Opinion
Climate
Economy
Politics
Rights & Justice
War & Peace
Sign held aloft during a 2020 Detroit protest after the death of George Floyd.
Further

Let This Be Our Communion: Another Deadly Knee On A Black Man's Neck

In a haunting, ghastly reprise, Thursday saw the funeral of D’Vontaye Mitchell, a black man in mental distress killed by four security guards outside a Milwaukee hotel - one of the sites for next week's GOP convention, yet. Like George Floyd, witness video shows Mitchell face down and gasping for air as he begs, "Please, please...." His wife: "They treated him like he was worthless, an animal." Singer Tom Prasada-Rao in $20 Bill, his searing lament for Floyd: "Oh brother, I never knew you/ Now I never will."

D’Vontaye Mitchell, a 43-year-old father of two, was killed June 30th outside Milwaukee's Hyatt Regency Hotel as he was held down by four security personnel who'd dragged him out after he entered the women's bathroom. Hotel footage reportedly shows Mitchell frantically running from something or someone unknown to hide in the bathroom; confronted by the guards, he had his hands up. During the assault outside, video shows him pinioned on the ground being beaten with batons as he grunted, struggled to breathe, and begged them to stop; at one point, a guard turns to the passerby filming and snarls, "This is what happens when you go into the ladies room." Mitchell's "last words on this earth," noted civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, were "please, please, please, please, please, please," followed by "I'm sorry" two times, "I can't breathe," and "Please help me." "How many more, America?" asked Crump. "How many more Black men have to say ‘I can’t breathe?’"

"To see them beat him over and over and over..." said Mitchell's wife DeAsia Harmon of the pitiless encounter. "They could have stopped at any time." At a press conference, she stood with Mitchell's family, including their 8-year-old daughter, Michell's former girlfriend Luella Jackson, and her and Mitchell's six-year-old son. "Our children deserve justice for their father," said Harmon. "They took everything from them... We stand together on this." Until this week, no one had been charged in connection with Mitchell's death despite a preliminary finding from the county medical examiner's office his cause of death was homicide; the four guards had been put on leave, and police had declined to release video of the encounter. "I just want justice for my son, and I want it now," said Mitchell's mother Brenda Giles, who insisted the death won't be "swept under the rug." "Give us those videos. Y’all know what went on inside the hotel. Y’all saw it, but we can’t see it. Make that make sense."

This week, ten days after his death and amidst angry protests, changes came in quick succession. The guards were finally fired by Aimbridge Hospitality, which runs the hotel, hours after the Hyatt demanded they be fired and face criminal charges. And Thursday, Milwaukee police referred four charges of felony murder to the D.A.'s office. Still, no arrests have been made, purportedly awaiting final autopsy results - a lapse blasted as "appalling" by attorney Will Sulton, representing the family along with Crump and B'Ivory Lamarr. Sulton noted the charges came only after community calls for accountability - "It was onlookers and family gathering evidence (which) led us here" - in the killing of a distressed, unarmed man "trying to run for his life." Sulton added there's footage of the guards denying they struck Mitchell, "even though that's all on camera - you see them punching, kicking, hitting him with a baton...It is just outrageous." See below. Warning: Like all that have come before, gruesome.

Death of Black man outside Milwaukee hotel is being reviewed as a homicidewww.youtube.com

For many, Mitchell's killing bitterly echoed that of George Floyd, likewise dead from a heedless white man's knee on his neck, in the harsh light of day, for all to witness. At the time, the sight hollowed out Tom Prasada-Rao, a beloved songwriter, "pillar of grace and talent" and "musician's musician" who died June 19 at his home in Silver Spring, Md of cancer at 66. Born in Ethiopia of Indian descent, Prasada-Rao performed for decades in multiple bands - the Dreamsicles, the Sherpas, Fox Run Five - usually in an Indian kurta , or tunic. But he was perhaps best known for, and most fond of, $20 Bill, the simple, mournful benediction for George Floyd he wrote in late May 2020 after, ravaged by chemotherapy for Stage IV cancer, he'd sat on his sofa and watched news coverage of the swirling protests. He was exhausted; the protests "broke his heart," and the lyrics "just came tumbling out of me." He recorded it on the couch, his voice soft, raspy, subdued, apologizing he was "not at my best."

"Some people die for honor/Some people die for love/ Some people die while singing/to the heavens above," he sang. "Some people die believing/in the cross on Calvary Hill/And some people die/in the blink of an eye/for a $20 dollar bill." Noting, "Oh brother, I never knew you/Now I never will," he promises, "I'll remember you still." "Let this be our communion/Time to break the bread/Do this in remembrance/Just like the good book said/," he sings. "Sometimes the wine is a sacrament/Sometimes the blood is just spill/Sometimes the law is the devil's last straw/A future unfulfilled....For a 20 dollar bill." He falls silent, then whispers, "Rest in peace." Ever "the grand collaborator - he never met a stranger" - he posted the chords, inviting others to cover it. Over 100 did; his favorite was by Karl Werne. Then, and at a recent celebration of his life, family and dear friends thanked him for giving "voice to the anguish of the moment" and helping them heal. To make beauty out of such savagery, said one, "is an exultation of the best in us."

$20 Bill (for George Floyd)www.youtube.com

For D’Vontaye Mitchell's family and friends, it is too soon for healing. At his funeral Thursday at Milwaukee's Holy Redeemer Church of God in Christ, they remembered how Mitchell loved to dance, rap, cook and help others even as they vowed, per his mother Brenda, "We going to fight." Reading from Psalms, she said they "shouldn't worry about the injustice that's been done to D’Vontaye, because they will get their just due...God is going to make sure it comes to pass." Rev. Al Sharpton also called on a higher power for justice against those who in 2024 still think of black men as "the least of us" thanks to a long, ugly history in America, from slavery to George Floyd, that made it so. "We want the people in this town and others (to know that) who you consider the least, God consider the most," he said. “You never thought folk like us would be coming to stand up for D’Vontaye. But you will be held accountable when you put your hands on us."

Benjamin Crump and several others noted the irony of Mitchell being killed outside one of three main venues for next week's Republican convention where, "Y'all got a crowd coming to town to talk about making America great again." Improbably, he argued justice should be part of the narrative: "We got two justice systems in America - one for Black America and one for white America." For proof, he called out Mitchell's name, then many others - George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, etc. "We going to help you D'Vontaye," Crump said, brandishing a metal baton he said was used to beat Mitchell, then naming each member of his family. "When they hit him, punch him, and beat him, it was like they were beating us all." He again cited Mitchell's final words - "Please, six times, while gasping for breath" - to "Please help me." "How many more?" he asked the mourners angrily, rhetorically. "After the video of George Floyd, you say, 'My God, not again. You'd think we would have learned our lesson."

SEE ALL
'Climate Caught in Crossfire' as NATO Emissions Surged Last Year
News

'Climate Caught in Crossfire' as NATO Emissions Surged Last Year

The militaries of North Atlantic Treaty Organization member countries emitted an estimated 233 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2023, a sharp uptick that exacerbates climate breakdown and serves only to enrich weapons manufacturers, according to a briefing issued Monday by the Transnational Institute, a research and advocacy organization, and several other nonprofits.

The 32 national militaries together emitted more carbon than the country of Colombia, which has a population of about 52 million people, the briefing says. NATO countries' military spending increased from about $1.21 trillion in 2022 to $1.34 trillion in 2023, thanks in part to the conflicts in Ukraine and Palestine. TNI used a spend-emission conversion factor to estimate the carbon cost of the spending.

The briefing's authors warn that NATO's spending targets must be abandoned or its emissions will continue to rise significantly in the next few years—despite a pledge to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030. Member countries have pledged to spend at least 2% of gross domestic product on defense, and many have have already met or surpassed the target.

The authors note that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change determined that all sectors of the economy need to reduce emissions by 43% by 2030 from 2019 levels to keep global warming at or below the Paris agreement's 1.5°C target.

"By 2030, we have to make a radical cut in emissions," Nick Buxton, TNI's communications manager, toldThe Guardian. "But the biggest investment we're making worldwide, and in particularly NATO, is in military spending, which isn't just not addressing the problem, but actually worsening the problem."

The United States accounts for more than two-thirds of NATO countries' military spending and one-third of the world's, which also surged in 2023. U.S. military spending increased by 24% from 2022 to 2023, and some leading Republicans in Congress have recently called for large increases.

A 2022 report from the Conflict and Environment Observatory, a research and advocacy group, estimated that military emissions accounted for 5.5% of all global carbon emissions. Estimates are difficult because lack of transparent reporting practices by many militaries, experts say.

The new briefing suggests that military spending could be diverted to climate finance for developing countries, which have been the subject of intense international negotiations in recent years, with rich countries slow to provide funding even as they spend profligately on their militaries, critics have argued.

"The climate is caught in the crossfire of war," TNI said on social media. "We need peaceful solutions to conflicts if we are to defend our world. There is no secure nation on an unsafe planet."

The "only winners" from NATO's spending policy are weapons manufacturers, says the briefing, which states that backlogs of weapons orders at the 10 largest arms companies based in NATO member countries went up by an average of 13% in 2023.

Source: Transnational Institute

Current orders will lock in emissions for decades, as military systems are normally used for 30 or 40 years, the briefing warns. For example, Lockheed Martin, a major defense manufacturer, has said that NATO countries will by 2030 fly 600 of its F-35 jets, which use 5,600 liters of oil an hour, even more than the F-16 jets they're replacing, the briefing says.

"The legacy of this increased arms trade will be an ever more militarized world at a time of climate breakdown," the authors wrote. "This military expenditure will fuel wars and conflict that will compound the impact on those made vulnerable by climate change."

SEE ALL
Kenyans protest IMF bill
News

Progressive International Applauds Kenyans for Rising Up to Defeat IMF Austerity Bill

Progressive International on Thursday applauded the people of Kenya for taking to the streets en masse to defeat an International Monetary Fund-backed legislative package that would have hiked taxes on ordinary citizens as part of an effort to repay the government's powerful creditors.

"Pushed through at the behest of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the U.S. State Department, the bill would impose severe austerity measures and crippling taxes on Kenya's working people, who are already strained by Kenya's legacy of colonial underdevelopment," Progressive International said in a statement.

"The Progressive International stands firmly with the people of Kenya," the organization added. "They refuse to become another laboratory for neoliberalism—impoverished, beaten, or killed for the benefit of foreign corporations and their lackeys in the Kenyan government."

The Kenyan government's proposal, welcomed by the IMF as necessary for "debt sustainability," triggered massive youth-led protests in the nation's capital last week as thousands of citizens already immiserated by sky-high living costs flooded the streets to express outrage at the U.N. financial institution and their government for fueling the crisis.

The government crackdown was swift and deadly, with police using tear gas and live ammunition to beat back demonstrators calling for the withdrawal of the proposed bill and the resignation of President William Ruto, who took office in 2022.

Protesters achieved one of their objectives Wednesday when Ruto announced he would not sign the tax legislation, just days after he ordered the country's military to help suppress the demonstrations.

"Listening keenly to the people of Kenya who have said loudly that they want nothing to do with this finance bill, I concede, and therefore, I will not sign the 2024 finance bill, and it shall subsequently be withdrawn," Ruto said in an address to the nation, which spends more than a quarter of its revenue on debt interest payments.

"The protesters we have been speaking to are still very angry, still very frustrated, they hold the president responsible for the deaths of those young Kenyans across the country."

As The Associated Pressreported, the withdrawn measure would have "raised taxes and fees on a range of daily items and services, from egg imports to bank transfers."

Kenya's public debt currently stands at $80 billion, around $3.5 billion of which is owed to the IMF—an explicit target of protesters' ire.

"Kenya is not IMF's lab rat," declared one demonstrator's sign.

The IMF said in a brief statement Wednesday that it was "deeply concerned" about the "tragic events" in Kenya and claimed its "main goal in supporting Kenya is to help it overcome the difficult economic challenges it faces and improve its economic prospects and the wellbeing of its people."

As Bloomberg's David Herbling wrote over the weekend, Ruto "has spent his first two years in office ramming through a slew of unpopular taxes—on everything from gasoline to wheelchair tires, bread to sanitary pads—thrilling international investors and the IMF, which has long urged Kenya to double its revenue collections to address its heavy debt burden."

Ruto's withdrawal of the tax-hike bill appeared unlikely to fully quell mass discontent over the president's IMF-aligned economic policies as protests continued on Thursday.

"The protests today are not as big as they were two days ago but they are still no less intense where they are happening," Al Jazeera's Zein Basravi reported from Nairobi. "If President Ruto, protesters say, had signed off on killing the tax bill 72 hours ago, a week ago, these protests might not be happening. But the decision he made, the concession, has come too little too late, and it has not gone far enough, and it has come at the cost of too many young lives."

"The protesters we have been speaking to are still very angry, still very frustrated, they hold the president responsible for the deaths of those young Kenyans across the country, 23 killed," Basravi added. "And they hold Parliament responsible for not standing stronger, standing firmer, against the president as they feel he was overreaching his position."

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said in a statement Wednesday that it is "crucial to recognize that the International Monetary Fund's austerity conditions have contributed to the economic hardships facing Kenyan citizens."

"These measures often disproportionately affect the most vulnerable populations and can exacerbate social unrest," continued Omar, who chairs the U.S.-Africa Policy Working Group. "It is imperative that protesters remain peaceful as they continue to demand change. I stand in solidarity with the people in the wake of both state violence and IMF-imposed austerity measures."

"The Kenyan government must immediately disclose the location and condition of all those who have been taken into custody or disappeared, cease the use of excessive force, respect the right to peacefully protest, and continue to engage in meaningful dialogue to address the legitimate concerns of its citizens," Omar said.

SEE ALL
Lawmakers Move to Bar Foreign-Owned Corporations From Spending on US Elections
News

Lawmakers Move to Bar Foreign-Owned Corporations From Spending on US Elections

Democratic lawmakers on Thursday introduced bills to the U.S. Senate and House seeking to ban corporations that are at least 5% foreign-owned from federal elections spending, drawing praise from advocacy groups.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) introduced the Get Foreign Money Out of U.S. Elections Act to the Senate and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) reintroduced the same bill to the House, with each version gaining co-sponsorship by progressive lawmakers such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

The legislation would, if enacted, dramatically curtail the power of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized unlimited corporate spending on elections, as the vast majority of major corporations have at least 5% foreign ownership.

"Autocrats and oligarchs across the globe have continually tried to control the outcome of U.S. elections, diluting the voices of citizens and undermining American democracy," Raskin said in a statement. "Our legislation closes a glaring loophole opened up by the Supreme Court's disastrous Citizens United decision which allows U.S. companies primarily owned by foreign entities to funnel money into our elections."

The bill would ban firms with either 5% of foreign ownership in aggregate or 1% ownership by a single foreign entity from electoral spending. The Center for American Progress (CAP) argued for those ownership thresholds in a 2019 report, which found that 98% of S&P 500 firms it analyzed had at least 5% foreign ownership.

Foreign ownership of U.S. corporations comes in many forms. Shell USA is a subsidiary of the oil major headquartered in London, but in other cases foreign investment or ownership is less obvious. Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund has stakes in several U.S. companies including Uber. As of 2020, about 40% of U.S. corporate stock was owned by foreigners, according to CAP.

The Whitehouse and Raskin law would only apply to federal elections, but certain states and cities have started to take similar action. Minnesota passed effectively the same bill—using the 5% and 1% thresholds—last year, in what a state official called the "Mount Rushmore" of electoral reform bills. The cities of Seattle and San Jose have passed similar bills.

Such legislation appears to have strong public support: 82% of likely voters agree that "there should be new limits on U.S. corporations spending money in our elections if the corporations have any foreign ownership," according to a Data for Progress poll released Wednesday.

A number of advocacy groups—including CAP, Common Cause, Free Speech for People, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and End Citizens United/Let America Vote Action Fund—expressed support for the new bill.

Ben Olinsky, a senior vice president at CAP, called it "commonsense legislation" that closes "a dangerous loophole opened by Citizens United and prohibit[s] political spending by foreign-influenced U.S. corporations" in a statement.

Alexandra Flores-Quilty, campaign director at Free Speech for People, said in a statement that the bill "puts our democracy back into the hands of the people where it belongs."

SEE ALL
Evyatar march
News

'The Land Theft Continues': Israel Announces Biggest West Bank Seizure in Over 30 Years

Human rights defenders on Wednesday condemned the far-right Israeli government's announcement of the largest seizure of Palestinian land—many critics bluntly called it "land theft"—in the illegally occupied West Bank in over 30 years.

On June 25, Israeli occupation authorities unilaterally declared 12,700 dunams, or 4.9 square miles, of land in the Jordan Valley "state lands." Israel's Custodian of the State's Property in the Civil Administration published the declaration on Wednesday. The move supplements previous Israeli land grabs totaling nearly 11,000 dunams (4.2 square miles) in February and March.

Combined, these are the biggest seizures of Palestinian land since the 1993 Oslo Accords.

"Land theft is a component part of colonial genocide as a social process," noted Heidi Matthews, an assistant professor at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University in Toronto.

Muther Isaac, academic dean of Bethlehem Bible College in Jerusalem, lamented that "the land theft continues in the West Bank!"

Israel's goal, according to Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, is to "establish facts on the ground" in service of annexing the Palestinian lands and establishing or expanding overwhelmingly Jewish colonies there. The push comes as more and more countries—nearly 150, according to Palestinian officials—officially recognize the state of Palestine and as Israeli forces continue an assault on Gaza that has been widely condemned as genocidal.

"We will establish sovereignty... first on the ground and then through legislation. I intend to legalize the young settlements," Smotrich said last month, referring to illegal outposts that are newer and smaller than established Jewish settler colonies.

"My life's mission is to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state," he added.

Under international law, all of the settlements are illegal. Most were built on land seized from Palestinians through terrorism and ethnic cleansing during the Nakba, or catastrophe, when more than 700,000 Arabs were expelled during the establishment and consolidation of modern Israel in the late 1940s, and during the conquest of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the Syrian Golan Heights in 1967.

Smotrich and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "are determined to fight against the entire world and against the interests of the people of Israel for the benefit of a handful of settlers who receive thousands of dunams as if there were no political conflict to resolve or war to end," the Tel Aviv-based activist group Peace Now said in a statement Wednesday.

"Today, it is clear to everyone that this conflict cannot be resolved without a political settlement that establishes a Palestinian state alongside Israel," the group added. "Still, the Israeli government chooses to actually make it difficult and distance us from the possibility of peace and stopping the bloodshed."

That bloodshed includes a surge in settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem since last October. More than 500 Palestinians—around a quarter of them children—have been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers there over the past nine months, according to Palestinian and international agencies.

Protected and sometimes aided by Israeli troops, Israeli settlers have launched multiple deadly pogroms targeting Palestinian people and property in the occupied territories since last year.

These and other previous attacks prompted the Biden administration to impose sanctions on a handful of the most extremist Israeli settlers. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also reverted to classifying Israeli settlements as inconsistent with international law, which was the State Department's position from 1978 until the Trump administration reversed it in 2019.

However, the U.S. remains Israel's staunchest international supporter, providing billions of dollars in military aid and diplomatic cover for Israeli policies and actions that, in addition to occupation and colonization, critics say amount to apartheid and ethnic cleansing in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

SEE ALL
Kaine
News

Coalition Urges Senators to Stop 'Illegal, Ineffective' US Airstrikes in Yemen

An anti-war coalition of over 50 groups this week wrote to four U.S. senators who have raised alarm about American airstrikes in Yemen and the Red Sea to call for legislation that would stop "illegal, ineffective, and deadly unauthorized" bombings.

The coalition on Wednesday wrote to Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Todd Young, (R-Ind.), who in January sent a joint letter to President Joe Biden stressing that "there is no current congressional authorization for offensive U.S. military action against the Houthis" and demanding answers about recent strikes against the group.

"We are grateful for your long-standing efforts in support of both ending U.S. participation in the war in Yemen, as well as your defense of Congress' war powers, including your joint letter," the coalition wrote to the senators. "We write today to urge you to take necessary actions to defend the role of Congress in authorizing war and military action, as the framers of our Constitution intended, and to introduce a Yemen War Powers Resolution to this end."

The coalition includes Action Corps, CodePink, Democracy for the Arab World Now, Demand Progress, Democratic Socialists of America International Committee, Just Foreign Policy, National Iranian American Council, Peace Action, RootsAction.org, Veterans for Peace, and dozens of other groups across the ideological spectrum.

"Unfortunately, about six months after the strikes began, there is scant evidence that the strikes have been either strategically smart or successful, as you correctly predicted when you wrote that the unauthorized strikes 'will not deter the Houthi attacks,'" the coalition continued, citing the January letter.

As the groups detailed:

Far from being deterred, the Houthis have actually expanded the range of their attacks, with an attack in late April targeting an Israeli-linked ship sailing 375 miles off the coast of Yemen. More recently, Houthi attacks have shown a 'significant increase in effectiveness,' according to security firm Ambrey, including through the use of drone boats and double-tap strikes. Houthi military officials have announced plans for further escalation of their attacks if no cease-fire is reached in Gaza. All of this was foreseen by experts, who widely predicted that the U.S. strikes would only strengthen the Houthis' narrative, contributing to greater popularity both at home and across the Muslim world, and helping them enlist tens of thousands of new fighters.

"To our knowledge, the administration has not even made a good-faith attempt to engage with the valid constitutional concerns and substantive policy critiques you have raised alongside dozens of House members, experts, and advocates," the coalition noted. "This leads us to believe that the administration has effectively conceded that it does not have valid legal and constitutional authority to engage in these strikes."

"The strikes have nonetheless continued unabated for months, with hundreds of missiles launched in Yemen, including an attack on May 30th that killed at least 16 people and injured about 42 people," the groups added. "This threatens to deny the American people critical congressional debate and oversight regarding this dangerous and strategically dubious military action, and could be cited by the executive branch to attempt to justify similar or even more expansive unauthorized military actions in other contexts in the future."

The coalition is calling on the bipartisan group of senators to "to move swiftly to rein in these unauthorized and unconstitutional strikes by introducing a War Powers Resolution to remove U.S. participation from hostilities in Yemen, until or unless Congress authorizes such action."

Multiple coalition members echoed the letter's demands on social media Thursday. Peace Action declared that "Congress needs to flex its constitutional duty to rein in unauthorized U.S. missile strikes."

Action Corps emphasized that Biden—who is seeking reelection in November against former Republican President Donald Trump—"has no authority to continue dropping bombs on Yemen."

"With each illegal bombing, peace is delayed, and more children are starved to death. It's time for bipartisan action to ensure only Congress can declare war, regardless of which party is in office," the group added. "Instead of bombing Yemen, the U.S. should be securing a cease-fire in Gaza and restoring humanitarian aid for people across the Middle East."

SEE ALL