Category Archives: Fire This Time

The “Quaker Scout”: Highlighting A Very Relevant Piece of Quaker History

In 1848 Quaker farmer Jonathan Roberts moved his family south from New Jersey to a new farm in northern VA in 1848. He arrived with high hopes and even higher ideals.

The new spread adjoined George Washington’s Mt. Vernon plantation, already a historic site for the still-young nation. Yet with its distinguished lineage, the property brought its characteristic issues: the fields had been exploited to grow tobacco, which brought quick profits but depleted the soil; and the white owners had been corrupted by maintaining themselves and their culture on a system of enslaved labor and chronic indebtedness.

The more scarred the land became and the deeper in debt many planters sank, the more belligerent they had become in their system’s defense, threatening rebellion and war if it were at all disturbed or upset.

By acquiring land among them, Roberts intended to change all that: renew the soil and make it sustainably profitable; do so entirely with free labor; thereby they would show the slaveowners a way out of debt and the thrall of their brutal human commerce. This would undermine and banish the slavery system, not overnight, but by invincible example and thus without falling prey to the scourge of war. Continue reading The “Quaker Scout”: Highlighting A Very Relevant Piece of Quaker History

Quote of The Day: A teacher Who Dreads Carrying A Gun to Class

By 

Ms. Fennelly, the former poet laureate of Mississippi, teaches at the University of Mississippi:

Last year, one of my students turned 21, and her friends tied two giant Mylar balloons, a “2” and a “1,” to her chair to celebrate. Later, deep in our discussion of John Donne, we heard what sounded like a gun shot. Everyone jumped. A few screamed. One student — I can see him still — hit the floor.

When we realized, all of us, that our active shooter was none other than an exploding Mylar “2,” there was a painful pause. Then we laughed a shaky laugh, and I slowly resumed the discussion.

I wish I hadn’t. I wish I’d given them the rest of class to share how difficult it is to learn when one is always listening for a bullet.

From “I Love My Students, but I Won’t Use a Gun to Protect Them,” New York Times

Pelosi & Taiwan: Curtain Raiser On A New Nuclear Suspense Drama?

Taiwan – Nancy Pelosi’s Last Hurrah

Gwynne Dyer — Aug 04 2022

People walk past a billboard welcoming U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in Taipei, Taiwan, Tuesday, August 2, 2022. Pelosi . . . becomes the highest-ranking American official in 25 years to visit the self-ruled island claimed by China, which quickly announced that it would conduct military maneuvers in retaliation for her presence.
CHIANG YING-YING/AP

Gwynne Dyer is a UK-based Canadian journalist and seasoned commentator on international affairs.

OPINION: Nancy Pelosi’s brief visit to Taiwan this week caused
great if somewhat confected anger in Beijing, but the Chinese Communist regime was not her main target. Continue reading Pelosi & Taiwan: Curtain Raiser On A New Nuclear Suspense Drama?

Gwynne Dyer on James Lovelock, father of “Gaia”

GWYNNE DYER, August 2, 2022:

Gazing into the future of Gaia — Revolutionary thinker James Lovelock was truly Darwin’s heir.

‘Jim Lovelock’s blunt predictions of global climate disaster were once seen as exaggerated, but he understood what was really happening.’ He died on July 27, on his 103rd birthday. (Images via Reuters)

Scientist and inventor James Lovelock, 94, sits with one of his early inventions, a homemade Gas Chromatography device, used for measuring gas and molecules present in the atmosphere.

 

Jim Lovelock was a late bloomer.

His first book, Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, was published in 1979, when he was already 60 years old. By the time he died last week, on his 103rd birthday, he had written 10 more books on Gaia, the hypothesis that has evolved into the key academic discipline of Earth System Science.

That gives him a strong claim to be Charles Darwin’s legitimate heir. Just as Darwin’s 19th-century theory of evolution shaped our understanding of how life became so diverse, our understanding of the present is shaped by Lovelock’s idea that the millions of living species function as a self-regulating mechanism that keeps the planet cool enough for abundant life.

The puzzle that started Lovelock down that road was the fact that the sun’s radiation has increased by 30 per cent since life appeared on Earth 3.7 billion years ago, while the planet’s average temperature, despite occasional huge surges up or down, has consistently returned to the narrow range most suitable for life.

What was making that happen?

Gwynne Dyer

Collaborating with American biologist Lynn Margulis in the 1970s, he worked out a tentative description of the super-organism he named Gaia and wrote his first book. Most scientists treated it with disdain because he was not a biologist, but also because Gaia had New-Age connotations that he was unaware of. (Jim was not a hippy.) Continue reading Gwynne Dyer on James Lovelock, father of “Gaia”

Shining Light on the New Church of Rightwing Dark Money

ProPublica: A Right-Wing Think Tank Claimed to Be a Church. Now, Members of Congress Want to Investigate

Andrea Suizzo — August 2, 2022

Forty members of Congress on Monday asked the IRS and the Treasury to investigate what the lawmakers termed an “alarming pattern” of right-wing advocacy groups registering with the tax agency as churches, a move that allows the organizations to shield themselves from some financial reporting requirements and makes it easier to avoid audits.

Reps. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., and Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., raised transparency concerns in a letter to the heads of both agencies following a ProPublica story about the Family Research Council, a right-wing Christian think tank based in Washington, D.C., getting reclassified as a church. Thirty-eight other lawmakers, including Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Jamie Raskin, D-Md., signed onto the letter.

“FRC is one example of an alarming pattern in the last decade — right-wing advocacy groups self-identifying as ‘churches’ and applying for and receiving church status,” the representatives wrote, noting the organization’s policy work supporting the overturning of Roe v. Wade and its advocacy for legislation seeking to ban gender-affirming surgery.

“Tax-exempt organizations should not be exploiting tax laws applicable to churches to avoid public accountability and the IRS’s examination of their activities,” they wrote.

The Family Research Council did not respond to requests for comment. The IRS told ProPublica that it does not comment on congressional correspondence.

The FRC’s website describes the organization as “a nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to articulating and advancing a family-centered philosophy of public life,” noting that it provides “policy research and analysis for the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal government.” Continue reading Shining Light on the New Church of Rightwing Dark Money

Russia, Sanctions, The War, and Sifting for Truth

Given that I’m but a humble news aggregator-blogger, sifting for truth in the reams and sheafs of claims and counterclaims about the Ukraine War is a never-ending chore:

> Ukraine is winning! Nope-Russia is winning.

> Putin will use nukes any minute! Relax; he wouldn’t dare.

> The Ukraine war is really helping China. Fuggedit — the war is hurting  China.

Etc.

My apologies, but I have no answers for these. The questions don’t away, and  maybe some clarity will come in time. As telephone operators said when I was a kid looking for a phone number (YES, there were such persons, and they really did that), “Still checking. . . .”

Today’s query is maybe second-tier in the continuing parade of headlines, but it’s important enough: Are the sanctions on Russia really crippling its economy and strangling the invasion war effort?

It’s easy to find overblown rhetoric about them:

Forbes: “the worst-ever sanctions against the country. . . ”

Bloomberg: “Russia Sanctions Deal Economy Worst Hit Since Covid Pandemic”

CSMonitor: Russia may be the most sanctioned country ever.

And so on.

And so it also is with gauging the effect of sanctions, which were sold to the publics in the U.S. and Europe as a meaningful, potent alternative to an actual land war with Russia there. Is it so? Has it been?

The bad news first, from across the pond:

The Guardian — The rouble is soaring and Putin is stronger than ever – our sanctions have backfired

Energy prices are rocketing, inflation is soaring and millions are being starved of grain. . . .

Western sanctions against Russia are the most ill-conceived and counterproductive policy in recent international history.

Military aid to Ukraine is justified, but the economic war is ineffective against the regime in Moscow, and devastating for its unintended targets. World energy prices are rocketing, inflation is soaring, supply chains are chaotic and millions are being starved of gas, grain and fertiliser. Yet Vladimir Putin’s barbarity only escalates – as does his hold over his own people.

To criticise western sanctions is close to anathema. Defence analysts are dumb on the subject. Strategy thinktanks are silent. Britain’s putative leaders, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, compete in belligerent rhetoric, promising ever tougher sanctions without a word of purpose. Yet, hint at scepticism on the subject and you will be excoriated as “pro-Putin” and anti-Ukraine. Sanctions are the war cry of the west’s crusade.

The reality of sanctions on Russia is that they invite retaliation. Putin is free to freeze Europe this winter. He has slashed supply from major pipelines such as Nord Stream 1 by up to 80%. World oil prices have surged and eastern Europe’s flow of wheat and other foodstuffs to Africa and Asia has been all but suspended.

Britain’s domestic gas bills face tripling inside a year. The chief beneficiary is none other than Russia, whose energy exports to Asia have soared, driving its balance of payments into unprecedented surplus.

The rouble is one of the world’s strongest currencies this year, having strengthened since January by nearly 50%. Moscow’s overseas assets have been frozen and its oligarchs have relocated their yachts, but there is no sign that Putin cares. He has no electorate to worry him.

The interdependence of the world’s economies, so long seen as an instrument of peace, has been made a weapon of war. Politicians around the Nato table have been wisely cautious about escalating military aid to Ukraine. They understand military deterrence. Yet they appear total ingenues on economics. Here they all parrot Dr Strangelove. They want to bomb Russia’s economy “back to the stone age”.

I would be intrigued to know if any paper was ever submitted to Boris Johnson’s cabinet forecasting the likely outcome for Britain of Russian sanctions. The assumption seems to be that if trade embargos hurt they are working. As they do not directly kill people, they are somehow an acceptable form of aggression.

They are based on a neo-imperial assumption that western countries are entitled to order the world as they wish. They are enforced, if not through gunboats, then through capitalist muscle in a globalised economy. Since they are mostly imposed on small, weak states soon out of the headlines, their purpose has largely been of “feelgood” symbolism.

A rare student of this subject is the American economic historian Nicholas Mulder, who points out that more than 30 sanctions “wars” in the past 50 years have had minimal if not counterproductive impact. They are meant to “intimidate peoples into restraining their princes”. If anything they have had the opposite effect.

From Cuba to Korea, Myanmar to Iran, Venezuela to Russia, autocratic regimes have been entrenched, elites strengthened and freedoms crushed. Sanctions seem to instil stability and self-reliance on even their weakest victim. Almost all the world’s oldest dictatorships have benefited from western sanctions.

Moscow is neither small nor weak. Another observer, the Royal United Services Institute’s Russia expert Richard Connolly, has charted Putin’s response to the sanctions imposed on him since his 2014 seizure of Crimea and Donbas. Their objective was to change Russia’s course in those regions and deter further aggression. Their failure could hardly be more glaring.

Apologists excuse this as due to the embargos being too weak. The present ones, perhaps the toughest ever imposed on a major world power, may not be working yet, but will apparently work in time. They are said to be starving Russia of microchips and drone spares. They will soon have Putin begging for peace.

If Putin begs, it will be on the battlefield. At home, Connolly illustrates how Russia is “slowly adjusting to its new circumstances”. Sanctions have promoted trade with China, Iran and India. They have benefited “insiders connected to Putin and the ruling entourage, making huge profits from import substitution”.

McDonald’s locations across the country have been replaced by a Russian-owned chain called Vkusno & tochka (“Tasty and that’s it”). Of course the economy is weaker, but Putin is, if anything, stronger while sanctions are cohering a new economic realm across Asia, embracing an ever enhanced role for China. Was this forecast?

Meanwhile, the west and its peoples have been plunged into recession. Leadership has been shaken and insecurity spread in Britain, France, Italy and the US. Gas-starved Germany and Hungary are close to dancing to Putin’s tune. Living costs are escalating everywhere.

Yet still no one dares question sanctions. It is sacrilege to admit their failure or conceive retreat. The west has been enticed into the timeless irony of aggression. Eventually its most conspicuous victim is the aggressor. Perhaps, after all, we should stick to war.

  • Simon Jenkins is a Guardian columnist

Hmmm. Haven’t worked; never worked anyway?
We’ll leave the past sanctions in the past. But some heavyweights in Foreign Policy magazine say, “rubbish and fiddlesticks” to Jenkins and his ilk. Rather, i these excerpts they insist:

Actually, the Russian Economy Is Imploding: Nine myths about the effects of sanctions and business retreats, debunked:

By , the Lester Crown professor in management practice and a senior associate dean at the Yale School of Management, and , the director of research at the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute.

JULY 22, 2022
Five months into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there remains a startling lack of understanding by many Western policymakers and commentators of the economic dimensions of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion and what it has meant for Russia’s economic positioning both domestically and globally.

Far from being ineffective or disappointing, as many have argued, international sanctions and voluntary business retreats have exerted a devastating effect over Russia’s economy. The deteriorating economy has served as a powerful if underappreciated complement to the deteriorating political landscape facing Putin.

That these misunderstandings persist is not entirely surprising given the lack of available economic data. In fact, many of the excessively sanguine Russian economic analyses, forecasts, and projections that have proliferated in recent months share a crucial methodological flaw: These analyses draw most, if not all, of their underlying evidence from periodic economic releases by the Russian government itself. Numbers released by the Kremlin have long been held to be largely if not always credible, but there are certain problems.

First, the Kremlin’s economic releases are becoming increasingly cherry-picked—partial and incomplete, selectively tossing out unfavorable metrics. The Russian government has progressively withheld an increasing number of key statistics that, prior to the war, were updated on a monthly basis, including all foreign trade data. . . particularly with Europe; oil and gas monthly output data; commodity export quantities; capital inflows and outflows . . .[and much more].

Since the Kremlin stopped releasing updated numbers, constraining the availability of economic data . . . , many excessively rosy economic forecasts have irrationally extrapolated economic releases from the early days of the invasion, when sanctions. . .  had not taken full effect. Even those favorable statistics that have been released are dubious, given the political pressure the Kremlin has exerted to corrupt statistical integrity.

Mindful of the dangers of accepting Kremlin statistics at face value, our team of experts, using private Russian-language and direct data sources. . . have released one of the first comprehensive economic analyses measuring Russian current economic activity five months into the invasion. . . .

From our analysis, it becomes clear: Business retreats and sanctions are crushing the Russian economy in the short term and the long term. Based on our research, we are able to challenge nine widely held but misleading myths about Russia’s supposed economic resilience.

Myth 1: Russia can redirect its gas exports and sell to Asia in lieu of Europe.

This is one of Putin’s favorite and most misleading talking points, doubling down on a much-hyped pivot to the east. But natural gas is not a fungible export for Russia. Less than 10 percent of Russia’s gas capacity is liquefied natural gas, so Russian gas exports remain reliant on a system of fixed pipelines carrying piped gas.

The vast majority of Russia’s pipelines flow toward Europe; those pipelines, which originate in western Russia, are not connectable to a separate nascent network of pipelines that link Eastern Siberia to Asia. . . . Indeed, the 16.5 billion cubic meters of gas exported by Russia to China last year represented less than 10 percent of the 170 billion cubic meters of natural gas sent by Russia to Europe.

Long-planned Asian pipeline projects currently under construction are still years away from becoming operational, much less hastily initiated new projects, and financing of these costly gas pipeline projects also now puts Russia at a significant disadvantage.

Overall, Russia needs world markets far more than the world needs Russian supplies. . . . Indeed, the Russian state energy company Gazprom’s published data shows production is already down more than 35 percent year-on-year this month. For all Putin’s energy blackmail of Europe, he is doing so at significant financial cost to his own coffers.

Myth 2: Since oil is more fungible than gas, Putin can just sell more to Asia.

Russian oil exports now also reflect Putin’s diminished economic and geopolitical clout. Recognizing that Russia has nowhere else to turn, and mindful that they have more purchasing options than Russia has buyers, China and India are driving an unprecedented approximately $35 discount on Russian Urals oil purchases, even though the historical spread has never ranged beyond $5. . . . Furthermore, it takes Russian oil tankers an average of 35 days to reach East Asia, versus two to seven days to reach Europe, which is why historically only 39 percent of Russian oil has gone to Asia . . . .

This margin pressure is felt keenly by Russia, as it remains a relatively high-cost producer . . . with some of the highest break-evens of any producing country. . . . There is no doubt that, as many energy experts predicted, Russia is losing its status as an energy superpower, with an irrevocable deterioration in its strategic economic positioning as an erstwhile reliable supplier of commodities.

Myth 3: Russia is making up for lost Western businesses and imports by replacing them with imports from Asia.

Imports play an important role within Russia’s domestic economy, consisting of about 20 percent of Russian GDP, and, despite Putin’s bellicose delusions of total self-sufficiency, the country needs crucial inputs, parts, and technology from hesitant trade partners. Despite some lingering supply chain leakiness, Russian imports have collapsed by over 50 percent in recent months.

China has not moved into the Russian market to the extent that many feared; in fact. . . Chinese exports to Russia plummeted by more than 50 percent from the start of the year to April, falling from over $8.1 billion monthly to $3.8 billion. Considering China exports seven times as much to the United States than Russia, it appears that even Chinese companies are more concerned about running afoul of U.S. sanctions . . . reflecting Russia’s weak economic hand with its global trade partners.

Myth 4: Russian domestic consumption and consumer health remain strong.

Some of the sectors most dependent on international supply chains have been hit with debilitating inflation around 40-60 percent—on extremely low sales volumes. For example, foreign car sales in Russia fell by an average of 95 percent across major car companies, with sales ground to a complete halt.

Amid supply shortages, soaring prices, and fading consumer sentiment, it is hardly surprising that Russian Purchasing Managers’ Index readings—which capture how purchasing managers are viewing the economy—have plunged, particularly for new orders, alongside plunges in consumer spending and retail sales data by around 20 percent year-over-year. Other readings of high-frequency data such as e-commerce sales within Yandex and same-store traffic at retail sites across Moscow reinforce steep declines in consumer spending and sales, no matter what the Kremlin says.

Myth 5: Global businesses have not really pulled out of Russia, and business, capital, and talent flight from Russia are overstated.

Global businesses represent around 12 percent of Russia’s workforce (5 million workers), and. . . over 1,000 companies representing around 40 percent of Russia’s GDP have curtailed operations in the country, reversing three decades’ worth of foreign investment and buttressing unprecedented simultaneous capital and talent flight in a mass exodus of 500,000 individuals, many of whom are exactly the highly educated, technically skilled workers Russia cannot afford to lose. . . .

Myth 6: Putin is running a budget surplus thanks to high energy prices.

Russia is actually on pace to run a budget deficit this year equivalent to 2 percent of GDP, according to its own finance minister. . .thanks to Putin’s unsustainable spending spree; on top of dramatic increases in military spending, Putin is resorting to patently unsustainable, dramatic fiscal and monetary intervention, including a laundry list of Kremlin pet projects, all of which have contributed to the money supply nearly doubling in Russia since the invasion began. Putin’s reckless spending is clearly putting Kremlin finances under strain.

Myth 7: Putin has hundreds of billions of dollars in rainy day funds, so the Kremlin’s finances are unlikely to be strained anytime soon.

The most obvious challenge facing Putin’s rainy day funds is the fact that of his around $600 billion in foreign exchange reserves. . .  $300 billion is frozen and out of reach with allied countries across the United States, Europe, and Japan restricting access. There have been some calls to seize this $300 billion to finance the reconstruction of Ukraine.

Putin’s remaining foreign exchange reserves are decreasing at an alarming rate, by around $75 billion since the start of the war. . . .

Furthermore, although the finance ministry had planned to reinstate a long-standing Russian budgetary rule that surplus revenue from oil and gas sales should be channeled into the sovereign wealth fund, Putin axed this proposal . . . as Finance Minister Anton Siluanov floated the idea of withdrawing funds from the National Wealth Fund equivalent to a third of the entire fund to pay for this deficit this year. If Russia is running a budget deficit requiring the drawdown of a third of its sovereign wealth fund when oil and gas revenues are still relatively strong, all signs indicate a Kremlin that may be running out of money much faster than conventionally appreciated.

Myth 8: The ruble is the world’s strongest-performing currency this year.

One of Putin’s favorite propaganda talking points, the appreciation of the ruble is an artificial reflection of unprecedented, draconian capital control—which rank among the most restrictive of any in the world. The restrictions make it effectively impossible for any Russian to legally purchase dollars or even access a majority of their dollar deposits, while artificially inflating demand through forced purchases by major exporters—all of which remain largely in place today.

The official exchange rate is misleading, anyhow, as the ruble is, unsurprisingly, trading at dramatically diminished volumes compared to before the invasion on low liquidity. By many reports, much of this erstwhile trading has migrated to unofficial ruble black markets. Even the Bank of Russia has admitted that the exchange rate is a reflection more of government policies and a blunt expression of the country’s trade balance rather than freely tradeable liquid foreign exchange markets.

Myth 9: The implementation of sanctions and business retreats are now largely done, and no more economic pressure is needed.

Russia’s economy has been severely damaged, but the business retreats and sanctions applied against Russia are incomplete. Even with the deterioration in Russia’s exports positioning, it continues to draw too much oil and gas revenue from the sanctions carveout, which sustains Putin’s extravagant domestic spending and obfuscates structural economic weaknesses.

The Kyiv School of Economics and Yermak-McFaul International Working Group have led the way in proposing additional sanctions measures across individual sanctions, energy sanctions . . . . Looking ahead, there is no path out of economic oblivion for Russia as long as the allied countries remain unified in maintaining and increasing sanctions pressure against Russia.

Defeatist headlines arguing that Russia’s economy has bounced back are simply not factual—the facts are that, by any metric and on any level, the Russian economy is reeling, and now is not the time to step on the brakes.

So — which is right? Sanctions are a boomerang failure, hurting the West and U.S. as much as or more than Putin’s Russia? Or behind a propaganda smokescreen, they’re taking him and “his” economy down rapidly?

I hope it’s the latter, but the work of following the war’s impact within Russia and in the rest of the world is up to those of us who are trying to make sense of this turbulent, dangerous scene.

And what should we look for from  our own policymakers?

Maybe the wisest summary was this offhand remark by a supposedly canny business journal:

Forbes: What comes next is anybody’s guess.

 

 

Ex-Cops Sentenced in George Floyd Case

AP News: Floyd family, others see inequality in penalties for ex-cops

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Three former Minneapolis police officers went before a federal judge during the last week to be sentenced for violating George Floyd’s civil rights, and for each man, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson handed out penalties well below what prosecutors sought and below federal guidelines.

Tou Thao, who held back concerned bystanders as Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck, got 3 1/2 years. J. Alexander Kueng, who pinned Floyds back, got three. And Thomas Lane, who held Floyds feet and asked twice about rolling the Black man on his side, got 2 1/2.

For some Floyd family members and activists, the penalties were too small — and a bitter reminder of a justice system they say does not treat all people equally.

“Once again, our judicial system favored people that should be locked up forever,Floyds uncle, Selwyn Jones, said Thursday. The officers, he said, “contributed to the most brutal, heinous killing in most of our lifetimes.”

Floyd, 46, died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin, who is white, knelt on his neck for 9 1/2 minutes as Floyd repeatedly said he couldnt breathe and eventually grew still. The killing, recorded by bystanders, sparked protests worldwide and a reckoning over racial injustice in policing.

DEATH OF GEORGE FLOYD
Excops Kueng, Thao sentenced for violating Floyd’s rights
Ruling may mean less time for 2 who violated Floyds rights
EXPLAINER: Not unusual for excop to report later for prison
Excop Lane gets 2 1/2 years for violating Floyds rights
Chauvin, who pleaded guilty to a federal count in which he admitted willfully depriving Floyd of his right to be free from unreasonable seizure, was sentenced to 21 years for that and for an unrelated case involving a 14yearold boy.

Lane, Thao and Kueng were all convicted of depriving Floyd of medical care; Kueng and Thao were also convicted on a second count of failing to intervene. When issuing sentences in cases that include multiple defendants, judges have to look at each defendants level of culpability and issue sentences that are proportional. Legal experts who spoke to The Associated Press did not expect any of them to receive sentences as long as Chauvins.

Mark Osler, a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law and former federal prosecutor, called the sentences for the three “groundbreaking, saying its rare for officers who dont directly commit killings to be held accountable.

Paris Stevens, Floyds cousin and a cochair of the George Floyd Global Memorial, said she didnt think Lane, Kueng and Thao should have gotten the same penalty as Chauvin — but the sentences they got were too low. She said police officers should be punished more harshly because of the power they hold, and said the three men could have helped Floyd, but didnt.

“They stood by and kind of watched,” she said.

Stevens saw favoritism in Magnusons sentences.

“I think all officers get favoritism in the court of law. Because historically that’s the way it’s played out,” she said.

At their sentencing hearings, Magnuson said Lane, who is white, and Kueng, who is Black, were rookies. He called Thao, who is Hmong American, a “good police officer, father and husband.” While he said the officers were culpable for violating Floyd’s rights, Magnuson also mentioned numerous letters of support that each officer received.

And during Chauvins sentencing, Magnuson appeared to suggest that Chauvin bore the most blame in the case, telling him: “You absolutely destroyed the lives of three young officers by taking command of the scene.”

Toshira Garroway, an activist who attended the sentencing hearings on Wednesday to support Floyd’s girlfriend, took exception to Magnusons assessment of Thao as “a good police officer, father and husband.

“That was irrelevant to what he did on May 25, 2020,” Garroway said.

Ayesha Bell Hardaway, who directs the Social Justice Law Center at Case Western Reserve University, said the judge “seemed to really have lost track of what occurred during those 9 minutes and 30 seconds and what she called an “egregious” killing.

She said Floyd’s killing sparked widespread awareness of the harm that excessive force and tactics can have, but worried that the sentences will undermine momentum for police reform.

“When someone dies and we’re only talking about the potential of two years in prison, I think there’s a strong concern, a wellfounded concern, that this removes the motivation for police to be more mindful of the way they choose to use force against individuals on the street,” Hardaway said.

Osler said any prison time for a police officer would likely make other officers think twice about declining to intervene.

“We should hope that it has the impact of changing behavior and prodding them to intervene when a life can be saved,” he said.

Angela Harrelson, an aunt of Floyd’s, said the judge showed favoritism when he allowed the three men to remain free pending sentencing and afterward — although that is frequently done in federal cases. Still, she celebrated the guilty verdicts as progress toward holding police accountable for their actions.

There’s a lot of triumphs that have been made in pushing forward. We are on the right track and police officers are being held accountable,” Harrelson said. “For Black and brown people, we are dismantling the system. It is peeling away before our eyes.”

In separate proceedings in state court, Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter and was sentenced to a 22 1/2 years, which is being served at the same time as his federal sentence. Lane pleaded guilty in state court to one count of aiding and abetting seconddegree manslaughter and is awaiting sentencing there. Kueng and Thao face an Oct. 24 trial on charges of aiding and abetting both murder and manslaughter.
___

Groves reported from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Associated Press/Report for America reporter Trisha Ahmed contributed from Minneapolis.

War Notes: Russian Jewish Community facing “dark clouds” over Ukraine war

Moscow’s ex-chief rabbi warns of ‘dark clouds’ for Russian Jews

Issued on:


Jerusalem (AFP) –
Moscow’s former chief rabbi now living in exile in Israel warned Thursday of “dark clouds on the horizon” for Russian Jews, as ties between the two countries deteriorate over the Ukraine war.

Pinchas Goldschmidt, who left Russia in March over opposition to the conflict, told reporters that “the Jewish community was pressured… to openly support the war. Our community did not support the war.”

“The situation is worrying” and there are “many dark clouds on the horizon” for Russian Jews, he said, adding that their “security and future… is dependent on Israel-Russia relations”.

Israel has been trying to walk a cautious line in order to maintain ties with Moscow — seen as crucial to preserving the Jewish state’s ability to carry out air strikes in neighbouring Syria, where Russian forces are present.

“Right now, it would be impossible for me to return,” the Swiss-born rabbi told an online briefing, adding: “If I would have (remained) the chief rabbi of Moscow, I wouldn’t be able to speak out openly without endangering my community.”

“I decided to stay in exile until the political situation will change.”

Following the February 24 invasion, then Israeli premier Naftali Bennett withheld criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions and stressed the need for close ties with Moscow.

But Bennett’s successor Yair Lapid has condemned the Russian invasion.

Analysts say Lapid’s rhetoric has partly driven Moscow’s move to close the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency, which processes the immigration of Jews from the diaspora to Israel.

Lapid has warned Moscow that the closure would be a “serious event” threatening bilateral ties.

The Kremlin has said the move should not be “politicised”, calling it a purely legal matter.

According to the Jewish Agency, 16,000 Russian Jews have immigrated to Israel since the invasion began.

‘Fear of rising anti-Semitism’

Goldschmidt estimated that more than 30,000 other dual passport holders had left Russia for Israel since February 24.

Jews were leaving Russia in high numbers partly over fears of a new “Iron Curtain — that one day (it) will be impossible to leave”, the rabbi said, articulating what he described as concern among Jews that Putin’s government could ban outbound travel.

He said Moscow’s moves against the Jewish Agency, among other incidents, had fostered “fear of rising anti-Semitism”.

Some experts have attributed Russia’s threats against the agency as part of an attempt to slow mass emigration.

“If Russia wants to stop the brain drain of its best scientists and creative class, the best way to do this is not by closing the Jewish Agency, but by stopping this war,” Goldschmidt said.

At a preliminary hearing on Thursday, a Moscow court set an August 19 trial date for the Russian justice ministry’s case against the agency, which has been accused of unspecified legal violations.

The Jewish Agency began working in Russia in 1989.

More than one million of Israel’s 9.4 million residents today have roots in the former Soviet Union.

Israel & the Killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

 

Opinion by Lina Abu Akleh
 — July 27, 2022

Lina Abu Akleh is Shireen Abu Akleh’s niece.
Earlier this year, I began planning a summer trip from Jerusalem to the United States with my aunt. I was excited for her to show me cities she knew well and loved, including Washington.
I am now in Washington, but without my aunt, the renowned Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. All evidence indicates she was killed by an Israeli soldier in the occupied West Bank town of Jenin on May 11, just after she arrived to report on an Israeli military incursion. Instead of visiting monuments and museums with my aunt, I am in D.C. calling for justice and accountability for her death.

An image of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

Since that horrible day when Shireen was shot in the space between her protective helmet and bulletproof vest clearly marked as PRESS, my family has called on the U.S. government to conduct an independent, thorough and transparent investigation into the killing.

It is a testament to Shireen’s impact and inspiration as an iconic and groundbreaking journalist that dozens of members of Congress have asked for the same. Yet until now, the Biden administration has refused. After meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday, we hope President Biden will reconsider and finally act.

There have been multiple investigations by the United Nations, human rights organizations and major international news organizations, all concluding that Shireen was almost certainly killed by an Israeli sniper, and that the entrance of the Jenin refugee camp was quiet when she was shot.
Yet I read with bewilderment a statement that the Biden administration issued on July 4. Based on reviewing and summarizing the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority’s investigations, the United States concluded that Israel was likely responsible for my aunt’s killing, but that there was no reason to believe that it was intentional.
 Continue reading Israel & the Killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh