Rights

Matt Gaetz showed nude pics of women he said he slept with to GOP members of Congress: report

On Thursday, CNN reported new salacious details about the behavior of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who is separately under a Department of Justice sex trafficking investigation.

"Sources say Gaetz gained a reputation in Congress over his relationships with women, and even showed fellow lawmakers some nude photos of women he said he slept with," said anchor Wolf Blitzer. "Lauren Fox is on this part of the story. What are you learning about these photos?"

"We should be very clear from the top, this is a separate issue than the DOJ investigation that is ongoing right now," said Fox. "When Matt Gaetz was a new member of Congress, he earned a reputation quickly of being a close ally of former President Trump's. He liked to be in the limelight of the media. He also, according to multiple sources CNN spoke with, behind the scenes likes to show his colleagues photos and brag about sexual exploits he had with women."

"Three sources told CNN this was something that Gaetz did, and two of these individuals had seen these images firsthand," said Fox. "One of these individuals said they saw this image, Matt Gaetz shared this image with them, a nude photograph on the House floor. One said they had seen an image Gaetz shared with them just off the House floor, but still at the U.S. Capitol. CNN reached out to Gaetz for comment. We have not heard any response from either Gaetz nor his office. Obviously this is a significant development given what is going on with the DOJ investigation."

Watch below:

Matt Gaetz www.youtube.com

In game-changer, ICC will take up Israeli war crimes and apartheid in Palestine

On Friday, the International Criminal Court found that it had jurisdiction to consider war crimes and crimes against humanity and the crime of apartheid in the Palestinian territories.Israeli politician Abba Eban once quipped that Palestinians never lost the opportunity to lose an opportunity. But Palestinians have carefully, methodically created this opportunity to be heard in an international tribunal. It is the ruling Israeli right wing about which one can now quip about missing opportunities.

Israel has egregiously violated the 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment of people in occupied territories by flooding its own citizens into the Palestinian territories, by stealing Palestinian land from its owners and building squatter settlements on it, and by using disproportional force against Palestinian demonstrators at the Gaza border.

The court will also look into war crimes by Hamas, which was elected in 2006 and retains control of the Gaza Strip.

It has been impossible for anyone to stop Israel's repeated and serious crimes against the Palestinians because the United States backs them to the hilt and is deeply implicated itself in keeping Palestinians stateless. (The "two-state solution" long since became geographically impossible, and invoking it and an alleged "peace process," as the Biden administration does, is just a way of keeping the Palestinians from enjoying any human rights).

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu cynically called the ruling "anti-Semitic," in the ultimate debasement of a term that has otherwise been central to human rights struggles.

Filistin al-Yawm (Palestine Today) quotes Rami Abdu, head of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, as saying that the International Criminal Court announcement that it has jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories represents a victory, won by many sacrifices, for justice, freedom, and ethical values in the world. It is, he said, the fruit of a Palestinian struggle that has lasted decades to win recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.

As a result, he said, Palestinian victims of Israeli war crimes from various generations will gain the right to seek justice after decades of occupation and to see the perpetrators tried in the Hague. He cautioned, however, that "the decision does not mean the end of the road, and the task will not be easy. The hope is that the Biden administration will adopt a different course from its predecessor, and will refrain from putting any pressure on the court."

In spring of 2020, then-President Donald Trump declared a national emergency as a pretext for being able to target justices and staff of the International Criminal Court with sanctions because they were looking into alleged crimes by U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan. These outrageous and ineffectual sanctions have been lifted by the Biden administration.

The International Criminal Court was established by the Rome Statute circulated to U.N. member states in the late 1990s and finalized in 2002. The United States and Israel refused to sign or to recognize the court's jurisdiction. Some 123 countries have, however, ratified the treaty and so incorporated it into their national law.

The court can take up cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and apartheid committed by officials in the signatory states. It can apply sanctions to individuals in those governments after trying them. It does not sanction states but individuals. So far its cases have been entirely from Africa.

But the court's hands are usually tied with regard to non-signatory governments. It cannot move against their officials unless the United Nations Security Council forwards a case to them. Thus, when the murderous regime of Muammar Gaddafi attacked civilians in winter-spring of 2011 during the Arab Spring youth revolt, the Security Council referred the case to the ICC. Its justices considered evidence against Muammar Gaddafi and his son Saif Gaddafi, as well as interior minister Abdullah Sanusi. Arrest warrants were issued by the court for these individuals on June 27, 2011.

The state of Palestine led by Mahmoud Abbas had little hope of the U.N. Security Council asking the ICC to look into Israeli war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza, since the United States almost always uses its veto to protect Israeli officials from sanctions for their illegal occupation policies in the Palestinian territories that they grabbed beginning in 1967.

The Palestinian David very carefully and with foresight therefore moved to join the International Criminal Court. The first obstacle they faced is that court members have to be members of the United Nations. Since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the eclipse of Labor in favor of the far, far-right Likud and its offshoots, Israel's policy against the Palestinian people has been predicated on preventing Palestinians from ever having a state. They are to be kept stateless and deprived of the basic human rights that come with citizenship in a state.

So, Palestine sought the same status at the U.N. as is enjoyed by the Vatican, of permanent observer state. The General Assembly can grant this status, and did so for Palestine in 2012. Permanent observer states cannot vote, but they are not voiceless and can attend sessions. Palestine's prerogatives were expanded in 2019 when the Group of 77 at the U.N. elected it their chairman that year.

In 2015, the state of Palestine (as the U.N. calls it) acceded to the International Criminal Court and recognized its jurisdiction in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.

This is like three dimensional chess on the part of the Palestinians. Because they now have what is called in the law "standing." They are a permanent observer state at the U.N. and they are signatories to the Rome Statute.

Now just one step was left, which was to take to the ICC those Israeli officials operating in the Palestinian Territories in such a way as to violate the Rome Statute. Palestine did not hurry to do so, hoping that the government of Binyamin Netanyahu would see the legal peril and become more reasonable. But Netanyahu kept stealing their land and urging Trump to cut their funding (which he did), and by 2019 the Palestinians concluded that they had nothing left to lose by filing a claim.

The ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, declared a delay while she sought reassurances that the court had jurisdiction over Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.

A little over a year later, she has been assured that it does, given the recognition of the Palestine Authority as the government of those region in the Oslo Accords.

As Mr. Abdu said, this step is more the beginning of something rather than its end. Netanyahu will attempt to obstruct the workings of the court. But this is a great day for the international rule of law, and all believers in human rights should rejoice.

Bonus Video: From 5 months ago: "Palestine takes Israel's war crimes to ICC" | News Bulletin | Indus News

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His newest book, "Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires" was published in 2020. He is also the author of "The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East" (2015) and "Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East" (2008). He has appeared widely on television, radio, and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles.

US Supreme Court wipes case law supporting Texas pandemic abortion ban from the books

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday voided rulings from lower courts that upheld a ban on most abortions in Texas early in the coronavirus pandemic.

The high court vacated two rulings from the lower U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that sided with Texas GOP officials arguing that Gov. Greg Abbott's March 2020 executive order prohibited abortion under all but a few narrow circumstances in an attempt to preserve medical resources for COVID-19 patients. Abortion providers have said that the procedure rarely requires hospital time and typically does not involve extensive personal protective equipment.

The executive order ended over the summer, allowing abortions in the state to resume, but Planned Parenthood has said leaving the lower court rulings on the books would set harmful legal precedent for abortion rights advocates.

In a statement, Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Lawyering Project called Abbott's order “a transparent attempt to chip away at access to reproductive health care by exploiting a public health crisis," and said it was “important we took this procedural step to make sure bad case law was wiped from the books," according to a NBC News report.

After Abbott paused all non-urgent medical procedures and surgeries to slow the spread of COVID-19 and conserve medical equipment, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the order should include a ban on most abortions, setting off a barrage of conflicting court rulings that created confusion for clinics and women seeking to end their pregnancies.

Many Texans left the state to receive abortions during that time, a new study found earlier this year.

Disclosure: Planned Parenthood has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/01/25/supreme-court-texas-abortion-ban/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

The climate crisis is worse than even scientists can imagine. Here’s what happened when one tried

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

Peter Kalmus, out of his mind, stumbled back toward the car. It was all happening. All the stuff he'd been trying to get others to see, and failing to get others to see — it was all here. The day before, when his family started their Labor Day backpacking trip along the oak-lined dry creek bed in Romero Canyon, in the mountains east of Santa Barbara, the temperature had been 105 degrees. Now it was 110 degrees, and under his backpack, his “large mammalian self," as Peter called his body, was more than just overheating. He was melting down. Everything felt wrong. His brain felt wrong and the planet felt wrong, and everything that lived on the planet felt wrong, off-kilter, in the wrong place.

Nearing the trailhead, Peter's mind death-spiralled: What's next summer going to bring? How hot will it be in 10 years? Yes, the data showed that the temperature would only rise annually by a few tenths of a degree Celsius. But those tenths would add up and the extreme temperatures would rise even faster, and while Peter's big mammal body could handle 100 degrees, sort of, 110 drove him crazy. That was just not a friendly climate for a human. 110 degrees was hostile, an alien planet.

Lizards fried, right there on the rocks. Elsewhere, songbirds fell out of the sky. There was more human conflict, just as the researchers promised. Not outright violence, not here, not yet. But Peter's kids were pissed and his wife was pissed and the salience that he'd so desperately wanted others to feel — “salience" being the term of choice in the climate community for the gut-level understanding that climate change isn't going to be a problem in the future, it is a crisis now — that salience was here. The full catastrophe was here (both in the planetary and the Zorba the Greek sense: “Wife. Children. House. Everything. The full catastrophe"). To cool down, Peter, a climate scientist who studied coral reefs, had stood in a stream for an hour, like a man might stand at a morgue waiting to identify a loved one's body, irritated by his powerlessness, massively depressed. He found no thrill in the fact that he'd been right.

Sharon Kunde, Peter's wife, found no thrill in the situation either, though her body felt fine. It was just hot … OK, very hot. Her husband was decompensating. The trip sucked.

“I was losing it," Peter later recalled as we sat on their front porch on a far-too-warm November afternoon in Altadena, California, just below the San Gabriel Mountains.

“Yeah," Sharon said.

“Losing my grip."

“Yeah."

“Poor Sharon is the closest person to me, and I share everything with her."

Sometimes everything is both too much and not enough. George Marshall opened his book, “Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change," with the parable of Jan Karski, a young Polish resistance fighter who, in 1943, met in person with Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, who was both a Jew and widely regarded as one of the great minds of his generation. Karski briefed the justice on what he'd seen firsthand: the pillage of the Warsaw Ghetto, the Belzec death camp. Afterward, Frankfurter said, “I do not believe you."

The Polish ambassador, who had arranged the meeting on the recommendation of President Franklin Roosevelt, interrupted to defend Karski's account.

“I did not say that he is lying," Frankfurter explained. “I said that I didn't believe him. It's a different thing. My mind, my heart— they are made in such a way that I cannot accept. No no no."

Sharon, too, possessed a self-protective mind and heart. A high school English teacher and practiced stoic from her Midwestern German Lutheran childhood, she didn't believe in saying things you were not yet prepared to act upon. “We find it difficult to understand each other on this topic," Sharon, 46, said of her husband's climate fixation.

Yet while Sharon was preternaturally contained, Peter was a yard sale, whole self out in the open. At 47, he worked at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, studying which reefs might survive the longest as the oceans warm. He had more twinkle in his eye that one might expect for a man possessed by planetary demise. But he often held his head in his hands like a 50-pound kettlebell. Every time he heard a plane fly overhead, he muttered, “Fossil fuel noise."

For years, in articles in Yes! magazine, in op-eds in the Los Angeles Times, in his book Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution, on social media, Peter had been pleading, begging for people to pay attention to the global emergency. “Is this my personal hell?" he tweeted this past fall. “That I have to spend my entire life desperately trying to convince everyone NOT TO DESTROY THE FUCKING EARTH?"

His pain was transfixing, a case study in a fundamental climate riddle: How do you confront the truth of climate change when the very act of letting it in risked toppling your sanity? There is too much grief, too much suffering to bear. So we intellectualize. We rationalize. And too often, without even allowing ourselves to know we're doing it, we turn away. At virtually every level — personal, political, policy, corporate — we repeat this pattern. We fail, or don't even try, to rise to the challenge. Yes, there are the behemoth forces of power and money reinforcing the status quo. But even those of us who firmly believe we care very often fail to translate that caring into much action. We make polite, perhaps even impassioned conversation. We say smart climate things in the boardroom or classroom or kitchen or on the campaign trail. And then … there's a gap, a great nothingness and inertia. What happens if a human — or to be precise, a climate scientist, both privileged and cursed to understand the depth of the problem — lets the full catastrophe in?

Once Peter, Sharon and their 12- and 14-year-old sons set their packs down at the car on that infernal Labor Day weekend, they blasted the air conditioning, then stopped for Gatorade and Flamin' Hot Doritos to try to recover from their trip. But the heat had descended not just on Peter's big mammal body but on millions of acres of dry cheatgrass and oak chaparral.

That same afternoon, around 1 p.m., the Bobcat fire started five miles from their house in the Los Angeles hills.

Peter's climate obsession started, as many obsessions do, with the cross-wiring of exuberance and fear. In late 2005, Sharon got pregnant with their first child, and in the throes of joy and panic that accompanied impending fatherhood, Peter attended the weekly physics colloquium at Columbia University, where he was working on an astrophysics Ph.D. The topic that day was the energy imbalance in the planet — how more energy was coming into earth's atmosphere from the sun than our atmosphere was radiating back out into space. Peter was rapt. He'd grown up a nerdy Catholic Boy Scout in suburban Chicago, and had always been, as his sister Audrey Kalmus said, someone who “jumped into things he believed in with three feet." He'd met Sharon at Harvard. They'd moved to New York so she could earn a teaching degree. For a while, before returning to school, Peter had made good money on Wall Street writing code. Now here he was hearing, really hearing for the first time, that the planet, his son's future home, was going to roast. Full stop.

This was a catastrophe — a physical, physics catastrophe, and here he was, a physicist about to have a son. He exited the lecture hall in a daze. “I was kind of like, 'Are we just going to pretend this is like a normal scientific talk?'" he told me, recalling his thoughts. “We're talking about the end of life on Earth as we know it."

For the next eight months, Peter walked around Manhattan, “freaking out in my brain," he said, like “one of those end-is-near people with the sandwich boards." He tried converting Columbia's undergraduate green groups to his cause. Did they care about the environment? Yes. Did they care about the planetary catastrophe? Well, yes, of course they did, but they were going to stick with their project of getting plastic bags out of dining halls, OK? He tried lobbying the university administrators to switch to wind power. Couldn't even get a meeting. Nothing made sense. Why was Al Gore spending a fortune to make a climate movie only to flinch at the end of “An Inconvenient Truth" and say, essentially, Just buy more efficient light bulbs? Almost nobody saw it — really saw it. WE ARE HAVING AN EMERGENCY. There was only one possible endgame here if humans didn't stop burning fossil fuels, fast: global chaos, mass violence, miserable deaths.

Peter and Sharon's friends came over to meet and bless their baby, Braird, shortly after he was born in June 2006. All the guests went around the room offering wishes for the unborn child. When Peter's turn came, he said he hoped that his son didn't get shot at in climate-induced barbarity and that he did not starve.

Peter and Sharon rented a house with a big avocado tree when they moved to California, in 2008, for Peter's dream postdoc studying gravitational waves at CalTech. Braird was 2 and Sharon was nursing newborn Zane. Peter and Sharon had both come from families with four kids, and they didn't want Braird to be an only child — and having a child when you want one is also immeasurably wonderful, too wonderful, in this case, to give up. (They did later decide to forgo a third.) In Peter's first run at grassroots activism, he organized a climate protest with a friend. Only two people showed up. Peter joined Transition Pasadena, a community group dedicated to producing “a more resilient city and for living lighter on our Earth." He also said he tried pushing “to focus the group around global heating and climate breakdown," but the members, he said, wanted to talk about “gardening and city council meetings," not the apocalypse, so Peter and Transition Pasadena parted ways.

Four years into climate awakening and action, Peter felt he had accomplished nearly zero. One night, frustrated with inaction and disgusted with fossil fuel use, he sat at his computer and calculated the sources of all his own emissions so he could go about reducing them.

In the morning he presented Sharon with a pie chart.

This was one of those moments that both distorted and crystalized the scale problems inherent in addressing climate change, the personal and the planetary, the insignificant and the enormous, warping and reverberating as if modulated by a wah-wah pedal. Peter himself believed that you can't fix climate change with individual virtue any more than you can fix systemic racism that way. But he also knew, at some point, “You have to burn your ships on the beach," as Richard Reiss, a climate educator and fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Cities at Hunter College, put it. You need to commit, perhaps even create drama, and make real changes in your life.

By far the biggest wedge of the pie chart was Peter flying to scientific meetings and conferences. For the family, if Peter quit flying, it meant he'd be home more to help with the kids. Sharon reserved the right to keep flying if she wanted. Win-win.

Peter's second-largest source of emissions was food. So he started growing artichokes, eggplant, kale and squash, plus tending fruit trees, and that was great. Then he started composting — OK, that's great, too. He also started keeping bees and raising chickens, and soon raccoons and possums discovered the chickens and Peter began running outside in his underwear in the middle of the night when he heard the chickens scream. Baby chicks lived in the house, which the boys loved. Braird got stung by bees while Sharon was at a meditation retreat and it turned out Braird was allergic and he went into shock.

Next came dumpster diving (which eventually — and thankfully — morphed into an arrangement with Trader Joe's to pick up their unsellable food every other Sunday night). Peter's haul — “seven or eight boxes," according to Sharon; “three boxes," according to Peter — included dozens of eggs with only one broken. Flats of (mostly not moldy) strawberries. Bread past its sell-by date. Peter did his best to put things away before he fell asleep because waking up to the mess drove Sharon nuts. But … it was a lot. Low-carbon living was a lot.

They stopped using the gas dryer. They stopped shitting in the flush toilet and started practicing “humanure," composting their own crap. Sharon had lived with an outhouse in Mongolia, “so that was something I was used to," she said. Plus, to be honest, she liked the local, organic anti-capitalist politics of it. “Marx writes about this in 'Capital, Volume 1' that one of the reasons Europeans started to use chemical fertilizers is because people started to move into the cities and off of the land, … and people stopped pooping out in the countryside, so it became less fertile." The main problem, for Sharon, was that their bathroom was small and the composting toilet was inside. They used eucalyptus leaves to try to cover up the smell, but then little bits of leaves got all over the bathroom, too. After a while Peter moved the composting toilet outdoors. He also built an outdoor shower that Sharon found quite lovely, “rustic and California."

Sharon commiserated with a friend who was married to a priest. How do you have an equal marriage with a man who's trying to save the world? The priest's wife, too, found “it impossible for her to have any space for herself," Sharon said. “Because he was called by God to minister to people. When she tried to do her own thing, it wasn't as important as his." Motherhood was hard enough. Sharon wanted to write a novel. She wanted to write poetry. She wanted to go for a run, or even a walk, in peace. “His dreams were so much more heroic and important that I had to sort of, I don't know," she said. “I had to go along with it."

The most trying component of the low-carbon experiment for Sharon was the 1985 Mercedes that Peter converted to biodiesel. Maeby, as Sharon hate-named the car — as in Maeby we'll get there, Maeby we won't — arrived in their lives in 2011, just as Sharon was starting an English Ph.D. at UC Irvine and commuting 50 miles each way. Yes, they took family summer road trips to go camping and visit friends. But on the winter trips to visit their families in the Midwest, the grease coagulated in the cold, which made Maeby break down more. Some nights Sharon cried in the motel room, but “when it's daytime it all seemed better," she said. She talked about renting a car or even flying home but never did. Still, late one night on a very cold, dark and lonely Utah highway when Peter was under the broken-down car, and Braird and Zane were in the back seat, screaming, and Sharon was revving the engine at Peter's request — she started to wonder if she had Stockholm syndrome.

Sometimes, Sharon thought of Peter as being like “John the Baptist, a voice in the wilderness, crying out, 'Repent, repent!'" This was said with love but also annoyance. As Larissa MacFarquhar explored in her book “Strangers Drowning," extreme do-gooders often provoke us. We find them ridiculous, self-righteous, sometimes even perverse or narcissistic moralists for whom, MacFarquhar writes, “It is always wartime." Just figuring out how to raise children on the Earth, right now, presented so many existential questions. Peter often indulged in a half-joking zombie apocalypse mentality. He wanted to teach his boys to grow crops, to defend themselves, to fix things. “I do think we need to be talking about the collapse of civilization and the deaths of billions of people," he said.

When she was at her gloomiest, Sharon, too, felt scared to leave her sons on this planet, but she also called on her tight-lipped German upbringing to create a bubble of denialist peace. “Things you don't want to confront, just ignore it. Pretend it's not there," she said. Her “ethics of care," as she called it, involved encouraging the boys to take music lessons, read books and even meditate when she could persuade them to join her. She wanted to prepare her sons to be creative and resilient. If the planet was crumbling, they'd need rich interior lives.

Did Sharon want the boys to worry? “I don't know, I don't know," she said. That was the never-ending, urgent, timeless question. How much do we want our children to understand about the horrors of the world?

In 2012, Peter switched fields, from astrophysics to earth science, because he just couldn't stop obsessing. This meant backpedaling in his career, quitting the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) experiment, three founding members of which would go on to win the 2017 Nobel Prize in physics. Still, even his new job was a strange fit. Science itself — with its cultural terror of appearing biased — was a strange fit.

Peter had given up expecting emotional comfort. He'd given up on decorum. He had nightmares about being on planes. “The emissions, you know," he said. “It feels like the plane is flying on ground-up babies to me." Even the simplest decisions led him into deep philosophical rifts. The boys' music lessons, to Peter, seemed woefully, almost willfully anachronistic, a literal fiddling while Rome or Los Angeles burned.

Peter kept trying to figure out ways to make his voice heard. He organized climate cafes, modeled on death cafes, places for people to gather to share grief (Sharon did not attend). He started No Fly Climate Sci, a grassroots group of academic institutions and individual scientists committed to flying less. He kept writing, posting, organizing, talking. This was not always well received. Before the pandemic, Peter stood on the sidelines of Braird's soccer games when it was 113 degrees. “And I'd be telling the other parents: This is climate change," he said. “And, you know, they don't want to hear that during a soccer game. But I can't not do it. I can't."

WE ARE HAVING AN EMERGENCY — Peter thought that all day, every day. “Here I am with a retirement account," Peter said. Did he need a retirement account? What was the world going to be like in 2060, when he was an old man? He'd been careful with himself not to become a doomer. Doomers, in his mind, were selfish. They'd given up on the greater good and retreated to their own bunkers, leaving the rest of us to burn. Still, despite Peter's commitment to keep working toward global change, Sharon found Peter's florid negativity distasteful at times. “There's almost like a pornographic fascination with 'Oh, I'm going to imagine just how bad everything is going to be,'" she said.

Sharon staged minor rebellions to maintain a sense of self — little stuff, like using lots of hot water when she did the dishes, and bigger stuff, like she stopped talking sometimes. Braird and Zane, too, each absorbed and reacted to Peter's passionate cri de coeur in their own ways. Zane, the younger one, started doing his own regular, Greta Thunberg-style climate strikes in front of city hall. Braird, the older, meanwhile, was entering his teens, differentiating and waxing nihilistic. When asked what he wanted to do with his future, Braird said, “What future?" When asked what he thought about climate change, he sunk a dagger into his father's heart like only a child can. Braird said, “I don't really think about it."

On the Tuesday evening after Labor Day, two days after the family returned from their infernal backpacking, Peter, still recovering from heat exhaustion, stood at the sink doing dishes. Braird played League of Legends on his bed. Sharon sat meditating, as she did from 7-8 p.m. each night. Then the emergency alerts blew up their phones. An evacuation warning, the Bobcat fire. The day before, in the ongoing horrible heat, they'd taped their windows shut against the smoke but they hadn't packed go bags. They never really believed their house would burn. The state was a climate warzone. Military helicopters had rescued 200 people trapped in a Sierra lake by the Creek fire, which had thrown up a plume of flames 50,000 feet. Cal Fire was predicting the Bobcat fire would not be contained for six weeks.

Sharon finished meditating. Then she started photographing all their stuff, including the insides of closets and drawers, because that's what insurance adjusters tell you to do: Document your property so you can make a stronger claim. Peter snapped. He didn't care about the pictures or the insurance. He just wanted to let the house incinerate. He felt done pretending that anything was normal, and he decided that now would be a good time to tell Sharon that he'd felt frustrated and gaslit by her all these years.

“WE NEVER EVEN TALK ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE! DO YOU EVEN CARE ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE?" he said. This did not go well.

She threw a laundry basket. “YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME," she shouted. “Our entire lives are about climate change."

There it was, that gap we build around knowing and integrating, to protect our own lives and minds. Yet after the fight, after finally saying aloud what he'd been thinking for almost 15 years, Peter felt better. Not because anything was different. Nothing was different. The situation remained unshakably, cosmically wrong. The only reason to care about insurance, books, paintings, the house, was if you believed that there would be a stable planet on which to enjoy those things in 20 or 40 or 80 years. If you believe there'd be a “planet with seasons, where you can grow food and have water, and you can go outside without dying from heatstroke," Peter said. “I don't have that anymore, that sense of stability."

But he also knew, deep down, that Sharon could not, and should not, give that up. She was a more anxious person than he was. They both knew that. “For me to stay sane, there's only so much I can take," Sharon said. Earlier on the night of their big fight they'd watched “The Handmaid's Tale," as they did each Tuesday. Sharon often thought about the main character, June. “You have to moderate how you think. You have to think in little chunks, so you can endure, just like June does," she told me. “You have to make sacrifices so you can survive. If you can survive to fight another day, then maybe the right opportunity will present itself. You can't kill yourself well, you can. But that's not the option I want to take."

Maeby is now gone. Peter drives an electric car. The composting toilet remains outside, though Peter admits, “The other three family members are not interested in contributing at all." Peter's current project is making climate ads. Is this how he can tell the story of what is happening to the world in a way that will make people not just hear and retreat but act? He thinks about this all the time. How do you describe an intolerable problem in a way that listeners — even you, dear reader will truly let in?

All through October and November, the Bobcat fire continued to burn. It grew to 115,000 acres. Its 300-foot-high flames licked up against Mount Wilson Observatory, where scientists first proved the existence of a universe outside the Milky Way. The fire continued to burn well into December, when UN Secretary-General Ant nio Guterres urged, with middling effect, the nations of the world to declare a climate emergency. So far, 38 have done so. The United States is not one of them. In January, a team of 19 climate scientists published a paper, “Understanding the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future," that said, “The scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its life forms — including humanity — is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts." The language of this sentence could not be more dire. It makes the mind go numb.

So how, with our limited human minds, do we attend enough to make real progress? How do we not flinch and look away? The truth of what is happening shakes the foundations of our sense of self. It asserts a distorting gravity, bending our priorities and warping our whole lives. The overt denialists are easy villains, the monsters who look like monsters. But the rest of us, much of the time, wear pretty green masks over our self-interest and denial, and then go about our days. Then each morning we wake to a new headline like: The planet is dying faster than we thought."

While I was trying (and failing) to process it all, Peter called to make sure I understood the importance of a comment he'd made: He's no longer embarrassed to tell people he would die to keep the planet from overheating. He's left behind the solace of denial. He's well aware of the cost. What a luxury to feel that the ground we walk on and this planet that is rotating around the sun is in some sense OK."

Biden just reversed Trump's transgender military ban

President Joe Biden has just signed an executive order reversing President Trump's total ban on transgender service members.

The order "sets the policy that all Americans who are qualified to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States should be able to serve. The All-Volunteer Force thrives when it is composed of diverse Americans who can meet the rigorous standards for military service, and an inclusive military strengthens our national security."

"President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service, and that America's strength is found in its diversity. This question of how to enable all qualified Americans to serve in the military is easily answered by recognizing our core values. America is stronger, at home and around the world, when it is inclusive. The military is no exception. Allowing all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform is better for the military and better for the country because an inclusive force is a more effective force. Simply put, it's the right thing to do and is in our national interest."

REVEALED: Anti-LGBTQ nonprofits, businesses and schools received millions in PPP funds

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) recipient list released has revealed that several non-profit organizations, businesses, and schools with policies that are particularly discriminatory against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals received millions in loan funds amid the pandemic, according to information released by the Small Business Administration.

The program, which was intended to be a financial relief effort for small businesses facing peril amid the coronavirus pandemic, awarded a total of approximately $2.5 million to seven groups including "the American College of Pediatricians, American Family Association, Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), Church Militant/St. Michael's Media, Liberty Counsel, Pacific Justice Institute and Ruth Institute," according to NBC News.

It has been reported that all seven groups have been categorized as "anti-LGBTQ hate groups" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). According to the data, the American Family Association received $1.4 million of the $2.5 million total.

Now, LGBTQ advocates are speaking out about the latest reports criticizing the pandemic program and the Trump administration's priorities. Cassie Miller, an SPLC data analyst, criticized the Trump administration for funding discriminatory groups while true small businesses suffer.

"Extremist movements thrive in climates of political uncertainty," she said. "Now, the government is doing even more to help hate groups by handing them millions of dollars in forgivable loans."

Kyle Herrig, president of the watchdog firm, Accountable.US, also criticized the priorities of the administration which led to bailouts for larger businesses — the exact opposite of the program's intended purpose.

"It is hard to find a clearer example of the Trump administration's warped priorities than allowing countless mom-and-pop shops to go under without proper relief while bailing out wealthy and well-connected anti-LGBTQ enterprises on Americans' dime," Herrig said in an email.

Justin Nelson, president of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, also had a similar perspective. as he expressed concern about LGBTQ-owned small businesses that have faced pandemic-related struggles similar to mom and pop businesses. Despite submitting applications for PPP loans, Nelson indicated that only a small number of the businesses were awarded funds.

"These folks are worried about keeping the lights on," he said. "We had a number of businesses that applied, and only a small number that received funding."

The legacy of philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson: Moral pioneer who wrote 'A Defense of Abortion' dies at 91

Just as the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade was headed before the United States Supreme Court, a new journal of academic philosophy prepared to publish its inaugural issue including an innovative argument from Judith Jarvis Thomson. That 1971 paper, "A Defense of Abortion," published in Philosophy & Public Affairs, became one of the most influential pieces of contemporary applied ethics, an enduring part of the legacy left behind when she died at 91 on Nov. 20, 2020.

"It has had such an incredible impact on people who have taken philosophy classes," Sally Haslanger, a professor of philosophy and women's and gender studies at MIT, where she worked alongside Professor Thomson, told me. "Almost anybody who teaches contemporary moral problems or an intro to moral philosophy is likely to teach that paper."

The key genius of the paper, one of the sources of its originality and staying power, is that it conceded to the opponents of abortion their strongest premise: that a fetus is a person worthy of full moral concern. Thomson didn't defend this view — in fact, she had serious objections to it — but she wanted to show that even if we believe a fetus has as much a right to live as anyone else, it doesn't follow that abortion is impermissible.

To make her case, Thomson spun an elaborate and memorable thought experiment:

You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist's circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you, "Look, we're sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you—we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinist is now plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it's only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you."

"I imagine you would regard this as outrageous," she told her readers, counting on the widely shared view that the kidnapped person would not be obligated to give over their body in this way.

The paper goes on to argue that this case, along with increasingly fanciful examples that illuminate different features of pregnancy and address potential counterarguments, show something perhaps unexpected about our moral intuitions: A right to life is not always the end of an ethical argument. We are not morally required to forfeit control over our bodies, even if death of another may be the foreseeable result. Abortion, therefore, may be permissible, even if pro-life arguments about the moral status of the fetus are correct.

It was an impressive argument, and it resonates today in the feminist rallying cry "My body, my choice."

"It's had a huge influence in the field. No argument about abortion can proceed without taking her arguments really seriously, even if it ends up opposing abortion," Kate Manne, a philosophy professor at Cornell University who worked with Thomson while studying at MIT, told me.

Despite its remarkable impact, though, Manne argued the central thesis of "A Defense of Abortion" is still underappreciated.

"I actually think it should have had more influence than it did," she said. "We're still at this annoying dialectical point where the personhood of the fetus is taken establish the impermissibility of abortion in wider culture. So it's still a very good thing that Judy's piece showed that that's far too quick. But in a way, I wish it had had more uptake."

Thomson's paper isn't just notable for its influence or the importance of its ideas about morality. As a piece of philosophy, it's exceptionally inventive and lucid. It's also particularly memorable. The structure of the thought experiment she used didn't need the patient with a kidney ailment be a violinist, as opposed to an unidentified person, but these kinds of details add color and life to what could otherwise be a stark examples. Her personal humor and charm were reflected in her writing.

"She's quite witty about it," Manne said of Thomson's argumentation style. "She says if she needed Henry Fonda's cooling touch upon her fevered brow, it would be 'frightfully nice for him to fly in from the West Coast to apply it' and save her life. But she isn't owed that by him."

Of course, excessively creative thought experiments in an argument have the potential to bog a paper down or complicate an argument unnecessarily, if not deployed right. But Thomson was a master of the form, using a series of whimsical examples to convince the reader of the plausibility of her view while never abandoning or distracting from the rigor of her argument.

But while it's undoubtedly her best-known contribution to philosophy, the paper on abortion didn't define her career. Within academia, Thomson wasn't known solely as a philosopher of applied ethics. Much of her work focused on foundational issues in philosophy and metaphysics, such as the nature of normativity, moral objectivity, composition, and action.

In its own way, Thomson's presence in these debates was perhaps as bold and unflinching as her views on abortion.

"Philosophy is male-dominated, but metaphysics is the most-male dominated, even now," Haslanger explained. "I came up in a period in grad school in the '80s, mainly. Judy was already producing really stunning work. And I started my career in analytic metaphysics. This remains a field where there are not very many women. And I would look in the bibliographies of the books I was encouraged to read or the articles I was encouraged to read, just looking for any name of a woman. And there were always only two, pretty much: Ruth Barcan Marcus and Judith Jarvis Thomson."

Thomson made significant contributions, for example, to debates about the concept of goodness, which she leveraged to make nuanced arguments against one of the most dominant theories in philosophical ethics.

In Thomson's view, good "isn't the kind of thing appropriately applied to states of affairs," said Haslanger. Something can't merely be good, simpliciter. It has to be good in some way. "So you can have a good toaster, or a good breakfast, or a good person. But a good state of affairs — states of affairs don't have criteria of goodness built into them."

This conclusion, she argued, was a big problem for utilitarianism and other consequentialist theories, which hold, more or less, that actions are to be judged by the consequences or states of affairs that they bring about. For Thomson, this view wasn't even really coherent, Haslanger said.

But she could be surprisingly effusive about views she didn't hold. Once, in a talk of hers I heard addressing another objection to utilitarianism, Thomson began by emphasizing the strengths of the view, arguing that there were many things about the theory to recommend it. "Many things," she stressed, repeating herself for emphasis.

First and foremost, the best reason to be impressed with utilitarianism was the simplest: "It's a theory!" she exclaimed.

Thomson made clear that many of the alternatives to utilitarianism that have been proposed over the years wouldn't merit this designation. And for her, utilitarianism's status as a full-fledged theory was undoubtedly high praise.

Her firm opposition to utilitarianism, though, was manifest in another of her philosophical contributions that has reached far beyond the academy and into the popular imagination: Trolley problems.

She actually credited the invention of the problem type to philosopher Philippa Foot, but it was Thomson who clarified and popularized the topic, which has become a sub-field of ethics in its own right known as trolleyology. In her first paper laying out the problem, she put forward the now-standard formulation:

Suppose you are the driver of a trolley. The trolley rounds a bend, and there come into view ahead five track workmen, who have been repairing the track. The track goes through a bit of a valley at that point, and the sides are steep, so you must stop the trolley if you are to avoid running the five men down. You step on the brakes, but alas they don't work. Now you suddenly see a spur of track leading off to the right. You can turn the trolley onto it, and thus save the five men on the straight track ahead. Unfortunately, Mrs. Foot has arranged that there is one track workman on that spur of track. He can no more get off the track in time than the five can, so you will kill him if you turn the trolley onto him. Is it morally permissible for you to turn the trolley?

Almost everyone seems to agree that it's permissible to turn the trolley, she explained. More debate breaks out when you ask whether you are morally required to turn the trolley. But the structure of the case lends itself to endless variation: What if you're not the driver, but just a bystander able to pull a lever and divert the trolley? What if the trolley loops around, such that the crushing of the one person isn't just an alternative to the deaths of the five, but would actually slow the trolley and thus be the means by which the others are saved? And why does this case strike us so differently than a case of a surgeon who kills one unsuspecting healthy person to harvest organs that will save the lives of five patients who would otherwise die?

On an austere consequentialist or utilitarian approach to moral reasoning, all these problems have simple answers: make the choice that results in the most lives saved, that does the most good. But Thomson reveled in complexities and qualifications of our moral commitments, and she rejected simplistic solutions. This wasn't mere pedantry for its own sake — she was deeply concerned with the principles that underlie our intuitions in these cases and what they can tell us about morality.

Her work on the topic eventually led her to change her mind about a key part of the problem, which she explained once in a seminar at MIT in 2013 that I was lucky enough to attend. She argued that a bystander watching the trolley would not be permitted, despite what she had previously believed and argued, to pull a switch to save the five people and kill the one.

How did she reach this startling conclusion? She imagined a new scenario in which the bystander had the opportunity to flip the switch to direct the trolley away from the five people and toward herself. Were she so noble, she might be willing to make that choice. But in Thomson's view, she wasn't obligated to make this choice. In an argumentative move that echoes the insight from "A Defense of Abortion," she posited that morality doesn't require us to sacrifice our lives for the lives of five others.

But if that's the case, she reasoned, then how can the bystander in the original case make the decision for the one person on the track to sacrifice her life for the other five? The bystander can't justify that choice, in Thomson's view. Despite what most people's intuition tells them, it's not permissible to flip the switch to kill one and save five from the oncoming trolley.

Her views weren't unforgiving or completely absolutist, though. If the cost were high enough, you might be obligated to flip the switch. Were the trolley carrying a bomb and on a course to destroy New York City, you ought to kill the one person to save the lives of millions.

"We must save New York!" she said.

One characteristic about Thomson that came through both in her writing and when she spoke was a firm belief that when discussing these kinds of ethical questions, there is a correct answer, even if it's hard to discern. In one seminar I attended at MIT, the group discussed whether the concept of "ought" is objective or subjective. Does it make sense to think of what we "ought" to do in a moral dilemma as reflecting the objective conditions, or our subjective perception of those conditions?

Debating this question, naturally, brings up more clever thought experiments, some of which seem to suggest that "ought" must be interpreted objectively, while others suggest a subjective interpretation of "ought" is best. It seemed to me that the solution is to simply stipulate that sometimes "ought" is used in a subjective sense, and sometimes it is used in an objective sense.

Thomson disagreed. She believed "ought" is objective — end of story. The clever counterexamples that suggest otherwise were certainly worth considering for her, but they weren't a reason to back down from the idea that there was a definitive answer to the puzzle.

This conviction stood out, especially because it was matched by fierce wit.

"There was just no one like her," said Haslanger. "To have a woman being really right in the thick of it, out-arguing others and making her way. It was really inspiring to me."

Thomson's confidence, fortitude and toughness were undoubtedly necessary for the career she had. Without this disposition, she may not have lasted in the world of academic philosophy or had such an impact at the time she entered the field.

"I found it in the eighties and nineties just awful to try to survive in mainstream analytic metaphysics," Haslanger explained. "It was just grueling. And that Judy did that a whole generation ahead of me is just mind-boggling. And she would comment on that now and then. She wasn't someone to complain or make a fuss about things that happened to her along the way. But you can't survive it unless you're very strong-minded and very determined, and brilliant. And she was all those things."

But if that toughness helped her survive, she didn't feel a need to abandon it once she had reached the pinnacle of her career. She was known as a fierce critic of students' papers. Getting the mechanics of a philosophical paper right — not just the argument, but the structure and the presentation of the ideas, down to the level of the sentence — was a top priority for her.

Manne remembered how Thomson subjected her work as a grad student to exacting standards. Those lessons stayed with Manne and influence her writing to this day, though she doubted that Thomson would always be satisfied with the results.

"She brought me into her office," Manne recounted, "having read a paper of mine, and very plainly said, in a tone that was genuinely warm: 'This paper is terrible!'"

Manne added: "She was incredibly tough, but I always got the sense that she was tough in the service of making people better philosophers. She was never just mean."

For Haslanger, this side of Thomson was an asset. Haslanger joined the philosophy department faculty at MIT when Thomson was the only other woman.

"I'm known for my strong feminist, anti-racist views, and I express them often and loudly. And I came to MIT, and it was the first time in my career where I could be the feminist 'good cop,' because Judy had spent so many years already being the feminist 'bad cop.' So we kind of worked together quite well. And it was such a relief," said Haslanger. "We definitely worked well together on encouraging people, and insisting, in fact, that people take women seriously."

She added: "She really was a symbol, an icon for many of us, who gave us hope and gave us courage to carry on."

It's notable, though, that — with the one clear exception — Thomson's work itself wasn't feminist philosophy. She generally worked on the traditional types of ethical and metaphysical questions handed down in the canon of philosophy, a canon that was historically fashioned by men. Questions that male philosophers have tended to ignore, such as those about the nature of gender oppression, say, didn't draw Thomson's scrutiny in the way traditional questions about the relationship between the statue and the clay or personal identity over time did.

The exception, of course, is her defense of abortion — what she's best known for.

"The fact that she just did what she did was a powerful feminist intervention. Her being who she was was a feminist intervention. I don't think that her work draws on gendered experience, or shows herself to draw on her feminist commitments to intervene in a debate, except for the abortion paper," said Haslanger.

"Whether or not she would have avowed it, I do think there's something feminist about her tough and unapologetic stance on bodily autonomy being something that is important, and that people have a right to, within limits," said Manne. "It really is about ways in which we've perhaps been myopic about the fact that women are entitled to bodily control, even if others depend upon them for their lives, which really is a deeply feminist point."

Outrage as police training materials label Black Lives Matter a terrorist organization

One law enforcement training group is facing backlash after circulating guidance that included false claims and conspiracy theories about Black Lives Matter (BLM).

According to KOLD, the guidance, titled "Understanding Antifa and Urban Guerrilla Warfare," has been distributed by the Indiana-based law enforcement training organization, International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA)). Its verbiage has come under fire as it contains various falsehoods about the Black Lives Matter movement while labeling its activists as terrorists.

One of the conspiracy theories suggests that the activist organization is "supposedly funded by China and that money is then donated to the Democratic Party."

"Antifa and Black Lives Matter have no intentions to negotiate," the document reads. "These are revolutionary movements whose aims are to overthrow the U.S. government."

The document also includes more demeaning remarks about BLM activists describing those who participated in the nationwide protests for civil rights over the summer as "useful idiots" who were working for "hard-core, terrorist trained troops," according to The Hill.

Phillip Atiba Goff, a Yale University professor and expert on racial bias in law enforcement, has described the dangerous document being used as training guidance for law enforcement as "stunning" and "distressing."

"It's stunning. It's distressing in many ways. It's untethered to reality," said Goff, CEO of the Center for Policing Equity. "I worry that it leads to people dying unnecessarily."

Harvey Hedden, ILEETA's executive director, defended the document as he dismissed the concerns as "differences of opinion."

"There will always be differences of opinion on training issues but so long as the disagreements remain professional and not personal we do not censor these ideas," Hedden said. "I am willing to allow the trainer to evaluate the information themselves."

He added, "Just like law enforcement, I am afraid BLM has earned some of these criticisms and others might be overgeneralizations."

But criminal justice activists argue otherwise. Despite Hedden's defense, Scott Roberts, senior director of criminal justice campaigns for the racial justice advocacy organization Color of Change expressed concerns about how this type of guidance could intensify an already-troubling police culture.

Sherice Nelson, assistant professor of political science at Southern University and A&M College, also expressed concern about the robust amount of "wildly outlandish" misinformation in the document. Nelson said, "This document is below the belt because of how much misinformation there is, how many conspiracy theories there are, how much violence it promotes and how many reasons it gives to justify dehumanizing people."

How centuries of inequality in the America laid the groundwork for 2020 devastation

As the United States sets new records for COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations, we speak with one of the world's leading experts on infectious diseases, Dr. Paul Farmer, who says the devastating death toll in the U.S. reflects decades of underinvestment in public health and centuries of social inequality. "All the social pathologies of our nation come to the fore during epidemics," says Dr. Farmer, a professor of medicine at Harvard University, chair of global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School, and co-founder and chief strategist of Partners in Health.


Facebook changing 'race-blind' hate speech policy

San Francisco (AFP) - Facebook on Thursday said it is revising its systems to prioritize blocking slurs against Black people, gays and other groups historically targeted by vitriol, no longer automatically filtering out barbs aimed broadly at whites, men or Americans. The change in Facebook's algorithm is a shift from the social network's ethnicity and gender-neutral system that removed anti-white comments and posts such as "Men are dumb" or "Americans are stupid." "We know that hate speech targeted towards under-represented groups can be the most harmful, which is why we have focused our tech...

On the island, Cubans are watching the US election as if it were their own

MIAMI — Even with a potential hurricane on Cuba’s doorstep, the dominant issue on the island is the U.S. presidential election. With increasingly broader access to the internet, Cubans are staying informed on what’s happening in their neighboring country, which they say may largely determine their own future.Cuban economists and others have followed the election almost minute by minute, reflecting the importance of relations with the United States, which have suffered since the election of Donald Trump.Pedro Monreal, an economist who favors changes in the island’s Soviet-styled economic model,...

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