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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."

Campaigners with the Sunrise Movement

'The Pressure Is Working': Biden Weighs Climate Emergency Declaration

The youth-led Sunrise Movement on Thursday celebrated Bloombergreporting that "White House officials have renewed discussions about potentially declaring a national climate emergency."

The Wednesday revelation came just two days after six young activists were arrested outside Vice President Kamala Harris' Los Angeles, California home to increase pressure on the Biden administration to make such a declaration, which would unlock various federal powers to combat the fossil fuel-driven global crisis.

According to Bloomberg:

Top advisers to President Joe Biden have recently resumed talks about the merits of such a move, which could be used to curtail crude exports, suspend offshore drilling, and curb greenhouse gas emissions, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named because a final decision has not been made.

White House advisers are divided over the idea of declaring a climate emergency, with some saying it wouldn't provide Biden with enough newfound authority to make substantial changes, the people said. Others, however, argue such an announcement would galvanize climate-minded voters.

"The pressure is working. Let's keep it up," Sunrise said on social media, highlighting some of what Biden—who claimed last year that "practically speaking," he had already declared a national climate emergency—could do with a real declaration.

Sunrise wasn't alone in welcoming the news. The Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) Action said that "we've BEEN calling for a climate emergency!! Now, the White House is considering declaring one."

The group urged Biden to "keep listening to the millions of young, people of color, and working-class voters who are demanding climate policy that meets the moment."

As Biden and Harris have campaigned for reelection in November—when they are expected to face former Republican President Donald Trump, whose plan for the planet is "drill, baby, drill"—the Democrats have encountered intense pressure from campaigners including members of CPD and Sunrise to step up their climate actions.

"I'm on the frontlines raising my voice for my Black and Latine families and friends, because I know that we deserve to have affordable housing and healthcare, we deserve an administration who will fight for us, but instead of declaring a climate emergency, we are seeing Biden and Harris expand oil and gas production to record levels," 18-year-old Ariela Lara, who was arrested at Harris' house, said Monday.

Climate campaigners have praised the Biden administration for parts of the Inflation Reduction Act and a recent pause on liquefied natural gas exports but blasted the president for skipping last year's United Nations summit, continuing fossil fuel lease sales, and enabling the Mountain Valley Pipeline, Willow oil project, and construction of the nation's largest offshore oil terminal.

Elon Musk

Forbes Billionaires List Shows 'Utterly Unconscionable' Wealth Growth of World's Richest

Forbes on Tuesday released its latest catalog of, as one economic justice campaigner put it, people who should be regulated "out of existence" as the business magazine unveiled its 2024 Billionaires List, featuring near the top a number of U.S. tech billionaires who have aggressively opposed workers' rights movements and fair taxation.

The magazine reported that the number of worldwide billionaires grew by 141 in the past year, with 2,781 people holding wealth that exceeds $1 billion.

Those people own combined assets of $14.2 trillion, exceeding the gross domestic product of every country in the world except the U.S. and China.

Bernard Arnault, head of the LVMH fashion and cosmetics empire in France, currently holds the top slot on the Billionaires List, while Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos are No. 2 and No. 3 on the list.

Both Musk and Bezos have garnered international attention in recent years for their companies' illegal anti-union activity, and Tesla and Amazon have both avoided billions of dollars in federal taxes in recent years.

"It is utterly unconscionable that at a time where masses of the world's population are living in dire poverty, a few individuals are allowed to amass staggering wealth," said Daisy Pearson, campaigns and activism officer at Global Justice Now. "This is only possible through exploitation, and their monopolization of wealth and resources further allows them to amass huge power and influence over decisions that affect our everyday lives. Enough is enough—we should be regulating these barons out of existence."

"It is utterly unconscionable that at a time where masses of the world's population are living in dire poverty, a few individuals are allowed to amass staggering wealth."

Chase Peterson-Withorn, wealth editor at Forbes, toldThe Guardian that "the superrich continue to thrive" as people across the planet face higher prices of goods, cost-of-living crises, and the costs associated with increasingly frequent extreme weather events and the climate emergency.

"A record-breaking 14 centibillionaires [$100 billion] have 12-figure fortunes," Peterson-Whithorn said.

Luke Hildyard, executive director of the High Pay Center, told the outlet that the Forbes list, rather than an accounting of those who have earned the most money, "is essentially an annual calculation of how much of the wealth created by the global economy is captured by a tiny caste of oligarchs rather than being used to benefit humanity as a whole."

While the global population is "living through incredibly unequal times, lurching from one crisis to the next," added Robert Palmer, executive director of Tax Justice U.K., the richest people in the world amass "extraordinary levels of wealth."

"World leaders need to ensure the superrich are paying their fair share, for example through introducing wealth taxes," said Palmer. "This would help provide the resources needed to tackle multiple crises from inequality to climate change."

CPC Chair Pramila Jayapal

Congressional Progressives Unveil 'Bold' Agenda for Second Biden Term

The Congressional Progressive Caucus on Thursday published a "comprehensive domestic policy legislative agenda" for U.S. President Joe Biden's possible second White House term that seeks to "deliver equality, justice, and economic security for working people."

The CPC's Progressive Proposition Agenda is a seven-point plan aimed at lowering the cost of living, boosting wages and worker power, advancing justice, combating climate change and protecting the environment, strengthening democracy, breaking the corporate stranglehold on the economy, and bolstering public education.

"Progressives are proud to have been part of the most significant Democratic legislative accomplishments of this century. We have made real progress for everyday Americans—but there's much more work to be done," Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said in a statement.

"That's why the Progressive Caucus has identified these popular, populist, and possible solutions," she added. "Democrats in Congress can meet the urgent needs people are facing; rewrite the rules to ensure majorities of this country are no longer barred from the American promise of equality, justice, and economic opportunity; and motivate people with a vision of progressive governance under Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and a Democratic White House."

Progressive lawmakers have already introduced bills for many items on the agenda, including a Green New Deal for Public Schools, expanding the Supreme Court, comprehensive voting rights protection, and legalizing marijuana.

Critics noted the conspicuous absence of Medicare for All—once a top progressive agenda item—and foreign policy issues including ending Israel's genocide, apartheid, occupation, settler colonization, and ethnic cleansing in Palestine.

Jayapal toldNBC News that the CPC is focusing its blueprint exclusively on domestic goals—especially ones it feels can be achieved.

"The way we came to this agenda is to say that we were going to put into this agenda things that were populist and possible... and affected a huge number of people," she said. "We haven't taken a position on particularly Israel and Gaza in the progressive caucus, and so that's not on here."

The CPC agenda is backed by a wide range of labor, climate, environmental, civil rights, consumer, faith-based, and other organizations.

"The Congressional Progressive Caucus is leading the way for Congress to address the major issues affecting working families, from reducing healthcare and housing costs to strengthening workers' rights to join unions, earn living wages and benefits, and have safe workplaces," Service Employees International Union president Mary Kay Henry said in a statement.

"SEIU is proud to partner with the CPC to move these priorities forward and build a more equitable economy in which corporations are held accountable for their actions," she added.

Mary Small, chief strategy officer at Indivisible, said: "House progressives were the engine at the heart of our legislative accomplishments in 2021 and 2022. They've continued that momentum to be true governing partners to the Biden administration as those laws and programs are implemented."

"That's why Indivisible is so supportive of the CPC's Proposition Agenda, a bold vision for progressive governance in 2025 and beyond. From reproductive rights to saving our democracy to economic security for all, the CPC is driving forward exactly the sort of legislative goals we want to see in our next governing moment."

That moment is far from guaranteed, with not only the White House hanging in the balance as Biden will all but certainly face former Republican President Donald Trump in November's election but also the Senate Democratic Caucus clinging to a single-seat advantage over the GOP. Republicans currently hold the House of Representatives by a five-seat margin.

Lula signs Indigenous demarcation document

Indigenous Brazilians Lament Lula's Unfulfilled Land Demarcation Promises

Friday is Indigenous Peoples Day in Brazil, and tribal leaders and activists used the occasion to criticize the left-wing government of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for falling short on promises to safeguard native land rights.

On Thursday, the Brazilian government announced the demarcation of Aldeia Velha, land of the Pataxó people, in the northeastern state of Bahia, as well as the territory of the Karajá people in Cacique Fontoura, Mato Grosso.

"Since the beginning of the current government, 10 areas have been regularized out of a total of 14 routed for approval," the government said in a statement. "The act reaffirms the focus of the federal government on the protection and respect of Indigenous peoples."

However, Indigenous peoples were anticipating the demarcation of six new territories. Lula acknowledged their disappointment.

"I know you are apprehensive and expected the demarcation of six Indigenous lands. But now we only announce two. And I'm being real with you," he said.

"Some of this missing land is occupied either by farmers or peasants," the president explained. "We cannot arrive without giving these people an alternative. Some governors asked for time to resolve, in a negotiated manner, the eviction of these territories so that we can demarcate them."

"The definition of these lands is already ready. What we do not want is to promise you today, and tomorrow you read in the newspaper, that a contrary decision was made," Lula added. "The frustration would be greater."

But the frustration was already there—and growing.

"This is revolting for us Indigenous peoples to have had so much faith in the government's commitments to our rights and the demarcation of our territories," Alessandra Korap Munduruku, a member of the Munduruku people and a 2023 winner of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, told Amazon Watch in a statement published Friday.

"We hear all of these discussions about environmental and climate protection, but without support for Indigenous peoples on the front lines, suffering serious attacks and threats. Lula cannot speak about fighting climate change without fulfilling his duty to demarcate our lands," she added.

Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), an umbrella group, said in a statement earlier this week that "the most serious thing is that the Lula government is tarnishing its historical trajectory."

"Since campaigning for his first term in 2002, the president has committed to demarcating Indigenous lands, but he was one of the governments that demarcated the least," the group contended. "And now, like other old and conservative governments, in the name of the country's progress and economic development, [Lula's government] undermines the basis of Indigenous peoples' existence, becoming hostage to the market, the powerbrokers, agribusiness, evangelicals, and the military."

APIB demanded that Lula "put an end to the criminal organizations that intimidate our people and communities, persecute and murder our leaders" and "dedicate farms for agrarian reform and demarcate our lands, which have been invaded and plundered for centuries by the invaders who arrived here 524 years ago and their current descendants."

Thousands of Indigenous peoples from throughout Brazil are expected to rally in the capital Brasília next week for the Terra Livre—or Free Land, camp—the country's largest annual native mobilization. Two years ago, Lula, then a presidential candidate, told Terra Livre attendees that he would end illegal mining on Indigenous lands. Despite a crackdown that resulted in an initial dramatic drop in illicit mineral extraction on Indigenous lands, illegal miners have returned with a vengeance in places including land belonging to the Yanomami people.

Criticism of Lula's demarcation process and the Brazilian government's Indigenous rights record came from outside Brazil as well.

"Human rights defenders are under extreme threat in Brazil. The federal government knows this but has so far failed to put the structures in place to provide them with better protection and tackle the root causes of the risks they face," Mary Lawlor, the United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, in a Friday statement after an official visit to Brazil.

"Land is also the key to the protection of these defenders," she continued. "When I asked them what they thought would protect them they were clear: removal of invaders and demarcation now; accountability for environmental crimes. This for them is what collective protection, which is what is needed, means."

"There must be demarcation and titling," Lawlor added. "There can be no more delay."

Israeli tanks

Led by US, Global Military Spending Surged to Record $2.4 Trillion Last Year

New research published Monday shows that global military spending increased in 2023 for the ninth consecutive year, surging to $2.4 trillion as Russia's assault on Ukraine and Israel's war on the Gaza Strip helped push war-related outlays to an all-time high.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) recorded military spending increases in every geographical region it examined last year, from Europe to Oceania to the Middle East. Last year's global increase of 6.8% was the largest since 2009, SIPRI said.

The United States was by far the largest military spender at $916 billion in 2023, up 2.3% compared to the previous year. The next biggest spender was China, which poured an estimated $296 billion into its military last year—three times less than the U.S.

"Can we get some healthcare please, or maybe feed some of the 40 million+ Americans who can't get enough food?" asked the watchdog group Public Citizen in response to SIPRI's report, which found that the U.S. accounted for 37% of the world's total military spending last year.

A separate analysis of U.S. military spending in 2023 found that 62% of the country's federal discretionary budget went to militarized programs, leaving less than half of the budget for healthcare, housing, nutrition assistance, education, and other domestic priorities.

Together, SIPRI found, the top five biggest military spenders last year—the U.S., China, Russia, India, and Saudi Arabia—accounted for 61% of global military outlays.

"The unprecedented rise in military spending is a direct response to the global deterioration in peace and security," Nan Tian, senior researcher with SIPRI's Military Expenditure and Arms Production Program, said in a statement. "States are prioritizing military strength but they risk an action-reaction spiral in the increasingly volatile geopolitical and security landscape."

In the Middle East, military spending jumped by 9% last year—the highest annual growth rate in the past decade. Israel, which relies heavily on weapons imports from the U.S., spent 24% more on its military last year than in 2022, according to SIPRI, an increase fueled by the country's devastating assault on Gaza.

SIPRI found that NATO's 31 member countries dumped a combined $1.3 trillion into military expenditures in 2023, accounting for 55% of the global total.

U.S. military spending, which is poised to continue surging in the coming years, made up 68% of NATO's 2023 total.