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Three months after the
clashes in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) began, aid
agency Oxfam International emphasized the right of Internally Displaced
People (IDPs) to return voluntarily and the need to establish
sustainable security in their home villages. Oxfam International
praised the Government for agreeing to uphold international standards
on the return of IDPs, but said a clear information campaign is needed
to help displaced people make informed decisions about returning. Now
in the third week of the Government's phased plan for returns, there
are an estimated 1.5 million displaced people yet to be repatriated who
need reassurance that their safety will be respected and humanitarian
assistance will continue.
After speaking to nearly 100 IDP women in focus group discussions
held in camps and host communities over the last two weeks, Oxfam
International found that despite a strong desire to return home, many
still fear for the safety of their families. The displaced women living
in Swabi and Mardan districts said that relatives in Swat district
contacted them by mobile phones to say that homes and livelihoods have
been destroyed and sporadic fighting is continuing. Others spoke of
confusion on the returns process and its implications, with only
limited information provided at short notice. "We hear that we should
return to Swat. But there are no options for us except to go and sit on
our destroyed house," said Zemit, 52, after she learned that her family
home was bombed last week.
Oxfam Country Director in Pakistan Neva Khan said, "After the
largest internal displacement crisis in Pakistan's history, everyone
wants to see a return to normalcy including a secure and dignified
return for all displaced people. We are encouraged that the Government
has agreed to international guidelines but stress that the information
campaign is also vital to the repatriation process."
The voluntary, safe, informed and dignified return of the IDPs is a
paramount consideration for Oxfam International which, along with other
members of the humanitarian community, is working with the government
to help meet the needs of displaced people and particularly vulnerable
women. Oxfam International is providing water, cash, cooking materials,
latrines and hygiene kits for up to 360,000 men, women and children
affected by fighting.
Adhering to the three-phase plan of return set up by the government,
buses and security vehicles have been taking families back to the NWFP
since 13 July, first from displacement and spontaneous camps followed
by those staying with host families. As the IDPs return to their
villages, Oxfam International will shift its focus with local partners
to help provide shelter in devastated areas. In particular, assisting
people who have lost their crops, livestock, shops and other
Between 15th and 25th July, Oxfam International staff spoke to
nearly 100 IDP women in focus groups discussions in Yar Hussain camp in
Swabi district and in three host communities in Mardan district. The
displaced women came from Upper Swat villages including Aliadab, Khalam
and Khabal. Their stories include:
Zwahara (70) from Upper Swat
"I fear my husband and son are dead. I have no income and five
daughters so I must get them married quickly." When Zwahara and her
five daughters were given just 30 minutes notice to vacate their
village, she had to leave her paralyzed son behind with his father.
Taken in by a distant relative living in Swabi district, her family
and 20 others of the extended family are sharing one toilet and water
tap. The women are sleeping on the ground in the courtyard and
desperately want to be allowed into one of the official camps for
displaced families, where they believe conditions will be better.
Because Zwahara has no male family member with her and no official
ID card, the family have been turned away from the camps. Every member
of the family suffers from diarrhea and skin infections due to the heat
and poor hygiene. Zwahara has learned from former neighbors that her
house has been destroyed. No one has seen her husband or son for
several weeks. The family do not plan to return to Swat.
Rahmatun (22) from Upper Swat
Rahmatun's husband returned to their village several weeks ago. He
told her that there is shooting in their village and the curfew makes
it too dangerous for him to go out to buy food. He plans to leave their
village and travel south to join her in Mardan if they can find a place
Rahmatun said, "The militants will behead us if we peek our heads
outside of the door - we cannot send our girl children to school or
anywhere with this being the case. They warned communities that if they
fled during the fighting that would mean that they had sided with the
Government." Rahmatun and her three small children were staying in Yar
Husseim displacement camp in Swabi district.
Sahib (80) from near Mingora in Swat district
Eighty-year-old Sahib, her daughter and granddaughter walked for two
days and two nights to escape the fighting in Swat. For the last three
months they have been living in the empty home of a wealthy family in
Swabi district, the relatives of a family friend in their home village.
All the family suffer from diarrhoea and the skin rash scabies
because of the intense heat and lack of mobility from living in purdah.
Sahib said: "I don't know what will happen to us if we go back. I want
to stay here - there are too many problems in Swat."
Zemit (50) from Upper Swat
"We hear that everyone should return to Swat. But there are no
options for us except to go and sit on our destroyed house," said
Zemit, 52, after she learned that her family home was destroyed by
bombing last week.
Living with 90 family members in a temporary home, Zemit says that
she misses baking bread for her family at home and desperately wishes
to return. But family members who remained in Swat tell her not to
return because fresh hostilities coupled with a volatile curfew order
makes it dangerous for them to get food and other necessities.
A local administrator in Marden district invited Zemit and her large
family to stay in his guesthouse, where they've lived for nearly three
months and relied on the generosity of neighbors.
Between 15th and 25th July, Oxfam International staff spoke to nearly
100 IDP women in focus groups discussions in Yar Hussain camp in Swabi
district and in three host communities in Mardan district. The
displaced women came from Upper Swat villages including Aliadab, Khalam
2. The Government's national response plan outlined in May sketches
a positive picture in many respects, with progressive references to
safe, voluntary returns, community ownership, transparency and
accountability, as well as the distinct needs of women and other
vulnerable groups. This requires sustained support and commitment to be
turned into a detailed reality. Recovery and rehabilitation plans must
involve the active participation of affected. On 27 July 2009, the
Government estimated that 700,000 people had returned to NWFP.
3. The Pakistani army's operations against militants in NWFP
beginning in late April triggered an exodus of over two million women,
men and children especially after 2 May. The flight of civilians from
the province's Malakand Division (mainly the districts of Swat, Dir,
Malakand and Buner) represents the biggest conflict-induced
displacement in the country's 62-year history.
4. Oxfam International is a relief agency working in more than 100
countries to find lasting solutions to poverty and injustice. Oxfam
International has funded relief and development work in Pakistan since
1973 and two affiliates, Oxfam Great Britain and Oxfam Novib, are
working in the country.
Oxfam International is a global movement of people who are fighting inequality to end poverty and injustice. We are working across regions in about 70 countries, with thousands of partners, and allies, supporting communities to build better lives for themselves, grow resilience and protect lives and livelihoods also in times of crisis.
"Today's decisions should be commended for recognizing that the rules we apply to the internet should foster free expression, not suppress it," said the deputy director of ACLU's National Security Project.
Civil liberties advocates on Thursday praised the U.S. Supreme Court for a pair of unanimous rulings that they say uphold the right to free speech on online platforms.
The high court's decisions in Twitter v. Taamneh and Gonzalez v. Google represent "a win for free expression on the internet," the ACLU tweeted.
Alongside its partners, the ACLU "filed amicus briefs in both cases urging the court to ensure online platforms are free to promote, demote, and recommend content without legal risk in order to protect political discourse, cultural development, and intellectual activity," the group noted in a statement.
"Free speech online lives to fight another day," said Patrick Toomey, deputy director of ACLU's National Security Project. "Twitter and other apps are home to an immense amount of protected speech, and it would be devastating if those platforms resorted to censorship to avoid a deluge of lawsuits over their users' posts. Today's decisions should be commended for recognizing that the rules we apply to the internet should foster free expression, not suppress it."
According to ACLU's statement:
In Twitter v. Taamneh, the plaintiffs claimed that Twitter was liable for allegedly "aiding and abetting" an attack in Istanbul by ISIS because Twitter failed to adequately block or remove content promoting terrorism — even though it had no specific knowledge that any particular post furthered a terrorist act. The court held that hosting, displaying, and recommending videos, without more, is not aiding and abetting terrorism.
As the ACLU's amicus brief in Twitter v. Taamneh explained, if the Supreme Court allowed the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' startlingly broad interpretation of the Anti-Terrorism Act to stand, online intermediaries—like internet service providers, social media platforms, publishers, and other content distributors—would be forced to suppress the First Amendment-protected speech of many of their users. The brief explained that, given the vast scale of speech occurring on platforms like Twitter every day, online intermediaries would be compelled to use blunt content moderation tools that over-restrict speech by barring certain topics, speakers, or types of content in order to avoid claims that they went too far in making that information available to an interested audience. Even today, platforms frequently take down content mistakenly identified as offensive or forbidden, for example, by confusing a post about a landmark mosque with one about a terrorist group.
In Gonzalez v. Google, the court noted that in light of its decision in Twitter v. Taamneh, "little if any" of the plaintiffs' case remained viable. It was therefore unnecessary to address the question of whether Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act immunized the platform's recommendation algorithms. The court remanded the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to determine whether any part of the plaintiffs' argument could move forward in light of the Twitter ruling.
David Greene, director of civil liberties at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), also welcomed the court's rulings in both cases.
EFF is "pleased that the court found that an online service cannot be liable for terrorist attacks merely because their services are generally used by terrorist organizations the same way they are used by millions of organizations around the globe," Greene said in a statement.
He added that EFF is "pleased that the court did not address or weaken Section 230, which remains an essential part of the architecture of the modern internet and will continue to enable user access to online platforms."
Section 230 is a federal liability shield that generally prevents social media and other websites from facing defamation lawsuits or being held accountable for third-party content generated by users or paid advertisers. The immunity provision has come under increased scrutiny from many members of Congress in both major parties.
One countervailing opinion about the court's decision to not reexamine Section 230 came from the Real Facebook Oversight Board, a coalition of researchers and advocates who seek to counter the harms associated with the profit-maximizing algorithms used by Facebook and Instagram, both of which are now owned by Meta.
"Meta wasn't on trial today in the Supreme Court, but their rapacious business model was," the group said in a statement. "In no surprise, the extremist U.S. Supreme Court chose profit over privacy and safety. More than ever, U.S. lawmakers must act to pass sweeping, meaningful regulation of Big Tech—before more users are harmed or worse by hate speech that platforms won't and can't stop."
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), however, echoed the assessment shared by the ACLU and EFF, calling the court's decision to leave Section 230 untouched "good news."
"Despite being unfairly scapegoated for everything wrong with the internet, Section 230 remains vitally important to protecting online speech," argued Wyden, who co-wrote the 1996 statute with former Rep. Chris Cox (R-Calif.). "My focus remains helping end abusive practices by tech companies while protecting freedom of information online."
According toPolitico, the high court's decisions "mark a major win for the tech industry, which has argued that narrowing Section 230 could be disastrous for the internet if platforms could be sued over content-moderation decisions. But the resolution leaves the door open to future showdowns—potentially in Congress—over the breadth of the legal protection the internet firms enjoy."
"Will you be the president who helped put an end to the plastic pollution crisis, or someone who let it spiral further out of control?"
Actors known for their environmental advocacy—including Jane Fonda, Jason Momoa, Joaquin Phoenix, Susan Sarandon, and Laura Dern—joined Greenpeace USA on Thursday in an open letter to U.S. President Joe Biden urging his administration to "protect the planet from plastic pollution" and slash carbon emissions "by supporting a strong global plastics treaty."
"We appreciate your leadership in securing a global oceans treaty that creates a path to protecting 30% of our oceans by 2030," the letter's signers told Biden. "Winning the treaty was truly a historic moment, one of the greatest environmental achievements in history."
"We're calling on President Biden to put aside fossil fuel and plastics industry interests and lead us on the path that prioritizes human health, biodiversity, and our communities."
"At the end of May, delegates from around the world will convene in Paris for the second round of negotiations on a global plastics treaty," the letter continues, referring to talks hosted by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
"While you have signaled support for this treaty, the U.S. position is not yet strong enough," the letter argues. "Currently, the U.S. is not calling for a cap on plastic production—which is the only real way to stop plastic pollution. In 2021, the U.S. only recycled a mere 5% of plastics produced."
\u201cDozens of public figures have joined Greenpeace USA in calling on @POTUS to support an ambitious, legally binding Global #PlasticsTreaty that caps plastics production and supports solutions like refill & reuse! \ud83d\udc4f\n\nThank you for lending your voices \ud83d\udd3d https://t.co/qc5IOkuYsX\u201d— Greenpeace USA (@Greenpeace USA) 1684427402
The letter continues:
Plastics are polluting and harmful at every stage of their life cycle—from extraction to disposal. Ninety-nine percent of plastics come from fossil fuels; cutting plastic production will make a significant dent in carbon emissions. There are communities living next to refineries and petrochemical facilities who are bearing the combined brunt of the climate and plastic crises. People living near these facilities—overwhelmingly people of color—face higher rates of cancer, asthma, and adverse birth outcomes.
"President Biden, you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help our climate, our oceans, and our communities this year by supporting a strong and ambitious global plastics treaty," the signers asserted. "The decision you make on this critical issue will help define your legacy—will you be the president who helped put an end to the plastic pollution crisis, or someone who let it spiral further out of control? We're calling on you to do the right thing."
Other actors who signed the letter include Rosana Arquette, Alec Baldwin, Ed Begley, Ted Danson, Piper Perabo, Kyra Sedgwick, William Shatner, and Shailene Woodley.
\u201cPLASTIC IS EVERYWHERE \ud83d\udc40 \n\nWe need a Global Plastics Treaty Now! \n\u26a0\ufe0fSign the petition >> https://t.co/HYJelSJO2i\u201d— Greenpeace USA (@Greenpeace USA) 1683904641
Greenpeace is proposing a seven-point plan for the global plastics treaty:
"Many environmental groups and frontline communities are disappointed with the U.S.' current position on the treaty, as it does not call for a cap on plastic production and instead focuses on recycling," Greenpeace USA senior plastics campaigner Lisa Ramsden said in a statement.
"Recycling will never solve the plastic waste problem," Ramsden added. "We must stop plastic waste at its source, and we're calling on President Biden to put aside fossil fuel and plastics industry interests and lead us on the path that prioritizes human health, biodiversity, and our communities."
On Tuesday, UNEP published a report contending that global plastic pollution can be reduced by 80% by 2040 if countries and corporations enact major changes using existing technologies. However, the report was criticized by some environmentalists for promoting the burning of plastic waste.
\u201cThe exclusion of civil society from the plastics treaty negotiations is unprecedented in multilateral negotiations. Goes against the grain of participatory democratic principles that the @UNEP is supposed to uphold!#PlasticsTreaty @third_pole @BBCWorld @LeFigaro_News @lemondelive\u201d— Dharmesh Shah #PlasticsTreaty (@Dharmesh Shah #PlasticsTreaty) 1684285907
UNEP has also come under fire in recent days for issuing just one pass per organization attending the Global Plastics Treaty negotiations in Paris.
"A lifetime appointment to the federal bench is perhaps the most privileged seat in our country," said one economic justice advocate. "It shouldn't be handed out like a party favor."
Advocates for workers' rights and economic justice were among those applauding on Thursday as Michael Delaney, the former attorney general of New Hampshire, asked U.S. President Joe Biden to withdraw his nomination to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, following outcry from progressives regarding his record and his positions on issues including regulation and abortion rights.
Delaney's request came a day after eight progressive groups wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee and asked the panel to block Delaney's nomination.
"Mr. Delaney’s record in private practice, as deputy attorney general for the state of New Hampshire, and as a volunteer member of the New England Legal Foundation's (NELF) board of directors demonstrates a hostility to victims' rights, reproductive rights, employee rights, and government regulation that is unsuitable for the lifetime appointment for which he is being considered," wrote the groups, including Demand Progress, the American Economic Liberties Project (AELP), the Revolving Door Project, and the National Employment Law Project.
Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, who both represent New Hampshire, had been pushing their colleagues to support Delaney's confirmation. Unanimous support from all Democrats on the Judiciary Committee is needed to bring the nomination to the Senate floor for a vote, and some members had been hesitant to back Delaney.
"His nomination for a lifetime appointment to a federal appellate court in an age where these groups are under sustained courtroom attacks does not meet the moment."
Democratic lawmakers and rights advocates have particularly objected to Delaney's work defending St. Paul's School when a student filed a civil suit alleging a sexual assault by a classmate.
The elite boarding school requested that the survivor only be given anonymity in the case if she and her legal team met certain terms. The survivor, Chessy Prout,
came forward after the school made the request, and she and her family lobbied aggressively against Delaney's nomination.
"I know Michael Delaney," wrote Prout in The Boston Globe after Delaney's nomination was announced. "After what he did, he doesn't deserve to be a judge."
Delaney has also been under fire since his nomination for signing a brief that defending an abortion restriction in New Hampshire and for his connection to NELF, whose stated mission champions "individual economic liberties, traditional property rights, properly limited government, and inclusive economic growth" as well as "vigorous advocacy of free market principles."
The group filed an amicus brief in 2021 in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, arguing that the EPA's ability to impose emissions regulations to fight the climate crisis should be curtailed.
The eight groups that wrote to the committee on Wednesday focused on Delaney's position on monopoly power. In his response to a question from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) during his confirmation hearings, they noted, Delaney said a threshold of 80% to 95% of market share qualified as a monopolization claim—denoting what Katherine Van Dyck, senior legal counsel at AELP, said was "a firm allegiance to corporate power, and an animosity toward efforts to hold corporations accountable."
As the groups wrote, "This suggests that Mr. Delaney could set a threshold of 80% or more if seated on the 1st Circuit, a position that is inconsistent with federal jurisprudence where a threshold market share is not even a mandatory element of monopolization claims."
"Granting Mr. Delaney a seat on the 1st Circuit would be a gift to opponents of the so-called 'administrative state' and a boon to corporate power," the groups added. "It would pose serious threats to the rights of some of the most disadvantaged members of our economy, from women who cannot obtain reproductive health services to underpaid and overworked laborers. His nomination for a lifetime appointment to a federal appellate court in an age where these groups are under sustained courtroom attacks does not meet the moment."
The withdrawal of Delaney's nomination, said Van Dyck on Thursday, represents "a big win for the rights of many."
\u201cA lifetime appointment to the federal bench is perhaps the most privileged seat in our country. It shouldn't be handed out like a party favor. This was the right result, and I'm confident that we can find a better nominee for the 1st Circ.\u201d— Katie Van Dyck (@Katie Van Dyck) 1684425981
"This was the right result, and I'm confident that we can find a better nominee for the 1st Circuit," Van Dyck added.