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The State Department Doesn’t Want Diplomats to Call for “De-Escalation” or an “End to Violence” in Gaza

A memo published on Friday encouraged officials to resist public calls for peace.


State Department officials warned diplomats not to use words such as “ceasefire” in a memo released shortly after the Israeli government ordered over one million Gazans to evacuate their homes within 24 hours late Thursday.

Staff were specifically asked not to publish press pieces containing the phrases “end to violence/bloodshed,” “restoring calm,” and “de-escalation/ceasefire,” according to HuffPost.

A State Department official refused to comment on the internal communication. Nevertheless, the memo itself suggests that the Biden administration will do little—at least publicly—to encourage Israel to de-escalate or to reduce airstrikes that have already claimed hundreds of civilian lives.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken hoped to address Hamas’s militant attacks in Israel while visiting the country on Wednesday. “The United States has Israel’s back,” Blinken said, shortly after Hamas terrorists killed more than 1,000 Israelis, including a number of children and hundreds who were attending a music festival.

Defense Secratary Lloyd Austin met with Israeli leaders on Friday and said that Israel has the right to defend itself when asked about the likelihood of civilian casualties in Gaza after Israel’s evacuation orders, the Associated Press reported.

Israeli attacks on Gaza have killed at least 1,800 people this week, according to the Palestinian health ministry on Friday.

House Republicans Are Better at Sniping at Each Other Than They Are at Governing

The GOP caucus still hasn’t elected a new speaker, but everyone is publicly bickering about why they haven’t.

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Representative Lauren Boebert in 2021

Republicans are once again turning on each other. On Friday, Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert took a jab at Republican infighting, joking that a mythical creature had a better shot of winning the speaker’s seat than one of her party’s own members.

“Colorado’s Bigfoot could get 217,” Boebert tweeted Friday morning, referring to the vote count required to earn the coveted position.

Other party members poked fun at the revolving door of names potentially seeking to become speaker.

“If we all get a chance to be voted on as speaker, are we going alphabetically or by class? Trying to plan Thanksgiving travel,” tweeted Representative Mike Collins.

Republicans have become increasingly frustrated since a Matt Gaetz–led platoon in the House ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy over a week ago. Hope shone through on Wednesday when party members nominated Representative Steve Scalise for the position in a closed-door meeting, though support quickly fell apart overnight, leading to his withdrawal just 30 hours later.

On Thursday, Representative Troy Nehls likened the fiasco to a “circus,” describing the scene as “utter chaos,” in an interview with CNN.

It was unclear if Representative Jim Jordan, fronting a one-man race for the gavel after Scalise’s retreat, could gain the votes required, given his controversial tenure in the House, his status as a founder of the far-right Freedom Caucus, and the general fear that his elevation to party leadership would hurt the reelection campaigns of Republicans who represent districts that Biden won in 2020.

A new challenger surprised everyone—including himself—by joining the race just moments before another closed-door GOP conference Friday afternoon. Representative Austin Scott, a low-profile Georgia congressman who described the Gaetz-led faction in the House as unprincipled “grifters,” told reporters that he’s only running to end the bedlam and get the legislative body back on track.

“I don’t necessarily want to be the speaker of the House,” Scott told Punchbowl News’s Mica Soellner. “I want a House that functions correctly, but the House is not functioning correctly right now.” He may not become speaker, but he’s right about that.

Wisconsin Republicans Won’t Impeach a Supreme Court Justice for No Reason, After All

Republicans in the state aren’t going to impeach a newly seated justice right now—but might in the future.

Jeff Schear/Getty Images for WisDems
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz

Wisconsin’s narrow Democratic majority on the state Supreme Court is safe—for now.

On Thursday, state Republicans said that they would back off of threats to remove newly seated Justice Janet Protasiewicz.

Instead, they’ll give the liberal judge a chance, opting to focus on what she’ll do “in office,” said the state’s Republican Assembly Speaker, Robin Vos, at a news conference on Thursday, adding that impeachment was still “on the table” if the court ruled against conservative causes.

Protasiewicz’s presence on the bench is crucial for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, offering liberals an ideological majority in the court for the first time in 15 years and at least until 2025, when another liberal justice’s 10-year term is set to expire. This thin majority is crucial, given that the court’s conservative majority had pushed the state right on a number of key issues and cemented an absurd, pro-Republican gerrymander.

Protasiewicz, whose campaign was the most expensive race for a seat on a state Supreme Court in U.S. history, has infuriated Republicans since she announced her candidacy by broadcasting her views on topics like abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, and environmental protection. She’s criticized the state’s gerrymandered legislative maps, which cement a GOP stronghold on the state, as “rigged” and “unfair.”

“If they decide to inject their own political bias inside the process and not follow the law, we have the ability to go to the Supreme Court and we also have the ability to hold her accountable to the voters of Wisconsin,” Vos said on Thursday.

Days after Protasiewicz took her seat last week, a suit challenging Wisconsin’s gerrymandered legislative maps was filed directly to the state’s highest court.

The highly contested maps, which were drawn up by Republicans in 2011, give the GOP such a firm stronghold in the battleground state that Democratic wins in 12 of the last 15 statewide elections haven’t budged conservatives’ two-third majority in the state Senate or their hold on 64 of 99 seats in the Assembly, reported the Times.

Other cases are also anticipated to reach the new liberal majority, with a suit challenging the state’s abortion ban expected to hit the bench sometime next year.

Israel Just Issued an Impossible Ultimatum to 1.1 Million Palestinians

Citizens of North Gaza have been told they have just 24 hours to flee the area.

Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images
A residential tower in Gaza City is hit by an Israeli missile in retaliation to the weekend’s devastating attacks against civilians by Hamas.

Israel has warned the United Nations that all of northern Gaza’s roughly 1.1 million citizens must flee to south of Wadi Gaza within 24 hours—an impossible task and one that will likely lead to sizable civilian casualties.

“Whoever wants to save his life should go South,” said Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in a press conference on Friday. Earlier this week, Gallant announced plans to cut off water, food, and electricity from Palestine, saying, “We are fighting human animals, and we act accordingly.”

Now, after a week of constant airstrikes, which have killed at least 1,799 people and wounded an additional 6,388, Gallant insisted that Israel does not want to harm civilian Palestinians. “Hamas is camouflaging itself inside civilian population, and we are going to go in and dismantle its infrastructure,” he said. The airstrikes came after Hamas militants slaughtered hundreds of Israeli civilians in surprise attacks over the weekend.

It’s not clear what “infrastructure” Gallant was referring to, but in a statement to the residents of Gaza City, the Israel Defense Forces said that they believed Hamas was hiding in tunnels beneath the homes of Palestinians. The Israeli military did not specify what its plans for Gaza City were, but it’s likely that this warning could signal that the Israeli military is planning a ground operation.

U.N. spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric voiced the U.N.’s disapproval of Israel’s plan.

“The United Nations considers it impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences,” Dujarric said. On Thursday, U.N. independent experts condemned Israel’s indiscriminate military attacks against Palestinians, as well as Hamas’s deadly attacks against Israelis.

In a statement, Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan said that the “U.N.’s response to Israel’s early warning to the residents of Gaza is shameful!”

This ultimatum from the Israeli military only emphasizes the power differential between Israeli and Palestine. Israel has acted with impunity as a U.S.-backed superpower and now expects to remove one million people from their homes with limited warning after a week of deadly siege.

The House Republican Caucus Is in Chaos (Again)

Steve Scalise dropped out of the speaker’s race just 30 hours after receiving his party’s nomination. Can any Republican lead the House?

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Representative Steve Scalise, who withdrew from the speaker’s race on Thursday, shortly after receiving the Republican nomination

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise dropped out of the speaker race on Thursday evening, just 30 hours after receiving the Republican nomination. With a government shutdown looming, it is becoming increasingly clear that no sitting House Republican currently has enough votes to become speaker.

Representative Jim Jordan, a Trump ally and Freedom Caucus founder, has already started calling around to secure votes for his nomination after collecting 46 percent of the vote prior to losing to Scalise, reported Punchbowl News’s Jake Sherman. How Jordan—who only received 99 votes from his colleagues earlier this week—will attain the roughly 217 votes needed to take the gavel is unclear.

Jordan’s candidacy will prove an uphill battle, and it’s currently unclear whether he can win over hard-liners who voted for Scalise. Moderates are also wary of backing a Jordan nomination, fearing that the far-right candidate and presidential election denier will hurt their reelection prospects in swing districts.

So far, Representatives Austin Scott, Carlos Gimenez, Mario Diaz Balart, Ann Wagner, and Mike Simpson are among the Republicans who have confirmed they won’t get behind Jordan. Since the Ohio Republican cannot be expected to win any Democratic votes, he will need a nearly unified caucus. He does not have that right now.

Some Republicans, including Representatives Tom McClintock and Carlos Gimenez, are even floating the idea of bringing former Speaker Kevin McCarthy back, an unprecedented move with a slim chance of succeeding, given McCarthy’s lack of sway with several far-right members of the House Republican Caucus.

Yet another possibility remains—House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, who made a bid to be majority leader in the early hours of Scalise’s nomination to speaker, may run for the top position in the House instead, according to The Washington Post.

Amid all the drama, Republicans are also experiencing attendance issues. After nearly two weeks without a speaker, some party members chose not to show up at a Friday morning meeting behind closed doors, reported Punchbowl News.

Scalise’s loss is the latest evidence that the party would rather cannibalize itself than lead the country.

Tara McGowan Thinks Paywalls Are Hurting Journalism

The Courier Newsroom founder spoke to The New Republic after her appearance at Wednesday’s Stop Trump Summit.

Screenshot, The Washington Post
The Washington Post's paywall

Tara McGowan wants news sites to “take their paywalls down” for critical 2024 election coverage and develop new business strategies.

Speaking at The New Republic’s Stop Trump Summit, the Courier Newsroom founder and publisher discussed how readers are more likely to passively consume free information online than information behind a paywall. 

“I do not disparage paywalls,” McGowan told The New Republic after the event. “However, if your mission and the reason that you exist is to inform the public … you have got to figure out a way to make the most important information your audiences need to be informed citizens and informed and engaged voters available for free.”

McGowan explained how paywalls are great at bringing in revenue, filling in for traditional advertising revenue, but many readers can’t or won’t pay for them. The need for new business models, combined with increasing distrust from readers, means that the news media is “in the midst of an existential crisis right now” according to McGowan.

“The reason that the media is as bad as it is, the reason they’re as obsessed with Trump as it is, is because it makes them money,” McGowan said. “A lot of news organizations have not evolved to meet people where they are on social media platforms because they don’t have a way of monetizing that.”

Increasingly obsolete themes she has noticed in news media include longer articles, dense newsletters, and unbalanced coverage. McGowan is specifically concerned with how organizations cover inaccurate sides of a story for the sake of appearing neutral. She also believes there is too much negativity in news coverage.

“[Editors and reporters are] thinking about balance in their reporting as ‘I need to give as much space in my article to both sides of an argument,’ even if one side is not accurate,’” she pointed out. “And when you only inform people about the bad things, then you are contributing to cynicism and mistrust in government, and that’s really bad for democracy.”

Unlike other newsrooms, McGowan said the Courier Newsroom runs randomized control treatment experiments to measure the impact of its journalism on its audience. “We’re able to survey and analyze voter turnout records of audiences to see if the people who get our news on social media are more likely to vote, compared to the ones who don’t have the same demographic, and then we do the same thing for our email newsletter program,” she said.

For newsletters, the newsroom gathers a small number of subscribers, and political reporting is then removed from their newsletters so they just get lifestyle content, and then they are surveyed. There’s also an audience that only receives the political reporting, and they are surveyed as well.  

“We’ve actually proven that we increase informed voter participation,” McGowan said. “There needs to be a lot more introspection in the news media business.”

New College Students Are Fleeing Ron Desantis’s Overhaul

More than 100 students have dropped out after the Florida governor made massive changes to the college.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s multimillion-dollar overhaul of the New College of Florida is rapidly turning into a disaster.

On Wednesday, the college reported reported that its numbers were in dramatic decline. In its last year of operation, the school has more than doubled its normal loss of first-year students between fall semesters, according to an announcement by the college’s provost.

That marks the lowest retention rate of first-year students in the college’s history, reported the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

New College, a school that was proudly unconventional until the far-right governor chose to give it a conservative revamp, saw 27 percent of its student body drop out.

Despite the dip, the school’s total enrollment was still up from last year, bringing a record 325 students to the school, according to the college’s fact book. That may be in part because the school has lowered its standards for admission, according to the Herald-Tribune, which cited lower grade-point averages and test scores of incoming students than those of previous classes.

Under DeSantis’s supervision, the school has seen some radical changes. The college’s leadership team has been upended: Six members of the board of trustees have been replaced by DeSantis allies, while the college’s president was ousted and replaced with the administration’s former education commissioner, Richard Corcoran. The school has also suffered a faculty exodus, the elimination of the college’s diversity office, and the firing of its academic librarian.

What DeSantis once described as a culture of “woke indoctrination” has been replaced by one of censorship: Student murals have been painted over, and student orientation leaders were forbidden from wearing pins expressing support for Black Lives Matter or the LGBTQ+ community, reported The New York Times.

The U.S. Department of Education is also investigating a complaint that the new version of the school discriminated against disabled students, reported CNN. Another federal complaint was filed in August claiming that the new leadership of the school discriminated against LGBTQ+ students, effectively driving them out from the campus.

Book Bans Are a Conservative Plot to Destroy Public Schools, Says Randi Weingarten

The teachers union head denounced the “extremist strategy,” which also includes voucher campaigns and manufactured outrage over critical race theory.

Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for MoveOn

Teachers union head Randi Weingarten says that the campaign by conservatives to ban books isn’t about the books at all, but part of a broader strategy to destroy public schools—one that was supercharged by the pandemic.

“You take the agita and the anxiety that people had at Covid, that fear, and you combine it with a right wing who has wanted to kill public schools for years and take that money for vouchers, and you have the scenario we have,” Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said Wednesday at The New Republic’s Stop Trump Summit.

Vouchers, which use public education dollars to fund private and religious school attendance, are just one pillar of the conservative campaign to “undermine, destroy, and defund” public schools, she said. The other two are book banning and manufactured outrage over critical race theory.

Weingarten pointed to conservative activist Chris Rufo and a comment he made at Hillsdale College, a Christian nationalist school, in which he admitted that focusing on these issues was all part of a master plan to promote universal vouchers: “To get to universal school choice, you really need to operate from a premise of universal public school distrust.”

In an interview with TNR after the event, Weingarten explained the “extremist strategy” Rufo and other conservatives have used to defund public schools. “The hook was trust. If you really create as much distrust as possible in public schooling, then parents will look at privatization as an option,” she said.

That’s where critical race theory comes in.

“[Rufo] tried to make a term that nobody knows so toxic, so that you can weaponize it and make fear,” she said. “Conversations about hard subjects became weaponized as indoctrination. Which is patently ridiculous, and dangerous.”

Race, as well as gender, is the subject conservatives have focused on in their campaigns to ban books in public schools and libraries.

“What [Republican Governor Ron] DeSantis is doing in the so-called ‘war on woke,’ is exactly part of their playbook—to make people afraid of books, and afraid of what we do in school,” Weingarten said. According to Pen America, Florida passed 15 “educational intimidation” bills in the last two and a half years.

The “parents’ rights” movement is made up of a loud minority, Weingarten said, and actively undermines what most parents want. “What we see in Florida is that 60 percent of the book banning has been done by 11 people,” she said.

The AFT has partnered with The New Republic in fighting back against such bans. TNR’s Banned Books Tour has been delivering thousands of banned books across the country this month, most recently in Florida.

Robert Menendez Is Screwed

The New Jersey Democrat was hit with several new charges on Thursday.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez

Senator Robert Menendez, who was already facing a slew of bribery charges, was hit with a raft of new accusations on Thursday, with federal prosecutors alleging that the New Jersey Democrat and former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had accepted bribes from a foreign government and acted as a foreign agent.

Things already looked pretty bad for the New Jersey Democratic senator, to be fair. Last month, Menendez and his wife were charged in a sweeping indictment and accused of multiple bribery counts. The pair were accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, gold bars, and a car (seriously) in exchange for Menendez—who was chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee until he was forced to resign in September after being charged—“agreeing to use his power and influence to protect and enrich those businessmen and to benefit the government of Egypt.”

Still, Menendez had two things going for him. One was that he had previously gotten away with corruption charges. Way back in 2017—a year before the scheme he is currently charged for is alleged to have begun—jurors were unable to reach a verdict on charges including conspiracy, bribery, and honest services fraud. Menendez, who had then been in the Senate for more than a decade, insisted then that the charges were related to a simple misunderstanding: Menendez and the man who was accused of bribing him were simply friends who enjoyed exchanging gifts and favors.

The other is that the current conservative-led Supreme Court has shown again and again that it does not care about corruption. The charges Menendez was facing were beyond the pale—he and his wife had over $400,000 in cash stashed in their home, along with several gold bars—but this court has consistently been skeptical of all but the most overt bribery and corruption charges. Menendez still had a chance, in other words.

But with Thursday’s charges, that seems to have all but evaporated. A new indictment filed by a federal grand jury in Manhattan on Thursday claims that Menendez “provided sensitive U.S. Government information and took other steps that secretly aided the Government of Egypt.” According to prosecutors, Menendez’s wife and a New Jersey businessman “worked to introduce Egyptian intelligence and military officials to Menendez for the purpose of establishing and solidifying a corrupt agreement.” As part of this agreement, businessmen with ties to Egypt “provided hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes to Menendez and Nadine Menendez, in exchange for Menendez’s acts and breaches of duty to benefit the government of Egypt, [businessman Wael] Hana, and others, including with respect to foreign military sales and foreign military financing,” according to prosecutors.

That’s bad! It’s also, unlike more humdrum corruption, not the kind of thing the Supreme Court bats an eye at. Menendez is stubbornly refusing to resign—and is even suggesting that he might run for reelection in 2024. But the latest charges show that he’s in even bigger trouble than before—and that Democrats need to find a way to push him out quickly.

A Majority of Israelis Think Netanyahu Should Resign

Ninety-four percent of Israelis believe the government bears some responsibility for Hamas’s devastating attacks, while a slight majority think the prime minister should step down after the conflict ends.

Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this year

An overwhelming majority of Israelis blame their government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for Hamas’s invasion last week, according to a new poll.

A recent survey by the Dialog Center found that out of 620 Israeli Jews polled, 86 percent felt that the surprise attack from Gaza was the fault of Israel’s government. Seventy-nine percent of coalition supporters also agreed, a damning assessment of Netanyahu’s leadership.

Nearly all of the respondents—a whopping 94 percent—said the government was responsible for the lack of security that led to the infiltration of Israel’s south, reported The Jerusalem Post.

But that doesn’t mean Bibi’s time as prime minister is in imminent jeopardy. A smaller majority, 56 percent, of Israelis polled said that Netanyahu should resign after the current conflict ends, with only 28 percent of coalition supporters feeling the same way.

The war between Israel and Palestine, sparked on Saturday when the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a three-pronged assault on Israel’s southern border with Gaza, has so far killed at least 1,400 people in Palestine and another 1,200 in Israel, ABC reported. At least 27 Americans have also died in the escalating conflict, per reports.

Gaza, a small strip of land sandwiched between Israel, Egypt, and the Mediterranean Sea, is one of the most densely populated areas of the world, housing more than two million people, with some 40 percent of the population under the age of 14.

In a press briefing late Wednesday night, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant claimed that Israeli military forces would “wipe [Hamas] off the face of the Earth.”  Since the initial assault, Israeli defenses have launched more than 6,000 bombs over Gaza, and leadership has cut off access to electricity, fuel, and humanitarian aid. 

“Humanitarian aid to Gaza? No electric switch will be turned on, no water tap will be opened, and no fuel truck will enter until the Israeli abductees are returned home,” said Israel Katz, Israel’s minister of energy, on Thursday.

The fallout of that decision has caused what Gaza’s authorities describe as a “humanitarian crisis,” plunging the country into total darkness as it runs out of water and food.

But the front line is shifting. Early Thursday, Israel sent a large number of the 300,000 Israeli reserve soldiers to the country’s northern border with Lebanon, fearing a possible attack from the Iran-backed Hezbollah, reported the BBC.

While there was a great deal of speculation in the immediate aftermath of the attacks that Netanyahu’s government would be strengthened, that does not seem to currently be the case.