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Tlaib Calls for Michigan Democrats to Vote “Uncommitted” Over Biden Gaza Policy

“This is the way you can raise our voices. Don’t make us even more invisible,” she said.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) has announced her support for a campaign to pressure President Joe Biden to drop his support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza, calling on voters in the state’s upcoming Democratic primaries to chose “uncommitted.”
In a video posted on social media, Tlaib said that voting “uncommitted” on February 27 is a crucial way that the anti-Zionist movement can flex its power against Biden as Israeli forces, fueled by U.S. military, diplomatic and financial assistance, have killed nearly 30,000 Palestinians so far, with thousands more missing under the rubble.
“It is important, as you all know, to not only march against the genocide, not only make sure that we’re calling our members of Congress and local electeds,” Tlaib said. “It is also important to create a voting bloc. Something that is a bullhorn to say, enough is enough. We don’t want a country that supports wars and bombs and destruction.”
“We want to stand up for every single life killed in Gaza. I want you to think of Al-Shaima, I want you to think of Rema, I want you to think of Sidra, I want you to think of all the amazing young children, and the people [whose] lives were lost in Gaza,” continued Tlaib, who is the only Palestinian American in Congress. “This is the way you can raise our voices. Don’t make us even more invisible. Right now, we feel completely neglected and just unseen by our government. If you want us to be louder, come here and vote uncommitted.”
Tlaib is the most prominent lawmaker to back the Listen to Michigan campaign so far, and is already facing attacks from pro-Zionist Democrats and corporate media due to her support of the campaign.

Michigan House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D), Mayor Abdullah H. Hammoud of Dearborn, the city with the most Muslim people per capita in the U.S., and former House Rep. Andy Levin (D-Michigan) are also advocating for the effort, while progressive group Our Revolution is also using its resources to promote the campaign. Listen to Michigan and Our Revolution have email lists of about 128,000 people and 87,000 Michigan voters, respectively.
Michigan is an important swing state for Biden in November, and boasts one of the largest populations of Arab Americans and Muslims across the country with about 300,000 people. This includes Palestinian Americans who have single handedly lost dozens of members of their families in Israeli air raids. The U.S.-backed massacre has wiped out entire generations.
Biden won Michigan in 2020 by a narrow margin of 154,000 votes, delivering him 16 electoral votes that helped him defeat Donald Trump.
But recent polling has shown that Biden has since lost a huge amount of support from Arab and Muslim communities due to his support of the assault on Gaza, with the Arab American Institute finding in November that, while 59 percent of Arab Americans reported voted for Biden in 2020, only 17 percent say they would do the same now. Meanwhile, his approval among Arab Americans has dropped from 74 percent to a mere 29 percent in the same time period.
“The political situation is this: It’s not Our Revolution or Listen to Michigan whipping this up,” Levin said in an interview with MSNBC this weekend. “People are not going to vote for Joe Biden on February 27 because they are really mad at him. Their cousins are dying. Their friends are dying.”

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Trump Has 30 Days to Pay $450M in Fines and Penalties From Civil Fraud Case

The legal setbacks facing leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump are piling up. He now has 30 days to pay $450 million in fines and penalties from a civil fraud case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James. His two eldest sons face a two-year ban and were each ordered to pay $4 million. Trump says he plans to appeal the ruling, which he described as a “complete and total sham.” But the appeal is unlikely to succeed, says Russ Buettner, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist whose reporting for The New York Times led to the state’s case. He lays out how records showed an “overwhelming pattern” of Trump’s businesses “lying to their lenders.” Buettner, who describes Trump as cash-poor, says the penalties will result in “a blow to his personal finances and his business finances that he really can’t handle at this point.”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show with the legal setbacks that continue to pile up against leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, even as more trials loom. Trump’s latest legal defeat came in a New York court as part of a losing streak in his home state. On Friday, a New York Supreme Court justice ordered Donald Trump to pay $450 million in penalties and interest for illegally inflating the value of his assets in order to secure more favorable loans and insurance for his New York real estate empire. Trump’s assets, including Trump Tower in Manhattan, could be used to pay the fine as a 30-day deadline looms. Trump is also barred from running any business in New York for three years. Trump’s two eldest sons face a two-year ban and were each ordered to pay $4 million.
Judge Arthur Engoron also said Judge Barbara Jones will continue to act as independent monitor of Trump’s businesses, and ordered an additional independent director of compliance at the Trump Organization. In his ruling, Justice Engoron criticized Trump and his sons, Donald and Eric, saying, quote, “Their complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological,” unquote.
The ruling came in a case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who spoke to reporters after the ruling.

ATTORNEY GENERAL LETITIA JAMES: Today justice has been served. Today we proved that no one is above the law. No matter how rich, powerful or politically connected you are, everyone must play by the same rules. We have a responsibility to protect the integrity of the marketplace. And for years Donald Trump engaged in deceptive business practices and tremendous fraud.

AMY GOODMAN: Donald Trump plans to appeal the ruling, which he described as a “complete and total sham.”
This comes as more than $27 million in Trump campaign funds went to legal costs in the last six months of last year.

For more, we’re joined by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times investigative reporter Russ Buettner. His team’s reporting led to Letitia James’s case.
Russ, we welcome you to Democracy Now! And it’s great to have you with your former colleague, Juan González, to talk about this case. Why don’t you start off by talking about this unprecedented ruling? What exactly are we talking about when we’re talking about more than $400 million that President Trump has to pay? And when does he have to do this, and in what way?
RUSS BUETTNER: Well, I think what we’re talking about is a blow to his personal finances and his business finances that he really can’t handle at this point. He doesn’t have that much cash. When we looked at him five years ago, we had 20 years of his financial records and his tax returns, and he was down to below $50 million in cash, both personally and in his businesses. He’s had a couple of one-shot things from selling some assets, an asset he doesn’t control refinanced. As recently as last year, he may have had over $300 million, but our experience with him is that his businesses eat cash, generally, and require constant infusion. So, if he had that much then, he wouldn’t now.
He’ll have to pay that if he chooses to appeal, which it seems he certainly will. He would have to put up some sort of bond or put the full amount, essentially, into escrow when he files the appeal within 30 days. If he does the bond, from what we’ve understood, he might have to guarantee to repay that amount plus an extra 20%. So, we believe that he’s negotiating now, trying to find somebody, an insurance company, to put that bond up for him. And that would require him to most likely put a lien on some of his properties.
But the long game here is that he’s most — if this judgment holds and withstands appeal, he would most likely have to sell several assets. And that could pose an existential threat to him, because he has some assets that make money, those would be the most likely ones to sell, and that would pose a real threat to the rest of his enterprise, if that happened.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Russ, first, hello. We haven’t talked in many years. We used to work together at the New York Daily News. But I wanted to ask you: What about the appeal situation here? What’s the likelihood, from your sense, that he might — his appeal might be successful or at least involve a reduction of the fine?
RUSS BUETTNER: Yeah, it’s great to be with you, Juan.
From what I’ve seen and what I’ve been told by other lawyers who have looked at this, it doesn’t seem like there’s much chance to overturn the entire judgment. This is a 92-page judgment. Judge Engoron goes through, blow by blow, each allegation. This was a case that was based on records, not really testimony. The testimony in the case was mostly a way just to get the records into evidence. And it’s an overwhelming pattern of them lying to their lenders about what they’re doing. And that’s the threshold in the law, that you can’t mislead your lenders about what’s happening.
There is always a possibility with these sort of appeals that the judgment might be reduced. Because Judge Engoron, again, seems to have presented a very well-reasoned argument as to the ill-gotten gains, that’s what all of this is. The judge ruled that there — following the attorney general’s recommendation, that there was $170 million, roughly, in beneficial interest rates that they wouldn’t have gotten if they had been truthful, and that they were able to sell two assets — a golf course and a hotel in Washington, D.C. — that they wouldn’t have been able to buy initially if they hadn’t fraudulently obtained these loans and continued to lie to their lenders to keep those loans active. So, there’s some possibility that could be reduced, but it doesn’t seem like it would be likely to be reduced down to like $30 million. It seems like it’s going to remain a very high number.
Should take about — I think appeals in New York generally take about a year and a half to get all the way through. So, possibly by this time in a couple years or towards the end of next year, we might have a kind of final ruling and the ultimate day of reckoning for the Trump Organization.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And also, the impact of the judge continuing the judge, Barbara Jones, as an independent monitor over Trump’s businesses and his ordering an additional independent director of compliance, isn’t this actually a much more long-term problem for the Trump Organization in terms of being able to conduct its normal way of business?
RUSS BUETTNER: Well, its normal way of business doesn’t seem to be a normal way of business. It’s a very unusual organization. I’ve talked to people who have worked there off and on over the last 40 years. One of the unique things about it is there’s really nobody there who knows how each business is performing, except Donald Trump and his longtime financial accountant Allen Weisselberg. So, the idea that somebody else is overseeing the movements of money there, I think, is really intrusive to him, and possibly kind of embarrassing.
There are — one of the unique things about those businesses is that they’re constantly moving cash from one or two businesses or his fortune from entertainment money into the different businesses. The U.K. golf courses have all lost money. They required tens of millions of dollars just to stay open. The Post Office hotel in Washington, D.C., he was pumping $7 million to $10 million of new cash into that every year to make up for operating losses.
Now you’re going to have somebody overlooking all of that, telling him what he can’t move, trying to maintain the value of what’s there to make sure that he can pay whatever judgment comes through. That’s a very intrusive process to a guy who had basically spent his entire life in a bubble, that first his father financed and then a fortune from entertainment financed, and he didn’t have to answer to anyone, not a board, not an investor, rarely even a bank. That’s going to be a hard blow for him.
AMY GOODMAN: Judge Engoron said, “Their complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological.” Talk about the significance of this, Russ Buettner.
RUSS BUETTNER: Well, I think it goes, really, to — it’s a very, I think, important element of the appeal. When a judge — when a factfinder, whether it’s a judge or a jury, generally comes to a conclusion about the reliability of a witness, and they are basically — the only defense they had was their testimony of them not being reliable, that’s very tough for an appellate court to overturn. I don’t believe that happens very often.
But I think it’s also — it’s a tough message to send out to the business world. You know, Donald Trump had to get these loans initially because he had defaulted on $285 million in loans on his Chicago tower. That’s just money he received and never paid back. So he was really put into a bind. His son-in-law got him intoduced to the personal financial — the personal wealth division at Deutsche Bank. That’s why he had to promise that he would meet these thresholds every year, to keep $50 million in cash and be worth two-and-a-half billion dollars. That’s how he got there.
And I think, really, what the message is, that, like, Donald Trump doesn’t do contrition, in any circumstance ever. What he does is division. And you see here he divides the world into people who praise him and people who are horrible people. He has not really addressed the facts of this case, not during the trial. They’ve been very misleading in the comments that they’ve made publicly about this. And that’s a tough message to send out in the business community at a time when he’s going to need loans, he’s going to need an insurance bond to come up with this, that he’s not a reliable person, that when they sign their name to a document, as they did in this case every year, to say they’re meeting these thresholds, that it’s really meaningless, and that he thinks that’s OK. That’s the message he sent out to the business community. I think that’s going to be a tough blow for him, Trump.
AMY GOODMAN: You add to this E. Jean Carroll, owing her like $80-something million, you’re talking about Trump paying out more than a half a billion dollars Now, how transparent are those who might make loans to them? For example, you’ve got MBS, Mohammed bin Salman’s, you know, sovereign fund in Saudi Arabia investing $2 billion in Jared Kushner, not in this case. He’s the son-in-law, though, the husband of Ivanka. You know, what about a foreign government giving him that money? Would the public know about this?
RUSS BUETTNER: That’s not entirely clear to me. I would think in a court system, the way the courts usually work, there would be some transparency on that. You would think that the — Barbara Jones is a very experienced federal judge and very experienced in these monitor situations and reports regularly to the court. They would be, I think, aware of what’s happening there.
But anyplace where there’s a potential for outside money to come in and influence the Trumps, I think, is a real threat here. And I think that’s something that everybody is going to have to pay attention to. That’s been a threat to the way his businesses operate for years. You didn’t have to pay Donald Trump when he was president. You could just buy a block of memberships at Mar-a-Lago, which happened, and then he took that new membership money out as distributions out the back door. So, that’s always a threat with him. And our system of governance and monitoring the finance of politicians is not really set up to catch these sort of things. So I think that’s something — it’s an excellent point, Amy, and I think everyone is going have to pay attention to that going forward.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Russ, following up on that, in terms of the Trump Organization investments abroad, assuming that Donald Trump does get elected in November as president again, there will at least be — hopefully, with this court monitoring of the Trump Organization finances, we’ll supposedly have a better idea what his foreign entanglements or the foreign entanglements of his organization would be. Is that accurate?
RUSS BUETTNER: I mean, I — certainly the monitor will, and certainly the compliance officer will. I’m not sure that’s going to be their primary responsibility. I think their primary responsibility is to make sure that he’s not pulling money out of the businesses so when the judgment finally comes down, there’s not enough there to pay the judgment, and he’s already, you know, sort of disgorged it to his own personal finances. I think that’s their primary focus.
It does give them, obviously, a window to those sorts of things, but I’m not sure that there would be a mechanism for them to report concern about money coming from someplace else. I think, certainly, if there’s illegal transactions, there’s illegal flows of large amounts of cash into some of his businesses, they would certainly notice that. But again, it was really apparent during his presidency, the financial disclosure forms, the oversight agency that looks into those things is really not equipped to handle something like his very unique situation, where he’s getting millions and millions of dollars from just endorsement deals around the world and millions of dollars from people just staying in his hotels and buying memberships in some of his clubs. And I think we’re going to have to at some point come to a realization that those systems need to be overhauled.
AMY GOODMAN: Did you ever think that your reporting back in 2016 would lead to a Pulitzer Prize and to this epic state investigation into the past president of the United States, who could be the future president of the United States?
RUSS BUETTNER: I don’t think I’ve ever, like, started a day thinking, “This might win me a Pulitzer Prize.” I get sort of enamored with the idea of digging into these things, and I love figuring out really complicated things. But you never know where it’s going to go. I think Letitia James had her own ideas on how to pursue this, and I hope we, hopefully, helped to inform that process a bit. But, no, I don’t think you ever think that what you’re doing on a Monday morning is going to someday lead to, you know, nice awards or the involvement of a president of the United States in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit.
AMY GOODMAN: Russ Buettner, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist at The New York Times. Since 2016, his reporting has focused on Donald Trump’s personal finances.
Next up, to The Hague, where the International Court of Justice is holding a six-day hearing where over a quarter of the world’s countries are testifying against Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Stay with us.

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SCOTUS Ducks High School Diversity in Admissions Case

Justice of the Supreme Court Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito attend a private ceremony Justice of the Supreme Court Sandra Day O’Connor before public repose in the Great Hall at the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, Dec. 18, 2023.Pool Via Cnp/CNP via ZUMA Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and…

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Over 50 Countries Testify Before ICJ Against Israel’s Occupation of Palestine

Arguments are underway at the International Court of Justice, where more than 50 countries are asking the World Court to issue a nonbinding legal opinion against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza since 1967. The request is separate from South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the ICJ. “Israel has been instrumentalizing the rules of international humanitarian law … to further its settler-colonial project in Palestine,” says Ahmed Abofoul of the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq, which submitted an advisory opinion on the case. “I have no doubt that the court will decide that Israel’s occupation is illegal,” he says. We also discuss what comes after the ruling and Israeli society’s reaction to the war.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
We go now to The Hague, where the International Court of Justice is holding a six-day hearing as over 50 countries are testifying against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. It’s the largest-ever participation in the World Court’s history.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said Monday, quote, “The genocide underway in Gaza is a result of decades of impunity and inaction.” Riyad Mansour, Palestinian envoy to the U.N., delivered emotional testimony Monday.

RIYAD MANSOUR: The state of Palestine appeals to this court to guide the international community in upholding international law, ending injustice and achieving a just and lasting peace, to guide us towards a future in which Palestinian children are treated as children, not as demographic threat, in which the identity of the group to which we belong does not diminish the human rights to which we are all entitled, a future in which no Palestinian and no Israelis is killed, a future in which two states live side by side in peace and security. The Palestinian people only demand respect for their rights. They ask for nothing more. They cannot accept nothing less and nothing else. The future of freedom, justice and peace can begin here and now.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Palestine’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, addressing the International Court of Justice Monday. Earlier today, South African Ambassador Vusi Madonsela addressed the court.

VUSI MADONSELA: The inordinate delay in achieving a fair and just settlement has resulted in an unending cycle of violence. A clear legal characterization of the nature of Israel’s regime over the Palestinian people can only assist in remedying the ongoing delay in achieving a just settlement. … We, as South Africans, sense, see, hear and feel to our core the inhumane discriminatory policies and practices of the Israeli regime as an even more extreme form of the apartheid that was institutionalized against Black people in my country.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined from The Hague, where the ICJ hearing is taking place, by Ahmed Abofoul, legal research and advocacy officer at the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq. He contributed to their advisory opinion on the case.
Welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. This is historic, what’s taking place right now, Ahmed, at the International Court of Justice. More than half the world’s countries are participating in this. Talk about the significance of this. And although we just played the South African envoy’s comments, this is not to be confused with that other case, the South Africa bringing the case around genocide against Israel in the court, that just happened a few weeks ago.
AHMED ABOFOUL: Sure. Well, first of all, thank you for having me again, Amy, and congratulations on Democracy Now!’s 28th anniversary. In this dystopian age of misinformation and biased media, especially in the West, we value your work, and we congratulate you and hope your viewers will continue to support your important work.
You’re absolutely right, Amy. This is a historical moment. For over 57 years, Israel has been perpetuating its occupation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, dominating every aspect of their lives and maintaining this occupation to further facilitate and impose this apartheid regime, imposed on the Palestinian people as a whole. One of the important features of this occupation is that it is colonial in nature. So, it’s combined with the continued, unabated building of settlements and the theft of land and the demographic manipulation and engineering of the Occupied Palestinian Territory in an attempt to empty it from its Indigenous people — a very common feature of colonial regimes and projects trying to steal the land without the people.
This is a historical moment, Amy, because this is, as you mentioned, the most — the case with the most interest by states in the history of the advisory opinion procedure before the court. And it shows you that the world has something to say about this occupation.
The whole body of occupation — of the law of occupation shows us that occupation was not intended to last that long. Occupation is temporary in nature. But the way Israel perpetuated the occupation shows that Israel is not interested in ending that occupation, but it actually needs that occupation to further implement its strategy to acquire more land by force with as least Palestinians as possible.
And therefore, the premise of this case, I think there are three main legal arguments that Israel is violating what we call international law, peremptory norms from which no derogation is permitted. So, the first norm that Israel is violating is the acquisition of territory by force or the threat of the use of force. The second is Israel’s violations of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, which is also a peremptory norm. And the imposition of regime of racial discrimination and demographic manipulation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and beyond, that is a regime of apartheid imposed on the Palestinian people as a whole, denying them their unalienable rights, including Palestinian refugees, who continue to be denied their right to return to their homes and villages.
So, this is an important moment, where for the first time we would have the principal organ of the United Nations telling us the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation. And it will be extremely difficult for Israel’s allies after that to justify Israel’s actions in any way possible. Israel has been instrumentalizing the rules of international humanitarian law, the body of law that governs the situation of occupation, to further its settler-colonial project in Palestine. I think after this decision, which I have no doubt that the court will decide that Israel’s occupation is illegal, it will be very difficult to support Israel and its policies by Israel’s allies, including the U.S. So, all eyes on the U.S. and how it will react to this important ruling.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Ahmed Abofoul, I wanted to ask you: For those who are not familiar with these international legal bodies, could you briefly summarize the difference between the International Court of Justice proceedings and the separate case that South Africa filed, the complaint of genocide at the International Criminal Court [sic] against Israel, especially in terms of the jurisdiction or the powers of the court to have any direct effect on Israel’s actions?
AHMED ABOFOUL: Yes, absolutely. I think you meant South Africa’s genocide case before the very same court, the International Court of Justice, and these are two different proceedings. The International Court of Justice can look into advisory proceedings, where any organ of the United Nations can ask the court to provide a legal opinion on what the court thinks of a certain matter. Usually such rulings are nonbinding for states, but they are of particular importance as they guide the whole United Nations and the member states in how to approach a certain matter or a certain question.
The other type of procedure is contentious cases, where states take each other to court when they have a disagreement on a matter of international law, so, for example, a disagreement on the interpretation of a particular convention to which both are parties and have accepted the court’s jurisdiction. And that’s exactly what South Africa did in the genocide case against Israel on the interpretation of the Genocide Convention, where it took Israel to court. So it’s a case between South Africa and Israel, while in the advisory opinion proceeding, there are no two parties. There is only the court that is deciding on the matter of question. And all states around the world are invited to provide their written statements, their oral interventions, to tell the court what is their position, what is their interpretation of the law on that particular matter, because international law is made by the practices of these states and what states around the world have accepted to be customary international law and have accepted to be the common interpretation of international law.
So, the law on occupation, as I said, is clear that occupation was not intended to last that long and is temporary in nature, but it didn’t set any time limit in which occupation has to end. So, that’s how Israel has been perpetuating this, often described as, prolonged occupation — it’s the longest occupation in modern history — claiming, under the mutual security pretext, that it needs to continue its control and needs to continue its domination of the Palestinian people and its violations of the peremptory norms.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what is the role of the public in these cases? Is there any?
AHMED ABOFOUL: Of course, of course, absolutely. The public, you know, don’t have a standing in procedure, or, like, civil society organizations, for example, like the one I’m proudly associated with — that is, Al-Haq — can always submit to the court, but these submissions are not part of the proceedings. They are available at the seating of the court for states participating in the proceedings, but also for judges to read them and consult them. And we have already published a position paper outlining the key legal arguments in this case and our view on how the court should approach this case.
But if you’ll allow me, these rulings are usually of particular importance to be used after, so how, for example, the state in question will utilize this ruling in its diplomatic efforts, whether taking this ruling to the General Assembly to adopt a resolution to the same effect, or perhaps to the Security Council, although there will always be the U.S. veto. So, what comes after that decision, I think, is also of particular importance.
And historically, the ICJ cases have served in a way to provide guidance on what international law says and how states should behave. Obviously, not always the states have listened to such rulings, or they tried to disobey them. But, for example, in the situation in South Africa and the ruling on the illegal presence of South African apartheid in Namibia, it served and it created momentum for the mobilization on the ground which eventually led to the end of that regime. So, hopefully, this advisory opinion is also another step forward to ending Israel’s settler-colonial and apartheid regime imposed on the Palestinian people as a whole.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk, Ahmed Abofoul, about the response of the court? This is when it was run by Joan Donoghue, and important to point out. She came out of the State Department. She’s the head of the International Court of Justice. But she is no longer the head of the Court of Justice, but it was under her and it was her reading of the preliminary decision around South Africa bringing its genocide case to the court. If you can talk about who’s the new head of the court? And then I want to ask you about what just happened in Israel in the Knesset, voting not to expel Ofer Cassif, the lawmaker who’s a member of the Hadash party supporting the genocide case against Israel at the ICJ. I just wanted to play a clip of the Knesset member, Cassif, speaking to Democracy Now! about facing expulsion, which didn’t happen.

OFER CASSIF: They want me and my friends to shut up. They don’t want us to raise our voice against any kind of violence, because, as I said a million times, as someone who continuously for years object and oppose the Israeli occupation and siege against the Palestinian people, we said, I said, explicitly, that even the crimes of the siege and the occupation cannot and will never justify the massacre committed by Hamas. We added that the massacre, the criminal massacre by Hamas, cannot justify the massacre and assault of Israel on Gaza, in which around 30,000 people are already dead, were killed. The vast majority, more than 70%, are innocent civilians, around 10,000 children.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s a member of the Knesset, who remains so because they lost the vote to expel him, Ofer Cassif. And if you can respond to the new president, Nawaf Salam, who’s replacing Joan Donoghue?
AHMED ABOFOUL: Yeah. Well, as you said, Judge Nawaf Salam, who’s a Lebanese judge, he has been a member of the court since February 2018 and newly elected as president of the court since 6th of February, 2024. He is now the president of the court.
But if you’ll allow me, whether him or the American judge, judges before the ICJ, they don’t serve as agents of their state of nationality. They serve as independent judges who provide their personal views about international law and the interpretation of international law, after hearing the positions of the states. So, it’s not — it is not, in a way, usual to presume that because of the nationality of the president of the court, that the position would be aligned with the foreign policy of the state of that judge. That is not the case, whether American or Lebanese or any other nationality of the president of the court. It is presumed, and the presumption is of their professional, you know, way of work and deliver on their mandate in accordance with the law.
As to the voting to expel Ofer, the member of Knesset, it also — in my view, it shows you how radicalized Israeli society has become. So, even the very tiny minority that you have, where Israeli Knesset members are calling for the end of the occupation, are calling for the bare minimum of human decency — that is, a ceasefire — the rest of Knesset members, from the Israeli members, are mostly against that, and such tiny minority of those who call for Palestinian rights are often attacked. And as you said, there was an attempt to even remove him from the Knesset.
And I think it’s very telling to see also how supportive Israeli society has been in the genocide against the Gaza Strip. Amy, we need not to forget that right before the war, the Israeli society mobilized hundreds of thousands in the streets because of Netanyahu’s plan to, you know, attack the judiciary or to minimize their authority in reviewing government’s decision. But when it comes to Palestinians who are being oppressed, who are only a few meters away, the Israeli society somehow is unable to mobilize or call for the end of the occupation. So, in a way, it seems that the Israeli society has been radicalized into believing that for them to enjoy the privileges of this apartheid regime, they don’t mind the Palestinians being oppressed.
And unfortunately, the foreign policy of states that claim to be friends to Israel, I think, have contributed profoundly to such radicalization, simply because they’ve been ensuring impunity for Israel and Israeli war criminals who have been committing crimes for the past decades. So, I think, in a way, the reason that we have such extreme government at the moment, one of the most extreme and right-wing in the history of Israel, which has ministers who are proudly self-described as Islamophobic and homophobes and fascists and racist ministers, like Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, is a result of — in my view, of the U.S. and European foreign policy ensuring that Israel enjoys an exceptional treatment, that Israel is untouchable. It enjoys prevailing impunity where Israel can commit crimes, but no one is held accountable.
AMY GOODMAN: Ahmed, I’m so sorry that, well, when we last spoke, you had already lost some 60 members of your family. Born and raised in Gaza, you are. And I wanted just to ask, in this 30 seconds, about Benny Gantz’s comments, part of the war council, saying if the hostages are not home by Ramadan, which is like March 10th, the fighting will continue everywhere, including Rafah.
AHMED ABOFOUL: Yeah, well, it shows you also the character and the behavior of Israel. Israel is behaving like a pariah, is behaving like a rogue state, is not listening to anyone, is not listening to its closest allies.
Israel needs to have the humility to understand that the Palestine people are a free people, are not colonial subjects. They’re entitled to their rights. And Israel at some point will need to sit and listen with seriousness and consideration to the aspiration of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people, Amy, are not asking for a favor. They’re asking for their unalienable basic human rights. And I think the world for long has misunderstood the Palestinians. We’re not even asking. We’re demanding those rights. We’re entitled to those rights, regardless of what Israel think about that.
AMY GOODMAN: Ahmed Abofoul, we want to thank you for being with us, legal research and advocacy officer at the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq, speaking to us from The Hague.
Next up, we turn to a surgeon who’s just returned from Gaza, wrote an L.A. Times op-ed headlined “I’m an American doctor who went to Gaza. What I saw wasn’t war — it was annihilation.” Back in 20 seconds.

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Nikki Haley Refuses to Drop Out, Even as She Prepares to Lose South Carolina

She’s…still running.Jim Lo Scalzo/EFE/ZUMA Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters. Nikki Haley is…still running. Even if she’s almost certain to lose her home state.  That’s essentially the summary of a speech the former South Carolina governor delivered Tuesday in Greenville, South Carolina, ahead of…

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LGBTQ Advocates Condemn Passage of De Facto “Book Ban” in West Virginia

The West Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill on Friday allowing for the criminal prosecution of librarians, teachers, and museums for displaying “obscene” material to minors. Democratic Delegate Evan Hansen has said that the bill, HB 4654, is “a de facto book ban.”
“It doesn’t explicitly ban books, but in order to mitigate the risk, librarians are going to make different decisions,” Hansen said.
Under state code, “obscene matter” is defined as material that “an average person, applying community standards, would find depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexually explicit conduct” and material that “a reasonable person would find, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”
Currently the state’s obscenity law exempts schools, public libraries, and museums from being prosecuted under the code, but this bill would change that. A person charged with violating West Virginia’s obscenity laws could be subject to significant fines and a jail sentence of up to five years.

“The language is so vague that anything could be deemed obscene. Violent history? Obscene. Political history? Obscene. Literature? Obscene,” West Virginia University PhD candidate Tristan Williams said on social media. “All anyone would have to do is say nah. Don’t like that. Children shouldn’t be taught that.”
This bill is opposed by the West Virginia Association of Museums (WVAM), which has said that “This vague definition [of obscenity] opens the door for attacks and legal challenges on any exhibit, program, lecture, publication, or other project that some member of a community may not agree with.”
LGBTQ advocates have also criticized this bill as a thinly veiled attempt to censor LGBTQ material in schools, pointing to Republicans’ inaccurate and offensive conflation of LGBTQ material as “pornographic.”
“HB 4654 is a book ban aimed at harming LGBTQ+ & other marginalized communities,” West Virginia-based transgender advocate Ash Orr said on social media. “Legislators would rather focus on harming marginalized communities instead of addressing real issues impacting our state.”
Following the bill’s approval in the House, Orr said on social media that he expanded a community library he runs and requested community members support the library by purchasing books for it, such as “Julián Is a Mermaid,” “What Are Your Words?: A Book About Pronouns,” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
“The WVGOP is hoping to both ban books & erase the LGBTQ+ community,” Orr said. “To push back, I upgraded and expanded The (mostly) Banned Books Library! This library is filled w/banned books for all ages & LGBTQ+ resources.”
A 2022 survey revealed that 70 percent of parents across the U.S. are against book banning. However, in the first half of the 2022-2023 school year alone, PEN America uncovered 1,477 cases of banned books, impacting 874 distinct titles. 30 percent of the books dealt with topics of race, racism, or featured characters of color, while 26 percent included LGBTQ+ characters or themes.
Eli Baumwell, interim executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia, reports that the extremist group Moms for Liberty has been notably active within the state, particularly in legislative and school board meetings. This group is funded by the Heritage Foundation, whose Project 2025 outlines a plan for the future Republican presidency. In this blueprint, the conservative think tank argues that “transgender ideology” is pornographic and should be outlawed, with those involved in its production and distribution facing imprisonment. Additionally, the blueprint calls for registering educators and public librarians who support such ideology as sex offenders.
Legislative measures such as HB 4654, along with similar attacks on LGBTQ individuals both in the state and across the country, are aimed at creating a world where such discrimination is normalized.
“[T]he open ended vagueness in the language of HB 4654 has terrifying implications and need[s] to die in the state senate,” Williams said. “I’m saying this as a parent of WV public school students and as a historian. This bill does no good.”

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Hydropower Won’t Solve the Climate Crisis, But New Dams May Lead to Water Wars

We live in a world of dangerous, deadly extremes. Record-breaking heat waves, intense drought, stronger hurricanes, unprecedented flash flooding. No corner of the planet will be spared the wrath of human-caused climate change and the earth’s fresh water is already feeling the heat of this new reality. More than half of the world’s lakes and two-thirds of its rivers are drying up, threatening ecosystems, farmland, and drinking water supplies. Such diminishing resources are also likely to lead to conflict and even, potentially, all-out war.
“Competition over limited water resources is one of the main concerns for the coming decades,” warned a study published in Global Environmental Change in 2018. “Although water issues alone have not been the sole trigger for warfare in the past, tensions over freshwater management and use represent one of the main concerns in political relations between… states and may exacerbate existing tensions, increase regional instability and social unrest.”
The situation is beyond dire. In 2023, it was estimated that upwards of three billion people, or more than 37% of humanity, faced real water shortages, a crisis predicted to dramatically worsen in the decades to come. Consider it ironic then that, as water is disappearing, huge dams — more than 3,000 of them — that require significant river flow to operate are now being built at an unprecedented pace globally. Moreover, 500 dams are being constructed in legally protected areas like national parks and wildlife reserves. There was a justification for this, claimed the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) some years ago. Such projects, it believed, would help battle climate change by curbing carbon dioxide emissions while bringing electricity to those in the greatest of need.
“[Hydropower] remains the largest source of renewable energy in the electricity sector,” the IPCC wrote in 2018. “Evidence suggests that relatively high levels of deployment over the next 20 years are feasible, and hydropower should remain an attractive renewable energy source within the context of global [greenhouse gas] mitigation scenarios.”
The IPCC acknowledged that unceasing droughts impact stream flow and that climate change is unpredictably worsening matters. Yet its climate experts still contended that hydropower could be a crucial part of the world’s energy transition, arguing that an electric dam will produce seemingly endless energy. At the same time, other renewable sources like wind and solar power have their weather- and sunlight-bound limitations.

A Crack in the Dam Logic
Well-intentioned as it may have been, it’s now far clearer that there is a crack in the IPCC’s appraisal. For one thing, recent research suggests that hydro-powered dams can create an alarming amount of climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions. Rotting vegetation at the bottom of such reservoirs, especially in warmer climates (as in much of Africa), releases significant amounts of methane, a devastating greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.
“Most of this vegetation would have rotted anyway, of course. But, without reservoirs, the decomposition would occur mostly in the atmosphere or in well-oxygenated rivers or lakes,” explains Fred Pearce in the Independent. “The presence of oxygen would ensure the carbon in the plants formed carbon dioxide. But many reservoirs, particularly in the tropics, contain little oxygen. Under those anaerobic conditions, rotting vegetation generates methane instead.”
While CO2 also seriously harms the climate, methane emissions are far worse in the short term.
“We estimate that dams emit around 25% more methane by unit of surface than previously estimated,” says Bridget Deemer of the School of Environment at Washington State University in Vancouver, lead author of a highly-cited study on greenhouse gas emissions from reservoirs. “Methane stays in the atmosphere for only around a decade, while CO2 stays several centuries, but over the course of 20 years, methane contributes almost three times more to global warming than CO2.”
And that’s hardly the only problem dams face in the twenty-first century. At the moment, Chinese financing is the most significant global driver of new hydropower construction. China has invested in the creation of at least 330 dams in 74 countries. Each project poses its own set of environmental quandaries. But above all, the heating of the planet — last year was the warmest in human history and January 2024 the hottest January on record — is making many of those investments look increasingly dubious. On this ever-hotter globe of ours, for instance, a drought in Ecuador has all too typically impacted the functionality of the Amaluza Dam on the Paute River, which provides 60% of that country’s electricity. Paute was running at 40% capacity recently as its river flow dwindled. Similarly, in southern Africa, water levels at the Kariba Dam’s reservoir, located between Zambia and Zimbabwe, have fluctuated drastically, impairing its ability to produce consistent energy.
“In recent years, drought intensified by climate change has caused reservoirs on all five continents⁠ to drop below levels needed to maintain hydroelectric production,” writes Jacques Leslie in Yale E360, “and the problem is bound to worsen as climate change deepens.”
Even in the United States, the viability of hydropower is an increasing concern. The Hoover Dam on the Colorado River, for example, has been impacted by years of drought. Water levels at its reservoir, Lake Mead, continue to plummet, raising fears that its days are numbered. The same is true for the Glen Canyon Dam, which also holds back the Colorado, forming Lake Powell. As the Colorado dries up, Glen Canyon may also lose its ability to produce electricity.
Driven by dwindling water resources, the global hydropower crisis has become a flashpoint in the far reaches of Northern Africa, where the creation of a giant dam could very well lead to a regional war and worse.
A Crisis on the Nile
The lifeblood of northeastern Africa, the Nile River, flows through 11 countries before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea. Measured at 6,650 kilometers, the Nile may be the longest river on Earth. For millennia, its meandering waters, which run through lush jungles and dry deserts, have been irrigating farmlands and providing drinking water for millions of people. Nearly 95% of Egypt’s 109 million people live within a few kilometers of the Nile. Arguably the most important natural resource in Africa, it’s now at the epicenter of a geopolitical dispute between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan that’s brought those countries to the brink of military conflict.
A major dam being built along the Blue Nile, the river’s main tributary, is upending the status quo in the region, where Egypt has long been the preeminent nation. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD for short) is to become one of the largest hydroelectric dams ever constructed, stretching more than 1,700 meters and standing 145 meters tall, a monument many will love and others despise.
There’s no question that Ethiopia needs the electricity GERD will produce. Nearly 45% of all Ethiopians lack regular power and GERD promises to produce upwards of 5.15 gigawatts of electricity. To put that in perspective, a single gigawatt would power 876,000 households annually in the United States. Construction on the dam, which began in 2011, was 90% complete by last August when it began producing power. In total, GERD’s cost is expected to eclipse $5 billion, making it the largest infrastructure project Ethiopia has ever undertaken and the largest dam on the African continent.
It will not only bring reliable power to that country but promises a culture shift welcomed by many. “Mothers who’ve given birth in the dark, girls who fetch wood for fire instead of going to school — we’ve waited so many years for this — centuries,” says Filsan Abdi of the Ethiopian Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth. “When we say that Ethiopia will be a beacon of prosperity, it starts here.”
While most Ethiopians may see the dam in a positive light, the downstream countries of Egypt and Sudan (itself embroiled in a devastating civil war) were never consulted, and their officials are indignant. The massive reservoir behind GERD’s gigantic cement wall will hold back 74 billion cubic meters of water. That means Ethiopia will have remarkable control over the flow of the Nile, giving its leaders power over how much access to water both Egyptians and Sudanese will have. The Blue Nile, after all, provides 59% of Egypt’s freshwater supply.
As it happens, fresh water in Egypt has long been growing scarcer and so the country’s leadership has taken the threat of GERD seriously for years. In 2012, for instance, Wikileaks obtained internal emails from the “global intelligence” firm Stratfor revealing that Egypt and Sudan were even then considering directing the Egyptian Special Forces to destroy the dam, still in the early stages of construction. “[We] are discussing military cooperation with Sudan,” a high-level Egyptian source was quoted as saying. While such a direct attack never transpired, Stratfor claimed that Egypt might once again lend support to “proxy militant groups against Ethiopia” (as it had in the 1970s and 1980s) if diplomacy were to hit a dead end.
Unfortunately, the most recent negotiations to calm the hostility around GERD have gone distinctly awry. Last April, the embittered Egyptians responded to the lack of any significant progress by conducting a three-day military drill with Sudan at a naval base in the Red Sea aimed at frightening Ethiopian officials. “All options are on the table,” warned Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. “[All] alternatives remain available and Egypt has its capabilities.”
Seemingly unfazed by such military threats, Ethiopia plans to finish building the dam, claiming it will provide much-needed energy to impoverished Ethiopians and limit the country’s overall carbon footprint. “[GERD] represents a sustainable socio-economic project for Ethiopia: replacing fossil fuels and reducing CO2 emissions,” the Ethiopian embassy in Washington has asserted.
GERD, however, falls squarely into the category of being a major problem dam — and not just because it could lead to a bloody war in a region already in horrific turmoil. Once filled, its massive reservoir will cover a staggering 1,874 square kilometers, making it more than three-quarters the size of Utah’s Great Salt Lake (after it started to shrink).
Unfortunately, GERD never underwent a proper environmental impact assessment (EIA) despite being legally required to do so. No EIA was ever carried out because the notoriously corrupt Ethiopian government knew that the results wouldn’t be pleasing and was unwilling to let any roadblocks get in the way of the dam’s construction, something that became more obvious when upwards of 20,000 indigenous Gumuz and Berta natives began to be forced from their homes to make way for the monstrous dam.
Publicly coming out against the dam has proven a risky business. Employees of International Rivers, a nonprofit that advocates for people endangered by dams, have been harassed and received death threats in response to their opposition. Prominent Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu, a critic of the dam and the government’s actions concerning it, was imprisoned for more than four years under draconian anti-terrorism laws.
Electric Water Wars
While GERD has created a dicey conflict, it also has international ramifications. China, which has played such a pivotal role in bankrolling hydropower projects globally in these years, has provided $1.2 billion to help the Ethiopians build transmission lines from the dam to nearby towns. Since it has also heavily invested in Egypt, it’s well-positioned, if any country is, to help navigate the GERD dispute.
Military analysts in the United States argue that China’s involvement with the dam is part of a policy meant to put the U.S. at a distinct disadvantage in the race to exploit Africa’s abundant rare earth minerals from the cobalt caverns of the Congo to the vast lithium deposits in Ethiopia’s hinterlands. China, the world’s “largest debt collector,” has indeed poured money into Africa. As of 2021, it was that continent’s largest creditor, holding 20% of its total debt. The growth of Chinese influence internationally and in Africa — it has large infrastructure projects in 35 African countries — is crucial to understanding the latest version of the globe’s imperial geopolitics.
Most of China’s African ventures are connected to Beijing’s “Belt and Road Initiative,” a program of this century to fund infrastructure deals across Eurasia and Africa. Its economic ties to Africa began, however, with Chinese leader Mao Zedong’s push in the 1950s and 1960s for an “Afro-Asian” alliance that would challenge Western imperialism.
So many decades later, the idea of such an alliance plays second fiddle to China’s global economic desires, which, like so many past imperial projects in Africa, have significant downsides for those on the receiving end. Developing countries desperately need capital, so they’re willing to accept rigid terms and conditions from China, even if they represent the latest version of the century’s old colonialism and neo-colonialism that focused on controlling the continent’s rich resources. This is certainly true in the case of China’s hydropower investments in places like Ghana’s Bui Dam and the Congo River Dam in the Republic of Congo, where multi-billion-dollar loans are backed by Congo’s crude oil and Ghana’s cocoa crops.
In 2020, the U.S. belatedly inserted itself into the GERD feud, threatening to cut $130 million in aid for Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism efforts. The Ethiopians believed it was related to the dam controversy, as they also did when, in June 2023, the Biden administration directed USAID to halt all food assistance to the country (upwards of $2 billion), claiming it wasn’t reaching Ethiopians, only to reverse course months later.
The dispute over Ethiopia’s enormous dam should be a warning of what the future holds on a hotter, drier planet, where the rivers that feed dams like GERD are drying up while the superpowers continue to jockey for position, hoping to control what remains of the world’s resources. Hydropower won’t help solve the climate crisis, but new dam projects may lead to war over one thing key to our survival — access to fresh, clean water.

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Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers Signs Bill Ending GOP Gerrymandered Districts

Analyses suggest the state legislature will now more accurately reflect the state’s “purple” status.

Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers signed into law a series of new legislative maps intended to make elections more competitive in the state.
The new maps conclude a several-monthslong legal battle after the state Supreme Court deemed previous maps unconstitutional late in 2023.
The 2023 ruling was made possible by a dramatic ideological shift in the state’s highest court, following the election of liberal Justice Janet Protasiewicz. In the 4-3 ruling, the state Supreme Court found that the maps violated the state’s constitutional rule that all districts drawn up by the state legislature had to be contiguous. Those maps, designed by Republicans, had created districts with several “islands” that were disconnected from their main legislative territories.
Following the ruling, the court mandated that interested parties — including the state legislature, the governor, and other entities involved in the lawsuit that overturned the state legislative maps — submit different ideas for the court to evaluate. The court also stated that it wouldn’t choose new maps if the state legislature and Evers were able to agree on a replacement.
Fearing that the court could enact a map that would disadvantage them more than Evers’s maps, the Republican-dominated state legislature reluctantly approved the governor’s maps last week.

“Republicans were not stuck between a rock and hard place. It was a matter of choosing to be stabbed, shot, poisoned or led to the guillotine,” Republican state Sen. Van Wanggaard said. “We chose to be stabbed, so we can live to fight another day.”
Most Democrats in the state legislature voted against Evers’s maps, fearing that Republicans may be planning a legal challenge that could be won in the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court. In a press conference at which he signed the new maps into law, however, Evers said it was important to sign the maps into law to fulfill campaign pledges he had made to voters.
Evers expressed an optimistic tone, calling it a “new day in Wisconsin, as creating fairer, more competitive maps to match the state’s “purple” status had been a legislative priority of his since 2018.

“To me, the decision to enact these maps boils down to this: I made a promise to the people of Wisconsin that I would always try to do the right thing,” Evers said. “Keeping that promise to me matters most, even if members of my own party disagree with me.”
Wisconsin’s maps were drawn by Republicans in 2011 following the Tea Party wave, and redrawn again following the 2020 census. Several legal experts, including the Gerrymandering Project at Princeton University, widely considered the state to be one of the most gerrymandered in the country. Prior to 2011, the state legislature was somewhat competitive — in the two decades prior to those maps being enacted, for example, the state Senate switched political control four times, with Democrats in control of the chamber a majority of that time. Since the 2011 redrawing, the state Senate has been solely controlled by Republicans, with the gap in seats between the two parties almost two times wider, on average, than it had been in the preceding decade.
According to analysis from The Cap Times, a Madison-based news publication, the new maps will add a number of additional Democratic-leaning Assembly and Senate districts, as well as make other districts in the state much more competitive. Even with these changes, however, Evers’s maps don’t guarantee Democrats will win control of the state legislature — indeed, separate analyses indicate that, while it gives Democrats the possibility of winning, Republicans are still projected to win the legislature in the fall, albeit by much smaller margins compared to the past several election cycles in the state.

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RFK Jr. Super PAC Puts Promoters of Conspiracy Theories on the Payroll

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.A songwriter who produces rap songs with conspiracy theories about Covid; an academic who has championed debunked and bizarre notions about 9/11, the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, the 2020 election, and other public events; a polygraph examiner who wrote a novel tying Russian mobsters and sexual predators who exploit disabled children to a government plot to cover up the tie between vaccines and childhood autism; and the head of an autism activists group who believes pharmaceutical companies, Big Tech, the media, and the government are scheming to acquire total control of humanity—these are some of the people hired as consultants by American Values 2024, the super PAC that’s supporting the independent presidential campaign of Robert Kennedy Jr.
American Values 2024, which spent $7 million to air a controversial pro-RFK Jr. ad during the recent Super Bowl, was co-founded by Mark Gorton, the chair of a computerized trading firm, and Tony Lyons, the head of Skyhorse Publishing, which has published books by Kennedy that promote conspiracy theories and debunked notions about vaccines and Covid. (One big seller: The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health.) In 2022, Skyhorse released a book—with a foreword written by Kennedy—that advanced the unsubstantiated claim that Covid vaccinations have led to an epidemic of “sudden deaths.” Lyons’ firm has also put out books by Alan Dershowitz, Woody Allen, Michael Cohen, and Norman Mailer, as well as several tomes from dirty trickster and Trump-schemer Roger Stone, including Stone’s book claiming that Lyndon Baines Johnson killed John Kennedy. Lyons’ company recently acquired Regnery, a conservative press that has published Donald Trump, Sen. Rand Paul,  Sen. Ted Cruz, and Ann Coulter. The firm proclaims on its website that it “maintains a firm stance against censorship and aims to provide a full spectrum of political, theological, cultural, and philosophical viewpoints to counter the increasingly biased environment in mainstream media.”
Given the close and lucrative relationship connecting Lyons and Skyhorse to Kennedy and his conspiracy-mongering, it may not be surprising that the super PAC Lyons leads has fierce anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists on its payroll. But it is unusual for a political action committee to be home to such a collection of paranoia peddlers. Here’s a list of several.

Gilmore is the head of a nonprofit called the Autism Action Network that grew out of a group of parents of “vaccine-injured children” who maintained there was a link between the use of mercury in vaccines and autism—a notion that public health experts have rejected. AAN is listed as a partner on the website of Children’s Health Defense, the well-funded anti-vax nonprofit that Kennedy has led. In 2021, Gilmore’s group and Children’s Health Defense held an online panel discussion titled “The Covid Vaccine on Trial: If You Only Knew…” that featured Kennedy and other anti-vaxxers. That list included Gilmore, and he asserted that Covid vaccines were part of an immense plot mounted by “oligarchs” worth “literally trillions of dollars” to gain control of the world. Gilmore said: “We’re living in extraordinary times, and we’re also living in dangerous times. With the advent of Covid-19, it is obvious to everyone that big pharma, big media, big tech and big government have coalesced into a tightly interlocked oligarchy unprecedented in American history, or world history for that matter. And the oligarchy has insatiable desire for power. It seeks to control everything: What we see, what we say, what we think, what we buy, what happens to our bodies. And they want to force you to inject Covid-19 shots into your body and to your children’s bodies, but we aren’t going to let that happen.”
In January, Gilmore tweeted, “I wonder how much the Mexican cartels are paying the Biden gang to keep the border open?” In another recent X post, he called Covid “a US financed bioweapons project.” According to American Values 2024’s filings with the Federal Election Commission, in 2023 Gilmore received $157,500 from American Values 2024 for what the super PAC called “management consulting.”

The father of two children with autism, Conte is a board member of the Autism Action Network and a member of the executive leadership team of HealthChoice, a nonprofit that notes on its website that it “embraces a philosophy that sets a goal of zero vaccine and other medical adverse events.” In 2014, he co-wrote a book with Lyons titled Vaccine Injuries that was released by Skyhorse. That year, Skyhorse also published a novel by Conte, The Autism War. In this book, according to the publisher’s description, a suburban cop and father of a child with autism confronts corrupt government officials, the pharmaceutical industry, Russian gangsters, and sex offenders who prey on disabled children to challenge shadowy forces that “viciously attack those who question vaccine safety.” According to his LinkedIn profile, Conte has been an acquisitions editor at Skyhorse since 2014. He also has run a polygraph examination business. The firm’s website—which recently ceased operating—notes that Conte conducts lie detector tests “for pre-employment, personal matters including infidelity, sex offender post conviction, domestic violence, tenant screening and sexual addiction.” American Values 2024 paid Conte, Lyons’ co-author and employee, $52,200 for research services. 

Kozis has worked for Children’s Health Defense. He is a also a rapper who goes by the handle Kozi-19 ; he has written or co-written rap songs that spread conspiracy theories about Covid vaccinations. On “I’m Unvaccinated,” he suggests these vaccinations lead to merging “humans with robots.” On “Pushing Poison,” a reggae-ish song by Venice Beach Dub Club that features Kozi-19, the lead singer claims that Covid vaccines cause blood clots and death, that the scientists advocating vaccination believe “there are too many people living in this world,” that vaccination proponents are “merchants of death” who benefit from “physical distress,” and that these people who are “pushing poison” want control of the world. Kozis was paid $47,600 by American Values 2024 last year for social media consulting. 

A tenured professor of media, culture, and communication at New York University, Miller has been a cheerleader for a variety of conspiracy theories. (Miller considers the term “conspiracy theory” a “meme” used to “discredit people engaged in really necessary kinds of investigation and inquiry.”) Miller, who once was a regular contributor to Harper’s and The Nation, has been a prominent 9/11 truther, claiming the Bush-Cheney administration allowed the attacks to occur to accrue a political advantage. He has promoted the idea that the horrific Sandy Hook school shooting was faked to increase popular support for gun safety measures. He has also  questioned the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. He insists that the Democrats stole the election from Donald Trump in 2020. As the Chronicle of Higher Education noted in a 2021 article headlined, “The Professor of Paranoia,” Miller “suggests the beheading of the journalist James Foley by ISIS combatants was faked” and “excoriates Black Lives Matter as a CIA-funded operation intended to ‘demonize white people’ in order to ‘foment as much violent division as possible.’”
Naturally, Miller applied his conspiracism to the Covid pandemic, decrying lockdowns as “corona-fascism,” assailing mask mandates as “the most successful fear campaign in world history,” and declaring coronavirus vaccines were a “rushed, inhuman witch’s brew of nanoparticles, human DNA (from fetal cells), and toxic adjuvants.” He also suggested that Covid was part of a covert operation to kill off “useless eaters” in nursing homes. In 2020, one of his students complained Miller was pushing Covid disinformation in the classroom and sending students links to “many far-right and conspiracy websites, such as The Charlie Kirk Show, Zero Hedge,…WorldNetDaily.” This sparked a controversy, with faculty members calling for a review of his conduct. Miller claimed “academic freedom” and sued his colleagues for libel. His lawsuit was dismissed last year. The pro-RFK Jr. super PAC paid Miller $3,000 in June for “consulting.”
It’s unclear exactly what these four campaign aides have done for American Values 2024. The descriptions provided in the super PAC’s financial disclosure filings are vague. None of them responded to requests for comments. Asked by Mother Jones to discuss these campaign aides and their work, Lyons replied with a text message: “Our policy is to keep the internal workings, policies and strategies of the super PAC strictly confidential. All payments are of course public information. I’m happy to discuss the Super Bowl ad or why we support Kennedy, what we like about his policies, how our ballot access initiatives are going etc.”
While Mother Jones was reporting this article, it was contacted by Michael Kane, who identified himself as the grassroots manager for American Values 2024 and an employee of Children’s Health Defense. He attacked Mother Jones‘ coverage of both the anti-vax movement and Russia’s covert operation to help Donald Trump during the 2016 election. He insisted that the terms “anti-vax” and “conspiracy theorist” are “slurs.” (Kane, a founder of the anti-vax group Teachers for Choice, recently published on Instagram a post suggesting that Bill Gates and Bill Clinton are on “#TeamPedophile.”) Mother Jones asked Kane if he could provide details about Gilmore, Conte, Kozis, and Miller. “Send me an email,” he said. Kane did not respond to a subsequent email. Kane was paid at least $52,7000 by American Values 2024 for communications consulting and grassroots organizing in the last five months of 2023, according to FEC records. 
For years, Kennedy has sat atop an empire that disseminates false information and encourages conspiracy theories. And it’s been a profitable enterprise. Children’s Health Defense raised $23.5 million in 2022, and Skyhorse presumably has made millions of dollars publishing his books for readers who reside within Kennedy’s anti-vax cosmos. Now veterans of that world are making money off the Kennedy campaign, as the super PAC and the campaign each haul in millions of dollars.
Recently, Kennedy hired Del Bigtree, one of most notorious anti-vaxxers, to be his campaign’s communications director. Bigtree produced an anti-vax film that has been debunked. He has said that tycoon John D. Rockefeller, back in the day, tried to “seize control of humanity through the regulation of medicine.” He recently sent a letter to supporters calling the Covid pandemic “the greatest psychological operation the world has ever experienced” and asserted that “in order to stop the globalist’s New World Order, we need a miracle.” He hailed Kennedy as that miracle. Bigtree has also been an election denier. On January 6, 2021, he spoke at a “MAGA Freedom Rally DC,” a block from the Capitol, and declared election machines did not work. In the second half of last year, the Kennedy campaign paid Bigtree’s company, KFP Consulting, $128,550 for communications consulting, according to FEC records.
Conspiracism resides at the center of Kennedy’s politics. As he has steered his paranoia- and misinformation-drenched movement into the political realm, his comrades in conspiracy have joined him for what appears to be a profitable ride. 

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