Tuesday, November 7, 2023


Some very disturbing news from an article for THE ATLANTIC by Valerie Hudson:

This past spring, as part of my work teaching international relations, I oversaw a team of students assigned to create a first-of-its kind, comprehensive report on the status of women in the United States. Four of the students working on the project were from other countries—Afghanistan, Bolivia, Nepal, and Nigeria—and many of the findings pierced their idea of America as a nation that protects women and girls. One issue stood out among the rest: child marriage.

USAID officials have declared child marriage a human-rights violation. Last year, the agency laid out a “roadmap” to end child marriage worldwide by 2030. And yet only 10 U.S states ban marriage under age 18 without exception. Five states have no minimum age of marriage as long as parental and/or judicial consent is given. The rest of the states allow child marriage with age limits—usually 16 to 17, though sometimes younger—as well as parental and/or judicial consent.

Congress has set some limits on child marriage, but because marriage is regulated at the state level, the United States has no national law banning child marriage and no national minimum age to marry. Several states have recently revived debates about child marriage; earlier this year, Michigan banned the practice. But many more states need to take action.

Child marriage can deprive children—mostly girls—of agency and put them in abusive situations. In most states, a man who has sex with an underage girl in circumstances that would typically qualify as statutory rape can avoid the charge if he is married to the minor, with some exceptions. In some instances, child-custody rulings can be upended if a child marries with the permission of a noncustodial parent. And in most cases of child marriage, the minor does not technically have the legal standing to initiate a divorce until they are 18 (unless a judge decides otherwise in a prior hearing), and may not be allowed to stay in domestic-violence shelters because they are not an adult.

How, in 2023, are we not able to put an end to child marriage?  

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Monday, November 6, 2023.  Worldwide protests against the assault on Gaza, protests in every Middle East country that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited over the weekend, and much more.

Over the weekend, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Baghdad.  

The response from Iraqis?  Angry protests denouncing him and denouncing US President Joe Biden.  Blinken was a disaster across the Middle East.  Patrick Wintour (FINANCIAL TIMES OF LONDON) reports:

Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, said on Saturday at a press conference alongside Blinken: “What happens next? How can we even entertain what will happen in Gaza when we do not know what kind of Gaza will be left after this war is done? Are we going to be talking about a wasteland? Are we going to be talking about a whole population reduced to refugees? Simply, we do not know – we do not have all the variables to even start thinking about that.”

The only way you can sell Blinken's tour of the Middle East as a success is to do like Matthew Lee (AP) and ignore the response he recieved and just turn it instead into a tour itenary noting the various stops:

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken took his diplomatic push on the Israel-Hamas war to the occupied West Bank on Sunday, trying to assure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that the Biden administration was intensifying efforts to ease the plight of Gaza’s civilians and insisting that Palestinians must have a main say in whatever comes next for the territory after the conflict.

Blinken later flew to Baghdad for talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani as American forces in the region face a surge of attacks by Iranian-allied militias in Iraq and elsewhere. U.S. forces shot down another one-way attack drone Sunday that was targeting American and coalition troops near their base in neighboring Syria, a U.S. official said. From Baghdad Blinken traveled to Turkey. 

While he was pushing hokum, Queen Rania of Jordan gave another reality based interview.

Queen Rania: There has to be a collective call for a cease-fire.  And I know that some who are against a cease-fire argue that it will help Hamas.  However, I feel that in that argument they are inherently dismissing the deaths -- in fact, even endorsing and justifying the death of thousands of civilians.  And that is just morally reprehensible.  It is also short-sighted and not entirely rational because, as I've said before, if you manage to eliminate all of Hamas, what next? The root cause of this conflict is an illegal occupation.  It is routine human rights abuses, disregard to UN resolutions and international law.  If we do not address these root causes, then you can kill the combatants but you cannot kill the cause.  So on the rubble of these destroyed buildings will emerge another group more determined and more motivated to do what Hamas did.  So I think Israel needs to once and for all realize that, if it wants its security, the surest route is through peace. 

(Before another e-mail comes in demanding disclosure -- I know her step-mother-in-law.  I do not know Rania herself.) 

Having filed his fluff and candy yesterday, Matthew Lee (AP) goes for some reality with this just published report today which opens, "U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrapped up a grueling Middle East diplomatic tour on Monday in Turkey after only limited success in efforts to forge a regional consensus on how best to ease civilian suffering in Gaza as Israel intensifies its war against Hamas." The stop in Turkey was met with protests and Blinken didn't get to meet Turkey's decades long ruler Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has already made his feelings about the assault on Gaza well known -- so why did Blinken even visit?  Nicola Slawson (GUARDIAN) noted, "In an apparent snub of Washington’s top diplomat, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan, plans to travel across the remote north-east on Monday."

CNN’s stringer in Gaza, Hassan Elsayeh, has documented the immense challenges of reporting what is happening inside the territory to the rest of the world.

In a video message he shows himself and other journalists standing on a rooftop, trying to get a stronger signal to send out the footage they are capturing. Even being in an elevated location closer to cell towers is no guarantee the signal will be strong enough, Elsayeh says.

“Gaza has had no internet since yesterday. We try as much as possible but with great and unimaginable difficulty to get out what’s happening in Gaza. A few journalists and I have come to the top of this rooftop to film the scenes, it’s a struggle,” he adds.  

Another prominent journalist Motaz Azaiza is seen in the video describing the challenges of working with poor communications, trying to document the airstrikes around them from the rooftop.

“Instead of taking what should be one minute to post a photograph online, it takes 10 minutes,” he says. 

There is fighting and there is shelling. We are not wearing helmets," Azaiza added.

Elsayeh says he’s been trying for an hour to send his footage to different outlets to “show the world what is happening in Gaza”. 

Communication services are slowly returning in some parts of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Telecommunication company PalTel announced Monday, after the third disruption since October 7.

The United Nations speaks out.  ALJAZEERA reports:

The leaders of 18 United Nations agencies have called for an immediate ceasefire in the Israeli-Hamas war, expressing “shock and horror” at the mounting death toll from the conflict.

“We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. It’s been 30 days. Enough is enough,” the UN heads said in a rare joint statement on Sunday.

Over the weekend

people around the world took to the streets.  WSWS notes, "The massive protests are taking place in the major imperialist centers, the capitals of the powers that constitute the chief allies of Israel, including London, Berlin, Paris and Washington D.C., where Joseph Kishore, National Secretary of Socialist Equality Party-US, estimated “at least a quarter of a million people were there,” making it the largest protest against war in the US since the 2003 demonstrations against the US invasion of Iraq."  


Tens of thousands of people have gathered near the White House in what is being called the Free Palestine March. It comes as President Biden has requested more than $14 billion in military aid for Israel, and marchers are protesting that funding and calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Gaza war. For more on that, we turn to NPR's Laurel Wamsley, who joins us near Freedom Plaza in D.C.


MA: Laurel, what are you seeing out there?

WAMSLEY: Yeah. The streets here have been full of people all afternoon. Many of them have been waving Palestinian flags or wearing the kufi, the traditional black-and-white scarf of Palestine. It's just a ton of people here. It's all very peaceful. But there's also been a solid police presence. There are a range of speakers at Freedom Plaza and chants that would erupt from time to time. And then an hour - about an hour ago, the folks at the gathering started marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. This march was organized by a range of pro-Palestine groups in conjunction with a lot of peace and justice, more broadly, organizations in the U.S. And they organized buses from across the country, as far as San Francisco, Miami, Texas to be here today.

MA: So people are coming from all over. What are they telling you?

WAMSLEY: Yeah. We spoke to a lot of people, and they had a range of backgrounds. One we spoke with as is young man named Yunis Berkuch (ph). He's a 24-year-old from Jersey City. And he says his family comes from Morocco. But he says, first and foremost, he's here as an American.

YUNIS BERKUCH: Just as an American, I mean, as someone who grew up in, you know, public schools, I was raised to believe that the United States condemned - right? - atrocities, war crimes, heinous government acts wherever they saw them - right? - regardless of who committed them.

WAMSLEY: And he says, from his perspective, the response from Israel has been disproportionate. He says he's not president. He's never led a country. But he wants a cease-fire. And he wants mediators to come together to resolve this. We also spoke with Amara Rana (ph). She's a 39-year-old who lives in D.C. She said she came to the march because her neighbor is a Palestinian. And she says, as a Muslim herself, it's been emotional to be here at the march today.

AMARA RANA: No. It feels amazing. Like, I'm trying to stop myself from crying. But the unity is amazing to see so many Americans come out, and I hope Joe Biden sees what he's losing.

WAMSLEY: She says Biden voters supported Biden because they believe in equality. But what she's been seeing from the Biden administration right now, she doesn't feel like he's supporting the rights of Palestinians.

MA: So they're sending a message there. Laurel, I wonder, did you speak with any folks there that were Jewish?

WAMSLEY: Yes, we did. We spoke with a man named Pedro Kramer (ph). He grew up in Argentina, and he now lives outside D.C., and he was there holding a sign with the Star of David on it. And he was here with his baby in a stroller.

PEDRO KRAMER: You know, I was raised as a Jewish - Jewish family, Jewish school. And I was always taught that we - what we do is we seek justice. We seek justice everywhere, everywhere and for everyone. And what is happening right now is the farthest, you know, that justice can be.

WAMSLEY: He said there's no difference between his own son, who's here at the rally, and any child living in Gaza, who he said are dying as we speak. He said he's been questioning what Israel is doing and that it's led to a rift with his family and his friends, even with his best friend, who called him an anti-Semitic for questioning Israel's leadership right now.

Protests also took place in London.  CNN notes, "Tens of thousands of demonstrators had gathered at Trafalgar Square for the protest, according to London's Metropolitan Police Service, and most were demonstrating peacefully."

People across Britain protested for Palestine in great numbers on Saturday—and, in many places, they were determined to do more than just passively stand in the streets. 

In London’s Trafalgar Square, where organisers had called a static rally, the numbers were so large they spilled onto the road within half an hour of the assembly time. Then hundreds of the more than 40,000 who had gathered occupied and shut the nearby Charing Cross station—with over 1,000 outside trying to join the packed concourse. 

Protesters cheered as station staff had to pull down the shutters and close the station. People then took over the Strand briefly and sat in the road.

Kara was one of the Charing Cross occupiers. She told Socialist Worker, “We have to do things like this to get the politicians to pay attention. 

“We need to build a powerful and visible movement. I’m not worried about the police. What can they do when there’s this many of us?”

People are defiant. “We can’t be half-hearted when Israel is murdering the children of Gaza,” said Akhtar, a Unite union member from west London. “I want to be on the streets every day.”

Other station occupations took place in cities including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Nottingham and Leeds.

In London, protester Jess told Socialist Worker that she felt she couldn’t sit at home and watch the news anymore. “I had to come today,” she said. “I couldn’t be idle. It feels like we are watching a genocide playing out on social media. It feels unprecedented. 

“I have no faith in our political system. I have no faith in the Tories or the opposition. They can get in a blender, all of them.”

Asha raged against the imperialist system that has led to such levels of barbarity. “England is built on the stealing of resources of other countries through colonialism,” she said. “It’s always the same everywhere." 

They turned out in Montreal to say stop the violence.


In Paris, several thousand protesters called for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and some shouted “Israel, assassin!”

Banners on a sound-system truck at the Paris march through rain-dampened streets read: “Stop the massacre in Gaza.” Demonstrators, many carrying Palestinian flags, chanted “Palestine will live, Palestine will win.”

Demonstrators also took aim at French President Emmanuel Macron, chanting “Macron, accomplice.”

[. . .]

In another part of Milan, a pro-Palestinian rally drew about 4,000 people and there was also a march by several thousand in Rome. Yara Abushab, a 22-year-old medical student from Gaza University, who has been in Italy since Oct. 1, was among the participants and described Oct. 7 as a watershed for her.

“They bombed my university, my hospital. I lost a lot of loved ones and right now the last time I heard something from my family was a week ago,” she said. “The situation is indescribable.”

The ongoing protests are impacting in the US.  For example,  Alicia Diaz (BLOOMBERG NEWS) reports:

Senior US senators expressed concern about civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip, signaling growing scrutiny in Washington over Israel’s military response to last month’s attack by Hamas.

“Israel has a right to defend itself, but what Israel does not have the right to do is to kill thousands and thousands of innocent men, women and children who had nothing to do with that attack,” Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and former Democratic presidential candidate, said on CNN’s State of the Union.

Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Jack Reed called on Israel to rely on US intelligence to help “minimize the harm to civilians,” to comply with the laws of war and help with “winning the battle of minds and hearts.”

[. . .]

Senator Chris Murphy, chair of the chamber’s Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, last week called on Israel to “change direction” in its Gaza operation.

“It’s time for Israel’s friends to recognize that the current operational approach is causing an unacceptable level of civilian harm and does not appear likely to achieve the goal of permanently ending the threat from Hamas,” he said in a statement. 

Not noted in the above is Senator Patty Murray who issued the following on Thursday:

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement calling for a humanitarian pause in the Israel-Hamas war to allow critical humanitarian aid to reach innocent civilians in Gaza, while reiterating Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism.

“Like so many, I’ve watched as the Israel-Hamas war has intensified. I continue to believe that Hamas must be held accountable for the horrific terrorist attack it launched against Israel. And I fear for the innocent families caught in the crossfire—from the Israeli civilians brutally attacked and taken hostage, to Palestinian civilians who are in the midst of an escalating and increasingly dire humanitarian crisis, millions of lives are at stake. I believe hostages taken by Hamas must absolutely be released and returned to their families safely. And I believe that a humanitarian pause in the fighting is necessary to save civilian lives and allow critical humanitarian aid to reach innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

“I firmly believe that Israel has the right to defend itself against the very real and continued threat that Hamas—a group that espouses genocidal intent against Jews—poses to civilians. Still, Israel must do so within the bounds of international law and do its utmost to protect civilians—something I have repeatedly stressed and continue to emphasize.

“We cannot lose sight of the human reality on the ground—the fact that in the middle of every conflict, are civilians—residents displaced from their homes, hostages torn from their families, people facing obstacles getting basic medical services, and kids and families who desperately need food and water.

“Congress has a duty and a moral responsibility to quickly pass legislation that would provide urgently-needed humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza—including food, water, and fuel—as well as security assistance for Israel to defend its citizens against the continued terrorist threat posed by Hamas—and I am working to put together a bipartisan package to do just that right now. As Chair of the Appropriations Committee, I want to be clear that any supplemental funding package must include humanitarian assistance for civilians in Gaza. It is not just the right and moral thing to do, it also is very clearly in our national interest as it promotes long-term stability and security—combatting hopelessness that can spiral into new threats.”

At a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Senator Murray chaired on Tuesday, Murray asked Secretary Blinken about the U.S. ensures that humanitarian assistance to Gaza actually reaches the civilians who desperately need it—so that it doesn’t fall into the hands of Hamas. Secretary Blinken made clear that the need for humanitarian aid is urgent and desperate, and outlined the system whereby humanitarian assistance to Gaza is carefully checked and tracked, to ensure that it is being delivered to civilians who need it.

“First, let’s be clear that the needs are desperate. The needs for the most basic things–food, water, medicine, fuel. All of these are literally a matter of life and death, just to focus in on Gaza,” Secretary Blinken said at the hearing. “Men, women, and children displaced–well over a million people displaced in Gaza, about half of them in the care of UNRWA right now, desperately need the most basic things in order to survive. So, from day one, we have been working with the Israeli government, with Egypt, with the UN agencies, as well as with other actors, to try to make sure that assistance could get in to people who need it in Gaza—to get it in a way that doesn’t go to the people who don’t need it, and that’s Hamas…. To date, we don’t have reports—either from the UN or from Israel—that this assistance has been diverted from its intended recipients, but it’s something that we’re going to track very closely.”

Senator Murray emphasized the need to provide humanitarian aid to civilians Gaza at the Senate Democratic leadership press conference this week. Murray has made numerous calls for humanitarian aid and fuel deliveries to Gaza, and has urged President Biden to lead the international community in contributing to the United Nations’ emergency appeal of $294 million to address the immediate humanitarian needs in the West Bank and Gaza. Following the Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel, Senator Murray issued a statement condemning the attacks and voted for the Senate resolution standing with Israel against terrorism.


And, of course, Sentor Dick Durbin called for a cease-fire last Thursday.  Both Murray and Durbin have shown more spine than Bernie Sanders which is only a surprise if you're still deluded about Bernie having a backbone.  

This weekend, as mass protests escalated internationally against the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) war on Gaza, the IDF responded by stepping up bombing attacks on refugee camps and calls for the mass murder of Palestinians. 

The IDF bombed the al-Maghazi refugee camp on Saturday, killing at least 51 people according to the Palestinian WAFA news agency, and injuring dozens more. Mohammed Alaloul, a journalist for Turkey’s Anadolu Agency, reported: “An Israeli air strike targeted my neighbors’ house in Al-Maghazi camp. The house next door partially collapsed.” He added that two of his sons—Ahmed, 13, and Qais, 4—had been killed and his wife, mother and two other children were injured. 

The IDF bombed schools that were being used as shelters in refugee camps at Al Bureij, killing at least 15, and Jabaliya, killing six—in a camp that had already been bombed three times last week, killing hundreds. UN officials warned that this might be a sign that IDF forces could bomb more of the roughly 150 UN shelters in Gaza, which are housing around 700,000 of Gaza’s roughly 2.2 million population.

IDF forces are using genocidal methods to fight Hamas militias deep inside the Gaza strip, causing horrific casualties and unprecedented levels of suffering. Over 9,770 Palestinians have been killed, including 3,900 children and 2,509 women, with 2,200 missing while at least 70,000 Palestinians have been injured in the IDF war. Moreover, Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza threatens to unleash an unprecedented food and health crisis.

The blockade has cut off all fuel, food and water supplies to Gaza. Palestinians survive on an average of two pieces of bread per day. Moreover, the Israeli blockade has largely incapacitated five of Gaza’s six waste treatment plants and most of its water desalination plants, provoking a breakdown of the sewer system and a catastrophic shortage of drinking water. Gaza officials said that nearly 80 percent of Gaza’s wells have been destroyed.

The following sites updated: