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Mike Ferner, 419-729-7273
Michael McPhearson, 314-303-8874
In response to the recent brutal air strikes that have killed over 100 Afghan civilians, most of them women and children, the president of Veterans For Peace, a national veterans' organization, wrote to President Obama earlier this week calling the escalation of violence in Afghanistan a "tragic mistake."
The letter from former Navy Corpsman Mike Ferner asked Mr. Obama, "What is the number of dead and injured at which you will say 'this can't go on;' the number at which you decide it's time to turn away from violence and find another way?"
Ferner's letter continued, "We've been through this before, Mr. President...We have seen and heard and smelled and felt what 'death from above' actually means, not in a briefing report but right there in our hands and before eyes. We've seen the look in the eyes of the people we occupied. We've felt their anger and humiliation. We remember these things well, Mr. President, because they will not go away no matter how many years pass."
Veterans For Peace (VFP) National Executive Director, Michael McPhearson, an Army veteran of the First Gulf War, explained, "Escalation of forces and violence in the region will not work. The Pentagon claims drones and bombings are an effective means to engage the Taliban and al Qaeda, but killing civilians is alienating the Afghan people and driving them into the arms of the Taliban. This is not in the interest of the people of Afghanistan or the U.S."
ABC news online reported Monday that the Afghan Parliament is calling for, "legal restrictions on foreign forces fighting in their country, to prevent further civilian deaths..." and that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has already called for an end to all air strikes. His request was rejected by the U.S.
At its 2008 Annual Convention, VFP passed a resolution calling for: "the government of the United States to immediately withdraw all military and intelligence forces from Afghanistan and Pakistan; to provide humanitarian aid directly to the people of Afghanistan, in non-coercive forms, to help the Afghan people rebuild their own nation and their lives in cooperation with other nations in the region; and to allow the people of Afghanistan to freely determine their own government without interference by the US."
The veterans' resolution also renounced the claim that the war in Afghanistan is somehow the "right" war and reaffirmed their position that war must be abolished.
The full text of Ferner's letter can be found at Veterans For Peace website, www.veteransforpeace.org.
Veterans For Peace is a global organization of Military Veterans and allies whose collective efforts are to build a culture of peace by using our experiences and lifting our voices. We inform the public of the true causes of war and the enormous costs of wars, with an obligation to heal the wounds of wars. Our network is comprised of over 140 chapters worldwide whose work includes: educating the public, advocating for a dismantling of the war economy, providing services that assist veterans and victims of war, and most significantly, working to end all wars.(314) 725-6005
"The work we've done over the last five months will make a generational impact on our state—it will lower costs, improve lives, and cut child poverty," said Gov. Tim Walz.
Progressives are applauding what Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman called the state's "transformational" legislative session, which ended on Tuesday after the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party passed nearly every item on its agenda, securing economic justice, reproductive rights, and labor protections for Minnesotans.
With the DFL holding only a narrow majority in the state House and Senate—a six-vote and one-vote margin, respectively—policy researcher Will Stancil said on social media that "the scale of their achievement cannot be overstated."
"The Minnesota Legislature just completed what is probably the most productive session anywhere in the country since probably the New Deal," he said. "Sweeping bills and reforms across every area of life."
Stancil was among a number of progressives who highlighted nearly two dozen bills passed by the DFL and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, who posted an image of a whiteboard with party's legislative agenda on it along with the word, "Done."
The party's achievements over the past five months include a statewide paid family and medical leave program, which provides 20 weeks of leave; the legalization of recreational marijuana use; and a law providing free school meals to all public and charter school students—part of Walz's plan to "make Minnesota the best state in the country to raise a child."
\u201cAt Webster Elementary in Minneapolis, Gov. Walz signs School Meals bill, providing free breakfasts and lunches to all Minnesota public school students\u201d— John Croman (@John Croman) 1679079655
"The work we've done over the last five months will make a generational impact on our state—it will lower costs, improve lives, and cut child poverty," said Walz on Tuesday.
The party also passed a bill codifying Roe v. Wadeamid a nationwide assault on abortion rights, legal protections for transgender youths who receive gender-affirming healthcare in the state, and a bill setting a minimum wage for Uber and Lyft drivers, leading a crowd of drivers to give the legislation's sponsor, state Sen. Omar Fateh (D-62), a "hero's welcome" after it passed on Sunday.
\u201cSenator @OmarFatehMN gets the hero\u2019s welcome after his Transportation Drivers, aka Uber/Lyft bill, passes Senate\u201d— John Croman (@John Croman) 1684707459
"Rather than looking at the November numbers result and imposing some kind of self-limiting narrative about the scope of their mandate, Minnesota Democrats looked at their priorities and said, 'How much of the list can we get done?'" said Stancil. "Turns out the answer was 'Almost everything.'"
\u201cBut the key here is that the DFL clearly figured, no matter how small their majorities were, it was better, politically and morally, to choose doing good things over doing nothing. And it did, again and again.\u201d— Will Stancil (@Will Stancil) 1684811682
The party's achievements in Minnesota, said pro-workers' rights media organization More Perfect Union, should "set the precedent for state governments across the country."
"On the balance," said the organization, "Minnesota progressives took narrow House and Senate majorities following years of gridlock—and in their first session in power, managed to set the bar for Democratic legislatures."
"No corner of America is safe if the Republicans blow up our economy, and that starts with Social Security," said Rep. Bill Pascrell.
A group of House Democrats on Tuesday began rolling out legislation to strengthen and expand Social Security as their Republican counterparts' debt ceiling brinkmanship threatens to disrupt the program's monthly payments, which keep millions of seniors and children across the U.S. out of poverty each year.
During a press conference, the Social Security 2100 Act's co-sponsors emphasized the potentially devastating impacts that a GOP-induced U.S. debt default would have on the nation's tens of millions of Social Security recipients, many of whom rely on the program for their sole source of income.
"Today, the entire American economy is teetering on the edge of destruction by a manufactured crisis. I don't think that's hyperbole," Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) said Tuesday. "No corner of America is safe if the Republicans blow up our economy, and that starts with Social Security."
The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has warned that a U.S. default could jeopardize Social Security payments by leaving the Treasury Department without the money to fulfill its obligations.
"While the Social Security trust funds held $2.852 trillion in U.S. government securities at the end of 2021, the Treasury Department must have cash to pay benefits when they are due," the group noted in a memo earlier this year. "Every month, the Treasury Department is required by law to make over $90 billion in payments to the 65 million retirees, disabled workers, widows, widowers, children, and spouses who receive Social Security benefits. The Treasury may not have enough incoming revenue to make those payments without the authority to cash in these securities."
"Absent the legal authority to borrow beyond the current ceiling," the group added, "Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other payments will not be made on time and in full unless Congress approves an increase in the debt limit."
Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), the lead author of the latest version of the Social Security 2100 Act, said during Tuesday's press conference that Social Security recipients are not "bargaining chips" and blasted Republican proposals to slash benefits.
"I think you have to give [former President Donald] Trump at least some credit for telling the Republicans, 'Are you crazy holding Social Security and Medicare hostage?'" Larson said, referring to Trump's criticism of the GOP's approach to the debt ceiling standoff earlier this year.
"They've kind of done the Michael Jackson moonwalk backwards trying to explain why all of their legislation, their study committee, that calls for 21% across-the-board cuts still remains out there in print," Larson added.
While it wouldn't directly target Social Security benefits, the debt ceiling bill that House Republicans passed late last month would slash funding for the Social Security Administration.
In contrast to Republican proposals, Larson's bill would increase benefits for all Social Security recipients by 2%—the first benefit enhancement in more than five decades—and adjust the current Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) to better reflect the impacts of inflation, according to a summary provided by the Connecticut Democrat's office.
The bill would fund benefit increases by applying the Social Security payroll tax to earnings above $400,000 and targeting a loophole that allows the rich to avoid the tax.
Watch the House Democrats' press conference:
The new bill comes as the Treasury Department is reportedly scrambling to find ways to keep making payments as the June 1 "X-date" nears and as Republicans continue to oppose a clean debt limit increase.
"Without additional borrowing, a fresh burst of tax revenue, or new ways to slow spending, the federal government expects to miss a payment for the first time in modern history in early June," The Washington Postreported Tuesday. "To put off the so-called 'X-date' when reserves run dry, Treasury officials have asked their counterparts at federal agencies about the flexibility of payments due before early June."
Outside advocacy groups, meanwhile, are increasingly sounding the alarm about the impact that a default could have on vulnerable seniors.
Retired Americans PAC, a political arm of the Alliance for Retired Americans, launched an ad campaign on Tuesday warning that "politicians in Congress are putting our Social Security benefits at risk," showing clips of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), and other Republican lawmakers.
"The Social Security payments that we've earned after a lifetime of work could be held up, hurting millions of seniors who depend on Social Security to cover the basics like food, gas, and prescriptions," the ad warns.
Richard Fiesta, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, said Tuesday that "seniors earned their Social Security benefits over a lifetime of work and rely on them to pay for food, prescriptions, and other necessities."
"Older Americans will not support any politician who jeopardizes their benefits for partisan games," he added.
"Today we said enough is enough of the anti-trans rhetoric and laws," said event co-organizer and ACLU attorney Chase Strangio.
Amid relentlessly rising attacks on the rights and even the very existence of transgender people in the United States, a group of trans students and their supporters on Monday held a prom on the National Mall within sight of the U.S. Capitol.
Around 150 youth from 16 states—along with parents, friends, and other allies—attended the first-ever Trans Prom, according toVice.
As Timereports, the event was organized by activists including students Libby Gonzales, age 13; Daniel Trujillo, 15; Grayson McFerrin, 12 ; and Hobbes Chukumba, 16.
"The Trans Prom is meant to emphasize the pride and joy and happiness that is within the trans community that cannot be broken," Chukumba, who's from New Jersey, told Time. "We're trying to show that trans people can and will continue to be brilliant and great. And really, it's meant to be a space that lets trans kids be kids."
\u201cYeah just hanging out at #transprom in a sea of new friends celebrating #transjoy. I love my job!\u201d— Kierra Johnson (@Kierra Johnson) 1684779367
The teens worked with co-organizers including Chase Strangio, the deputy director for transgender justice with the ACLU's LGBT & HIV Project, whom some attendees called their "trans-fairy godfather."
"These young people are here with the families and trans adults who love and care for them," Strangio was quoted by Democracy Now! "Today we are choosing to build on the legacies of our transcestors, embracing the possibilities of our futures, and refocusing our collective imagination on the freedom, beauty, and joy that we represent."
"Our joy is ours. You may not see it. You may not think it exists. You may try to take it away. But it is ours," he added. "And today, and every day, we celebrate, cultivate, and embrace it."
\u201cToday we said enough is enough of the anti-trans rhetoric and laws. We showed UP at the Capitol for #TransProm. Our joy is OURS.\u201d— Chase Strangio (@Chase Strangio) 1684795323
Guests on Monday entered the prom through a "tunnel of love" replete with the colors of the trans flag before being treated to live music, a drag performance by MC Stormie Daie, and decor inspired by the trans-led 1969 Stonewall revolt that catalyzed the nascent LGBTQ+ rights struggle in the United States and beyond.
Trujillo—who is from Arizona and says he's been an activist since age 9—toldVice that "Trans Prom is a big statement of what schools and public life would be like if trans people were celebrated and protected."
The organizers enjoyed the support of their parents. Stephen Chukumba, Hobbes' father, told Vice that he's trying to empower his son "to understand what's happening and to not feel defeated or not feel afraid."
"Because at the end of the day, the reality is that there have been marginalized people fighting for equality since the inception of this country," he added. "That's just a fact. And so those communities that have achieved any level of equality have done so by fighting tooth-and-nail."
\u201cThe \u2728\u2728vibes\u2728\u2728 at #TransProm at the U.S. Capitol.\n\nWhile state legislatures attack trans rights, young people celebrate being true to yourself.\u201d— Working Families Party \ud83d\udc3a (@Working Families Party \ud83d\udc3a) 1684769970
Lizette Trujillo, Daniel's mother, told Vice that "in a moment where they're trying to strip you of all of your rights and access to care and being able to participate in school sports like your peers, or being able to use your pronouns in the classroom, like it's transgressive to say, 'I'm going to be joyous regardless and I'm going to exist whether you want me to or not.'"
The idea for the prom was born when Daniel Trujillo and Gonzales—who met on a camping trip in 2019—were discussing their angst over the nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that Republicans have introduced in state legislatures so far this year.
"Having to sit through testimonies for people who are saying that I'm mentally ill, it's really hurtful and frustrating," Trujillo told Time. "My GPA dropped from going [to the state capitol] consistently, and it threw all of us into a really stressful space because my parents had to keep working [and then] drop what they were doing to drive to Phoenix."
According to a January survey by the Trevor Project, which focuses on preventing LGBTQ+ youth suicides, 86% of transgender and nonbinary youth said their mental health has been harmed by Republicans' anti-trans legislation and rhetoric.
"Even though I'm not directly struggling, I still feel overwhelmed by it every now and again," Hobbes Chukumba told Vice. "I feel the pain and the struggle that the rest have to go through, because that's what it means to be part of a community. It means [having] that connection."