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Looking Back On 20 Years At War In Afghanistan

Looking Back On 20 Years At War In Afghanistan
Looking Back On 20 Years At War In Afghanistan

The United States’ mission in Afghanistan was supposed to be straightforward.

Osama bin Laden and his followers did the unthinkable on Sept. 11, 2001, hijacking passenger jets and killing thousands in attacks on buildings that symbolized American power. The public overwhelmingly supported invading Afghanistan, whose ruling Taliban movement had sheltered bin Laden.

The initial strike was quick. Yet American troops and their allies stayed in Afghanistan for another 20 years, even though president after president said it was time to leave ― and the Taliban regained ground while U.S.-backed forces remained shaky. 

On April 14, President Joe Biden finally announced that the U.S. would end its military presence in Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021.

“I am now the fourth United States president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats,” Biden said in a speech from the White House Treaty Room — the same place where President George W. Bush announced the beginning of the war in 2001. “I will not pass this responsibility onto a fifth.”

The United States has now completed around 12% of the withdrawal, the Defense Department said in a statement this week. 

HuffPost spoke to veterans of the war, including non-Americans who supported the U.S. campaign. They shared their complicated feelings about the end of the war, their doubts about the value of the effort, the friends they made (and sometimes lost) and how it felt to risk their lives for a project that Americans largely seemed to forget. 

Peter Lucier

Peter Lucier

‘We learned how to fight a war that nobody cared about.’

Peter Lucier, 31, served as a Marine infantryman in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012. He lives in St. Louis and is a law student at Saint Louis University School of Law. Since leaving the military in 2013, Lucier has written about his experiences and is active with the progressive veterans group Common Defense, which advocated for a withdrawal from Afghanistan. The news about withdrawal came two days after the nine-year anniversary of his friend’s death in Afghanistan. 

It’s supposedly over, and I wasn’t happy. I didn’t cry until later. I just was empty. And if anything, I felt almost angry. It seemed like the announcement was coming not as a result of a watershed moment. It’s cliche, but it was definitely not with a bang, but with a whimper. There wasn’t a moment of reckoning. …

I remember there was this colonel who had talked to us right when we got into country. And he said, “I want you to remember that not a single thing you do out here is worth the life of a single Marine.”

It felt like that’s the kind of thing that you hear at a safety brief before a training exercise. Like, “Hey, remember, this is just training. Nothing that we do is like worth someone dying over. So if something’s unsafe, just stop it.” But this is war. The thing that we’re doing is supposed to be worth the life of a Marine, because if it’s not, then what are we doing here? Are we just running out the clock? Are we just sitting here, waiting to go home and trying to not die? …

I feel like the business of government, whether that was Pentagon brass or senior-level calls, was a campaign of dishonesty and half-truths that was allowed to continue because no one cared. Because of public apathy, because of the “low cost” of the war ― an acceptable number of casualties, a relatively low footprint. 

We learned how to fight a war that nobody cared about. Maybe that’s the legacy. We learned how to keep a war going for 20 years without aggravating the average voter enough to do something about it. The legacy is America now can get away with long-term violence and military action in other places and put it on the shoulders of an incredibly small group of people.

Esti Lamonaca

Esti Lamonaca

‘There’s nothing that civilians can say that is comparable to war.’

Esti Lamonaca, 30, is a native New Yorker who vividly remembers the 9/11 attacks. Lamonaca served in Afghanistan, attached to Special Forces task forces as an intelligence analyst from 2015 to 2016 before leaving the military as a sergeant and pursuing a degree in anthropology with minors in community organizing and women and gender studies. They are the national lead organizer at Common Defense.

I proudly wore my Afghanistan vet hat [the week of the withdrawal announcement] because I felt this sense of relief and this euphoria. … Wearing my hat around, I never expect anyone to say anything to me because I don’t assume that people know what it means, but I did get stopped by one much older African American person saying they were extremely happy the U.S. was withdrawing. This person teared up when they were thanking me.

It really does help a lot of us who are struggling with PTSD, knowing that no one is going to have to suffer there anymore. … We did not win the war by any means, but we won the fight for what truly needed to happen right now and was long overdue.

I did not stop crying all week. I walked around, went on runs and cried. I thought about every single person that I lost there and lost back at home and I prayed for them to hopefully be at peace now. I literally re-lived every single day, things that I have suppressed. I saw Afghan women looking at me with stoic faces that didn’t want us there. I saw kids throwing rocks at us but also hugging us, looking at us as if this was normal. I saw my friends crying out for help. …

There is a quote-unquote normal way to be in the world, and when veterans share our stories a lot of times people will gasp or feel so bad for us. They just don’t understand, and it makes us feel even more alienated just by sharing our stories. Don’t try to relate to us, either ― there’s nothing that civilians can say that is comparable to war unless they’ve been there themselves. 

I hope that every single troop member that comes home knows that they’re valid, and I really, really hope that the media considers taking on stories from people who actually bore witness. Just because the war is over doesn’t mean that any sort of Afghanistan vet is over the war.

Najeeb Aminyar

Najeeb Aminyar

‘It will be total chaos and a graveyard.’

Najeeb Aminyar, 30, worked with U.S. forces in Afghanistan in Kabul as an interpreter between 2010 and 2014. He moved to America on a Special Immigrant Visa, but nearly all his family remains in Afghanistan. He has earned associate and bachelor’s degrees and is now a law student at Texas A&M University. He also volunteers to help other Afghans on SIVs with the group No One Left Behind. 

Even though I am not there, I am not in danger, I was terrified by this news, because I feel for hundreds and thousands of others who are at great risk and are projected to be left behind once the U.S. leaves. The U.S. government still has time: If they want, they can do a lot to ameliorate the situation. They can increase personnel to work on [Special Immigrant Visas] at the U.S. embassy in Kabul. It’s in the thousands ― I would guess somewhere around 10,000 to 15,000 applicants. My parents and siblings are there. My little brother used to work as an interpreter. He was laid off, and his SIV is not even approved yet. He applied in April 2020, and his case is stuck in the bureaucracy. 

When I was in Kabul, I felt very afraid for myself and my family. … In the last 20 years, 300 interpreters [and their family members] were killed and I believe the number of people who got injured or their families got kidnapped must reach in the thousands. When I used to go out, I hid my face with a scarf. Close relatives did not know what I did; not even my neighbors or my friends because it was too risky. It was a very limiting and isolating life. The Taliban has their sympathizers everywhere. They could be your neighbor, your friend, your co-worker. So you are really stuck in your home.

I came to the U.S. in 2014. Today, the situation in Afghanistan is 10 times — or maybe more than that — worse. And once the U.S. troops leave, the situation will not even be comparable ― it will be total chaos and a graveyard for people who are known to be affiliated with the U.S. army and coalition forces. If the American people knew what’s going on in Afghanistan and what is being traded in the deal, they would not let Biden’s administration completely withdraw.

The ideal situation would be the U.S. reconsidering their withdrawal, giving at least a year or two to mitigate the situation in Afghanistan and bring both sides to the table, to create a comprehensive peace treaty between them and then have neighboring countries and the other influential countries of the world sign the treaty. They should take responsibility, saying we guarantee that we are not going to let Afghanistan go back to the ’90s, we guarantee that the Taliban will not go rogue again.

I am worried, not only for my family. For me, it’s the entire people.

Timothy Berry

Timothy Berry

‘I literally have soldiers in my formation who are … falling into conspiracy theories.’

Timothy Berry, 31, was a captain in the Army and served in Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division in 2015. While attending West Point, his classmates elected him class president, just the third time that a Black student was chosen and graduated with that position in the more than 200 years of the school’s history. He now lives in Hudson, New York, and is a graduate student at the NYU Stern School of Business. 

At the time, I was noticing ― particularly as someone who’s a Black American ― that there was an erosion of trust in democracy at home. Ferguson was happening, the Black Lives Matter movement was coming to fruition in 2015. … 

Something that was always glaring to me too, even when I got to Afghanistan, is that we were trying to help build this country and then I turned on the television, and you have the police violence at home. You have Donald Trump rising to power and eventually becoming the Republican nominee for president, completely trashing all the institutions that Americans previously trusted. There was a great irony. 

I’ll never forget this. I had a conversation with a soldier from Ohio. Somehow we were talking about the Newtown massacre with those children that were killed [at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012]. And he said to me with a straight face, “Sir, that didn’t really happen. That was all fake.” My first reaction was I wanted to get a counseling statement. I kept talking to him and was just realizing, wow ― I literally have soldiers in my formation who are being manipulated or are falling into conspiracy theories and denialism. …

There’s a lot of work that needs to be done at home. So the withdrawal, even if it is just a symbolic one, is important because it signifies that the United States is doing some work internally to prove that its own democracy is worth it.

Jessica St. John 

Jessica St. John 

‘The country is beautiful. I loved it, basically.’

Jessica St. John, 35, joined the Iowa Army National Guard right out of high school and served in Iraq (2007-2008) and Afghanistan (2010-2011). In Afghanistan, she provided security for an agriculture team in Kunar Province. Her experience working with the local population inspired her to get her degree in teaching English to speakers of other languages, and she now teaches English-language learners at Iowa City West High School. She is a member of the progressive group VoteVets. In 2019, she had the opportunity to ask then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden a question about veterans issues at a CNN town hall. She has a service dog, Victor, that helps mitigate symptoms of PTSD.

After my service, I went to the University of Northern Iowa. I went to school for TESOL, which is teaching English to speakers of other languages. Actually, what inspired that was my work in Afghanistan, working with the local population. … 

In Iraq, I was on a super base and you didn’t get to see anything but sand and fences. When I was in Afghanistan, I was in a remote place on [Forward Operating Base Camp Wright]. The country is beautiful. I loved it, basically. I don’t even know how to put it into words. 

I kind of become obsessed with the culture. I liked to read a lot of books and find out more about why Afghanistan was the way it was. Working with the local population was also really intriguing. …

I was reading the news online [when I heard about the withdrawal decision], and I just sort of thought, “Thank god.” To me, both wars were kind of a waste of resources ― people’s lives, money and time. Because we were there so long, we did so to speak, win the hearts and minds. But I think as far as what we were actually doing over there, it could’ve been done covertly, with special forces and different groups. I don’t think we needed to deploy as many people as we did. …

I do feel for those interpreters and people that worked with us. They’re not safe there. They do need a pathway to be able to go anywhere, whether it’s the United States or Canada or wherever they would feel comfortable. 

Sam Rogers

Sam Rogers

‘My oldest daughter is 11. Another 10 years of this, she’d have enough time to go there twice.’

Sam Rogers, 34, enlisted in 2004 and deployed to Afghanistan three times ― twice in uniform and once as a civilian. He now lives in Milwaukee and works with Concerned Veterans for America, an organization opposed to extensive U.S. military entanglements abroad and supported by the well-funded conservative Koch network.

My first tour was the 2009-10 Kandahar surge under President Obama. It was probably some of the worst conflict sustained there. My unit lost 42 soldiers and had over 300 amputees.

It was disbelief [when the news broke]. I truly did not think that we would be able to leave… I expected we would leave a large Special Forces contingent or something. I’m someone who’s probably more right of center. I shared the video of [Biden’s] speech; I pulled over on the freeway to listen to it. I was thrilled that he was so explicit in his commitment to withdraw all troops and to end this conflict. I’m excited that we could see an end to the funerals. I’m tired of the funerals.

Connecting the futility of a campaign to the sacrifice and valor of individuals is one of the reasons we got trapped in this for so long. I’m glad that the younger generations of Americans don’t have to endure that. My oldest daughter is 11. Another 10 years of this, she’d have enough time to go there twice. Both myself and my wife are military, so there’s a very strong chance that our kids will follow in our footsteps. If they’re going to be at risk, I want it to be for something that’s demonstrably worth it.

My third deployment was as a civilian intelligence officer. It really solidified that there was no grand strategy, there was no master plan ― these things that I just assumed or hoped existed above me, as an enlisted guy, didn’t. 

As a conservative … I’ve started traveling around and meeting with conservative groups and saying, “I’m sure you all are extremely unhappy with President Biden for a variety of reasons, but this should not be one of them. This is the place where we should be bigger, we should be supporting something meaningful, something that explicitly supports the troops.” And that’s been received very positively so far. 

Dunja Neukam

Dunja Neukam

‘To say it wasn’t worth it is a slap in the face.’

After the 9/11 attacks, the NATO alliance invoked its mutual defense clause for the first time ever ― calling on the United States’ global partners to support the mission against al Qaeda, including in Afghanistan. Countries like Germany sent thousands of troops to join the American effort. They are now withdrawing forces along with the U.S. Starting in 2002, Dunja Neukam served four tours in Afghanistan as part of the German deployment. She now volunteers with the veterans group Bund Deutscher EinsatzVeteranen and lives in Koblenz, Germany.

The withdrawal is a logical answer because … they missed the point to create a better way for this country. I think the date is the wrong way: to pick 9/11 to withdraw from Afghanistan is a horrible date and a slap in the face of every killed and injured soldier, because the meaning is it started with 9/11, with the attack on the twin towers, and it ended in a war that we lose.

The first time I was in Afghanistan, I thought, “OK, we will bring freedom to this country, we will bring education, we will bring wealth.” We saw a lot of poor people with no medicine, nothing. We saw a lot of beaten females. We saw depression. I thought it will be better … but after an attack on our bus [when a suicide bomber killed four German soldiers in 2003], everything goes wrong. On my fourth mission, in 2010, I thought, this will be a long, long mission. We need more international help, we need to build the economy and education, but I don’t know where all the money has gone. 

I cried a lot about my fallen comrades but to say it wasn’t worth it is a slap in the face. In my heart are two sides: I see comrades and I see the injured and I see the veterans who struggle with PTSD but it’s worth it because I have little examples. We saved a lot of children’s lives with little surgeries, we helped women escape from abusive men because we built a women’s shelter. We built a water pipe. It’s not the whole world, but for these people it’s the whole world and I think that’s the worth of it … I think a lot of soldiers have these little examples.

We do not have a veterans’ culture like in the U.S. Everything with a touch of war is very difficult in German society. … They know we were in the war but they close their eyes, so we struggle with a lot of bureaucracy and with the past. We have no veterans homes or centers ― it’s very difficult in Germany. But it will be better.

Blake Feldman

Blake Feldman

‘If you’re going to send folks there, you have to commit to supporting them.’

Blake Feldman, 41, grew up in New York City and was there on Sept. 11, 2001. He attended Valley Forge Military Academy ― military service runs in his family ― and joined the Army JAG Corps after receiving his law degree. He served in the military for more than nine years ― the majority overseas in Central Europe and Asia ― and was in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011. During the last month of his tour, U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. He now resides in Kansas City, Missouri, and works in cybersecurity.

I was in Afghanistan when the first government shutdown happened, and soldiers and their families weren’t getting paid during that several-week period. I’m there with junior soldiers, and I’m worried about how their wives and kids are getting groceries back at home. 

That’s unconscionable, that’s the kind of thing that informed my view ― if you’re going to send folks there, you have to commit to supporting them. And that also means making sure they can accomplish the mission and achieve the goals that you’ve asked them to do. You can’t just send them there and then just forget about them or not give them clear objectives. That’s putting people in harm’s way without good reason. …

Leaving [the military] was a pretty significant decision. In 2014, two important things happened. One, I got notice from the Office of Personnel Management that the identity of everyone who had ever held a security clearance has been compromised. … That was a pretty significant moment in my life. 

At the same time, I got a letter from the federal student loan office that my federal service didn’t qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. … When I was in Afghanistan in 2010, they didn’t send [the loan letter] to Afghanistan. They sent it to my old address in Tennessee. And because I didn’t get the letter ― because I was deployed ― they just assumed I wasn’t interested in checking some box that my federal service should apply.

So when I realized: One, my identity and the identity of all my friends and family were not secure, even though I was serving, and two, I wasn’t going to be able to use my federal service to pay off my student loans, I just felt like I was in the wrong place. I wasn’t relevant anymore.

Kyle Bibby

Kyle Bibby

‘There’s no amount of Special Forces raids that’s going to protect women’s rights in Afghanistan.’

Kyle Bibby, 35, is a former Marine Corps infantry officer who served in Afghanistan from 2011 to 12 and later served as a Presidential Management Fellow in the Obama administration. He co-founded the Black Veterans Project after leaving the military and is the national campaigns manager at Common Defense, which advocated for a withdrawal from Afghanistan. He lives in Jersey City, New Jersey. 

I never once felt that what I was doing in Afghanistan made my community in New Jersey safer. They found Osama bin Laden while I was in Afghanistan, and he was not in Afghanistan, he was in Pakistan. I had a Marine ask me sarcastically, “So, what, are we going home now?” That was 10 years ago.

Folks in Afghanistan are not interested in having a big, predominantly white army from the other side of the world come in and tell them what to do. I had another platoon commander tell me once toward the end of the deployment, “The Taliban do a lot of messed up stuff, but the fact is they can recruit guys that want to fight against invaders.” He could not discount how powerful that is and said if he grew up in Afghanistan, he’s not certain it wouldn’t appeal to him. And that’s what it is about: The U.S. ― we come into situations in such a condescending and arrogant way, thinking if we talk about values that somehow changes the fact that we are invading.

It’s something to be there and see a largely white military force in a very poor, predominantly brown country and not feel some sort of parity with the policing we see in the United States. My time in Afghanistan got me interested in criminal justice and working in low-income African American communities.

We need to have a good-faith effort of actually switching our strategy from one that is incredibly military-based. There’s no amount of Special Forces raids that’s going to protect women’s rights in Afghanistan. People are saying the situation is going to degrade for women. Are a bunch of SF guys kicking in the door and shooting people going to solve that?

People need to be more critical of these generals. … I am tired of hearing them come forward with another batch of excuses of why they couldn’t get the job done in 20 years. Ultimately, the generals either win or lose a war, and they didn’t win this one.

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Divided Progressive Field For Manhattan Prosecutor Clears Path For Wall Street Ally

Divided Progressive Field For Manhattan Prosecutor Clears Path For Wall Street Ally
Divided Progressive Field For Manhattan Prosecutor Clears Path For Wall Street Ally

Progressives are voicing last-minute concerns that a crowded field of candidates in the Democratic primary for Manhattan district attorney is increasing the chances that a self-funding Wall Street ally will prevail in the Tuesday race.

Tali Farhadian Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor and general counsel in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, has spent more than $8.2 million of her own money and raised another $4.5 million from a donor pool that includes a number of Wall Street executives for a total cash haul that far exceeds her rivals. Her husband, Boaz Weinstein, is a wealthy hedge fund manager.

Farhadian Weinstein, who would be the first woman to serve as Manhattan DA, oversaw moderate criminal justice reforms while working for the Brooklyn DA. But she has attacked two of her rivals as soft on crime, and critics fear that she would go easy on Wall Street.

She is tied in at least one poll with former federal prosecutor Alvin Bragg, a more liberal reformer. Bragg, who was also a deputy attorney general of New York, would be Manhattan’s first-ever Black DA. 

But some progressives worry that in a field of eight Democrats, Bragg’s competition within the progressive lane is clearing a path for Farhadian Weinstein. Farhadian Weinstein, who clerked for Attorney General Merrick Garland while he was on the federal bench, is backed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Attorney General Eric Holder and Reps. Nydia Velázquez, Adriano Espaillat and Ritchie Torres.

In addition to Farhadian Weinstein and Bragg, civil rights attorney Tahanie Aboushi, public defender Eliza Orlins, state Assemblyman Dan Quart, and former Manhattan assistant district attorneys Liz Crotty, Lucy Lang and Diana Florence are all seeking the Democratic nod for the top prosecutor post.

There is one candidate who can beat her.
Sean McElwee, Data for Progress

Sean McElwee, a Harlem resident and co-founder of the think tank Data for Progress, is among those encouraging progressive voters to back Bragg in the interest of stopping Farhadian Weinstein.

“There is one candidate who can beat her,” he said.

Data for Progress conducted a poll in June that showed Bragg and Farhadian Weinstein with 26% each and none of the other candidates breaking double digits.

Critically, unlike the New York City mayor’s race, which is being decided by a ranked-choice voting system, the Manhattan DA primary, subject to state election rules, is a first-past-the-post contest.

That means that if Farhadian Weinstein ekes out a narrow plurality, she wins automatically.

Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham law professor and former political candidate influential in progressive circles, has cited this factor in her calls for the left to rally behind Bragg in a bid to stop Farhadian Weinstein.  

In a column in The Nation on Monday, Teachout addressed herself to supporters of Quart, Orlins and Aboushi, three other contenders who have attracted progressive interest. 

“There are three other progressive candidates, none of whom have a realistic path to victory,” she wrote.

Alvin Bragg, a progressive former federal prosecutor, wearing a tie at left, is tied with Farhadian Weinstein in a recent pol

Alvin Bragg, a progressive former federal prosecutor, wearing a tie at left, is tied with Farhadian Weinstein in a recent poll.

The Manhattan DA’s office has jurisdiction over the massive concentration of financial firms that call Manhattan home. But all too often, retiring DA Cy Vance targeted minor financial players rather than powerful multinational banks. (He also declined to go after elite Manhattan figures like the Trump family and disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.)

Bragg has outlined a plan to finally turn the DA’s office into a serious vehicle for policing white-collar crime. He is rejecting donations from corporations, lobbyists and lawyers who had business before the Manhattan DA’s office in the past four years. And Bragg has detailed proposals for shifting DA office resources from minor crime prosecutions to big, systemic corruption and white-collar crimes cases.

“Of all of the candidates for Manhattan District Attorney, my dedication to rooting out white collar crime is unmatched,” he writes on his campaign website.

Farhadian Weinstein, by contrast, is refusing contributions of larger than $1 from defense lawyers and firms that have a defense law practice, but she has not erected filters on business community donors that might avoid perceived conflicts of interest.

Her campaign website includes a section about her commitment to fighting “economic crimes,” where she promises to increase the DA office’s “capacity” to prosecute white-collar offenses. 

Overall though, her proposals are much less detailed than Bragg’s, and rival campaigns argue that she would inherently be less inclined to pursue the financial executives on whom she has relied for numerous contributions of $30,000 or more. 

High-profile financial executives who have given her five-figure checks include Pershing Square Capital Management founder Bill Ackman and his wife, and Ken Griffin, founder of the hedge fund company Citadel and a prodigious contributor to conservative causes.

“We are talking about an enormous amount of money that common sense tells you has the power to shape judgment,” Teachout told The New York Times in April.

Kathryn Wylde, head of the Partnership for NYC, the city’s largest big business lobby, essentially agreed that Farhadian Weinstein is likely to go easier on Wall Street, though she considers it a selling point.

“The business community has generally thought that Cy Vance has done a good job at reconciling quality of life and criminal justice issues and that they would like to see continuity and a thoughtful approach and, if I may say, a moderate approach,” Wylde told Gothamist in April.

It has not helped Farhadian Weinstein’s case in the eyes of skeptics that thanks to legal tax deductions, she and her husband did not pay any federal income taxes in 2013, 2015 and 2017. The next Manhattan DA is tasked with taking over the investigation of former President Donald Trump’s taxes.

“In 6 of the last 11 years (the years in which we had income), we paid more than 50% of our income in Federal, State and New York City taxes,” Farhadian Weinstein said in a statement to ProPublica, which broke the news about her tax bill. “In the other years, we earned no net income and, as a result, did not pay income tax.”

Of course, other candidates in the race have received big checks from financiers as well. Bragg, for example, has received five-figure contributions from James McClave, a partner at Jane Street Capital, and Stacey Schusterman, a former CEO of Samson Investment.

Let me be clear: no matter who you are or what power you hold, if you break the law or harm New Yorkers, under my watch, you will be held accountable.
Tali Farhadian Weinstein, Manhattan DA candidate

“I am the only candidate whose motives [have] been scrutinized and questioned ― even though every candidate has accepted campaign contributions from individuals who work on Wall Street and wealthy people,” Farhadian Weinstein told HuffPost in a statement. “Let me be clear: no matter who you are or what power you hold, if you break the law or harm New Yorkers, under my watch, you will be held accountable.”

In addition to progressive concerns about Farhadian Weinstein’s commitment to policing Wall Street, left-leaning lawyers and activists are worried that she is not willing to go far enough to reduce the number of people who are incarcerated, particularly for minor offenses.

Bragg is proposing more sweeping criminal justice reforms than Farhadian. Unlike Farhadian Weinstein, he supports disbanding the NYPD’s vice squad, has promised not to seek life sentences without parole, and would decline to join New York state’s association of DAs, which has lobbied against criminal justice reforms. And while Farhadian Weinstein has vowed not to prosecute sex workers, Bragg has said he would not prosecute sex workers or buyers.

Farhadian Weinstein has elicited criticism for a series of attacks criticizing Bragg and Quart’s opposition to a state law that requires investigation of domestic abuse cases even when both parties have dismissed their complaints. One TV ad argues that the two men would “put women and families at risk of further abuse.” 

Bragg and his allies have argued that the attacks play on racist tropes about Black men assaulting women, though these particular attacks also target Quart, who is white.

Farhadian Weinstein insists that she is making a substantive case about the need to proceed with investigations for the safety of abused partners, even when both parties dismiss their complaints. “I put a spotlight on the blind spots of the two men in the race when it comes to violence against women,” she told The New York Times.

Bragg enjoys a broad coalition of support, ranging from labor unions, Manhattan liberals like Rep. Jerry Nadler, the civil rights group Color of Change PAC, and former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

Other candidates in the race have taken stances further to the left than Bragg, however, leading to some dissension among progressives about the best alternative to Farhadian Weinstein.

Indeed, before Farhadian Weinstein announced her bid, flooded the race with cash and sought to take advantage of rising concerns about violent crime, many reformers assumed that Bragg would occupy the moderate lane in the primary against someone even bolder.

Tahanie Aboushi, a civil rights attorney, lacks Alvin Bragg's funding, managerial experience and mainstream support, but riva

Tahanie Aboushi, a civil rights attorney, lacks Alvin Bragg’s funding, managerial experience and mainstream support, but rivals his backing from progressive groups.

Aboushi, in particular, has sparked enthusiasm on the left, winning the support of progressive groups like the New York Working Families Party and elected officials like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. As a headscarf-wearing Muslim, she has personal experience with discrimination, and her father’s incarceration inspired her to become involved in criminal justice reform. 

Shaun King, a co-founder of the Real Justice PAC, which is backing Aboushi, said that if anything, progressives should have lined up behind her candidacy.

After Tiffany Cabán lost her bid to win the Democratic primary for Queens DA in 2019 by a handful of absentee ballots, King, a Brooklynite, resolved to make sure that progressives rallied behind a single left-wing candidate in the Manhattan contest two years later.

“We were the first organization to endorse ― and started working right away to get other orgs on board,” he said. “WFP joined us, many others did as well, but ultimately groups splintered in 6 different directions.”

Although Aboushi has raised a fraction of Bragg’s money and lacks his managerial experience, her campaign maintains that she represents progressives’ best shot at a win.

“Tahanie is unflinching in her vision for reform, which is why she has the longest list of credible progressive endorsements like Jumaane Williams, Working Families Party, The Jewish Vote, and of course Bernie Sanders,” Aboushi’s campaign manager Jamarah Hayner said in a statement.

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American Airlines Cuts Hundreds Of Flights As Travel Demand Rises

American Airlines Cuts Hundreds Of Flights As Travel Demand Rises
American Airlines Cuts Hundreds Of Flights As Travel Demand Rises

American Airlines said it’s cutting hundreds of flights through at least mid-July as it works to balance an “incredibly quick” jump in travel demand with a labor shortage and several weeks of inclement weather.

The airline canceled roughly 300 flights over the weekend, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware. More than 130 flights were canceled Monday, with another 81 cancellations affecting flights that were originally scheduled for Tuesday.

The airline said the cuts, which will affect roughly 1% of its flights from July 2 to July 14, are aimed at building “additional resilience and certainty.”

“We never want to disappoint, and feel these schedule adjustments will help ensure we can take good care of our customers and team members and minimize surprises at the airport,” the company said in a statement to HuffPost Monday.

American Airlines said it's reducing hundreds of its flights through mid-July in hopes of balancing an “incredibly quick” jump in travel demand with a labor shortage and weeks of inclement weather.

American Airlines said it’s reducing hundreds of its flights through mid-July in hopes of balancing an “incredibly quick” jump in travel demand with a labor shortage and weeks of inclement weather.

The cancellations were chosen with the goal of affecting as few passengers as possible “by adjusting flights in markets where we have multiple options for re-accommodation,” the airline said.

Some of American Airlines’ vendors have experienced labor shortages. These include vendors that provide catering, fuel services and assistance with passengers’ wheelchairs, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing an American executive.

By cutting some of the flights, the airline said it hopes it can avoid travel disruptions, alleviate some pressure on maintenance and expand the number of pilots it has on reserve, the Journal reported.

Passenger air travel is steadily rising back toward pre-pandemic levels in the U.S. as COVID-19 vaccinations become more widespread and travel restrictions are lifted. Roughly 2.1 million people passed through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints on Sunday, about 77% of the number of travelers on the same day in 2019.

Though Americans may be ready to resume travel, the airline industry is still regaining its footing. Airlines have blown through cash reserves and amassed billions in debt while trying to stay afloat amid the pandemic, likely limiting their ability to rehire and reinvest due to incurred interest, according to a recent review by industry group Airlines for America.

Tens of thousands of airline employees have had their jobs slashed or furloughed over the past year, while others were offered early retirement. In addition to the time it takes to rehire workers, those furloughed will need to be retrained before they are brought back into service, NBC News reported.

In an interview that aired Sunday, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told “Axios on HBO” there could also be a pilot shortage in the U.S. “down the road,” due to the military producing fewer pilots today than it used to.

“It’s hard to become a pilot, a commercial airline pilot, on your own if you’re not going through the military,” Kirby said.

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Winning HS Basketball Team Under Fire After Tossing Tortillas At Challengers

Winning HS Basketball Team Under Fire After Tossing Tortillas At Challengers
Winning HS Basketball Team Under Fire After Tossing Tortillas At Challengers

A southern California high school basketball team is under fire after students celebrated a win over a predominantly Hispanic school by throwing tortillas on the court.

On Saturday night, Coronado High School beat Orange Glen High School 60-57. Right after the win, tortillas were tossed toward the Orange Glen athletes, an action that Orange Glen assistant coach Lizardo Reynoso called “disturbing.”

“Our guys are still kind of bothered, especially a lot of our Hispanic guys, like, ‘Why would they do that?’” Reynoso told San Diego CBS affiliate KFMB. “They understand that there’s a lot of racism and hate going on today, but to top that off with a defeat after working so hard all year, it’s like a slap in the face.”

Ironically, the incident comes just a week after students at Coronado High School, which is located near San Diego, held a walk against racism, the station reported.

The incident reportedly began when the Orange Glen players were walking over to the Coronado players for the traditional post-game handshake.

“The head coach and the assistant coach came over to our bench and kind of said some words that were inappropriate and told us that we should take our kids and ‘get the F out’ because we were a bunch of losers,” Reynoso told NBC San Diego.

Shortly after, some of the Coronado players were seen hurling tortillas toward the Orange Glen team.

“It’s racist and it was planned,” Andres Rivera, the father of an Orange Glen player, told the station.

Coronado Police told NBC San Diego that the male adult who brought the tortillas has been identified but the incident remains under investigation.

HuffPost reached out to the Coronado Unified School District and the San Diego chapter of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), the state’s governing body for high school sports, for comment, but calls were not immediately returned.

The school’s superintendent, Karl Mueller, did release a statement saying, in part, that “swift action will be taken to address all those involved, and they will be held accountable. it is our hope to create opportunities to dialogue with the orange glen community in an attempt to repair.”

The Coronado school board also sent a letter of apology to the Escondido Union High School District, which includes Orange Glen High School, acknowledging the tortilla tossing was “egregious, demeaning, and disrespectful,” and added, “We fully condemn the racism, classism and colorism which fueled the actions of the perpetrators,” according to the Escondido Times-Advocate.

The San Diego chapter of the CIF released a statement on Sunday saying it is reviewing the incident and that the organization “prohibits discrimination or any acts that are disrespectful or demeaning toward a member school, student-athlete, or school community.”

San Diego mayor Todd Gloria (D) also condemned the incident, telling Fox 5 San Diego that it proved that “we have a lot of work to do as a community.”

He added: “I just hope the folks there at the school district take this as a teachable moment and work with these young people,” Gloria told FOX 5. “Help them understand this is not acceptable and quite honestly is not going to set them up well for success.”

None of the statements suggest that Coronado might be forced to forfeit the match.

Still, Orange Glen basketball player Christian Martinez said the actions from the Coronado side left a bad taste in his mouth.

“For it being my last game, I think it was pretty bad,” Martinez told NBC San Diego. “You don’t want to go down with an ‘L’ but also the extra stuff like the tortillas and all the smack talking with the coaches. That was really disrespectful.” 

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Biden Outlines Global Vaccine Plan, Will Fall Short Of June Distribution Goal

Biden Outlines Global Vaccine Plan, Will Fall Short Of June Distribution Goal
Biden Outlines Global Vaccine Plan, Will Fall Short Of June Distribution Goal

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is expected to fall short of his commitment to shipping 80 million COVID-19 vaccine doses abroad by the end of June because of regulatory and other hurdles, officials said as they announced new plans Monday for sharing the shots globally.

The White House announced the final allocations for the doses, with 60 million shots going to the global COVAX vaccine sharing alliance and 20 million being directed to specific partners. But fewer than 10 million doses have been shipped around the world, including 2.5 million doses delivered to Taiwan over the weekend, and about 1 million doses delivered to Mexico, Canada and South Korea earlier this month.

Officials said that while the U.S.-produced doses are ready, deliveries have been delayed due to U.S. and recipient legal, logistical and regulatory requirements. A White House official said shipments will go out as soon as countries are ready to receive the doses and the administration sorts out logistical complexities.

The excess doses are not needed in the U.S., where demand for vaccinations has plummeted in recent weeks as more than 177 million Americans have received at least one shot.

On May 17, Biden announced that “over the next six weeks, the United States of America will send 80 million doses overseas. This will be more vaccines than any country has actually shared to date — five times more than any other country — more than Russia and China, which have donated 15 million doses.”

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND  JUNE 16, 2021: US President Joe Biden looks on before a Russia-United States summit at the Villa La Gran

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND JUNE 16, 2021: US President Joe Biden looks on before a Russia-United States summit at the Villa La Grange. Sergei Bobylev/TASS (Photo by Sergei BobylevTASS via Getty Images)

Earlier this month, Biden announced that on top of the 80 million, the U.S. was purchasing 500 million doses from Pfizer to donate globally over the coming year, with the first deliveries expected in August.

Biden initially committed to providing other nations with all 60 million U.S.-produced doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has yet to be authorized for use in America but is widely approved around the world. The AstraZeneca doses have been held up for export by a weekslong safety review by the Food and Drug Administration.

Given declining domestic demand, Biden was expected to be able to meet the full 80 million commitment without the AstraZeneca doses. The White House unveiled plans earlier this month for the first 25 million doses for export from existing federal stockpiles of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines and some have already begun shipping.

On Monday, it revealed plans for 55 million more shots.

Through COVAX, the latest batch of doses will include about 14 million for Latin America and the Caribbean, including Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Panama and Costa Rica; approximately 16 million for Asia for India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Bhutan, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, Cambodia and the Pacific Islands; and about 10 million for Africa, with countries selected in concert with the African Union.

About 14 million doses will be shared directly with Colombia, Argentina, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Panama, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Cabo Verde, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen, Tunisia, Oman, West Bank and Gaza, Ukraine, Kosovo, Georgia, Moldova and Bosnia.

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Money Is Piling Up For America’s Family Dynasties

Money Is Piling Up For America’s Family Dynasties
Money Is Piling Up For America’s Family Dynasties

The wealth of America’s 50 richest family dynasties has soared at 10 times the rate of typical U.S. families over the last four decades, according to a new study that warns of the increasing concentration of riches. 

The report from the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank, found that the collective wealth of the richest 27 families on the Forbes billion-dollar dynasties list and Forbes 400 list grew by 1,007% from 1983 to last year, from $80.2 billion to $903.2 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars. Wealth grew less than one-tenth of that — just 93% — for the typical American family.

The five wealthiest family dynasties — the Waltons, Kochs, Marses, Cargill-MacMillans and Lauders — saw their wealth soar 2,484% since 1983, noted the study, “Silver Spoon Oligarchs: How America’s 50 Largest Inherited-Wealth Dynasties Accelerate Inequality.” 

The 50 wealthiest U.S. clans were worth a total of $1.2 trillion at the end of last year. The 65 million families at the bottom economic half of all households shared a combined total of just $2.5 trillion.

The study noted that wealth among America’s richest family dynasties ends up vastly rewarding family members who had nothing to do with earning the fortune, defying the defense that riches are an incentive for hard work and innovation. Instead, the riches are plowed into protections for family wealth, providing fewer benefits for society.

“In healthy, equitable democratic societies, great fortunes dissipate over a few generations as initial wealth holders have children and grandchildren, pay their fair share of taxes, and make charitable gifts,” the report says.

“But our country’s wealth is accumulating in fewer hands, including among people who may be up to seven generations removed from the original source of their family’s wealth. At a certain stage, some of these wealth holders — or their descendants — shift resources to consolidate their wealth, fend off competition, and create monopolies.”  

Even the coronavirus pandemic has been a boon for some of the richest families. As ordinary families struggled with job loss, plunging income and increased health costs, the top 10 families on the Forbes dynasty list basked in a median growth in their net worth of 25%. 

In the first two months of the pandemic, the total net worth of more than 600 billionaires in the U.S. grew by 15%, or $434 billion, according to a report last year by the Institute for Policy Studies. In 2018, the wealth gap between the rich and everyone else was the widest ever since the census began tracking it a half-century ago.  

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Brain-fog busters in a bottle: Smart oil that can raise your IQ to pills that claim to sharpen wits

Brain-fog busters in a bottle: Smart oil that can raise your IQ to pills that claim to sharpen wits
Brain-fog busters in a bottle: Smart oil that can raise your IQ to pills that claim to sharpen wits

More forgetful than normal? Having trouble concentrating? Easily distracted? You’re not alone: another casualty of the pandemic appears to be our capacity to think clearly.

Brain fog, say experts, is a consequence of the mental stagnation we’ve all suffered under lockdown

Missing the stimulation of a rich and varied social life, and still reeling from a year of Covid-inspired anxiety, many of us are feeling a lack of motivation and focus.

It’s been called a state of ‘languishing’ — the mid-point on a spectrum between flourishing and depression. Think of it as muddling through; unable to muster the brainpower to tackle the to-do list or the sense of purpose to begin a new project.

Brain-fog busters in a bottle: Smart oil that can raise your IQ to pills that claim to sharpen wits

Experts say brain-fog comes from the mental stagnation suffered in lockdown. FEMAIL have put six products with the biggest brain de-fogging claims to the test (file image)

‘People’s lives are much less varied, less distinctive, with far fewer vivid and rich experiences than usual,’ says Jon Simons, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Cambridge.

‘Our brains are stimulated by the new, by variety. We’ve had a lot less of that, and that has a knock-on effect on our ability to be oriented, to remember things, to stay attentive.’

For most people this is temporary, he says, and hopefully, as we get back to normal life, these periods of feeling a bit fuzzy will diminish.’

But in the meantime, how can we sharpen up?

We could eat a better diet, of course. Professor James Goodwin, a special advisor to the Global Council on Brain Health and author of Supercharge Your Brain: How To Maintain A Healthy Brain Throughout Your Life, stresses the huge importance of omega 3-rich fish.

He recommends eating 4 oz of cold-water fatty fish four times a week — the equivalent of four salmon or mackerel fillets or four cans of tuna.

But many of us eat nowhere near that amount, so perhaps popping a pill could help?

Certainly, our enthusiasm for allegedly brain-boosting supplements has reached heady heights. In 2020, the global market was valued at £5.21 billion and the pandemic has only bumped up sales, according to market research firm Grand View Research.

Celebrity endorsement is fuelling the boom, too. Actor Orlando Bloom, for example, revealed he takes Brain Octane C8 MCT Oil — the brainchild of American technology entrepreneur and ‘bio-hacker’ Dave Asprey. A coconut-sourced liquid supplement, it’s for drizzling over salads or mixing into Asprey’s Bulletproof Coffee.

Asprey claims that in combination with other ‘health hacks’, his daily cup of supercharged caffeine helps boost his IQ score by more than 20 points. I’m naturally sceptical of big claims like these, but I’m also game for trying anything to offset those muddled moments. It’s alarming not to be able to concentrate on a book for more than ten minutes.

With the help of registered nutritional therapist Sian Baker, head of wellbeing services at Health Hub Teams, I put six products with the biggest brain de-fogging claims to the test…


Brainzyme Focus Pro capsules, £29 for one month’s supply,

Brainzyme Focus Pro capsules, £29 for one month’s supply,

This is a 100 per cent plant-powered ‘nootropic’, or smart drug. Nootropics are the brain boosters of the moment, even though natural ones, including Lion’s Mane mushrooms and ginkgo biloba, have been used for centuries in Chinese medicine and ayurvedic healing.

Each of these capsules contains amino acid L-theanine, thought to help ease anxiety and stress, something called EGCG, a plant-based compound thought to reduce inflammation and help prevent heart and brain disease, plus guarana seeds to alleviate fatigue and keep you alert.

Brainzyme, the small UK company behind them, says they’re ‘designed to help improve your focus, energy and motivation.’

The promise is: ‘After 45 minutes, you’ll feel your brain fog lifting and your mind clearing. After 60 minutes, your brain will be processing information faster than normal.’

Sian says: ‘This is a superb combination of antioxidants, phytonutrients, B vitamins, minerals plus amino acids L-theanine and L-tyrosine.

‘L-tyrosine is used to synthesise chemical messengers and helps to improve memory during stressful situations, such as multitasking. In addition, it supports immune function and energy production.’

MY VERDICT: One day last week, I woke up and felt draggy-eyed and bone-tired. Coffee made no difference, so at 10.30 am I swallowed two capsules. With hindsight, my being smaller than the average adult, at 5ft 2in, meant one would have sufficed.

Hours later, I felt jittery and my sentences tumbled over themselves. That evening, my husband joked: ‘Your stories are 20 per cent longer than normal.’ Later, though, he told me I should take it more often — at half the dose. ‘You lit up. You were very different. You had more words, you were more upright.’ 

Rating: 4/5 


This is two supplements together, targeting the needs of the over-50s. One is a capsule of concentrated, high quality omega 3 DHA fish oil, to support normal brain function. The other is a micronutrient capsule containing the likes of iron, zinc and iodine, which contribute to normal cognitive function, plus vitamins B12, D and E, folic acid, magnesium and selenium.

Sian says: ‘This supplement provides essential fatty acids together with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and amino acids that are of utmost importance in supporting brain health and normal cognitive and psychological function.

‘It’s a fantastic all-rounder, as the nutrients also support immune function, hormonal health, heart health and blood sugar balance.’

MY VERDICT: I’d need to take this for months to give it a fair review, but the capsules are easy to swallow and include concentrated extracts of turmeric, grape seed and green tea — believed to scavenge cell-damaging free radicals.

I like the two-in-one aspect — all bases are covered. 

Rating: 5/5


The oil of which Orlando is such a fan is made from medium-chain fatty acids (or MCTs — medium chain triglycerides), which come from coconut. It’s claimed this will ‘make sure your brain performs at its best all day’. How? The oil is called a ‘smart fat’ and it is claimed it can ‘kickstart’ the fat-burning process associated with a very low-carb, high-fat ‘keto’ diet.

It’s been suggested that this process can boost energy supplies to the brain and even enhance mental performance.

Sian says: ‘This is an excellent choice for those looking to support a ketogenic diet or utilise ketones as an energy source. But be aware that MCTs can still be stored as fat, just like excess fat, carbs or calories in general — so ensure this is added to your diet in the right way, and doesn’t just lead to an increase in energy intake.’

MY VERDICT: I add a teaspoon to my coffee. Oily coffee? Mmm. Orlando’s preference is to mix it with ‘green powders’ he eats at breakfast.

The liquid is tasteless and odourless, but I’m not impressed. There is 14 g of fat in one tablespoon, and as I’m not on a ketogenic diet, it feels as if I’m missing out on any potential benefits — sucking up every calorie with no boost to my mental performance.



Efamol Efalex Brain Formula capsules, £21 for a two-month supply),

Efamol Efalex Brain Formula capsules, £21 for a two-month supply),

A unique blend of fish oil and evening primrose oil, including omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, and omega-6 fatty acids GLA and AA. DHA is the most abundant omega 3 fat in your brain and is needed to keep it functioning optimally.

Sian says: ‘Omega 3 and 6 build cell membranes throughout the body, and studies have shown they play a role in the healthy ageing of the brain.

Omega 3 is far harder to take in through the diet, particularly if you don’t eat oily fish, so a high-strength supplement is highly recommended.’

MY VERDICT: It’s recommended you take four capsules a day, and double this for the first 12 weeks to optimise stores. It feels a bit much, but this is a quality supplement. The fish oil is harvested from sustainable stocks, and they’ve used the same growers in the Netherlands and New Zealand for their evening primrose oil for 40 years. 

Rating: 4/5


SIPS ‘Brain’ herbal blend, £39.99 per pack of 12 x 60ml,

SIPS ‘Brain’ herbal blend, £39.99 per pack of 12 x 60ml,

This herbal shot, which ‘renews your mental energy, naturally,’ contains rosemary, lemon balm (leaf), ginkgo (leaf), goji berry (fruit), and gotu kola (leaf). Apparently, the solution is ‘developed to help improve blood flow to the head and may help to sharpen mental focus, memory and recall.’

Sian says: ‘This is an uplifting and brain-invigorating juice, providing a dense concentration of herbs. Ginkgo biloba contains various flavonoids, is known to act as a vasodilator [widen blood vessels] and can enhance cerebral blood flow.’

MY VERDICT: I sip this at spaced intervals daily, as suggested. Its light rosemary flavour grows on me, and because it contains pomegranate juice, maple syrup and grape juice, it’s fairly sweet. It perks me up, but I’d need to take it for weeks to notice any benefits — at quite some cost. 

Rating: 3/5


MitoQ Brain capsules, £80.95 for one month’s supply,

MitoQ Brain capsules, £80.95 for one month’s supply,

This supplement is described as ‘antioxidant technology’ designed to help re-energise and revitalise cells to support cognitive function, mental clarity and neurological health.

Sian says: ‘This is a powerful combination of antioxidants, each one with a specific role in brain health and function.

‘CoQ10 is a key ingredient, as one of its roles in the body is the reduction of oxidative stress, which can cause inflammation, tissue damage and cell death and is linked to a number of diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

‘CoQ10 is also known to be important for heart health.’

MY VERDICT: A supplement being pricey is no reflection of quality, but I take this hoping for great things — and enjoy imagining the antioxidants killing off the baddies. The price, though, does make me wince. 

Rating: 4/5

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