the American Rescue Plan's child tax credit expansion in 2022, about 3 million fewer children would have been in poverty, preventing more than half of the increase in the number of children in poverty last year, we estimate," wrote Marr, Cox, and Calame.
The decision to take thousands of dollars per year away from families struggling with the rising cost of living and stagnant wages was driven largely by Manchin's false claim that parents who were given money to help with the cost of childcare and groceries each month would spend the cash on drugs, but CBPP expressed hope that some Republicans facing tough reelection campaigns next year have signaled an interest in supporting the provision, which was backed by Republican, Independent, and Democratic voters in an Economic Security Project poll last year.
Civil society groups including the Maine People's Alliance (MPA) and Americans for Tax Fairness this week began calling on lawmakers to "put children first, not corporate profits" as they negotiate a tax bill.
"Right now, Congress is hearing from big business, not American families like yours," MPA told its supporters in a call to action. "We are the people who know how critical cash is to making a household work. We are the people our members of Congress need to hear from."
CBPP emphasized that "the details of any child tax credit expansion are important" and called for a particular focus on the children who have been left out of the credit in the past despite their families' struggles with the cost of housing, food, childcare, and other essentials.
The economists wrote that any tax bill must prioritize ensuring that 19 million children whose parents' incomes are too low to receive the full CTC must be "the focus of any child tax credit expansion."
Explaining that the current structure of the CTC is "upside down," they wrote that children in families with less than $2,500 in earnings are not eligible for any credit, while families with incomes below about $16,000 get less than $2,000 in total and middle- and high-income households receive the maximum of $2,000 per child.
For example, a childcare provider who has two children of their own and is a single parent might earn $15,000 per year and receive $1,875, while a married couple who employs the provider might earn $400,000 per year and receive $4,000 in CTC.
"The children who would benefit the most—children whose families face challenges affording rent, utilities, food, clothing, and transportation—often get the least," wrote the economists. "As a result, more children live in poverty than would if children in families with low incomes received the same child tax credit as children in families with higher incomes."
This inequity disproportionately affects Black, Indigenous, and Latino children whose parents are "overrepresented in low-paid work," noted CBPP.
The record low child poverty rate in 2021 was achieved by making the full CTC available to low-income families, raising the maximum credit from $2,000 per child to $3,600 for children aged 5 and younger and $3,000 for older children, and providing the credit on a monthly basis rather than a lump sum after taxes were filed.
Marr, Cox, and Calame explained that simply raising the maximum amount for the CTC would do little to help the families who need it most, and a proposal led by Rep. John James (R-Mich.) would still leave many low-income families with partial or no credit.
By contrast, the economists proposed making the current $2,000 CTC—often called the "fully refundable" credit—to the lowest-income households, which could lift an estimated 1.5 million children out of poverty and boost the income of the single parent in CBPP's example by $2,125—a significant difference for a regular household income of $15,000.
"As policymakers evaluate approaches to expanding the child tax credit" in end-of-year tax legislation, said Marr, Cox, and Calame, "they should seek to maximize the number of children with low incomes lifted out of poverty."
A trio of Democratic U.S. senators on Monday wrote to Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chair Rostin Behnam expressing their "serious reservations" with the agency's proposed rule on seeded funds and money market funds, a policy the lawmakers warned would "undermine the goals of Dodd-Frank" by rolling back the already weakened financial oversight law.
Passed in the wake of the 2008 global financial meltdown, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act—which was partially rolled back during the Trump administration—overhauled federal financial regulation. In a letter to Behnam, Sens. John Fetterman (Pa.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), and Tina Smith (Minn.) assert that the CFTC's proposed rule is a "step in the wrong direction" that would increase market instability by decreasing collateral requirements for certain transactions.
The Global Markets Advisory Committee, largely made up of finance industry insiders, recommended the proposed rule in 2020 during the Trump administration.
As the letter explains:
The proposed rule would reduce or eliminate initial margin requirements for up to three years for a subset of swap market participants. "Initial margin" is the collateral that participants must set aside when entering swap agreements. Initial margin requirements, along with "variation margin" and other capital requirements, protect counterparties to a swap in the event of a default. Dodd-Frank set up comprehensive rules for swap agreements after they significantly contributed to the 2008 financial crisis and the federal government was forced to bail out Wall Street.
"The 2008 financial crisis showed the dangers that swaps can pose to economic stability, and Dodd-Frank directed regulators, including the CFTC, to require initial margin for uncleared swaps specifically to reduce those risks," the senators wrote. "It is vital for the CFTC to continue upholding its Dodd-Frank mandate and to maintain high standards and safeguards for this important market."
"We urge the commission to continue to focus on its vital work preserving market integrity and protecting the public, uphold the letter and spirit of the Dodd-Frank Act, and withdraw the proposed rule," the lawmakers added.
The collapse earlier this year of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank—both of which benefited from regulatory relief thanks to the 2018 rollback—brought renewed scrutiny on Dodd-Frank's Republican-engineered shortcomings. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), who wrote the 2018 banking deregulation law, insisted in March that "there is no need for regulatory reform" in the wake of the banks' failures.
Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, responded to Crapo's assertion by writing that "you have to be hard-core committed to mindless free-market fundamentalism—or truly in thrall to your donors—to insist there's no need for new regulations after Silicon Valley Bank."
Last month, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also wrote a letter to Behman sharing her concerns about the proposed rule. Noting the policy's 2020 introduction, Warren said in her October 10 letter that "it is unclear why the commission is choosing to propose these rules now, three years later, without conducting its own additional analyses of whether the changes are necessary or will strengthen the stability of the domestic financial system."
"I strongly urge the commission not to loosen the existing rules and not to roll back important Dodd-Frank Act reforms," Warren added.
McDonald's, one of the largest employers in the world, was fined just $26,000—a tiny fraction of its profits—on Monday for violating child labor laws in Pennsylvania, with two franchisees found to be violating numerous rules in five stores.
The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage and Hour Division found that Paul and Meghan Sweeney, owners of a company called Endor, which runs five McDonald's locations, employed 34 children who were 14 and 15 years old.
The employers scheduled the teenagers to work outside the times that 14- and 15-year-olds are legally permitted to work, including during school hours, earlier than 7:00 am and 7:00 pm during the school year, and more than three hours on a school day.
Writer and organizer Joshua P. Hill said the $26,000 fine—amounting to less than $1,000 per child who was affected by the Sweeneys' employment practices—was "not even a slap on the wrist," especially considering that the $200 billion multinational fast food company is one of the world's largest companies.
John DuMont, district director for the Wage and Hour Division in Western Pennsylvania, said in a statement that the Sweeneys employed young teenagers "at the expense of their education or well-being."
"Fast food restaurants offer young workers an opportunity to gain valuable work experience," said DuMont. "The Fair Labor Standards Act allows for developmental experiences but restricts the work hours of 14- and 15-year-olds and provides for penalties when employers do not follow the law."
Earlier this year, the DOL found that three McDonald's stores in Kentucky were illegally employing more than 300 children—some as young as 10. A coalition of McDonald's shareholders demanded a third-party human rights assessment in June, citing the Kentucky case and that of a 15-year-old employee in Tennessee who was injured at work.
The AFL-CIO pointed out that the violations at stores in Brookville, Clarion, Punxsutawney, and St. Mary's, Pennsylvania, took place amid a right-wing push to roll back child labor laws.
With the backing of powerful conservative donors like Richard Uihlein, lawmakers in Florida, Iowa, Arkansas have pushed legislation to weaken child labor protections in recent months. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, signed a bill in May removing so-called "unnecessary restrictions" that keep minors from working in hazardous workplaces, and GOP Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a bill in March allowing companies to hire children under the age of 16 without verifying their age.
The finding at the Pennsylvania McDonald's locations serves as a reminder that "any lawmaker who votes to roll back child labor laws is a disgrace," said the AFL-CIO.
The fine announced on Monday only represents "two ten-thousandths of a single percent" of McDonald's gross profits in 2022, said the labor group.
As Israel and Hamas on Monday agreed to extend their temporary pause of fighting in the Gaza Strip, advocacy group leaders, U.S. state lawmakers, and actor and activist Cynthia Nixon were among those who launched a hunger strike demanding a permanent cease-fire in Washington, D.C. outside the White House.
"As the mother of Jewish children whose grandparents are Holocaust survivors, I have been asked by my son to use my platform to project as loudly as possible that 'never again' means never again for everyone," said Nixon, one of more than 260 artists who signed a letter asking U.S. President Joe Biden and Congress to call for a cease-fire in Gaza.
"As an American, I am here to demand that our president stop funding the mass killing and starvation of thousands of innocent Palestinians, the majority of whom are children and women," she continued. "President Biden must use this moment to negotiate a permanent cease-fire that will bring all the hostages and political prisoners home and start to lay the foundation for a lasting peace."
"Palestinians in Gaza deserve to be grieved and it's astonishing that we even have to say this, but Palestinians in Gaza deserve to live."
Other supporters of the five-day hunger strike include Palestinian organizer and activist Linda Sarsour, Delaware state Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton (D-26), Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner (D-88), Virginia state Rep. Sam Rasoul (D-11), Adalah Justice Project (AJP), the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Democratic Socialists of America, Dream Defenders, IfNotNow, the Institute for Middle East Understanding, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR).
"By every measure, this moment is the greatest loss of life and devastation in the history of the Palestinian people," said Iman Abid-Thompson, director of advocacy and organizing at USCPR. "We have been calling on Congress and President Biden to demand a total cease-fire since the beginning of October. While we welcome the 48 statements of support from members of Congress who have called for a total cease-fire, it is not enough. Time is of the essence."
"We know that Congress and President Biden could have called for a cease-fire weeks ago, but they haven't," she added. "We have all watched the destruction of Gaza and seen entire families, every generation, buried in mass graves. We cannot escape the images of children laying lifeless and in pieces. We are haunted by the dead and the living, and we will never forget what we have witnessed."
Since the October 7 Hamas-led attack that killed around 1,200 Israelis, Israel's retaliatory war on Gaza has killed over 14,850 Palestinians, including at least 6,150 children, and devastated civilian infrastructure in the besieged enclave. Both sides agreed to a four-day cease-fire that began Friday and have since exchanged hostages taken by Hamas last month and Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.
On Monday, Majed Al-Ansari, a spokesperson for the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, confirmed the two-day extension of the truce on social media. The Associated Pressreported that "Israel will resume its operations with 'full force' as soon as the current deal expires if Hamas does not agree to further hostage releases, government spokesperson Eylon Levy told reporters."'
Hunger strike supporter Rana Abdelhamid, an ex-New York congressional candidate, stressed that "a temporary cease-fire is not enough. Israel has made it abundantly clear that it has no intention of stopping its bombing of Gaza as long as it enjoys the full backing of the U.S. government. We will not allow the Biden administration to continue to fund the killing and starvation of Palestinians with impunity. We need a permanent cease-fire to save lives, and we need it now."
In the wake of Hamas' attack last month, Biden affirmed his "unwavering" support for Israel—currently controlled by the most far-right government in its history—and asked Congress for $14.3 billion for the war effort, on top of the $3.8 billion in annual military assistance that the country gets from the United States.
The Interceptreported Saturday that Biden has also asked Congress to lift most restrictions on Israel's access to a U.S. stockpile of weapons there, which "would essentially create a free-flowing pipeline to provide any defense articles to Israel," according to Josh Paul, a former U.S. State Department official who resigned over arms transfers to the country.
"Our government should not be supporting the mass murder of tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza," AJP director of strategy and communications Sumaya Awad declared Monday. "No one is spared by Israel's bombs, not journalists, not doctors, not children and NICU babies."
"As a Palestinian, as an American, and as a mother, I am on hunger strike to demand that President Biden call for a permanent cease-fire," she said. "Without a lasting cease-fire, Israel will continue the unfolding genocide in Gaza. Palestinians in Gaza deserve to be grieved and it's astonishing that we even have to say this, but Palestinians in Gaza deserve to live."
Progressive members of Congress, including Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, urged the president to support a complete phaseout of fossil fuels.
Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Thursday led a group of more than 30 U.S. lawmakers in calling on President Joe Biden to embrace a complete phaseout of fossil fuels and an immediate end to public financing of new overseas oil and gas projects as world leaders gathered for the first day of the COP28 summit in Dubai.
In a letter to the president, who decided to skip the talks, Markey (D-Mass.), Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and 32 other members of Congress wrote that the U.S. has a "duty" to pursue more ambitious climate goals and "support other countries in adopting the principles of environmental justice that we should also prioritize here at home."
"In order to remain on target for a livable future, we urge the administration to support the move toward an extensive, expedient, and equitable phaseout of fossil fuel production and consumption," the lawmakers wrote. "A full phaseout should be inclusive of coal, oil, and fossil gas, and led by the wealthiest and highest-emitting countries, including short-term phase-down goals and climate financing to assist developing countries in executing a clean energy transition."
The letter, spearheaded by the leaders of the congressional Green New Deal Resolution, was released after the COP28 talks opened with a deal to operationalize a loss and damage fund geared toward helping low-income nations recover from the increasingly devastating climate impacts they've faced in recent years, despite doing the least to cause the planetary crisis.
The Biden administration, representing the country that is the largest historical emitter of planet-warming carbon dioxide, pledged just $17.5 million to the loss and damage fund, a sum that one campaigner called "embarrassing."
As Common Dreams reported, the administration also drew outrage by launching an oil and gas drilling auction just days before the start of the United Nations climate summit.
In a social media post Thursday, Markey called on the Biden administration to "lead by example and take bold action to end this climate emergency."
The Biden administration has thus far rejected calls to support a full phaseout of fossil fuels, allowing U.S. oil and gas extraction to surge to record levels despite increasingly dire warnings from the scientific community.
The administration has also repeatedly broken its commitment to end direct public financing for international fossil fuel projects.
In a briefing on the eve of COP28, Special Presidential Climate Envoy John Kerry told reporters that the administration supports "requiring the phaseout of unabated fossil fuel."
As Bloomberg's Lara Williams recently warned, the ambiguity of "unabated"—expected to be a hot-button term during the COP28 talks—"leaves an enormous loophole for the continued expansion of fossil fuel production under the vague promise that all will be abated in the future."
While welcoming the "long-overdue meaningful action" on drinking water safety, one campaigner argued that "much more must be done—much faster—at no cost to impacted households."
The Biden administration's proposal to better protect drinking water nationwide was met with sweeping applause on Thursday, but at least one consumer advocacy group stressed that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency policy is "still not enough."
With its proposed changes to the Lead and Copper Rule, the administration aims to replace all lead water service lines in the United States within a decade, according to the EPA. There are also provisions intended to locate legacy lead pipes, improve tap sampling, lower the lead action level, and strengthen protections to reduce exposure.
Food & Water Watch Public Water for All director Mary Grant said that "the federal government has already waited far too long to require the elimination of these toxic lead water pipes, which poisoned the water in communities across the country," from Flint, Michigan and Jackson, Mississippi to Newark, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.
"The Biden administration has proposed long-overdue meaningful action toward the goal of eliminating lead from drinking water, but to ensure that every community has safe, lead-free water, much more must be done—much faster—at no cost to impacted households," she asserted.
Grant praised "agitators who emerged from... water contamination fights" and called on Congress to "step up to provide funding to replace the entire service line at no cost to impacted households, prioritizing low-income and environmental justice communities."
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed by President Joe Biden two years ago, "provided a $15 billion downpayment on this overhaul, but the total cost could exceed $60 billion," she pointed out, urging Congress to pass the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity, and Reliability (WATER) Act.
"In a moment when many of us feel overwhelmed by bad news, the EPA's lead rule provides a ray of hope."
While additional steps are clearly needed, impacted communities and other campaigners still welcomed the progress on Thursday.
"Communities like ours... have grappled with the repercussions of lead contamination for too long," said Deborah Brown, a steering committee member of Newburgh Clean Water Project in New York. "The proposed improvements, especially the replacement of all lead service lines, signify a significant stride to safe and clean drinking water for our families and future generations. It's a step in the right direction."
Earthjustice attorney Suzanne Novak—whose legal group has represented the Newburgh Clean Water Project—said that "the EPA's proposed improvements to the Lead and Copper Rule are a much-needed response to a dire public health crisis that's been ongoing for more than a century."
"The administration's proposal takes important steps towards fulfilling the Safe Drinking Water Act's purpose of protecting human health to the extent feasible," Novak continued. "EPA has recognized that quick removal of all lead service lines is imperative, and that swift action is needed when a community has persistent high levels of lead in its water."
"Because the public health burden of lead exposure falls disproportionately on environmental justice communities," she emphasized, "we need to make sure that the final rule is equitable in how it achieves reduction of lead in drinking water across the country."
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) noted "apparent weaknesses" of the proposal, including that "water systems are not required to pay for the lead service line replacement," utilities could get extensions beyond the 10-year deadline, and the action level reduction from 15 parts per billion to 10 ppb "is less strict than the 5 ppb standards recommended by health experts and the governments in Canada and Europe."
Still, Erik Olson, senior strategic director for health at NRDC, said that "in a moment when many of us feel overwhelmed by bad news, the EPA's lead rule provides a ray of hope that we are approaching the day when every family can trust that the water from their kitchen tap is safe, regardless of how much money they have or their ZIP code."
Environmental Working Group senior vice president for government affairs Scott Faber also praised the progress, saying that "once again, President Biden's EPA is putting our families first and honoring his commitments to the American people."
The campaigner also highlighted the need to better protect communities whose drinking water is contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), chemicals used in various products that persist in the environment and human body and are connected to health problems including cancers.
Biden's EPA proposed the first-ever national drinking water standard for PFAS in March. Faber said Thursday that "we're confident he will also make good on his commitment to finalize a drinking water standard for the toxic 'forever chemicals.'"
The United States' contribution of $17.5 million, in particular, was denounced as "embarrassing" for the wealthiest country in the world.
International campaigners who for years have demanded a global "loss and damage" fund to help developing countries confront the climate emergency were encouraged on Thursday as the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference began with an agreement to make the fund operational—but said the details of the deal made clear that wealthy countries are still largely abandoning communities that have contributed the least fossil fuel emissions, only to suffer the worst climate injustices.
A recent study from the University of Delaware showed that "the unweighted percentage of global GDP lost" due to climate impacts such as long-lasting drought, catastrophic flooding, and wildfires is estimated at 1.8%, or about $1.5 trillion, and low- and middle-income countries "have experienced $2.1 trillion in produced capital losses due to climate change."
To meet the need, developing countries have said they already require about $400 billion annually in a loss and damage fund that could help governments rebuild communities, restore crucial wildlife habitats, or relocate people who have been displaced by the climate emergency—so advocates on Thursday were left wondering why the fund agreed upon at COP28 was expected to provide only about $100 billion per year by 2030.
The shortfall threatened to ensure the loss and damage fund will remain "an empty promise," said Fanny Petitbon, head of advocacy for Care France.
"We hope the agreement will result in rapid delivery of support for communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis," said Petitbon. "However, it has many shortcomings. It enables historical emitters to evade their responsibility. It also fails to establish the scale of finance needed and ensure that the fund is anchored in human rights principles."
"We urgently call on all governments who are most responsible for the climate emergency and have the capacity to contribute to announce significant pledges in the form of grants," she added. "Historical emitters must lead the way."
The United States, the largest historical contributor of the planet-heating emissions that scientists agree are fueling the climate crisis, has objected to tying loss and damage funding to each wealthy nation's emissions—perhaps partially explaining why the Biden administration pledged only $17.5 million to the fund.
Such contributions are "a drop in the ocean compared to the scale of the need they are to address," said Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa.
"In particular, the amount announced by the U.S. is embarrassing for President [Joe] Biden and [Special Presidential Climate Envoy] John Kerry," said Adow. "It just shows how this must be just the start."
Campaigners also objected to the agreement's stipulation that the World Bank will host the fund for the first four years—a demand that had been made by the U.S. and other wealthy countries—with voluntary payments from powerful governments that will be "invited," not required, to contribute.
"Although rules have been agreed regarding how the fund will operate there are no hard deadlines, no targets, and countries are not obligated to pay into it, despite the whole point being for rich, high-polluting nations to support vulnerable communities who have suffered from climate impacts," said Adow.
"The most pressing issue now is to get money flowing into the fund and to the people that need it," he added. "The pledged funds must not just be repackaged commitments. We need new money, in the form of grants, not loans, otherwise it will just pile more debt onto some of the poorest countries in the world, defeating the point of a fund designed to improve lives."
The United Arab Emirates, which is hosting COP28, pledged $100 million to the fund, a sum that was matched by Germany. The United Kingdom committed to contributing 60 million British pounds, or about $75 million, while Japan pledged $10 billion. The U.S. also said it would provide $4.5 million to the Pacific Resilience Facility, which will offer loss and damage funding to Pacific Island nations, and $2.5 million for the Santiago Network, which will provide technical support to developing countries.
Izzie McIntosh, climate campaign manager at U.K.-based Global Justice Now, called the creation of the global loss and damage fund was called a "welcome, yet long overdue, step forward for our climate," and one that "reflects the utter devastation caused by climate change in the global south, and the need for rich countries to pay what they owe for their role in it."
Rich countries, however, "have weakened the commitment they made to climate justice by insisting on the World Bank as interim host," added McIntosh. "This decision risks both excluding countries due to its outdated rules and deepening the debt crisis if support is provided through loans, not grants. If loss and damage funding is to be truly impactful, it must be funded and designed adequately, or risk being all talk and no action."
At COP27 in Egypt one year ago, noted Christian Aid global advocacy lead Mariana Paoli, policymakers did not even place the loss and damage fund on the agenda.
"It's a testament to the determination of developing country negotiators that we now already have the fund agreed and established," she said. "It's now vital we see the fund filled. People who have contributed the least to the climate crisis are already suffering climate losses and damages. The longer they are forced to wait for financial support to cover these costs, the greater the injustice."
Before COP28 wraps up on December 12, Paoli added, campaigners are hoping they will "see significant new and additional pledges of money to the loss and damage fund, and not just repackaged climate finance that has already been committed."
A fully funded, impactful loss and damage fund must be paired with a commitment by countries to end fossil fuel expansion, added Romain Ioualalen, global policy manager at Oil Change International, with rich countries "redirecting trillions in fossil industry handouts to triple renewable energy and double energy efficiency."
"We have had enough delays," said Ioualalen, "and this must happen now to secure a livable future."