Israel's assassination of 'voice of Palestine' journalist Shireen Abu Akleh requires asking 'hard questions'

Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was loved and revered. She covered oppression faced by the Palestinians living for decades under Israeli occupation. She pulled no punches. She was known as the “voice of Palestine.” Her death, or martyrdom, has broken the hearts of many.

Shireen was a Palestinian-American reporting for Al Jazeera. The Doha-based news network said she was shot dead by Israeli forces while doing her job, reporting on Israeli raids conducted in Jenin.

It’s not just Palestinian Muslim journalists who are under threat. Shireen was Christian. Anyone of any faith, or nationality faces immediate danger, if they simply try to report on the facts.

Al Jazeera described the shooting as a “cold-blooded assassination.”

Let’s take a look at the facts. Shireen’s colleagues and witnesses claim that she was deliberately killed in order to send a message.

Israel initially blamed her death on Palestinian gunfire. After walking that claim back, authorities said a full investigation will take place.

Meaning Israel will investigate itself.

That Israel shifted from denial to pledging a full investigation suggests officials know something about the incident that will make their initial statement look suspect. We can speculate about that.

Needing no speculation is the fact that Human Rights Watch has described Israeli investigations as “whitewashed mechanisms.”

Also needing no debate is that countless journalists have been killed by Israeli gunfire over the years with little or no accountability. The official line is that none were intentional or Palestinians are to blame.

Since 1967, according to the Palestine Journalists Syndicate, 86 Palestinian journalists have been killed – 50 of them since 2000.

After the Great March of Return protests in Palestine in 2018-2019, a UN report found reasonable grounds to suggest that Israeli snipers shot at journalists, medics, healthcare workers, children and people with disabilities “knowing they were identifiable as such.”

In addition, we know that Israel's airstrikes on Gaza last year obliterated key media buildings reporting on events from Palestine.

Ultimately, this issue extends even beyond justice for the Palestinians. Israel’s shooting of journalists, and attacks on the media in general, should alarm anybody concerned with free speech and a free press.

There’s no liberal defense as there was decades ago. The indefensible can’t be defended. Israeli occupation is apartheid in every sense.

In August 2018, I was aboard one of a group of boats sailing from Europe to Gaza to deliver medical aid to the Palestinians, thus breaking the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip. We set off from Sicily.

The passengers were international activists and journalists, including nationals from Israel, Canada, France, Iran, Spain and Sweden.

About 40 nautical miles from Gaza, after two weeks at sea, in the dead of the night on August 4, we were surrounded by Israeli vessels and arrested in a long and drawn-out process that took several hours.

All this in international waters.

It’s hard to do justice to the scene but our small boat, in which the engine had blown days before, had been slowly continuing to Gaza, nonetheless, bobbing haplessly along before being intercepted.

The power of the Israeli forces surrounding our tiny beat-up boat called The Freedom was disproportionate, to say the least.

We had broken no laws. Even so, our ship was taken by Israeli commandos. They pointed guns at us for hours. We were towed from Gaza, which had been visible, and taken to Ashdod, Israel.

Taking aid to a besieged people via international water is not a crime under international law. Our arrest, however, was illegal.

We were held for days. We were treated like criminals. It was the Israelis who broke the law, though. They assaulted us. They detained us. They stole from us. One of our sister boats, which was ahead of us, was viciously attacked. Those aboard sustained serious injuries.

It’s worth remembering that a similar flotilla, the Mavi Marmara in 2010, was also raided at night en route to Gaza. Israeli commandos killed nine people. To this day, nobody has been held to account.

Nobody ever is.

That’s why there’s little faith in an impartial investigation of Israel by Israel for Israel in the shooting death of Shireen Abu Akleh.

Recent days have seen unthinkable video footage of mourners, who were carrying the coffin of Shireen Abu Akleh, being attacked by Israeli soldiers. Her coffin almost hit the ground. Videos showing the disgraceful scenes were seen by millions around the world.

They needed no explanation.

Even so, media outlets reported that grieving Palestinians “clashed” with Israeli security forces, reminding us the occupation is glossed over at every turn by those with the power to shape our thinking.

That’s as true in the US as it is in the UK.

A 2021 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology examined tens of thousands of articles in the Times published during the first and second intifadas. It found that anti-Palestinian coverage persisted even when Israeli violence was greater than Palestinian resistance to it.

There’s nowhere to hide.

Either Israel is a rogue state operating under apartheid or it’s a democracy – in which case it’s time to ask hard questions.

Qualified immunity is rooted in white supremacy and gives cops a free pass to lynch Black people

Though it took more than a century as well as countless lives lost to white supremacy, the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act is now US law.

It has been widely hailed as an important piece of symbolism.

Considering America’s longstanding love affair with lynching, however, which continues to this day, symbolism is the most we can take away.

While it’s good that those terrorists of lynching now potentially face another layer of punishment, it’s too little too late. Why?

Because the new law does not deal with a core problem: police.

White men in uniform lynch the most.

They are also most likely to get away with it.

One hundred years ago, the police and white vigilantes worked in tandem to murder Black people. In the 1950s, the police and white vigilantes conspired together to kill Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black child.

In 2022, we might ask, what has actually changed?

It might be tempting to get all starry-eyed about America’s new anti-lynching law. The long history of racial oppression and its modern ramifications in America, however, do not permit such a luxury.

Things are too dangerous for Black people.

Racial bias among police is well documented. Police continue to terrorize Black America, knowing what the right thing to do is. They refuse to follow laws that should already ensure that being Black in America at the wrong time and place is not a death sentence.

Days ago, a video was released of an incident in 2021. It shows the shooting and execution of an unarmed Black man named Quadry Sanders at the hands of police in Lawton, Okla.

What preceded the incident does not matter. Sanders was unarmed. After being shot, while lying on the floor, when asked to “raise his hands,” he does so from a near fetal position.

He’s already dying.

Again, the cops shoot him.

All of these videos are awful, but the shooting of Sanders is especially stomach-churning. The moment he’s asked to raise his hands while on the floor riddled with bullets, dutifully complying, only to be shot several more times, sums up everything wrong with anti-Black policing.

Comply, don’t comply, carry a gun or don’t carry a gun, asleep in your home or out with your kids – if you’re Black in America, the hunt is on.

So will the new Emmett Till anti-lynching law apply to police officers too? Well, they would need to be charged first, and this is the real issue.

Qualified immunity feeds the problem.

Bishop Talbert Swan is president of the NAACP chapter of Springfield Massachusetts and a strong critic of racist policing in the United States.

He told the Editorial Board:

While I commend Congressman Bobby Rush for sponsoring and pushing the anti-lynching legislation, we understand the epidemic of legalized lynchings of Black people by law enforcement across this nation will not be abated by the threat of increased sentences.
Especially when most police officers who kill Black people are never charged. It is not the severity of a punishment that is likely to prevent hate crimes. It is the certainty of it.
In America, white police officers and white vigilantes are almost certainly will not be punished for murdering a Black person.

Last year, the Asian-American community succeeded after a couple of months in seeing the anti-Asian hate crime law become a reality.

Black people have been in America before the first European settlers arrived. They’ve experienced hundreds of years of state-sanctioned murder. And yet not an anti-Black hate crime bill in sight.

President Biden doesn’t have to wait to be lobbied.

Black communities need a solid commitment from the government to uproot white supremacy within policing. That needs to happen now.


Why is the United States accepting Ukrainian refugees but not Haitians?

Joe Biden has pledged the United States will receive 100,000 Ukrainian refugees alongside promises from European nations to accommodate thousands more fleeing the Russian invasion.

The move has been announced just weeks after an agreement was made at the European Commission and among EU states to implement an emergency directive, providing Ukrainians legal residential status, access to education facilities and the labor market.

The swift and collective stance of solidarity by the US and European countries has been praised. Europe, once unsure about what to do with the 1.5 million refugees from the Middle East and Africa since 2015, resulting in Brexit and the ascension of far-right politics, seems to have found a united voice over the fate of Ukrainian refugees.

Reasons why can be found in extraordinary coverage of the crisis.

War happening in Europe (despite Europe’s long history of war) is apparently something “unthinkable,” as conflict is usually something taking place in Third World countries, not civilized countries like Ukraine. These are Europeans with blond hair and blue eyes, after all, making it much easier for certain news reporters to relate to them.

Glaring for anybody not living under a rock for the last seven years is the contrast between media coverage of 2022 versus 2015.

Back then, news coverage was often centered on the perceived differences of the refugees, rather than on their humanity.

They weren’t white with blonde hair, so they were viewed as a threat to European values by majority Christian countries. Such countries forgot, or chose to ignore, that Jesus himself was a brown refugee fleeing persecution (and then lynched by the Roman Empire).

Europe and now the US falling over themselves to accommodate thousands of Ukrainians must feel like a slap in the face to those also seeking safety from war or born without the privilege of white skin.

Biden’s offer of allowing 100,000 Ukrainians refuge is a powerful reversal from the administration's swift deportation of thousands of Haitians just months ago.

Who can forget the scenes at Del Rio late last year, of the migrant camp in Texas which saw 15,000 Haitians enter in just over 24 hours, with the total number doubling within days.

It was a humanitarian crisis, in the midst of a global health crisis, but as is the case with Europe, rather than the Haitians being viewed as human, they were treated as a political crisis.

They were quickly removed in Biden’s quest to appease those on the right accusing him of being too soft on migration, exploiting the use of Title 42 – something that’s supposed to end at the beginning of April. (Biden is said to be planning to rescind the order soon.)

What’s worse is the US played a leading role in creating the instability in Haiti, causing Haitians to leave by the thousands. By sending Haitians back, though many had not lived in the country for years and had entered the US via Mexico, the US government potentially compromised the safety of those who’d otherwise claim asylum.

Sending people back to where they face danger is a breach of human rights.

Biden could have found a way to accept those Haitians, just as he has found a way to accept these Ukrainians.

But whether he or anyone else cares to admit it, there is simply less value placed on the lives of non-white refugees than white refugees .

For a president who campaigned as being the opposite of the openly racist Trump, his policies toward Black migrants compared with European refugees is shameful.

Enough time has passed for the Biden administration to distinguish itself from Trump’s dogma over migration. Biden is therefore now continuing to follow these policies, because he chooses too.

Decent-minded people need to force him to do better.

Playing into the “good refugee” and “bad refugee” narrative on the basis of whiteness, which Biden has done, is a dangerous path with deadly consequences, and he damn well knows it.

Prince Andrew's $15.7 million settlement to Jeffrey Epstein abuse victim is another rich guy 'evading accountability'

In modern so-called first-class democracies, what’s the price of evading accountability for the class of supremely powerful elites?

Well, more than $15.7 million, it seems, which is the approximate sum Prince Andrew paid to avoid facing Virginia Giuffre in civil court.

That’s a lot of money, considering Andrew protested his innocence throughout the saga. From his perspective, it’s a great deal of money to pay to a woman who had, according to his version of events, falsely accused him of abusing her, a former sex-trafficking victim, ruining his public image and damaging that of the wider royal family.

A few weeks after, Andrew’s in the headlines again. The British mainstream media is now presenting him as a defeated man, ousted from his family, punished by means of having his royal obligations and titles stripped. All this creates the impression that, although Andrew has been a bad boy, and we all know why, and although he never faced a judge and jury, he really has been punished, honestly he has.

In fact, it’s a royally deliberate exercise in damage control.

Jeffrey Epstein is said to have described Andrew as “low-hanging fruit,” as one of his most-prized contacts in his star-studded portfolio.

Andrew’s handling of events in the press, his energy, and attempted explanation for the excruciating car crash of an interview with the BBC – all this seems to match Epstein’s description of him.

A bit dim, and happy to keep associating with Epstein as a “working” member of the royal family, even after Epstein had been convicted of sex assault charges, a man operating in a different universe from the rest of us. Andrew is one of the obscenely rich for whom the world is their playground and the lives of ordinary human beings their sport.

Remarkably, the prince has acknowledged Giuffre was a victim of sex trafficking, having previously suggested the claims were a fabrication. He has vowed to support other victims – very noble for a man who described one of his own few character flaws as often being “too honorable.” This despite having previously suggested that the picture purportedly showing him with his arm around Giuffre as a teen, with Ghislaine Maxwell lurking in the background, was fake.

In reality, the accusations and evidence thrown at the prince lead only in one direction. It should be said, according to the letter of the law, that Andrew is innocent of having committed any crime. He’s faced no court. It should be said the law, quite obviously, does not set the benchmark for deciding who’s innocent and who’s guilty.

Plenty of crimes of morality and decency happen all the time that are perfectly legal while those who carried them out end up walking free.

Now, to be clear, if the paid settlement to Virginia Giuffre was what she wanted, more power to her. Her bravery is nothing short of heroic. I hope the money sets her family up very comfortably and helps pay for the support she needs following her trauma. While Andrew avoided court, his reputation is in tatters to the point that other royal family members have quietly disassociated themselves from him.

But here’s the thing that gets me.

For so many in Britain, the royal family is presented as some kind of representative of real British values (whatever those are meant to be), with millions firmly believing the power they hold is symbolic, and that the royals actually serve some useful function in society.

Fact is, they are an outdated economic drain on society funded by taxpayers, a relic of a shameful age and chapter in British history.

Their wealth was accumulated on the backs of others. Their image plays a central role in Britain's image at home and abroad.

They are an institution and one of the most powerful in the world. Meghan Markle once described them as others have, as “the firm” that is more akin to a criminal syndicate than anything else.

Andrew might have paid millions of pounds to avoid proving his innocence, but this is chump change, a small price to avoid having one of their own face justice and democracies in a courtroom.

Just like Epstein, Andrew was never going to face justice.

Within a relatively short space of time, he’ll likely ease his way back into public life, having received no more than a slap on the wrist.

Why America’s ‘war on terror’ is blind to white terror

It makes for chilling reading, but it’s entirely necessary. Recently, yet another former FBI agent blew the whistle on the deadly and growing threat posed by white supremacist extremism in the United States.

Scott, whose full name Rolling Stone decided to keep in confidence, was an undercover spy for the FBI. He infiltrated far-right domestic terror groups over decades. His work is not for the faint-hearted.

Now imagine that, even for a man of his character, the things he saw and the people he met. They are so dangerous that in the midst of his retirement the scale and threat posed by white supremacy to the security of the United States still keeps him up at night.

He can’t unsee. In the article, he points out there are millions more white supremacists plotting murder and carnage. That’s juxtaposed with a comparative handful of FBI agents tasked with tracking them.

The FBI already uses most of the resources allotted for monitoring white supremacists. But by Scott’s estimation, those resources are clearly insufficient to keeping pace with the size of the threat.

Not only that, but according to the FBI, white supremacy is the fastest growing form of domestic terror. When we consider the fact that the FBI itself has a problem of white supremacists corrupting its ranks, it's obvious why former agents like Scott are losing sleep over the danger.

All of the above suggests that unless a plan of action is implemented to tackle the vast scale of white supremacist terror in the United States, the country is on a collision course with the enemy from within.

It would be comforting to beieve that the world's most sophisticated security services have a secret plan to counteract the white supremacist terror. But I’m more than dubious. Why?

We know terror campaigns against Black people by white supremacists have been supported by police or in conjunction with the police.

Moreover, January 6, 2021, which had white supremacy written all over it, is yet to be accounted for and we know police had prior knowledge. The Proud Boys and their knuckle-dragging brethren have yet to be classified as domestic terrorists. A dozen white supremacists even plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

It’s no wonder that former operatives like Scott are deeply concerned about white supremacist terror and the free reign being given.

He told Rolling Stone about his conversations with Klan members. He moreover recalled stoner teenagers with axes to grind who were full of sublime ignorance and fortified with an intense hatred for anyone non-white. They saw themselves as guardians of the “master race.”

These people had conviction. Tons of it.

And they aren’t aging hillbillies either.

They are in terror cells, Scott said. Yet the right-wing media treats them as patriots who love their country. These fanatics are validated by mainstream media and even some politicians while their hatred incubates on far-right websites, echo chambers and chat rooms.

Indeed, the part that hits home for me was this:

Scott fetches up a meme he pulled off one of the apps where rageful kids meet up. It is a viral poster of the so-called saints who inspire white terrorists worldwide. At the top is Saint Breivik — as in Anders Breivik, the Norwegian who slaughtered 69 people at a summer camp for kids, and another eight in Oslo with a van bomb.

Just below him is Saint Tarrant — as in Brenton Tarrant, the Australian who murdered 51 people in a pair of New Zealand mosques.

Two down from him is Robert Bowers, the Pennsylvania trucker who allegedly slew 11 at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

This meme is a totem pole for Nazi youth in training, the standings in a pennant race of killers. Bracketing their stat lines is a phrase in block chalk: “Will you make it onto the leaderboard … ?”

These fascist red-hats feel their moment has come. They are as emboldened as ever. They might yet see Donald Trump back in office. That would further validate their mission to fight for “white survival.”

This is America’s new war on terror. In the past, it did not apply to white supremacists. Black and Brown countries abroad, rich with oil and resources? They apply. The price for such blindness is high.

Not only is white supremacy not being treated like the domestic terror threat, which is obvious, but it’s often rewarded or treated with kid gloves. Lives depend on the government getting a handle on this.

Decent people must demand it.

The bizarre case of the alleged kidnapping plot against Gov. Whitmer demands answers from the FBI

We’ve been warned for decades about the growing threat of white nationalism in the United States. Back in 2020, FBI director Christopher Wray acknowledged that white supremacy is the fastest growing domestic terror threat in the country, accounting for the large proportion of the FBI’s resources. Wray eventually described the J6 insurrection last year, as an act of domestic terror.

This reality is often drowned out by an avalanche of falsehoods perpetuated by the media, especially conservative media. The greatest threat to US security is posed by the existential enemy from outside, we are told. Islamic extremists, or criminals making their way across the border, are the greatest obstacles for national security.

We are told that the radical woke left, as well as those pesky Black Lives Matter protesters armed with their anti-white critical race theory, pose a danger to cities across the country as well as the minds of innocent white school children.

These fallacies have taken root, even in the minds of what many would describe as respectable Middle Americans.

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All the above simply isn’t the case. It’s a smokescreen, distraction and reaction, to the very real danger that white supremacy, or the enemy within, poses to democracy. J6 revealed the menace that unchecked white supremacy presents when bolstered by brazen confidence.

The fanatics and cohorts who swarmed the US Capitol believed their divinely ordained moment had arrived. Many saw their defense of white supremacy as the fulfilment of an almost biblical prophecy, a duty, themselves modern-day crusaders in MAGA hats, defending all that is white and pristine.

They might attempt to shroud it in patriotism, but in actuality it’s the very opposite of anything virtuous. These people are dangerous. And not nearly enough is being done to stop them in their tracks.

We’ve seen the lacklustre sentences that many of the assailants have been given. We’ve seen, too, the reluctance of the media to even describe them as terrorists.

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What happens, though, when the very organizations supposedly tasked with tackling such threats have themselves become part of the mix, for all the wrong reasons?

Look no further than the curious case of Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan’s governor. In late 2020, the FBI announced it had “foiled” a plot to kidnap her. Those involved were part of the Wolverine Watchmen, a group that shares ties and ideologies with the Boogaloo movement, another violent far-right extremist group.

Since late 2020, we've learned a few things.

While the case against the assailants has been building, it came to light that one of those involved in the plot was an FBI informant. Not only that, but it has also since been claimed that the agent in question was actually aiding the terrorists.

READ: Former top FBI official: 'Concerning' Ginni Thomas signed letter saying Jan. 6 participants 'have done nothing wrong'

The FBI has ID’d Stephen Robeson as a “double agent,”’ presenting him as going against the orders of the FBI.

But now, in another dramatic twist in the plot, a lawyer for one of the defendants, Adam Fox, has slammed the prosecution, claiming that the FBI knew exactly what Robeson was up to. He actively helped advance the plan to kidnap Whitmer.

The claim is apparently backed up by a court filing and a 2020 audio recording supposedly heard by lead FBI agents. Another informant confirmed to Fox that Robeson was indeed offering to use charity funds to purchase weapons to carry out the attack on Whitmer.

Defense attorneys for the five facing charges want all charges dismissed, citing the numerous questions about the FBI's shady squad, including the involvement of yet another agent on the case. Richard Trask was accused of domestic violence and later fired by the Feds. Robeson, too, has a criminal rap sheet dating back to the 1980s.

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Assailants facing charges are due in court in March. But while we wait for the truth to prevail, and for the full extent of the FBI's involvement to come to light, many will be left pondering – did the FBI recruit questionable character out of simple incompetence? Or if the claim that the FBI knew exactly what was going on turns out to be true, who becomes accountable and what will be done about it?

Even if the FBI’s defense is true, and their dangerous recruits were down to shoddy decision-making, what if the plot to kidnap Whitmer had been a success?

The relationship between the FBI and many notable controversies over the years are well-known and have been well documented.

In 2022, the case of the plot to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer ultimately raises, once again, the age old uncomfortable question: Who investigates and polices the FBI?

The public deserves answers.

Homeland Security has devolved into a nearly rogue agency — accused of spying on journalists and activists

Freedom of the press and the ability of journalists to hold governments to account is regarded as a critical pillar of democracy. In the United States, it’s supposed to be safeguarded by the First Amendment.

However, especially in recent years, the US government stands accused, maybe more than ever, of allowing increasing attacks on press freedom and the abuse of state power to trample on any notion of journalists being truly able to do their job if they wish to hold the powerful to account – and go against the government line.

There are many examples to choose from, which ought to elicit concern, while the problem also clearly transcends party politics – and, by no means, is the problem new. The starkest examples might be US treatment of Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden.

But ever since its inception following 9/11, the US Department for Homeland Security has descended into little more than a rogue agency that stands accused of spying not just on journalists but also activists and minority communities, too, leading many to demand that Congress make some kind of meaningful reform happen.

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These concerns have been thrust into the spotlight amid revelations that a customs border protection unit, known as the Counter Division Network, part of Homeland Security, accessed government data created to track terrorists to essentially spy on dozens of journalists on US soil, including a Pulitzer prize-winning AP journalist.

If such transgressions of press freedom were occurring outside of the US, they might garner far greater nationwide media coverage.

In July, Attorney General Merrick Garland forbade prosecutors from obtaining the personal records of journalists following outcry from the news that Trump’s Justice Department had controversially seized records of members of Congress, their aides and journalists.

But now, alarmingly, Jeffrey Rambo, one of the federal agents said to have been conducting investigations and gathering information on journalists, has suggested to investigators that such practices were the norm, rather than any exception to the rule stating, “When a name comes across your desk you run it through every system you have access to,” he said. “That’s just status quo. That’s what everyone does.”

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This is a far cry from government powers being used to protect the borders. More apparent, though, is that government powers created under the pretext of national security might have been exploited and remain exploited for politically expedient and nefarious purposes.

Similar transgressions are also believed to have taken place during Obama’s presidency. So the picture being painted suggests press freedom is not under attack from occasional abuses of federal power, but is actually under threat from endemic institutional corruption.

For many observers, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has offered little in the way of any real sufficient explanation following demands for full transparency and accountability from the media.

Despite possible criminal charges for Rambo and other agents accused of abusing sensitive government databases to access the private information and contact lists of journalists, the DOJ stopped short of pursuing prosecution against any of those allegedly involved.

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During the Trump era, verbal attacks by the former president on journalists became the norm, and a source of national embarrassment. Some have even said Trump’s violent rhetoric aimed at journalists may have presented a green-light for some to physically attack reporters. Indeed, physical attacks on reporters magnified during the Trump era.

But, surely, increasing evidence of the apparatus of the state being levied against journalists should lead to outcry from sensible people, irrespective of political affiliations. As the saying goes, “then they came for the journalists .. and we don’t know what happened after that.”

For a president like Joe Biden, who campaigned by offering a radical opposite to Trump, and a fresh brand of statesmanship, he now resembles more of a lame political duck, the only difference being that the Democrats still actually have a lot of power in Congress.

Decisive action on the issue of press freedom, and a serious push to transform and reform the operations of the Department for Homeland Security is not out of reach. But again, such a move requires political determination, and the current status quo suggests that such a miracle can only happen, if ordinary decent Americans demand more from their president. There surely must exist the capacity and appetite for that – somewhere. After all, press freedom is not a left, right, blue or red issue. It’s simply about freedom, and arguably one of the most important freedoms of all. It surely must be protected at all costs.

READ: 'A dangerous fascist': Critics blast Josh Hawley on the anniversary of his Fox News insurrection threat

The truth about the world the Ghislaine Maxwell trial has revealed

The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell is underway. She’s accused of taking part in the most serious crimes with Jeffrey Epstein. Given the wide-ranging implications of all of those potentially embroiled, the supremely powerful and wealthy, you'd think the episode might be generating more headlines. At the moment, though, it’s not.

And the fact that it's being treated almost like any other news story is a poignant reminder that there is one rule for the most influential and another rule for everyone else. The way in which the entire scandal has so far played out clearly reflects how the dynamics of privilege, power and race operate in today's society.

The lack of coverage proportionate to the reality and gravitas of the story is one thing. And who knows, perhaps that might change.

But the entire reason Epstein and Maxwell were able to carry out their crimes for so long, plain and simple, is because Epstein was an incredibly powerful wealthy white man, who moved in similar circles, while being protected by those who looked like him. And, of course, no one doubts that Epstein likely had dirt on many of them, too.

Had Epstein been Black or Muslim or both, committing a fraction of the crimes with a fraction of Epstein's bank balance, the scope and nature of the coverage would be very different indeed.

There’d probably be sweeping generalizations made by the press and pundit corps about Epstein's race, religion and so on. People would be asking if there were anything endemic culturally within the white community that contributed to his crimes and questioning whether the white community as a whole is doing enough to weed out other Epsteins that it might harbor. There would be demands by some that white men everywhere issue an apology on behalf of Epstein.

This hasn't happened, as well it shouldn't, because people don't commit crimes because of skin color. Only stupid people think that.

Epstein's skin and wealth meant he received a relative pass by the justice system and to a large extent the media, up until his death. Until that point, so many of the stories about Epstein referred to his rape of children and minors as “sex crimes” or “sex with underage girls,” etc.

And let’s not forget, when Epstein did eventually face a couple of charges in 2008 related to procuring a minor for prostitution, he only served 13 months behind bars, in a private section of prison while allowed to leave jail often, under an extensive work release program.

Bear in mind that in America, thousands of Black and brown people languish in jail often for decades for very minor crimes. Sometimes we later learn that they are innocent altogether. Epstein was free to continue ruining lives after a year. Talk about a mockery of justice.

At this point, some will claim that Epstein's ability to carry out his crimes over many years, while evading justice, is more about wealth and powerful connections than his white skin. They might even claim that the reason Epstein was untouchable was because, as has been claimed by some, that he was “intelligence.” But it's not the case.

Take a look for example, at the relative slap on the wrist that the January 6 insurgents have so far received in what the FBI described as an act of domestic terror. Those people were not billionaires, nor did they maintain connections to the highest echelons of power. What they were armed with was their white skin and all of the privilege it entails. And there are many other examples. We all know it.

Epstein had the armory of wealth, class and whiteness. The system is almost tailor-made for the likes of him. And to put it bluntly, the system never held Epstein to account fully in his lifetime, because for all intents and purposes, Epstein and Maxwell were that system.

As if this point had not been illustrated enough, the last few days produced a spectacular development in Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial. A photo was shown in court that seemed to depict Maxwell and Epstein relaxing at Balmoral, the British Queen’s private Scotland residence.

Which reminds me, if you need another similar example of how the system favors men like Epstein, look no further than Prince Andrew. It’s not just that he’s a royal, which is the reason he has thus far evaded accountability. After all, Meghan Markle is a royal, too, and has all but been hounded by the Anglo-American press over the last few years because she’s a Black woman – to the point she’s thought of suicide.

Prince Andrew is from the same privileged bubble as Epstein. That’s why they were buddies. So, as Maxwell’s trial continues, remember it’s impossible to remove the politics of race and class from the equation.

Many people doubt Epstein took his own life in 2019 before he faced trial. But even if you assume the official narrative is true, the system, which should have been watching him 24-7, afforded him the ultimate privilege of choosing to leave this world without ever facing real justice while denying his victims with some measure of closure.

The signs that Kyle Rittenhouse's whiteness is working hard to vindicate him at his trial

Suspected white supremacist Kyle Rittenhouse is on trial, facing two counts of homicide and one count of attempted homicide.

While the fate of Rittenhouse is yet to be determined, his trial, much like the trial of the killers of Ahmaud Arbery, is about much more than one individual. About more than Kyle Rittenhouse.

America is on trial, under the spotlight since 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, on the cusp of a seminal moment, with potential for change, yet still careening on the shaky path of injustice.

Whatever the outcome, such trials will be looked back on as a turning point in years ahead, for better or worse. Either justice will be done or injustice will. And judging by events, things could go either way.

For a start, the very fact that there were so many doubts as to whether or not Rittenhouse would even face accountability reminds us of where we are — and the true state of play. It was the same with Derek Chauvin and is the case with Ahmaud Arbery's killers. There's an acute cynicism and lack of faith in the system to deliver racial justice.

Because, while justice is a reality for some, it's evasive for others. America is the land in which George Zimmerman walked free after stalking and killing a Black child. It is the land in which Breonna Taylor was shot dead in her own bed by police, sleeping while Black. And so, while the public and the world are watching the Rittenhouse trial, they are aware of America's internal battle with white supremacy.

So far, the signs in the trial of Rittenhouse are alarming. First came the rather unprecedented decision from the judge that lawyers for Rittenhouse can refer to the men he shot as "looters" and "rioters." The prosecutors, the judge decided, must not refer to them as "victims."

The obvious fallacy of this doesn't need unpacking. But given this is the demand of the judge in a highly significant trial, the language used to frame the discourse will play a major role. Alarm bells should therefore be ringing. Whatever the judge's reasoning is behind the decision about language used in the trial, it'll be and has been applauded by racists.

The majority of those protesting in Kenosha were protesting anti-Black police brutality. Previously, unarmed Black man Jacob Blake had been shot several times by police causing paralysis, leading to protests.

Describing those crowds as rioters and looters is something that Donald Trump and the right-wing media have reveled in. The same playbook pathologizes young Black men as "thugs," Mexicans as "rapists," Muslims as "terrorists." It paints a false equivalence between fascists and anti-fascists. It's a dishonest and dangerous game.

If we surmised how the Rittenhouse trial might play out based on the chronology of events leading up to it, there is further cause for alarm.

Video footage seems to suggest that the police actively welcomed vigilantes like Rittenhouse into the city, offering them bottles of water, aware they were armed, and also that such individuals were answering the call from white supremacists to come and "defend" Kenosha.

Further video hints that police, aware that Rittenhouse had shot three people, allowed him to cross a police line and head home. He was arrested the following day, having voluntarily presented himself to the police. And a further clip reveals Rittenhouse fantasizing about shooting shoplifters just 15 days before it all went down in Kenosha.

And then of course, there is the flooding of support Rittenhouse received from those hailing him as a white supremacist hero. Conservatives, police, serving and former military members, and of course the Proud Boys, and many other sympathizers, were all said to have been among those who dug deep into their pockets to cough up the money to pay the $2 million bail bond for Rittenhouse.

Rittenhouse's bond conditions initially placed no restrictions on him meeting with white supremacist groups. There was, apparently, no evidence linking Rittenhouse to any white supremacist militia group.

And yet, following the release of Rittenhouse on bond, he was pictured in a bar posing with Proud Boys while flashing the notorious white supremacist "OK" power sign — while also donning a T-shirt that read "Free as Fuck." You can't make this stuff up.

Regardless of the history in the lead-up to the trial, lawyers for Rittenhouse will do everything they can to paint and humanize him as a teen who was simply defending himself.

But the reality here is Rittenhouse is a product of a much wider culture and system that cultivated and produced him. That same system will now punish him or vindicate him while every detail about events in Kenosha is forensically picked apart by Rittenhouse's lawyers and the prosecutors. And of course the evidence should be looked at, because everyone deserves a fair trial, right?

Had Rittenhouse been Black and armed in Kenosha, having shot three people, killing two of them, we all know his trial would have taken place right there, in the streets. The police would have shot him dead.

Rittenhouse may well yet receive the equivalent of a slap on the wrist. He could still walk.

Really, it's America that's on trial.

The reality of Ahmaud Arbery's killing is part of a long history of lynchings in Georgia

The killing of a 25-year-old, whose only crime was jogging while Black on the "wrong side" of town on the outskirts of Brunswick, Georgia, has been described as a lynching. That's not for dramatic effect.

Ahmaud Arbery's broad daylight killing was akin to a public execution committed by three white men who were clearly supremely confident of being afforded every protection by Georgia's legal apparatus.

Indeed, we now know Gregory McMichael, one of the accused, is thought to have left a voicemail to former colleague and then-District Attorney Jackie Johnson, on the day Ahmaud died requesting he call her. Johnson never returned the call, but presumably McMichael had contacted Johnson for assurances that he'd have Johnson's support.

No surprises then, months later, Johnson was arrested for misconduct in connection to Arbery's killing, accused of preventing police from initially arresting the shooter, Travis McMichael, son of Gregory.

In fact, it took months for the arrests of the McMichaels and their accomplice William "Roddy" Bryan to eventually be made, and arguably, had the video of Ahmaud's murder not gone public and viral, Ahmaud's killers may well have evaded accountability entirely.

As it stands, and as jury selection continues ahead of the trial, the realities of Ahmaud Arbery's lynching are part of a pattern of a long history of lynchings in Georgia, and of the thousands that have taken place across the country over the years. Ahmaud, unarmed, was chased and hunted by three armed men who had one goal.

The pickup truck driven by father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael is said to have sported a Confederate themed flag — something the defense will fight to keep from the court during the trial.

Ahmaud, who ran for his life until he could run no more, was eventually trapped by both McMichaels and accomplice Roddy Bryan. Faced with a life or death, Ahmaud bravely chose to defend himself and was killed by two shotgun blasts to his chest, the second at point blank. Immediately after, Gregory McMichael, according to Bryan, stood over Ahmaud and called him the N-word as he lay dying.

Police arriving at the scene did not immediately attend to the dying Ahmaud. One officer can be heard, however, consoling Travis McMichael, saying "If you need to move around, do what you need to do man, I can only imagine." Also heard in bodycam footage is an officer saying to another officer, "Did he shoot him? A self-defense thing?" which was met with a reply of "That's what it looks like."

As was the case throughout the slavery and Jim Crow eras, innocence was immediately presumed on the part of Arbery's white killers, casting Ahmaud, the unarmed Black victim, as the wrongdoer.

What's also interesting in the run up to the trial, is that potential jurors were reported to have "accidentally" been given easy access to Ahmaud's mental health and criminal history. The judge has since ruled that neither Arbery's medical records, nor dealings with police can be used as evidence in court. But it's telling that defense attorneys for the McMichael's wanted to use the mental health records.

It's an age-old tactic by white supremacist to blame the victim. The McMichaels defense wants to paint Arbery as an aggressive young Black man, despite Judge Timothy Walmsley stating that, "There is no evidence that the victim was suffering from any mental health issue" at the time he was killed. Those defense attorneys will fight tooth and nail, though, to have Arbery's private medical history and other personal records heard in court and splashed across the media.

Let's assume justice is done in this case, and Arbery's killers spend the rest of their lives behind bars? What next for the country? There's no serious federal push to root out structural racism within police forces or the ability of card-carrying white supremacists to remain in their ranks. In fact, police have been given more funding. Putting racist killers on trial, even if justice is regularly done, which it is not, is not enough. It doesn't stop the killings and murders in the first place.

De-incentivising terrorism demands more than jail time. Plenty of people now believe that a specific federal anti-lynching bill needs to become law (as has been unsuccessfully tabled before) in order to add another layer of protection under law for Black people. Please remember, too, there were plenty of cases of Black men last year and in recent years being found dead literally hanging from ropes.

They were ruled suicides, but there's reason to cast doubt.

As the McMichaels and Roddy Bryan face federal hate-crime charges, America is reminded that there needs to be an anti-Black hate crime law set in place too. Asian-American's rightly had this law quickly passed to protect their communities. Do it for Black Americans, too.

Biden is fueling the flames of a paranoia that Trump stoked before him

The news that Biden's administration is to provide legal support for unaccompanied migrant children in several American cities will doubtless be welcomed. The federal initiative is said to provide attorneys to represent children facing deportation proceedings after having entered the country on their own at the southern border.

But when examining United States border policy holistically, the move doesn't go nearly far enough. It's a drop in the ocean when considering the escalating humanitarian crisis — and it is a crisis — that exists as a result of US border policies, foreign policy and influence.

First, the way to deal with a surge in unaccompanied minors is not to buttress legal provisions. The sensible and humane thing would be to allow passage for their parents and guardians to safely enter the country in order to have their asylum claims processed together as families. The sanctity of families should be protected at all costs.

While many Democrats might choose to blame the migration crisis on the Trump era, that's too easy. Biden's administration has the power to rescind Title 42 whenever it wishes. Yet Title 42 remains in place despite Biden promising to break from such policies, and in the face of demands from the UN and countless other humanitarian groups demanding its removal. Furthermore, with the availability of vaccines, covid is no longer an excuse to maintain racist border policies.

In recent days, four United Nations agencies have warned against the dangers of deporting Haitians arriving at the border back to Haiti. Instability in the island nation is serious. Experts highlight food shortages, gang violence and political turmoil in the wake of the assassination of a former president. Haiti still suffers from the after-effects of its most recent earthquake. The US special envoy there resigned, citing the treatment of Haitians at the southern border.

The people of Haiti, mired in poverty, hostage to the terror, kidnappings, robberies and massacres of armed gangs and suffering under a corrupt government with gang alliances, simply cannot support the forced infusion of thousands of returned migrants lacking food, shelter, and money without additional, avoidable human tragedy.

If the conditions outlined by Daniel Foote and UN agencies don't justify the chance to safely claim asylum, then what does?

There's a reason, too, why many are characterizing the treatment of Haitian migrants as anti-Black. From Afghans to Canadian border crossers, other migrants are treated better. The Biden administration's border policies break the president's campaign promises. They arguably also break domestic and international law. They are self-evidently morally repugnant, enforced with barbarity. The real reason that such policies exist is, of course, to satisfy America's insatiable unwarranted paranoia over so-called border security.

The flames of that paranoia were stoked for sure by the former president. But rather than extinguish those flames, Biden's administration is doing the equivalent of throwing chip fat into the fire. While politicians repeat endless talking points about enforcing law and safety regarding the border, the reality is that America's border policies, like the UK, ought to represent a source of national shame. But they don't. They've become mainstream political currency.

By supporting such policies, flag wavers and so-called respectable people are consigning vulnerable people to a death sentence. Deporting people back to places like Haiti could mean exactly that. Such privilege and racism are the opposite of democracy.

What certainly is a cornerstone of democracy, however, is protest.

And that's what demonstrators did recently, outside the home of Alejandro Mayorkas, demanding Biden's administration make good on promises to undo damage already done. They want an end to Title 42, the rule allowing the deportation of people suspected of having covid.

It's clear by now that relentless pressure must be applied to force the right thing. As it stands, human rights and human dignity remain buzzwords repeated by President Biden and his predecessors. Decent democrats and Democrats need to rally and demand that Biden's administration reverse the inhumane border policies.

It's tiring having to constantly argue that Black people are humans deserving of fair treatment under the law. One day, Haitian kids will grow up, becoming our future. What do we tell them to explain their treatment and that of their parents? That it was the law, a government policy? That democracy was a nice idea, applicable to some?

The government's disturbing treatment of the Proud Boys is a clear and present danger

Far-right extremism, or white supremacy, is the fastest growing ideology in the United States. The impact of white supremacists terrorizing Black communities has led to calls for serious action, even an anti-lynching bill. This alone reflects how dangerous they are.

Add to that the January 6 insurrection and the evidenced involvement of the Proud Boys, and other groups, leading to the FBI describing the attack on the United States Capitol as an act of domestic terror.

A mountain of evidence suggests that, just as Canada did (and as I've written previously for the Editorial Board), the United States should follow suit and list the Proud Boys (and others) as domestic terror groups, as part of its initiative to tackle white supremacy.

But that hasn't happened. Failure means the problem persists with the potential to worsen. The safety of Black people and people of color, and the internal security of the United States, depends on such a bold move happening. The failure to treat the Proud Boys as they should be by the federal authorities is continuing to have consequences.

Indeed, a couple of things have taken place recently that have once again brought this worrying reality into sharp focus. First, the clashes several weeks back between the Proud Boys and anti-fascists.

The scenes in Portland, Oregon, turned ugly, but thankfully nobody was killed. Here's the thing that's alarming. Prior to the Proud Boy protest and the counter demonstration, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell publicly announced that officers would not intervene. The Proud Boys are a threat, but here they were treated with kid gloves.

The lack of policing means that an approach of doubling down will be needed the next time the Proud Boys appear. Because the calculated failure to leave them to their own devices in the streets is akin to Trump's message. It's extremely dangerous, and dare I suggest, not how millions of Americans want their tax dollars spent with policing. Surely, those Proud Boys who watched events unfold in Portland at home on the TV will be salivating at the prospect of the next protest.

The plot thickens even further.

Just days ago, a judge ruled that prosecutors in the murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the Kenosha shooter who shot three people at a protest against police brutality in 2020, will not be able to play for jurors a video of Rittenhouse allegedly stating his desire to shoot people — while agreeing with the Proud Boys' tactics. The news is another example of how dangerous the Proud Boys and their ilk have become.

They can terrorize the Capitol, greenlighted by the former president, and, others would argue, in the streets, allowed to do so by a police chief in Portland. Apparently the Proud Boys were allowed to post banners around the city before the violence took place.

Their white supremacist ideology is something the likes of Kyle Rittenhouse was sympathetic to. How many more like Rittenhouse are on the sideline, "standing by" for their chance, brainwashed by the nonsense of the Proud Boys? It doesn't bear thinking about.

In recent days, the Times reported that a member of the Proud Boys who was present and took part in the insurrection was also an FBI informant and was texting his contact throughout the day.

That the FBI remained in contact suggests that law enforcement were more informed about imminent violence than previously suggested. One thing is clear by now. Law enforcement have more than enough evidence and knowledge, and means, as do the FBI, to halt the Proud Boys in their tracks before they carry out further serious crimes.

Trump was a dream come true for the Proud Boys. God only knows what messaging he might have continued giving to white supremacist groups had he secured another term. Biden needs to now break up the dangerous groundwork that was laid for groups like them. And ordinary Americans need to push him. The safety of tax-paying Americans, and American democracy itself, is depending on it.

Biden is already breaking the pledge from his United Nations speech

President Joe Biden in his recent address at the United Nations announced that the United States will "lead" the world on "human dignity and human rights." If the scenes from the southern border are anything to go by, the reality as it stands is the polar opposite.

It's not just that America's racist past has yet to be accounted for. The past has a direct correlation to the present. In the same way that local police departments have roots in slave catching, in every aspect of state authority imaginable, racism festers. The United Nations recognizes this, and so do countless others around the world.

A true commitment to human rights would mean revolutionizing policy by rooting out systemic white supremacy, with checks and balances that ensure powerful institutions can never again become corrupted by such forces. But far from leaving the dark chapter of the Trump era in the past, a period in which America's longstanding racism was mainstreamed, parading belligerently in the highest corridors of power, the US seems barely able to turn a new page.

Thousands of Black migrants, having gone through a living hell to reach the US, are being met with the kind of inhumane barbarism that the US is quick to call out elsewhere in the world. The argument of the law being enforced is in itself highly questionable, as is the motive of using such an argument. But in any case, it doesn't mean a damn. The scenes at the border are just plain wrong, and it doesn't take a legal expert to know it. Anyone with two eyes, and a heart, can see it.

Black people born in the only nation to ever produce a successful slave revolt, being herded like cattle by white men on horses in the name of the law, is not an accident. It's a policy decision made somewhere along the line by powerful people sitting in offices with houses in suburbs, who would swear blind they believe in democracy.

But as the story of the Haitian migrants at the border continues, the narrative may yet worsen. Just yesterday, reports suggested that some of those Haitians detained at the southern border might be sent to a migrant "facility" at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be "processed."

The United States Department of Homeland Security has since denied the claims, despite the Biden administration advertising a new contract to operate the migrant center at the US naval base there, with an emphasis on the need for Spanish and Haitian Creole speakers.

Taking the DHS at its word, likely means that other Haitian migrants who are captured at sea will be taken to Guantanamo, as has previously been the case, and not the ones we've seen on TV. In other words, the Haitians at Del Rio might be spared imprisonment at Guantanamo, a place accused of carrying out torture, but their very own family members might be sent there instead. So much better.

A healthy dose of skepticism, however, will cast doubt on DHS claims. The published update of the advertised contract is from just a few days ago. And while the migrant facility at Guantanamo is advertised as having the capacity for 120 people, the posting also states that, "the service provider shall be responsible to maintain on site the necessary equipment to erect temporary housing facilities for populations that exceed 120 and up to 400 migrants in a surge event."

A surge in Haitians is what we have seen at the southern border. It is what we will continue to see despite attempts from both governments to stem the flow of people. Could this be why the migrant facility at Gitmo needs managers capable of dealing with greater capacity?

In addition to this, there have been suggestions that of those already deported to Haiti, paperwork was forged with some being deported to Port-au-Prince despite not having left from there in the first place.

These suggestions, alongside the visible conduct of the border authorities both in the US and Mexico, do not inspire confidence that the Haitians at the border will not end up being sent to Guantanamo. And if the border authorities look like slave-catching vigilantes, what kind of individuals will be in charge of the operational custody of the migrants at Guantanamo? It doesn't bear thinking about.

The Biden administration can talk about law and order, and human rights, all it wants. The notion that Haitians can safely claim asylum, as repeated by Mayorkas, is obscene. The horrendous border policies are part and parcel of the hostile messaging by the administration, and deterrent, telling potential asylum seekers "do not come."

The timing of Joe Biden's UN remarks could not be worse. It's one thing to honestly outline a plan, as a new leader, acknowledging that the starting point to the finish line, with the goal of the US leading the world on human rights, might be a long road — to say the least.

But Biden's statement, made while his administration continues to implement and accelerate the very same policies that would make Donald Trump proud, with the evidence literally being televised around the world, is a dangerous form of denialism that's insulting to the victims of the racist border violence we have seen.

And it's getting worse for Biden.

In his bid to appease voters illogically clinging to unfounded lies about migrants and border fears, the border controversies have whipped up a political storm. A senior US diplomat and special envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, has now stepped down having handed his resignation to Anthony Blinken, saying that he would "not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees" while slamming the border policies as "deeply flawed." His resignation letter also argued that Haiti as a "collapsed state is unable to provide security or basic services and more refugees will fuel further desperation and crime."

Foote's honesty means he has no place in an administration that's digging in over its globally criticized border policies, and even fighting a federal court judgement ordering an end to families being deported and prevented from setting foot on US soil under Title 42.

Politically, there might be no easy options for the president. But the promises of his campaign, and the human rights and dignity he speaks of, are really universal values. His administration should have the guts to do the right thing, regardless of the political consequences.

Better to try and fail than to fail to try.

Haitian refugees are fleeing a crisis created in part by the US — and we owe them an enormous debt

President Joe Biden promised during his first joint address to the United States Congress earlier in the year to tackle systemic racism. America and the world was listening, including Haitians.

Some might have thought that beyond the need of the United States to eradicate the scourge of racism evident in many areas of society within its own borders, a radical plan might be implemented to tackle discrimination regarding the heavily criticized border policies.

But as is evidenced with the growing humanitarian crisis witnessed at the US/Mexico border, far from tackling systemic racism, critics say the government is continuing to perpetuate, and even exacerbate it.

In recent days the number of migrants, mostly Haitian, amassing at the underpass in the small American town of Del Rio has grown, fast and to incredibly large numbers. By the time you read this, the numbers may match or surpass the size of the population of the town itself.

And despite charter planes already deporting hundreds at a time back to Haiti, despite others being removed, supposedly to be "processed" elsewhere in the US, or also deported, those numbers of Haitians crossing onto American soil are only going to increase.

Militarized border agents in Mexico rounding them up and beating them will not deter them. Border authorities in the US, and the threat of deportation, will not deter them. Nor will the sour words from American politicians prevent them from making the perilous journey from Haiti to the US in the hope of reaching relative safety.

Make no mistake: desperate people are capable of remarkable things. Some of those migrants, including the large number from Haiti, have travelled incredible distances, unimaginable for most of us, and have survived innumerable deadly situations, simply for the chance to live.

What's left behind means there is only one option for them and their families, and that's to keep moving forward. To move forward is to live, with the dream of thriving. To go back, or to put it bluntly, to be shackled, chained and forcibly taken back against their will to certain danger, means the strong possibility of death.

All of us would do the same. In fact, many of us privileged Westerners often conveniently forget that many of our ancestors, who came before us, did indeed embark on similar journeys to create a better life. And in fact, this story is the backstory for many Americans, whose forefathers and -mothers struggled to be identified as American, and whose progeny now want to slam the door shut on those fleeing perilous situations back home.

The fact that we are now seeing thousands of Haitians with Black skin being treated like dirt by the system is not a story that's separate from modern contemporary America. It's a direct by-product of it. Black people built America by the labor forcibly extracted from those of African descent, and Haiti and its wealth was both a prize fought over by various European colonies in the period of slavery and beyond while remaining an island exploited by the United States.

The United States owes a debt to Haiti and Haitians.

I'll get to Title 42 in a moment, but the relationship of the United States (and its allies and competitors) in the past with Haiti adds an extra dimension of immorality to the way in which Haitian migrants are currently being treated by immigration authorities.

To put it bluntly, Black lives do not seem to matter, and Black lives still seem to be expendable. As I've written about at the Editorial Board previously, were the thousands of migrants gathering at Del Rio and elsewhere of a different background from that which they belong, they would be treated differently. But as the saying goes, for the Haitians in particular, they lack the complexion for protection.

Cynics might call you names and decry anyone like me demanding a change in US border controls and policies as a race-baiting liberal snowflake. But the truth is, that this whole nightmare is born of a basic lack of humanity and decency, something that the US and UK love to talk about in grand terms, but which is seldom enacted by the politicians we elect and the demands we make of them.

But the question of the treatment of migrants, mostly Haitian at Del Rio and elsewhere along the border, is a legal one, as well as moral.

It's not just the UN which has raised concerns about the Biden administration continuing the use of the controversial Title 42. A federal judge ordered the administration to stop expelling families who cross the border from seeking refuge. The judge has given two weeks to enact it, but in the meantime the deportations continue and are said to be being ramped up. The administration is also appealing.

This administration has repeatedly suggested, in the face of strong criticism, that it is not refusing refuge and the right to apply for asylum for those that need it, insisting that those entering the US need to do it the right way and that measures taken are about the safety of migrants and enforcing perfectly legal border controls. Human rights and legal experts, though, cast doubt on the legality of the expulsions and have slammed them as a cynical exploitation of the law.

Quite apart from the obvious connotations of the imagery of Black people being rounded up by men on horseback, reported to be US border agents enforcing the law, there are many claims of the law being broken too — of authorities forging documentation to justify expulsions, including suggestions that some of those deported to Haiti were not even from Haiti.

The methods used by Mexican and US border authorities, for those concerned with human rights at least, resemble less civil servants carrying out the law and more heavy set men, mostly white or identifying as white, relishing in rounding up, beating and detaining vulnerable people using disproportionate force and violence.

It doesn't have to be this way, and other options are possible.

And the Democrats in the Congress certainly have the power to change or influence the tide, rather than capitulating to it.

All the evidence shows that migrants do not threaten countries like the US, but bolster its economy and cultural landscape, ultimately enriching it. Donald Trump's policies shouldn't be pandered to; they should be smashed and relegated to the dustbin of history, forever. Migrants aren't any more dangerous than Americans already in America, and they aren't going to steal your job or homes. They'll often create jobs and are the ones who might build your home, or design it.

But racism and bigotry, it seems, remain powerful.

There's a need, argument and necessity for the US to produce sensible and fair border policies giving everyone the right to be processed safely. The White House must drop the pretence of continuing Trump's Title 42 with the excuse of covid when Haitians camped in dangerous conditions present a potential health crisis in itself.

Federal law, countless legal experts, the United Nations and huge swathes of the international community make a compelling argument that must be heeded. Give the Haitians a chance to live their lives.

They are fleeing a crisis, in part created by the US. The US must now deal with that with a plan grounded in law, reason and basic simple humanity. It's not a question of means or resources. It's a matter of political will, and such political will needs to stem from the top.


The secrets of the Proud Boys revealed

The so-called Proud Boys are a white supremacist militia. They pose a clear and present danger to Black Americans and the security of the United States. They were part of the insurgency that stormed the United States Capitol on January 6 in an act that FBI Director Christopher Wray stated was clearly an act of domestic terror.

The Proud Boys fit the definition—political violence, motivated with the desire to take control of the Capitol building, believing they had God on their side. That surely meets any reasonable criteria. One Proud Boy, known as "Milkshake," was recently arrested for his role in the insurrection, and allegedly shouted, "Let's take the fucking Capitol," while wearing a hat with the words "God, Guns and Trump" emblazoned on it.

Why then has the United States thus far failed to designate officially the Proud Boys as a domestic terror group? Canada did. But the US hasn't. It's surely a fair question.

Firstly, it's worth remembering it took until 2017 for the KKK to be designated domestic terrorists despite their reign of terror beginning in the 1860s. That's a long stretch. Also worth noting are the Klan's well-documented and deep historical links to law enforcement. In the civil-rights era, southern police officers and senior officials actually coordinated with the Klan while many cops were active members of it.

Since the early 2000s, the FBI and other federal agencies have issued a number of reports warning of the deep infiltration of local law enforcement by white supremacist groups. It isn't limited to the American South. Police forces all over the country have members linked to the Proud Boys and other white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.

There's even an unofficial database for Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies believed to be members. Indeed, in one case in 1991, it was revealed that a "neo-Nazi gang of deputies" actually operated using "terrorist-type tactics" in the knowledge of their colleagues and superiors. The problem is deep-rooted, long-standing and deadly.

When Capitol Police turned their attention away, and diverted resources from the 200 or so Proud Boys who were convening near the Capitol on January 6, one must wonder why. We've all seen the videos of police officers gesturing with the "OK" hand signal meant to symbolize white power to other white supremacists. But seeing Capitol Police appear to open the gates to allow the insurgents to swarm the buildings, and seeing one officer pose for a picture with one of the seditionists, was illuminating.

But the links go deeper. Many feel groups like the Proud Boys, and other groups like the Oath Keepers, have acted as unofficial paramilitary for members of the Republican Party. At the presidential debates, Trump telling the Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by" was pretty much akin to a military command. To what extent this played into the climate of violence that produced the riots themselves is an important question.

Trump's long-time advisor Roger Stone has been investigated for connections to the Proud Boys and others, even pictured with a number of far-righters who acted as his bodyguards. He's alleged to have been involved with or have had connections to people charged over the Capitol riots. (Also worth flagging is a notorious picture of Roger Stone believed to be taken with Proud Boys members.) If another adviser to another sitting president had been pictured with any extremists who were, say, Muslim or Black, or both, one can imagine how loud the outcry would be. Meanwhile, white supremacists also allegedly plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Yet the Proud Boys are not officially designated as domestic terrorists. Why?

What's also interesting is the Republicans blocking an independent commission into the events of January 6. What are they afraid of? What's the big deal in acknowledging the Proud Boys for what they are, and examining fully, their role in January 6?

Acknowledging January 6 as an act of domestic terror might be one thing. But taking the next step of calling the Proud Boys domestic terrorists has wider implications. Law enforcement officials and politicians potentially being linked to a terror group might force a political reckoning and conversation in the US that some want to avoid. But much like accounting for the history and roots of white supremacy in the US, and the wider impact this has in 2021, it's the Pandora's Box that should be opened.