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Kirsten Stade [PEER] (202) 265-7337,
Beth Burrows [Edmonds Institute] (425) 775-5383,
Michael Garrity [Alliance for Wild Rockies] (406) 459-5936,
George Nickas [Wilderness Watch] (406) 728-5733,
George Kimbrell [ICTA] (415) 826-2770
A pending scheme for profit-sharing with those who extract and make
money from organisms taken from the national parks has crippling
problems, according to a critique issued today by the Edmonds
Institute, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER),
Alliance for Wild Rockies, International Center for Technology
Assessment (ICTA), and Wilderness Watch. The "Benefits-Sharing" plan
will cost the National Park Service (NPS) more money than it raises,
prove utterly impractical to operate, and compromise both resource
protection and ethical principles.
Under the plan, awaiting
final approval from NPS Director Jon Jarvis, any of the nearly 400
national parks could enter into a "benefits-sharing agreement" with a
"research collaborator" for monetary or in-kind compensation for any
profits derived from park resources. In order to maximize revenue, the
agency and its "preferred alternative B2" - hereafter referred to as B2
- allows those with whom NPS makes B2-like deals to keep royalty and/or
other financial terms shielded from public or Congressional review.
that NPS has other and better ways of gaining benefits for the parks,
the objecting groups argue that the B2 plan, which has been in the
works since 2001, has big drawbacks for national parks and the
"This is a full
employment plan for consultants on the taxpayer's dime," stated PEER
Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "Rather than supporting research or
conservation programs, national parks will lose net revenue under this
plan for a least a decade - and might never turn a profit."
of the interest in the "benefits sharing" plan revolves around
"bioprospecting" - particularly research derived from microorganisms
drawn from unique park settings, such as geysers. At Yellowstone
National Park, a bioprospecting benefit-sharing agreement resulted in
considerable consultant and administrative costs ($359,000 over two
years, according to records obtained by PEER under the Freedom of
Information Act). The cost of that deal exceeded the "mid-range"
estimate for system-wide revenue that NPS projects from all such
agreements after five years under its "preferred" B2 plan.
the start of all this, we wondered whether NPS plans were legal," said
Beth Burrows, head of the Edmonds Institute, lead plaintiff in the suit
that forced public examination of the original Yellowstone
bioprospecting arrangement. "Now we wonder, whether they are wise or
even smart. No one loves a business park."
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.
"Prosecutors seeking to test out laws like this are likely to go after people who won't garner much sympathy from the public," wrote one author and abortion rights activist.
An Idaho teenager and his mother who allegedly took a 15-year-old girl to neighboring Oregon for an abortion without parental knowledge or consent are facing felony kidnapping and other charges in a prosecution viewed as a test case for the state's "abortion trafficking" statute.
In April, Idaho became the first state in the nation to pass a so-called "abortion trafficking" law, criminalizing the transportation of pregnant minors within the state for the purpose of obtaining an abortion or abortion medication. While 18-year-old Kadyn Swainston and his 42-year-old mother Rachael Swainston of Pocatello were not charged under the law—perhaps because it is being challenged in court—author and activist Jessica Valenti noted that "prosecutors used theexact language of the trafficking law in the kidnapping charge."
"It's actually a pretty slick move, allowing prosecutors to charge the two with abortion trafficking without citing the statute specifically in case it gets blocked," Valenti wrote on her Substack.
The Idaho State Journal reported Monday that Kadyn Swainston has been charged with rape, second-degree kidnapping, and three counts of producing child sexually exploitative material—all felonies.
Rachael Swainston is charged with second-degree kidnapping, trafficking in methamphetamine, two counts of possession of a controlled substance, and one count of harboring a wanted felon—also all felonies.
If convicted of the most serious charges against them, the Swainstons could receive life prison sentences.
According to Pocatello police, a woman contacted them in June claiming that her 15-year-old daughter—identified in court records as K.B.—had been raped by Kadyn Swaintston, who had been in a consensual relationship with the girl since he was 17 years old but as an adult allegedly ran afoul of the state's statutory rape law. The woman told investigators that the Swainstons took K.B. to Bend, Oregon for an abortion, without her knowledge or consent.
Valenti noted that police obtained permission from K.B. to track her phone's geolocational data to the area of the Planned Parenthood clinic where she had her abortion.
While executing a search warrant at the Swainstons' home, police also found more than 40 grams of methamphetamine there, as well as fentanyl and psychedelic mushrooms, and photos showing Kadyn Swainston and K.B. engaging in sex acts. They also found and arrested a man wanted on an outstanding warrant on meth trafficking charges who was staying in the home's storage shed.
"It's not surprising that the people at the center of this case seem to be having a really difficult time—we know that the most marginalized among us are much more likely to be charged or targeted by law enforcement in abortion-related cases (and all others)," wrote Valenti. "We also know that prosecutors seeking to test out laws like this are likely to go after people who won't garner much sympathy from the public."
"The hope," she added, "is that people will be a little less outraged over an objectively outrageous law."
Craig Mokhiber called out "the current wholesale slaughter of the Palestinian people, rooted in an ethno-nationalist settler colonial ideology, in continuation of decades of their systematic persecution and purging."
Human rights attorney Craig Mokhiber left his United Nations post with a resignation letter excoriating the U.N. response to Israel's devastating war on the Gaza Strip—a four-page document that has been circulating on social media this week.
Mokhiber, who has spent decades with the U.N., was serving as the New York director for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). His letter to the agency's leader, Volker Türk, is dated October 28—when Israeli forces were shifting to the "second stage" of a war that has killed thousands of Palestinians in Gaza in retaliation for a deadly Hamas-led attack on Israel.
"Once again, we are seeing a genocide unfolding before our eyes, and the organization that we serve appears powerless to stop it," Mokhiber wrote. "As someone who has investigated human rights in Palestine since the 1980s, lived in Gaza as a U.N. human rights adviser in the 1990s, and carried out several human rights missions to the country before and since, this is deeply personal to me."
"We have lost a lot in this abandonment, not least our own global credibility. But the Palestinian people have sustained the biggest losses as a result of our failures."
"I also worked in these halls through the genocides against the Tutsis, Bosnian Muslims, the Yazidi, and the Rohingya. In each case, when the dust settled on the horrors that had been perpetrated against defenseless civilian populations, it became painfully clear that we had failed in our duty to meet the imperatives of prevention of mass atrocities, of protection of the vulnerable, and of accountability for perpetrators. And so it has been with successive waves of murder and persecution against the Palestinians throughout the entire life of the U.N.," he continued. "High commissioner, we are failing again."
The attorney asserted that "the current wholesale slaughter of the Palestinian people, rooted in an ethno-nationalist settler colonial ideology, in continuation of decades of their systematic persecution and purging, based entirely upon their status as Arabs, and coupled with explicit statements of intent by leaders in the Israeli government and military, leaves no room for doubt or debate."
While the death toll in Gaza has risen—topping 8,500 on Tuesday, including over 3,500 children—hundreds of legal scholars have said Israel's war could amount to genocide. Human rights defenders have sounded the alarm over recent comments from Israeli leaders and accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of an "explicit call to genocide" in a Saturday speech.
As Mokhiber noted: "In Gaza, civilian homes, schools, churches, mosques, and medical institutions are wantonly attacked as thousands of civilians are massacred. In the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem, homes are seized and reassigned based entirely on race, and violent settler pogroms are accompanied by Israeli military units. Across the land, apartheid rules."
Echoing experts including Israeli Holocaust scholar Raz Segal, the ex-U.N. director wrote that "this is a textbook case of genocide."
"What's more, the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, and much of Europe, are wholly complicit in the horrific assault," he stressed. Mokhiber also slammed U.S.-based social media companies for "suppressing the voices of human rights defenders while amplifying pro-Israel propaganda" and the "Western corporate media, increasingly captured and state-adjacent," for "continuously dehumanizing Palestinians to facilitate the genocide, and broadcasting propaganda for war and advocacy of national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility, and violence."
In addition to supplying Israel with billions of dollars in military support, the U.S. earlier this month vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning violence against civilians in Israel and Gaza and advocating for "humanitarian pauses" to let aid into the strip. While the U.N. General Assembly on Friday passed a resolution—opposed by the United States and Israel—stressing the importance of protecting civilians and calling for "an immediate, durable, and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities," it is nonbinding.
As Mokhiber wrote:
High commissioner, I came to this organization first in the 1980s, because I found in it a principled, norm-based institution that was squarely on the side of human rights, including in cases where the powerful U.S., U.K., and Europe were not on our side. While my own government, its subsidiarity institutions, and much of the U.S. media were still supporting or justifying South African apartheid, Israeli oppression, and Central American death squads, the U.N. was standing up for the oppressed peoples of those lands. We had international law on our side. We had human rights on our side. We had principle on our side. Our authority was rooted in our integrity. But no more.
In recent decades, key parts of the U.N. have surrendered to the power of the U.S., and to fear of the Israel lobby, to abandon these principles, and to retreat from international law itself. We have lost a lot in this abandonment, not least our own global credibility. But the Palestinian people have sustained the biggest losses as a result of our failures.
The attorney also argued that "the path to atonement is clear," and "Palestinians and their allies, human rights defenders of every stripe, Christian and Muslim organizations, and progressive Jewish voices saying 'not in our name,' are all leading the way." He pointed to the hundreds of people who were arrested Friday in a Jewish-led protest at New York's Grand Central Station.
"In the immediate term," he said, "we must work for an immediate cease-fire and an end to the long-standing siege on Gaza, stand up against the ethnic cleansing of Gaza, Jerusalem, and the West Bank (and elsewhere), document the genocidal assault in Gaza, help to bring massive humanitarian aid and reconstruction to the Palestinians, take care of our traumatized colleagues and their families, and fight like hell for a principled approach in the U.N.'s political offices."
As for long-term goals, Mokhiber provided a 10-point list that included disarmament, mediation, return and compensation, and "the establishment of a single, democratic, secular state in all of historic Palestine, with equal rights for Christians, Muslims, and Jews, and, therefore, the dismantling of the deeply racist, settler-colonial project and an end to apartheid across the land."
While sharply criticizing the United Nations, the attorney also said that he found "hope in those parts of the U.N. that have refused to compromise the organization's human rights principles in spite of enormous pressures to do so," acknowledging the special rapporteurs, commissions, treaty body experts, and staff who "have continued to stand up for the human rights of the Palestinian people, even as other parts of the U.N. (even at the highest levels) have shamefully bowed their heads to power."
As allegations of Israeli war crimes continued to mount on Tuesday, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) spokesperson James Elder said during a press briefing that "Gaza has become a graveyard for thousands of children. It's a living hell for everyone else." His agency and the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs are calling for an immediate cease-fire.
"It's no surprise... that the same government that tortured Iraqis in Abu Ghraib is funding the same tactics on Palestinians," said Jewish Voice for Peace.
Human rights defenders on Tuesday renewed calls for the U.S. government to end American complicity in Israel's "horrific war crimes" after the publication of videos purportedly recorded and shared by Israeli soldiers showing the torture and dehumanization of Palestinian men, some of them naked, in the illegally occupied West Bank.
U.S.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) were among the groups that condemned the videos, which show armed and uniformed Israeli troops and possibly settlers beating, kicking, stomping, and dragging bound, blindfolded, and naked Palestinian men, forcing them to shout "long live Israel," and draping them in the Israeli flag.
"The footage of Israeli soldiers torturing Palestinian men in the West Bank is horrific," JVP
said on social media. "The Israeli military has brutally abused Palestinian prisoners for decades. As the Israeli military wages a genocidal war in Gaza, its soldiers are no longer hiding this abuse from the public."
"Torture and humiliation [are] a tool of all repressive regimes to punish and destroy the spirit [of] anyone who challenges their oppression," the group continued. "It's no surprise then, that the same government that tortured Iraqis in Abu Ghraib is funding the same tactics on Palestinians. This is disgusting."
JVP added: "CEASE-FIRE NOW! END U.S. MILITARY FUNDING TO ISRAEL NOW!"
The U.S. gives Israel around $4 billion in annual military aid. Last week, President Joe Biden
asked Congress to authorize an additional $14 billion in assistance for Israel as it ramps up its war on Gaza in the wake of this month's Hamas-led surprise attacks that killed more than 1,400 Israelis and others, with the death toll since rising to over 1,500, according to state broadcaster Kan. Around 200 Israelis and others were taken hostage by Gaza-based militants.
CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad said in a
statement that "enough is enough. President Biden must end our nation's complicity in [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu's increasingly genocidal campaign of violence against Palestinian civilians in both Gaza and the West Bank."
"Every new massacre that the Israeli government commits further stains our nation's reputation and refutes the claim that our nation supports human rights," Awad added. "If our leaders truly do view Palestinians as human beings worthy of life and freedom, we must stop this madness."
Awad's comments came on the same day that Israeli bombardment of the Jabalia refugee camp, Gaza's largest,
killed and wounded at least scores and possibly hundreds of Palestinians.
The Gaza Health Ministry
said Tuesday that 8,525 people, including 2,187 women and 3,542 children, have been killed, and over 21,000 others wounded, by Israeli forces since they began bombarding Gaza on October 7.
At least 124 Palestinians have also been killed and over 2,000 injured in attacks by Israeli troops and settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since then, a situation U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan called "totally unacceptable."
"Israel must take measures to protect Palestinians from such attacks and to hold accountable any settlers who carry out attacks, as well as any members of the Israeli Defense Forces (sic) who stand by or fail to intervene when these attacks occur," Sullivan said on Sunday.
The newly published torture videos follow reports earlier this month of Israeli soldiers and settlers torturing a group of Palestinian men in the central West Bank village of Wadi al-Seeq on October 12. According to the victims, they were beaten, stripped, urinated on, and sexually assaulted.
"All the monstrous, inhumane, or immoral means of interrogation you could think of were used against us. You would have thought we were at Guantánamo or Abu Ghraib," one of the men, 46-year-old Mohammad Matar (known as Abu Hassan), told+972 Magazine, referring to the notorious U.S. military prisons in Cuba and Iraq, two of the numerous American facilities were detainees were tortured—sometimes to death.
"They had our hands tied behind our backs, our eyes covered, our faces in the ground," Abu Hassan said. "They stepped on our heads and said: t'Eat! Eat the sheep shit!"
"They jumped on our backs intending to paralyze us, to break the spinal cord," he added. "They also tried to hit us on our genitals to mutilate us, 30 to 40 times. They kept taking turns to hit us."
An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson told +972 Magazine that "the manner in which the arrest was carried out and the conduct of the forces in the field was contrary to what was expected of soldiers and commanders in the IDF."
"After the initial investigation, a decision was made to dismiss the commander of the unit that carried out the arrest," the spokesperson added. "In the circumstances of the matter and in view of the seriousness of the suspicions, it was decided to open an investigation by the military police."
On Monday, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) sounded the alarm on what it called "colonial violence and ethnic cleansing" in Masafer Yatta, a collection of 19 hamlets in the southern West Bank where the Israeli government in 2022 ordered the expulsion of 2,000 Palestinians to make way for an Israeli military training facility.
According to ISM:
Settler militias are terrorizing Palestinians by invading their villages during pogroms, armed with assault rifles, often wearing Israeli army uniforms and accompanied by Israeli soldiers. Palestinians and ISM activists have reported and documented cases of settlers beating up Palestinian residents, including women, children, and the elderly; settlers and soldiers shooting towards Palestinian houses... destroying water pumps and electric grids, uprooting trees, and taking up Palestinian fields, planting Israeli flags on Palestinian land and houses, and even forcing Palestinians to sing pro-Israel chants and to wave an Israeli flag while holding them at gunpoint and filming them.
ISM also said that on Sunday, "settlers and soldiers invaded the village of Susyia and threatened residents that if they don't leave within 24 hours, they will be back and start killing Palestinians in the village."
"A similar threat to residents of the village of Khirbet Zanuta has already resulted in the community leaving the land in order to save their families," the group added.
The Times of Israel reported Tuesday that Israeli settlers torched a home in the Masafer Yatta village of Khirbet Asfi al-Tahta.
The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem has reported the ethnic cleansing of at least scores of Palestinian families from their homes and farms in Area C, the Israel-designated West Bank occupation zone completely administered by Israel.
"While all eyes are on Gaza... the ethnic cleansing in the West Bank could intensify further," Israeli international law and human rights professor Neve Gordon wrote for the London Review of Books blog Monday, "with Israeli forces pushing Palestinians out of their homes and possibly across international borders."