Julia Conley

'Complete doomsday scenario': Experts warn that the Colorado River could dry up by 2023

The catastrophic chain of events that water and power authorities are working to prepare for amid the desertification of the Colorado River basin would amount to a "complete doomsday scenario," harming water and electricity supplies for millions, according to new reporting from The Washington Post.

While the Biden administration earlier this year ordered water use cuts in Arizona, Nevada, and parts of Mexico that use water from the rapidly shrinking Colorado River, officials in the region are examining how they can keep Lake Powell and Lake Mead—the largest human-made reservoirs in the U.S.—from reaching dangerous "dead pool" status, in which water levels would drop so low that water no longer flows downstream.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, with Lake Powell's surface already having fallen 170 feet, the reservoir is even closer to reaching "minimum power pool" status.

If water levels drop another 38 feet in Lake Powell, which is currently a quarter of its original size, the surface could approach the tops of eight underwater openings allowing Colorado River water to pass through the Glen Canyon Dam.

"The normally placid Lake Powell, the nation's second-largest reservoir, could suddenly transform into something resembling a funnel, with water circling the openings," reported the Post.

That would force turbines which supply 4.5 million people with electricity to shut down, likely triggering financial struggles for people across southwestern states. The standard rate for low-cost power generated by Glen Canyon Dam is $30 per megawatt hour, but with the dam already producing 40% less power than it originally did, customers this past summer faced prices as high as $1,000 per megawatt hour as they sought electricity on the open market.

The latest projections of the Bureau of Reclamation show that minimum power pool status could be reached as early as next July.

Tom Buschatzke, director of Arizona's Department of Water Resources, told the Post that dead pool status would amount to "an ecological disaster," with the region's agricultural sector cut off from a crucial irrigation source.

"You're not going to have a river" in the case of Lake Powell reaching dead pool, he said. "It would be a catastrophe for the entire system."

As government officials announced over the summer that water levels could approach the dam's underwater openings by next July, the Bureau of Reclamation also announced it was supporting studies to examine whether authorities could make modifications to the dam, such as drilling tunnels at river level.

"There was a time in my professional career that if anybody from Reclamation ever said that, they'd be fired on the spot," said Jack Schmidt, an expert on the river at Utah State University who worked on the U.S. Geological Survey during the Obama administration.

Schmidt told the Post that the fact such a possibility has been raised denotes "a huge sea change telling you how different the world is."

Jeff Goodell, author of the book The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World, suggested that the aridification of the West—made 40% worse by planetary heating and the continued extraction of fossil fuels, according to one recent study—has left the Colorado River unable to provide water and power to the millions of people who have come to rely on it.

"The problem with massive projects like Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam," tweeted Goodell, "is they were engineered for a climate that no longer exists and will never return (at least not on human timescales)."

Critics elevate call for SCOTUS ethics probe as court lawyer defends Alito

Demands for a congressional investigation into potential ethics violations at the U.S. Supreme Court intensified Monday after a lawyer for the court refused to answer questions from two lawmakers about allegations regarding Justice Samuel Alito.

Ethan Torrey, legal counsel for the high court, responded to a letter from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) dated November 20, in which the lawmakers had asked a series of questions about a bombshell New York Times report detailing a former anti-abortion activist's efforts to gain access to Supreme Court justices.

Rev. Rob Schenck, former president of right-wing group Faith & Action, described to the Times how he urged his group's supporters to donate to the Supreme Court Historical Society and attend its events. He also alleged that Alito leaked the court's decision in the contraception-related case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby to Faith & Action donors.

Whitehouse and Johnson, who respectively chair the Senate and House Judiciary Courts Subcommittees, asked Chief Justice John Roberts and Torrey to explain whether "the Supreme Court opened an investigation into any of the allegations set forth" by Schenck and whether the court has "reevaluated any of its practices, procedures, or rules related to judicial ethics, or the justices' receipt and reporting of gifts and travel."

"Who is responsible for policing the relationship between the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court Historical Society to ensure that paid membership in the Society is not used as a means of gaining undue influence?" the lawmakers asked.

Torrey's letter on Monday did not address Whitehouse and Johnson's questions, instead simply reiterating an earlier denial of wrongdoing by Alito himself.

"Justice Alito has said that neither he nor Mrs. Alito told [Faith & Action donors] the Wrights about the outcome in the Hobby Lobby case," Torrey said. "The justice never detected any effort on the part of the Wrights to obtain confidential information or to influence anything he did in either an official or personal capacity."

Torrey also wrote that the Wrights had not had a "financial interest" in the Hobby Lobby case or other cases before the court, suggesting that therefore, Alito could not have violated ethics rules by "accepting meals and lodging" from the couple.

Chris Kang, chief counsel of court reform group Demand Justice, called the claim that "there is nothing to suggest" an ethical breach "laughable."

Torrey's dismissal of Whitehouse and Johnson's concerns and his refusal to launch a probe made it clear that congressional committees tasked with overseeing the courts "must respond with an actual investigation," Kang said.

In their earlier letter to Roberts and Torrey, the lawmakers wrote that if the court "is not willing to undertake fact-finding inquiries into possible ethics violations that leaves Congress as the only forum."

In response to Torrey's letter on Tuesday, Johnson and Whitehouse did not indicate whether they will actually launch a congressional probe now that the court has refused to conduct one.

"Through legal counsel, the Supreme Court reiterated Justice Alito's denials but did not substantively answer any of our questions," said the lawmakers. "The court's letter is an embodiment of the problems at the court around ethics issues."

Johnson, Whitehouse, and the public "don't have to just take Sam Alito at his word," said Molly Coleman, executive director of the People's Parity Project. "Congress can—and must—investigate."

"Supreme Court justices have avoided accountability for too long," said Coleman. "It's time for our elected officials to do their job, and serve as a true check on the judiciary."

United Nations demands demilitarized zone around Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant as shelling continues

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency repeated a demand that the area surrounding the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in southern Ukraine be established as a demilitarized zone on Sunday, after at least a dozen shells exploded at the plant.

Reports of the shellings were "extremely disturbing," Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in a statement.

"Explosions occurred at the site of this major nuclear power plant, which is completely unacceptable," said Grossi. "Whoever is behind this, it must stop immediately. As I have said many times before, you're playing with fire!"

Russian forces have been occupying the plant and stationing military equipment there since March, following President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

Strikes at the plant, which have been reported intermittently since the Russians seized the facility, have sparked fears of a nuclear accident, which experts say could spread radioactive material across Europe. So far no radiation leaks have been reported.

The Ukrainian state nuclear company, Energoatom, reported that Sunday morning's shelling damaged water storage tanks and a steam purge generator system.

All of the reactors at Zaporizhzhia, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, have been shut down this year as a precaution, but previous shelling has damaged the plant's power supply, which could cause nuclear fuel to overheat.

"I'm not giving up until [a demilitarized] zone has become a reality," Grossi said Sunday. "As the ongoing apparent shelling demonstrates, it is needed more than ever."

Ukrainian and Russian nuclear authorities each blamed the other side for the most recent strikes.

'Egregious': Tim Kaine rips decision to grant 'head-of state immunity' to MBS over Jamal Khashoggi murder

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine on Friday sharply criticized President Joe Biden's administration for claiming in a federal court filing that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman "enjoys head-of-state immunity" in a civil case brought by the fiancée of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Virginia Democrat is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chairs its subcommittee on human rights, and has been outspoken about the 2018 killing of Khashoggi, who lived in his state but disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

"I am deeply disappointed in the State Department's decision to intervene in a federal lawsuit filed by the friends and family of Virginia resident and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi against Saudi defendants responsible for his gruesome execution," Kaine said. "President Biden has been very clear about this horrific crime. He declared in 2019: 'It was flat-out murder… We should treat it that way and there should be consequences.'"

Using the Saudi prime minister's nickname, the senator highlighted that "despite the U.S. intelligence community concluding that MBS approved the execution of Khashoggi, the Biden administration has imposed no direct consequences on the crown prince."

According to Kaine:

As disappointing as it is that the U.S. has been unwilling to hold MBS to account for the assassination of a U.S.-resident journalist, last night's announcement by the State Department is even more egregious. The case is a civil suit filed by the friends and family of Khashoggi in the hopes of acquiring even a modicum of justice from the Saudi defendants. The U.S. is not a party to the case. The Saudi defendants have full opportunity to defend their own actions in the federal proceedings.
The court offered the administration the option to express an opinion on the question of whether sovereign immunity doctrines protect MBS from the suit. The administration had no duty to take a proactive position and could have simply refrained from doing so. Instead, it has chosen to take the side of the party that our own intelligence agencies have concluded is responsible for the murder, and is standing against family members seeking recompense for this gross injustice.

"Why has the administration changed its view from the strong moral stance taken by the president in 2019?" Kaine asked. "Is the administration casting aside its confidence in its own intelligence community's judgment?"

"If the friends and family of Khashoggi are denied a path to accountability in the American court system, where in the world can they go?" he continued. "How can the U.S. look at any dictator in the world who is oppressing journalists and urge good behavior when we refuse to impose accountability for a shocking murder of an American-based journalist and even take affirmative steps to block efforts by the victim's friends and families to seek justice?"

Kaine was far from alone in expressing outrage over the State Department's decision. Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi's fiancée, and human rights advocates around the world also condemned it.

Karen Attiah, who recruited the late journalist as a columnist for the Post, tweeted that "the Biden administration has failed all of us who fought for justice for Jamal Khashoggi. To shield the Crown Prince MBS from lawsuits is a disgusting betrayal."

"If you have enough money and power and are U.S. 'ally' you can get away with basically anything," she added. "And they release this news on a Thursday night before a major holiday weekend... as Twitter goes under. Cowards."

Bombshell report on right-wing influence on Supreme Court prompts calls for investigation

Advocates for court reform on Saturday called for Congress to investigate allegations that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito leaked a 2014 ruling to a right-wing donor, after The New York Times reported on the claim by a former leader of the pro-forced pregnancy movement.

Rev. Ron Schenck led an evangelical Christian nonprofit organization in 2014 when the court ruled on Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, which allowed religious organizations to deny employees healthcare coverage for contraception.

The Times spent months investigating Schenck's claim—which he also detailed in a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts in June—that Alito leaked the court's decision in the case to one of his top donors, three weeks before the ruling was publicly announced.

Schenck used his knowledge of the ruling to "prepare a public relations push," the Times reported, as well as telling the president of Hobby Lobby about it.

During his time as a crusader against abortion rights—an issue on which he's since changed his viewpoint—Schenck "recruited wealthy donors... encouraging them to invite some of the justices to meals, to their vacation homes, or to private clubs. He advised allies to contribute money to the Supreme Court Historical Society and then mingle with justices at its functions," reported the Times. "He ingratiated himself with court officials who could help give him access, records show."

Schenck sent a letter to Roberts in June—a month after the leak of a draft decision showing the court had voted to overturn Roe v. Wade—saying the information he gained about the Hobby Lobby ruling could be relevant to the court's inquiry into the recent leak. He told the Times he did not receive a response.

The story "strongly suggests Justice Alito leaked the 2014 opinion in Hobby Lobby, and describes a conspiracy by the far-right donor class to influence the Supreme Court Justices," said Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), calling for an investigation by the U.S. House.

Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, which advocates for the expansion of the court and has called for an ethics probe into right-wing Justice Clarence Thomas's alleged conflicts of interest, said the Senate Judiciary Committee "should immediately move to investigate the apparent leak by Justice Alito."

"The whistleblower in this report, Rev. Rob Schenck, should be called to testify about both the leak and the yearslong lobbying effort he once led to cultivate Alito and other Republican justices," he added.

"This bombshell report is the latest proof that the Republican justices on the court are little more than politicians in robes," said Fallon. "It's no wonder trust in the Court has hit a record low. Structural reform of the court, including strict new ethics rules, is needed now more than ever."

This House Democrat is leading the charge to bar Donald Trump from ever being president again

As former President Donald Trump prepared to announce his 2024 presidential campaign Tuesday, Rep. David Cicilline was circulating a letter to his fellow Democratic lawmakers calling on them to support legislation that would bar Trump from running, citing his involvement in the January 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Lawmakers have until Thursday at noon to sign on as original co-sponsors of the legislation, which states that the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution bars anyone from holding public office if they, "having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States... to support the Constitution of the United States... engaged in insurrection of rebellion against the same."

Trump "forfeited his right to ever hold federal office again for leading an insurrection against the United States," the Rhode Island Democrat wrote in the Dear Colleague letter. "This language in our Constitution clearly intended to bar insurrectionists from holding high office in the United States."

Cicilline noted that hearings held by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol earlier this year demonstrated that Trump "engaged in insurrection on January 6 with the intention of overturning the lawful 2020 election results."

The committee presented evidence showing that Trump planned for thousands of his supporters to march to the U.S. Capitol where lawmakers were voting on the certification of the presidential election, and that he sought to make the march to the Capitol seem spontaneous. It also showed that he watched the chaos unfolding at the Capitol on television and refused to stop the attack, which was linked to several deaths.

Cicilline's plan to introduce legislation barring Trump from holding public office follows a letter sent by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) to the former president earlier this month, in which the watchdog said it would pursue his disqualification "under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment based on your engaging in the insurrection."

"We warned him that should he decide to run again, we would be taking action to ensure the Constitution's ban on insurrectionists holding office is enforced," said CREW in a statement after Trump's announcement on Tuesday. "Now we will be. Trump made a mockery of the Constitution he swore to defend, but we will see that it is defended."

Also on Tuesday night, Free Speech for the People (FSFP) and Mi Familia Vota launched a campaign calling on secretaries of state across the U.S. to "follow the mandate of [Amendment] 14.3 and bar Trump from the ballot."

John Bonifaz, president of FSFP, thanked Cicilline for leading the push in Congress to block Trump from running, noting that "even without this legislation," state election officials are bound by law to uphold the 14th Amendment.

"Donald Trump's words and actions incited a violent riot on our nation's capital," said Héctor Sánchez Barba, executive director of Mi Familia Vota, before urging Americans to sign a petition urging officials "to uphold this critical provision."

'Take some ownership': AOC hits back after defeated DCCC chair lashes out

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Thursday evening rebuked outgoing Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who had earlier claimed in an interview with The New York Times that the progressive congresswoman contributed little to campaign efforts and suggested her policy priorities—several of them popular with Democratic voters—are harming the party.

Ocasio-Cortez has spoken at length to both the Times and The Intercept since Tuesday's midterm elections about progressive politics and the Democratic Party, taking aim at what she called a "calcified political machine" in her home state and blaming decisions by New York State Democratic Committee chair Jay Jacobs and the "infrastructure" built by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the party's losses in New York.

Republicans flipped four U.S. House seats in the state and now represent 10 of New York's 26 congressional districts.

The congresswoman, who easily won her own race with more than 70% of the vote, noted that the Republican Party poured millions of dollars into defeating a state ballot initiative which would have protected a district map that was favorable to Democrats.

"The New York State Democratic Party didn't drop $1 in making sure that we got this thing passed," Ocasio-Cortez told The Intercept on Wednesday.

Maloney sparked outrage on the left this year when he announced he would run in New York's 17th District instead of the 18th, which he has represented since 2013, ousting progressive Rep. Mondaire Jones.

Speaking to the Times on Thursday, Maloney brushed off the notion that redistricting hurt the party and suggested suburban voters in the state, like those in the district he narrowly lost in the Hudson Valley, are turning against the party due to Republicans' messaging on crime rates and are rejecting progressive policy proposals.

"You have these suburban voters who are experiencing those messages coming out of New York City outlets, which were heavily focused on crime," Maloney told the Times. "There are other voices who should be heard, especially when suburban voters have clearly rejected the ideas that [Ocasio-Cortez]'s most associated with, from defunding the police on down."

The congressman also accused Ocasio-Cortez of offering little help to her fellow candidates while claiming that funding she did offer wasn't wanted by other Democrats:

I didn't see her one minute of these midterms helping our House majority... She had almost nothing to do with what turned out to be an historic defense of our majority. Didn't pay a dollar of dues. Didn't do anything for our frontline candidates except give them money when they didn't want it from her...

She's an important voice in our politics. But when it comes to passing our agenda through the Congress, or standing our ground on the political battlefield, she was nowhere to be found.

Ocasio-Cortez took to social media to respond, noting that she campaigned for Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) in late October and saying Maloney had reached out to her regarding fundraising for House candidates.

She added that many members were happy to receive "early financial support to position themselves early" in the election cycle, and called on the corporate-backed wing of the party to "take some ownership" for rejecting more help from progressives.

At The Intercept, Ocasio-Cortez expanded on progressive Democrats' support for policies that are popular with crucial factions of the party's voter base, and the "moderate" wing's rejection of those issues, comparing Rep. Tim Ryan—a vocal opponent of President Joe Biden's student debt relief plan who lost a U.S. Senate race in Ohio—with Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a progressive who won the seat held by retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey:

I do hope that there is a reflection on being outwardly antagonistic towards a very enthused progressive base, especially one in which young people delivered these wins. If you look at the difference between Tim Ryan and John Fetterman, as races, some of the preliminary data is suggesting that they had the same turnout in almost every demographic except young people. And as we know, young people skew way progressive within the party. And so when you outwardly antagonize, and outwardly seek to belittle and distance oneself from progressive values, you demoralize your base.

"It's not to say that everybody has to be holding the same line on progressive causes dependent on their community," Ocasio-Cortez added "But it doesn't—I do think that this is a signal that being outwardly antagonistic, including trying to defeat progressive candidates, trying to demoralize those bases, is not healthy for the prospect of democratic gains."

'Past the point of incremental changes': The United States is warming faster than the rest of the world

Emphasizing that mitigating the climate emergency and planetary heating is within policymakers' power, a new draft federal report released Monday outlined the impacts the crisis has had on U.S. communities so far and warned that extreme weather, wildfires, and climate-linked public health crises will only worsen without far-reaching action.

The finalized Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5) is expected to be released in 2023, but federal agencies including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation, and NASA released the draft as global leaders attend COP27, the United Nations' annual climate conference.

The report notes that the country, the largest emitter of carbon in history, is warming faster than the Earth as a whole, with the continental U.S. 1.3°C (2.5°F) warmer than it was in the 1970s. The planet has warmed 1.1°C or 2°F above preindustrial temperatures.

Millions of people in the U.S. have already had firsthand experience with the impacts of the climate crisis, says the report. More than 3,000 homes and other structures were destroyed by wildfires in California in 2021, and a heatwave across the Pacific Northwest last year killed 229 people.

As climate scientists have consistently warned, hurricanes are growing more severe as a result of the continued extraction of fossil fuels and the climate crisis. Hurricane Harvey was directly responsible for at least 88 deaths in Texas in 2017, and more than 6,000 people left Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory that year.

The NCA5 warns that "more severe wildfires in California, sea level rise in Florida, and more frequent flooding in Texas are expected to displace millions of people" in the United States.

"The things Americans value most are at risk," reads the report. "Many of the harmful impacts that people across the country are already experiencing will worsen as warming increases, and new risks will emerge."

Four decades ago, disasters costing $1 billion or more took place roughly once every four months, but 20 such events were recorded in 2021, averaging about one every three weeks. A massive winter storm in Texas, flooding in California and Louisiana, the deadly heat wave in the West, and four tropical cyclones were among the billion-dollar disasters that hit the country last year, killing nearly 700 people and costing an estimated $145 billion.

This year, Hurricane Ian caused more than $20 billion in damage, while other billion-dollar disasters in 2022 have included flooding in Kentucky and Missouri in July and numerous other severe weather events.

"Compound events—combinations of weather or climate events affecting one location back-to-back or multiple locations at the same time—are already occurring in every region of the country and are projected to become more frequent as the world continues to warm," the draft report reads. "These events have cascading effects through supply chains, food networks, and other interdependent systems that typically cause greater harm than isolated events."

The NCA5 highlighted some climate harms facing Americans that have been covered less frequently than extreme weather, including threats to drinking water supplies as rising sea levels send saltwater into aquifers and flooding pollutes wells and other sources.

Other public health risks include rising tick populations and the spread of Lyme disease amid warmer weather, increased transmission of mosquito-borne illnesses, and the inhalation of toxic wildfire smoke in communities across the West.

The broad spectrum of rapidly-worsening climate risks facing the U.S. confirms that "we're past the point of incremental changes," as Kim Cobb, a climate scientist at Brown University, told The Washington Post. "That era has passed us by, and the magnitude of the challenges we're facing right now going forward are going to require transformative changes."

The report's authors write that "a rapid transition in how we produce and use energy and manage lands" could achieve "faster, deeper cuts" to fossil fuel emissions that are needed to see a 6% annual reduction, which the report says is necessary to reach net-zero emissions by 2050."

Every additional increment of warming—and every action to reduce that warming—matters for reducing the harmful impacts of climate change on the United States," the draft report says. "The worst consequences of climate change can still be avoided or limited by large-scale actions that rapidly decarbonize the economy and prepare communities for impacts."

President Joe Biden is expected to travel to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt later this week to attend COP27, where policymakers are discussing greater investments from the Global North to compensate developing countries for the damage they disproportionately face as a result of the climate crisis, and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Tuesday took aim at companies that continue extracting fossil fuels despite claims of carbon neutrality.

"Humanity has a choice," Guterres said Monday. "Cooperate or perish."

'Very soon. Get ready': Trump sends a signal

Former U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday night signaled to his supporters in Sioux City, Iowa that he's close to making an announcement about the 2024 election, as his advisers are reportedly preparing for a campaign launch days after the midterms.

As Axios reported Friday, Trump's aides are "discussing announcing the launch of a 2024 presidential campaign on November 14."

In Sioux City, the former Republican leader told a rally crowd of a presidential run, "In order to make our country successful and safe and glorious, I will very, very, very probably do it again."

"Get ready, that's all I'm telling you—very soon," he added. "Get ready."

The remarks came five days before the midterm elections, in which Trump urged the Iowa crowd to vote against Democrats, as recent polls indicate Republicans have a good chance of taking at least the U.S. House.

The former president's influence over the midterms has been made clear as a majority of Republican candidates endorse Trump's "Big Lie" regarding the 2020 election, which he continues to baselessly claim was rigged in President Joe Biden's favor.

According to CNN, some of Trump's top aides are advising him to announce his 2024 campaign in one of the swing states that Biden won narrowly.

The news that Trump may launch his campaign on November 14 comes as the Department of Justice weighs whether it will bring charges against him over his retention of confidential government documents after he left office in 2021 and his involvement in attempts to reverse the results of the 2020 election and organize the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

The DOJ is considering appointing a special counsel to oversee the two investigations into Trump if he runs for president again.

As Common Dreams reported Thursday, government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) plans to pursue a disqualification for public office should Trump launch a presidential campaign. The group would invoke the Fourteenth Amendment, which "bars anyone who engaged in insurrection against the Constitution they swore to defend from holding office."

"If Trump runs, we're ready," said CREW Friday.

New Senate report stresses the 'barbaric consequences' of GOP abortion bans

Four months after the right-wing majority of the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Sen. Elizabeth Warren led several Democratic lawmakers Tuesday in sharing a comprehensive look at the effects of the state-level attacks on reproductive care that the ruling set in motion.

The Massachusetts Democrat contacted healthcare professionals at the American Medical Association (AMA), Physicians for Reproductive Health (PRH), National Nurses United (NNU), the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), and the American Hospital Association (AHA) over the last two months to determine what impacts of abortion bans doctors and nurses have observed.

In the report Warren released Tuesday with Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), healthcare providers explained how abortion bans in states like Texas and Arkansas have adversely affected their ability to care for patients who need a variety of services and have cut down on abortion access even in states where abortion remains legal.

"In the aftermath of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, this report reveals that the abortion bans and extreme restrictions imposed by Republican politicians have devastating health consequences and threaten women's lives," said Warren in a statement.

Warren's communications with healthcare workers provided five key findings about state-imposed abortion bans and restrictions, according to the report. Such policies:

  • Affect all women seeking reproductive healthcare, even in states where abortion remains legal;
  • Have created mortal threats to women suffering from miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, and other complications;
  • Threaten healthcare providers and interfere with the doctor-patient relationship;
  • Disproportionately impact communities of color, rural communities, and low-income communities; and
  • Result in broader restrictions on medical care and medical education.

The report also details how the 15-week nationwide abortion ban proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) "would have a devastating impact on women's health and the entire healthcare system."

The NNU described to the lawmakers how nurses in states where abortion rights are protected "are beginning to see increased patient loads because of patients traveling to these states to receive the reproductive healthcare they need."

Although New Mexico still has seven abortion clinics operating, added PRH, "the wait times for abortion at five of these clinics are a minimum of three weeks because of the influx of patients traveling from the South. Other clinics in New Mexico are so full they have had to periodically stop booking new appointments."

PRH also provided a response to Warren regarding patients who have ectopic pregnancies—which can be deadly for a pregnant person if left untreated—miscarriages, and other complications, warning that efforts to ban abortion are expected to "lead to a 24% increase in maternal mortality overall," in a country which already has the highest maternal mortality rate among wealthy nations.

"Consequences of such severe abortion restrictions [include]... providers refusing to treat ectopic pregnancy; and providers being forced to wait to intervene until their patient's condition worsens because of uncertainty around what is 'sick enough' to qualify for an exception under the state's abortion ban," PRH wrote to Warren.

As Common Dreams has reported, numerous patients have already been forced to continue carrying nonviable pregnancies until they reached a state where they could have a legal abortion or until their condition became severe enough that the legal department at their hospital deemed it acceptable for providers to terminate the pregnancy.

"This report lays bare the very real, barbaric consequences of Republicans' state-by-state efforts to control women and strip them of their basic rights to decide what happens to their own bodies," said Duckworth in a statement. "No one should have to cross state lines to be treated as an equal citizen."

Abortion bans and restrictions have also kept patients from accessing non-reproductive medical care, the organizations told Warren. APhA noted that methotrexate, which can induce abortions, is also commonly prescribed for millions of people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus, Crohn's disease, and other conditions.

"In many states, such as Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, methotrexate is specifically mentioned in state laws and regulations related to abortion care services," APhA said. "Due to the lack of guidance in interpreting laws in many states, pharmacists are unsure of the liability they would face in dispensing methotrexate, despite it being used for RA."

As Common Dreams reported in July, an eight-year-old girl in Houston was refused the medication for her juvenile arthritis, and other people across the country were being told by healthcare providers they needed to prove they were not pregnant before obtaining the medication.

At least two patients with cancer in Ohio were prevented from getting chemotherapy before a judge blocked the state's abortion ban last month; they were required to terminate their pregnancies before they could receive treatment, but had to leave their home state in order to get abortion care, having missed the ban's cut-off of six weeks of pregnancy—before many people even know they're pregnant.

The report states that all five of the professional associations Warren contacted expressed concern that abortion bans and restrictions will worsen health inequities.

With patients seeking abortion forced to travel several states away in some cases, said the AMA, "access to legal reproductive care will be limited to those who have sufficient resources, circumstances, and financial means, thereby exacerbating health inequities by placing the heaviest burden on patients from Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, low-income, rural, and other historically disadvantaged communities that already face numerous structural and systemic barriers to accessing healthcare."

Those who are most likely to be forced to continue pregnancies against their will are also from communities with increased rates of maternal mortality, the report states.

"This report confirms exactly what I feared: Republicans' crusade against women's reproductive freedoms has created national chaos that is a mortal threat to women's health," said Smith. "I am determined to push back against these dangerous Republican efforts, and I will not stop organizing and fighting until women's freedoms can be exercised equally in all parts of this country."

Graham and other Republicans have stated their plans to pass a 15-week nationwide abortion ban as soon as they're able to—a law which will ensure that "this crisis will get worse," Warren said.

"Efforts to ban abortion across the nation will continue to cause devastating harm to people and continue to exacerbate this country's maternal health crises," said PRH. "Under a federal ban the outcomes for pregnant people and people giving birth would be far worse."

Fetterman calls on Dr. Oz to fire 'multiple insurrectionists' on staff

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the state's Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, warned that Republican nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz is working with numerous people who pose "a direct threat to our American democracy" and demanded that he fire his staffers recently exposed as supporters of the January 6 insurrection.

Rolling Stone reported on Sunday that at least two people working on Oz's campaign attended the rally former President Donald Trump held in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021 before thousands of his supporters waged an attack on the U.S. Capitol and tried to stop lawmakers from certifying the 2020 election results.

"It really says a lot about Dr. Oz that he's hired people who want to quite literally overthrow American democracy," tweeted Fetterman on Monday.

Lee Snover, a campaign coordinator for Oz, was among the Trump supporters who marched to the Capitol after the so-called "Stop the Steal" rally. She also participated in a Zoom call four days before the insurrection about the Trump campaign's plans for "decertifying" election results in swing states and called for state legislators to push then-Vice President Mike Pence to interfere with the counting of electoral votes.

Political adviser Josh Bashline was also profiled by Rolling Stone, which reported that he attended the "Stop the Steal" rally.

"Dr. Oz and his disgustingly radical campaign must fire these insurrectionist staffers immediately," said Joe Calvello, a spokesperson for Fetterman.

The news regarding Oz's campaign staff is just the latest evidence that the celebrity doctor supports Trump's continued baseless claims that he was the true winner of the 2020 election.

Oz said in April that "we cannot move on" from the election and he supports the gubernatorial campaign of Doug Mastriano, who organized buses to Washington, D.C. for the January 6 rally and whose campaign event Oz attended over the weekend.

Along with members of Oz's staff, a consultant for his campaign, Larry Weitzner, told a former supporter of the Republican candidate that Oz was not "an election denier" even as Weitzner promoted the false claim that fraud had taken place during voting.

"He is not denying the [2020] election," Weitzner texted Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, before adding, "Massive difference between saying their [sic] was fraud, which most Republican officials and voters believe as well as real evidence, [versus] saying the election was stolen or denying Biden won."

As Rolling Stone reported, Weitzner was among the Trump allies who received an email from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on December 8, 2020, which read, "The goal is to arouse the country's anger through new verifiable information the American people have never seen before... If we inform the American people in a way they find convincing and it arouses their anger, they will then bring pressure on legislators and governors."

In recent weeks, Fetterman has taken aim at Oz's claim that "local political leaders" should have a say in whether people can legally obtain abortion care and his long history of promoting unproven and dangerous wellness products on TV, and demanded he disavow Trump's plans to sow doubt about the integrity of the Pennsylvania election on November 8.

"Whether it's with his abortion views on the debate stage or with his employment of multiple insurrectionists," said Calvello. "Oz's extremism is on full display in the campaign's final week."

A poll released by the New York Times/Siena College on Monday showed 49% of likely Pennsylvania voters currently plan to support Fetterman while 44% are backing Oz.

'An affront to justice': Clarence Thomas sparks outrage after shielding Lindsey Graham from subpoena

Progressives on Monday repeated calls for a federal investigation into U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, right-wing activist Ginni Thomas, after the judge unilaterally granted a request to shield Sen. Lindsey Graham from a subpoena regarding the 2020 election.

Thomas, who handles emergency requests filed in Georgia, temporarily blocked the subpoena, which was issued by the Fulton County district attorney and called on the South Carolina Republican senator to answer questions about phone calls he made to Georgia election officials after the election.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled last week that Graham should be required to testify before a grand jury about the phone calls, in which the senator allegedly asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger if he could reject certain absentee ballots to secure a more favorable outcome for then-President Donald Trump.

Thomas has faced calls to recuse himself from all cases related to the 2020 election because his wife contacted White House officials and Republican lawmakers in at least two other states following the election, asking them to help reverse Trump's loss.

Thomas' Monday ruling is a temporary stay, and the Supreme Court may act in the case again later this week and may rule that Graham must testify.

Critics said, however, that the justice's ruling indicates the kind of conflict of interest that that he has been accused of as his wife's involvement in spreading the "Big Lie" that the election was "stolen" from Trump.

"Clarence Thomas should not be ruling on any 2020 election-related case given his wife's behavior," said Emily C. Singer, a reporter at The American Independent. "Period. Full stop."

While Thomas' decision "doesn't really signal any cause for concern in terms of getting Sen. Graham before the Special Purpose Grand Jury eventually," added Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis, "the optics for the court are less than ideal to say the least."

The ruling sparked renewed outrage from groups that advocate for the expansion of the Supreme Court.

"This out of control Supreme Court must be reined in," said Demand Justice, which advocates for the expansion of the high court.

Grassroots group Stand Up America called the unilateral decision "an affront to justice and democracy."

"Once again, Justice Thomas is attempting to throw up a roadblock to investigations into the criminal conspiracy to overthrow the 2020 election," said Christina Harvey, the group's executive director. "If the court is to ever restore its credibility, it must be held to the same ethical standards as lower courts and four seats must be added to counterbalance the power of shameless, unethical partisans like Justice Thomas."

'Phenomenal': European Union Parliament resoundingly backs fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty

Just a year after angering climate campaigners by voting down a resolution to call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, the European Parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly approved the measure, demonstrating that "momentum is growing" in the push for a global, rapid shift away from planet-heating oil, gas, and coal.

450 members of the body voted for the resolution and 119 opposed it—a reversal of last year's vote in which just 168 approved of the resolution and 510 opposed it.

"This is a major development in the global push for a fossil fuel treaty," said the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, an international campaign group.

The resolution outlines the Parliament's demands for the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), which is scheduled to begin in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt on November 6.

Included in the resolution is language demanding that "all parties must make financial flows—public and private, domestic and international—compatible with the path towards the 1.5°C target in the Paris Agreement; reiterates the need to urgently end fossil fuel subsidies" and that encourages nations represented in the European Parliament "to work on developing a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty."

Such a treaty would end all new coal, oil, and gas production; phase out existing production infrastructure, which is responsible for 80% of fossil fuel emissions over the last decade; and ensure a just transition to "enable economic diversification" and "support every worker, community, and country."

E.U. members must "stand ready to contribute to closing the gap necessary to limit global warming to 1.5°C, in a just, socially balanced, fair, and cost-effective way, while taking into account aspects of global fairness and equity and the E.U.’s historical and current responsibility for the emissions causing the climate crisis," reads the resolution.

"We welcome this resolution," said Tzeporah Berman, chair of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative. "Phasing out fossil fuels is now clearly the test for climate leadership at COP27 in Egypt. It is not a transition if we are growing the problem. If we are going to break free from the tyranny of oil we need countries to cooperate to stop the expansion of fossil fuels."

The resolution was passed just over a month after the World Health Organization led a coalition of global public health experts calling for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty on the grounds that the continued extraction of coal, oil, and gas poses "serious global health risks."

Youth climate leaders made a similar call in June, and more than 100 Nobel laureates, 69 cities, and more than 1,700 civil society groups have supported the push for such an agreement.

Last month, Vanuatu became the first nation state to officially call for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty during the U.N. General Assembly.

By joining the tiny Pacific island nation, which is vulnerable to rising sea levels and other impacts of the climate crisis, in supporting the treaty "the E.U. can stand on the right side of history," said Tasneem Essop, executive director of Climate Action Network International.

"The momentum behind a treaty to keep fossil fuels in the ground in a fair and timely fashion is phenomenal and growing," said Andrew Simms of the Rapid Transition Alliance.

Judge's ruling on gun serial numbers highlights 'deadly' impact of right-wing Supreme Court

Legal experts said Friday that a federal judge's ruling in West Virginia illustrates the danger posed by the U.S. Supreme Court's right wing majority, which ruled this year in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen that restrictions on firearms must fall within the so-called "historical tradition" of gun laws.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin, who was appointed to the Southern District of West Virginia by former Democratic President Bill Clinton, ruled against a federal law prohibiting people from possessing firearms with serial numbers that have been "altered, obliterated, or removed."

"Serial numbers were largely unknown to the Framers, Goodwin wrote. And so the Second Amendment confers a right to remove them from modern weapons."

Serial numbers have been required for guns since the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968 and are intended to prevent the illegal sale of guns and to allowing law enforcement to trace firearms.

But basing his ruling on the majority Supreme Court opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas in June, Goodwin said Wednesday that requiring serial numbers is not part of the "historical tradition of firearm regulation" and therefore runs afoul of the Second Amendment.

In his majority opinion in Bruen, which overturned New York's state law restricting the concealed carry of firearms in public, Thomas wrote that for a gun control law to stand, the federal, state, or local government "must affirmatively prove that its firearm regulation is part of the historical tradition that delimits the outer bounds of the right to keep and bear arms."

Goodwin's opinion, said Demand Justice, which advocates for Supreme Court reform, demonstrates the far-reaching impact the Bruen ruling could have on gun laws across the country.

"That radical ruling is impacting measures as basic as a requirement that guns have serial numbers," said the group.

The case heard by Goodwin originated with a traffic stop in Charleston, West Virginia during which police found a gun with the serial number removed. The driver, Randy Price, had also been convicted of a felony.

Price argued in court that he had a constitutional right to have the firearm, while lawyers for the federal government said the law regarding serial numbers was a "commercial regulation" that did not violate the Second Amendment.

On Thursday, Slate journalist Mark Joseph Stern wrote that while Goodwin's ruling "might sound bizarre... his analysis closely follows Thomas' test" that requires the government to prove a gun regulation had a historical "analogue" in 1791, when the Second Amendment was ratified, or 1868, when it was imposed throughout the U.S.:

The only remaining question is whether the government could find an analogous regulation from 1791 or 1868 that restricted the possession of guns with an altered serial number. It could not, for a fairly obvious reason: Serial numbers only became common following the mass production of firearms, which took off in the decades after the Civil War.

Serial numbers were largely unknown to the Framers, Goodwin wrote. And so the Second Amendment confers a right to remove them from modern weapons.

When Bruen was handed down in June, Stern called the ruling "a revolution in Second Amendment law" which would ultimately go "so, so far beyond concealed carry."

Goodwin noted in his opinion on Wednesday that firearms that can't be traced using a serial number "are likely to be used in violent crime and therefore a prohibition on their possession is desirable," but said that argument "is the exact type of means-end reasoning the Supreme Court has forbidden me from considering."

Stern suggested that parts of Goodwin's opinion read "as if the judge is desperate to show readers just how dangerous and radical [the Bruen] ruling is."

According to the Supreme Court, Stern wrote, "all that counts is that serial number laws arose over the last century, so they are too modern to comport with the Second Amendment. Goodwin made this point over and over again; it almost sounded like he was quietly protesting the extreme and dangerous results demanded by the Bruen test."

"His decision thus doubled as a warning," he added. "The Supreme Court's Second Amendment jurisprudence has grown so radical that it now shields criminals trying to conceal their involvement in a violent crime."

'Shares its name with a major extinction event': Permian Basin pipelines are spewing methane

Pipelines transporting natural gas in the Permian Basin oil field are leaking at least 14 times more methane than the Environmental Protection Agency previously estimated, according to a study published Tuesday.

Scientists at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Stanford University, and the University of Arizona analyzed more than 10,000 miles of gathering pipelines—which transport unprocessed gas from wells to processing facilities—using aircraft with sensors equipped to detect plumes of methane.

Pipelines across the basin—which is located in western Texas and New Mexico and is the largest oil and gas field in the U.S.—are emitting at least 213,000 metric tons of methane per year, meaning 2.7 metric tons per year per kilometer of pipeline. That amount is 14 times greater than the EPA's national inventory has estimated.

"Applying this estimate to all gas gathering pipelines nationwide for illustrative purposes would increase the EPA inventory estimate for the entire natural gas system by 27%," wrote study co-authors Erin Murphy of the EDF and Jevan Yu of Stanford, in a blog post.

The authors noted that about 50% of the emissions of methane—the potent greenhouse gas which has more than 80 times the heating potential of carbon dioxide in its first two decades in the atmosphere—come from just 15% of the pipelines' largest leaks.

"Finding and fixing a relatively small number of leaks could have significant climate benefits," wrote Murphy and Yu.

The methane emissions leaking from Permian Basin pipelines have a climate impact equal to 3.7 million passenger vehicles and represent enough natural gas to meet the energy needs of 2.1 million homes, noted the scientists, who said the research should push policymakers to strictly regulate gathering pipelines.

While a new rule issued in November 2021 by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) established safety standards for 90,000 miles of gathering lines—a major improvement over the 10,000 miles that had previously been regulated, said Murphy and Yu, "the overwhelming majority of gathering lines remain unregulated, which is inadequate to protect people and the environment."

The analysis was released days after researchers at the University of Michigan published a report showing that the practice of flaring, in which natural gas escaping from fossil fuel wells is burned, releases five times more methane than previously known.

A separate recent study from the University of Reims in France found that methane emissions in the Permian Basin were two to three times higher than companies reported to the EPA.

"It's somehow fitting that our largest oil and gas field shares its name with a major extinction event," said one observer of the latter study.

The United Nations said in a report last year that reducing methane emissions must play a larger role in the fight against the climate crisis. Methane emissions are currently projected to rise through at least 2040, but they could plummet by 45% by 2030 with a major effort to reduce leaks from infrastructure. That reduction could help stop the planet from heating by nearly 0.3°C by the 2040s, according to the United Nations.

"We wouldn't accept these kinds of leaks from hazardous liquids lines and we shouldn't accept them from natural gas pipelines either," said Bill Caram of the Pipeline Safety Trust, a watchdog organization.

Watch: Remnants of Hurricane Fiona sweep coastal Canadian homes into the sea

At least eight homes were reportedly swept into the sea in southern Newfoundland Saturday after post-Tropical Storm Fiona slammed into eastern Canada with winds racing at nearly 81 miles per hour and the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded for a storm in the country.

After knocking out power in Puerto Rico last week when it hit the U.S. territory as a Category 1 hurricane and intensifying to a Category 4 storm as it approached Bermuda, Fiona made landfall in Nova Scotia, where it caused "very extensive damage" at an airport in Sydney and cut off power for more than 415,000 of the province's 500,000 customers.

On Sunday, more than 265,000 households in Nova Scotia were still without power, and the province's electricity company warned the outages would persist "for multiple days."

Fiona has been blamed for at least five deaths in the Caribbean; in Port aux Basques, Newfoundland, one woman has been listed as missing after her home was "struck by a devastating wave," and authorities were investigating whether "she went out with the water," Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesperson Jolene Garland told The Washington Post late Saturday.

Another woman in the area was being treated for injuries after being rescued.

Port aux Basques was also where a number of structures were seen floating out to sea as the storm battered the town.

"I'm seeing homes in the ocean," René J. Roy, a resident of the town and editor of the local news outlet Wreckhouse Press, told the Associated Press. "I'm seeing rubble floating all over the place. It's complete and utter destruction... It's quite terrifying."

Residents posted videos of the destruction on social media.

Rescue workers in Port aux Basques were also battling electrical fires after the storm subsided.

In Halifax, Nova Scotia, Mayor Mike Savage said the roof of an apartment building had collapsed and officials had evacuated 100 people to an emergency center.

The historically low-pressure storm—the kind associated with strong winds and heavy rainfall—offered the latest sign that the human-caused climate emergency is fueling extreme weather, said 350.org co-founder and author Bill McKibben.

At The Conversation, civil engineering professor Ryan P. Mulligan of Queen's University in Ontario noted that the storm caused waves to reach more than 32 feet high on the Scotian Shelf off Nova Scotia, adding that "hurricanes with the size and strength of Fiona do not usually maintain their high wind speeds this far north."

"How did Fiona get into Canadian water with such size and intensity? This is related to its heat source: the ocean," wrote Mulligan. "Ocean warming may be linked to the increasing intensity of storms making landfall and to the development of strong hurricanes."

"So climate change leads to warmer ocean water at higher latitudes," he added. "A warmer future increases the probability that more intense storms will reach Canadian coasts."

As climate scientists have warned, stronger hurricanes and tropical storms "what we continue seeing as a result of decades of climate damage," said former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner.

US Progressives express solidarity with Iranian protesters after death of Mahsa Amini

Progressive U.S. lawmakers on Friday expressed solidarity with anti-government protesters that have spread to cities across Iran as people express outrage over the death of a 22-year-old woman who was in police custody after being accused of violating the country's strict dress code.

As authorities have cracked down on the protests, which are now taking place in more than five dozen cities, more than 30 people have reportedly been killed and hundreds have been injured or arrested.

The protests erupted this past week after the death of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish Iranian woman, on September 16. Amini had been in a coma for three days following her arrest in Tehran by the country's so-called "morality police." She had been accused of wearing an "improper" head covering.

A photo of Amini in a coma sparked outrage when it was circulated on social media. Her family has accused police of beating Amini, rejecting a police report that she suffered a heart attack while in custody.

Protests condemning Amini's death have included women tearing off and burning their hijabs, which is punishable by arrest and fines, while men have cheered them on.

Since the demonstrations began, participants have also decried the country's struggling economy. Iran's economy has been severely weakened by sanctions imposed by the U.S. and other countries in the Global North.

U.S. anti-war group CodePink noted that U.S. sanctions on Iran's internet services have for years endangered and violated the rights of Iranians by forcing them to rely on "state-run services which are easily monitored, censored, and blacked out."

The group applauded the U.S. State Department's decision to relax the internet sanctions, noting that Iranian-American campaigners have consistently put pressure on the U.S. government to do so.

"Let's hope the protests in Iran against the death of Mahsa Amini forces the Iranian government to disband the 'morality police' and let women dress the way they want to," CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin added on Twitter.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) applauded Iranian women for leading the demonstrations and condemned reports that government forces have "responded by killing dozens of protesters."

"Solidarity with the courageous women and allies in Iran protesting for their freedom," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted, noting that all people must have the right to full bodily autonomy, including their choice of what to wear as well as the reproductive care they receive.

"I stand in solidarity with the Iran protests as they fight for a woman's right to bodily autonomy and against police brutality," added Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).

US announces fund to benefit Afghan economy using Afghan Bank reserves it stole

Rights organizations on Thursday responded to a new Biden administration plan to use $3.5 billion in U.S.-held Afghan funds to "help mitigate the economic challenges" facing the people of Afghanistan by saying the proposal was "better than keeping that money locked away in a U.S. vault" but must only be the first step in returning $7 billion in stolen money to Afghanistan.

Following months of outcry from economists, peace groups, and Afghan rights campaigners, the U.S. Treasury Department said Wednesday that it is coordinating with international partners, including the Swiss government, to establish what it called the "Afghan Fund."

The fund will include "$3.5 billion of Afghan central bank reserves to be used for the benefit of the people of Afghanistan while keeping them out of the hands of the Taliban and other malign actors," the Treasury Department said, and will make "targeted disbursements of that $3.5 billion to help provide greater stability to the Afghan economy."

The Afghan economic justice group Unfreeze Afghanistan said that "the freezing of this money has devastated Afghanistan's economy and contributed to one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world,"

"Over the past year, the banks have been so starved for cash that Afghans have been unable to withdraw their own money for paying basic household expenses or running their businesses," said the group. "We believe the Afghan people would ultimately be best assisted if these funds are quickly made available for Central Bank functions."

The money being placed in the Afghan Fund represents half of the Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) reserves, stored in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which were seized by the U.S. earlier this year even as Afghanistan faced a worsening hunger crisis.

The Biden administration said earlier this year that the other $3.5 billion would be retained to potentially be claimed by the families of victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks to settle legal judgments against the Taliban—a proposal that several families objected to, saying the money belonged to the people of Afghanistan.

Last month, a U.S. federal judge concluded that the families should not be permitted to claim the funds.

On Wednesday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said the U.S. is taking an "important, concrete step forward in ensuring that additional resources can be brought to bear to reduce suffering and improve economic stability for the people of Afghanistan while continuing to hold the Taliban accountable."

The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) denounced the Biden administration's statement as "pure spin," noting that the $3.5 billion in Afghan funds is not the United States' money to disburse.

"The Afghan Fund is funded by Afghanistan, and the U.S. is only delivering unprecedented suffering," said the CEPR.

Since the U.S. has withheld the $7 billion from the DAB, Afghanistan's humanitarian crisis has steadily grown more dire, with six million people facing famine and an estimated three million children suffering from acute malnourishment.

September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows expressed gratitude that the Afghan economy will receive a boost through the Afghan Fund, and called on the Biden administration to return the full $7 billion it confiscated.

Unfreeze Afghanistan said that now that the U.S. has committed to place $3.5 billion in the fund, the reserves must be sent to the DAB as quickly as possible to benefit the Afghan people.

The DAB has already agreed to independent monitoring of its funds, said Unfreeze Afghanistan, adding that the international community must now "assist DAB in getting the technical capacity needed to implement" anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism funding controls.

"We urge the U.S. government, the Afghan Fund, and DAB to work closely together to ensure that the money from the Afghan Fund is channeled to the Afghan central bank as soon as possible," said the group, "with the goal of shoring up the nation's economy and alleviating the suffering of the Afghan people."

U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, added the U.S. must "follow this action by reassuring banks and governments worldwide that engage with Afghanistan's central bank to provide liquidity will not face sanctions."

Afghanistan's current crisis "has been intensified by the Western freeze of Afghanistan's reserve assets held abroad—a policy that has contributed to an economic depression, mass hunger, and displacement," said Jayapal. "While this fund has the potential to unlock $3.5 billion of the $7 billion in U.S. possession—which should be pursued swiftly—we believe the full $7 billion that rightfully belongs to the Afghan people should be restored to the Central Bank."

OB-GYNs warn of abortion threat Dr. Oz poses in latest Fetterman ad

With eight weeks to go until the midterm elections, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the state's Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, called on physicians on Friday to weigh in on the threat his Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz, poses to reproductive rights if he wins a Senate seat.

In Fetterman's latest ad, obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Lisa Perriera is seen speaking at a podium about Oz's pro-forced pregnancy beliefs.

"Oz has extreme anti-choice views and has said he opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest," Perriera says, warning that if he is allowed to represent Pennsylvania in the Senate, he "would only make the struggle for my patients harder" as pregnant people across the nation face more limited access to abortion care.

Oz said at an event in May that he believes abortion is "murder" at any stage of pregnancy, and suggested he would not support the right to abortion care for patients whose pregnancies result from rape or incest.

Three months later the celebrity doctor claimed he supports exceptions to abortion bans including when a patient is a survivor of rape or incest or faces life-threatening complications—but as cases in Texas and Louisiana have shown, even such exceptions can put pregnant patients in danger as doctors and hospitals weigh whether they can provide medically ncessary care without breaking state laws.

"Dr. Oz's far-right position tearing away the right to safe, legal abortion care puts him in the radical right wing of our politics and woefully out of step with Pennsylvania voters," Perriera says in Fetterman's ad.

A poll taken by Franklin & Marshall University last month found that 9 in 10 Pennsylvanians support abortion rights in at least some circumstances.

The ad also features Debbie Fickes, a retired OB-GYN nurse.

"No state, no government, no church has the right to force a woman to give birth against her will," Fickes says.

Republicans have indicated that they plan to pass a nationwide ban on abortion care if they win back control of Congress and eventually the White House.

'Climate dystopia at our doorstep': Historic monsoon flooding in Pakistan displaces tens of millions

With hundreds of thousands of people displaced, more than four million crops destroyed, and nearly a million homes demolished or severely damaged, Pakistani officials and rights campaigners on Monday called for a major international aid push following flooding throughout the country fueled by the fossil fuel-driven climate emergency and an unprecedented season of monsoon rains.

More than 30 million people are in urgent need of help, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said after conducting a rapid needs assessment three days after the Pakistani government declared the flooding, which has killed more than 1,000 people, a national emergency.

Both the IRC and government officials have explicitly linked the flooding to the climate crisis, with IRC country director Shabnam Baloch noting, "Despite producing less than 1% of the world's carbon footprint, the country is suffering the consequences of the world's inaction and stays in the top 10 countries facing the consequences."

Amid a monsoon season which has so far seen 784% and 500% more rains than average in Sindh and Balochistan provinces, respectively, the IRC is anticipating a sharp rise in food insecurity as 71% of Pakistanis surveyed by the group are already without access to sufficient clean drinking water. The disaster has also left 84% of women and girls without access to hygiene supplies, 63% of pregnant and lactating women "extremely vulnerable," and as many as 40% of people without access to critical healthcare.

"Our needs assessment showed that we are already seeing a major increase in cases of diarrhea, skin infections, malaria, and other illnesses," said Baloch. "The IRC has reached almost 20,000 people with critical food, supplies, and medical support. We are urgently requesting donors to step up their support and help us save lives."

Pakistani Climate Minister Sherry Rehman did not mince words Monday as she pointed out the link between the climate crisis and the suffering of the tens of millions of people directly affected by the flooding.

"This is very far from a normal monsoon [season]—it is climate dystopia at our doorstep," Rehman told Agence France-Presse. "We are at the moment at the ground zero of the frontline of extreme weather events, in an unrelenting cascade of heatwaves, forest fires, flash floods, multiple glacial lake outbursts, flood events, and now the monster monsoon of the decade is wreaking nonstop havoc throughout the country."

The season of what officials are calling "overwhelming" monsoons followed a heatwave earlier this year in which temperatures soared to 116.6°F in Sindh province.

"This is what the climate crisis looks like," former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner said on social media Monday, posting a video of Pakistanis struggling to walk through rushing waters in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Many of the hundreds of thousands of people who have been forced from their homes by the flooding are currently staying in makeshift shelters, but Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday announced a $45 million relief fund for Balochistan province, 75% of which is underwater. Sharif added that the government would provide shelter for all those who have lost their homes.

The country's latest climate crisis-fueled catastrophe comes amid an economic crisis, with the annual inflation rate above 38% and sovereign debt exceeding $250 billion.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Sunday called on the International Monetary Fund to release $1.2 billion as part of Pakistan's bailout, and the United Nations is expected to launch an international appeal for aid in Islamabad on Tuesday.

"Going forward, I would expect not only the International Monetary Fund, but the international community and international agencies to truly grasp the level of devastation," Bhutto-Zardari told The Guardian. "I haven't seen destruction of this scale, I find it very difficult to put into words... it is overwhelming."

Aid flights arrived from Turkey and the United Arab Emirates on Sunday with tents, food, and other supplies.

Rehman said international policymakers must treat Pakistan's catastrophic flooding as "a global crisis" and invest in helping the Global South to fund its defenses against the climate emergency.

"We will need better planning and sustainable development on the ground," Rehman told Turkish news outlet TRT World. "We'll need to have climate resilient crops as well as structures."

The devastation across Pakistan, said Amnesty International secretary general Agnes Callamard, illustrates that the climate crisis "demands effective, committed global governance" instead of "mediocre, self-interested, selfish" policies from the world's wealthiest countries, which blocked discussions about loss and damage financing for the Global South at the Bonn Climate Change Conference in June.

"Climate injustice is deadly. Violent. Unequal," said Callamard. "It is a human rights issue."

American banks pouring billions into Russian 'carbon bomb' projects

New research released Wednesday by a Ukraine-based climate action group reveals that while the U.S. is sending another $3 billion in aid to the country amid Russia's invasion, American banks are among the biggest investors in high-emissions projects which are helping to fund the war as well as pushing the planet toward climate breakdown.

Compiled by the Leave It in the Ground Initiative (LINGO), the new database details the various investors and creditors of Russian "carbon bombs"—extraction projects with the potential to emit at least one billion tonnes of carbon.

Based on its findings, LINGO is calling on major banks including JPMorgan Chase and HSBC to end their funding of such projects by oil and gas companies across Russia.

"We should not be investing in new fossil fuel projects, as the International Energy Agency has confirmed," LINGO Director Kjell Kühne told The Guardian. "Anybody involved in these projects should be really questioning what they're doing."

More than 400 worldwide firms have provided $130 billion in investment and credit to projects by oil and gas companies including Gazprom, Novatek, and Rosneft in recent years.

Investments make up $52 billion of the funding, and U.S. companies have provided an estimated $23.6 billion of that—approximately half the total.

JPMorgan Chase has provided the largest combination of credit and investment of any U.S. company, pouring $10 billion into projects extracting fossil fuels in the Arctic, Siberia, and other regions.

Qatar's sovereign wealth fund accounted for the second-largest investment in carbon bomb projects, investing more than $15 billion in Rosneft, which began construction last month on an oil terminal in the Arctic. U.K. companies have invested the third-largest amount recorded by LINGO—a total of $2.5 billion.

Two years after JPMorgan released a pledge to "tackle climate change"—one that was met with skepticism by climate campaigners—the company is still engaging in what climate scientist Bill McGuire called "criminal behavior leading directly to death, destruction, and the continued devastation of our climate and our world."

In addition to contributing to the heating of the planet—drilling in a region that scientists recently discovered is heating up four times faster than the planet as a whole due to fossil fuel emissions—the companies identified by LINGO are helping to fund Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, which has killed more than 5,500 people and injured more than 7,800 so far.

"This [war] has made really clear that, when you don't care who you're doing business with," Kühne told The Guardian, "it does translate into human suffering and lives lost."

Progressives elated after Joe Biden signs 'landmark' Inflation Reduction Act into law

Economic and climate justice groups on Tuesday applauded as U.S. President Joe Biden signed into law the Inflation Reducation Act, with advocates hailing the $740 billion investment in climate action, corporate tax reform, and healthcare as "landmark legislation" while they pledged to continue working to secure more ambitious reforms.

"It's law," Biden said as he signed the IRA, which includes an historic investment of $370 billion to expand renewable energy infrastructure, caps prescription drug costs for senior citizens, and pays for badly needed reforms by raising taxes on corporations.

As the bill was signed more than a year after Biden's original proposal for the Build Back Better Act, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) said the IRA "is a reminder that we must never stop fighting to address the climate crisis — because our planet & future is at stake."

"This bill is the biggest step forward on climate ever," Biden told the crowd gathered at the White House for the signing.

Lisa Frank of Environment America's Washington legislative office applauded the president and the Democratic Party for taking a "huge step" toward reducing U.S. carbon emissions.

The law is "a start to, not the culmination of, our work to reduce global warming pollution and ensure clean air, clean water, and the preservation of open spaces," said Frank.

The Union of Concerned Scientists said that by offering tax credits and rebates for the use of renewable energy sources and creating an estimated nine million jobs over the next decade, the IRA "marks a win for future generations who deserve our best efforts to secure a safer and healthier world."

"More attention is still needed to address provisions included in the bill that could perpetuate harms communities face from fossil fuel pollution," added Johanna Chao Kreilic, president of the group. "The administration must follow up today's signing with strong environmental and public health rules that will help speed the transition to clean energy and reduce pollution that especially harms Black, Brown, Indigenous and low-income communities."

"Today's bill signing marks a success—one that we must build on in the months and years to come," Kreilic said.

The Sunrise Movement, led by young climate campaigners, called the law "a forced compromise between corporate oil lobbyists and young people who are fighting for a livable future," noting the IRA's continuation of oil and gas lease sales "is unacceptable, and will hurt the predominantly Black, brown, and poor communities on the frontlines of extraction."

The group also gave credit to campaigners who have pushed the Democratic Party to embrace the Green New Deal and adopt ambitious climate action.

"Today, it’s clear that young people have organized the impossible into existence," executive director Varshini Prakash said. "We sat in Speaker Pelosi’s office with [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] in 2018 to make climate action a political priority. We pushed until 23 out of 25 Democratic presidential candidates endorsed the Green New Deal—and until they understood climate and jobs were inextricably tied. We helped inspire record youth turnout after helping Biden write a more ambitious climate plan. And in 2021, we never let lawmakers forget they had an obligation to deliver climate legislation.

"Simply put, the movement for a Green New Deal created the conditions to make Biden's agenda and this climate investment possible," Prakash added. "Without the Green New Deal, there is no IRA."

Economic justice group Patriotic Millionaires praised the bill's provisions imposing taxes on corporate stock buybacks and other minimum taxes on large companies, as well as increased funding to hold wealthy tax dodgers accountable.

"The vast majority of working Americans pay every cent they owe in federal taxes—it’s time for wealthy criminal tax evaders to do the same," said Morris Pearl, chair of the group. "The American people are tired of doing their part daily to keep this country running while criminal tax evaders and corporate tax cheats pay nothing. The rich are required to pay the bare minimum back to the society responsible for their success, and the IRA will make them do just that."

John Fetterman: 'Dr. Oz is a fraud' for taking farm subsidy

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman on Tuesday slammed his GOP opponent in the state's U.S. Senate election, Mehmet Oz, for taking advantage of a tax break under a program originally intended to help struggling farmers, saying the tax relief underscores how the celebrity doctor seeks to benefit from Pennsylvania instead of serving the state.

Oz, who has been known for years as TV personality Dr. Oz, purchased a farmstead in Montgomery County late last year, weeks after he announced he was running for Senate. Oz has homes in Florida and New Jersey and has been staying at a Pennsylvania house owned by his in-laws since 2020, when Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) announced his plan to retire.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Tuesday, the $3.1 million Montgomery County property is eligible for a tax relief and conservation program called Act 319, which gives landowners a more favorable tax assessment in return for protecting land from development.

Oz's home, where he still doesn't live, has been held back from development as a "forest reserve," with Oz and his wife agreeing to preserve tree cover that exists on the property.

In exchange, the state has assessed the value of the property at less than $450,000, subjecting Oz to an annual tax bill of just $21,473 instead of $72,000.

While the tax break is meant to incentivize homeowners to refrain from developing forested land, according to the Inquirer, Oz agreed when he bought the home to "not construct any improvement of structures" on the property.

He applied for the Act 319 tax break months later.

"The intent here was to induce [Oz] to not develop the land," tax attorney Richard Booker told the Inquirer. "But he'd already agreed to that."

On Twitter, Fetterman posted an image of a check made out to "Farmer Oz."

Oz's use of Act 319 is completely legal—but with tax break affecting a local school district's budget, Fetterman said the doctor's actions demonstrate that "Dr. Oz does not want to live in Pennsylvania, and he doesn't want to pay taxes here; he just wants our Senate seat."

Fetterman noted that according to the Inquirer, Oz has claimed that ongoing renovations have kept him from moving into the home he purchased—"on two recent afternoons, there were no cars in the driveway or signs of construction activity at the house."

"Dr. Oz hasn't even moved into his 'home' in Pennsylvania yet, but he's already found time to claim a tax break on his new mansion in Pennsylvania—a tax break meant for struggling small-time farmers," said Fetterman. "It also looks like Dr. Oz is no longer even pretending to be renovating and getting ready to move into this house where he supposedly plans to live."

"Honestly, he’s just acknowledging what we all already know: that as soon as he loses, Dr. Oz is heading back to his mansion in New Jersey," he added.

Campaigning as "the pro-choice, pro-equality, pro-worker, pro-democracy candidate" for Senate, Fetterman has harshly criticized Oz for only recently moving into his in-laws' home in Pennsylvania and for still owning a home in New Jersey.

He rebuked Oz last week for newly resurfaced comments in which the doctor said, "It's very hard to discern significant differences in happiness in someone who's making $50,000 and $50 million," calling Oz "out of touch from reality."

"Dr. Oz is a fraud who is just using the people of Pennsylvania, he does not care about us one bit," said Fetterman on Tuesday.

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Fetterman celebrates 1 million individual donations ahead of return to campaign trail

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman announced Friday that his U.S. Senate campaign has received one million individual donations, highlighting the progressive candidate's strong grassroots support.

Fetterman posted a video of himself and his family thanking his supporters for their contributions, which totaled a record-breaking $11 million in the second quarter of 2022 and which averaged less than $30 per donation.

"The total number of contributions is a major milestone that demonstrates Fetterman's unmatched and steady grassroots support across the commonwealth," said the campaign in a statement.

The campaign marked the milestone as it announced Fetterman will hold his first public event since he suffered a stroke in May, with a rally planned for next Friday, August 12.

Fetterman will address supporters in Erie, which he said is in the state's "most important bellwether county."

The lieutenant governor won Erie County by more than 65% of the vote in the primary, which took place just days after his stroke. Former President Donald Trump won the county in 2016 and President Joe Biden won it in 2020.

"Before the 2020 election, I said that if I could know one single fact about the results, I could tell you who was going to win Pennsylvania. Whoever wins Erie County will win Pennsylvania," Fetterman said Friday. "I've visited Erie dozens and dozens of times in the past, and I am honored and proud to be returning to the campaign trail here."

Fetterman is facing Republican nominee Mehmet Oz, a celebrity doctor, in the general election.

'Climate collapse is here': Dozens feared dead in 'one of the worst' floods in Kentucky's history

The planetary crisis was linked to at least 15 deaths in Kentucky Friday as heavy rains triggered what Gov. Andy Beshear called "one of the worst, most devastating flooding events" in the state's history.

Beshear declared a state of emergency in six counties Thursday afternoon as the storm dumped more than 10 inches of rain across eastern Kentucky, causing mudslides and washing away homes and roadways, with whole communities wiped out in some areas.

Search and rescue teams were deployed Friday following hundreds of air and water rescues the previous day, with some being airlifted from their rooftops.

"As we keep kicking the can on climate solutions, more lives will be lost in climate-based tragedies," said anti-poverty advocate Joe Sanberg. "We must act now."

Beshear said he feared the death toll would at least double. At least two of four young siblings, ranging in age from one and a half to eight, were among those who were identified as victims of the flooding. The children were swept away from their parents as the family clung to a tree after their home filled with floodwater. Family members were searching for the other two children Friday morning.

"The flooding that has hit Eastern Kentucky is absolutely devastating and there is even more rain expected," said Beshear. "Helping our families rebuild and recover is going to be a long, hard process."

More than 22,000 people were without power on Thursday night, and the state's Energy and Environment Cabinet recommended the evacuation of the floodplain of Panbowl Lake in Jackson, where flooding of the North Fork of the Kentucky River broke the previous record. The river crested at 43.47 feet in the town.

More than 100 homes, 13 businesses, a school, and a hospital were believed to be in the path of more flooding.

Climate experts say that as the climate warms, flash flooding will become more frequent and dangerous as rains become heavier during storms.

Florida-based meteorologist Jeff Berardelli pointed to the nine inches of rain that fell in Hazard, Kentucky over a 12-hour period as an example of the kind of weather event which was extremely rare several decades ago, but is becoming increasingly common as carbon emissions continue to heat the planet.

"To say it's an expected 1-in-1000 year event, in a 20th century climate, is an understatement," said Berardelli. "But with climate change, what was almost impossible then is now not only possible, it's probable."

Woman targeted by Gaetz raises $300K+ for abortion rights

In the less than 72 hours since being publicly ridiculed by right-wing Rep. Matt Gaetz, political strategist and college student Olivia Julianna had raised over $300,000 as of Wednesday for abortion funds that offer direct financial assistance to people who need abortion care.

"This is absolutely the most insane amount of donations we have had thus far from individuals, especially in such a short frame of time," Olivia, who goes by her first and middle names publicly, told The Washington Post Wednesday. "On a broader scale, this highlights the extreme power of social media mobilization, and it shows Republican politicians that their cheap attacks and political theater will no longer be tolerated."

Gaetz (R-Fla.) drew condemnation over the weekend after speaking at a rally where he called abortion rights advocates "disgusting" and "odious from the inside out," and confirmed to a reporter that he believes activists are ugly and overweight. His comments came two months after he referred to pro-choice women as "overeducated and underloved."

Olivia responded to his latest comments on social media, noting allegations against the lawmaker that he sex-trafficked a teenage girl, which he has denied.

Gaetz then tweeted a photo of the 19-year-old Gen-Z for Change strategist, setting off online attacks against Olivia.

"I've gotten body-shaming comments," she told Teen Vogue Wednesday. "I got a really nasty email calling me homophobic and racial slurs and the subject line of the email was 'MATT.' So I received hateful comments about my body, being like nobody would ever want to sleep with you."

Olivia decided to spin the sudden attention in her favor and that of her progressive organization, which leverages "social media to promote civil discourse and political action," particularly focusing on "Covid-19, climate change, systemic inequity, foreign policy, voting rights, and LGBTQIA+ issues."

The group also set up an abortion fund after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month, splitting donations between 50 funds in states most affected by the ruling. The funds offer direct financial and logistical aid to people who need abortion care.

"Well Matt Gaetz, I have to hand it to you," tweeted Olivia when the donations hit $50,000 on Tuesday. "I didn't think you cared about us abortion rights activists, but your spotlight on me has helped raise $50,000 for abortion funds in the last 24 hours!"

By Wednesday morning, the donations had surpassed $150,000, and as of this writing supporters had contributed more than $300,000.

Olivia has begun taking aim at Gaetz for refusing to publicly respond to her, beyond the photo he shared of her on social media.

"I think he's scared," Olivia told Teen Vogue. "I honestly think he's terrified. I would be if I tried to go after someone and their response was to raise $168,000 in less than 48 hours."

"He expected me to cower and hide," she added, "but that's not how it played out."

Students announce global protest to 'disrupt business as usual' as climate destabilizes

Students from around the world announced Tuesday their intention to "disrupt business as usual" at their universities and schools this fall, pressuring administrators and policymakers to ramp up efforts to combat the climate crisis by holding occupations and refusing to attend classes as normal.

Dozens of students and student groups co-signed an op-ed published by The Guardian, promising that their new campaign, "End Fossil: Occupy!" will include young people from across the globe demanding "the end of the fossil economy."

"Taking a lesson from student activists in the 1960s, the climate justice movement's youth will shut down business as usual," said the organizers. "Not because we don't like learning, but because what we've learned already makes it clear that, without a dramatic break from this system, we cannot ensure a livable planet for our presents and futures."

The occupations of hundreds of educational institutions will take place between September and December 2022, they said.

The op-ed was signed by students from countries including Portugal, Spain, Argentina, the U.S., the Ivory Coast, and the U.K. Occupations are already planned at Emerson College in Boston, Leeds University in the U.K., and the Ivory Coast's capital of Abidjan.

Students will focus their demands on fossil fuel divestment by universities and the end of fossil fuel extraction, with local organizers determining the key demands for their area. According to End Fossil: Occupy!, all the school occupations will be centered on three principles:

  • The school/university occupations are organized by the youth;
  • The political framework behind these occupations is that of climate justice and the end of fossil fuels through a socially just global process; and
  • The intention is to occupy schools and universities in several places, disrupting the normal functioning of society until the local demand is met.

"We can't keep pretending everything is all right, studying as if the planet wasn't on fire," the group wrote. "As other students did before us—from the students of May of '68 in France to the Arab spring, from the Chilean Penguin Revolution and Primavera Secundarista in Brazil to Occupy Wall Street—we will stop our business-as-usual lives to show our governments and society that we need to change everything, now."

"From Lisbon to California, from Peru to Germany and from Madrid to Ivory Coast, we call on young people to get together and organize an international revolutionary generation that can change the system," they added.

The youth-led climate justice movement saw its biggest mobilization in September 2019, when an estimated four million people participated in global climate strikes inspired by Swedish campaigner Greta Thunberg. The demonstrations are believed to be the largest mass protest for climate action in history.

The Covid-19 pandemic took a toll on the momentum of the movement, according to End Fossil: Occupy!

Since the pandemic hit, the inaction of global leaders has angered advocates at international summits including last year's United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), where policymakers failed to commit to financing climate action in the Global South.

The world's biggest oil companies are now "on track to spend $103 million on planetary destruction projects every day for the rest of the decade," said the organizers.

"Since giving in to defeatism will never be an option for us, we must now organize at a massive scale," they wrote. "We need to create a new peak of mobilization, even bigger than 2019. If we were waiting for a sign, this is it. With temperatures climbing faster and faster, we have never been so certain that mobilizing bigger than ever is not only possible, but existentially necessary."

The movement garnered support on social media Tuesday from Divest McGill, a climate action group at McGill University in Canada; 350.org in Germany; the Scientist Rebellion; and Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO).

"We need to end the fossil economy, and we need to do it now," said Scientist Rebellion Turtle Island in the U.S. and Canada.

The organizers noted that students around the world attend schools that are directly linked to the fossil fuel economy, with prestigious institutions including McGill, Yale University, and Oxford University continuing to invest in extraction projects.

"In other cases, they are indirectly linked to it," they said. "They train us for a world that has no future, a world of fossil capitalism. They want us to sit in school and learn as if everything was fine. But the world we are learning for—the world that created the climate crisis—has no future."

With hundreds of school occupations this fall, End Fossil: Occupy! said, "we will revive the youth movement, create new alliances, radicalize, engage the whole of society to support and occupy, and envision the world we want—where life and not profit is at the center."

"We will rise up in justice and liberation to crush the fossil fuel industry," they continued. "We shall have no doubt: the youth are a revolutionary subject. We will turn the tide, change history, and smash the fossil economy."

'Authoritarianism 101': Government watchdogs ring alarm bell over Trump plot to purge civil servants if reelected

Government watchdogs on Friday warned that a plan by former President Donald Trump to drastically remake the federal workforce should he win the presidency in 2024 would "utterly destroy" public service in the United States.

As Axios reported Friday, central to Trump's plans for a second term is the reinstatement of his executive order known as "Schedule F," which established a new category of federal employees.

Under the executive order, which Trump signed just days before losing the 2020 election, thousands of federal workers who have served under presidents from both major political parties could be reclassified as "Schedule F" employees, eliminating their employment protections.

Trump could purge as many as 50,000 members of the nonpartisan workforce who he deems to have influence over policy decisions, leaving them with no recourse, and fill their jobs with "loyalists to him and his 'America First' ideology," according to sources who spoke to Axios.

Max Berger of pro-labor media organization More Perfect Union suggested Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis would also be likely to reinstate Schedule F—which was quickly rescinded by President Joe Biden in January 2021—if he runs for president and wins.

The executive order amounts to "authoritarianism 101," Berger tweeted.

Schedule F "would effectively upend the modern civil service, triggering a shock wave across the bureaucracy," wrote Jonathan Swan at Axios. "The next president might then move to gut those pro-Trump ranks—and face the question of whether to replace them with her or his own loyalists, or revert to a traditional bureaucracy. Such pendulum swings and politicization could threaten the continuity and quality of service to taxpayers, the regulatory protections, the checks on executive power, and other aspects of American democracy."

The plan would go "beyond 'deconstructing the administrative state,'" said the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, which advocates for regulatory protections for the economic system, public health, and other sectors. "It's a plan to utterly destroy it."

While pushing to reinstate Schedule F should he take office again, Swan reported, "Trump has reduced his circle of advisers and expunged nearly every former aide who refused to embrace his view that the 2020 election was 'stolen'"—suggesting he is likely to seek out government employees who share that view.

Although Biden rescinded Trump's order, U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) has remained concerned that Schedule F will be reintroduced in 2025 under a Republican administration. He authored an amendment to the defense spending bill that would prevent "any position in the competitive service from being reclassified to an excepted service schedule that was created after September 30, 2020, and limits federal employee reclassifications."

The House passed Connolly's amendment on July 14 in a 215-201 vote, but Republicans in the Senate plan to block its passage, Axios reported.

"Congress [must] codify protections against this evil plan to place political allies of Trump throughout the government," said Fred Wellman, host of the podcast On Democracy. "Do not underestimate the destruction this will cause."

Walter Shaub, senior ethics fellow at the Project on Government Oversight, called on the White House to go beyond simply halting Trump's executive order and work with Congress to ensure legislation is passed protecting federal employees regardless of their political beliefs.

"Administration officials are aware of the issue," said Shaub. "But as with every other needed democracy reform, this administration has time and again proven it is not up to this crucial moment in history."

The reinstatement of Schedule F would result in a "reckless, lawless administration," said Georgetown University professor Don Moynihan.

"How bad could Schedule F be? The people planning to use it to take control of the executive branch have shown themselves comfortable with breaking the law in ways that undermine American democracy," said Moynihan, pointing to Trump ally Jeffrey Clark, an attorney who is being investigated by the FBI and Congress and who the former president wanted to install as attorney general.

Wisconsin Supreme Court pushes Trump’s Big Lie in ruling b​anning most ballot drop boxes

Political observers on Friday were alarmed by a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling restricting the use of drop boxes for absentee election ballots—not just because the decision will make it harder for many residents to vote, but also because the high court's right-wing majority openly embraced in its ruling former President Donald Trump's lies about the 2020 election.

In the 4-3 decision, the court's conservative justices argued that the use of ballot drop boxes is unlawful because the boxes are not explicitly mentioned in the state's laws, which allow for absentee ballots to be returned to a municipal clerk.

The return of a ballot "does not mean nor has it been historically understood to mean delivery to an unattended ballot drop box," wrote Justice Rebecca Bradley in the majority opinion.

Bradley continued that the state's longtime use of hundreds of drop boxes "directly" harmed Wisconsin voters in 2020, when President Joe Biden won the state by about 20,000 votes, beating former President Donald Trump.

Trump and his allies took aim at the drop boxes after the election, saying their use is not explicitly allowed under state law and filing a number of lawsuits.

Bradley suggested that anyone who used a drop box for an absentee ballot did not qualify as a "lawful" voter and said their method of voting "weakens the people's faith that the election produced an outcome reflective of their will."

"The Wisconsin voters, and all lawful voters, are injured when the institution charged with administering Wisconsin elections does not follow the law, leaving the results in question," she wrote, adding that "throughout history, tyrants have claimed electoral victory via elections conducted in violation of governing law" and comparing Biden's win to that of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

Slate journalist Mark Joseph Stern called the language used in Bradley's opinion "outrageously irresponsible."

With the ruling, said journalist John Nichols, the right-wing majority "is not acting as a court. It's a political cabal with a partisan agenda."

The Wisconsin Democrats called the ruling "a slap in the face to democracy itself" and warned that the absence of ballot drop boxes that many voters have used for years will "impact people with disabilities, seniors, people living in rural communities, people with limited means, few transport options, and inflexible work schedules, who are disproportionately young people and people of color."

"For decades throughout Wisconsin, municipal clerks have used drop boxes to collect documents like tax returns, municipal bills—and absentee ballots," said Ben Wikler, chair of the state Democratic Party. "It's always been safe, secure, and convenient. Drop box use expanded dramatically in 2020, in red and blue areas alike."

"But then after the GOP lost Wisconsin in 2020, the GOP decided that the issue wasn't that they couldn't convince voters to support them—it was that people who didn't support them were able to vote," he added.

The three justices who dissented in the ruling denounced Bradley's claims of rampant illegal voting in 2020 as "nonsense."

"There is no evidence at all in this record that the use of drop boxes fosters voter fraud of any kind," they wrote. "None... But concerns about drop boxes alone don't fuel the fire questioning election integrity. Rather, the kindling is primarily provided by voter suppression efforts and the constant drumbeat of unsubstantiated rhetoric in opinions like this one, not actual voter fraud."

The court's right-wing justices also ruled in November that a new redistricting plan should make the least amount of changes possible to maps drawn by the Republican-led Legislature in 2011, ensuring a map that will favor GOP majorities in Wisconsin for at least another decade.

Former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman is also overseeing an investigation into the 2020 election and has suggested that state lawmakers should try to decertify the results.

Friday's ruling came "from what might be the most rogue and vehemently anti-democratic state court in the nation," said Daniel Nichanian, editor-in-chief of Bolts.

'Unfathomable': Critics knock Senate Democrats for letting Republicans hold up federal judgeships

Warning that U.S. President Joe Biden may lose his chance to confirm more circuit and district court nominees after the midterm elections if Republicans win a Senate majority, legal scholars are calling on Democratic lawmakers to immediately ramp up confirmations of federal judges.

Democrats have confirmed 16 nominees to the country's 13 circuit courts, which have the last word on federal appeals before they proceed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The party needs to double its confirmations by November, Bloomberg Law reported Wednesday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held confirmation hearings last week for nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and for the 6th Circuit, but 11 current or expected vacancies do not have a nominee lined up to fill them.

To speed up the process, Rakim Brooks, president of progressive advocacy group Alliance for Justice, suggested to Bloomberg that the committee confirm judicial nominees by order of priority rather than holding hearings with two circuit and three district court nominees at each confirmation hearing, which the panel plans to hold every two weeks while the Senate is in session.

"At a bare minimum, they've got to fill all of the circuit court seats, and that's not sort of how they're tracking," Brooks told Bloomberg.

An aide for the committee told the outlet, however, that Democratic leaders see no "reason for us to change the way we're operating."

Considering the time the party has before the midterm elections and potential Republican takeover, lawmakers are unlikely to fill all the empty circuit court seats, leaving some of the most powerful courts in the country vulnerable to vacancies that could persist for the rest of Biden's time in office and eventually be filled by Republican nominees.

As Bloomberg reported:

The Senate began a two-week recess June 27, and will return for about a month before leaving again through Labor Day. The Senate will be in session for most of September and for two weeks in October in the run-up to Election Day when 35 seats are on the ballot.
That means opportunities for eight to 10 more circuit nominees to testify before the committee, advance to the floor, and receive the customary two votes necessary for confirmation. Some need three depending on whether the committee deadlocks on their nomination.
If the nominees already sent to the Senate are confirmed and the White House picks candidates to fill the remaining hearing slots, it would still leave five to seven circuit seats on the table when the year runs out.

Critics on Wednesday noted that Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are continuing to allow Republicans to submit or withhold "blue slips" for district court nominees—opinions about nominations from senators who represent the nominees' home state which can be used to block a confirmation.

When Republicans controlled the Judiciary Committee under the Trump administration, they did away with blue slips for circuit nominees, allowing the party to confirm federal judges at breakneck speed—confirming 54 judges to the circuit court.

Alex Aronson, managing director of the Georgetown Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, tweeted Wednesday that it is "way past time" to abandon the "arcane Senate tradition."

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) earlier this year withheld a blue slip for Judge William Pocan, who Biden nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

As progressives call on the White House to back far-reaching reforms to the Supreme Court in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Slate journalist Mark Joseph Stern said Wednesday that the right-wing takeover of the high court is not the only thing standing in the way of Democrats taking control of the judicial system.

"Democrats aren't filling open seats right now in federal district courts because, for unfathomable reasons, they are letting red state senators block nominees," Stern said. "It's completely outrageous."

"It's lunacy not to fill [judicial seats] immediately and by any means necessary," he added.

Civil rights advocates condemn the Supreme Court's 'dangerous decision' to gut Miranda rights

Legals experts warned law enforcement agencies will have "zero incentive" to ensure that a person being arrested is read their Miranda rights after the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday handed down a ruling the ACLU characterized as a "dangerous" assault on long-established protections.

Ruling in the case of Vega vs. Tekoh, the majority decided that people cannot sue an officer under Section 1983, a key federal civil rights enforcement law, for not informing them of their right to remain silent and other protections under the Miranda statute.

To protect people's Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, officers are required to inform suspects of their rights as soon as they are taken into custody.

While those rights are still intact, University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck told CNN, the 6-3 ruling effectively guts the law.

"Today's ruling doesn't get rid of the Miranda right," Vladeck said. "But it does make it far harder to enforce. Under this ruling, the only remedy for a violation of Miranda is to suppress statements obtained from a suspect who's not properly advised of his right to remain silent. But if the case never goes to trial, or if the government never seeks to use the statement, or if the statement is admitted notwithstanding the Miranda violation, there's no remedy at all for the government's misconduct."

The ACLU, which filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff in the case, Terence Tekoh, said the ruling "further widens the gap between the guarantees found in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the people's ability to hold government officials accountable for violating them."

"The warnings mandated by the Supreme Court in Miranda have been part of the fabric of law enforcement interactions with the public for more than 60 years," said Brett Max Kaufman, a senior staff attorney for the group. "We fought for the Supreme Court to recognize these rights, and we'll keep fighting to make sure our country lives up to the Constitution’s guarantees."

The case stemmed from the arrest of Tekoh in 2014, when he was accused of sexually assaulting a patient at a hospital in Los Angeles County.

Lawyers for Carlos Vega, the sheriff's deputy who arrested Tekoh, said the plaintiff was not "in custody" when he was questioned and that Tekoh gave a voluntary statement. Vega did not give Tekoh a Miranda warning but his confession was nonetheless used as evidence during his trial, in which a jury ultimately found him not guilty.

Tekoh then sued Vega for violating his rights and accused the deputy of coercing the confession out of him.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said that "a violation of Miranda does not necessarily constitute a violation of the Constitution, and therefore such a violation does not constitute 'the deprivation of [a] right... secured by the Constitution' that would authorize a civil rights suit against a police officer."

Justice Elena Kagan wrote a dissent on behalf of the three liberal justices, arguing that the ruling "strips individuals of the ability to seek a remedy for violations of the right recognized in Miranda."

"The majority here, as elsewhere, injures the right by denying the remedy," Kagan wrote.

The ruling comes two weeks after the Supreme Court handed down another 6-3 decision weakening Americans' ability to challenge law enforcement officers who violate their constitutional rights.

In Egbert v. Boule, the right-wing majority ruled against a man who wanted to sue a U.S. Border Patrol agent who entered his property without a warrant and used excessive force.

Referring to another decision handed down Thursday regarding the right to carry firearms and an expected ruling that would overturn Roe v. Wade, Democratic strategist Sawyer Hackett said under the current Supreme Court, "you can carry a concealed gun in public without a permit but if you get an abortion you can be arrested and jailed without Miranda rights."

Under the ruling, said Partners for Justice founder Emily Galvin-Almanza, "ordinary people are disempowered, government impunity grows."

Galvin-Almanza urged Americans to "call your state reps and ask them to enshrine Miranda rights in state law."

Advocates for adding justices to the Supreme Court, as Congress has done a number of times throughout U.S. history, said the ruling in Vega v. Tekoh offered another reason to expand the court.

"We cannot allow this overtly political court to stand in the way of our safety," said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) "Expand the court."

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