With Sen. Dianne Feinstein requesting to be temporarily replaced on the Judiciary Committee as she recovers from shingles, Senate Democrats on Thursday began working to break the logjam that has held up critical judicial nominations for weeks.
A spokesperson for Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he will ask the Senate next week to allow another Democratic senator to temporarily fill her place on the high-profile committee on which Democrats hold a mere one-seat majority.
Rep. Ro Khanna, who like Feinstein is a California Democrat, was the first to publicly call on Feinstein to step down, questioning Thursday morning, "Why [does she] not just take the step and resign instead of going through all of these motions?"
"It has become painfully obvious to many of us in California that she is no longer able to fulfill her duties as she doesn't have a clear return date," he said on CNN. "We haven't been able to confirm judges at a time where women's rights and voting rights are under assault. Senator Durbin himself, the chair of the Judiciary, has said that the reason we're not being able to move these judges is because Senator Feinstein isn't there."
It’s not clear that a different approach would have pushed Ginsburg out when Barack Obama might have replaced her. But you could hardly blame Democrats for lamenting that series of events. So activists and a small number of Democratic lawmakers applied more pressure on Justice Stephen G. Breyer to retire, and he did, last year.
They’re now confronting a somewhat similar situation with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and the effort is even more overt than it was with Breyer.
But they’re also discovering there are no easy answers here. And the situation has taken an ugly turn, leading to uncomfortable conversations about politics, age and even gender that could reverberate in the months and years to come.
In recent days, calls have grown for the 89-year-old Feinstein to resign. That’s because her illness-related absence from the Senate Judiciary Committee since mid-February (she was diagnosed with shingles) has hamstrung Democrats’ ability to confirm judges — an increasingly important political metric for administrations.
She can't do her job, she needs to retire. Not a month from now, right now. Out.
"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
Benjamin Ferencz died last week at the age of 103. Ferencz was the last surviving member of the team of prosecutors at the Nuremberg trials after World War II, which led to the convictions of many top Nazi officials and since been understood as the exemplar of justice for war crimes.
Ferencz served in the U.S. Army during the war and in its aftermath investigated the conditions at the Buchenwald, Mauthausen, and Dachau concentration camps. He spent the rest of his life advocating for the creation of an international criminal court and accountability for war criminals generally.
These facts appear in his obituaries. What’s missing from all of them in major outlets — including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the BBC, The Guardian, Reuters, and the Associated Press — is Ferencz’s belief that top members of the George W. Bush administration, including Bush himself, should have been tried for war crimes for the Iraq War.
Climate change is predicted to impact us all in the next few decades and one of the hardest hit areas, per climate models, will be Iraq. Already problems are evident. January 10th, Yale's School of Environment published Wil Crisp's article which opened:
For their biodiversity and cultural significance, the United Nations in 2016 named the Mesopotamian Marshes — which historically stretched between 15,000 and 20,000 square kilometers in the floodplain of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers — a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The marshes comprised one of the world’s largest inland delta systems, a startling oasis in an extremely hot and arid environment, home to 22 species of globally endangered species and 66 at-risk bird species.
But now this ecosystem — which includes alluvial salt marshes, swamps, and freshwater lakes — is collapsing due to a combination of factors meteorological, hydrological, and political. Rivers are rapidly shrinking, and agricultural soil that once grew bounties of barley and wheat, pomegranates, and dates is blowing away. The environmental disaster is harming wildlife and driving tens of thousands of Marsh Arabs, who have occupied this area for 5,000 years, to seek livelihoods elsewhere.
Experts warn that unless radical action is taken to ensure the region receives adequate water — and better manages what remains — southern Iraq’s marshlands will disappear, with sweeping consequences for the entire nation as farmers and pastoralists abandon their land for already crowded urban areas and loss of production leads to rising food prices.
The Mesopotamian marshlands are often referred to as the cradle of civilization, as anthropologists believe that this is where humankind, some 12,000 years ago, started its wide-scale transition from a lifestyle of hunting and gathering to one of agriculture and settlement. Encompassing four separate marshes, the region has historically been home to a unique range of fish and birdlife, serving as winter habitat for migratory birds and sustaining a productive shrimp and finfish fishery.
AP notes, "Climate change for years has compounded the woes of the troubled country. Droughts and increased water salinity have destroyed crops, animals and farms and dried up entire bodies of water. Hospitals have faced waves of patients with respiratory illnesses caused by rampant sandstorms. Climate change has also played a role in Iraq’s ongoing struggle to combat cholera." This month began with AL MAYADEEN reporting:
A spokesperson of the Iraqi Health Ministry, Saif Al-Badr, confirmed on Saturday that more than 500 patients are suffering from breathing difficulties as a result of the dust storm taking over the country.
Al-Badr told Iraqi News Agency (INA), "More than 515 patients were admitted to hospitals in Baghdad and the provinces with breathing problems of varying severity due to the dust storm that occurred yesterday [Friday] in the regions of the country," adding that they did receive sufficient medical care and most had been discharged.
As of yet, no casualties have been reported and ambulances remain on standby to deliver aid to those who need it. Dust storms and sand storms are not strangers to Iraq, as they regularly occur in the region and have been known to cause serious health issues.
SEE NEWS notes, "Today, Saturday, the Iraqi Ministry of Health announced that more than 500 people had suffocated due to the dust storms that hit the country on Friday, according to the Iraqi News Agency."
The Mandaeans in Iraq are still in need of protection and support. In the scope of direct talks with the Middle East Consultant of the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), the leader of the Mandaeans, Ganzevra Sattar Jabbar Hilo Al-Zahrony, and several other Mandaean dignitaries appealed to the Iraqi government not to cut back its support for the small ancient religious community – but to include them when filling political offices. It was also stated that, when visiting Iraq, German politicians should not forget to meet up with representatives of the Mandaeans.
As the Mandaean dignitaries emphasized during the talks at the residence of their leader on Easter Saturday, it would be important to have Mandaean ministers in Iraq and to send Mandaean ambassadors to other countries. Further, they would need financial support to build up a state-approved academy for the Mandaean language and religion. Also, the approximately 2,200 Mandaeans in the German diaspora need support to build a house of worship.
Of the about 100,000 Mandaeans worldwide, not more than 20,000 are still living in Iraq. Other sources speak of only 5,000. As the religious dignitaries told the STP’s Middle East Consultant, it had been an important gesture of acceptance of the small religious community that the Iraqi Prime Minister recently visited the main place of worship of the Mandaeans in Baghdad for the first time. Prime Minister Mohammed Shia' al-Sudani had paid a visit to the religious center of the Mandaeans on the Tigris River in mid-March.
Over the Easter holidays, Sido also visited a few Christian communities in the region. He noticed that more and more Christians are leaving Baghdad, even though the security situation has improved significantly. “If the remaining Christians in Iraq are to have a future, the government must ensure that they feel welcome in their home country,” he summarized his impressions.
The signatories of this letter do not all share political or economic philosophies, but we are united in our astonishment at this war’s massive price tag. Invading Iraq cost the US $2 trillion directly. That’s nearly $9,000 for each taxpayer in the US. However, the Iraq War cannot be divorced from the Afghan War, the larger Global War on Terror or this century's militarism, which has seen Pentagon spending balloon from $331 billion in 2001 to $858 billion today. Including future veterans' care and interest payments, the long-term cost of these conflicts will total $8 trillion by 2050.
Dozens still perish every month in militant violence in Iraq in a seemingly unending war. VA hospitals in the US strain to keep up with a generation of shattered veterans. The war succeeded only in traumatizing millions; creating terror groups where there had been none; and instigating chaos and continual hostilities, while providing hundreds of billions of dollars to weapons manufacturers.
The Iraq War was based on lies that have brought unimaginable suffering to an entire nation and ongoing loss, grief and hardship to hundreds of thousands of American families. It was and is a great crime. And in our view, as men and women who participated in the war in one way or another, the greatest crime of all may be our nation’s inability to hold accountable those responsible for authorizing such atrocities and continuing to watch our government repeat its wars over and over again.
Out Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has announced she is running for reelection to a third term in Congress.
In a statement, Baldwin said she’s “committed to making sure that working people, not just the big corporations and ultra-wealthy, have a fighter on their side. With so much at stake, from families struggling with rising costs to a ban on reproductive freedom, Wisconsinites need someone who can fight and win.”
Baldwin also tweeted out the announcement, saying, “Wisconsin’s working families deserve a Senator who’s going to fight for them—not a shady special interests or big corporations. We’ve made a lot of progress, but the stakes have never been higher and our work isn’t over yet.”
Baldwin made history in 2012 when she became the first out gay senator in the nation and the first woman senator from Wisconsin. At the time, she declared, “I didn’t run to make history. I ran to make a difference.”
In 2018, she won her first reelection bid against a Trump-endorsed, anti-LGBTQ+ opponent.
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