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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holds a picture of  Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman at press conference.
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Mississippi Goddamn: You Were Definitely Involved In This

Honoring "a story of absolute moral and physical courage," we mark the 60th anniversary of the murder of young civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner by white supremacists for the crime of working to register black voters, end apartheid in the Jim Crow South, and make a better, fairer world. Amidst right-wing assaults on our rights and history, many deem it vital we remember those who confronted America's brutal racist legacy and declared, "We are not afraid."

The killing by some of the Ku Klux Klan's "very fine people" of three young men - one black native of Mississippi, two white Jews from New York - during 1964's "Freedom Summer" became a seminal moment in the Civil Rights movement. It was a fraught time in a still defiantly-segregationist South. The previous August, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech to an impassioned crowd of 250,000 in D.C. Three weeks later, white supremacy responded by bombing Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church during Sunday school, killing four young black girls and injuring over 20; that night, several black youths were also beaten to death. In a racist war of rights viciously withheld and ardently sought, voting was viewed as key in a state where Blacks made up about 40% of the population but - subdued by poll taxes, literacy tests, threats of violence - less than 7% of voters' ranks. "We had the old raggedy buses, we got the raggedy books with somebody else's name in them," recalls Jewel Rush McDonald, 78. "My mother (thought) there was a better way somewhere, but it wasn’t here in Mississippi."

Since 1961, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) had been sending organizers to Mississippi to get out the vote: "They trudged up and down dirt roads, sat on porches, went to church, walked into cotton fields and helped with daily chores." As their numbers swelled, segregationists intent on protecting their power "went to the whip hand." The mayor of Jackson added 100 new cops to their 200-strong police force along with 200 shotguns, tear gas, three military troop carriers, two horses and two dogs, and the governor called a special session to double highway patrols and stockpile guns. The Imperial Wizard of the KKK announced they needed "a secondary, extremely swift, extremely violent, hit-and-run group as J. Edgar Hoover's complicit FBI worked to undermine and infiltrate civil rights groups. And all of this was before 1964's Freedom Summer campaign in which organizers mobilized white college students, faith activists and other Freedom Riders from the North to travel to Mississippi to bolster voting rights efforts.

Moved to action by the 16th Street Church bombing, Michael 'Mickey' Schwerner, 24, was a Jewish social worker in Manhattan before he began running CORE's Meridian office with his wife Rita; in her CORE application, she wrote she hoped to "someday pass on to the children we may have a world containing more respect for the dignity and worth of all men than that world which was willed to us." Michael was close with Black Meridian native James Earl Chaney, 21, involved with civil rights efforts since he was 16. Soon after the two convinced members of nearby Philadelphia's Mt. Zion Methodist Church to train for voting rights work and host a Freedom School, the Klan went to the church and beat congregants; they later returned to set the church ablaze. Schwerner and Chaney spent several days comforting church members. On June 20, they drove back to Meridian with a CORE newcomer: Andrew Goodman, 20, a Jewish student at Queens College. The day before, he sent a postcard to his parents saying he'd arrived safely: "Dear Mom and Dad, The people in this city are wonderful and our reception was very good. All my love, Andy.”

The sultry morning of June 21, Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman left Meridian in an old station wagon for Philadelphia for a meeting on the church fire. Schwerner told a volunteer he'd be back by 4; if he wasn't, they should launch emergency protocols. With Freedom Riders arriving daily, tensions ran high. The Klan's Edgar Ray 'Preacher' Killen told a crew of new recruits to be ready for "the occasional elimination." The KKK already kept close watch on CORE; thanks to his friendship with Chaney, they'd come to especially hate Schwerner, and routinely talked about killing him. Around 3 p.m., Sheriff's deputy and KKKer Cecil Price pulled the three men over for "speeding," put them in jail, and alerted Killen to assemble a lynch mob. The men paid a fine; Price let them go around 10 p.m., chased them down a dirt road and turned them over to a carload of KKK who began beating them. Schwerner was dragged out first - "Are you that n***er lover?” He tried to reason - "Sir, I know how you feel" - and was shot point black in the chest. Goodman was shot next. Before Chaney was shot, he was beaten with chains; he may or may not have been castrated.

Word of their disappearance quickly spread, in large part because Schwerner and Goodman were white. Lyndon Johnson strong-armed Hoover to send over 100 agents to Mississippi, where they uncovered the Klan's reign of terror - and eight previously murdered black men and boys - but not the three missing CORE workers. On July 2, the House passed the Civil Rights Act into law. On July 16, Barry Goldwater, who voted against the Act, accepted the GOP nomination for president; he told delegates, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice." On Aug. 4, an FBI informant led agents to a dirt dam that held the bodies of three men killed in the defense of what white supremacists deemed "liberty." Goodman may have been alive when buried - he had red clay clutched in his hands - and all Chaney's bones were broken. In November, 18 Klan members, including Price, were arraigned on federal charges of violating the three men's civil rights; an all-white jury found seven guilty, but none served more than six years. Preacher Killen went free on a hung jury. The State of Mississippi declined to charge any of the 18 (or anyone else) with murder.

In 1988, an acclaimed book about the murders, and the sacrifices of so many others, was published; its title: "We Are Not Afraid." That year also saw the release of the award-winning movie Mississippi Burning; many whites in Mississippi said they'd known almost nothing about the murders until they saw the movie. "People had this voluntary amnesia," says Dawn Lea Mars Chalmers, 54. "There was a whole generation that grew up and didn't know - it was a deep, dark, secret stain...We all had these feelings of disgust and shame, like we should have known how it was." In 2004, on the 40th anniversary of the murders, Chalmers was one of a group of locals who started a coalition to prosecute Edgar Ray Killen, then 80. Heeding their call, the next year the state convicted him of manslaughter and sentenced him to 60 years. Killen died in the State Penitentiary in 2018 at 92; perversely, his gravestone bears the title "Rev." Still, says Chalmers, "It was some sort of reckoning that we felt led to do...That's what (we) owe the generation that went through it - to make sure people know what those boys were fighting for."

Many others join them in tribute. Every June, Mount Zion holds a service that for years Jewel McDonald planned; she felt it was her responsibility. "They came here to help us. I feel we owe it to them," she says, teary. “If they could die, lose their lives - their lives were taken, I should say - that’s the least I could do." In 2014, Obama presented Presidential Medals of Freedom posthumously to Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner "for how they lived - with the idealism and the courage of youth." In May, at Queens College commencement, medals were awarded to Goodman's brother David for his Andrew Goodman Foundation's social justice initiatives; to the Rev. Julia Chaney-Moss, James's sister and an activist minister; and Stephen Schwerner, Mickey's brother, for his lifelong anti-war and civil rights advocacy. Last week, Robert Reich described, as a child bullied for being short, how he was protected by the same Mickey, "a kind and gentle teenager (who) made me feel safe." Today, in an America beset by bullies - of black, poor, gay, trans, female, exploited - "It is incumbent on all of us to stand up to bullies, and be each other’s protectors."

This, photographer Danny Lyon argues, "is what the Southern civil rights movement was about" - these three men and their "absolute moral and physical courage, literally ready to die for the kind of ideas that this country has always claimed it stood for, and almost never in its history actually practiced." He summons other "unsung heroes" of the movement: Diane Nash, Bob Mosses, Fannie Lou Hamer, the "sheer terror" faced by Freedom Riders, "John Lewis punched in the face as he came first off the bus, mobs of over a thousand that greeted the riders, smashing cameras, faces, and heads," black hospitals packed with riders "with broken noses, bones, lacerations from police clubs used against demonstrators who were actually praying at the moment," over 14,000 people arrested during a ten-week period in 1963 known as "Firestorm," the "action in the streets that created the pressure for social and legal change." The lesson: "That it is possible to make history, and that individual Americans have some control over their destiny. It happened once - and not so long ago."

Today, Blacks make up just over half the population of about 7,000 in a Bible-Belt Philadelphia where the Popeye's sign flashes, "Jesus is the answer." Lynch mobs are gone, there are historic Freedom Trail markers - albeit "widely scattered, easily missed" - and a somewhat incongruous Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner Memorial Highway. But a Confederate monument still stands, the state ranks at or near the bottom in poverty, health care, education and jobs, with Blacks suffering disproportionately, and a local museum features exhibits on farming, bluegrass and the beloved Neshoba County Fair but, says an elderly docent, "We don't stress the civil rights here." In the cemetery at Mount Zion Church, three weathered gravestones bear the names and cameo images of Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman; the dates of death are all June 21, 1964. When their bodies were finally found, part of the grisly mystery was solved. But a "clearly shaken" Martin Luther King Jr. posed a "deeper question: It’s not so much who killed those young men, but what killed them."

Key to the answer, argues Tim Moore, is accountability for systemic racism. To white people in Philadelphia and across the South, he asserts, "You were definitely involved in this."' Still, for black people, says Eddie Hinton, 64, who serves as pastor for four small congregations, including Mount Zion, "Even after all those years, they’re still hurting....A message of healing is what I search for most of the time." As to the better world the three men died for, suggests James Young, 68, patience is required. As a young boy, Young remembers watching his father lie on the living room floor, rifle ready, after the community got word "the Klan is riding tonight." Today, as four-term mayor and the town's first African-American leader, he says, "We have made strides to be better..I'm gonna put it just like that." Mirroring the city's brutal past, he says, "I have seen the power of the vote." He won his first race for mayor by 45 votes. "We went after every live body that was registered," he says, pleading with them to go vote. "We found out some weren't going because they couldn't read, or because they didn't want to tell folks they couldn't read. And this was 2009."

Still, while Philadelphia has changed, Leroy Clemons, 62, wonders if it's possible to truly move forward into the future without grappling with the past. A sort of ambassador for his city, Clemons works with youth and leads civil rights tours - though usually from out of state, not within a GOP-controlled state that created a new Constitution specifically for the purpose of disenfranchising African American voters. On his tours, he takes students to Mount Nebo Missionary Church, the McClelland Cafe, the town's only black-owned business that survived the civil rights era, and the wooded area where Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman were murdered. "I always say to young people, 'I'm going to tell you what happened. But I want y'all, more importantly, to understand why those things were happening.'" In that spot, he kneels and feels terror: "It immediately takes me back to that night - as a Black man, a Black person... I can see the faces of those young boys standing out there with these men, not knowing what to expect. When I’m down on my knees, and I’m telling the story, it’s like I can feel Michael there, holding his friend James, in his arms."

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Climate rally at United Kingdom Supreme Court
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Landmark UK Supreme Court Ruling 'Slams Brakes' on New Fossil Fuel Projects

In a landmark decision that could spell doom for all new fossil fuel projects in the country, the United Kingdom's highest court ruled Thursday that local planning authorities unlawfully failed to consider the full planet-warming emissions impact when they approved a drilling initiative that was expected to yield more than 3 million tonnes of oil over two decades.

The most recent challenge to the closely watched drilling project was brought to the U.K. Supreme Court in 2023 by climate campaigner Sarah Finch, who argued that the Surrey County Council's granted permission for new oil wells at Horse Hill without taking into account future emissions from burning the fossil fuel produced at the sites—so-called "downstream" emissions.

In a 3-2 decision, the U.K.'s high court ruled that the Surrey council's approval of the Horse Hill drilling "was unlawful because the emissions that will occur when the oil produced is burnt as fuel are within the scope of the [environmental impact assessment] required by law."

"The oil and gas companies may act like business-as-usual is still an option, but it will be very hard for planning authorities to permit new fossil fuel developments."

Finch said Thursday that she is "absolutely over the moon to have won this important case."

"This is a welcome step towards a safer, fairer future," Finch continued. "The oil and gas companies may act like business-as-usual is still an option, but it will be very hard for planning authorities to permit new fossil fuel developments—in the Weald, the North Sea, or anywhere else—when their true climate impact is clear for all to see."

Friends of the Earth U.K., which backed Finch's legal challenge, called the court's ruling "a heavy blow for the fossil fuel industry," noting that the decision "could have ramifications for other proposed fossil fuel projects, such as the Whitehaven coal mine, as well as projects to extract oil from the North Sea."

Scientists have made clear that no new oil and gas projects are consistent with efforts to limit planetary warming to 1.5°C by century's end.

"If developers are now obliged to present the full climate impacts of their projects (instead of just a fraction of those impacts, as has largely happened up until now), then decision-makers may well think twice before granting them planning permission," Friends of the Earth U.K. said in a statement Thursday.

Extinction Rebellion U.K., another supporter of Finch's challenge, said Thursday's ruling effectively "slams brakes" on new fossil fuel projects in the country.

"Not only does today's Supreme Court ruling destroy [U.K. Oil and Gas'] plans to drill for up to 3.3 million tonnes of crude oil for 20 years at its Horse Hill site, near Gatwick Airport, but also has huge implications for all future fossil fuel projects in the U.K.," the organization said. "Neither the Cumbrian coal mine in Whitehaven nor the Rosebank oil field in the North Sea sought consent for their projects. Nor did they provide any information on downstream emissions in their environmental statements. Both projects are the subjects of legal challenges."

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Medical worker
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'We Need Medicare for All Yesterday': US Healthcare Spending to Hit $7.7 Trillion

A federal analysis released this week projects that U.S. healthcare spending is set to rise to $7.7 trillion by 2032 and account for nearly 20% of the nation's economy, findings that single-payer advocates described as yet another indictment of the country's for-profit system and further evidence of the need for Medicare for All.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' (CMS) Office of the Actuary said Wednesday that it expects national healthcare expenditures to outpace U.S. economic growth over roughly the next decade, "resulting in an increase in the health spending share of GDP from 17.3% in 2022 to 19.7% in 2032."

The CMS analysis showed that U.S. healthcare spending grew at a rate of 7.5% last year, with overall expenditures reaching $4.8 trillion. CMS said it projects health spending will rise by 5.6% annually over the coming years, with overall spending reaching $7.7 trillion by 2032.

Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said in a statement Thursday that the coming surge in healthcare spending "has nothing to do with improving care and everything to do with price-gouging, monopolization, and wealth extraction by insurance corporations, Big Pharma, and for-profit hospitals."

Despite spending more on healthcare per capita than any other rich nation, the U.S. consistently ranks last among its peers in health outcomes.

Weissman on Thursday pointed to an academic analysis published earlier this week in JAMA Internal Medicine detailing the massive costs of Medicare Advantage, a federally funded program run by private insurance companies. The paper notes that private Medicare Advantage plans have overcharged the federal government to the tune of $612 billion since 2007—much of which insurers pocket as profit.

"We have known for decades that healthcare costs in the U.S. are out of control," said Weissman. "The jaw-dropping figures from CMS highlight the need to move to Medicare for All immediately so that we can finally start to make healthcare more affordable for taxpayers, while ensuring everyone in America can access the care and medicines they need."

Studies have repeatedly shown that transitioning to a Medicare for All system—as proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and more than 120 other members of Congress—would save the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars a year and countless lives compared to the status quo, which leaves tens of millions of people uninsured, underinsured, and unable to afford lifesaving treatments and medications.

Peer-reviewed research published in 2022 estimated that more than 338,000 coronavirus-related deaths could have been prevented in the U.S. if the country had a single-payer system that guaranteed coverage to all people as a right.

"Other countries spend far less per capita on healthcare while guaranteeing coverage and providing higher quality care," Weissman said Thursday. "It is time that we do the same."

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Bowman
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Bowman v. Latimer Is About Whether Billionaires Control Congress, Says Sanders

With early voting already underway in New York, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders warned Tuesday that Westchester County Executive George Latimer's primary challenge to Democratic Congressman Jamaal Bowman in the state's 16th District is ultimately about the power of the ultrarich.

"The Democratic primary between Rep. Jamaal Bowman and George Latimer is not just a clash of two very different points of view. It is a clash over the future of the Democratic Party and the future of American politics," said Sanders (I-Vt.). "It is a clash over whether we will have, at least minimally, a democratic form of government in which Congress represents the needs of ordinary Americans, or whether Congress will be completely controlled by the billionaire class and corporate interests."

Sanders' statement came as the senator prepares to rally with Bowman on Friday at MacEachron Park in Hastings-on-Hudson. On Saturday, they are set to be joined by Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents New York's 14th District, for a get-out-the-vote rally at St. Mary's Park in the Bronx. The official primary date is June 25.

Bowman—a critic of the U.S.-backed Israeli war on Gaza—has been the top congressional target of pro-Israel lobbying groups during this cycle. In fact, largely thanks to spending by a group tied to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), "it had become the nation's most expensive House primary this year," Gannett reported this week.

United Democracy Project (UPD), an AIPAC-affiliated super political action committee (PAC), has spent over $14 million on advertising for the contest, according to AdImpact. The group is followed by Latimer—who filed paperwork for his campaign after visiting Israel and was accused of "straight up Islamophobia" during a debate with Bowman last week.

"Latimer's campaign will attract more billionaire super PAC money than any primary race in history," Sanders said Tuesday. "The donors behind these super PACs, AIPAC's United Democracy Project and the crypto-backed Fairshake, are not only spending a huge amount of money to support Latimer's campaign, but are also making large donations to right-wing extremist Republican candidates."

"For the billionaires who control these super PACs, it doesn't matter much whether you are a Democrat or a Republican. It only matters that you support the corporate agenda and Establishment neo-con foreign policies," he continued. "The defeat of Bowman would not only result in the loss of a strong, progressive member of Congress, it would be a message to every member of Congress that if you oppose corporate interests the billionaire class will take you down. We must not allow that to happen."

Sharing Sanders' full remarks on social media, Bowman said that "AIPAC and their Republican billionaire donors are using NY16 as a test. They think they can buy our district—but we won't let them. On June 25th it's the many v. the money, and we will win."

Fellow "Squad" member Ocasio-Cortez also took aim at AIPAC on social media Tuesday, declaring that it is "time to rally."

"Big money, from AIPAC to Wall Street, have poured millions to buy this election," she said, urging participation in the Saturday rally. "To win, we must mobilize thousands."

In addition to targeting Bowman, AIPAC, UDP, and wealthy right-wingers are working to oust another Squad member: Democratic Congresswoman Cori Bush, who is facing St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell the August 6 primary for Missouri's 1st District.

"We've got your back, Jamaal Bowman!" Bush declared on social media last week. "From St. Louis to the Bronx, I know the people will stand with us to show that we are #NotForSale!"

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Arundhati Roy attends a demonstration wearing a small "Free the Press" sign.
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'Unconscionable': Prosecution of Arundhati Roy Sanctioned Under Indian Anti-Terror Law

Delhi Lieutenant Gov. V. K. Saxena has sanctioned the prosecution of world-renowned Indian author and activist Arundhati Roy over comments she allegedly made 14 years ago regarding Kashmir, officials from his office said on Friday.

Saxena is a member of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), and Roy has been a vocal critic of Modi and what she has described as India's "descent... into full-blown fascism" under BJP leadership.

"This is horrifying—a clear case of political persecution by an authoritarian government" Seven Stories Press, which publishes Roy's work, wrote on social media in response to the news.

"This kind of fascism is exactly what Indians have voted against."

Along with Roy, Saxena also sanctioned the prosecution of former Central University of Kashmir international law professor Sheikh Showkat Hussain. The charges originate from a conference the two attended in New Delhi titled "Azadi: The Only Way" on October 21, 2010, according to Indian media.

During the conference, Roy allegedly said that Kashmir—a disputed territory that is administered partly by Pakistan and partly by India, and where the Indian occupation has committed human rights abuses—"has never been an integral part of India."

On October 28, 2010, a first information report (FIR) naming Roy, Hussain, and other co-defendants who have since died was registered in the New Delhi's Court of Metropolitan Magistrate. A FIR is a document that law-enforcement officials file after receiving actionable information about a potential offense.

"The issues discussed and spoken about at the conference propagated the 'separation of Kashmir from India,'" the governor's office said.

Friday's sanction allows the prosecution of Roy and Hussain under a part of India's controversial Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) related to sedition. It follows Saxena's decision in October of last year to allow the case to move forward under different sections of the Indian Penal Code.

As the Independent explained:

The UAPA allows the authorities to detain suspects for up to 180 days without any charges. It was tweaked by the Modi administration in 2019 so that individuals could be classified as terrorists without necessarily being linked to a designated terror group. A total of 1,948 people were arrested in 2019 after the change came into force, marking an uptick of almost 37% from the previous year.

The new development comes a little more than a week after Modi's BJP failed to win a majority in India's elections for the first time since 2014. While Modi retained control of the government through his coalition partners, the better-than-expected performance of the opposition was widely seen as a setback for the right-wing leader, and some critics thought the election results and the prosecution of Roy might be related.

"If by prosecuting Arundhati Roy under UAPA the BJP are trying to prove they're back, well they're not. And they'll never be back the same way they were," member of parliament Mahua Moitra from the opposition Trinamool Congress Party said, adding, "This kind of fascism is exactly what Indians have voted against."

Other Indian opposition politicians spoke out against the targeting of Roy.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) said the move was "condemnable" and that prosecuting Roy for a speech made 14 years ago "defies logic except the fascist kind," as The Guardian reported.

"Timing is suspect since courts are on vacation, as are lawyers," the party added.

Communist Party of India leader D. Raja also said that the "timing is highly questionable" and added that "it appears to be a political vendetta."

Several well-known authors and activists expressed solidarity with the 62-year-old Roy, who won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her novel The God of Small Things.

"Solidarity with Arundhati Roy," author Hari Kunzru posted on social media. "Modi has been out to get her since the days when she spoke out about his complicity in the 2002 Gujarat riots. She once told me a terrifying story about having to escape via the roof of an Ahmedabad guesthouse when police came to question her."

Author Amitav Ghosh said: "The hounding of Arundhati Roy is absolutely unconscionable. She is a great writer and has a right to her opinion. There needs to be an international outcry about the case that has been brought against her for something she said a decade ago."

Poet Zeeshan Joonam wrote: "The attempt to silence the legendary writer Arundhati Roy from India must be condemned by all free speech advocates. She has done nothing wrong. She is an intellectual and moral giant."

Former Greek Finance Minister and leader of the pan-European leftist political party DiEM25 Yanis Varoufakis, meanwhile, issued a challenge to the international community.

"Only yesterday I was expressing concern over the rumors that Arundhati Roy might be Modi's next political prisoner. A day later the rumor is becoming a reality," Varoufakis posted on social media. "Will there be an uproar in the 'civilized' West? Or will complicity be the order of the day a la Assange?"

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NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg
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Campaigners Decry 'Dangerous Escalation' as NATO Chief Floats Nuclear Deployment

Nuclear disarmament campaigners on Monday implored NATO and Russia to step back from the brink after the head of the Western military alliance said its members are considering deploying additional atomic weapons to counter Moscow and Beijing.

"This is the dangerous escalation inherent to the deterrence doctrine," the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) wrote on social media, referring to the notion that the threat of catastrophic nuclear retaliation prevents nations from using atomic weaponry.

The U.S., which spent more on its atomic weapons arsenal than every other nuclear-armed nation combined last year, currently has nukes deployed in five NATO countries—Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Russia, meanwhile, recently deployed nuclear weapons to Belarus, which said earlier this month that it would join Moscow's nuclear exercises.

ICAN said Monday that "it's time for both to reverse course."

"NATO countries hosting U.S. nuclear weapons should admit to their citizens they have weapons of mass destruction on their soil with no public say," ICAN added. "But neither Belarus nor NATO allies should flaunt being prepared to indiscriminately kill millions of people."

"The risk of nuclear weapons use, and public attention to this danger, is at an all-time high."

The group's warning came after NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg toldThe Telegraph on Sunday that members of the military alliance are in the process of deliberating over "how many nuclear warheads should be operational and which should be stored."

"NATO's aim is, of course, a world without nuclear weapons, but as long as nuclear weapons exist, we will remain a nuclear alliance, because a world where Russia, China, and North Korea have nuclear weapons, and NATO does not, is a more dangerous world," Stoltenberg continued.

The NATO chief's remarks drew a swift response from Moscow. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Kremlin, condemned Stoltenberg's comments as "nothing else but an escalation" and claimed that whenever Russian President Vladimir Putin "comments on the issue of nuclear arms, he does so taking someone's questions or questions from reporters, including foreign ones."

A report published Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) found that "nearly all" of the world's 2,100 deployed nuclear warheads that were "kept in a state of high operational alert" as of January 2024 belonged to the U.S. or Russia.

Separately, ICAN released an analysis Monday showing that the U.S., Russia, and China were the world's largest spenders on nuclear weapons last year. The U.S. and Russia control about 90% of the world's arsenal of atomic weapons. According to experts, a nuclear conflict between the two countries would likely kill tens of millions of people within hours and set off a devastating global famine.

"The risk of nuclear weapons use, and public attention to this danger, is at an all-time high," ICAN's new report warns. "Explicit and implicit threats to use nuclear weapons, including in the context of ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, combined with the Oppenheimer blockbuster, Fallout TV show (and possible video game reboot), and bestselling book 'Nuclear War: A Scenario,' mean the world is talking about the bomb."

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