Thursday, March 28, 2024

Science post: Rock art, roaches and snakes

Science post again. Lobato Felizola (LIVE SCIENCE) reports:

As far back as 9,400 years ago, hunter-gatherers in what is now Brazil created dozens of stunning rock-art designs next to the fossilized footprints of dinosaurs, a new study finds.
Researchers described the petroglyphs and dinosaur tracks, which date to the Cretaceous period (145 million to 66 million years ago), in a study published March 19 in the journal Scientific Reports. They think ancient humans purposefully put the rock art next to the dinosaurs' prints, as many of the petroglyphs are a mere 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) from the fossilized marks and some of the glyphs appear to be illustrations of the prints.

"The individuals who crafted the petroglyphs were acutely aware of the footprints, likely selecting the location precisely because of them," study first author Leonardo Troiano, an archaeologist from Brazil's National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage, told Live Science "It would have been impossible to overlook their presence.

The archaeological site, known as Serrote do Letreiro (Portuguese for "Signpost Hill"), is about 7 miles (11 kilometers) from the urban center of Sousa municipality in the northeastern state of Paraíba. It's close to the Valley of the Dinosaurs, a conservation area renowned for its hundreds of fossilized dinosaur footprints.

I wonder what they thought when they were making their art?  Did they wonder if a dino could come upon them?  Did they even know what a dinosaur was?  The dinosaurs were all gone by the time we showed up.  So what did we think when we saw those big foot prints?  Did we worry that whomever made them might come back?  Or did the bones from dead dinosaurs give us any clues?  

Although these petroglyphs seem to indicate an understanding of (or even reverence for) the footprints, it’s likely impossible to know what these symbols represent, or even who made them. The study’s lead author Leonardo Troiano told New Scientist that the peoples who populated northeastern Brazil during this time were “nomadic or semi-sedentary,” and that they “used stone tools and survived by hunting and gathering available natural resources.” In other words, they didn’t leave much behind for archeologists to piece together.

Of course, these ancient peoples couldn’t have known what creatures actually left behind these footprints. And that’s understandable—the common belief in the 18th-century CE was that dinosaur bones belonged to some giant race of extinct humanoids.

According to Troiano, it’s likely that these peoples thought the tracks belonged to some form a giant bird—an assumption that’s actually surprisingly accurate (at least when compared to the bonkers idea of human-like giants). To preserve this paleontological and anthropological wonder, the authors argue for “immediate mitigation measures to prevent further damage” from humans and wild animals.

Dinos?  Eline Thornton (PLANNING TO ORGANIZE) does a slide show of 16 animals on the planet today who are descendants of dinosaurs.  Sea turtles and birds didn't surprise me.  Chickens did.  But they're birds.  Ostriches also surprised me.  But, again, birds.  Cock roaches though?  How are they connected?  The slide show notes:

Although they're not animals, cockroaches, often either feared or loved, have been known to have survived the atomic bomb. Need we say more? They survived what was known as the ‘Great Dying Period', which existed between the Triassic and Permian periods. The scary thing is, they were much larger than the ones we see nowadays.

I did a science post yesterday -- "Science post: Snakes, birds and butterflies."  Kyle saw this BBC News article on a snake and thought it made a good addition to yesterday's post:

A snake which had been missing for a year was reunited with its owner after being dropped into a garden by a crow.

The RSPCA was called to rescue the corn snake which had slithered up on to a nearby garage roof in Spennymoor, County Durham.

A resident then came over who was "absolutely delighted" to find her pet, Agnus, who had been missing for a year.

The charity said it was "gobsmacked" it survived both the crow attack and being without heat for so long.

The 3ft (90cm) snake had been picked up by a crow and dropped when it "realised it had bitten off more than it could chew", RSPCA inspector John Lawson said.

I'm not Cher.  Have you seen THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK?  She really was in bed with all those snakes for the scene where she wakes up, finds all those snakes and starts screaming.  I'm not Cher.  I don't have that kind of courage.  But I do like snakes and find them fascinating in small numbers.  And, yes, I could handle a corn snake as a pet.

(And WITCHES is a good movie.  Everyone's great in it -- Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon, Jack Nicholson -- even Veronica Cartwright -- Angela Cartwright's sister -- Angela played Penny on the original LOST IN SPACE TV show.)

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):

Thursday, March 28, 2024.  War Hawk Down! Another Iraq War cheerleader and liar is dead in the US, and, in Gaza news, another State Dept employee has resigned over the assault on Gaza.

Starting in the US with the news of Joe Lieberman's death.  The former US senator accomplished much for himself, little for anyone else.  Ballot integrity?  Nah.  Immediately following the November 2000 election, Joe went on NBC's MEET THE PRESS and said all ballots should be counted.  That might seem admirable but all ballots should never all be counted.  All ballots that meet the legal requirements should be counted, for example.  But Joe, prompted by the husky host Tim Russert, went far beyond that.  And he couldn't eve ben equal there.  This was just count all votes for those in the military.

Because Joe didn't think members of the military knew how to follow orders?

Per Joe, it didn't matter if it had a postmark or not and it didn't matter if the postmark on it was two or more days after the actual election and nothing mattered.

Just count them all.

No, that's not how voting works.

But that's how pathetic and timid Joe Lieberman worked or joe LIEberman as his name was frequently noted.

In 1992, Al Gore was added as Bill Clinton's running mate and there was talk of the two being 'sons of the south' and talk of the two being good looking men.

No one ever was able to comprehend any semblance of reason for pairing Joe Lieberman with Al Gore.

LIEberman cheered on the Iraq War and never admitted he was wrong.  He was wrong.  Over a million Iraqis are dead.  He was wrong.  

Their blood remains on his dead hands.

Today, Ned Lamont is the governor of Connecticut but in 2006 he was the person who stepped up when Democrats in the state had reached their breaking point with Joe Lieberman.  Ned primaried Joe and Ned won the primary.  Joe, as an independent, won the election.

But grasp how quickly Joe fell out of favor in the Democratic Party -- in 2000, he was the second half of the presidential ticket and six years later he couldn't even hold his own in a primary when he was the incumbent senator.

COMMON DREAMS notes some of the reaction to Joe Lieberman's death:

  As Warren Gunnels, majority staff director for Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), explained, "Joe Lieberman led the effort to ensure the Affordable Care Act did not include a public option or a reduction in the Medicare eligibility age to 55."

Noting that Lieberman also lied about the presence of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq—which was used to justify the 2003 U.S. invasion—Gunnels asked, "How many people unnecessarily died as a result?"

He was far from alone in highlighting the two defining positions.

The Lever's David Sirota declared, "RIP Joe Lieberman, Iraq War cheerleader who led the fight to make sure Medicare was not extended to millions of Americans who desperately needed the kind of healthcare coverage he enjoyed in the Senate."

The Debt Collective said on social media that "Joe Lieberman killed so many people when he killed the public option. Not to mention all the people he killed by cheerleading every war and every lie that led to war. A truly horrible person with a shameful legacy."

Journalist Jon Schwarz pointed out that Lieberman continued to lie about the WMDs long after the claims were debunked.

FormerMSNBC host Mehdi Hasan noted that Lieberman declined an opportunity to apologize for the disastrous war, sharing a clip from his on-camera interview with the ex-senator in 2021.

"We lost a giant today. I often disagreed with Joe Lieberman but he was always honorable in the way he called for American troops to murder people abroad so he could get his jollies," said Matt Stoller of the American Economic Liberties Project in a series of sarcastic social media posts.

"Joe Lieberman balanced his love of other people fighting in immoral wars with a commitment to preventing Americans from getting healthcare," Stoller added. "Even after his Senate career, he showed his strong democratic values by lobbying for Chinese telecom firms. We will miss this man."

There are “reasonable grounds” to believe Israel is “committing the crime of genocide against the Palestinians as a group in Gaza,” the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories has said.

Francesca Albanese made the remarks Wednesday following the submission of her latest report called “Anatomy of a Genocide” to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday.

Speaking at a press conference, Albanese said: “Israel has committed three acts of genocide with a requisite intent: killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, and deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”     

Here's the video of her press conference. 

Genocide is a specific legal term, and Ms Albanese's report suggests some of the legal criteria have been fulfilled.

She cites what she says appears to be Israel's intention to destroy Palestinians as a group "in whole or in part", a key clause in the Convention against Genocide.

She mentions in particular three elements which point to possible genocide:

  • Killing members of the group
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
The death toll in Gaza, currently well over 32,000 according to Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry, the bombing of densely populated areas, and the restrictions on aid supplies (which, the UN says, have brought Gaza to the brink of famine), are all proof, the report claims, of intent to destroy the group. 

DEMOCRACY NOW! noted the official remarks yesterday highlighting this:

Francesca Albanese: “Following nearly six months of unrelenting Israeli assault on occupied Gaza, it is my solemn duty to report on the worst of what humanity is capable of and to present my finding, 'The Anatomy of a Genocide.' History teaches us that genocide is a process, not a single act. It starts with the dehumanization of a group as other and the denial of that group’s humanity, and ends with the destruction of the group in all or in part. The dehumanization of Palestinians as a group is the hallmark of their history of ethnic cleansing, dispossession and apartheid.”

Also in the Gaza news cycle is Ireland.

  Citing Israel's "blatant" human rights violations in Gaza, Ireland's second-highest-ranking official said Wednesday that the country will join the South Africa-led genocide case before the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Irish Tánaiste Micheál Martin—the equivalent of a deputy prime minister in other parliamentary nations—said that Ireland decided to intervene in the case after analyzing the "legal and policy issues" pertaining to the case under review by the United Nations' top court.

"It is for the court to determine whether genocide is being committed," Martin—who also serves as Ireland's foreign and defense minister—said in a statement. "But I want to be clear in reiterating what I have said many times in the last few months; what we saw on October 7 in Israel, and what we are seeing in Gaza now, represents the blatant violation of international humanitarian law on a mass scale."

Martin continued:

The taking of hostages. The purposeful withholding of humanitarian assistance to civilians. The targeting of civilians and of civilian infrastructure. The indiscriminate use of explosive weapons in populated areas. The use of civilian objects for military purposes. The collective punishment of an entire population.

The list goes on. It has to stop. The view of the international community is clear. Enough is enough. The U.N. Security Council has demanded an immediate cease-fire, the unconditional release of hostages, and the lifting of all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance at scale. The European Council has echoed this call.

South Africa's case—which is supported by over 30 countries, the Arab League, African Union, and others—incisively details Israel's conduct in the war, including the killing of tens of thousands of Palestinians, mostly women and children; the wounding of tens of thousands more; the forcible displacement of 90% of the besieged enclave's 2.3 million people; and the inflicting of conditions leading to widespread starvation and disease. The filing also cited numerous genocidal statements by Israeli officials.

On January 26, the ICJ issued a preliminary ruling that Israel is plausibly committing genocide in Gaza and ordered its government and military to prevent genocidal acts. Palestinian and international human rights defenders say Israel has ignored the order.

Shortly after the assault on Gaza began, Josh Paul resigned from the US State Dept.  This is from DEMOCRACY NOW!'s November 23rd broadcast:


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

We end this special with Josh Paul. In October, he resigned from the State Department to protest the Biden administration’s push to increase arms sales to Israel amidst its siege on Gaza, calling it “shortsighted,” “destructive” and “contradictory.” Paul had served as director of congressional and public affairs for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs in the State Department, which oversees arms transfers to Israel and other nations.

In his resignation letter, he wrote, quote, “We cannot be both against occupation, and for it. We cannot be both for freedom, and against it. And we cannot be for a better world, while contributing to one that is materially worse. … I believe to the core of my soul that the response Israel is taking, and with it the American support both for that response, and for the status quo of the occupation, will only lead to more and deeper suffering for both the Israeli and the Palestinian people — and is not in the long term American interest,” he wrote.

I asked Josh Paul to talk about why he resigned from the State Department.

JOSH PAUL: Yes, thank you. I decided to resign for three reasons, the first and most pressing of which is the very, I believe, uncontroversial fact that U.S.-provided arms should not be used to massacre civilians, should not be used to result in massive civilian casualties. And that is what we are seeing in Gaza and what we were seeing, you know, very soon after the October 7th horrific attack by Hamas. I do not believe arms should be — U.S.-provided arms should be used to kill civilians. It is that simple.

Secondly, I also believe that, you know, as your previous guest identified, there is no military solution here. And we are providing arms to Israel on a path that has not led to peace, has not led to security, neither for Palestinians nor for Israelis. It is a moribund process and a dead-end policy.

And yet, when I tried to raise both of these concerns with State Department leadership, there was no appetite for discussion, no opportunity to look at any of the potential arms sales and raise concerns about them, simply a directive to move forward as quickly as possible. And so I felt I had to resign.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk more about that. Talk more about what kind of dialogue goes on at the State Department and if you, for example, have met with Tony Blinken, the secretary of state, not to mention President Biden, to voice your concerns. And what about other veteran State Department officials?

JOSH PAUL: So, typically, there is a very robust policy process in the State Department for arms transfers. And there are a lot of those, right? So, we’re talking about about 20,000 arms sale cases a year that the State Department processes, which could be anything from bullets to radios to fighter jets. And for each of those, there is a lengthy process, sometimes, that looks at, you know, what are the pros and cons of the sale, what are its human rights implications. That has not happened in this context for Israel. And as I say, when I raised those concerns against the existing laws, against the existing policies, there was no appetite for that discussion.

I have not personally spoken to Secretary Blinken about this, nor, certainly, to President Biden. But I know that in the time since I left, there has been increasing discussion within the State Department, but has not led to any change of policies. In fact, as you heard earlier on your show, Vice President Harris was just saying yesterday that we will not place any conditions whatsoever on our arms to Israel. And that is unlike any arms transfer decision I’ve ever been a part of. There’s always discussion about should we condition this to address human rights issues.

AMY GOODMAN: So, who is leading this, Josh Paul? Who is preventing this? Who is suppressing all of this discussion within the State Department?

JOSH PAUL: I honestly think, in some ways, that it’s coming from the very top of the U.S. government and from the Biden White House. You know, there are many in the State Department, and across government, who have reached out to me in recent weeks, since I left, to express their support, but also to say how difficult and how horrific they are finding U.S. policy, and yet are being told, when they try to raise these concerns, “Look, you can get emotional support if you’re finding this difficult. We’ll find you something else to work on. But don’t question the policy, because it’s coming from the top.”

AMY GOODMAN: The HuffPost has this new piece that reports, “A task force on preventing atrocities did not meet until two weeks into the war, and officials say department leaders are telling them their expertise won’t affect policy.” Explain what goes on.

JOSH PAUL: So, whenever there is a crisis, as there is right now in Israel and Gaza, the department sets up a task forces or multiple task forces that are uniquely shaped to address that crisis. So, for example, in the context of an earthquake, they might bring in experts on refugee issues, on weather issues, on disease issues, you know, that sort of broad swath of people.

In the context of Gaza, they have set up a task force to look at this problem, but, according to the report you cite, it does not include the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, who are responsible for U.S. support to refugee issues. So, it is either a stunning oversight, or it is an intentional disregard for the humanity of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: At a meeting on October 26th, a State Department source told you they recalled a top official advising staff to shift their focus away from Israel-Palestine and seek to make a difference in other parts of the world?

JOSH PAUL: So, I don’t believe that that was a conversation that I had with someone, but that is in the same report in The Huffington Post that you cite, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: So, they’re directing them not even to make comments on this, just stop talking about Israel-Palestine.

JOSH PAUL: Yes, that’s right. And I think, look, I mean, that reflects a tension or a censorship — right? — that we are seeing not only in the U.S. government. I think what’s interesting here is this censorship that has existed and expanded to colleges and universities, where you talked about the doxing. I’ve also heard from many people across the American private sector, both from the Arab American community but also more broadly, from all sorts of diverse communities, who have said, “We are afraid to speak up on this, because we are in fear of our jobs.” It’s the same climate in government. And that is just not American.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I wanted to ask you about this In These Times report that the White House has requested an unprecedented loophole in arms spending to allow it to be able to conduct arms deals with Israel in complete secrecy, without oversight from Congress or the public.

JOSH PAUL: Yeah. So, we provide Israel with $3.3 billion a year in foreign military financing, which is the State Department and U.S. government’s primary functional — primary mechanism for funding the sale of arms to other countries. Of note, you know, we typically provide — setting aside Ukraine — about $6 billion a year in foreign military financing around the world. So Israel already gets more than half of that.

The language in the supplemental request that the Biden administration set up — sent up would remove the requirement to notify Congress of any arms sales conducted under that funding. Typically, there is a process where, for any major defense sale, Congress is notified of it. And there’s actually a process prior to the formal notification where Congress gets to ask questions, poke, prod, delay, and then, if it wishes to oppose the sale, can raise a joint resolution of disapproval on the floor. What this proposal would do is, essentially, destroy all of that, remove all of that, remove that congressional oversight, remove that congressional ability to object. It is unprecedented. I have never seen anything like it. And I cannot imagine that the committees of jurisdiction are viewing it very favorably, because it is just such a damaging approach that also sets horrible precedent for other countries with whom future administrations may decide they don’t want Congress to be involved.

AMY GOODMAN: Since you were in charge of arms sales, what does this $14 billion that — well, it looks like both houses want to send it to Israel.


AMY GOODMAN: It’s just that the House one is controversial because they want to take that $14 billion from the IRS, and also they want to sever the funding for Israel from the funding for Ukraine. And Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, says he won’t consider this bill. But it sounds like there is enough support in both houses for that extra — not the $3.8 billion or $3.3 billion yearly aid to Israel, but an extra $14 billion. You’re the expert on arms sales. What would it be used for?

JOSH PAUL: Yeah, and let me just say, I think there is, you know, almost or near-unanimous congressional support for this further military assistance to Israel. And I think what’s fascinating about that is also there’s a massive disconnect between where Congress is on these issues and where, I think, if you look at the polling, the American public are. And I think the current crisis is really crystallizing that difference. I don’t think it will make any difference in terms of the passage of this package, but it may do down the line.

With regards to this package specifically, it includes $3.5 billion in foreign military financing. Israel can draw on that to purchase essentially what it wants. And what’s unusual about this, as well, in addition to the removal of the notification, is that Israel would be entitled, under the proposal sent to Congress, to spend all of this money within its own defense industry. Israel is, of course, a top 10 exporter of arms around the world, often competing with the United States. And the idea that we will be providing funding to subsidize that competition is really unimaginable.

But on top of that, the package also provides further funding from the Defense Department side for air and missile defense for Israel, for Iron Dome. And let me be clear: My concern here is on lethal assistance to Israel. When it comes to protecting civilians from rocket attacks, I believe that they should be. I don’t believe anyone should have to live in fear of their homes — in their homes from rockets raining down on them, although I believe that’s the case whether they are in Israel under the Iron Dome or whether they are in Gaza, for example. And, of course, we never ask that question.

The funding, finally, would also include research and development funding for equipment, such as there is an experimental laser project called Iron Beam, which the U.S. and Israel are working together on, an air and missile defense system. If this is an emergency request, why are we looking at research and development for projects that have not even materialized yet? That doesn’t sound like an emergency to me. So, as with the arms transfers I saw when I was departing from the department, I think there is just a rush to push everything they can while they feel there is a window of political opportunity here where there will be no significant opposition.

AMY GOODMAN: What kind of response was there to your resignation?

JOSH PAUL: So, to my resignation, I would say there has been an overwhelming response that I have heard from folks or from colleagues inside not only in the State Department, but across the U.S. government, actually, on the Hill, in the Defense Department, in the uniformed military services, including in combatant commands around the world. People have reached out to me to say, you know, “We fully agree with you.” You know, obviously, everyone has their own personal circumstances. You know, I think if we had universal healthcare, it would make it a bit easier for people to stand up on principle. I myself am, you know, trying to figure out what I do next on healthcare. But the point is that so many people have reached out to say, “We hear you. We agree with you.”

And I think, you know, one of the things I found is that a lot of people can be in individual offices and say, “There is no — I can’t speak up, because I will lose my job. I will put my career in jeopardy. And there’s no one else here I can talk to.” And yet I’m hearing from someone else just a few desks over who is saying the same thing. So I think there really is a communications crisis, a transparency crisis within the U.S. government, and a policy crisis, because when you can’t talk about foreign policy, when you can’t debate, when you can’t criticize, you don’t end up with good policy.

AMY GOODMAN: Josh Paul, why was this the last straw for you? I mean, for example, if you were in charge of weapons sales, presumably you were dealing with Saudi Arabia, notoriously authoritarian. U.S. agencies concluded, even in just one case, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, that the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for this. You oversaw arms sales to them, presumably. Why Israel?

JOSH PAUL: So, let me just be clear: I was one of multiple people involved in the arms sales process. Arms sales themselves are a presidential authority that is delegated to the secretary of state, and then, through the secretary of state, to the undersecretary, who is actually responsible for approving them, for the most part. But you’re right. And as I said in my resignation letter, in my time in the department, I dealt with many morally challenging, controversial arms sales.

I think what made the difference for me here is that for all of those previous instances, even under the Trump administration, mind you, there was always room for discussion and debate and the ability to mitigate some of the worst possible outcomes, to delay sales until crises had passed, so that they weren’t contributing immediately into a humanitarian crisis, to work with Congress and be confident that once the policy debate had ended in the State Department, there would be a congressional piece to it, too. And Congress generally has stood up in the past repeatedly on matters of human rights and arms sales. What was different here was that there was none of that. There was no debate. There was no space for debate. And there was also no congressional appetite or willingness to have debate.

AMY GOODMAN: There’s going to be a major march in Washington tomorrow. Three hundred fifty people were arrested in Philly. We’re going to play some clips of a major protest in Boston that happened last night. How much does grassroots protest like this, the thousands of people who are protesting around the country, the shutdown of Grand Central by Jewish groups just last Friday night, have on the State Department, on the White House?

JOSH PAUL: So, I don’t think it has much impact on the State Department. And that’s OK, because I think policy processes are meant to happen within a policy framework, [inaudible] and the problem is they’re not happening.

I think it does have an impact on the White House. I think we’ve seen a significant change in tone in the last few weeks, not because there is a sudden deep care, frankly, for Palestinian civilian casualties on their own merits, but because there is a sense that there is a political crisis here developing for the Biden administration, that many people are saying, you know, “We’re just going to sit out the next election. We have lost faith in this White House, in this administration.” So, I think that does have an impact.

And let me also say I have found it incredibly moving, as well, to watch these protests. You know, I was up on the Hill for meetings this week and last week and came across, in one office, a sit-in that was happening, where there was a group of Jewish students singing peace songs and holding up signs that said “Save Gaza.” I found that incredibly moving. And I think it also tells Congress and it tells this administration that they are not in line with much of American public opinion. I think it’s a much-needed message.

AMY GOODMAN: Josh Paul, veteran State Department official who worked on arms deals and resigned in October in protest of a push to increase arms sales to Israel amidst the attack on Gaza. Visit to see all of our coverage on Gaza and Israel.

Democracy Now! is produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud and Sonyi Lopez. Our executive director is Julie Crosby. Special thanks to Becca Staley, Jon Randolph, Paul Powell, Mike Di Filippo, Miguel Nogueira, Hugh Gran, Denis Moynihan, David Prude, Dennis McCormick, Matt Ealy and Emily Andersen. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.

Another member of the US State Dept has resigned over Gaza.  Julian Borger (GUARDIAN) reports:

A human rights official has resigned from the US state department over Gaza saying the Biden administration is flouting US law by continuing to arm Israel, and is hushing up evidence that the US had seen on Israeli human rights abuses.

Annelle Sheline, said she had hoped to have an influence on policy by staying at her post in the Near Eastern section of the bureau of democracy, human rights and labor, taking part in discussions, signing dissent cables and raising her concerns with her supervisor. But she had lost confidence she could do anything that would affect the flow of US arms to Israel.

“The fundamental reason was – I no longer wanted to be affiliated with this administration,” Sheline told the Guardian. “I have a young daughter. She’s not yet two, but if some day in the future, she is learning about this and knows that I was at the state department and she asked me [about it] – I want to be able to tell her that I did what I could.”

THE NEW ARAB notes, "Particularly troubling for the Biden administration is Sheline’s assertion that the State Department has ample evidence of Israel violating international law in Gaza and that the US is therefore breaching its own domestic laws by continuing to fund Israel."  In related news, Jake Johnson (COMMON DREAMS) reports:

A longtime Democratic operative and current president of the Center for American Progress issued a scathing statement Tuesday criticizing the Biden administration for accepting the Israeli government's claim that it is adhering to international law with its catastrophic military assault on the Gaza Strip.

"The State Department's shocking assertion that the Netanyahu government is complying with international law in Gaza is a gross disregard of overwhelming evidence and a dangerous precedent in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy," said Patrick Gaspard, who previously served as executive director of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and U.S. ambassador to South Africa under the Obama administration.

"The stakes here are so high that the administration must be transparent and accountable in sharing with the American people all evidence that has led to this determination and the continued sale of offensive weapons to Israel," Gaspard argued, pointing to Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant's stated goal of imposing a "complete siege" on Gaza at the start of the assault, which is now in its sixth month with no end in sight.

Gaspard said that "every aspect" of Gallant's "edict" has "been on open display to the world," with famine, dehydration, and disease spreading across the enclave as Israel persists in obstructing the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The CAP president's statement came after U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters earlier this week that the Biden administration has not found Israel "to be in violation of international humanitarian law, either when it comes to the conduct of the war or when it comes to the provision of humanitarian assistance."

Miller's remarks followed a letter from Gallant assuring the Biden administration that Israel is complying with international law in its use of American weaponry—a written assurance that was required under a new White House policy.

Gaza remains under assault. Day 174 of  the assault in the wave that began in October.  Binoy Kampmark (DISSIDENT VOICE) points out, "Bloodletting as form; murder as fashion.  The ongoing campaign in Gaza by Israel’s Defence Forces continues without stalling and restriction.  But the burgeoning number of corpses is starting to become a challenge for the propaganda outlets:  How to justify it?  Fortunately for Israel, the United States, its unqualified defender, is happy to provide cover for murder covered in the sheath of self-defence."   CNN has explained, "The Gaza Strip is 'the most dangerous place' in the world to be a child, according to the executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund."  ABC NEWS quotes UNICEF's December 9th statement, ""The Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. Scores of children are reportedly being killed and injured on a daily basis. Entire neighborhoods, where children used to play and go to school have been turned into stacks of rubble, with no life in them."  NBC NEWS notes, "Strong majorities of all voters in the U.S. disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll. The erosion is most pronounced among Democrats, a majority of whom believe Israel has gone too far in its military action in Gaza."  The slaughter continues.  It has displaced over 1 million people per the US Congressional Research Service.  Jessica Corbett (COMMON DREAMS) points out, "Academics and legal experts around the world, including Holocaust scholars, have condemned the six-week Israeli assault of Gaza as genocide."   The death toll of Palestinians in Gaza is grows higher and higher.  United Nations Women noted, "More than 1.9 million people -- 85 per cent of the total population of Gaza -- have been displaced, including what UN Women estimates to be nearly 1 million women and girls. The entire population of Gaza -- roughly 2.2 million people -- are in crisis levels of acute food insecurity or worse." ALJAZEERA notes, "The number of people killed in Israel’s war on Gaza since October 7 has risen to 32,552, according to the Health Ministry in the besieged territory. Israeli attacks on Gaza have also wounded at least 74,980 people."  Months ago,  AP  noted, "About 4,000 people are reported missing."  February 7th, Jeremy Scahill explained on DEMOCRACY NOW! that "there’s an estimated 7,000 or 8,000 Palestinians missing, many of them in graves that are the rubble of their former home."  February 5th, the United Nations' Phillipe Lazzarini Tweeted:

And the area itself?  Isabele Debre (AP) reveals, "Israel’s military offensive has turned much of northern Gaza into an uninhabitable moonscape. Whole neighborhoods have been erased. Homes, schools and hospitals have been blasted by airstrikes and scorched by tank fire. Some buildings are still standing, but most are battered shells."  Kieron Monks (I NEWS) reports, "More than 40 per cent of the buildings in northern Gaza have been damaged or destroyed, according to a new study of satellite imagery by US researchers Jamon Van Den Hoek from Oregon State University and Corey Scher at the City University of New York. The UN gave a figure of 45 per cent of housing destroyed or damaged across the strip in less than six weeks. The rate of destruction is among the highest of any conflict since the Second World War." 

The following sites updated:

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Science post: Snakes, birds and butterflies

Joshua Teehee (FRESNO BEE) reports it's rattlesnake season in central California.  Each year, complaints come in around the state about snake bits with most during "late March into  April and May."  If you're bit?  "Get treatment ASAP."  From the article:

While there are seven species of rattlesnakes in California, only one — the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake — can be found in the central San Joaquin Valley. The snakes aren’t typically found in super urbanized environments — like downtown Fresno or your back yard, probably — but they can be seen in more rural places on the outskirts of town or in the foothills.

People working or enjoying recreational activities in those areas have a higher likelihood of encountering the snakes.

They can be out in a field or tucked under a wood piles or in the undergrowth off a trail. Sometimes they’ll just be along the roadside, says Steven Sharp, a Zoological Animal Manager who oversee Chaffee’s snake population.

Staying with the topic of snakes, Jabed Ahmed  (INDEPENDENT) reports that, in the Amazon, the world's largest snake has been discovered:

The huge reptile, named Ana Julia, was found in the Formoso River in the rural area of Bonito in southern Brazil’s Mato Grosso do Sul State five weeks ago.

The 26-foot northern green anaconda weighed around 440lbs - or 31 stone - and had a head the same size as a human’s.

There have been reports claiming the snake may have been shot but a Dutch researcher who helped discover the Ana Julia stressed the cause of death was still being investigated.

Professor Freek Vonk shared the news on Instagram, saying: “With enormous pain in my heart I want to let you know that the mighty big green anaconda I swam with was found dead in the river this weekend.”

From creatures that slither on their belly to those that fly,  BON VOYAGED reports on the "30 Most Beautiful Birds" and while the Painted Bunting blows me away, my favorite -- the American Robin -- doesn't make the list.  :( So of the birds that made the list, for me, it comes down to either the Northern Cardinal or the Scarlet Tanager.  Both really are beautiful birds.  On the topic of birds, Andrei Ionescu (EARTH) has an article about various species that will be impacted by climate change and I'll note these two paragraphs:


Alarmingly, up to fifty-four species could disappear from the analyzed cities. A taxonomic breakdown reveals that over 95% of bird and insect species could see changes in their urban distribution. 

Canines, most amphibians, and loons are among those anticipated to suffer the most significant losses, whereas turtles, mice, toads, and pelicans might become increasingly prevalent.

Ruth wrote about bees and butterflies earlier this week in "Nutrition, health, music."  I want to add to that by noting AZ ANIMALS' "16 Plants That Attract Butterflies."  You'll find lavender, sage and black-eyed Susans among others.  I note those three because when my daughter was in middle school, she was very concerned about the butterflies and she was gardening with C.I. and asked C.I. what they could especially plant that the butterflies would love and so they planted lavender, sage and black-eyed Susans.

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):

Wednesday, March 27, 2024.  The horrors continue to mount -- in Robert Kennedy Junior's campaign and in Gaza. 

Starting in the US with political races.  Robert Kennedy Junior remains the nag in the race despite getting media attention yesterday.  Junior couldn't even pull that off right.

For those who missed it, around 3:00 pm EST yesterday, Junior announced who he had selected for his running mate --  a vigorous process that found him almost giving his rose to Aaron Rodgers -- eye roll, please, Nicole Shanahan.

For those who missed it?

It was over four and half hours later before 'Team Kennedy' shared the news with donors in an e-mail entitled "BREAKING NEWS: Kennedy's VP Choice" -- an e-mail that again begged for money.  

Like his nonsense remarks about COVID vaccines and everything else, it was a lie.  Four and a half hours after it's been reported on, something is not "Breaking News."  (Post corrected to four and a half from three and a half -- e-mail went out at 8:30 pm EST.)

Junior's the biggest liar in the world.  But let's take a look at that running mate.

The message of Junior's vice presidency pick?  "Any seat at my table can be bought and is for sale."  Nicole Shanahan has no experience in government.  She's never held elected office. Nor has he.  That's a balanced ticket?   Her sole talent apparent to the naked eye is the ability to marry well and divorce better.  The marriages leave her rich which is how she was able to pay for Junior's Superbowl commercial this year.

She's 38 years old -- we always knew Junior liked them young -- and has no real skills or accomplishment.

'She started a company!'  Yes, she did.  After she married wealthy Jeremy Asher Kranz.  Two years later, she divorced him.  And married the wealthier Sergey Brin.  Where she got her real big money.  And that marriage lasted nearly five years so I guess that was work -- or what passes for it for Nicole.

No accomplishments on her own.  Her business work used her husbands' money and connections.

Since the collapse of marriage number two, she's left the tech world to pretend she's a documentary film maker.

In the 70s, lazy women who lived off the money of others pretended to be 'photographers.'  They'd take photos of chairs and try to get their wealthy boyfriends (single or married) to pay for a showing at a gallery.  These days lazy women who sponge off others pretend to be documentary film makers.

During the Renaissance, women like Nicole  were called courtesans.

In the mid-90s, I didn't pretty it up when I told Pamela Beryl Harriman to her face that she might be the aged belle of DC but she was still nothing but a whore.  I meant it with Pamela, I mean it with Nicole.

I'm the first to applaud any woman when she accomplishes something.  I don't agree with, for example, Patricia Heaton's politics, but her performance as Frankie on THE MIDDLE was applause worthy and I had no problem saying so.  She did that, she created a character and brought her to life.  I applaud that.  I applaud those who work.

I don't appalud anyone -- male or female - who sleeps their way to the top -- or at least the top of a pile of money.

She's kind-of, sort-of on marriage number three.  She and Jacob Strumwasser had a hand-fasting last year at her request.  Not familiar with that?  Sure you are.  In Oliver Stone's THE DOORS, drunken Jim Morrison participates in one with Patricia Kennealy-Morrison.  Not sure how that Druid ceremony is going to play with Junior's right-wing base. 

But, hey, she's 38, can't she be married three times?  Especially when it's how she makes her money?  She's a career girl every time she walks down that aisle.

And that tells you what Robert Kennedy Junior, the old man taking testosterone injections, thinks of women.  He knows qualified women.  He grew up with strong and qualified women.  Instead, he chooses an inexperienced gold digger.  

There are people who have experience, there are women who have experience.  Junior sold the spot on his ticket to the highest bidder.  Remember that when you wrongly think he's someone who would fight for the little person.  She's bought her seat at any table for sale and Junior's just the latest example.

I guess we can all take comfort in the fact that there is worse than being inept and unfit, there's being 100% evil and Junior dodged that bullet by not selecting Tulsi Gabbard -- whom Trina has dubbed Trashy Garbage. 

Another person on the campaign trail is Marianne Williamson.  This was not a good media appearance. 

Marianne is not going to be the Democratic Party's presidential nominee and she knows that.  She got back in the race to raise issues. 

And the media appearance above might have seemed like a good idea.  It's not one.

She never should have gone on with Bri-Bri.  They are not friends.  Bri already distorted her weeks ago when Bri brought on Sabby and the two of them lied about her appearance on RBN.  

That was the real warning.

Marianne is the target of sexism - and that includes from Norman Finklestein.

Bri has never helped another woman in her life and the closest she's ever come to a feminist discussion on a program was when she devoted herself to the SEX IN THE CITY reboot.  

So, no, she's not going to point out that in an hour interview about people who matter and mattered, Norman Finklestein only mentioned one woman -- Angela Davis -- and was about how hot she was back then.  

She's not going to call out Norman.  Even Jared Ball called out Norman and his White man whiny status that people need to be interviewing him (Norman) about the state of Black America because he's White so he's entitled to it.

Marianne wrongly thought they'd have a discussion and she could raise some issues.

Instead, Bri did another of her verbal masturbations.

And it didn't just hurt Marianne.

Marianne wants a cease-fire, she wants an end to the attack on Gaza.

That's something that many of us want.  

Instead of building on that -- at a time when its needed and the death toll continues to climb -- Bri wants to get lost in one side issue after another.  She was showing off and her showing her ass.  But she wasn't helping the Palestinians.

It's amazing how her 'friend' Marianne gets held accountable for this and that but her buddy Congressman Ro comes on her show and repeats lies and then lies that the UN Secretary-General has said what he's saying and Bri just moves on past it.

It's amazing until you grasp that bitches like Bri rarely stand up to men but they will walk over any woman.

Oh, wait.  I'm assuming Bri wants to stop the violence aimed at the Palestinians -- but she doesn't.  She doesn't care about solutions, she's just an angry kid who wants to break her toy.  That's all it is to her, a game.  

I understand that Marianne needs to be seen to get issues discussed but Marianne needs to choose much better in future media appearances.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

Israel is continuing to attack Gaza despite a vote Monday by the United Nations Security Council calling for an immediate ceasefire during the remaining two weeks of Ramadan and calling for the release of hostages in Gaza. Fourteen of the 15 nations on the U.N. Security Council voted in support of the resolution, which was drafted by the nonpermanent members of the council. The United States abstained, ignoring a request by Israel to veto the ceasefire resolution. The U.S. had previously vetoed three other ceasefire resolutions.

Israel denounced the U.N. vote, as well as the U.S. decision to abstain. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded by canceling a visit to Washington, D.C., by a high-level delegation this week to discuss Israel’s plans to attack Rafah.

At the United Nations, Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour praised the ceasefire resolution.

RIYAD MANSOUR: This must be a turning point. This must lead to saving lives on the ground. This must signal the end of this assault of atrocities against our people. A nation is being murdered. A nation is being dispossessed. A nation is being displaced — for decades now, but never at this scale since the Nakba.

AMY GOODMAN: Israel has vowed to ignore the resolution. In a post on social media, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said, quote, “The State of Israel will not cease firing. We will destroy Hamas and continue fighting until the very last hostage has come home,” he said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is at odds with the U.N. over whether the resolution is binding or not. Deputy U.N. spokesperson Farhan Haq said U.N. Security Council resolutions are, quote, “as binding as international law.” But on Monday, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., described the resolution as nonbinding.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We appreciated the willingness of members of this council to take some of our edits and improve on this resolution. Still certain key edits were ignored, including our request to add a condemnation of Hamas. And we did not agree with everything in the resolution. For that reason, we were, unfortunately, not able to vote yes. However, as I’ve said before, we fully support some of the critical objectives in this nonbinding resolution. And we believe it was important for the council to speak out and make clear that our ceasefire must — any ceasefire must come with the release of all hostages. Indeed, as I’ve said before, the only path to a durable end to this conflict is the release of all hostages.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined by Craig Mokhiber, international human rights lawyer who formerly served as the director of the New York office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, where he worked for more than three decades as a human rights official. He resigned in October over the U.N.'s failure to adequately address large-scale atrocities in Palestine and in protest of Israel's assault on Gaza.

Craig Mokhiber, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you explain the significance of this U.N. Security Council resolution, the U.S. abstaining, and whether or not this is binding?

CRAIG MOKHIBER: Well, thank you, Amy and Juan. Nice to be with you again.

It is significant — you’ve picked the right adjective there — because this was a draft that was put forward by the nonpermanent members, the elected members of the Security Council, the so-called E10. And these 10 members include representatives from around the world, including some key allies of the United States, which created, I think, a degree of political pressure that added to hopes that the resolution would not be vetoed in this case.

I have to say that it follows just a few days after the council rejected a rather cynical draft that was submitted by the United States, the text of which, I have said, is a kind of an anti-ceasefire resolution. It didn’t order a ceasefire, but effectively set out Israel’s conditions for ceasing its violations of international law. And that was a real problem, because a lot of U.S. media outlets were reporting on that resolution as a ceasefire resolution, when it was anything but.

But yesterday’s resolution was an actual ceasefire resolution — a rather weak one, which I will comment on, but it is a ceasefire resolution. It calls for a brief ceasefire, for access for humanitarian aid at scale, for lawful treatment of prisoners, including Palestinian prisoners, and for release of hostages. And it’s important because, you know, we’re in the midst of a genocide. And you have this nearly moribund Security Council that has failed for six months, that is finally succeeding at least in demanding a temporary ceasefire. Any pause will save lives. And any aid that gets in as a result, during an imposed starvation, will make a difference, no doubt about it. It’s also important because it’s a signal, again, of the very broad consensus across the global community against Israel’s onslaught on Gaza, and it will be another legal tool that can help in holding perpetrators accountable after the provisional order of the World Court on Israel’s genocide.

But, you know, unfortunately, while it contains some hopeful, aspirational language that may lead to a lasting ceasefire, it only demands a ceasefire during the month of Ramadan, which will end in just over two weeks. So it is a very short pause during this genocide. And we know that one of the U.S.’s conditions for not vetoing the resolution was the deletion of the word “permanent,” which of course changes the substance of the resolution very significantly.

So, despite all of this talk about tensions in U.S.-Israeli relations and this rare instance of the U.S. not vetoing a resolution on Israel’s behalf, the U.S. is clearly continuing to run interference on behalf of Israel at the U.N. And as you say, this is made all the more clear by the statements of the U.S. immediately after the adoption of the resolution, in which the U.S. has claimed — entirely falsely, by the way — that the ceasefire demand is conditional on the release of hostages and, secondly, that the resolution itself is nonbinding. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., made these claims in the session of the Security Council after the adoption of the resolution. Both of these claims are completely false and have no legal grounding. The U.N. Charter in its Article 25, subsequent decisions of the International Court of Justice have made this undisputable. Security Council resolutions are binding on all member states. And this is black-letter law in the Charter that says that all members of the United Nations are bound to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council, as I say, subsequently affirmed by the International Court of Justice.

And the claim that the ceasefire is to be conditioned on other factors like the release of hostages, this is completely false, as well. This was a key, central focus of the negotiations, was to make sure that these things were not conditioned one on the other, but they are separate demands of the Security Council. The United States knows this, but it is cynically distorting the record in order to, on the one hand, be able to claim that it has gone along or not blocked an international move toward a ceasefire, because of pressure from domestic and international constituencies, and, on the other hand, making sure that nothing really changes on the ground. It shows how the U.S. — how committed the U.S. has been to undercutting the resolution even before the ink was dry. So, if you look at the process, the U.S. used its power to water down the text during negotiations. It still did not vote in favor, only abstaining, and then immediately and falsely declared that it’s nonbinding and conditional.

And in the end, I have to say, we also know that Israel is unlikely to respect any of the terms of this resolution. They’ve already declared that they will not do so. And they have continued all of their military offensives and genocidal assaults on the Gaza Strip since the adoption of the resolution. We also know that the United States is very unlikely to use any leverage to compel Israel to comply with the resolution. And their language now on trying to claim that it’s nonbinding is evidence that that is their intent. So, the killing continues. Forced starvation continues. Genocide continues unabated.


CRAIG MOKHIBER: And I think that may be the — yes, go on.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Craig Mokhiber, what would be the — what would be the potential actions of the United Nations to a member state that does not adhere to a binding resolution of this type? And also, what is your response to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s canceling of the Israeli delegation to the U.S. over this vote?

CRAIG MOKHIBER: Well, I think Israel’s intentions have been made clear. If you listen to the statements of the prime minister and other cabinet ministers and military leaders, they have been clear from the beginning that they will not relent in their assault on the Gaza Strip until they’ve effectively accomplished the destruction of the entire strip. And their attacks now on Rafah, in particular, show that the last refuge, the last piece of the Gaza Strip that hasn’t been effectively destroyed, is not only in their sights, but already under their bombs. So Israel never has had any intention. In fact, Israel has the world record for violating Security Council, General Assembly, Human Rights Council resolutions in the United Nations. And that is unchanged.

But this resolution can make a difference. On the one hand, there is an opportunity, if Israel is in breach of the resolution, to bring a resolution for enforcement under Chapter VII. Now, of course, as we’ve said, the United States is likely to block, to veto that resolution, to prevent any enforcement, just as they will continue to block any enforcement of the decisions of the International Court of Justice regarding genocide in Palestine. In this case, because the U.S. has not vetoed it, they have, in effect, blocked action in the General Assembly under the Uniting for Peace resolution, where you could have seen some real meaningful action. You could have seen a resolution with teeth, with substance, resolution that included diplomatic, military, political, economic sanctions — not the enforcement of those sanctions, but the call for those sanctions — the deployment of a protection force, the establishment of a tribunal, the establishment of permanent mechanisms, as was the case within the United Nations during apartheid in South Africa. So, there are actions that could be taken here, but the nonveto has slowed action in the General Assembly, while at the same time allowing the United States to claim that, yes, the resolution passed, but somehow it’s not binding.

In the end, this all comes down to the — first, to the political will of member states across the organization, which already, after the provisional measures of the International Court of Justice, are obliged to be taking action to rein in Israel’s assault on Gaza — few have done so, but I think there is pressure building — and then, secondly, the obligation on all of us in civil society to make sure that we keep up the pressure, again, as was the case in South Africa, on our own countries to make sure that there are appropriate sanctions imposed on Israel to force it to comply and to end its genocide.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to Kamal Qasim. He’s a displaced Palestinian in Gaza, responding to the U.N. Security Council vote in New York.

KAMAL QASIM: [translated] We hope that the decision is implemented and that it is taken seriously, because we know that Israel is stubborn and doesn’t pay attention to the Security Council or any Western countries or Arab countries. And you can see what the situation is like, and the life that we are living is very, very difficult, with big massacres and genocides — not just one genocide — and the situation is very, very hard. And we hope a ceasefire comes quickly and that the decision is implemented.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Craig Mokhiber, I’m wondering if can you respond to that. And also, we’re getting all sorts of reports on whether the Qatar talks are continuing, those negotiations. Majed al-Ansari, a spokesperson for Qatar’s Foreign Ministry, tells reporters negotiations on a truce are still ongoing. He rejected Israeli claims that the U.N. Security Council resolution calling for ceasefire had an immediate impact on the talks. The Times of Israel said Israel has cut off Gaza truce talks in Qatar as a result. Your response and where you see this all headed at this point? I mean, even as we talk about whether Israel is going to launch a full-scale invasion, I think in the last 24 hours since the U.N. Security Council resolution was passed, something like 80 to 100 Palestinians were killed, most of them in Rafah.

CRAIG MOKHIBER: Yeah, absolutely. And this is the challenge of enforcement. It’s clear that as long as Israel’s principal sponsor — I’d say its co-belligerent — the United States of America, is not committed to reining in Israel’s assaults, those assaults are going to continue, regardless of what the International Court of Justice or the Security Council or other legal mechanisms at the international level rule. They are blocked by the power of the United States in actually giving force to the decisions that they take. And unfortunately, that’s what we’re seeing on the ground.

This is an opportunity. Right? It provides a diplomatic tool and a legal tool to press for at least this two-week-plus pause on the ground. But the clock is already ticking. Nothing has changed so far. Israel has been explicit in its rejection of the resolution, and the United States has been explicit in its position that the resolution is nonbinding, and therefore, if it’s nonbinding, it doesn’t make any sense for them to take action to try to enforce it.

The key element of the U.S.'s engagement on this was to try to keep the Security Council, and the United Nations generally, at arm's length so that all the center of gravity would remain with them and their diplomatic — so-called diplomatic efforts in the Middle East, together with the Egyptians and the Qataris. Those talks have not borne fruit. Israel has repeatedly boycotted portions of those talks.

You know, an opportunity for a two-week pause that this resolution provides is disappearing with each passing day. And so are the opportunities to try to turn that two-week pause, as is suggested in the resolution, into something that is more lasting. The U.S. refused to allow the word “permanent,” but something more lasting. So the pressure is going to have to come from elsewhere. It’s not going to come from these key pressure points. It’s going to have to come from civil society. It’s going to have to come from private actors. And again, as I said before, it’s going to have to come from all of us.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Craig Mokhiber, I wanted to ask you — there’s been, for years now, efforts to restructure the United Nations, especially the Security Council, precisely because of the overwhelming power that the old European major powers exercised over the Security Council. Do you think that this war and the inability of the U.N. to act to end it will now further fuel the move to reform the U.N.?

CRAIG MOKHIBER: Well, one can hope, Juan, I have to say. I mean, I think what this genocide has done is it has revealed the weaknesses, the political compromises, the moral failings of the United Nations and other international institutions. It has shown itself to be wholly inadequate, wholly unable to respond to a genocide being committed with Western sponsorship, with the sponsorship of powerful Western states. If this were happening in a developing country in Africa or Asia, you would see a very different response. But when the perpetators, the co-perpetrators are the United States, the United Kingdom, European powers, the United Nations has shown itself unable to act.

You see that even in the language of the Security Council resolution. We’re talking about a situation of massive war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and genocide. Because the Security Council is not set up to deal effectively with that, especially when one of its permanent members or two of its permanent members, at least, are implicated in that genocide, it’s forced to dust off language about conflict as if this were a war between two states rather than a campaign of annihilation by a heavily armed occupying power against a besieged civilian population. And that is not going to get the job done. You get a resolution that calls for a ceasefire — even ceasefire language is not appropriate to a genocide, as the World Court itself has determined — and you get, you know, no language in here that condemns the perpetrators, that moves for accountability of perpetrators, that deals with the deployment of protection of the exposed civilian population, none of the things that would actually make a difference.

And it’s not just the Security Council. The political offices of the United Nations that have been set up to deal with issues like genocide, like sexual violence, like children in armed conflict, they have all failed miserably, because they are politically compromised, politically controlled. Unlike the independent human rights mechanisms, that have done a terrific job, and the humanitarian aid workers, that have done a terrific job in the U.N. system, these political offices and intergovernmental bodies have shown themselves to be wholly ineffective.

So it certainly has increased the demand for reform. Whether there will be a willingness amongst the member states, and in particular amongst the P5, the most powerful member states of the United Nations, who sit with special rights on the Security Council, in a mechanism that belongs in a Cold War museum, their lack of political will for change is what obstructs this. I still believe that demand from the ground can make a change. We saw it happen with apartheid in South Africa. We can see it happen, as well, if we work for it, for reforms in the U.N., which I think have to happen — we need the United Nations — and, on the other hand, for action against Israel’s genocide.

AMY GOODMAN: Craig Mokhiber, we just have 30 seconds, but the question of U.S. stopping military sales to Israel, an issue that certainly Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Merkley and others have called for, do you think that would make a difference?

CRAIG MOKHIBER: Well, it would make a tremendous difference, as I’ve said before. The United States is not just tolerating this genocide. It is, in legal terms, complicit in the genocide because of its provision of military support, of weapons, of economic support, of diplomatic cover, of intelligence support, and of, as I’ve said, the use of its official podiums to disseminate propaganda for genocide on behalf of the Israelis. Any piece of that puzzle that is removed, and especially discontinuing the provision of military aid during the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, will make a very significant change and, in fact, a much more significant change than any international resolution could hope to make.

AMY GOODMAN: Craig Mokhiber, international human rights lawyer, formerly served as the director of the New York office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, where he worked for more than 30 years as a human rights official, resigning in October over the U.N.'s failure to adequately address the Israel-Palestine conflict and Israel's assault on Gaza.

Gaza remains under assault. Day 173 of  the assault in the wave that began in October.  Binoy Kampmark (DISSIDENT VOICE) points out, "Bloodletting as form; murder as fashion.  The ongoing campaign in Gaza by Israel’s Defence Forces continues without stalling and restriction.  But the burgeoning number of corpses is starting to become a challenge for the propaganda outlets:  How to justify it?  Fortunately for Israel, the United States, its unqualified defender, is happy to provide cover for murder covered in the sheath of self-defence."   CNN has explained, "The Gaza Strip is 'the most dangerous place' in the world to be a child, according to the executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund."  ABC NEWS quotes UNICEF's December 9th statement, ""The Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. Scores of children are reportedly being killed and injured on a daily basis. Entire neighborhoods, where children used to play and go to school have been turned into stacks of rubble, with no life in them."  NBC NEWS notes, "Strong majorities of all voters in the U.S. disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll. The erosion is most pronounced among Democrats, a majority of whom believe Israel has gone too far in its military action in Gaza."  The slaughter continues.  It has displaced over 1 million people per the US Congressional Research Service.  Jessica Corbett (COMMON DREAMS) points out, "Academics and legal experts around the world, including Holocaust scholars, have condemned the six-week Israeli assault of Gaza as genocide."   The death toll of Palestinians in Gaza is grows higher and higher.  United Nations Women noted, "More than 1.9 million people -- 85 per cent of the total population of Gaza -- have been displaced, including what UN Women estimates to be nearly 1 million women and girls. The entire population of Gaza -- roughly 2.2 million people -- are in crisis levels of acute food insecurity or worse." ALJAZEERA notes, "The number of people killed in Israel’s war on Gaza since October 7 has risen to 32,490, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.  Israeli attacks on Gaza have also wounded at least 74,889 people.."  Months ago,  AP  noted, "About 4,000 people are reported missing."  February 7th, Jeremy Scahill explained on DEMOCRACY NOW! that "there’s an estimated 7,000 or 8,000 Palestinians missing, many of them in graves that are the rubble of their former home."  February 5th, the United Nations' Phillipe Lazzarini Tweeted:

And the area itself?  Isabele Debre (AP) reveals, "Israel’s military offensive has turned much of northern Gaza into an uninhabitable moonscape. Whole neighborhoods have been erased. Homes, schools and hospitals have been blasted by airstrikes and scorched by tank fire. Some buildings are still standing, but most are battered shells."  Kieron Monks (I NEWS) reports, "More than 40 per cent of the buildings in northern Gaza have been damaged or destroyed, according to a new study of satellite imagery by US researchers Jamon Van Den Hoek from Oregon State University and Corey Scher at the City University of New York. The UN gave a figure of 45 per cent of housing destroyed or damaged across the strip in less than six weeks. The rate of destruction is among the highest of any conflict since the Second World War." 

THE NEW YORK TIMES is yet again trying to obscure one of their damning lies that should have never made it into print.  Click here and go to THE SEATTLE TIMES for the NYT story.  Let's start with the opening:

Amit Soussana, an Israeli lawyer, was abducted from her home Oct. 7, beaten and dragged into the Gaza Strip by at least 10 men, some armed. Several days into her captivity, she said, her guard began asking about her sex life.

Soussana said she was held alone in a child’s bedroom, chained by her left ankle. Sometimes, the guard would enter, sit beside her on the bed, lift her shirt and touch her, she said.

He also repeatedly asked when her period was due. When her period ended, around Oct. 18, she tried to put him off by pretending that she was bleeding for nearly a week, she recalled.

Around Oct. 24, the guard, who called himself Muhammad, attacked her, she said.

Early that morning, she said, Muhammad unlocked her chain and left her in the bathroom. After she undressed and began washing herself, Muhammad returned and stood in the doorway, holding a pistol.

“He came towards me and shoved the gun at my forehead,” Soussana recalled to The New York Times. After hitting Soussana and forcing her to remove her towel, Muhammad groped her, sat her on the edge of the bathtub and hit her again, she said.

He dragged her at gunpoint back to the child’s bedroom, she recalled.

“Then he, with the gun pointed at me, forced me to commit a sexual act on him,” Soussana said. 

Did this happen to Amit?  I don't know.  I don't see anything to dispute in her story.  Has she told it in front of a camera?  If she has, I'll weigh in on that.  I remember the first time Susan Smith went on camera with NBC claiming to be a mother mourning.  I was at a friend's house and there were probably 30 people in the room.  I said, "She killed her kids."  And I got attacked for it.  How could a feminist blame a mother in mourning!!!  Because I am a feminist and I believe in truth and it was clear that Susan Smith was lying.  And I was right, she did kill them.  So unless I see the woman on camera and detect lying, I believe Amit.  It most likely happened.

And I've never argued that it couldn't or wouldn't.  NYT is trying to use this to justify their lies about October 7th.

October 7th doesn't play.  It will never play.  We've noted repeatedly that rape's not taking place out in the open in the middle of an attack.  But a woman in prison or held hostage?  Yeah, there are risks of rape.  What happened to Amit only strengthens what we've said all along.  

And NYT needs to stop trying to lie about mass rapes on October 7th that no one believes happened -- no one in their right mind.  

As a rape survivor, my sympathies and prayers for Amit.  

It's a shame her government didn't broker a deal to get her home safely before the rape took place.

ALJAZEERA notes, "The Israeli military says an Israeli woman’s firsthand account of sexual assault while captive in Gaza requires international 'pressure' on Hamas to free the remaining captives."  I'm not in the mood for the lies of the Israeli military or Israeli government.  For months, Tel Aviv and other areas have seen large protests where Israeli citizens have demanded that the government focus on bringing the hostages home, on making a deal to bring the hostages home.  The Israeli government has refused.  Repeating, "It's a shame her government didn't broker a deal to get her home safely before the rape took place."  They could have done so and they can do so now for the remaining hostages.

Desperate conditions and extreme crowding have rendered Rafah “unrecognizable,” with roughly one toilet available for every 850 people and one shower for every 3,600, UNICEF spokesperson James Elder said Tuesday.

“This is a hellish disregard for basic human needs and dignity,” he added in a statement, describing the southern Gazan city as a place overtaken by tents for displaced families and where people are sleeping on the streets.

More than 1.4 million people are estimated to be crowded into Rafah, which was once designated as an evacuation site from the intense fighting. Israeli officials have said they plan to launch a ground offensive in the city, where they say Hamas militants are hiding alongside remaining hostages — a move that several U.N. agencies, humanitarian groups and top U.S. officials have warned against.

On Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated American “opposition to a major ground operation in Rafah” in a meeting in Washington with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, the State Department said in a readout. On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urged Israel to abandon plans for the offensive. Israeli officials have made clear that they will enter Rafah and said they would direct civilians to “humanitarian islands” in central Gaza ahead of the offensive.

The following sites updated: