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Justice Alito's Refusal to Recuse From January 6 Cases Sparks Calls for Supreme Court Ethics Reform

29. Mai 2024 - 21:02

In a letter to Senators Dick Durbin and Sheldon Whitehouse, senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito rejected their calls for his recusal from cases involving January 6th. Durbin and Whitehouse urged Chief Justice John Roberts to act following reports that symbols supporting the January 6th insurrection were displayed at Alito’s homes in Virginia and New Jersey.

Stand Up America’s Managing Director of Policy and Political Affairs, Brett Edkins, issued the following statement:

“Justice Alito’s refusal to recuse himself from cases related to January 6th is unacceptable. By dismissing concerns about potential bias and conflicts of interest and placing the blame on his wife, he is making a mockery of the fundamental principles of impartiality and fairness upon which the Supreme Court was founded.

“The Senate must take immediate action to address this bald-faced display of judicial misconduct. Majority Leader Schumer should schedule a floor vote on a binding code of conduct for justices, and Senator Durbin should fulfill his duty as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee by launching a thorough investigation into Justice Alito’s actions and corruption on the Court.”

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Common Cause/NY on Trump Trial Jury Deliberations

29. Mai 2024 - 20:07

This morning, the jury in the Trump trial began deliberations on the criminal case. In response, Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY issued the following statement:

"The former president has repeatedly demonstrated a sneering disregard for the rule of law, so we know that he will continue to attack any process that doesn't support his interests. But the project of democracy is much bigger than this one individual and the public deserves a truthful resolution. As we anticipate the jury's verdict – and Mr. Trump's inevitable lies – it's important to review the incontrovertible facts of the trial:

  • The President, the Department of Justice and the federal government had no role in bringing a case under New York Criminal Law.
  • First-degree falsification of business records is a serious crime that's routinely prosecuted in New York. Many individuals, including first-time offenders, are sentenced to imprisonment for this crime in New York.
  • Trump and his counsel helped select the jury. He and his lawyers were able to object to individuals whom they thought would not hear the evidence fairly. And those individuals were not selected as jurors.
  • Trump was afforded every opportunity to present his defense. His well-paid lawyers mounted hours of testimony and cross-examinations of witnesses, and gave a three-hour closing argument.
  • Nothing prevented Trump from testifying at trial.
  • The jury received instructions in the law that Trump's lawyers had a hand in drafting.
  • The trial proceeded in an orderly and organized fashion, without undue delay. Mr. Trump was treated as any other defendant facing a felony charge.

It is now the jury's responsibility to carefully weigh all of the evidence that was presented to it and everyone should recognize that arriving at a unanimous verdict takes time. As we await the jury's verdict, Common Cause/NY recognizes the jury's time and dedication spent doing their civic duty, and trusts that the public will accept their decision as well as their right to privacy. Respect for the rule of law is the foundation of democracy, but so is public trust in the process. That's why Common Cause/NY fought to make the trial transcripts free and accessible, and we invite anyone to review them on the court website."

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New Sierra Club Report: Trading Away Our Climate Exposes How Trade Pacts Undermine Climate Action

29. Mai 2024 - 18:56

A new report released today, Trading Away Our Climate: How Corporations Use Trade and Investment Agreements to Undermine Action on Climate Change, highlights how fossil fuel companies worldwide threaten climate progress through outdated trade agreements that favor corporate interests over the public good. The report scrutinizes trade and investment agreements containing investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions as significant obstacles to lowering emissions and achieving a just clean energy transition. It argues that eliminating ISDS is crucial to the global goal of limiting warming to well below 2°C, and preferably to 1.5°C, above pre-industrial levels. Leading Democratic lawmakers on the top Congressional trade panels – Senators Warren and Whitehouse and Congress Members Doggett and Sánchez – reaffirmed support to end these harmful pacts.

“While it has correctly rejected ISDS for future trade agreements, the Biden Administration has made no effort to remove these egregious provisions from existing agreements. Powerful multinational corporations continue abusing ISDS to intimidate countries from strengthening environmental and human rights protections,” said Representative Lloyd Doggett. “Nor is any country immune – from Próspera’s nearly $11 billion lawsuit against Honduras to TC Energy’s fossil-fuel claim against the United States. Recognizing that a corporate victory in any of these cases would place an outrageous burden on taxpayers, I will continue urging the Administration to eliminate ISDS.”

“The Sierra Club’s report clearly shows that corporations have abused ISDS provisions to block progress in fighting climate change,” said Representative Linda Sánchez. “While I’m pleased President Biden is keeping similar provisions out of future trade agreements, we must also work to reform ISDS mechanisms in some of our existing trade deals if we’re going to meet our global climate targets.”

Humanity faces unprecedented challenges as global ocean heat content soared to record levels, Antarctic sea ice coverage plunged to record lows, and global temperatures approached a perilous 1.4°C above pre-industrial levels in 2023. Fossil fuels are responsible for over 75% of greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90% of all carbon dioxide emissions. Governments can take decisive action to avert catastrophic impacts on vulnerable ecosystems and societies by taking proactive steps in their trade policies to halt fossil fuel company abuse of the ISDS system.

“Many trade pacts provide corporations, including the fossil fuel industry, with extensive protections, enabling them to bypass domestic courts and sue governments. This threatens environmental and public health policies – including those that would reduce fossil fuel production,” said Iliana Paul, senior policy advisor on Sierra Club’s Industrial Transformation campaign. “Such actions pose a substantial financial risk to taxpayers and undermine efforts to combat climate change.”

Fossil fuel corporations are ardent users of ISDS provisions, with nearly 20% of the 1,206 known treaty-based ISDS arbitrations coming from fossil fuel companies. As a few notable examples, Canada-based TC Energy is suing the US for $15 billion over the United States government’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline and US-based Ruby River is using ISDS to challenge Canada’s rejection of a liquefied natural gas facility in Québec.

The report warns that ISDS challenges can deter governments from enacting policies in the public interest due to the threat of costly arbitrations. Defending against these cases requires millions of dollars and years of work, while settlements often lead to the weakening or rollback of essential policies.

"Giant corporations have and continue to weaponize ISDS – a secretive and rigged arbitration system that multinational companies use to bypass domestic courts and challenge protections for the environment, workers, and consumers around the world. It’s time to shut the door and eliminate ISDS from all existing trade agreements once and for all," said Senator Elizabeth Warren.

“ISDS mechanisms corruptly advance the power of big corporate polluters over the interests of the public and the planet. This new report from the Sierra Club makes it clear that ISDS’s time is up,” said Senator Whitehouse, Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and a member of the Environment and Public Works and Finance Committees. “I’m glad the Biden administration remains committed to keeping ISDS out of future agreements, and I’m pushing the administration to remove these insidious provisions from agreements already on the books.”

Recognizing the broad dangers of ISDS beyond climate change, including impacts on public health, labor protections, and green jobs policies, the report advocates for the complete elimination of ISDS. It calls on the U.S. government to take the lead in this effort by:

  1. Stopping the Expansion of ISDS: President Biden and future administrations must publicly oppose ISDS, commit to avoiding new agreements containing ISDS, and use diplomatic influence to discourage other countries from entering into such agreements.
  2. Removing ISDS from Existing Agreements: The U.S. should terminate bilateral investment treaties (BITs) that include ISDS, neutralize sunset clauses that extend their effects, and renegotiate or withdraw consent to ISDS provisions in existing agreements.

As public and policy-maker sentiment against ISDS continues to rise, the report concludes that the only sensible path forward is to end the era of ISDS, ensuring the protection of our planet and its people from its extensive threats.

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Pandemic Treaty reaction: "Further delays are the direct result of rich countries actions"

29. Mai 2024 - 17:29

In response to further delays to the pandemic treaty, Tim Bierley, campaigner at Global Justice Now said:

"Further delays in pandemic treaty negotiations are the direct result of rich countries - including the UK - frustrating the process at every step. During the Covid-19 pandemic we saw vaccine apartheid play out on the global stage, with over a million people dying from a lack of access to vaccines. Instead of pushing for clear and binding commitments to ensure this gross injustice is never repeated, rich countries seem content to sing from the Big Pharma hymnbook, prioritising patents and profit over people.

"Enough - rich nations must back a strong pandemic treaty which ensures knowledge and resources are shared equitably across the world, and global south countries are supported in upscaling their capacity for medicines production. Anything less is sabotaging our response to the next health crisis before it's even started."

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Corporate Lobbyists From Every Industry Swarm Washington to Influence AI Regulations

29. Mai 2024 - 14:45

Corporations, trade groups, and other organizations sent more than 3,400 lobbyists to lobby the federal government on artificial intelligence-related issues in 2023, twice as many as the previous year, a Public Citizen report released today reveals. The vast majority of these lobbyists were hired by corporations or corporate-aligned trade groups.

“Corporate lobbyists running amok in the halls of Congress and the halls of power are aiming to set our AI future,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Either we let corporate lobbyists write rules on AI to concentrate corporate power and wealth, or we demand that government officials prioritize the public interest.”

Public Citizen searched through five years of lobbying disclosures (2019 through 2023) to compile a dataset of clients and lobbyists that lobbied explicitly on AI and other AI-related issues. Notable findings include:

  • Corporations, trade groups, and other organizations sent more than 3,400 lobbyists to lobby the federal government on AI-related issues in 2023, a 120 percent leap from 2022.
  • 80 percent of all AI-related lobbyists deployed came from industries outside of tech, including financial services, healthcare, telecommunications, transportation, and defense.
  • 1,100 lobbyists were sent to lobby the White House in 2023, nearly twice as many as devoted to any federal agency. The number of lobbyists hired to lobby the White House on AI-related issues grew from 323 in the first quarter to 921 by the fourth quarter — a 188 percent increase within a single year.
  • 85 percent of the lobbyists hired in 2023 to lobby on AI-related issues were hired by corporations or corporate-aligned trade groups.

"AI companies, defense contractors, autonomous vehicle manufacturers, and others stand to make billions if A.I. policy is crafted more in their interest than in the public’s,” said Mike Tanglis, research director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “They appear to be dominating the AI focused conversations on Capitol Hill. It’s never a good idea to put the fox in charge of designing henhouse security."

Lobbyist engagement on AI-related issues is likely to continue to rise in 2024 as federal agencies work to carry out the actions directed by the Biden administration’s executive order on implementing “safe, secure, and trustworthy artificial intelligence” and Congress considers an array of legislative proposals related to AI.

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We Are the Dead

28. Mai 2024 - 5:03

With "one supreme act" of dying unquestioning in the name of war, said James Garfield on 1868's first Memorial Day, the fallen showed "the highest virtues of men." It's unclear if he'd include in that noble fellowship the forsaken children and women of Gaza who burned to death in their tents in Rafah after a gruesome attack Israel later blithely deemed "a mishap." Goddamn. One more time to Bibi and his ilk, the "fungus that grows on the rot": "There is no glory in war."

Three years after the Civil War, on May 5, 1868, Maj. Gen. John Logan of the Union veterans' Grand Army of the Republic declared Decoration Day, calling on the nation to decorate the graves of those who "for love of country" had "accepted death" and "made immortal their patriotism and their virtue." Americans were urged to "observe (what became) Memorial Day by praying, according to their individual religious faith, for permanent peace." That sentiment has kinda fallen by the wayside to make way for flag-drunk parades, sales on grills, laptops, lawnmowers, and in the case of grifters who just won't go away, a slobfather's rant against his "human scum" enemies and his clueless younger son's outlandish claim to celebrate, "The family that gave up everything to Save America" - a canard one patriot termed, "For fuck's sake, even for a Trump, shockingly awful." Far more vital is the dictate from Veterans For Peace to remember the victims of what our "sociopathic leaders told us were 'the enemy,'" (and) the few elite winners in "the racket of war (who) delight in telling their puppets in government to order up another one."

And so to Gaza. 35,647 Palestinians dead, 79,852 wounded, over 11,000 missing, at least 520 dead in the West Bank. Since Thursday, 275 more dead, 666 more wounded. Ongoing Israeli assaults in north and central Gaza, looming famine, "catastrophic" closed crossings with already meager food and medical deliveries suspended and aid trucks intercepted by hungry crowds intent on "self-distribution." Most hospitals closed; doctors at those open say, "Nothing, absolutely nothing, justifies what we have witnessed here." Talks stalled on ceasefire and hostage release, vengeful madmen in power, a war whose benefits are "manifestly unclear," the ICC ruling a genocidal Israel must halt its offensive in Rafah and open all border crossings. Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid on the government of "Mr. Delusional Total Victory": "It is not winning in the war on Hamas or Hezbollah, so it has declared a war on reality." "We are running out of words to describe what is happening in Gaza," says senior UN aid official Edem Wosornu. "We have described it as a catastrophe, a nightmare, a hell on earth. It is all of these."

Astoundingly, it got worse Sunday night when Israel, having rejected the ICC ruling on Rafah with a "gloating," indiscriminate series of airstrikes, bombed a crowded tent camp in the Tal al-Sultan neighborhood, an Israel-designated "safe zone." The missiles started a fire among flammable tents that quickly spread into a massacre: Footage shows panicked women and children screaming and frantically trying to escape the flames amidst people trapped, cowering, burning in melting tents, charred bodies of children, some headless, on the ground, and exhausted civil defense teams rushing to rescue those burning and put out the flames. At least 45 people were killed; over 250 wounded, many critically with severe burns and severed limbs, were taken to the inundated Kuwaiti hospital, and the death toll is likely to rise. Survivors said they had finished night prayers "in peace" or gone to bed when the conflagration began. "There is no safe place here. No one is safe. Not even the dead who are buried underground are safe," said a bitter, distraught Abo Sebah. "Destruction, corpses, and killings. This is our life."

Israel’s attack on Rafah tent camp widely condemned

The world, evidently impotent before Israel's barbarism, raged. Ireland, Italy, Germany, Norway, France, Spain, Canada, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the E.U., U.K., UAE and many in Israel were "horrified" and "outraged" by the "heinous massacre"; having funded the atrocities, the U.S. showed its usual moral fearlessness. "Israel must take every precaution possible to protect civilians," said a White House spokesperson. "We are actively engaging the IDF and partners on the ground to assess what happened." Jeremy Corbyn, former leader of the U.K.'s Labor Party, called the bombing "a monstrous failure of humanity." Aida Touma-Sliman, a Palestinian member of the Knesset, excoriated "this bloody government," which " is taking the madness and vindictiveness to a new criminal level." Israeli journalist Chaim Levinson cited an "it's-not done basic norm" in a well-ordered country: "This concept no longer exists, neither in Israel nor in the United States, because the Bibi-ist camp has no basic norms. Netanyahu needs a rotten state because he is the fungus that grows on the rot."

Humza Yousaf, the former first minister of Scotland, noted the footage of the victims - hungry, innocent, dispossessed babies, children, women, the elderly, living in tents, screaming, dismembered, burnt alive - to furiously pose the question of the times: "Bear witness to the images and ask yourself, 'Are you on the right side of history?'" "We will do everything possible to hold these barbarians and murderers accountable who have nothing to do with humanity," said Lebanese journalist Dalal Mawad, still haunted by seeing, in 1996 in a UN displaced camp during the Qana massacre by Israel, a decapitated newborn baby. "Last night, the same crime was committed again. Impunity means history will always repeat itself." Others cited other haunting sights from these brutal months in Gaza: too many lifeless babies, wrapped in blood-soaked white sheets, carried by weeping parents; the skeletal horror of wide-eyed children being starved to death; the searing video of Razan Muneer Arafat, 11, who lost her entire family in an Israeli air strike along with one of her legs, sobbing and shrieking, "I want my leg!"

Palestinian girl mourns loss of leg in Israeli attack

In response to the uproar, Israel has done what Israel does when charged with its countless crimes against humanity: Deny, deflect, defend, lie. In quick succession, they issued a stream of bullshit. First, they conducted the attack "in accordance with international law, using precise munitions, and based on prior intelligence indicating that two senior Hamas operatives were present," despite residents repeatedly saying they've never seen Hamas in that area. Then, apparently, "The strike ignited a blaze in a tent camp for displaced persons." Then, they "became aware of reports indicating that as a result several civilians in the area were harmed." Then, assured the IDF, "prior to the strike, many steps were taken to reduce the chances of harm to uninvolved people, including a visual aerial inspection...on the basis of which it was estimated that harm to uninvolved civilians was not expected." Then, "despite our utmost efforts not to harm innocent civilians, there was a tragic mistake," though at first Bibi called it "a mishap." "We are investigating the incident," he told the world, "because this is our policy."

In his second Inaugural speech in 1865, near the end of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln sought to heal a broken nation by urging fellow-citizens to move forward "with malice toward none." On a Memorial Day during World War One, an editorial in The Nation cited his call to ask, "Shall we learn no wisdom from this day?" Facing another war, "with its maimed bodies and shattered minds," it noted the vain "dreams of brotherhood and peace, dreams of the America that never yet has been." And so it goes. The war meant to end all wars has, of course, begotten many more, each with its folly, its dead, its wounded "with invisible, lifelong devils (in) their heads." Jeanette Rankin, the first woman in Congress, voting against war in 1917: "You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake." "We are the Dead," wrote John McCrae, a soldier and doctor serving in Belgium. "Short days ago/We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow/Loved and were loved, and now we lie/In Flanders fields." Nearly 370 Americans are buried there. Over 15,000 children are dead - though many have yet to be buried - in Gaza. A hell on earth. Lest we forget, man-made, by Israel and America.

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Despite Missed Deadline, WHO Pandemic Treaty Remains Urgent

24. Mai 2024 - 23:11

Negotiators of a proposed World Health Organization pandemic accord have been unable to reach consensus ahead of a self-imposed deadline of next week’s World Health Assembly. Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program, issued the following statement:

“Eighteen million people have died due to the COVID emergency. For two years now, the nations of the world have shown up and worked toward a global agreement that would apply the lessons learned from the unjust past to better protect everyone in the future. Yet, the narrow, miserly interests of prescription drug corporations slowed talks and diminished ambition.

“Standing for equity means standing up against the drug giants. The world still needs a powerful pandemic accord. We must keep fighting; we must keep working. Thank you to everyone who shows up for a healthy and just world.”

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Netanyahu Deserves Condemnation, Not Congressional Spotlight

24. Mai 2024 - 21:53

Win Without War Executive Director Sara Haghdoosti released the following statement responding to reports that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer may agree to join House Speaker Mike Johnson in inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress.

“In the same week that the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) requested warrants for Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Defense Minister accusing them of war crimes and crimes against humanity, congressional leadership could invite Prime Minister Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress. Instead of honoring the Prime Minister, the White House and Congress should be doing everything in their power to push for a ceasefire and immediate aid into Rafah.

“Remember, this is the same Prime Minister that used his last speech to a joint session of Congress to undermine a previous Democratic administration, of which President Biden was Vice President. If he formally backs Speaker Johnson’s request, Senator Schumer risks undermining his own welcome remarks from March questioning Prime Minister Netanyahu’s leadership and credibility. It is no wonder that we at Win Without War and several partners have engaged tens of thousands of activists to condemn this move in just the last few days.

“During a time when Prime Minister Netanyahu is overseeing destruction, famine, and potential war crimes in Gaza, we must be distancing ourselves from his government, while using our leverage to achieve a ceasefire. There is still time to rever
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Reaction to ICJ court ruling on South Africa seeking an emergency halt to Israel’s offensive in Rafah

24. Mai 2024 - 18:57

Oxfam welcomes the ICJ’s order as a critical intervention to stop Israel’s military onslaught on Rafah, which has displaced more than 800,000 people, and an affirmation of the right to life of the Palestinian people.

Israel’s relentless bombardment of Gaza has killed or injured 5% of the entire population – mostly women and children – and pushed the rest to the brink of famine.

The Israeli Government must immediately comply with the Court’s ruling and halt its brutal offensive on Rafah and the rest of Gaza. It must also release its stranglehold on the aid pipeline, allowing the 4,500 banked-up trucks in Al-Arish to reach people with desperately needed food, water, and medicine.

All states have a legal and moral responsibility to ensure Israel complies with this order, and that the hundreds of thousands of people sheltering in Rafah are protected.

States arming this Israeli offensive are now defying the ICJ ruling, and are complicit in any war crimes committed in Gaza. They must stop supplying weapons immediately, and instead press harder for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire to prevent further bloodshed, and to ensure the safe return of all hostages and unlawfully detained Palestinians.

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NH Deepfake Indictment Is Yet Another Wake-Up Call: Congress Must Act To Prevent Chaos

23. Mai 2024 - 22:14

Today, New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella announced that political consultant Steven Kramer has been indicted for orchestrating robocalls to New Hampshire voters with a fake, AI-generated version of Joe Biden’s voice.

Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, issued the following statement in response:

“New Hampshire was able to indict Kramer because the robocalls aimed to deter people from voting. Almost every state makes it illegal to undertake fraudulent efforts to deceive people into not voting. New Hampshire also makes it illegal to impersonate a candidate on a telephone call.

“However, most political deepfakes misrepresenting candidates and aiming to defraud voters will not run afoul of existing law – unless lawmakers and regulators act. Eighteen states and counting have passed laws to prevent political deepfakes. Congress is moving slowly on the issue, with no guarantee of action. And the Federal Election Commission is, at best, slow walking the issue.

“The New Hampshire deepfake robocall should have been a wakeup call to policymakers across the country. Most hit the snooze button, but today’s indictment is the alarm sounding again: The American people need you to act now to prevent deepfake chaos in November. No one benefits from deepfake chaos and the problem is preventable. If policymakers fail to act, we should expect chaos to ensue.”

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Statement on DOJ's Major Antitrust Lawsuit Against Live Nation-Ticketmaster

23. Mai 2024 - 21:56

The Department of Justice has just filed a comprehensive antitrust lawsuit against Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation Entertainment, alleging that Live Nation-Ticketmaster has maintained and relied on an illegal monopoly over live events in the United States. In response, Demand Progress Education Fund Corporate Power Director Emily Peterson-Cassin issued the following statement:

"This is a pivotal moment for antitrust enforcement as the Department of Justice takes on a monopoly that has directly hit millions of Americans in the pocketbook. Anyone who has bought a ticket from Ticketmaster or performed at a Live Nation venue knows firsthand what it's like when a middleman inflates prices to maximize profits. This is precisely why tens of thousands of our activists have signed a petition to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster, and why we'll be rooting for the suit to move quickly."

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​Jewish Voice for Peace Students Respond to Congressional Hearing on Campus Antisemitism

23. Mai 2024 - 20:30

Today the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing with the presidents of Northwestern University, Rutgers University, and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) titled “Calling for Accountability: Stopping Antisemitic College Chaos.” This hearing, the fourth of its kind, serves to distract the American public from the Israeli military’s genocidal campaign in Gaza, where every single university is destroyed. Over the past months, thousands of Jewish students have joined their peers on college campuses in calling for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. In speaking out against the Israeli military’s brutal violence, which has claimed the lives of over 35,000 Palestinians, these students are upholding the most sacred Jewish commandment, pikuach nefesh, the commandment to save lives.

“I joined the protests calling out Northwestern’s complicity in the Israeli military’s destruction of Gaza because as the descendant of people who fled genocide I understand that never again must mean never again for anyone. Despite attacks from counter protests and condemnation from Congress, I will keep calling for an end to genocide. It is what Jewish tradition requires of me.” - Paz Baum, Jewish Voice for Peace at Northwestern University, class of 2025.

"I am a Jewish student at UCLA who proudly participated in the protest calling on our university to divest from genocide. I felt completely safe in the encampment until we were attacked by pro-genocide counterprotesters and the police. These hearings are designed to stoke divisions so that we forget who is actually unsafe–the students of Gaza where every university has been destroyed. " - Benjamin Kersten, Member of JVP at UCLA, fifth year PHD student studying Jewish Art History.

“This hearing has nothing to do with keeping Jewish students on campus safe, and is solely designed as part of a broader campaign to silence anti-war activism and dissent on college campuses. MAGA Republicans are merging attempts to censor students and faculty speaking out for Palestinian rights with a broader culture war campaign against DEI, critical race theory, LGBTQ rights, and more.” - Beth Miller, Political Director of JVP Action

“It is offensive and dangerous that right-wing Republicans are putting on a show hearing under the pretense of protecting Jewish safety when in fact the only thing they are protecting are the profits of weapons companies and ongoing U.S. complicity in Israeli war crimes. Congress is using these hearings to distract from the very point of the principled anti-genocide student movement: the US and Israeli governments continue this genocide despite mass opposition.” -Stefanie Fox, Executive Director Jewish Voice for Peace

For almost eight months, the Israeli military has waged a genocidal campaign in Gaza leading to the deaths of more than 35,000 Palestinians including 13,000 children. The Israeli military has bombed the entirety of Gaza, damaged all universities in Gaza, displaced millions, and catalyzed mass starvation. The United States government gives more than $3.8 billion to the Israeli military every year and approved an additional $14 billion in military funding last February. Polls consistently show that the vast majority of American voters want the Israeli military’s destruction of Gaza to stop, yet most elected officials have failed to call for a ceasefire.

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Live Nation-Ticketmaster’s Time Is Up

23. Mai 2024 - 20:01

Open Markets Institute Legal Director Sandeep Vaheesan released the following statement on the Department of Justice and state attorneys general suing to break up the entertainment and ticketing monopoly, Live Nation-Ticketmaster (formally “Live Nation Entertainment”).

“The antitrust lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice and 30 state attorneys general strikes a critical blow on behalf of the American public against Live Nation’s suffocating monopoly over live music. Through a series of acquisitions and coercive tactics, Live Nation has unfairly dominated the promotion, hosting, and ticketing of concerts for years to the great detriment of artists, fans, and independent businesses. Critically, rather than attempt to remedy this monopoly through surgical fixes, the government wisely seeks to terminate Live Nation’s control of the industry through a breakup of this behemoth.”

In July 2020, the Open Markets Institute led a coalition that petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to ban exclusive dealing by dominant firms—a practice used by many monopolists, including Live Nation and Google, to unfairly maintain market control.

In January 2023, Open Markets Senior Legal Analyst Daniel Hanley wrote an article in The Sling explaining this monopoly problem and recommending a set of solutions, including breaking up the monopoly as well as implementing a new rule banning monopolistic and unfair uses of exclusive arrangements, like those employed by Live Nation-Ticketmaster.

This February, Open Markets applauded the Justice Department’s investigation into LNE and condemned the conglomerate’s refusal to fully cooperate with antitrust enforcers.

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DOJ Files Suit to Break Up Live Nation-Ticketmaster in Historic Victory for Fans, Artists, and Live Events

23. Mai 2024 - 20:00

The Department of Justice Antitrust Division today filed an extensive antitrust lawsuit against Live Nation-Ticketmaster for its monopoly power over the live events supply chain, including the primary ticket selling market, concert promotions, and major venues. The complaint alleges that Live Nation has reinforced its monopoly power through exclusive dealing, tying of large amphitheaters and concert promotions, and the splitting of markets with potential competitors. In response, the American Economic Liberties Project released the following statement.

“Today is a historic, long-awaited day for fans, artists, and independent businesses in the live events industry—the Department of Justice is officially seeking to break up one of America’s most infamous monopolies,” said Morgan Harper, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the American Economic Liberties Project. “For far too long, Live Nation-Ticketmaster has acted as the mafia boss of the live events industry — using its power to rip off fans with sky-high prices and junk fees, exploit musicians and artists, and bully workers and small business owners in the industry. Since 2022, we’ve been urging government to take action to stop the obvious abuses of this cartoonishly-villainous monopoly—mobilizing the 100,000-plus Americans who sent letters to the Department of Justice through our Break Up Ticketmaster coalition. Today, Jonathan Kanter and the DOJ Antitrust answered those calls to action.“

“The Justice Department’s case reflects a deep understanding of how Live Nation’s various business lines reinforce its monopoly power not just over the selling of tickets, but over large venues and concert promotions,” said Lee Hepner, Senior Legal Counsel at the American Economic Liberties Project. “Live Nation’s pattern of retaliation against independent venues and promoters is supplemented by evidence of market splitting to avoid competition and depress compensation for artists. At the end of the day, consumers are paying more, artists are making less, and Live Nation is walking away with the bag. The companies should, at a minimum, be broken up.”

The 2010 merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster combined the nation’s largest concert promoter, venue operator, and artist manager with the nation’s largest ticketing service. The merged firm proceeded to leverage its control over each layer of the live event industry to block competitors to any part of its empire and self-deal at the expense of artists, independent venues, and fans—for example, by threatening to boycott venues for tours unless they used Ticketmaster. The Justice Department describes the integration of Live Nation’s various business lines as a “self-reinforcing ‘flywheel,’” allowing it to impose a litany of fees that it calls a “Ticketmaster Tax.”

Although these behaviors clearly violated the court-ordered consent decree Live Nation submitted to at the time of the merger, the Obama and Trump administrations punted on opportunities to implement stronger remedies, allowing Live Nation’s anti-competitive and illegal behavior to continue into the present. Many fans reached a breaking point over eye-popping monopoly prices for Taylor Swift’s Eras tour in the fall of 2022 (as the company reported record profits), leading to calls for the Justice Department to take action once again. Over 100,000 fans, artists, and industry professionals sent letters to the DOJ through Economic Liberties’ Break Up Ticketmaster campaign launched in fall 2022, ratcheting up the pressure on the agency.

The Antitrust Division’s new suit challenges and proposes structural remedies to curtail Live Nation-Ticketmaster’s monopoly power business lines: ticket selling, concert promotion, venue ownership, and more. Similar to remedies Economic Liberties called for in a January 2024 legal brief, the suit orders, at a minimum, the divestiture of Ticketmaster, along with termination of Live Nation’s ticketing agreement with Oak View Group, enjoining Live Nation from continuing to engage in anticompetitive practices, and other structural relief to restore competition to the live events market.

Read the Case Against Live Nation-Ticketmaster here.

Kategorien: Externe Ticker

Climate Change, La Niña Slated to Drive Record-Breaking 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season

23. Mai 2024 - 17:46

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its 2024 Atlantic hurricane outlook today, which predicts an 85% chance of an above normal and possibly record-breaking season. The outlook forecasts 17 to 25 named storms of which eight to 13 could become hurricanes, with four to seven major hurricanes expected. Scientists also raised the alarm that record-warm sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic coupled with a 77% likelihood of La Niña conditions developing between August and October could lead to storms that rapidly intensify as they approach land and bring excessive rain upon landfall—an increasingly common phenomenon for which government officials, local emergency planners and residents must prepare.

In addition to storms, coastal communities may see a significant number of tidal flooding events, a trend that is expected to worsen if policymakers fail to rein in heat-trapping emissions and address the climate crisis. According to a peer-reviewed analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), in the decades ahead as many as 360 coastal communities could face chronic inundation due to sea level rise primarily driven by climate change. Likewise, as many as 311,000 coastal homes with a collective market value of about $117.5 billion as of 2018 could be at risk of chronic flooding by midcentury.

Below is a statement by Dr. Astrid Caldas, a senior climate scientist for community resilience at UCS.

“As a climate scientist that tracks hurricane activity, I recognize that the fun-filled summer season has increasingly become a time of dread for the dangers that await. The people and places that have found themselves in the path of a tropical storm can attest to its utter and enduring devastation, which often hits communities of color and low-income communities the hardest.

“U.S. coastal communities are tired of crossing their fingers and hoping these storms of epic, record-breaking proportions veer away from their homes, dissipate, or spin out over the Atlantic. It’s imperative that local, state, and federal policymakers and emergency planners help keep communities safe by prioritizing investments to get homes, businesses, and infrastructure in frontline communities climate-ready and be prepared to ensure a quick and just recovery should disaster strike. Reining in heat-trapping emissions driving the climate crisis is also essential.”

Dr. Caldas and other UCS experts are available to speak about the following topics related to the 2024 hurricane season:

  • How climate change is impacting hurricane activity and rising sea levels.
  • How hurricanes exacerbate existing racial and socioeconomic inequities, and compound public health disparities.
  • The risks a specific storm event may pose to electric grid infrastructure and nuclear power plants in its path.
  • The role fossil fuel companies have played in exacerbating climate change events.
  • How investments to help communities prepare before disasters strike can help limit future economic damages and prevent loss of life.
  • The role that the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Housing and Urban Development play in disaster response and recovery.
  • Ways the insurance market is being affected by climate change and the implications for at-risk communities.

Additional Resources and Analyses:

  • A newly launched UCS online map, which tracks the places at risk of extreme heat, wildfires, storms, poor air quality and flooding during the 2024 Danger Season.
  • UCS blogposts from this and previous Danger Seasons.
  • A 2020 UCS report titled “A Toxic Relationship: Extreme Coastal Flooding and Superfund Sites,” which found hundreds of hazardous sites were at risk of flooding in the coming decades due to sea level rise and hurricanes.
  • A 2015 UCS report titled “Lights Out? Storm Surge, Blackouts, and How Clean Energy Can Help,” which examined the risks storm surge and coastal flooding pose to power plants, substations, and other electricity infrastructure along the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts.
  • Peer-reviewed research by UCS that shows how much global sea surface temperatures, sea level rise, and ocean acidification can be traced to emissions from the products of ExxonMobil and other major fossil fuel companies.
  • A UCS fact sheet on the science connecting extreme weather events, like hurricanes, to climate change.
Kategorien: Externe Ticker

Supreme Court Greenlights South Carolina's Gerrymandered Maps, Undermining Black Voters' Voices

23. Mai 2024 - 17:40

Today, in a controversial 6-3 decision, the right-wing majority of the U.S. Supreme Court allowed South Carolina Republicans to proceed with a gerrymandered map that weakens the influence of Black voters in the halls of Congress.

This ruling reverses a lower court decision that determined the electoral maps were racially gerrymandered and ordered the state legislature to redraw its congressional districts.

Stand Up America Senior Associate for Policy and Political Affairs Tishan Weerasooriya issued the following statement in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Alexander v. South Carolina NAACP:

“Today, in yet another attack on our democracy, the Supreme Court's right-wing majority delivered a blow to the rights of Black voters in South Carolina. Their ruling undermines the ability of Black voters to elect representatives who truly represent their interests and sets a dangerous precedent for racial gerrymandering nationwide.

Alexander v. South Carolina NAACP is a stark reminder of how vulnerable federal voting protections are for communities of color in the face of this Supreme Court. It has become increasingly clear, Congress must pass voting rights legislation and comprehensive Supreme Court reforms to safeguard the democratic principles upon which our nation was founded.”

Stand Up America’s nearly two million members have mobilized in support of Supreme Court reform––including court expansion, term limits, and a binding code of ethics––driving 800,000 constituent emails and calls to legislators and submitting over 30,000 letters to the editors of their local newspapers.

Kategorien: Externe Ticker

Biden Should Oppose US Sanctions on ICC

23. Mai 2024 - 15:23

US President Joe Biden should oppose threats and calls for punitive actions against the International Criminal Court (ICC), 121 human rights and civil society groups said today in a letter to President Biden.

On May 20, 2024, the court’s prosecutor announced that he was seeking arrest warrants for three leaders of Hamas and two senior Israeli officials. Some members of the US Congress have threatened to retaliate against the ICC, including by imposing sanctions against court officers, if the court moves forward with arrest warrants against Israeli officials in its Palestine investigation.

Although the United States is not a member of the ICC, Republican and Democratic administrations have supported the court in specific cases, and the US government has assisted with the arrest of suspects wanted by the court. The Biden administration has recognized the court’s essential role in addressing serious international crimes in Ukraine and in Darfur, Sudan.

In the May 22 letter to the White House, the groups urged President Biden to reject attacks on the court, calling the previous US administration’s sanctions against the prosecutor’s predecessor an affront to justice. “The previous administration’s sanctions against [ICC officials] … aligned the United States with authoritarian tactics of threatening judges and independent judicial institutions,” the groups said in their letter.

President Biden should “oppose any legislative efforts to undermine the ICC, and to make clear that regardless of its views on specific ICC investigations, the United States continues to support independent international justice mechanisms,” the groups said.

The text of the letter and its signatories is available here.

Kategorien: Externe Ticker

ACLU Statement on Latest Congressional Attempt to Dismantle Free Speech Online

22. Mai 2024 - 23:26

The House Energy and Commerce Committee had a Communications and Technology Subcommittee legislative hearing today on a bill that would effectively end Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. If repealed, social media platforms would be likely to over-censor users’ posts or restrict posting altogether, threatening users’ ability to express themselves online.

“Section 230 has created space for social movements; enabled platforms to host the speech of activists and organizers; and allowed users and content creators on sites like Instagram, TikTok, and Twitch to reach an audience and make a living,” said Jenna Leventoff, senior policy counsel at the ACLU. “If this vital protection is taken away, people could find their voices censored, especially when talking about ideas that are under political attack today: race and racism, sexuality, and gender justice. Platforms must be able to host user speech without the threat of constant lawsuits.”

Much of the debate around Section 230 has revolved around whether it gives platforms “unlimited immunity” from legal consequences. As the ACLU and other First Amendment experts have repeatedly explained: This is not true. To the contrary, platforms and users are liable for their own illegal actions. What Section 230 does is protect platforms from being held responsible for hosting user posts, which is crucial for allowing free speech to thrive online.

Moreover, Section 230 enables platforms to keep problematic content off of their sites because it provides that platforms can moderate without risking liability for the speech they do host. By empowering platforms to remove objectionable content, Section 230 is actually what enables platforms to protect children.

The ACLU is urging lawmakers to reject congressional proposals to sunset Section 230.

Kategorien: Externe Ticker

New FCC Action on AI Meets the Moment

22. Mai 2024 - 23:24

Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a new proposal that would require political advertisers to disclose when they use AI-generated content in TV and radio ads.

Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, issued the following statement in response:

“Thank you, Federal Communications Commission.

“With deepfake technology fast evolving, the 2024 election is virtually certain to see a wave of political deepfakes that confuse and defraud voters, swing elections, and sow chaos if governmental authorities fail to act. That’s why the FCC action is so important.

“As the proposal is honed and finalized, the FCC should require advertisers to disclose the use of AI in the ads themselves, not just require a note to files maintained by broadcasters. Prominent, real-time disclosure is the essential standard to protect voters from being deceived and defrauded.

“The FCC action is especially crucial because absent a new rule from the FCC, broadcasters believe under existing law they are unable to refuse political ads or demand alterations or disclosures.

“The FCC is modeling how federal regulators should be proactively addressing the threats that deepfakes and artificial intelligence pose to election integrity. We need the Federal Election Commission — and Congress — to follow the FCC’s lead and take aggressive, proactive action. No one wins with deepfake chaos, and we don’t need to sit back and let it happen.”

Kategorien: Externe Ticker

FCC Announces Disclosure Rulemaking on AI Political Ads

22. Mai 2024 - 23:22

Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it will begin a rulemaking to require disclosure for Artificial Intelligence (AI)-generated content in political advertising on the nation’s airwaves.

Statement of Ishan Mehta, Common Cause Media and Democracy Program Director

Americans expect and deserve to know whether the content they see on our public airwaves is real or AI-generated content – especially as the technology is increasingly being used to mislead voters. This rulemaking is welcome news as the use of deceptive AI and deepfakes threaten our democracy and is already being used to erode trust in our institutions and our elections.

We have seen the impact of AI in politics in the form of primary ads using AI voices and images, and in robocalls during the primary in New Hampshire.

We commend the FCC and Chair Rosenworcel for this work to require disclosures for AI-generated content in political ads. It is imperative that regulations around political advertising keep pace with the onward march of new and evolving technologies.

We urge Congress and other agencies like the FEC (Federal Election Commission) to follow the FCC’s lead and take proactive steps to protect our democracy from very serious threats posed by AI. That is why we have previously filed comments with the FEC urging the agency to amend its regulation on “fraudulent misrepresentation” to include “deliberately false Artificial Intelligence-generated content in campaign ads or other communications.”

Kategorien: Externe Ticker