Saturday, April 06, 2024

Kim Brown, Alan Ritchson, insider trading making Congress rich


Great show.  

Alan Ritchson has been in the news this week and Carrie e-mailed asking if I was avoiding the story for some reason?  I had a lot to cover this week and didn't have time for it, honestly.

So I'm a fan of Alan's work.  Thought he was great on TITANS -- and that the show wasn't worth watching after they fired him.  Love REACHER -- yes, even season two (though I don't want another back and forth season, tell the narrative and do so in a forward motion).  

Before he was an actor, he was a model and he talked about that this week.  A photographer harassed him and assaulted him.  He talked about the dynamics of it and how he could understand how women felt in these situations but because he's a big guy (I think he's six foot five), he could protect himself physically in a way that some women might not be able to.  He finds nothing redeaming about the modeling industry.

So what do I think?

I think he spoke about it very well.  I'm sure it's a painful memory and he addressed the pain while also acknowledging that he had a few advantages that others in the same situation might not. 

Brave of him to share his experience and more people need to do so.  

So nothing but applause for what he did this week. 

 New topic, Joe Lysikatos (FROM FRUGAL TO FREE) reports:

Calls for members of Congress to be banned from trading stock are growing, following a new report that detailed how lawmakers made more than $1 billion in trades in 2023, with a huge profit of over 239%. Let’s take a look at the details.

A new campaign to ban Congress members and their closest family members from owning or trading stocks is picking up steam. 

RepresentUs, an organization that investigates corruption, and Unusual Whales, a stock tracking organization that regularly posts details of trading moves and profits of congress members, have teamed up to pass the ETHICS Act – Ending Trading and Holdings in Congressional Stocks.

 The CEO of Unusual Whales explained their stance, “Unusual Whales was started to fight for market transparency and provide affordable market tools for all. Since then, we’ve grown to fight against political corruption.”

The ETHICS Act has been introduced with some minor support, but it will need a great deal more to make its way into legislation. 

It's so unethical and goes to the core of just how corrupt our government is.  

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, Aril 5, 2024.  Already recoiling from the Israeli government's murders of the World Central Kitchen aid workers, the Israeli government now tries to sell the world on the fantasy that the murder of 7 people can be made up for by firing two people.

THE TIMES OF LONDON quotes Former Royal Artillery officer-turned-author Christopher Lincoln-Jones stating, "The British Army would under no circumstances have fired on that convoy even if we could positively identify a Hamas gunman getting into one of the cars. You would know that every single person travelling in the car would die. It would be inconceivable that the British or the Americans would do that. The fact the Israelis destroyed all three cars is utterly unforgivable."  He's referring to the Israeli government killing the seven World Central Kitchen aid workers this week.  Australia's ABC notes, "The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said the killing of the seven aid workers from WCK was 'not an isolated incident'. As of March 20, at least 196 humanitarians, including at least 175 UN workers, had been killed since the start of the war on October 7, the OHCHR reports."  Josef Federman (AP) observes:

Israel enjoyed broad international support following the Oct. 7 massacre, which was the deadliest attack against Jews since the Holocaust. However, that goodwill has been replaced by impatience and outrage as conditions in Gaza worsen.

More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, around two-thirds of them women and children, according to Palestinian health officials whose death toll doesn’t distinguish between civilians and fighters. International aid officials say roughly one-third of Gaza’s population is dealing with catastrophic hunger.

Initial expressions of solidarity from Israel’s allies have given way to calls for a halt to the fighting. Meanwhile, the U.N. world court, looking into genocide allegations against Israel, has ordered Israel to do more to protect Gaza’s civilians.

This isolation appeared to peak on March 25, when the U.N. Security Council, over Israeli objections, passed a resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire. The U.S. infuriated Israel by allowing the resolution to pass.

Things have only worsened for Israel since then, especially following its killing of seven aid workers in what it says was an errant airstrike. Six of the victims were volunteers from countries allied with Israel, antagonizing them and outraging U.S. President Joe Biden. The alleged Israeli airstrike on an Iran’s embassy in Syria and Netanyahu’s efforts to shutter the Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera have further alienated allies.

Today, THE WASHINGTON POST notes, "Israeli strikes that killed seven World Central Kitchen workers in Gaza earlier this week were 'carried out in serious violation' of the military’s procedures and were a 'grave mistake stemming from a serious failure due to a mistaken identification' that the convoy of vehicles was carrying Hamas operatives, according to the findings of an Israeli military investigation released Friday. The aid group has emphasized that its convoy had coordinated its route with Israeli military officials."  The Israeli government has 'completed' their 'investigation' into their own actions and it was all just a mistake, you understand, and complete accident and, here we'll even fire two people over it so it's all good, we're done, we're good here.

Not everyone rushes to agree with that nonsense.  

[T]he World Central Kitchen (WCK), which is calling for an "independent commission" to be created to investigate the killings.

The charity says Israel's military "cannot credibly investigate its own failure in Gaza".

Without "systemic change" within the military, there will be "more military failures, more apologies and more grieving families", the statement adds.

The charity says the "root cause" of the "unjustified" attack is the severe lack of food in Gaza and calls on Israel to "dramatically increase" the volume of aid travelling by land.

The 'investigation' insisted the problem was a "misclassification" -- a bag was mistaken for a rifle.

So what?  The Israel government wants the world to believe that nonsense?  Will they be sending all IDF members for an eye check?  Ensuring that all visual prescriptions are worn?  

This is nonsense.  

Before they attacked the three vehicles, they knew what the three vehicles were, they knew why they were there and they knew where they were headed.  I don't believe the lie that a bag looked like a rifle to begin with but even if it had there is the reality that they knew this was the World Central Kitchen aid workers and they still launched their attack.

In the anodyne language of military slaughter, it’s called a “triple tap”–three successive strikes to make sure you’ve eliminated your target–the target in this case being the occupants of three vehicles of the World Central Kitchen, who’d just unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food to a warehouse in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza.

The cars were white and clearly marked with the humanitarian group’s logo. The route was in a deconfliction zone that had been cleared by the IDF for travel. The vehicles’ trip and purpose to Deir al-Balah had been coordinated with and pre-approved by the IDF. None of this mattered to the IDF officials operating a Hermes 450 drone that stalked the cars from above as they left the food warehouse.

Or perhaps it did matter. Perhaps the intent of the strike was not just to kill the humanitarian aid workers, but to kill humanitarian aid to Gaza altogether. 

How else to explain the logic of the IDF officers who ordered a drone strike on the first car after the convoy left the warehouse, then when survivors of the missile strike scrambled into the second car and called the IDF to describe being attacked, ordered a strike on the second car and then as the occupants of the last car rushed to rescue their injured colleagues, ordered a third missile strike, killing all seven aid workers.

If this was the goal of these murderous missile strikes, it seems to have succeeded. Within hours of the killings, World Central Kitchen executives announced it was suspending operations in Gaza and that the ship that sailing toward Gaza with aid shipments would return to Cyprus. WCF’s announcement was swiftly followed by ANERA, which runs the second largest humanitarian operation in Gaza after UNRWA, suspending its work in Gaza.

Rebecca Abou-Chedid, board member of the American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), told CNN that her group had tried to coordinate with the IDF, yet had one of its aid workers, Mousa Shawwa, killed in an Israeli airstrike. “There’s something called ‘deconfliction’ in these war zones, where you let the military know where you’re going to be providing aid, where you’re staff is living, where they’re sheltering. And we did that. We confirmed the coordinates just a few days before the house that Mousa was living in was struck and that is why, with a heavy heart, we had to suspend operations…As you see, Mousa had been working for the day. He still had his Anera vest on and he came home and he was struck by a missile and many of his family were also injured. So we can’t keep people safe at home. We can’t keep people safe in the field delivering aid, like our colleagues were at World Central Kitchens, who also let the Israelis know exactly when their convoy would be traveling. We spent a lot of time talking about getting aid into Gaza, by air, by land, by sea. But less time, I think, talking about the fact that it’s human beings that reliably distribute that aid. And it’s a network that was built up by organizations like Anera over decades. We have over 20 staff in Gaza, but we have over 450 volunteers who make sure that that aid is distributed in a calm, safe, reliable manner. If that network falls apart, you can’t deliver aid by remote control. You can’t recreate that network. And that’s the red flag that we have been waving for weeks.”

The WCF convoy was attacked along a 1.2-mile stretch of the Al-Rashid Coastal Road, near the temporary pier, built from the rubble of bombed buildings, that has been used by WCF and other aid groups to unload humanitarian goods that reach Gaza by sea.

“Knowing how Israel operates, my assessment is that Israeli forces intentionally killed the WCK workers so that donors would pull out & civilians in Gaza could continue to be starved quietly,” said Francesca Albanese, the UN’s special rapporteur on the Occupied Territories. “Israel knows Western countries and most Arab countries won’t move a finger for the Palestinians.”

The IDF actually has a protocol for military strikes against humanitarian organizations. Let that sink in. The IDF has a protocol for strikes against humanitarian organizations. And the protocol is this, according to Haaretz, “the Army’s procedures state that those who must give the final approval for activities against sensitive targets, such as aid organizations, are senior officers at the ranks of division commander, commanding general, and even chief of staff.”

And this wasn’t the first time, WCF aid workers had been attacked by the IDF. Only two days earlier, an IDF sniper fired on a WCF car on its way to a food warehouse in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, shattering the car’s windshield. WCF filed a protest with the IDF. 

Zachary Basu (AXIOS) recaps mounting US outrage:

Zoom in: Outrage over the Israeli strikes that killed members of José Andrés' world-renowned nonprofit bubbled over Tuesday, with Biden issuing a statement torching Israel for failing to protect civilians and aid workers.

  • Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Biden's closest ally in the Senate, said on CNN Thursday that the U.S. should condition its aid if Israel invades Rafah without a humanitarian plan: "I've never said that before. I've never been here before," Coons added.
  • Former Obama aides Jon Favreau and Ben Rhodes sharply criticized Biden after a Politico report described him as "privately enraged" by the WCK strikes: "These stories only make him look weak," Favreau argued.
  • Richard Haass, a pillar of the foreign policy establishment, called Thursday for the U.S. to consider "sanctions" on Israel: "I'm sorry it's come to this," the former diplomat said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Biden's favorite program.
  • Even first lady Jill Biden has urged her husband to "stop [the war], stop it now," Biden privately recounted at a meeting with Muslim community members on Tuesday.

The big picture: 55% of Americans said in a Gallup poll last month that they disapprove of Israel's actions in Gaza — crossing the majority threshold for the first time, even before the new wave of outrage over the WCK strikes.

Outrage is mounting all over the world.  EURONEWS reports:

The death of a Polish humanitarian worker in Gaza has sparked a new diplomatic crisis between Poland and Israel. 

Polish President Andrzej Duda criticised a comment by the Israeli ambassador as "outrageous," while the Foreign Ministry in Warsaw said it was summoning him for a meeting.

A 35-year-old Polish man was killed along with six others while distributing food to Palestinians under siege, working with the organisation World Central Kitchen. Israel has labelled the incident a “mistake” due to a misidentification, despite pictures showing that its vehicles were clearly marked.

As the outlet goes on to note, the Israeli government's response came via their ambassador to Poland -- Yacoy Livne, who immediately rushed to blame . . . the Polish and their "extreme right and left."  BBC NEWS points out, "Livne has been heavily criticised for his reaction to their deaths. "

 Germany's DW notes:

The United Nations Human Rights Council has voted to adopt a resolution demanding a halt in arms sales to Israel.

Of the council's 47 member states, 28 voted in favor, six — including the United States and Germany — opposed and 13 abstained. 

The Biden administration approved the transfer of thousands more bombs to Israel on the same day Israeli airstrikes in Gaza killed seven aid workers for the charity group World Central Kitchen, three U.S. officials told The Washington Post this week after the incident elicited global condemnation.

The transaction demonstrates the administration’s determination to continue its flow of lethal weaponry to Israel despite Monday’s high-profile killings and growing calls for the United States to condition such support on greater protection for civilians in the war zone. A U.S. citizen was among the dead.

The move also casts new light on the emotional statement by President Biden that he was “outraged and heartbroken” by the tragedy and was insistent that such events should never happen again.

“They were providing food to hungry civilians in the middle of a war,” Biden said. “They were brave and selfless.”

World Central Kitchen has responded to the IDF's investigation into Israeli strikes that killed seven of the charity's workers.

Chief executive Erin Gore said Israel's apologies for the deaths "represent cold comfort".

Ms Gore said: "It's cold comfort for the victims' families and WCK’s global family."

The charity acknowledged the IDF had taken responsibility and was taking disciplinary action against those involved, saying these were "important steps forward".

"However it is also clear from their preliminary investigation that the IDF has deployed deadly force without regard to its own protocols, chain of command and rules of engagement.

"The IDF has acknowledged that our teams followed all proper communications procedures.

"The IDF’s own video fails to show any cause to fire on our personnel convoy, which carried no weapons and posed no threat."

WCK said that, without systemic change, "there will be more military failures, more apologies and more grieving families".

The charity called for an independent commission to investigate the killings, insisting the IDF was not capable of "credibly investigating its own failure in Gaza"

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

NERMEEN SHAIKH: A group of U.S. officials at USAID have privately warned the Biden administration that the spread of hunger and malnutrition in Gaza is, quote, “unprecedented in modern history” and that parts of Gaza are already experiencing famine. This comes as several aid groups are suspending work in Gaza after Israel killed seven aid workers with World Central Kitchen earlier this week. In a moment, we’ll speak to prominent law Israeli professor Neve Gordon about the famine in Gaza, but we begin with the words of two Palestinian mothers. This is Khuloud al-Masri, speaking at the al-Awda health center in Rafah, where her children are being treated.

KHULOUD AL-MASRI: [translated] I feel like my children will die in front of my eyes. What can I say? I don’t know what I am to do. I can feel them dying before my eyes. This is my daughter. It’s been five days she is without food or drink. I don’t know what to do for her. I am suffering. Sitting with my children, I am tired with them. It’s two of them, not just one. There’s not food or milk available. The girl is suffering from malnutrition. She is tired. The situation is so difficult. … I am tired. I swear, I am very tired. Their condition is very bad. My daughter is suffering in front of me, and I don’t know what to do for them. … I am unable to provide them with milk or Pampers or food. I don’t know what to do for them. The two of them are so unwell. This one, my daughter, has been like this for five or six days.

AMY GOODMAN: That was a Palestinian mother named Khuloud al-Masri. And this is another mother, named Reem al-Qadi, who spoke as she held her crying baby.

REEM AL-QADI: [translated] My daughter is ill, and she is suffering from malnutrition, and her blood is weak. We, of course, in the hospital are suffering from a catastrophic situation, a catastrophic health situation, very bad. There is no drinking water at all. The hospital is suffering and unable to provide water for us to give to our children. Our children have come here, not to get better and healthier, but their health situations have gotten worse. Most medications are not available. Healthy food is not available for our children. Healthy water is not available for our children. On one bed, they put three and four cases, which result in the children infecting each other and making their situations worse than before. … Of course, all of this is because of the Israeli occupation, the situation which we are in. They bombed hospitals. They tell us a hospital is a safe space. The hospital now is not a safe space. Most hospitals are no longer in service. All the sick are now being treated in one or two hospitals in the whole of the Gaza Strip. This is really a difficult situation. And we ask all countries, the world, to take our side and relieve us of the situation. It’s enough. Our children are dying in front of us, and we are unable to do anything for them.

AMY GOODMAN: That was a Palestinian mother named Reem al-Qadi, speaking at a hospital in Rafah.

We go now to London, where we’re joined by Neve Gordon, professor of international law and human rights at Queen Mary University of London, chair of the Committee on Academic Freedom for British Society of Middle East Studies. He’s the author of several books, including Israel’s Occupation, and co-author of Human Shields: A History of People in the Line of Fire. He’s co-editor of Torture: Human Rights, Medical Ethics and the Case of Israel. And he just wrote a piece in The New York Review of Books. It’s headlined “The Road to Famine in Gaza.”

Professor Gordon, thanks so much for being with us. Why don’t you take us on that journey? Tell us the antecedents to what we’re seeing today, the issue of famine in Gaza.

NEVE GORDON: So, perhaps I’ll begin with what we’re seeing, and then move back. We’re seeing destruction, and we’re seeing massive displacement, in an area that’s already food-insecure. And then we’re seeing Israel obstructing aid from entering Gaza. So, on average, in the past six months, 112 trucks have been entering per day, while before October 7th, 500 trucks were entering each day. We’re seeing consistent attacks on aid workers, as you mentioned in the previous item, with, on average, one aid worker being killed every day. And we’re seeing the destruction of one-third of the agricultural land in the Gaza Strip, 20% of the greenhouses and 70% of the fishing vessels in the Gaza Strip, so no internal food can be produced in the Gaza Strip. And as you mentioned earlier, what we’re witnessing, and what Reem and Khuloud have just expressed, is the most horrific situation a parent can experience, is their children dying in front of them of famine.

Now, what we wrote, Muna Haddad and me, is about the history of using food as a weapon in the Gaza Strip. So, if in 1967 Israel occupies the Gaza Strip, its approach is very different in the beginning. It surveys the Gaza Strip. It counts the agricultural land. It looks what the Palestinians are planting. And in the beginning, what it does is it actually plants trees and provides the Palestinians with better varieties of seeds, and it monitors the food basket of the Palestinians. And in its reports, it tells us that the food basket in 1966 was 2,400 calories per person, and after four years of occupation, it’s now 2,700, basically boasting about the improvement in the food basket. But what we see already then is that Israel is controlling the Palestinian food basket. And in the beginning, it wants to kind of increase the productive energies of the Palestinians so they can work in Israel as cheap laborers and extract their labor for Israel’s use.

Everything begins to change in the First Palestinian Intifada in December 1987, where Israel begins imposing restrictions on the Gaza Strip, first by creating magnetic cards that monitor the entrance of laborers into Israel and restricts the entrance of laborers to Israel. It also, a few years later, creates a fence and fences the Gaza Strip so that — and creates only four or five crossings. And later on, with the Second Intifada, we see a total reversal of the approach after 1967. We see Israel destroying agricultural land. We see it creating a buffer zone around the fence so that Palestinian farmers cannot get near the fence. We see it destroying fishing vessels. And see it limiting further the Palestinian food basket.

Then comes 2005, Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the movement of its soldiers to the fence, the beginning use of the drones over the Gaza skies. And after Hamas wins in democratic elections in the Gaza Strip, we see the implementation of a blockade, where Israel basically blocks the Gaza Strip and monitors very carefully what enters and what exits. It further destroys more agricultural land. And then it creates — the Ministry of Defense, with the Ministry of Health, creates lists of items that can enter the Gaza Strip and items that cannot enter. So, flour and baby formula can enter, but chocolate and certain kinds of pastas cannot enter. And Israel begins to monitor the calorie intake of the population and creates what’s called — it called a “humanitarian minimum.” “We will allow,” Israel says, “a humanitarian minimum to aid to enter the Gaza Strip,” leaving the population regularly in a situation of food insecurity and controlling and managing the population through food insecurity. And every time there is a cycle of violence — and there’s been five major cycle of violence since 2008 until today — Israel closes off all of the borders, and what had been a food insecurity before the cycle of violence drops dramatically, and we see incidents of malnutrition and so forth.

And so, this is kind of the background of what we’ve been seeing. And when this war begins — so, we see that everything you’ve been describing earlier is intentional, because Israel has been controlling the food basket and using it as a weapon since the beginning of the occupation until today.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Professor Neve Gordon, you make the case in your article that — and this is perhaps one of the most surprising things — that Israel has made no attempt to conceal its policy of restricting food to Gaza. You cite Sara Roy’s earlier piece in The New York Review of Books, quoting her citation of a cable sent from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to the secretary of state on November 3rd, 2008. The cable reads, “As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed to [embassy officials] on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge.” So, if you could elaborate on that and what you understand the justification of that to be, and why they were so — why they would be so disclosive about it to the Americans?

NEVE GORDON: So, what we see is we see a process from Oslo where Oslo was sold to the public as a peace process that will bring economic dividends for Israel and the Palestinians. And if you remember at the time, Gaza was described as the new Singapore, and we will make Gaza thrive, and there will be a Singapore in the Middle East.

Now, what we see in the years immediately after the Oslo Accords were signed, that, indeed, Israel was enjoying the economic dividends in the Gaza — from the Oslo Accords, but the Palestinians, both in the West Bank and in Gaza, and particularly in Gaza, the economic situation drops because Israel is basically strangling the Palestinian economy. And if you mention Sara Roy, then I will use her concept of de-development. Israel de-develops the Gaza Strip, destroying the agricultural land, destroying the factories.

And it is not shy in doing so. It is basically asserting its control and letting the Palestinians in Gaza know who is the lord of the land, and letting the American counterparts also know who is the lord of the land. And through this, we see a situation where the economics — the major reason for the food insecurity in the Gaza Strip before this war was indeed the blockade. But the blockade, what it does, it strangles the Gaza Strip economically. So, a year before the war, we have a GDP per capita in the Gaza Strip of about $1,000 per person, while in Israel it’s $52,000. An hour away — this is before the war. An hour away from my apartment in Be’er Sheva, where I used to live, and Gaza Strip, that’s the distance between the two regions, yet in the Gaza Strip a newborn is seven times more likely to die than in Be’er Sheva, because the social detriments of health, because the economic strangulation, because of the lack of healthcare and so forth.

And the message was clear from the beginning: “We control you. If you do not bow down, then we will hit you harder.” And that’s what Israel has been doing for years in the Gaza Strip. And that’s what it’s been — and the Americans have been watching. Americans have been seeing this happen. And the Americans have not said anything to Israel in this sense and not stopped Israel’s actions. And then we have October 7th, and we’ve seen what’s happened since then.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Professor Neve Gordon, we have to break here, but we want to ask you to stay after the show so we can continue this conversation, and we’ll post it online at Professor Gordon teaches international law and human rights at Queen Mary University of London. We’ll link to your piece in The New York Review of Books headlined “The Road to Famine in Gaza.”

Gaza remains under assault. Day 182 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."  THE NATIONAL notes, "The death toll from Israel's military offensive in Gaza has increased to 33,091, with 75,750 injured, the enclave's Health Ministry said on Friday." 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."

  A doctor at an Israeli field hospital inside a notorious detention center where hundreds of Palestinian prisoners are temporarily held is sounding the alarm about torture and horrific conditions at what some human rights defenders—including Israelis—are calling "Israel's Guantánamo Bay" and even a "concentration camp."

In a letter to Israel's attorney general and defense and health ministers viewed byHaaretz—which reported the story Thursday—the anonymous physician describes likely war crimes being committed at the Israel Defense Forces' Sde Teiman base near Beersheva. Palestinian militants captured by IDF troops, as well as many civilian hostages ranging in age from teenagers to septuagenarians, are held there in cages, 70-100 per cage, until they are transferred to regular Israeli prisons or released.

"From the first days of the medical facility's operation until today, I have faced serious ethical dilemmas," the doctor wrote. "More than that, I am writing to warn you that the facility's operations do not comply with a single section among those dealing with health in the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law."

Gazans arrested and detained by Israeli forces are not legally considered prisoners of war by Israel because it does not recognize Gaza as a state. These detainees are mostly held under the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law, which allows the imprisonment of anyone suspected of taking part in hostilities against Israel for up to 75 days without seeing a judge.

Human Rights Watch has warned that the law "strips away meaningful judicial review and due process rights."

Sde Teiman detainees are fed through straws and forced to defecate in diapers. They're also forced to sleep with the lights on and have allegedly been subjected to beatings and torture. Other Palestinians taken by Israeli forces have described being electrocuted, mauled by dogs, soaked with cold water, denied food and water, deprived of sleep, and blasted with loud music at temporary detention sites.

The whistleblowing Sde Teiman physician said that all patients at the camp's field hospital are handcuffed by all four limbs, regardless of how dangerous they are deemed. In December, Israeli Health Ministry officials ordered such treatment after a medical worker at the facility was attacked. Now the camp's estimated 600-800 prisoners are shackled 24 hours a day. 


ADDED: 4/5/24 at 2:02 pm.  I may not remember to include today's DEMOCRACY NOW! in Monday's snapshot so I'm coming back and adding it to this one -- it's a very important report.  I'll also post the video as a stand alone later today but I want to get this in the snapshot.

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

The Israeli publications +972 Magazine and Local Call have exposed how the Israeli military used an artificial intelligence known as “Lavender” to develop a “kill list” in Gaza that includes as many as 37,000 Palestinians who were targeted for assassination with little human oversight. The report is based in part on interviews with six Israeli intelligence officers who had firsthand involvement with the AI system.

+972 reports, quote, “Lavender has played a central role in the unprecedented bombing of Palestinians, especially during the early stages of the war. In fact, according to the sources, its influence on the military’s operations was such that they essentially treated the outputs of the AI machine 'as if it were a human decision.'”

A second AI system known as “Where’s Daddy?” tracked Palestinian men on the kill list. It was purposely designed to help Israel target individuals when they were at home at night with their families. One intelligence officer told the publications, quote, “We were not interested in killing operatives only when they were in a military building or engaged in a military activity. On the contrary, the IDF bombed them in homes without hesitation, as a first option. It’s much easier to bomb a family’s home. The system is built to look for them in these situations,” they said.

Today we spend the hour with the Israeli investigative journalist Yuval Abraham, who broke this story for +972 and Local Call. It’s headlined “'Lavender': The AI machine directing Israel’s bombing spree in Gaza.” I spoke with Yuval Abraham yesterday and began by asking him to lay out what he found.

YUVAL ABRAHAM: Yeah. Thank you for having me again, Amy.

It is a very long piece. It’s 8,000 words. And we divided it into six different steps. And each step represents a process in the highly automated way in which the military marks targets since October. And the first finding is Lavender. So, Lavender was designed by the military. Its purpose was, when it was being designed, to mark the low-ranking operatives in the Hamas and Islamic Jihad military wings. That was the intention, because, you know, Israel estimates that there are between 30,000 to 40,000 Hamas operatives, and it’s a very, very large number. And they understood that the only way for them to mark these people is by relying on artificial intelligence. And that was the intention.

Now, what sources told me is that after October 7th, the military basically made a decision that all of these tens of thousands of people are now people that could potentially be bombed inside their houses, meaning not only killing them but everybody who’s in the building — the children, the families. And they understood that in order to try to attempt to do that, they are going to have to rely on this AI machine called Lavender with very minimal human supervision. I mean, one source said that he felt he was acting as a rubber stamp on the machine’s decisions.

Now, what Lavender does is it scans information on probably 90% of the population of Gaza. So we’re talking about, you know, more than a million people. And it gives each individual a rating between one to 100, a rating that is an expression of the likelihood that the machine thinks, based on a list of small features — and we can get to that later — that that individual is a member of the Hamas or Islamic Jihad military wings. Sources told me that the military knew, because they checked — they took a random sampling and checked one by one — the military knew that approximately 10% of the people that the machine was marking to be killed were not Hamas militants. They were not — some of them had a loose connection to Hamas. Others had completely no connection to Hamas. I mean, one source said how the machine would bring people who had the exact same name and nickname as a Hamas operative, or people who had similar communication profiles. Like, these could be civil defense workers, police officers in Gaza. And they implemented, again, minimal supervision on the machine. One source said that he spent 20 seconds per target before authorizing the bombing of the alleged low-ranking Hamas militant — often it also could have been a civilian — killing those people inside their houses.

And I think this, the reliance on artificial intelligence here to mark those targets, and basically the deadly way in which the officers spoke about how they were using the machine, could very well be part of the reason why in the first, you know, six weeks after October 7th, like one of the main characteristics of the policies that were in place were entire Palestinian families being wiped out inside their houses. I mean, if you look at U.N. statistics, more than 50% of the casualties, more than 6,000 people at that time, came from a smaller group of families. It’s an expression of, you know, the family unit being destroyed. And I think that machine and the way it was used led to that.

AMY GOODMAN: You talk about the choosing of targets, and you talk about the so-called high-value targets, Hamas commanders, and then the lower-level fighters. And as you said, many of them, in the end, it wasn’t either. But explain the buildings that were targeted and the bombs that were used to target them.

YUVAL ABRAHAM: Yeah, yeah. It’s a good question. So, what sources told me is that during those first weeks after October, for the low-ranking militants in Hamas, many of whom were marked by Lavender, so we can say “alleged militants” that were marked by the machine, they had a predetermined, what they call, “collateral damage degree.” And this means that the military’s international law departments told these intelligence officers that for each low-ranking target that Lavender marks, when bombing that target, they are allowed to kill — one source said the number was up to 20 civilians, again, for any Hamas operative, regardless of rank, regardless of importance, regardless of age. One source said that there were also minors being marked — not many of them, but he said that was a possibility, that there was no age limit. Another source said that the limit was up to 15 civilians for the low-ranking militants. The sources said that for senior commanders of Hamas — so it could be, you know, commanders of brigades or divisions or battalions — the numbers were, for the first time in the IDF’s history, in the triple digits, according to sources.

So, for example, Ayman Nofal, who was the Hamas commander of the Central Brigade, a source that took part in the strike against that person said that the military authorized to kill alongside that person 300 Palestinian civilians. And we’ve spoken at +972 and Local Call with Palestinians who were witnesses of that strike, and they speak about, you know, four quite large residential buildings being bombed on that day, you know, entire apartments filled with families being bombed and killed. And that source told me that this is not, you know, some mistake, like the amount of civilians, of this 300 civilians, it was known beforehand to the Israeli military. And sources described that to me, and they said that — I mean, one source said that during those weeks at the beginning, effectively, the principle of proportionality, as they call it under international law, quote, “did not exist.”

AMY GOODMAN: So, there’s two programs. There’s Lavender, and there’s Where’s Daddy? How did they even know where these men were, innocent or not?

YUVAL ABRAHAM: Yeah, so, the way the system was designed is, there is this concept, in general, in systems of mass surveillance called linking. When you want to automate these systems, you want to be able to very quickly — you know, you get, for example, an ID of a person, and you want to have a computer be very quickly able to link that ID to other stuff. And what sources told me is that since everybody in Gaza has a home, has a house — or at least that was the case in the past — the system was designed to be able to automatically link between individuals and houses. And in the majority of cases, these households that are linked to the individuals that Lavender is marking as low-ranking militants are not places where there is active military action taking place, according to sources. Yet the way the system was designed, and programs like Where’s Daddy?, which were designed to search for these low-ranking militants when they enter houses — specifically, it sends an alert to the intelligence officers when these AI-marked suspects enter their houses. The system was designed in a way that allowed the Israeli military to carry out massive strikes against Palestinians, sometimes militants, sometimes alleged militants, who we don’t know, when they were in these spaces in these houses.

And the sources said — you know, CNN reported in December that 45% of the munitions, according to U.S. intelligence assessments, that Israel dropped on Gaza were unguided, so-called dumb bombs, that have, you know, a larger damage to civilians. They destroy the entire structure. And sources said that for these low-ranking operatives in Hamas, they were only using the dumb munitions, meaning they were collapsing the houses on everybody inside. And when you ask intelligence officers why, one explanation they give is that these people were, quote, “unimportant.” They were not important enough, from a military perspective, that the Israeli army would, one source said, waste expensive munitions, meaning more guided floor bombs that could have maybe taken just a particular floor in the building.

And to me, that was very striking, because, you know, you’re dropping a bomb on a house and killing entire families, yet the target that you are aiming to assassinate by doing so is not considered important enough to, quote, “waste” an expensive bomb on. And I think it’s a very rare reflection of sort of the way — you know, the way the Israeli military measures the value of Palestinian lives in relation to expected military gain, which is the principle of proportionality. And I think one thing that was very, very clear from all the sources that I spoke with is that, you know, this was — they said it was psychologically shocking even for them, you know, like it was — yeah.

So, that’s the combination between Lavender and Where’s Daddy? The Lavender lists are fed into Where’s Daddy? And these systems track the suspects and wait for the moments that they enter houses, usually family houses or households where no military action takes place, according to several sources who did this, who spoke to me about this. And these houses are bombed using unguided missiles. This was a main characteristic of the Israeli policy in Gaza, at least for the first weeks.

AMY GOODMAN: You write that they said they didn’t have as many smart bombs. They were more expensive, so they didn’t want to waste them, so they used the dumb bombs —


AMY GOODMAN: — which kill so many more.

YUVAL ABRAHAM: Yeah, exactly. Exactly, that’s what they said. But then I say, if the person, you know, is not important enough for you to waste ammunition on, but you’re willing to kill 15 civilians, a family?

AMY GOODMAN: Yuval Abraham, I wanted to read from the Israeli military statement, the IDF statement, in response to your report.


AMY GOODMAN: They say, quote, “The process of identifying military targets in the IDF consists of various types of tools and methods, including information management tools, which are used in order to help the intelligence analysts to gather and optimally analyze the intelligence, obtained from a variety of sources. Contrary to claims, the IDF did not use an artificial intelligence system that identifies terrorist operatives or tries to predict whether a person is a terrorist. Information systems are merely tools for analysts in the target identification process.” Again, that’s the IDF response, Yuval Abraham, to your report. Your response?

YUVAL ABRAHAM: I read this response to some of the sources, and they said that they’re lying, that it’s not true. And I was surprised that they were — you know, usually they’re not so, you know, blatant in saying something that is false.

I think this can very easily be disproven, because, you know, a senior-ranking Israeli military official, the head of the 8200 unit’s AI center, gave a public lecture in last year, in 2023, in Tel Aviv University — you can google it, anybody who’s listening to us — where he spoke about, quote — I’m quoting him in that lecture — “an AI system that the Israeli military used in 2021 to find terrorists.” That’s what he said. So, to have that on record, to have — I have the presentation slides showing how the system is rating the people — and then to get a comment from the IDF spokesperson saying, “We do not have a system that uses AI to…” I really don’t know. Like, I almost thought, “Do I put this in the piece or not?” Because, you know, like, I know — in the end, you know, I gave them the space in the piece to make those claims, like I think I tried to be as dry as possible in the way that I was reporting. But, really, like, I am very, very confident in those findings. They are verified from from numerous sources that I’ve spoken with.

And I think that people who read the full investigation, read the depth of it — the commander of the 8200 unit wrote a book in 2021, titled Human-Machine Teams: How Synergy Between AI and Human Beings Can Revolutionize the World. And in the book, he’s talking about how militaries should rely on artificial intelligence to, quote, “solve the problem of the human bottleneck” in creating new targets and in the decision-making to approve new targets. And he wrote in that book, he said — and this is another quote from him — he says that “no matter how many intelligence officers you have tasked with producing targets during the war, they still will not be able to produce enough targets per day.” And he gives a guide in that book as to how to build these AI systems. Now, I want to emphasize, you know, he writes in the book very, very clearly that these systems are not supposed to replace human judgment. He calls it, you know, a mutual learning between humans and artificial intelligence. And he says — and the IDF still maintains this — they say it is intelligence officers who look at the results and make a decision.

From what I heard from numerous sources, after October 7th, that stopped being the cases, at least in some parts of the IDF, where, again, Amy, as I said before, sources were told that if they check that the target is a man, they can accept Lavender’s recommendations without thoroughly looking at them, without checking why the machine made the decision that it made.

And I think, you know, when speaking with sources, like, just to describe — like, many of these sources, you know, they were drafted to the military after October 7th. Many of them were shocked by atrocities that happened on October 7th, their families, their friends. Some of them did not think they would be drafted to the military again. They said, “OK, we have to go now.” There was this sense that — and gradually, when they realized what they were being asked to do, the things that they are involved in, not — I wouldn’t say that all six are like this, but at least some of them felt, again, shocked by committing atrocities and by being involved in things and killing families, and they felt it’s unjustifiable. And they felt a responsibility, I think. And I felt this also in the previous piece that I wrote, “'A mass assassination factory,'” which spoke about another AI machine called The Gospel. They felt a need to share this information with the world, out of a sense that people are not getting it. You know, they’re hearing the military spokesperson and all of these narratives that we’ve been hearing for the past six months, and they do not reflect the reality on the ground.

And I really believe, I really believe — you know, there’s a looming attack now on Rafah — these systems could be used there again to kill Palestinians in massive numbers, these attacks, and, you know, it’s placing the Israeli hostages in danger who are still unjustifiably held in Gaza and need to be released. There needs to be a ceasefire. It cannot go on. And I hope that this investigation, that exposes things so clearly, will help more people all around the world call for a ceasefire, call to release the hostages and end the occupation and move towards a political solution there. For me, there is no — there is no other way forward.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask if U.S. military, if U.S. technology is playing a role in Israeli AI, artificial intelligence.

YUVAL ABRAHAM: So, I don’t know. And there is some information that I cannot fully share, like, at this moment. I’m investigating, like, you know, who is involved in developing these systems.

What I can tell you is, you know, based on previous experience of the 2014 war and the 2021 war, when the wars end, these systems are then sold to militaries all over the world. And I think, regardless of, you know, the horrific results and consequences of these systems in Gaza, alongside that, I really think there is a danger to humanity. Like, this AI-based warfare allows people to escape accountability. It allows to generate targets, really, on a massive — you know, thousands, 37,000 people marked for potential assassination. And it allows to do that and maintain a sort of aesthetic of international law, because you have a machine that makes you a target file with, you know, commander or, like, target, collateral damage, but it loses all meaning.

I mean, take the principle of distinction under international law. When you design a system that marks 37,000 people, and you check, and you know that 10% of them are actually not militants — right? — they’re loosely related to Hamas or they’re not related at all — and you still authorize to use that system without any meaningful supervision for weeks, I mean, isn’t that a breach of that principle? When you authorize to kill, you know, up to 15 or up to 20 civilians for targets that you consider, from a military point of view, not especially important, isn’t that a clear breach of the principle of proportionality? You know, and I don’t know, like, I think international law really is in a crisis right now. And I think these AI-based systems are making that crisis even worse. They are draining all of these terms from meaning.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me play for you a clip of National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby being questioned on Tuesday about Israel’s killing of seven aid workers in three cars from Chef Andrés’s World Central Kitchen. This is Kirby.

NIALL STANAGE: Is firing a missile at people delivering food and killing them not a violation of international humanitarian law?

JOHN KIRBY: Well, the Israelis have already admitted that this was a mistake that they made. They’re doing an investigation. They’ll get to the bottom of this. Let’s not get ahead of that. … The State Department has a process in place. And to date, as you and I are speaking, they have not found any incidents where the Israelis have violated international humanitarian law.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s the U.S. top spokesperson, John Kirby, saying Israel has never broken international law so far since October 7th. And again, this is in response to a question about the killing of the seven aid workers, one Palestinian and six international aid workers. Can you talk about your response to this attack, three different missiles hitting all three cars, and then what Kirby said?

YUVAL ABRAHAM: Yeah. Wow! It’s quite shocking, in my mind, I mean, what he said, you know, based on the evidence that exists. The first thought that popped up to my mind when he was talking about, you know, Israel is investigating it, since I know the statistics — so, if you take the 2014 bombing and war in Gaza, so, you know, 512 Palestinian children were killed. Israel said that it will investigate. There were like hundreds of claims for war crimes. Like, only one file the Israeli military actually prosecuted a soldier about, and it was about looting of like 1,000 shekels. Everything was closed. This happens, you know, 2018, 2019. Two hundred thirty Palestinians are shot dead at the border. Again, tens of — one file prosecuted. Like, to claim that because Israel is having an investigation, it somehow means that they are getting to the bottom of this and changing something, it’s just mocking our intelligence, I think.

The second thing that I would say is that it’s true that the state of Israel has apologized for it. But if you actually look at the track record of people being killed around aid trucks, this has happened over and over again for Palestinians. I mean, in the beginning of March, 112 Palestinians were killed around the flour aid truck. The Guardian reported at the time that 14 such cases happened, like in February and January. So it’s clear to me that the Israeli military is apologizing not because of the crime, but because of the identity of the people who were killed in the crime. And I think that’s really hypocrisy.

And to answer the question about my findings, I mean, I don’t know if artificial intelligence was involved in that strike. I don’t want to say something that I’m not, you know, 100% sure of. But what I have learned from Israeli intelligence officers makes me not be surprised that this strike took place, because the firing policy is completely permissive. And we’re seeing it. I mean, we’re seeing, you know, unarmed civilians being bombed to death. We saw that video of four people walking and being bombed to death. We have doctors, you know, talking about how in hospitals they’re seeing young children, like, with bullet holes, like The Guardian investigation who spoke to nine doctors that spoke about that. So, this extreme permissiveness is not surprising to me.

AMY GOODMAN: Your piece doesn’t talk about drones, but, Yuval, can you talk about how the AI systems interact with unmanned attack drones?

YUVAL ABRAHAM: Yeah, so, you know, I said this last time, Amy. Like, I can’t speak about everything, also because we are sort of — always have to think of the military censor in Israel. As Israeli journalists, we’re very much, you know, binded by that.

But the systems interact. And, you know, if somebody is marked to be killed by Lavender, then that person could be killed by a warplane, they could be killed by a drone, and they could be killed by a tank that’s on the ground. Like, there is like a sort of policy of sharing intelligence between different — yeah, different units and different weapon operators.

Like, I wouldn’t be surprised if — because Israel said, you know, there was a target, like somebody that we suspected. Of course, the aid workers and — like, they completely rejected that. But, like, I wouldn’t be surprised if the flagging, you know, that the Israeli system received was somehow related to a faulty automated mechanism that is, you know, mass surveilling the area and picked up on something and had, you know, not the highest precision rate. Again, from what I’m hearing from sources, this is the atmosphere. This is the case.

AMY GOODMAN: Investigative reporter Yuval Abraham on his latest piece for +972 Magazine and Local Call headlined “'Lavender': The AI machine directing Israel’s bombing spree in Gaza.” He’s speaking to us from Jerusalem.

The following sites updated:

Friday, April 05, 2024

Election rules, container gardening, Olay and more

First up, a video.

There will be a new BURN IT DOWN WITH KIM BROWN in less than 24 hours so I'm noting that discussion Olay hosted on Sudnay.  There are a lot of strong points being made.

Second, yesterday's "Idiot of the Mid-Week" upset a few people.  :D  I got three e-mail griping about it which isn't that many.  However, a number of people griped about it in e-mails to C.I.

"Mike doesn't need me to defend him" -- :D That's in the snapshot this morning.  When I was getting out of the shower, Elaine told me I was noted in the snapshot.  She said C.I. was dictating it and asked if there was anything in the morning e-mails that was a big topic and needed addressed?  The person she was dictating the snapshot too looked at the public account and said something like, "Oh, man, people do not like Mike's post."  :D

I stand by it and the public e-mail account is where non-community members e-mail.  I also don't tend to respect people who try to 'tattle' on me to C.I. or anyone else.

The three I got were community members.  When C.I.'s snapshot went up, two of the three e-mailed back to say that they got it now.

That's because C.I. speaks much better than I do.  She explained that it's not too much to expect people who want to run for president of the United States to follow the rules and regulations in place.  And she's right, I should have hit on that to make my point stronger.  I've reached out to the third community member and if he's upset, I hope we can come to a position where we each respect the other's view.  

But C.I.'s right.  The president of the United States?

There are rules and regulations and I don't want to hear fussing from, for example, Jill Stein who hopes to make her third run for president this year.   You should know the rules.  If you're not happy with them, stop wasting our time every four years by running and instead use the time between elections to try to change the laws.  And Robert Kennedy Junior?  Crackpot shouldn't be running to begin with but if he wants to run, he needs to follow the rules.  The rules in Nevada were you had to have a running mate.  Junior filed the paperwork without a running mate listed.  I don't want to hear that some clerk might have told him it wasn't needed.  He's got millions in donations (from right-wingers) and he can damn well follow the law.  I don't have sympathy for him.

The Ohio issue is different to me because (a) it's not the presidency, (b) a rarely used rule is suddenly being used (to target transgender candidates), (c) this is a little known rule.  To me, that's completely different than the million dollar campaigns of Junior and Jill Stein (Stein left the Green Party in debt in 2016 -- as of the start of last summer, those debts still existed per Renee Johnson on BLACK POWER MEDIA).  

REUTERS reports, "The United Nations Human Rights Council on Thursday voted to adopt a resolution designed to protect the rights of intersex people, the first initiative of its kind that diplomats and rights groups described as an landmark moment for human rights. Twenty-four countries voted in favour, twenty-three abstained and none voted against the resolution, which was spearheaded by Finland, South Africa, Chile and Australia."

Good to hear.  We needed to be building a better world -- that includes addressing climate change and embracing one another.  

Not that long ago, I wrote about container gardening ("Container Gardening (book review), Idiot of the Week, and Kylie Minogue performed at the Brit Awards").  Some of you have asked how that's going.  My daughter loves her plants.  She has to check them in the morning and in the evening and at night.  They can't grow fast enough for her but the grapes surprised her.  She thought they just weren't growing at all.  Then one day, she wakes up and they've got more than tiny blooms and they look like a real grape bush.  She wants to do more so we're doing lettuce from seeds.  Why from seeds?  Lettuce, if you cut it right, is supposed to yield four crops.  So a few weeks ago, we started another batch from seeds.  Now the original seeds are producing lettuce leafs (we've just cut the first crop) and we should be able to replace the current ones with these new ones when the time comes.  She's also trying to decide if she wants any flowers or not.  Rebecca slid this over, Cheryl Rafuse (APARTMENT THERAPY):

Instant gratification is not something generally associated with gardening. You must maintain some amount of chill and patience to plant seeds, nurture them, and wait for their little buds to form. But that’s not to say that there’s no room for impatient people in the garden! In fact, there are a few gorgeous flowers that can be grown from seed within 60 days, making them perfect for anyone wanting to DIY their own cut flower arrangements or just enjoy lots of color all summer long.

Starting seeds can feel like a lot of commitment and seem intricate when you first get into it. Don’t worry — it’s often easier than it seems. Emily Round, the owner of Grounded Flower Farm in Beverly, Massachusetts, is no stranger to fostering blooms from seed. She says the key to success is to pay attention to the information provided to you on the back of the packet, since the preferences of individual plants can vary widely.

“Some seeds need the sun to germinate and shouldn’t be covered with soil, others like it dark. Some hot and some cold,” Round says. “There are thousands of flowers out there and there’s no reason to memorize what they all like when it’s right there [on the packaging].”

The takeaway? You can know almost nothing and still get seeds to germinate, as long as you’re willing to read and follow instructions. And even better, you can get some of those seeds to become recognizable flowers in a couple months. Impatient and novice gardeners, here are 15 fast-growing flower seeds you can plant this spring.

So read the article to find out what are the 15 fastest growing.  My daughter says we're doing sunflowers if we do any of the fifteen.  She loves sunflowers and has a Monet print and Van Gough print of sunflowers in her bedroom.  And she knows the difference between the two -- credit her mother for that.  

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, April 4, 2024.  The world continues to be outraged by the murder of the 7 aid workers with World Central Kitchen who were killed by Israeli forces. 

Starting with the topic of the aid workers with World Central Kitchen killed this week in Gaza by Israeli soldiers despite their vehicle being clearly marked, despite providing their location to the Israeli government.  The seven aid workers killed brought the number of aid workers killed in Gaza by the Israeli government to at least 196.   Yesterday, the founder of WCK Jose Andres spoke to the press.

One day after President Joe Biden said he was “outraged and heartbroken” over an Israel Defense Force attack that killed seven World Central Kitchen team members distributing food in Gaza, WCK founder José Andrés gave an emotional interview to Reuters in which he said, “What I know is that we were targeted deliberately, nonstop until everybody was dead in this convoy.”

[. . .]

Asked if he believed that official explanation, the celebrity chef responded, “Initially, I would say categorically no,” reiterating that WCK communicated its movements to the IDF, it was in a zone controlled by the IDF and the convoy was clearly marked with his organization’s logo posted even on the roofs of some vehicles.“This was not just a bad luck situation where ‘oops’ we dropped the bomb in the wrong place,” Andres told Reuters.

“This was over a 1.5, 1.8 kilometers, with a very defined humanitarian convoy that had signs in the top, in the roof, a very colorful logo” he said. It was “very clear who we are and what we do.”

In a separate interview with Israel's Channel 12 news, Mr Andrés said "it was really a direct attack on clearly marked vehicles whose movements were known by everybody at the IDF [Israel Defense Forces]".

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Today, the bodies of foreign aid workers killed in an Israeli strike early yesterday morning have left Gaza and are being flown to their home countries.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    They worked for World Central Kitchen, whose founder today accused Israel of targeting his employees deliberately. That's an accusation that Israel denies.

    Nick Schifrin starts our coverage.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    He had flown 7,800 miles from home to help feed the hungry. Today, he began his final journey home, pushed out of a morgue.

    American-Canadian Jacob Flickinger was 33 years old. He leaves behind his partner, Sandy, and their 1-year-old boy. With him as he crossed the Egyptian border today, his friends in life and death, Australian Lalzawmi Frankcom, known as Zomi, Damian Sobol from Poland, and their British security team, John Chapman, James Henderson, and James Kirby, whose cousin today remembered him as someone who wanted to help.

  • Man:

    He was completely selfless, which explains why he went to Gaza.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    World Central Kitchen, or WCK, says it coordinated with the Israeli military late Monday night as a convoy left its warehouse in Deir al Balah by the sea in Central Gaza.

    The group says Israeli munitions hit an initial vehicle. Workers then moved to another vehicle that was struck and then a third vehicle that was struck as they traveled on or next to the coastal road that Israel designates for humanitarian aid.

  • Jose Andres, Founder, World Central Kitchen:

    We were targeted deliberately, nonstop, until everybody was dead in this convoy.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Jose Andres is the founder of World Central Kitchen. He's a celebrity chef whose activism and charity has earned him deep respect among policymakers. The group also fed Israelis after Hamas' October 7 terrorist attack. He spoke to Reuters today.

  • Jose Andres:

    It looks like it's not a war against terrorism anymore. Seems this is a war against humanity itself.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Israel denies that accusation and says it takes pain to limit civilian casualties.

    In response to the attack, it opened a joint situation room with international humanitarian groups and launched an investigation, whose initial finding was laid out last night by chief of the general staff, Lieutenant-General Herzi Halevi.

    Lt. Gen, Herzi Halevi, Chief of Staff, Israeli Defense Forces: It was a mistake that followed a misidentification at night during a war in a very complex condition.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And, today, a U.S. official confirms that President Biden will speak with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tomorrow.

Last night's "tomorrow" is today.  And the attack was Tuesday.  The murders took place on two days ago.  The optics are not good for Joe.  Victor Nava (NEW YORK POST) notes:

President Biden has received criticism from Democrats and Republicans this week over his response to an Israeli airstrike that killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers in Gaza on Monday. 

On Tuesday, Biden, 81, said he was “outraged and heartbroken” over the deaths of the aid workers delivering food to Gaza’s population, but didn’t signal any change in approach to his administration’s backing of Israel in its war against Hamas. 

The president, in his public statement, pinned the blame squarely on Israel, demanding an investigation that “must bring accountability” and accusing the Jewish state of not having “done enough to protect aid workers” in the Palestinian territory. 

Privately, Politico reports, Biden is “enraged” over the airstrike and was “angry” when he was notified that the Israel Defense Forces mistakenly targeted members of celebrity chef Jose Andres’ humanitarian group.  

Jon Favreau, a one time speechwriter for former President Barack Obama and the host of “Pod Save America,” slammed Biden over the report, arguing that private expressions of rage are not enough in the aftermath of Monday’s tragedy. 

“The President doesn’t get credit for being ‘privately enraged’ when he still refuses to use leverage to stop the IDF from killing and starving innocent people,” Favreau wrote on X.

“These stories only make him look weak,” he added. 

Democratic Michigan state Rep. Abraham Aiyash argued that “Deeds are more important than dialogue” in a tweet aimed at Biden

“The President is prioritizing Netanyahu’s Israel over the preservation of innocent life and basic human decency – and risks unraveling American democracy because of it,” he added. 

Let's note this from yesterday's DEMOCRACY NOW!

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

Israel is facing global condemnation over the killing of seven aid workers from World Central Kitchen who had brought food into Gaza by ship to feed starving Palestinians. The aid workers were killed when an Israeli drone fired three missiles at the group’s clearly marked convoy, even though the charity had coordinated the convoy’s route with the Israeli military. At the United Nations, Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the Israeli attack.

SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES: The devastating Israeli airstrikes that killed World Central Kitchen personnel yesterday bring the number of aid workers killed in this conflict to 196, including more than 175 members of our own U.N. staff. This is unconscionable, but it is an inevitable result of the way the war is being conducted.

AMY GOODMAN: The killed aid workers included three British nationals, an Australian, a Polish national, an American-Canadian dual citizen and a Palestinian. In a video address, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed Israel attacked the convoy.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: [translated] Unfortunately, in the last day there was a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip. This happens in wartime. We are thoroughly looking into it, are in contact with the foreign governments of those killed, and will do everything to ensure it does not happen again.

AMY GOODMAN: “This happens in wartime.” Meanwhile, President Biden said he was, quote, “outraged and heartbroken” over the deaths, but at a White House press briefing, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby refused to say if Israel had broken international law.

NIALL STANAGE: Is firing a missile at people delivering food and killing them not a violation of international humanitarian law?

JOHN KIRBY: Well, the Israelis have already admitted that this was a mistake that they made. They’re doing an investigation. They’ll get to the bottom of this. Let’s not get ahead of that. … The State Department has a process in place. And to date, as you and I are speaking, they have not found any incidents where the Israelis have violated international humanitarian law.

AMY GOODMAN: On Tuesday, Chef José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen and at least two other groups said they would pause operations in Gaza after the attack. Meanwhile, HuffPost reports a group of U.S. officials at USAID have privately warned the Biden administration the spread of hunger and malnutrition in Gaza is unprecedented in modern history and that parts of Gaza are already experiencing famine.

For more, we go to Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, speaking to us from Oslo, Norway.

Jan, thanks for joining us again. Can you start off by responding to the Israeli airstrike on the three-car convoy that killed seven international aid workers?

JAN EGELAND: It was horrific. And remember, this was targeted. It was repeated attacks — first one car, then the next car, then the third car, and a couple of the cars were targeted several times. It’s not likely that the Israelis wanted to kill the colleagues from World Central Kitchen. World Central Kitchen had worked closely with the Israeli forces to get out support to Palestinians in northern Gaza. But they surely hit cars that they did not know what was inside. And that’s the story of this war.

So, when the State Department is saying, “We cannot see any violations of humanitarian law,” they haven’t read the humanitarian law, because there has to be precaution, there has to be distinction between military and civilians, and there has to be proportionality. And after thousands of dead children, thousands of dead women — all completely innocent of the 7th of October — hundreds of doctors, hundreds of nurses, hundreds of teachers and 200 humanitarian workers, before the international workers were killed, it’s very clear that this has been a disproportionate response to what happened, the horrors of the 7th of October, in violation of international law, every day, basically, since mid-October.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Jan Egeland, in that vein, I’d like to ask you — excuse me — about a recent report in The Observer over the weekend, in England, that a member of Parliament, Alicia Kearns, a Conservative Party member and the chair of the House of Commons select committee, was at a fundraiser, and there was a leaked tape of her remarks there. And she said, in that leaked tape, that the British Foreign Office has received official legal advice that Israel has broken international humanitarian law, but that the government has not announced it and has kept it quiet. I’m wondering, especially in view of the fact that three British nationals were killed in this latest attack, your response to the fact that the British government is hiding the fact its own lawyers have said Israel is violating international law.

JAN EGELAND: Well, I just met Alicia Kearns in London, and she’s a very fine politician. She went to Rafah. She saw all of the trucks that were lining up, not able to go into Gaza. She wrote letters about that to both the U.K. government, and she approached the Israelis. I mean, she is really engaged on this, as so many others have become as they see the injustice in what’s happening to the population of Gaza. Whether the U.K. government is concealing advice on this, I cannot say. But the facts speak for themselves. If you have a conflict where there is a world record in killing protected categories of personnel, then the law is broken, you know, to pieces. There’s no other way to see it.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to a tweet where you said, “The US, the UN, the EU and the rest of the world agree that we are at the brink of famine in Northern Gaza. Still, only 159 trucks were allowed into Gaza yesterday and Israel blocks all food convoys from UNRWA to reach North Gaza. There must be accountability for this.” Then you go on in another tweet to say, “The horrific, targeted, repeated attack that killed 7 WCK aid workers follow nearly 200 Palestinian humanitarians killed by Israel’s military campaign. Now — FINALLY — Western govts providing arms to the killing say 'enough.' … Immediate ceasefire ending the killing of civilians–A protection scheme that guarantees safety for humanitarian work–Opening of land crossings for massive aid to the North–ending chaotic air & sea delivery–No military invasion of the world’s largest refugee camp: Rafah.” You tweeted that.

In the United States, President Biden talked about being heartbroken, but, as The New York Times reports, Biden administration is pressing Congress on $18 billion sale of F-15 jets to Israel. This follows the deal made with F-35 jets and many 2,000-pound bombs and 500-pound bombs. Can you respond to the U.S. and other countries supplying these weapons at this point to Israel?

JAN EGELAND: Well, my own country, Norway, a NATO country, has refrained from sending arms to Israel for quite some time. So has many other countries. It is really mind-boggling if the U.S. now sends these large bombs, that are by nature indiscriminate, to a place with so many thousands of dead children. Are they not thinking of the consequences for their moral authority in the rest of the world? What does this mean for the West’s arguments in Ukraine? If it is wrong, as it is, for Russia to occupy Ukrainian territory, kill Ukrainian civilians, target Ukrainian infrastructure, how could it possibly be correct when the Israelis do the same to the Palestinians, and with U.S. arms?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Jan Egeland, I’d like to ask you, the — your organization, like others, that provide assistance in Gaza, have to coordinate your activities, obviously, with the Israeli military. What does this latest attack mean for those future efforts, when, clearly, even organizations that coordinate closely with the military so that they’re not attacked end up being still attacked?

JAN EGELAND: Well, we have coordinated with Israel now for many years. I was myself in Gaza to travel to Rafah and traveled around in Rafah. And we sought permission, as we have to, by Israel. Israel controls everything going in and everyone going into Gaza. And we also coordinated my movements there. Nothing happened to me. Nothing really has happened to our NRC convoys, aid operations. But we are largely in the southern third of Gaza, where the majority of the Palestinians are.

I think the whole thing shows the horrific killing of seven of my colleagues in the World Central Kitchen, that I know well. I saw their good operations. I ate one of their meals when I was in Rafah. It was a very good meal. And the Palestinians, whom they feed millions of meals every day, rely on this. I think what’s happened will lead to a reboot of the system for protection for humanitarian work. The U.S., U.K., Germany and others cannot live with a war machine out of control that is sort of targeting cars without knowing what’s inside, as they did in this case and in multiple other cases. So I think there will be a new and better deconfliction or notification system, coordination system — there are many names for them — even in the northern parts of Gaza, where it has been most dangerous.

AMY GOODMAN: The World Central Kitchen boat still had 240 tons of food on board the boat. It left Gaza Tuesday. The WCK says they’re suspending operations. Other groups say that. What about the Norwegian Refugee Council? And can you talk about this in conjunction with the defunding of UNRWA, the kind of umbrella that facilitates all of this, what this means as the region descends, the Strip descends into famine?

JAN EGELAND: Yeah, the World Central Kitchen is withdrawing. So are some other groups, which is terrible, because they were important for our collected efforts to avoid famine in Gaza. NRC, my own Norwegian Refugee Council, we are not leaving. We are continuing to work today and tomorrow. We have, however, suspended some of our movements, and we’re not going north for the time being, because it’s considered too difficult, too dangerous. Israel is not allowing conditions for that. And it’s in the north, the remaining population there, that is engulfed in the worst famine.

UNRWA is the backbone, really, of social services for the Palestinians. It was created by the United States and the other original members of the United Nations when Israel was created and it led to the Nakba and hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees. UNRWA was created by all of us to take care of the Palestinians that were suffering because of the Holocaust in Europe and the creation of Israel. Since then, UNRWA has become essential in Gaza. They are much bigger than all of the others combined — NRC, the other U.N. agencies, World Central Kitchen, etc., etc., etc. We’re not even half of what UNRWA is. So, when the U.S. Congress and the Biden administration says, “We’re not going to give you money,” and so are — so was a number of other donors, because of allegations — no evidence provided — allegations that some of these 13,000 staff, a dozen, dirty dozen, perhaps participated in the horrors of the 7th of October, you can’t believe that our very own donors make it difficult for us to help the Palestinian population. UNRWA is essential. UNRWA needs to be funded. Stop the games with politicizing aid to children.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think the U.S. should stop weapons sales and weapons transfers to Israel?

JAN EGELAND: I cannot see any nation giving arms to any war where there are these kind of casualties among children, women, aid workers, journalists. Colleagues of you, Amy, are killed en masse in Gaza. No, yeah, of course they shouldn’t give arms to that. They could have their fingerprints all over a crime scene.

AMY GOODMAN: Jan Egeland, we want to thank you for being with us, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Next up, we look at a new Israeli law which Prime Minister Netanyahu says he will use to ban Al Jazeera. Stay with us.

Every time we travel [within Gaza], we tell the Israeli military. Our information goes to the UN in Jerusalem and they send it to Cogat and the Gaza CLA [two Israeli government bodies] who coordinate with the Israeli military. We do this for every single movement, and we don’t set off until we have confirmation that all the information has been logged.

Our vehicles are clearly marked with Save the Children logos on the roof, sides and bonnet, and sometimes we have little flags attached to the vehicles too. We don’t wear flak jackets and helmets because the Israelis don’t allow us to bring body armour into Gaza through the Rafah crossing [with Egypt]. Very few aid agency staff have body protection.

World Central Kitchen (WCK) has a different way of coordinating its movements with the Israeli military. They’ve developed a good system of direct contact. They’re very well known to the Israelis. They constantly update their movements. That’s why we’re all absolutely shocked at the airstrikes – the fact that it was WCK. It has shaken confidence in the system. I feel quite nervous now, I’ll be honest.

We all expect an increase in international staff who ask to leave. If people want out, that’s their right. If they want to go, it’s my job to get them out.

The day of the airstrikes on the WCK convoy, I sent messages to my family to tell them they were going to hear about aid workers being killed but I was OK. All of us are constantly aware that our families are worried. You think, is it OK for me to put them through this? It’s really tough for families.

I can hear shelling most of the time, and sometimes naval gunfire. But it’s the airstrikes that are really scary. When they’re close, you get windows blown in and you feel shockwaves. 

The worst was when Israeli forces rescued two hostages from a building in Rafah [in February]. They created “distractions” which killed a lot of people. We could hear them coming closer and closer, windows were blowing in. I ended up sheltering in a corridor with others, thinking this is not to be taken lightly.

There is also the sound of drones all the time – a buzzing, like multiple lawnmowers going above your head all night. You just can’t get used to it.

As tragic as the attack on the World Central Kitchen convoy was, it wasn’t unthinkable. That’s because Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza has proven to be one of the most deadly for humanitarian aid workers. Since Israel began its military campaign to root out Hamas from Gaza on Oct. 7, at least 203 aid workers have been killed, according to the Aid Worker Security Database, which tracks attacks on humanitarian relief workers worldwide. This figure is higher than the total number of aid worker fatalities that typically occur annually worldwide.

Arvind Das, the U.S.-based International Rescue Committee’s team lead for the Gaza crisis, tells TIME that while aid workers operating in conflict zones are typically afforded safe access and corridors to deliver essential life-saving services, such assurances have been absent from Israel’s war in Gaza, where the targeting of aid workers has become more of a feature than a bug. There have been multiple instances in which organizations and their staff have been targeted by Israeli military action, including one near-fatal airstrike involving Das. On Jan. 18, he and a group of doctors were on a dual U.S.-U.K.-led medical mission in Gaza when their residential compound housing, which was located within a demarcated safe zone in the coastal town of Al-Mawasi, was hit by an Israeli airstrike with the doctors inside. While the group was lucky to escape with only injuries, Das said it could have easily ended differently. Three months later, the Israeli military has provided no explanation for its targeting of the house, coordinates of which had been shared with Israeli authorities through the U.N.’s deconfliction process. (The Israeli military did not respond to requests for comment.)

“Almost all international organizations at some point or another have faced a similar situation,” Das says, noting that the situation in Gaza is worse than any previous conflict zone he’s been in—a list that includes Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, central Africa, and Ecuador. “It’s not just a one-off incident. That is what is so concerning.”

These threats extend to more than just aid workers. At least 95 journalists have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, in what has been the deadliest period for journalists since the NGO began tracking casualties in 1992. The war has been similarly devastating for healthcare workers. Christina Wille, the director of the humanitarian research organization Insecurity Insight, tells TIME that her organization has identified the location and date of death for at least 176 healthcare workers who have been killed in Gaza, but adds that the true figure is thought to exceed 450.

Gaza remains under assault. Day 181 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, "At least 33,037 Palestinians have been killed and 75,668 wounded in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7, its Health Ministry says."   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."

There is outrage around the globe and there is outrage in the US.  Monica Alba, Yamiche Alcindor and Elyse Perlmutter-Gumbiner (NBC NEWS) report:

 Just five minutes into a meeting with President Joe Biden, a Palestinian American doctor who has treated gravely injured patients in Gaza couldn’t bear to stay, so he left. 

Dr. Thaer Ahmad, who specializes in emergency medicine, recalled getting emotional when talking about the many Palestinians he cared for, describing the scale of death in the six months since the war began. 

“The decision to leave was a personal one,” he told NBC News in a phone interview, explaining he wanted to show the White House that “it was important to recognize the pain and the mourning that my community was in.” 

Ahmad stressed that he wanted “to let the administration feel the way that we felt this past six months and kind of get up and walk away from them.” 

He was one of only six Muslim American community leaders who attended a small meeting on Tuesday with Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and senior administration officials at the White House. 

Many others who had been invited to attend declined, according to multiple sources familiar with the outreach, underscoring the deepening tensions between the administration and the Muslim and Arab American communities over the president’s support of Israel in its bombardment of Gaza. More than 30,000 people have died, according to health officials, since Hamas’ terrorist attacks in Israel on Oct. 7 and the group is still holding more than 100 hostages captive.

Another doctor who attended was taken aback when she showed Biden prints of photos of malnourished children and women in Gaza — to which Biden responded that he had seen those images before. The problem, the doctor said, was that she had printed the photos from her own iPhone.

"This speaks volumes to the dismissive nature of the administration when it comes to strong-willed action towards a permanent cease-fire or, at a bare minimum, a red line on the invasion of Rafah," Dr. Nahreen H. Ahmed told NBC News.

Before leaving the meeting early, Ahmad handed a letter to the president from an 8-year-old orphan in Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza. 

“There is an incredible amount of urgency around this,” Ahmad said, expressing deep skepticism that Israel’s military campaign can be done “in a sophisticated or tactical way” that doesn’t put innocent civilians at risk.  

During the 90-minute meeting, which took place behind closed doors, Biden told attendees that he will not call for a permanent cease-fire between Israel and Hamas until all the remaining hostages are released, according to two people familiar with his comments. 

With votes still being counted in Tuesday's presidential primary in Wisconsin, the movement to protest President Biden at the ballot box in response to his handling of the war in Gaza has exceeded its own expectations.

With more than 90 percent of the votes counted, the "uninstructed" option on Democratic presidential primary ballots has garnered more than 47,000 votes, according to results from The Associated Press. That's just over 8 percent of the Democratic presidential primary vote counted so far.

Those margins may change as more votes are counted.

The final number has now reached 47,846 votes for "uninstructed."

On politics, Mike's "Idiot of the Mid-Week" calls out Anthony Zenkus -- one time COMMON DREAMS contributor who now apparently just Tweets.  Mike doesn't need to me to say this but he is correct.  Zenkus is embarrassing himself with nonsense -- a lot like that infamous moment he had on Sabby Sabs.  Boo-hoo, mean Democrats are going after Robert Kennedy Junior and Jill Stein.  (He also claims they're going after Cornel West.)  No, efforts to keep them off the ballot are not anti-democratic.  Yes, I get that you think they are, Zenkus.  But Democratic efforts to demand that the laws and rules be followed are not undemocratic.  Rules and laws on candidacy exist for a reason.  If someone wants to run for President of the United States, they need to follow the rules.  

You don't like the rules?  Change them.  But don't whine that Democrats demanding rules for a petition to get on a ballot are followed is somehow undemocratic.

That's nonsense.

Mike's also correct to contrast Zenkus' nonsense with efforts in Ohio to now use a long ignored law to target trans candidates and remove them from the ballot.  Zenkus has nothing to say about that.  But he wants to whine because, apparently, multi-millionaires like Robert Kennedy Junior don't have enough breaks and must get additional privileges and passes in order to run for president.

The following sites updated: