Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, March 18, 2024


March and Rally, Saturday, March 2, 2024, San Francisco

See Gaza Strip Access Restrictions.pdf since 2007 at:


Palestinians killed and wounded by Israel:
As of March 18, 2024the total number of Palestinians killed by Israel is now over 31,726,* 73,792 wounded, and more than 435 Palestinians have been killed and 4,600 wounded by Israel in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.***  The Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) and the Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Commission released a new tally of Palestinians detained by "Israel", revealing that the number of Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank has risen to more than 6,115.

Israel lowers its estimated October 7 death toll from 1,400 to 1,147—591 Israeli soldiers killed since ground invasion, 3,221 wounded**

*This figure was confirmed by Gaza’s Ministry of Health on Telegram channel. Some rights groups put the death toll number at more than 40,000 when accounting for those presumed dead.

** This figure is released by the Israeli military, showing the soldiers whose names “were allowed to be published.”

*** The death toll in West Bank and Jerusalem is not updated regularly. According to PA’s Ministry of Health on March 6, this is the latest figure.

Source: mondoweiss.net




*Major Announcement*

Claudia De la Cruz wins

Peace and Freedom Party primary in California!

We have an exciting announcement. The votes are still being counted in California, but the Claudia-Karina “Vote Socialist” campaign has achieved a clear and irreversible lead in the Peace and Freedom Party primary. Based on the current count, Claudia has 46% of the vote compared to 40% for Cornel West. A significant majority of PFP’s newly elected Central Committee, which will formally choose the nominee at its August convention, have also pledged their support to the Claudia-Karina campaign.


We are excited to campaign in California now and expect Claudia De la Cruz to be the candidate on the ballot of the Peace and Freedom Party in November.


We achieved another big accomplishment this week - we’re officially on the ballot in Hawai’i! This comes after also petitioning to successfully gain ballot access in Utah. We are already petitioning in many other states. Each of these achievements is powered by the tremendous effort of our volunteers and grassroots organizers across the country. When we’re organized, people power can move mountains!


We need your help to keep the momentum going. Building a campaign like this takes time, energy, and money. We know that our class enemies — the billionaires, bankers, and CEO’s — put huge sums toward loyal politicians and other henchmen who defend their interests. They will use all the money and power at their disposal to stop movements like ours. As an independent, socialist party, our campaign is relying on contributions from the working class and people like you.


We call on each and every one of our supporters to set up a monthly or one-time donation to support this campaign to help it keep growing and reaching more people. A new socialist movement, independent of the Democrats and Republicans, is being built but it will only happen when we all pitch in.


The Claudia-Karina campaign calls to end all U.S. aid to Israel. End this government’s endless wars. We want jobs for all, with union representation and wages that let us live with dignity. Housing, healthcare, and education for all - without the lifelong debt. End the ruthless attacks on women, Black people, immigrants, and LGBTQ people. These are just some of the demands that are resonating across the country. Help us take the next step: 


Volunteer: https://votesocialist2024.com/volunteer


Donate: https://votesocialist2024.com/donate


See you in the streets,


Claudia & Karina


Don't Forget! Join our telegram channel for regular updates: https://t.me/+KtYBAKgX51JhNjMx



We are all Palestinian

Listen and view this beautiful, powerful, song by Mistahi Corkill on YouTube at:



Here is my new song and music video, We are all Palestinian, linked below. If you find it inspiring, please feel free to share with others. All the best!


Thousands at stadium sing, "You'll Never Walk Alone," and wave Palestinian flags in Scotland.

We are all Palestinian



Labor for Palestine

Thousands of labor representatives marched Saturday, December 16, in Oakland, California. —Photo by Leon Kunstenaar

Video of December 16th Labor rally for Palestine.


Bay Area Unions and Workers Rally and March For Palestine In Oakland


For More Information:


Production of Labor Video Project





Just Like The Nazis Did

By David Rovics


After so many decades of patronage

By the world’s greatest empire

So many potential agreements

Were rejected by opening fire

After crushing so many uprisings

Now they’re making their ultimate bid

Pursuing their Final Solution

Just like the Nazis did


They forced refugees into ghettos

Then set the ghettos aflame

Murdering writers and poets

And so no one remember their names

Killing their entire families

The grandparents, women and kids

The uncles and cousins and babies

Just like the Nazis did


They’re bombing all means of sustaining

Human life at all

See the few shelters remaining

Watch as the tower blocks fall

They’re bombing museums and libraries

In order to get rid

Of any memory of the people who lived here

Just like the Nazis did


They’re saying these people are animals

And they should all end up dead

They’re sending soldiers into schools

And shooting children in the head

The rhetoric is identical

And with Gaza off the grid

They’ve already said what happens next

Just like the Nazis did


Words of war for domestic consumption

And lies for all the rest

To try to distract our attention

Among their enablers in the West

Because Israel needs their imports

To keep those pallets on the skids

They need fuel and they need missiles

Just like the Nazis did


They’re using food as a weapon

They’re using water that way, too

They’re trying to kill everyone in Gaza

Or make them flee, it’s true

As the pundits talk of “after the war”

Like with the Fall of Madrid

The victors are preparing for more

Just like the Nazis did


But it’s after the conquest’s complete

If history is any guide

When the occupying army

Is positioned to decide

When disease and famine kills

Whoever may have hid

Behind the ghetto walls

Just like the Nazis did


All around the world

People are trying to tell

There's a genocide unfolding

Ringing alarm bells

But with such a powerful axis

And so many lucrative bids

They know who wants their money

Just like the Nazis did


There's so many decades of patronage

For the world's greatest empire

So many potential agreements

Were rejected by opening fire

They're crushing so many uprisings

Now they're making their ultimate bid

Pursuing their final solution

Just like the Nazis did

  Just like the Nazis did

    Just like the Nazis did



Free Julian Assange

Immediate Repeated Action Needed to Free Assange


Please call your Congressional Representatives, the White House, and the DOJ. Calls are tallied—they do count.  We are to believe we are represented in this country.  This is a political case, so our efforts can change things politically as well.  Please take this action as often as you can:


Find your representatives:



Leave each of your representatives a message individually to: 

·      Drop the charges against Julian Assange

·      Speak out publicly against the indictment and

·      Sign on to Rashida Tlaib's letter to the DOJ to drop the charges: 

           202-224-3121—Capitol Main Switchboard 


Leave a message on the White House comment line to 

Demand Julian Assange be pardoned: 


             Tuesday–Thursday, 11:00 A.M.–3:00 P.M. EST


Call the DOJ and demand they drop the charges against Julian Assange:

             202-353-1555—DOJ Comment Line

             202-514-2000 Main Switchboard 

Sign the petition:




Mumia Abu-Jamal is Innocent!


Write to Mumia at:

Smart Communications/PADOC

Mumia Abu-Jamal #AM-8335

SCI Mahanoy

P.O. Box 33028

St. Petersburg, FL 33733

Join the Fight for Mumia's Life

Since September, Mumia Abu-Jamal's health has been declining at a concerning rate. He has lost weight, is anemic, has high blood pressure and an extreme flair up of his psoriasis, and his hair has fallen out. In April 2021 Mumia underwent open heart surgery. Since then, he has been denied cardiac rehabilitation care including a healthy diet and exercise.

Donate to Mumia Abu-Jamal's Emergency Legal and Medical Defense Fund, Official 2024

Mumia has instructed PrisonRadio to set up this fund. Gifts donated here are designated for the Mumia Abu-Jamal Medical and Legal Defense Fund. If you are writing a check or making a donation in another way, note this in the memo line.

Send to:

 Mumia Medical and Legal Fund c/o Prison Radio

P.O. Box 411074, San Francisco, CA 94103

Prison Radio is a project of the Redwood Justice Fund (RJF), which is a California 501c3 (Tax ID no. 680334309) not-for-profit foundation dedicated to the defense of the environment and of civil and human rights secured by law.  Prison Radio/Redwood Justice Fund PO Box 411074, San Francisco, CA 94141



Leonard Peltier “Why?” (Henry CrowDog)

Leonard Peltier Update—Experiencing the Onset of Blindness


Greetings Relatives,

Leonard is in trouble, physically. He is experiencing the onset of blindness. He is losing strength in his limbs. His blood sugar is testing erratically. This, on top of already severe conditions that have become dire. Leonard has not seen a dentist in ten years. His few remaining teeth are infected. He is locked down, in pain.

As always, Leonard’s fortitude remains astonishing. He is not scared of dying. He does not want to die in lockdown.

Our legal team has an emergency transfer underway. They are going to extraordinary lengths. We must get a top ophthalmologist to him. Thanks to your calls, the BOP did see him. They told him a specialist would be 8 - 10 weeks out.

Leonard does not have eight to ten weeks. He needs emergency care immediately.

If you can, please donate to this GoFundMe. Every penny matters. If you cannot, please share. If you are so inclined, go to www.freeleonardpeltiernow.org and contact the officials listed.


As always, thank you for your support.


Dawn Lawson

Personal Assistant Leonard Peltier

Executive Assistant Jenipher Jones, Esq.

Secretary Leonard Peltier Ad Hoc Committee




Leonard Peltier Update - Not One More Year


Coleman 1 has gone on permanent lockdown.

The inmates are supposed to be allowed out two hours a day. I have not heard from Leonard since the 18th. 

The last time I talked to Leonard, he asked where his supporters were. He asked me if anyone cared about these lockdowns.

Leonard lives in a filthy, cold cell 22 to 24 hours a day. He has not seen a dentist in ten years. I asked him, “On a scale of 1 to 10, is your pain level at 13?” He said, “Something like that.” Leonard is a relentless truth-teller. He does not like it when I say things that do not make sense mathematically. 

That is why Leonard remains imprisoned. He will not lie. He will not beg, grovel, or denounce his beliefs. 

Please raise your voice. Ask your representatives why they have abdicated their responsibility to oversee the Bureau of Prisons and ensure they adhere to Constitutional law.

Uhuru, The African People’s Socialist Party, has stepped up for Leonard. NOT ONE MORE YEAR.


Fight for Free Speech – YouTube:



Leonard should not have spent a day in prison. Click “LEARN” on our website to find out what really happened on that reservation: 


Self Portrait by Leonard Peltier

Write to:

Leonard Peltier 89637-132

USP Coleman 1

P.O. Box 1033

Coleman, FL 33521

Note: Letters, address and return address must be in writing—no stickers—and on plain white paper.

Video at:


Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier:




Email: contact@whoisleonardpeltier.info

Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603



Updates From Kevin Cooper 

A Never-ending Constitutional Violation

A summary of the current status of Kevin Cooper’s case by the Kevin Cooper Defense Committee


      On October 26, 2023, the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP wrote a rebuttal in response to the Special Counsel's January 13, 2023 report upholding the conviction of their client Kevin Cooper. A focus of the rebuttal was that all law enforcement files were not turned over to the Special Counsel during their investigation, despite a request for them to the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office.

      On October 29, 2023, Law Professors Lara Bazelon and Charlie Nelson Keever, who run the six member panel that reviews wrongful convictions for the San Francisco County District Attorney's office, published an OpEd in the San Francisco Chronicle calling the "Innocence Investigation” done by the Special Counsel in the Cooper case a “Sham Investigation” largely because Cooper has unsuccessfully fought for years to obtain the police and prosecutor files in his case. This is a Brady claim, named for the U.S. Supreme court’s 1963 case establishing the Constitutional rule that defendants are entitled to any information in police and prosecutor's possession that could weaken the state's case or point to innocence. Brady violations are a leading cause of wrongful convictions. The Special Counsel's report faults Cooper for not offering up evidence of his own despite the fact that the best evidence to prove or disprove Brady violations or other misconduct claims are in those files that the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office will not turn over to the Special Counsel or to Cooper's attorneys.

      On December 14, 2023, the president of the American Bar Association (ABA), Mary Smith, sent Governor Gavin Newsom a three page letter on behalf of the ABA stating in part that Mr.Cooper's counsel objected to the state's failure to provide Special Counsel all documents in their possession relating to Mr.Cooper's conviction, and that concerns about missing information are not new. For nearly 40 years Mr.Cooper's attorneys have sought this same information from the state.

      On December 19, 2023, Bob Egelko, a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle wrote an article about the ABA letter to the Governor that the prosecutors apparently withheld evidence from the Governor's legal team in the Cooper case.

      These are just a few recent examples concerning the ongoing failure of the San Bernardino County District Attorney to turn over to Cooper's attorney's the files that have been requested, even though under the law and especially the U.S. Constitution, the District Attorney of San Bernardino county is required to turn over to the defendant any and all material and or exculpatory evidence that they have in their files. Apparently, they must have something in their files because they refuse to turn them over to anyone.

      The last time Cooper's attorney's received files from the state, in 2004, it wasn't from the D.A. but a Deputy Attorney General named Holly Wilkens in Judge Huff's courtroom. Cooper's attorneys discovered a never before revealed police report showing that a shirt was discovered that had blood on it and was connected to the murders for which Cooper was convicted, and that the shirt had disappeared. It had never been tested for blood. It was never turned over to Cooper's trial attorney, and no one knows where it is or what happened to it. Cooper's attorneys located the woman who found that shirt on the side of the road and reported it to the Sheriff's Department. She was called to Judge Huff's court to testify about finding and reporting that shirt to law enforcement. That shirt was the second shirt found that had blood on it that was not the victims’ blood. This was in 2004, 19 years after Cooper's conviction.

      It appears that this ongoing constitutional violation that everyone—from the Special Counsel to the Governor's legal team to the Governor himself—seems to know about, but won't do anything about, is acceptable in order to uphold Cooper's conviction.

But this type of thing is supposed to be unacceptable in the United States of America where the Constitution is supposed to stand for something other than a piece of paper with writing on it. How can a Governor, his legal team, people who support and believe in him ignore a United States citizen’s Constitutional Rights being violated for 40 years in order to uphold a conviction?

      This silence is betrayal of the Constitution. This permission and complicity by the Governor and his team is against everything that he and they claim to stand for as progressive politicians. They have accepted the Special Counsel's report even though the Special Counsel did not receive the files from the district attorney that may not only prove that Cooper is innocent, but that he was indeed framed by the Sheriff’s Department; and that evidence was purposely destroyed and tampered with, that certain witnesses were tampered with, or ignored if they had information that would have helped Cooper at trial, that evidence that the missing shirt was withheld from Cooper's trial attorney, and so much more.

      Is the Governor going to get away with turning a blind eye to this injustice under his watch?

      Are progressive people going to stay silent and turn their eyes blind in order to hopefully get him to end the death penalty for some while using Cooper as a sacrificial lamb?

An immediate act of solidarity we can all do right now is to write to Kevin and assure him of our continuing support in his fight for justice. Here’s his address:

Mr. Kevin Cooper

C-65304. 4-EB-82

San Quentin State Prison

San Quentin, CA 94974


Call California Governor Newsom:

1-(916) 445-2841

Press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish, 

press 6 to speak with a representative and

wait for someone to answer 

(Monday-Friday, 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. PST—12:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. EST)




The writers' organization PEN America is circulating this petition on behalf of Jason Renard Walker, a Texas prisoner whose life is being threatened because of his exposés of the Texas prison system. 

See his book, Reports from within the Belly of the Beast; available on Amazon at:


Petition: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/protect-whistleblowers-in-carceral-settings



Tell Congress to Help #FreeDanielHale


I’m pleased to announce that last week our client, Daniel Hale, was awarded the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence. The “Corner-Brightener Candlestick” was presented to Daniel’s friend Noor Mir. You can watch the online ceremony here.

As it happens, this week is also the 20th anniversary of the first drone assassination in Yemen. From the beginning, the drone assassination program has been deeply shrouded in secrecy, allowing U.S. officials to hide significant violations of international law, and the American Constitution. In addition to the lives directly impacted by these strikes, the program has significantly eroded respect for international law and thereby puts civilians around the world in danger.

Daniel Hale’s revelations threw a beam of light into a very dark corner, allowing journalists to definitively show that the government's official narrative was a lie. It is thanks to the great personal sacrifice of drone whistleblowers like Hale that public understanding has finally begun to catch up to reality.

As the Sam Adams Associates note:

 “Mr. Hale was well aware of the cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment to which other courageous officials have been subjected — and that he would likely suffer the same. And yet — in the manner of his famous ancestor Nathan Hale — he put his country first, knowing what awaited him at the hands of those who serve what has become a repressive Perpetual War State wreaking havoc upon much of the world.”

We hope you’ll join the growing call to pardon or commute Hale’s sentence. U.S. citizens can contact your representatives here.

Happy new year, and thank you for your support!

Jesselyn Radack
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)

Twitter: @JesselynRadack



Resources for Resisting Federal Repression



Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests. 


The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page. 


Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.


Emergency Hotlines

If you are contacted by federal law enforcement, you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities. 


State and Local Hotlines

If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for: 


Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312

San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or fbi_hotline@nlgsf.org

Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963

National Hotline

If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:


National NLG Federal Defense Hotline: (212) 679-2811






1) Israeli and Gazan officials offer diverging accounts of deadly chaos around another aid convoy.

By The New York Times, March 15, 2024


Another convoy bringing aid to hunger-stricken northern Gaza resulted in disaster late Thursday when Palestinians were killed and wounded in an attack surrounding the trucks, according to Gazan health officials and the Israeli military, which offered divergent accounts of the bloodshed.


The Gazan Health Ministry said that at least 20 people had been killed and more than 100 injured, and accused Israeli forces of carrying out a “targeted” attack against “a gathering of civilians waiting for humanitarian aid” near the Kuwait traffic circle in Gaza City.


The Israeli military denied the allegation in a statement on Friday, blaming Palestinian gunmen and saying that an “intensive preliminary review” had determined “that no tank fire, airstrike or gunfire was carried out toward the Gazan civilians at the aid convoy.”


It was not immediately possible to verify either the Israeli or Gazan Health Ministry’s accounts.


Israel has bombarded Gaza since Hamas launched an attack from the territory on southern Israel on Oct. 7. Food aid has been slow to enter the enclave amid disagreements over inspection protocols and increased lawlessness.


As people have grown increasingly desperate, and as United Nations officials warn that many in northern Gaza are at risk of starvation and eating animal feed and wild plants to survive, large crowds have massed in anticipation of aid convoys. Those gatherings have occasionally turned deadly.


The Israeli statement said that its forces had facilitated the passage of 31 trucks bringing food and supplies to a “humanitarian corridor” in northern Gaza. About an hour before the convoy arrived, while civilians were waiting for the trucks, “armed Palestinians opened fire,” the Israeli military said.


“As aid trucks were entering, the Palestinian gunmen continued to shoot as the crowd of Gazans began looting the trucks,” the military statement went on. “Additionally, a number of Gazan civilians were run over by the trucks.”


Videos posted to social media, which could not be immediately verified, show bodies lying on the ground in the aftermath. The cause of the deaths was not immediately clear.


The Gazan Health Ministry said that some wounded people had been taken to hospitals, but there was little information about their conditions. “Medical teams are unable to deal with the extent and type of injuries that are arriving at hospitals in northern Gaza due to the poor medical and human resources,” the ministry said.


Hamas, in a statement, accused Israeli forces of carrying out a “new massacre.”


On Feb. 29, hundreds of people were killed or injured amid a stampede and Israeli gunfire when a convoy of trucks tried to deliver aid in Gaza City. That convoy was one of the first organized by Israel as it sought to demonstrate that it was doing more to bring aid into northern Gaza.


Israel’s involvement in the convoy that arrived in Gaza City on Thursday was not immediately clear. The Israeli military statement said only that its forces had “facilitated the passage” of the trucks, but did not say who had organized and operated the convoy, and that it “continues its humanitarian effort to supply food and humanitarian aid to the civilians of the Gaza Strip.”


The U.N. organization that aids Palestinians, known as UNRWA, said it was not involved in the convoy.



2) The first ship bringing food to Gaza arrives.

By Anushka Patil, March 15, 2924


A ship towing a barge filled with cargo.

The Open Arms, a rescue vessel owned by a Spanish aid group, on Tuesday. Credit...Yiannis Kourtoglou/Reuters

A humanitarian aid ship arrived on Friday in Gaza for the first time since the start of the war, a first step in a fledgling maritime operation to bring more aid to hungry Palestinians as aid groups say that Israel is restricting more efficient deliveries by road.


The ship, the Open Arms, carried some 200 metric tons of rice, flour, lentils, and canned tuna, beef and chicken, supplied by the World Central Kitchen charity, across the Mediterranean from Cyprus. It is the first vessel authorized to deliver aid to Gaza since 2005, according to Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Union’s executive arm, who has described the operation as a pilot project for a so-called maritime corridor for supplies to the territory.


Linda Roth, a spokeswoman for World Central Kitchen, said that the Open Arms had docked at a newly built jetty on the Gaza coast and that workers were beginning to move the food onto land. It remained unclear how the food would be distributed to Palestinian civilians.


The food on the ships is desperately needed in Gaza, where officials say around two dozen children have already died from malnutrition, and hundreds of thousands of others are “one step away from famine,” according to the United Nations. But delivering aid by sea is nowhere near as efficient as delivering it by land, and humanitarian groups have called on Israel for months to open more land crossings, ease restrictions on convoys and address their operational concerns.


“For aid delivery at scale there is no meaningful substitute to the many land routes and entry points from Israel into Gaza,” two U.N. aid officials, Sigrid Kaag and Jorge Moreira da Silva, said in a statement this week. Still, they welcomed the opening of a maritime corridor, given how much more humanitarian assistance is needed in Gaza.


Israel, which tightened an already restrictive blockade on Gaza after the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack, has said throughout the war that it is committed to allowing as much aid into Gaza as possible. It has blamed delays on U.N. staffing and logistics.


This week, under growing international pressure to allow more aid in, Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, visited northern Gaza and viewed preparations for the new maritime humanitarian route. Mr. Gallant — who ordered in October that Gaza should receive “no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel” — called aid a “central issue” in a statement the defense ministry issued about his trip.


But safely distributing food where it is needed — amid insecurity, lawlessness and roads damaged by Israeli strikes — could face many of the same hurdles as U.N. aid groups that were forced to suspend deliveries in northern Gaza last month.


José Andrés, the renowned Spanish American chef who founded the World Central Kitchen, acknowledged the challenges in an interview with The New York Times last week, but added: “It’s worth trying the impossible to feed the people of Gaza.”


The group said a second ship with 300 tons of aid was being loaded in Cyprus on Thursday, but it was not clear when it would set sail.


Gaya Gupta, Monika Pronczuk, Michael Levenson and Christina Morales contributed reporting.



3) Why Is Congress Investigating a Union for Being Anti-Israel?

By Michelle Goldberg, March 15, 2024


An Israeli flag, blurred, flies in the foreground. The Capitol dome is in the background.

Haiyun Jiang for The New York Times

Like many progressive organizations, the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, a union that represents public defenders in the New York City area, has been convulsed by battles over Israel’s war in Gaza. A recent article in the right-leaning Free Press revealed the strident and sometimes ugly language that union members used during a fight over a resolution, passed in December, condemning Israel’s actions and supporting a boycott of the country. In messages from a group chat, defenders of Israel were called “fascists” and, in one case, “mentally disturbed.”


It’s easy enough to see why some union members found the environment toxic, and why many resented the way a fight about foreign policy distracted from their mission as legal aid lawyers to serve their clients. Nevertheless, it’s disturbing that Congress is now investigating the union over the resolution, an alarming degree of government intrusion into the free speech rights of a private organization.


“Unions are granted an effective monopoly under federal law, enabling them to act as the exclusive bargaining representative for the employees they represent,” Representative Virginia Foxx, Republican chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Work Force, wrote in a letter to the union’s president. “When union bosses act in a way that is purposefully divisive and combative toward their membership, they challenge the validity of their monopoly.”


The idea that the resolution pit “union bosses” against the rank and file is a strange one, since the resolution passed by a vote of 1,067 to 570, but the framing reflects Foxx’s broader hostility toward organized labor. On Monday, she subpoenaed the union’s internal communications around the resolution’s passage.


The House Committee on Education and the Work Force is the same body behind the December hearing about antisemitism on college campuses that led to the resignation of the presidents of both Penn and Harvard. Foxx is now conducting inquiries into antisemitism at those schools as well as Columbia; next month, her committee will grill Columbia’s leadership.


But it’s not only universities that have been rived by protests over Israel’s war in Gaza; many unions have been as well. I worry that Foxx’s investigation into the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys will be just the beginning, and that her committee will use the genuine scourge of antisemitism as a pretext to target organizations seen as hostile to the right.


Republicans in Congress, said Will Creeley, legal director of the civil libertarian Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, see “blood in the water.” The December hearing was a partisan triumph, especially for Elise Stefanik, the ambitious young New York Republican whose questions led the university presidents into a public relations debacle. The Republicans “know that they’ve knocked off some powerful heads of powerful institutions that they may not like,” said Creeley. “They know that they’ve got the political wind at their back. And so they think, ‘Well, what else can we do here? Here we’ve got this big weapon. How else can we swing it?’”


Labor unions are a natural target. “I was at first surprised by the shift to labor from universities,” said Representative Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a member of Foxx’s committee. “But then I realized that this is just one effort to quell the growing labor movements across the country.”


Foxx is taking direct aim at the sort of language that’s become common among many unions’ younger and more militant members. She slammed the resolution passed by the lawyers’ union for referring to the Oct. 7 attack on Israel only as a “violent tragedy,” saying, “It is deplorable that this resolution fails to condemn or even acknowledge Hamas’s role in the attack in any way, shape or form.” Perhaps, but policing the way labor unions talk about Israel should not fall to a congressional committee.


Like me, Creeley hears echoes of the House Un-American Activities Committee — which hunted for Communist influence in realms including education and entertainment — in Foxx’s state-sponsored crusade against antisemitism on the left. “Asking people to come and answer for their political beliefs expressed in internal emails, no matter how repugnant to some, many, or most, is sharply at odds with our First Amendment commitment to protecting even the speech that we hate,” he said.


He pointed me toward a line from Hugo Black’s dissent in the 1959 Supreme Court case Barenblatt v. United States that crystallizes why Foxx’s subpoena is so troubling. In that case, a college professor named Lloyd Barenblatt was hauled in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, which wanted to know if he’d had Communist associations while in graduate school at the University of Michigan. Barenblatt refused to answer, citing not his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, but his First Amendment right to free speech and association. After he was held in contempt of Congress, the case made its way to the Supreme Court, where a five-justice majority ruled against him, citing the state’s interest in “self-preservation” in the face of the Communist threat.


In his dissent, Black wrote that “the people” had an interest “in being able to join organizations, advocate causes and make political ‘mistakes’ without later being subjected to governmental penalties for having dared to think for themselves.” In retrospect, it seems obvious that Black was correct. Even if you strenuously disagree with the union’s resolution, you should recognize its right to be wrong without Congress getting involved.



4) Supplies are to be brought by truck, including in the north, where conditions are particularly dire.

By Monika Pronczuk, March 16, 2024


People walk along a road by the sea, carrying sacks of food and other items.

Palestinians fleeing northern Gaza on Thursday. Credit...Ahmed Zakot/Reuters

The first shipment of aid to reach Gaza by sea in almost two decades has been unloaded from a makeshift jetty and is to be distributed by truck throughout the enclave, in a step that Western officials hope will pave the way for a maritime corridor to deliver supplies to suffering Gazans.


The ship, the Open Arms, towed a barge loaded with about 200 tons of rice, flour, lentils and canned tuna, beef and chicken, supplied by the World Central Kitchen charity, across the Mediterranean from Cyprus.


“The Open Arms connected a barge filled with almost 200 tons of food to the W.C.K. built jetty on the coast of Gaza,” the charity said in a statement, referring to a jetty it constructed out of rubble at the Gaza coastline. “All cargo was offloaded and is being readied for distribution in Gaza.”


The supplies will be dispatched by truck, including in Gaza’s north, said José Andrés, the renowned Spanish American chef who founded the World Central Kitchen. It was not clear who was operating the trucks and who would provide security for them, and Mr. Andrés would not elaborate.


Safely distributing food where it is needed is a pressing challenge in Gaza, especially in the north, which is particularly troubled by insecurity, lawlessness and roads damaged by Israel airstrikes. Signs of desperate hunger are growing as people resort to consuming animal feed or ambushing aid trucks.


U.N. aid groups had to largely suspend deliveries in northern Gaza last month, and for at least the second time in just over two weeks, a convoy bringing aid there ended in bloodshed late Thursday when Palestinians were killed and wounded in an attack surrounding the trucks, according to Gazan health officials and the Israeli military.


The Open Arms is the first vessel authorized to deliver aid to Gaza since 2005, according to Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Union’s executive arm, who has described the operation as a pilot project for a so-called maritime corridor for supplies to the territory.


With Gaza under a near-total blockade and having undergone more than five months of Israeli bombardment, much of the enclave is at risk of famine, the United Nations has warned. Aid officials have emphasized that delivering aid by sea is far less efficient than by truck and have called on Israel to open more land crossings into Gaza and ease restrictions.


World Central Kitchen is preparing to send a second boat with food aid from the Cypriot port of Larnaca, the charity said, but it was not clear when it would set sail. The second ship is equipped with two forklifts and a crane to assist with future maritime deliveries, and has a cargo of 240 tons of food, including carrots, canned tuna, chickpeas, corn, rice, flour, oil and salt, as well as over 250 pounds of fresh dates donated by the United Arab Emirates.


Last week, President Biden announced a U.S.-led initiative to establish a temporary floating pier off Gaza’s coastline to facilitate the transit of goods. American officials hope to ultimately use the pier to enable the delivery of two million meals a day for Gaza’s 2.3 million people.


Since October, organizers and Palestinian cooks working with World Central Kitchen have served more than 37 million meals in Gaza, according to the group. The organization said it had established over 60 community kitchens, managed by Palestinians, in the territory.



5) The U.N. has documented more than two dozen attacks on Gazans waiting for aid since January.

By Raja Abdulrahim, March 16, 2023


Palestinians who were wounded by Israeli gunfire while waiting for aid, according to health officials, rest on beds at Al Shifa hospital in Gaza on March 1st. Credit...Kosay Al Nemer/Reuters

The United Nations human rights office has documented more than two dozen attacks on Gazans waiting for desperately needed aid since January, with hunger spreading as a result of Israel’s near complete siege, preventing most food and water from entering the tiny enclave.


The office has not blamed any side for the spate of attacks as people wait for aid. In a number of U.N. reports and statements, the office has documented at least 26 such attacks since mid-January.


They include Thursday night’s attack on hundreds of Palestinians who were waiting at the Kuwait traffic circle in Gaza City for an expected convoy of aid trucks. Gazan health officials accused Israeli forces of carrying out a “targeted” attack on the crowd that killed 20, and three witnesses described shelling at the scene.


The Israeli military blamed Palestinian gunmen for the bloodshed and said that it was continuing to review the episode. It said an “intensive preliminary review” had found that no “tank fire, airstrike or gunfire was carried out toward the Gazan civilians at the aid convoy,” though it did not say whether its forces had opened fire at all.


It was at least the 10th such incident in March in which people have been shot and killed or injured while waiting for aid at either the Kuwait or Nabulsi traffic circles, according to the United Nations. They are the two main southern entrances to Gaza City, where the few humanitarian aid trucks entering north Gaza arrive from the south.


In the deadliest incident, more than 100 Palestinians were killed and many more injured when Israeli forces opened fire around a convoy in Gaza City in late February. Witnesses said Israeli forces opened fire toward Palestinians who surged forward toward aid trucks.


The Israeli military said that its forces had opened fire “when a mob moved in a manner which endangered them.” It has said that most people died in a stampede and that some were run over by trucks.


Aid agencies, including from the United Nations, have said that rather than help facilitate humanitarian assistance, Israel has blocked aid from either coming into the Gaza Strip or going to the north, where the hunger situation has become dire.


“Israel’s choices of methods and means of warfare have caused a humanitarian catastrophe,” the United Nations office said in a report this month. “Such choices included the imposition of a siege on Gaza, other restrictions on humanitarian assistance and the distribution of commercial goods, vast destruction of civilian infrastructure, including roads vital for accessing the population, and restrictions on the movement between the north and south of Gaza.”


Israel, which imposed a siege after the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack, has said throughout the war that it is committed to allowing as much aid into Gaza as possible. It has blamed delays on U.N. staffing and logistics.


In a statement on Friday, United Nations human rights office called on Israel to ensure that food and medical care are provided to meet Gaza’s needs. Aid agencies have said that in addition to the Israeli restrictions on relief convoys, looting by hungry Palestinians and growing lawlessness have made it difficult if not impossible to distribute aid.


If Israel cannot provide aid, it “has the obligation to facilitate humanitarian relief activities, including by ensuring the conditions of safety required for such activities,” the human rights office said.


In February, a quarter of the U.N. aid missions planned were facilitated by Israeli authorities, the U.N.’s office of humanitarian coordination, said.


U.N. officials and other relief groups have warned that Gaza is nearing famine as a result of inadequate food delivery. At least 27 people, including 23 children, have died of malnutrition, dehydration and lack of baby formula, according to the health ministry.



6) Alarming number of children suffer from most severe form of malnutrition, U.N. agency says.

By Gaya Gupta, March 16, 2024


Several children holding metal and plastic containers gather for food distribution in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian children gathered to collect food donated by a charity group before breakfast, on the fourth day of Ramadan in Rafah, southern Gaza, on Thursday. Credit...Haitham Imad/EPA, via Shutterstock

Children in the Gaza Strip are facing severe and rapidly worsening food deprivation, and an alarming number are suffering from the most life-threatening form of malnutrition, United Nations experts reported on Friday, in their most dire assessment yet of the unfolding crisis.


About one in every 20 children in shelters and health centers in northern Gaza is experiencing “severe wasting,” the most critical sign of malnutrition, defined as being dangerously thin for their height, according to UNICEF, the U.N. agency for children. The findings were based on screenings conducted by the agency and released on Friday.


Among children under 2 years old, acute malnutrition, meaning the body is deprived of essential nutrients, has become fairly common across Gaza, the screenings found, with the most severe prevalence in northern Gaza. In some areas, it found that rates of acute malnutrition had doubled since they were last recorded in January.


Even in Rafah, the densely populated area in southern Gaza with the greatest access to food, 10 percent of children under 2 are acutely malnourished, and 4 percent are severely wasting.


Before the war, UNICEF said, the rate of acute malnutrition among young children was less than 1 percent, and severe wasting was extremely rare.


Lucia Elmi, UNICEF’s special representative in the Palestinian territories, who returned from Gaza last week, said she was particularly alarmed by not only the number of children suffering from malnutrition, but how quickly their health was deteriorating. Young children cannot be adequately nourished from just water, flour and bread, she said.


“They need protein, they need vitamins, they need fresh products and they need micronutrients, and all of this has been completely missing,” Ms. Elmi said in an interview last week. “That’s why the deterioration has been so fast, so rapid and at this scale.”


Children are bearing extreme costs of the war in Gaza, both physically and mentally, children’s rights groups and experts have repeated. More than 12,000 children have been killed in the conflict, and 27 children in northern Gaza have died from malnutrition or dehydration, according to the Gazan Health Ministry.


Palestinian parents say that, in addition to the threat of bombardment, their daily struggle is to find enough food for their children. Many have said they choose to feed what little they have to their children rather than themselves.


Dominic Allen, the United Nations Population Fund representative for Palestine, who just returned from a trip to Gaza, said on Friday that conditions there were worse than he could “describe or than pictures can show or than you can imagine.” He said at a press briefing in Jerusalem that everyone he saw or spoke to was “gaunt, emaciated, hungry.”


“The situation is beyond catastrophic,” he said.


Israel has said that it does not limit the amount of aid allowed into Gaza through border crossings, and recently signaled its support for new initiatives to get aid into Gaza by land, air and sea. Humanitarian groups have criticized Israel, saying that its insistence on checking every truckload of aid — and rejecting some — is a major cause of the food shortage.


The chief executive of Save the Children, an aid group, in the United States, Janti Soeripto, said that the crisis was currently, by far, the worst in the world for children.


“Every time I speak about Gaza, I sort of think to myself that it couldn’t get any worse,” she said in an interview. “And then every week, I’m proven wrong.”


Without a cease-fire, it has been difficult for teams to safely and comprehensively assist Palestinians.


Speaking from Rafah, Rachael Cummings, Save the Children’s director of humanitarian public health in the United Kingdom, said that the lack of sanitation — including dirty or salty water and sewage on the streets — was worsening the hunger crisis there.


“If a child isn’t eating adequate food or the right composition of food — they have poor water, poor sanitation — they will get very sick, very quickly,” she said.



7) ‘Practically Fasting for Months’: Gazans Struggle to Celebrate Ramadan

A time of religious devotion, dawn-to-dusk fasting and charity is instead a daily struggle for survival.

By Raja Abdulrahim, Bilal Shbair and Abu Bakr Bashir, March 16, 2024

"In what seemed like cruel mocking for many Gazans, days before Ramadan began, a resident said Israeli warplanes dropped leaflets over parts of northern Gaza that read, 'May your fast be accepted, your sins forgiven and iftar delicious.'”


A family setting up a meal on a carpet over rubble, surrounded by destroyed buildings.

Palestinian family in Deir al Balah in the central Gaza Strip prepared on Monday to breakfast on the first day of Ramadan in the ruins of their family house. Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Every night during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the man would come along Rawoand Altatar’s street, banging on his drum and calling out to the faithful to wake them up for suhoor, the predawn meal. His nightly mission used to be lit up by Ramadan lamps and twinkling decorations.


But this Ramadan, Ms. Altatar’s street is eerie. The man, called a musahharati in Arabic, is absent. There are no decorations or electricity, and the street is surrounded by buildings destroyed or damaged in Israel’s bombardment. Their own home has been partially destroyed as well.


“There is no sense of Ramadan,” she said, referring to the month when Muslims fast all day. “We are missing our family and gatherings, the food, even the simplest thing like the sweet juices, the Ramadan decorations and lamps, which filled the streets,” said Ms. Altatar, a photographer who worked at a private school before the war.


Israel’s war in Gaza has transformed Ramadan, which began on Monday, from one of color and boisterous gatherings into one observed against a backdrop of gray rubble and dark, empty streets.


With no hoped-for cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the armed group that has controlled Gaza for years, a time of religious devotion, dawn-to-dusk fasting and charity is now a daily struggle for survival. For many Gazans, attempts to bring some cheer into the enclave are up against a mountain of despair.


More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s bombardment, according to Gazan health authorities, and the threat of famine looms as a result of Israel’s near-complete siege. The war, now in its sixth month, began after Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people and taking around 240 captives, according to Israeli officials.


Families, which once gathered over big feasts to mark the end of a day’s fast, have been separated and dispersed as most of Gaza’s 2.2 million residents have fled their homes. Many now live in crowded tent encampments.


Many mosques where nightly Ramadan prayers were held have been bombed to rubble. Israel has accused Hamas of operating from some of Gaza’s mosques, a charge Hamas denies.


The most basic sustenance, like the dates and drinking water with which Muslims traditionally break their fast, are nearly absent.


Also missing is the happiness of children, especially when they come out in the streets after iftar — the breaking of the fast — with their Ramadan lamps and toys, she said.


“Now everyone is inside their homes even before the sun goes down, feeling afraid,” she said.


Ramadan this year also comes as many Gazans have lost everything and the enclave is nearing a famine, United Nations officials say. At least 27 Palestinian children have died from malnutrition, dehydration and lack of baby formula, Gazan health officials have said.


Human rights groups, U.N. experts and most recently the European Union’s foreign policy chief have said that Israel is deliberately starving Palestinians. Israel has insisted throughout the war that it is committed to allowing as much aid into Gaza as possible and it has blamed delays on the U.N. staffing and logistics. Aid groups and U.N. officials have argued that it would be better for Israel to ease entry restrictions for trucks at established crossing points into the enclave and to do more to speed the delivery of goods inside Gaza.


People in Gaza are so hungry that some have resorted to eating leaves and animal feed.


“We’ve been practically fasting for months,” Ms. Altatar said. “Before Ramadan, we were eating two meals a day if we were able to find enough food. Otherwise, we would eat only once a day, at sundown.”


Almost no aid is reaching northern Gaza, where Ms. Altatar lives with her parents. U.N. agencies have largely stopped sending aid to the north, citing Israeli restrictions and security fears.


Many Muslims customarily try to read the entire Quran over the month of Ramadan and perform extra nightly prayers called taraweeh.


“In the north, people rarely gather to pray taraweeh in an open area because they are afraid of being hit by an airstrike,” she said. “Of course, there are almost no mosques left. They have all been bombed.”


Her days now are filled with gathering firewood, making fires and roaming markets trying to cobble together a meal her family can afford, she said.


As she walks, she dreams that one of the aid airdrops will come down near her.


In what seemed like cruel mocking for many Gazans, days before Ramadan began, a resident said Israeli warplanes dropped leaflets over parts of northern Gaza that read, “May your fast be accepted, your sins forgiven and iftar delicious.”


Asked about the leaflets, the Israeli military did not respond to repeated requests for comment.


Despite the war and continued presence of Israeli ground forces, some Gazans have tried to imbue the holy month with as much festivity and religious observance as the conflict will allow.


“In northern Gaza, hunger and fear has taken over us,” Maher Habboush, a body builder in Gaza, said in a video on his Instagram account. The video showed dozens of children and adults cleaning the streets of one neighborhood and painting the walls pink, blue and yellow. “But we will greet the blessed month with happiness and optimism, because Ramadan is a blessing.”


In previous years, Gazans competed with each other when decorating their homes and streets. Now a Ramadan lantern, called a fanous and once ubiquitous throughout the streets and homes of Gaza, is a luxury few can afford.


“All day my little daughter is crying for a fanous,” said Nisreen Abu Tooq, 28, a mother of five who fled with her family from the north to a school in southern Gaza. “I can’t even afford to buy it. We can’t cheer up our little kids up with the simplest things.”


On Sunday, Ms. Abu Tooq said she was filled with sadness when she heard that the next day was Ramadan, because she had not expected the war to last this long.


“It’s a big difference to be in a place you don’t belong and far from your home with relatives, neighbors and friends,” she said.


Fadia Nassar, 43, wanted to buy Ramadan lanterns for her daughter, nieces and nephews, who are all sharing a room in a home with other displaced Gazans in the city of Deir al Balah, but the prices were out of reach.


She also thought that such decorative touches might seem insensitive to other children living in the house who had lost parents or other relatives.


She had just returned from the market and could not buy any supplies because of how expensive everything was. Instead, she said, they would rely on canned goods to break the fast, she said.


The markets were packed, but rather than the crowded and festive atmosphere of Ramadans past, when songs would blare through the streets, there was tension and a fear of lawlessness now, she said.


“There is no joy, no songs of Ramadan, no sweets of Ramadan,” she said. “This has all been exterminated.”


A local Gazan band, Sol Band, came out with a song for this Ramadan, including a short music video filmed in Gaza, that captured the grim holy month they were observing.


The video shows parents and children making decorations out of plastic bottles and construction paper and hanging them up on tents.


“There are no homes left in our neighborhood, and the homes have turned into tents,” the lyrics say. “Your crescent moon has appeared, Ramadan. What is the crescent of our joy?”



8) Ankle Monitors and Curfews: Inside Biden’s New Tracking System for Migrant Families

The goal of the program is to keep people from skipping out on their asylum hearings, joining the millions of undocumented people who stay in the country indefinitely.

By Hamed Aleaziz, Reporting from Healdsburg, Calif., March 16, 2024


A portrait of a mother and son.

“We know that we didn’t come here legally, but we didn’t have a way to do it legally,” said Sandra, an asylum-seeker who crossed the border with her son, Justin, and her husband. Credit...Loren Elliott for The New York Times

On a recent evening in California, a woman named Sandra was at a birthday party with her 15-year-old son when she glanced at the clock.


She started to panic: It was after 10 p.m.


She had less than an hour to get home in time for an 11 p.m. curfew set by U.S. immigration authorities, part of a nearly year-old tracking system for migrant families who hope to be granted asylum in the United States.


She motioned to her son that they had to leave, and hustled him out the door and into the car.


They made it home at 10:58 p.m., the bulky GPS monitor on her right ankle pinging out her location to the authorities keeping track. Her heart, which had been slamming in her chest the whole ride home, finally slowed.


Sandra, 45, and her son Justin, who crossed the border in December after fleeing Colombia, are part of a nearly year-old Biden administration program that seeks to quickly process — and potentially deport — many of the migrant families who have arrived in the United States in record-breaking numbers.


The goal of the program is to keep families from skipping out on their asylum hearings and melting away into American society, joining the millions of undocumented people who stay in the country indefinitely under the radar of U.S. authorities.


If the families fail their asylum screenings, they can be deported within weeks. The asylum process usually takes years, with most claims ultimately rejected.


So far, the Family Expedited Removal Management program has tracked more than 19,000 people since May, according to data from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that was obtained by The New York Times. More than 1,500 of them have been deported and around 1,000 have absconded by prying off their ankle monitors, the ICE data show. The rest either passed their initial screenings or still have cases underway.


Although the program has been used in only a fraction of claims, some U.S. officials see it as a test case for a faster way to deal with families seeking refuge in America, where laws require the government to consider asylum claims from anyone who makes it onto U.S. soil.


They hope the program can provide an alternative to the usual options for handling migrant families: detaining them in costly ICE facilities, which President Biden has criticized, or releasing them with court dates years in the future and no consistent way of tracking them.


Thomas Giles, an ICE official who runs the program, said it was showing signs of promise.


“It’s definitely increased our family unit removals over the last nine months compared to before, so it’s been successful with that,” he said. But he cautioned that the program requires an enormous amount of resources and is still in the early days.


“This is basically what we’ve needed to do for 10 years, but on a massive scale,” said John Sandweg, who was acting director of ICE during the Obama administration.


The Biden administration should expand the program, he said, because it is difficult to deport people — especially families — once they have been in the United States for years, building lives in America while their cases wend their way through the system.


What to do with families?


The U.S. immigration system, chronically underfunded and understaffed, cannot keep pace with the number of people who want asylum in America. Mr. Biden, in an election year with immigration as a dominant issue, is even said to be considering restricting asylum altogether.


There were more than 2.5 million migrant encounters at the southwest land border in fiscal year 2023, a record-breaking number that has strained resources in American cities.


The questions of how, where and how long to detain migrants have confounded successive administrations. But the issue of what to do with families, in particular, has been among the most fraught, with ethical and political implications at every turn.


Years of scientific consensus show that detaining minors, even with their parents, can cause developmental damage. Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald J. Trump all detained families in ICE facilities, hoping that the prospect of being locked up would deter migrant families from making the trip.


Mr. Trump tried to expand the practice and detain families indefinitely, but a federal judge said it violated a court settlement that required that families only be detained for 20 days.


The Biden administration made a point of ending family detention, instead releasing families with ankle bracelets and traceable cellphones. That model was a precursor to the new program, which uses strict curfews and expedited asylum screenings in addition to the electronic monitoring.


The program is being used in more than 40 locations with the resources to keep track of thousands of migrants and make swift rulings in a make-or-break step of the asylum process: the credible-fear interview.


In a functioning system, most people seeking asylum would be interviewed at the border to determine whether they have a credible fear of persecution back home. But only about 500 such interviews are conducted every day — for a sliver of the thousands of people who cross.


The rest are often released into the country with a court date far in the future.


The new program aims to screen families and quickly deport those who don’t meet the bar for credible fear. Mr. Giles, the ICE official who runs the program, said that ICE gives migrants a list of free legal service providers when they are processed into the program.


If families fail their initial screenings, case managers who track their movements make sure their travel documents are in order and coordinate the trips home, usually on chartered government planes. If they abscond, ICE begins to search for them for immediate arrest.


If they pass, they can stay in the United States at least until their cases are concluded.


‘I didn’t want to come’


Sandra said she came to the United States as a last resort.


For years in Colombia, she ran a Christian organization aimed at helping the children of people addicted to drugs. It was, she said, her “dream job.”


But last year, she said, gang members threatened to kill her because she refused to help them sell drugs. She knew she had to leave.


“I didn’t want to come,” she said through a Spanish interpreter, asking that only her first name be used because of fears for her safety. “Many people come here because they are after the famous American dream — but that was not my case.”


In Colombia, she said, she was “up here,” motioning above her head. In America she is “down here,” pointing to her ankle monitor.


She began organizing the journey to the United States in the winter, with a vague plan for what to do once she arrived with Justin: Her older son, who had come to the United States a few years ago, would buy them plane tickets to Oakland, Calif.


But first she had to get across the border. In Mexico, they were robbed and threatened with kidnapping and torture. Cartel members threatened to hold them until their families paid money. There was only one option, she said. Cross the border.


In early December, they walked into Arizona and told Border Patrol they were afraid to return to Colombia, kick-starting the asylum process.


The government saw them as candidates for the new expedited process because they were headed to the Bay Area, where the program has an office. Sandra was given an ankle monitor and told to check in at a government office in San Francisco.


The case manager there told Sandra that she was not a criminal but that this was part of Mr. Biden’s program to get things “under control,” she recalled.


“This is kind of humiliating in a way,” she said. “We know that we didn’t come here legally, but we didn’t have a way to do it legally.”


‘Completely untenable’


Many advocates for immigrants say the expedited removal program actually works too fast, making it difficult for people to find legal representation. They also criticize the use of GPS trackers, which are more often used in criminal courts.


The National Immigrant Justice Center said building an asylum case requires “complex legal research, fact gathering, and numerous in-person meetings with the client for trauma-informed interviews and case preparation.”


“The speed of the program is completely untenable,” said Cindy Woods, national policy counsel at Americans for Immigrant Justice, an organization that represents families whose cases are processed through the expedited removal program, including Sandra’s.


Ms. Woods said that over the summer, a mother of two from Ecuador reached out to her two days before her family’s credible-fear screening. But the woman became distraught when talking about “past harm and threats,” Ms. Woods said.


There was no time to prepare her for the asylum screening, which she ultimately failed, Ms. Woods said. The woman is now in hiding with her family in Ecuador.


Ms. Woods said the expedited removal program was preferable to family detention. But she said “it is happening way too fast.”


For the Biden administration, speed is the whole point.


The backlog in the immigration courts surpassed three million cases last year, and there are not nearly enough judges and interpreters to tackle it effectively. The new expedited program is an attempt to keep that backlog from swelling even more with families.


The future


On a Friday in late December, Sandra arrived at her initial asylum screening in San Francisco.


She explained to the officers why she had come to the United States and what she risked back home. One week later, there was a decision: She had passed the credible fear screening, the first administrative step on the road to asylum.


She had been in America for four weeks.


Now, she waits along with the rest of the asylum seekers for her case to come up in immigration court. There are often multiple hearings, including one where both the migrant and the government present evidence. That can take years.


Now that she’s passed the initial screening, government officials took off her ankle bracelet — a relief, she said. She will apply for a work permit so she can earn money.


But the country still feels deeply unfamiliar to her.


“We trust in God and I think everything is going to turn out well,” she said. “But of course we are afraid of what is going to happen.”



9) When Medicaid Comes After the Family Home

Federal law requires states to seek reimbursement from the assets, usually homes, of people who died after receiving benefits for long-term care.

By Paula Span, March 16, 2024

“But for the most part, the states pursue claims against low-income families, many of them Black and Hispanic. Critics argue that the policy perpetuates poverty. The average wealth of deceased Medicaid recipients over age 65 is less than $45,000, the MACPAC report noted, and the average home equity is $27,364.”


A two-story home with bay windows and a small front porch, painted off-white with a “for sale” sign in the foreground on a bright day.

Medicaid estate recovery means surviving family members may have to sell the home of a loved one to repay Medicaid, or the state may seize the property. Credit...Steven Senne/Associated Press

The letter came from the state department of human services in July 2021. It expressed condolences for the loss of the recipient’s mother, who had died a few weeks earlier at 88.


Then it explained that the deceased had incurred a Medicaid debt of more than $77,000 and provided instructions on how to repay the money. “I was stunned,” said the woman’s 62-year-old daughter.


At first, she thought the letter might be some sort of scam. It wasn’t.


She asked not to be identified, because the case is unresolved and she doesn’t want to jeopardize her chances of getting the bill reduced. The New York Times has reviewed documentation substantiating her account.


The daughter moved into the family’s Midwestern home years earlier, when her widowed mother, who had vascular dementia, began to need assistance.


Her mother was well insured, with Medicare, a private supplemental “Medigap” policy and long-term care insurance. The only reason she enrolled in Medicaid was that she had signed up for a state program that allowed her daughter to receive modest payments for caregiving.


But that triggered additional monthly charges through a Medicaid managed care organization, and now the state wants that money back.


The practice dates to 1993, when Congress mandated that when Medicaid beneficiaries over age 55 have used long-term services, such as nursing homes or home care, states must try to recover those expenses from the beneficiaries’ estates after their deaths.


“Medicaid requires beneficiaries to spend down almost all their assets” to qualify for benefits, explained Eric Carlson, a directing attorney at Justice in Aging.


Most states allow those eligible for Medicaid to retain assets worth only $2,000. But if a beneficiary owns a home, it can be exempt.


Still, if Medicaid has paid for long-term care and there’s money to be had after death, state agencies will come for the assets.


“If there’s going to be tens of thousands of dollars available for recovery, in most cases, it’s the house,” Mr. Carlson said. Surviving family members may have to sell the house to repay Medicaid, as the Midwestern daughter may be forced to do, or the state may seize the property.


Medicaid “is the only public benefit program from the United States of America that requires states to seek to get money back,” said Representative Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois. This month she reintroduced a bill, the Stop Unfair Medicaid Recoveries Act, to end the practice.


Her staff has calculated that 17,000 families in Illinois alone have lost homes to Medicaid recovery since 2021. Comparable national figures aren’t available, but an independent agency that advises the federal government and states on Medicaid issues reported in 2021 that states collected $733 million through estate recovery in the fiscal year of 2019.


That amounts to only about one half of a percent of Medicaid’s long-term-care expenditures, according to the agency, MACPAC, the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission. Only eight states collected more than 1 percent of expenditures.


“This is a really harmful and cruel program,” Ms. Schakowsky said. “And it’s not working. The cost of actually trying to get the money could exceed any money that would be returned.”


When Congress established the mandate, proponents argued that estate recovery would save money and promote fairness, since some higher-income seniors hired lawyers to help shield their assets so that Medicaid would pay their nursing home bills.


But for the most part, the states pursue claims against low-income families, many of them Black and Hispanic. Critics argue that the policy perpetuates poverty. The average wealth of deceased Medicaid recipients over age 65 is less than $45,000, the MACPAC report noted, and the average home equity is $27,364.


“For a lot of these people, the home is a product of a lifetime’s worth of working and scrimping,” Mr. Carlson said. “It could be a foundation for their children and grandchildren. That’s pulled away from the family under these claims. It imposes recovery against the families and communities least able to pay it.”


(A surviving spouse or minor or disabled child can continue to live in the house after a Medicaid beneficiary dies, but after the survivors die, or after a child turns 21, estate recovery can proceed.)


Every state offers hardship waivers that reduce claims, but “the process tends to be difficult or futile,” Mr. Carlson said. “Depending on the state, the request is almost always unsuccessful.”


“I don’t think estate recovery was a policy created primarily to impact low-income families, but that’s the impact it’s having,” said Natalie Kean, another directing attorney at Justice in Aging.


Estate recovery can also affect middle-class families, however. Many turn to Medicaid because, given the cost of nursing homes (the median price last year was $8,669 a month), “your savings can disappear in a hurry,” Mr. Carlson said.


Brian Snell, an elder law attorney in Marblehead, Mass., represents a family whose 93-year-old mother, who had dementia, died in 2022 at her condo in North Andover. Her daughter had cut back on her hours as a beautician to care for her at home, wanting to keep her out of a nursing home because “that was her mother’s wish,” Mr. Snell said.


When the mother qualified for MassHealth, the state Medicaid program, it enrolled her in a state home care program that provided home health aides (though only sporadically, because the pandemic made workers and agencies hesitant to enter homes).


After her death, MassHealth sought to recover $292,000 for the cost of home care and the program premiums. Because two of her children were low-income, including the caregiving daughter, a state waiver would allow those two to receive $50,000 each from the sale of the mother’s condo. But more than half of the $335,000 sales price will go to the state and federal governments.


The prospect of such clawbacks prevents some low-income older adults from receiving necessary care, even if they’re eligible.


“It’s not uncommon for people to simply decline to apply for Medicaid services once they learn about the recovery program,” said Matthew Portwood, an intake supervisor at the Atlanta Regional Commission, which serves as the local agency on aging, in an email. “Our counselors encounter this almost daily.”


Some states are working to reduce the financial hit on low-income families. Massachusetts, Georgia, South Carolina and Illinois, for instance, will not pursue recovery against estates valued below $25,000. Some states now provide applicants with fuller explanations of the consequences of signing up.


California allows hardship waivers for a “homestead of modest value,” defined as a market value of up to half the average price of homes in the county. MACPAC recommended amending federal law to allow states to make recovery optional.


Representative Schakowsky’s bill goes beyond that to prohibit Medicaid estate recovery altogether. “It’s just a terrible idea,” she said.


Her bill faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled House — all its 13 co-sponsors to date are Democrats — and it went nowhere when she introduced it last session. But the congresswoman remains optimistic: People in red states need long-term care, too.


Back in the Midwest, the daughter who was billed $77,000 still hopes to remain in the two-story house where she grew up, where her mother lived for more than 60 years and where “there’s a memory in every corner.” Now she is looking for a lawyer. “I have to fight this,” she said.



10) Netanyahu to Schumer: ‘We’re not a banana republic.’

By Adam Rasgon reporting from Jerusalem, March 17, 2024


Mr. Netanyahu at a podium in a suit and blue tie.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel speaking in Jerusalem last month. Credit...Ohad Zwigenberg/Associated Press

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded directly to Senator Chuck Schumer on Sunday, calling the Senate majority leader’s recent criticism of the Israeli leader and call for elections there “totally inappropriate.”.


In an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union,” Mr. Netanyahu accused Mr. Schumer of trying to bring down the Israeli government, adding that the only government that Israel and the U.S. should be working to take down was “the terrorist tyranny in Gaza.”


Mr. Netanyahu said it was inappropriate to try to replace the government of a “sister democracy.”


“That’s something that Israel, the Israeli public does on its own,” he said. “We’re not a banana republic.”


The Israeli leader is facing growing international criticism of his handling of the war in Gaza and its deadly toll on Palestinians.


On Thursday, Mr. Schumer, a Democrat from New York and the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in the United States, delivered a scathing speech on the Senate floor accusing Mr. Netanyahu of letting his political survival supersede “the best interests of Israel” and being “too willing to tolerate the civilian toll in Gaza.”


Mr. Schumer said he thought an election should take place when the war started to wind down, and he expressed support for a temporary cease-fire that would allow for the return of hostages held in Gaza and more aid for Palestinians.


The speech was indicative of the widening gap between Israel and the United States over the war and mounting frustrations in Washington with Mr. Netanyahu’s policies.


In remarks Sunday to his government, Mr. Netanyahu stressed that Israel would continue fighting in Gaza until “complete victory,” and vowed that the army would invade Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, where more than one million Palestinians have been packed into crowded shelters, tent encampments and friends’ and relatives’ homes.


“We will operate in Rafah,” he said. “This is the only way to eliminate Hamas’s murderous brigades, and this is the only way to use the military pressure necessary to free all of our hostages.”


He said Israel had approved the military’s plans to operate in Rafah, including measures to evacuate the civilian population from combat areas.


President Biden has told Mr. Netanyahu that Israel should not proceed with an operation in Rafah without “a credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety of and support for the more than one million people sheltering there,” according to the White House.


In his speech, Mr. Schumer contended that Mr. Netanyahu wasn’t willing to commit to an operation in Rafah that prioritized civilian life.


Displaced Palestinians in Rafah, weary from nearly six months of war, have said they are terrified a ground invasion of the city could result in mass civilian casualties.


Mr. Netanyahu said an operation in Rafah would take a few weeks.



11) New ways to get aid into Gaza are not yet relieving hunger, experts say.

By Gaya Gupta and Vivek Shankar, March 17, 2024


Three men, one of them wearing a camouflage uniform, load a cargo plane.

U.S. Air Force members at a base in Jordan on Thursday, loading a plane with aid to be dropped into Gaza. Credit...Dylan Collins/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

With the humanitarian crisis worsening in the Gaza Strip, the United States this month started airdropping food and water into the enclave. This weekend, a maritime shipment of aid reached northern Gaza’s shores, the first to do so in nearly two decades. Another batch of essentials is expected to soon set sail for Gaza from Cyprus.


Over the next few weeks, the United States is planning to build a floating dock off Gaza's shores that the White House has said could eventually help two million meals arrive in Gaza each day.


All of these efforts are designed to get more aid into Gaza, where the United Nations says severe hunger and malnutrition are alarmingly rampant. But diversifying the methods of delivery has not curtailed widespread malnutrition, experts and humanitarian groups say. While those efforts are welcome, they say the best way to stave off a famine is to broker a cease-fire. Talks are expected to resume in the coming days.


“We cannot stack up aid to the level that is needed, and we cannot keep it safe for both people delivering it and the people receiving it as long as there’s still an active war going on,” said Sarah Schiffling, an expert on humanitarian logistics and supply chains at the Hanken School of Economics in Finland.


As long as war endures, though, the main method for delivering aid should be over land, Dr. Schiffling said, because Gaza already has the infrastructure needed in place. Other mechanisms for transporting aid into Gaza by air or sea are “nice to have,” she added, but they are not likely to be as effective in addressing the dire hunger crisis there.


For instance, the 200-ton shipment — containing rice, flour, lentils and canned tuna, beef and chicken supplied by the charity World Central Kitchen — that reached Gaza this weekend was equivalent of what roughly 10 trucks could carry. In comparison, around 150 trucks are entering Gaza each day, which is less than a third of what was entering daily before the war, according to data from the main United Nations aid agency that serves Palestinians in Gaza, known as UNRWA.


The U.S. military, in partnership with the Jordanian Air Force, made an airdrop on Saturday that included about eight tons of food — less than half of what one truck can hold.


Juliette Touma, the director of communications at UNRWA, agreed. She said that while the arrival of additional aid by sea or air would undoubtedly help Palestinians, it serves as a Band-Aid so that a “crisis does not turn into a catastrophe.”


Israel maintains that it has placed no limit on the amount of aid that can enter Gaza and that it supports efforts to flood Gaza with food and supplies. But aid groups point out that Israel has closed all but two border crossings in the south and that its onerous inspections of aid convoys for arms slow down deliveries. Last week, Israel allowed a convoy of trucks carrying food to enter directly into northern Gaza for the first time since the war began.


The desperation and lawlessness in Gaza has also made distributing food and other supplies difficult and, in some cases, deadly. In several attacks over this past month, dozens of Palestinians have been killed or wounded while waiting to receive aid. At least two truck convoys within two weeks have ended in death and disaster after shots were fired as crowds pressed in around them.



12) Israel’s military says Hamas had returned to Gaza’s largest hospital.

By Yan Zhuang, Ameera Harouda and Hiba Yazbek, March 18, 2024


A woman holding a young girl while walking through dust and debris.

Palestinians flee the area after Israeli bombardment in central Gaza City on Monday. Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Israeli military said on Monday that it was conducting a “high-precision” operation at Al-Shifa Hospital, claiming that senior Hamas officials had regrouped at the medical facility, which is Gaza’s largest and has been a flashpoint of the war.


In a video address posted to social media at about 3:30 a.m. local time on Monday, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military’s chief spokesman, said the military was in the process of conducting a raid in “limited areas” of the hospital complex, which is in northern Gaza.


The Israeli military said that during the operation, Hamas fighters shot at its soldiers from within the complex and soldiers returned fire. The Health Ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, said Israeli forces had fired missiles at the complex and shot into surgery rooms. Neither the ministry’s claims nor the Israeli military’s could be independently verified.


Later, the Israeli military said that its forces had killed a senior Hamas official during the operation. It identified him as Faiq Mabhouh, the head of operations for the internal security forces of the Hamas government in Gaza and said he had been killed while “armed and hiding in a compound” at the hospital. Hamas did not confirm his death or role in the organization and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


The Israeli military also said one of its soldiers had been killed in the fighting at Al-Shifa.


The hospital and the surrounding area house about 30,000 patients, medical workers and displaced civilians, and a number of people were killed and wounded in the raid, the health ministry said. It added that a fire had broken out at the gate of the complex, which caused some people to suffocate and made it difficult to reach those who were injured.


By midday the raid was continuing, and 15 Israeli tanks and several bulldozers were inside the hospital grounds, said Alaa Abu al-Kaas, who was staying at the hospital to accompany her father who was being treated there.


“The fear and terror are really eating us alive,” she said in a phone call from a corridor of one of the hospital’s buildings where she was hiding. Her voice was barely audible amid loud booms and explosions.


Ms. al-Kaas, 19, said that around 2 a.m. she heard shots and the sound of tanks before Israeli soldiers, using loudspeakers, ordered people in the complex to stay inside and close the windows. She said Israeli forces told people that they would be moved to the Al-Mawasi area in southern Gaza, although it was not immediately clear when or how they would be moved. Israel has sought to create a humanitarian “safe zone” in Al-Mawasi, although civilians have found little shelter there.


“We are just sitting here anxiously waiting for them to evacuate us out of here,” she said.


Ms. al-Kaas said that she had seen Israeli soldiers holding several people, their hands bound and clothes partially stripped off, in the courtyard of the hospital complex. She added that bodies of people who had apparently been shot were lying in the courtyard.


Israel has said that the hospital complex doubled as a secret Hamas military command center, calling it one of many examples of civilian facilities that Hamas uses to shield its activities.


Hamas has denied the accusations, and Israel came under criticism from health and humanitarian organizations after storming the hospital in November. Evidence examined by The New York Times suggests Hamas did use the hospital for cover and maintained a hardened tunnel beneath it that was supplied with water, power and air-conditioning. But the Israeli military has struggled to prove that Hamas maintained a command-and-control center under the facility.


“We know that senior Hamas terrorists have regrouped inside Al-Shifa Hospital and are using it to command attacks against Israel,” Mr. Hagari said. He added that there would be “no obligation” for staff and patients to evacuate, but said a passage would be provided for civilians to leave the hospital.


The Gaza Health Ministry said the operation began at about 2 a.m. “Everyone who tries to move is targeted by sniper bullets and quadcopters,” it said.


After Israel’s high-profile raid of Al-Shifa, it took reporters to see a shaft at the complex leading to a tunnel network. While Israel has publicly revealed the existence of only one tunnel entrance on the hospital grounds, U.S. spy agencies say that their own intelligence indicates that Hamas and another Palestinian group used Al-Shifa to command forces and hold some hostages.


Myra Noveck contributed reporting.



13) Experts predict northern Gaza will soon face a famine.

By Gaya Gupta and Shashank Bengali, March 18, 2024


A crowd of children holding plates and other receptacles for food.

Palestinian children waiting in line for food provided by donors in Deir al Balah, Gaza, in February. Credit...Mohammed Saber/EPA, via Shutterstock

Experts anticipate a steep rise in malnutrition-related deaths in children in Gaza, according to a new report from a global authority on food security and nutrition, which warned of especially dire circumstances for 300,000 people in the northern part of the territory.


“Famine is imminent in the northern governorates and projected to occur anytime between mid-March and May 2024,” said the report released Monday by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification global initiative. The group — set up in 2004 by U.N. agencies and international relief groups — has classified a famine only twice before: in Somalia in 2011 and in South Sudan in 2017.


In the coming months, the report said, as many as 1.1 million people could face the severest level of hunger classified by the group, with “alarmingly high acute malnutrition rates among children under 5, significant excess mortality and an imminent risk of starvation.”


The group said that continued fighting and aid organizations’ lack of access to northern Gaza, the first part of the territory that Israeli forces invaded in October, have worsened the vulnerability of the 300,000 Palestinian civilians who remain there.


Across the Gaza Strip, people are facing severe shortages of food and other basic goods amid Israeli’s bombardment and a near-total blockade.


The other parts of Gaza, including the central and southern areas, also face a risk of famine by July if the worst-case scenarios come to pass, the group said, warning that all of Gaza’s 2.2 million people are “facing high levels of acute food insecurity.”


Last December, the group found that famine could occur within six months in Gaza unless fighting stopped immediately and more humanitarian supplies made it into the territory.  “Since then, the conditions necessary to prevent famine have not been met,” the latest report said.


According to the group’s classifications, a famine is classified by three conditions: when at least 20 percent of households have an extreme lack of food; at least 30 percent of children suffer from acute malnutrition; and at least two adults or four children for every 10,000 people die daily from starvation or from disease linked to malnutrition.



14) José Andrés, the chef helping send aid ships to Gaza, calls for a cease-fire.

By Vivian Yee, March 18, 2024

"Mr. Andrés on Sunday wondered aloud why Israel’s military was bombing buildings in Gaza that might house the hostages Israel says it wishes to see returned to safety. He also issued a plea for peace, saying he had seen great humanity on both sides of the conflict."


A red-and-white ship with ”Open Arms” on the side, next to a pier.

World Central Kitchen is the only aid group that has successfully delivered aid directly to Gaza by sea. Credit...Yiannis Kourtoglou/Reuters

As a second ship towing desperately needed aid prepared to depart for Gaza on Sunday, José Andrés, the founder of the food charity sending the vessels, called for a cease-fire and said that Israel should be doing more to prevent hunger in Gaza.


“At the very least,” Mr. Andrés, the celebrity chef, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Israel should “make sure that nobody’s hungry and that nobody’s without food and water.”


“This is something that should be happening overnight,” he added. “But for political reasons, I guess it’s not happening there.”


Mr. Andrés said he hoped his group, World Central Kitchen, would be able to scale up its nascent effort and eventually bring “huge quantities of food daily into the shores of Gaza,” where United Nations officials have said 2.2 million people are on the brink of famine.


Though the Open Arms, the first ship dispatched by the group, attracted global attention in recent days, the maritime route is so far delivering just a tiny fraction of the aid that the United Nations  says is needed to stave off famine. The Open Arms towed a barge to a makeshift jetty off Gaza on Friday with the equivalent of about 10 truckloads of food — far less than the 500 trucks a day aid groups say are needed.


Aid groups — including World Central Kitchen, which has sent more than 1,400 aid trucks into Gaza — have pleaded for Israel to allow more trucks in through more land crossings, saying that only a fast stream of trucks can sustain Gaza’s population.


But only about 150 trucks have been entering Gaza through the two open land crossings each day, according to U.N. data, because of several factors, including lengthy Israeli inspections to enforce stringent restrictions on what can enter Gaza.


The limitations at those entry points have set off a scramble for creative solutions among donors such as the European Union, which helped set up a maritime route from Cyprus to Gaza, and the United States, which has been airdropping aid and is leading an effort to build a temporary pier off Gaza’s coast to accommodate more deliveries by ship. John Kirby, the spokesman for White House National Security Council, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that it would take six to eight weeks to complete construction.


So far, only World Central Kitchen, which Mr. Andrés founded after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, has successfully delivered aid directly to Gaza by ship. The first delivery consisted of about 200 tons of rice, flour and lentils, and canned tuna, chicken and beef.


The second, which was still anchored in the Cypriot port of Larnaca on Sunday night, is set to bring food and equipment to help with future maritime deliveries.


Mr. Andrés on Sunday wondered aloud why Israel’s military was bombing buildings in Gaza that might house the hostages Israel says it wishes to see returned to safety. He also issued a plea for peace, saying he had seen great humanity on both sides of the conflict.


“The time I’ve spent in Israel, the time I’ve been spending in Gaza, seems everybody loves falafel and everybody loves hummus with equal intensity,” said Mr. Andrés, whose group has opened more than 60 community kitchens within Gaza to serve hot meals. “It makes you wonder how people that loves the same foods, they can be at odds with each other.”



15) VW Workers Seek Union Vote at Tennessee Plant for Third Time

The United Automobile Workers union said that 70 percent of the 4,000 eligible Volkswagen workers at a Chattanooga factory had signed cards expressing support.

By Neal E. Boudette, March 18, 2024


A view of a factory building, with a Volkswagen sign on the facade and cars parked in the foreground.

The Volkswagen plant where the union says 70 percent of roughly 4,000 eligible workers have signed cards declaring support for unionizing. Credit...Melissa Golden for The New York Times

Volkswagen employees in Tennessee who are hoping to join the United Automobile Workers asked a federal agency on Monday to hold an election, a key step toward the union’s longtime goal of organizing nonunion factories across the South.


With the union’s backing, Volkswagen workers filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board asking for a vote on U.A.W. representation, saying that more than 70 percent of the 4,000 eligible workers at the plant had signed cards supporting the union.


“Today, we are one step closer to making a good job at Volkswagen into a great career,” Isaac Meadows, an assembly worker at the plant, said in a statement.


If held, an election would be the first test of the U.A.W.’s newfound strength after staging a wave of strikes in the fall against the three Detroit automakers — General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis — and winning record wage increases.


The U.A.W. has been hoping to use momentum from its bargaining with the Detroit-based manufacturers to organize nonunion plants in Southern states that pay significantly lower wages than union factories. The U.A.W. says it plans to spend $40 million over the next three years on its campaign.


Chattanooga workers have voted on U.A.W. representation twice before, and slim majorities rejected unionization each time. In a 2014 vote, the union had no opposition from Volkswagen management, but there was vocal resistance from state Republican leaders, who suggested that unionizing would jeopardize expansion and job growth at the plant. A second narrow loss came in 2019.


In addition to the Volkswagen effort, union campaigns are underway at a Mercedes-Benz plant and a Hyundai factory, both in Alabama. The union says more than half of the Mercedes workers and more than 30 percent of the Hyundai workers have signed cards supporting U.A.W. membership.


A simple majority is needed to win representation, but the union says it has advised workers at the plants to get the support of more than 70 percent of the hourly workers and establish a robust organizing committee before seeking an election.


Volkswagen workers said they wanted to join the U.A.W. to push for higher wages, more time off and improved safety measures. The Chattanooga factory opened in 2011 and makes the Atlas full-size S.U.V. and the ID.4 electric vehicle. It is the world’s only Volkswagen plant without union representation.


“VW has partnered with unionized work forces around the world to make their plants safe and successful,” Victor Vaughn, a logistics worker, said in a statement. “That’s why we’re voting for a voice at Volkswagen here in Chattanooga.”


A Volkswagen official told reporters last month that the company would stay neutral during a Chattanooga election campaign, but that “neutral doesn’t mean silent — it means impartial to what employees decide.”


The U.A.W. has sought for years to organize nonunion auto plants in the South, where it has had to overcome right-to-work laws and widespread suspicion of organized labor. But unions have had a resurgence in recent years, often with encouragement from the Biden administration.


The U.A.W. in particular has gained strength after winning lucrative contracts with G.M., Ford and Stellantis. All three companies agreed to roughly 25 percent wage increases for workers making the top U.A.W. wage, and even larger raises for workers further down on the pay scale.


Within a few years, almost all of the 146,000 U.A.W. workers at the Detroit companies will earn more than $40 an hour — the equivalent of about $83,000 a year for those working 40 hours a week.


The Volkswagen plant announced an 11 percent pay increase shortly after the strikes at the Big Three, bringing the top hourly wage for production workers to $32.40.


Nonunion auto plants generally start new workers at less than $20 an hour and pay a top wage under $30 an hour.



16) New Studies Find No Evidence of Brain Injury in Havana Syndrome Cases

The findings from the National Institutes of Health are at odds with previous research that looked into the mysterious health incidents experienced by U.S. diplomats and spies.

By Julian E. Barnes, Reporting from Washington, March 18, 2024


A red car driving past a black fence in front of an American flag and the U.S. Embassy building.

The U.S. Embassy in Cuba. Incidents of debilitating symptoms that included dizziness and migraines began to occur in greater concentrations at the end of 2016 and in 2017 in Havana. Credit...Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters

New studies by the National Institutes of Health failed to find evidence of brain injury in scans or blood markers of the diplomats and spies who suffered symptoms of Havana syndrome, bolstering the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies about the strange health incidents.


Spy agencies have concluded that the debilitating symptoms associated with Havana syndrome, including dizziness and migraines, are not the work of a hostile foreign power. They have not identified a weapon or device that caused the injuries, and intelligence analysts now believe the symptoms are most likely explained by environmental factors, existing medical conditions or stress.


The lead scientist on one of the two new studies said that while the study was not designed to find a cause, the findings were consistent with those determinations.


The authors said the studies are at odds with findings from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, who found differences in brain scans of people with Havana syndrome symptoms and a control group.


Dr. David Relman, a prominent scientist who has had access to the classified files involving the cases and representatives of people suffering from Havana syndrome, said the new studies were flawed. Many brain injuries are difficult to detect with scans or blood markers, he said. He added that the findings do not dispute that an external force, like a directed energy device, could have injured the current and former government workers.


The studies were published in The Journal of the American Medical Association on Monday alongside an editorial by Dr. Relman that was critical of the findings.


The incidents began to occur in greater concentrations at the end of 2016 and in 2017 in Havana and later in China, Austria and elsewhere. The Biden administration took office in 2021 promising to improve health care for diplomats and spies suffering from the symptoms and vowing to get to the bottom of what was causing them.


Studies by the University of Pennsylvania in 2018 and 2019 suggested that people affected by the syndrome had possible brain injuries that were different from typical concussion injuries or other traumatic brain injuries.


The N.I.H. studies looked at a different group of people, with less than a third of the cases overlapping. Dr. Leighton Chan, the acting chief scientific officer for the N.I.H. Clinical Center and the lead author of one of the studies, said that of the 86 participants, 24 cases were from Cuba, six from China, 17 from Vienna, nine from around the United States and 30 from other locations.


While examining the brain scans, the researchers found no significant differences with the control group.


In a news conference discussing the results before their public release, the N.I.H. scientists said their scans, done in a research setting, were more precise than the scans produced primarily in clinical settings during earlier studies. They also said the control group was more closely matched to the study participants, improving the study’s rigor.


Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania said the two studies were “apples to oranges” comparisons because they looked at different groups of patients, and the N.I.H. study was not designed to replicate theirs.


The N.I.H. scientists said they did not diagnose the patients with traumatic brain injuries or concussions. The diagnoses they offered instead, all so-called “functional neurologic disorders,” are often caused by stress.


The studies did not rule out a potential external cause for Havana syndrome symptoms. But if one was not involved, Dr. Chan said, stress “may explain more of our findings.”


“It is important to note that individuals with functional neurological disorders of any cause have symptoms that are real, distressing and very difficult to treat,” Dr. Chan said.


The N.I.H. diagnosis angered several people with Havana syndrome symptoms who said it was insulting and misguided because it was tantamount to calling their symptoms psychosomatic or the result of mass hysteria.


Dr. Relman, who was among the leaders of an experts panel established by the intelligence agencies and another by the National Academy of Sciences, said the work of those groups had found that the symptoms of some of the affected government workers could not have been caused by stress or psychosocial factors alone.


The N.I.H. studies looked at a large group of people who reported diverse symptoms, rather than zeroing in on overseas cases where additional evidence shows something strange could have been going on, Dr. Relman said. In those cases, a concealable device, capable of delivering directed energy in a targeted way, could have been responsible.


“To lump all these cases together in the way they did is simply asking for trouble,” Dr. Relman said.


Mark Zaid, a lawyer for several people with Havana syndrome symptoms, said many current and former officials treated at N.I.H. were upset that they were not briefed on the study before it came out. Mr. Zaid said some patients were told that they had to participate in the study to receive treatment from the government for their symptoms. Mr. Zaid said that had raised ethical questions about the patients’ consent.


Dr. Chan disputed that and said that the people who participated did so willingly and could have left the study at any time.


But Mr. Zaid said he feared that the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies would improperly use the study to bolster their findings that they could not determine an external cause for Havana syndrome cases.


“The concern is that intelligence community is going to weaponize this study to show that the absence of evidence is evidence,” Mr. Zaid said. “And it is not.”