Monthly Archives: November 2015

Why fear makes for bad policy

By ew and MNgranny for Occupy World Writes. Published 11-20-2015

If you follow us regularly, you’ve probably noticed that we try to stay as apolitical as possible. We feel that our job is to provide news and viewpoints that you may not see covered in the traditional corporate media while not providing unnecessary political spin on current events.

However, every once in a while, an event or series of events happen that force us to ditch our “above the fray” stance and dive into the mud ourselves, either as individuals or collectively as Occupy World Writes. We have been known to hit our boiling point, either individually as authors of pieces or collectively as the Occupy World Writes staff. The events in this country after the Paris attacks are the latest to affect us in this manner.

Photo via YouTube

Photo via YouTube

It started last Sunday, with Governors Rick Snyder (R-MI) and Robert Bentley (R-AL) proclaiming that they would not allow Syrian refugees to be relocated to their respective states. As it sits now, a total of 31 states have stated that they refuse to allow Syrian refugees to relocate to their states. 30 of these states have Republican governors; the one exception (New Hampshire) has a governor with an eye on a Senate seat next year. Of course, they legally don’t have a leg to stand on, as the federal government make the laws dealing with refugees and immigration, and not the individual states.

As the week went on, the Republican candidates for president began to jockey for the spotlight. For example, back in February in an interview with Fox News, Ted Cruz said that Syrian refugees should be permitted into the United States and argued that this could be done without jeopardizing national security. This week, he said that we should allow only Syrian refugees who are Christian into the country (we wonder how we could tell who was Christian). Chris Christie went from saying that women and children should be let in to becoming one of the governors to say no to relocation. The rest of the candidates followed suit. Then, the real crazies , presidential candidates and state legislators alike, started stepping up to the plate.

On Tuesday, Tennessee House GOP Caucus Chairman Glen Casada said:

“We need to activate the Tennessee National Guard and stop them from coming in to the state by whatever means we can. I’m not worried about what a bureaucrat in D.C. or an unelected judge thinks. … We need to gather (Syrian refugees) up and politely take them back to the ICE center and say, ‘They’re not coming to Tennessee, they’re yours.’ “

Not to be outdone, Rhode Island State Senator Elaine Morgan sent an email to her fellow senators on Tuesday saying:

“I do not want our governor bringing in any Syrian refugees. I think our country is under attack. I think this is a major plan by these countries to spread out their people to attack all non Muslim persons. The Muslim religion and philosophy is to murder, rape, and decapitate anyone who is a non Muslim. 

“If we need to take these people in we should set up [a] refugee camp to keep them segregated from our populous. I think the protection of our US citizens and the United States of America should be the most important issue here.”

On Wednesday, she claimed that she inadvertently sent it before editing, saying she meant to limit her characterization to “the fanatical Muslim religion and philosophy.” Then, she said:

“We have veterans in the streets starving, alcoholics, drug addicts. I can see taking [Syrian refugees] in, but keeping them all centralized – it sounds a little barbaric, but we need to centralize them and keep them in one central area.”

So- we have the chairman of the most powerful caucus in his state’s legislature saying that we should round up all the Syrian refugees who are legally here, and a state senator saying that we should put them all in camps. Then, we have the two front runners for the Republican presidential nomination; Dr. Ben Carson and Donald Trump.

Carson, while speaking to reporters after an Alabama campaign stop, said:

“For instance, you know, if there is a rabid dog running around your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog, and you’re probably gonna put your children out of the way. Doesn’t mean that you hate all dogs by any stretch of the imagination.”

“By the same token, we have to have in place screening mechanisms that allow us to determine who the mad dogs are, quite frankly. Who are the people who wanna come in here and hurt us and wanna destroy us? Until we know how to do that, just like it would be foolish to put your child out in the neighborhood knowing that that was going on, it’s foolish for us to accept people if we cannot have the appropriate type of screening.”

OK- the person holding second place in the polls for the GOP nomination just compared Muslims to dogs, the most offensive remark one could make to a Muslim. What does the leader, Donald Trump, have to say?

Earlier this week, Trump said in an interview with Sean Hannity that the government should shut down some Muslim mosques. Then today, an interview was published on Yahoo which implied that Trump was contemplating creating a national database to track Muslims in this country, as well as possibly requiring special IDs for them. While the ID part seems to be more the interviewer’s own take than anything that Trump actually said, the database part was confirmed by Trump himself this evening in Newton, Iowa.

“I would certainly implement that. Absolutely, There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases, We should have a lot of systems.”

But would Muslims be legally required to sign onto the database? Trump again:

“They have to be — they have to be.”

We have said before, and we repeat now, that those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. We ask you all to read the 14 points of fascism, and then take an honest look at the current situation. If you aren’t frightened by the similarities, you aren’t paying attention.

The goal is not to put more boots on the ground. It is not to see where the next profit center of war should be contested. It is about saving lives. Human lives. When we can refer to refugees from a country that has been at war for over 5 years to that of dogs, and talk of rounding them up like farm livestock, we have truly forgotten our values, morals and principles as a nation and no longer deserve to be called “civilized.”

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Dam collapse in Brazil destroys towns and turns river into muddy wasteland

By Bruno Weis. Published 22-17-2015 at Greenpeace

On Thursday, November 5th, two dams holding millions of cubic meters of mining waste gave way – launching one of the worst environmental disasters in Brazilian history.

Over 25,000 Olympic swimming pools worth of mud – contaminated with arsenic, lead, chromium and a variety of other heavy metals* – quickly overtook the nearby mining community of Mariana in Minas Gerais state. At least seventeen people were killed. Hundreds more have been displaced by the wall of sludge released in the dam collapse. Continue reading

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Despite Atrocities, US Approves $1.29 Billion Deal to Re-Arm Saudi Arabia

‘It is illegal under US and international law to transfer weapons to human rights abusers, or to forces that will likely use it to commit gross violations of human rights.’

By Sarah Lazare, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-17-2015

A Paveway laser-guided bomb, built by Raytheon beneath an RAF Harrier GR9. (Photo: MoD/Crown Copyright)

A Paveway laser-guided bomb, built by Raytheon beneath an RAF Harrier GR9. (Photo: MoD/Crown Copyright)

The Pentagon announced on Monday that the U.S. has approved a $1.29 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, despite widespread mounting evidence of the country’s mass atrocities and possible war crimes in neighboring Yemen.

The U.S. State Department on Friday approved the sale of over 10,000 bombs, munitions, and weapons parts produced by Boeing and Raytheon. This includes 5,200 Paveway II “laser guided” and 12,000 “general purpose” bombs. “Bunker Busters,” also included in the deal, are designed to destroy concrete structures. Continue reading

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Predictable and Deplorable: US Lawmakers Vow to Slam Door on Refugees

As more than a dozen governors pledge to close state borders, advocates decry actions as cowardly and ‘un-American’

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-16-2015

Aylan Kurdi, whose image of his tiny 3-year-old body shocked the world when it washed up on the shores of the Aegean Sea in late August. He was a Syrian Refugee. Image via Facebook.

Aylan Kurdi, whose image of his tiny 3-year-old body shocked the world when it washed up on the shores of the Aegean Sea in late August. He was a Syrian Refugee. Image via Facebook.

UPDATE: As of this time, there are 25 states whose governors say they will refuse refugees.

In what appears to be a textbook case of xenophobia and political fearmongering in the wake of a tragedy, more than a dozen U.S. governors have declared their states off-limits to Syrian refugees in the days following Friday’s terror attacks in Paris.

The leaders of Wisconsin, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Arizona, Florida, Ohio, Maine, Mississippi, Louisiana, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Texas, and Arkansas on Monday all pledged to stop or oppose any additional Syrian refugees from resettling in their states, following announcements made by the governors of Alabama and Michigan on Sunday. Continue reading

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Ukraine: Europe’s forgotten refugees

While the world focuses on refugees arriving in Europe from warzones in the Middle East, the plight of those fleeing war in Ukraine has been forgotten.

By Sara Cincurova. Published 11-10-2015 at openDemocracy

Across the world people are concerned by the current European refugee crisis, however there are thousands of Ukrainians who have fled war in their own  country and are now living as refugees on the borders of Eastern Europe. Their destinies remain overlooked and unknown.

The very Western parts of Ukraine have become home to several thousand refugees who have fled the armed conflict in Donbas; some of them are now living no further than two kilometres from the EU border. They have fled the war, traveled thousands of kilometres, lost their loved ones and risked their lives so that they can get closer to European borders. Unlike those who have crossed the Mediterranean Sea, however, Ukrainian refugees know that entering Europe is impossible for them – no matter how close it may be. Continue reading

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The demon of Death, a letter from Paris

The real goal of the attacks in France, as well as those in the Shia southern suburb of Beirut a few hours before this, is through fear, to spread division.

By Bernard Dreano. Published 11-14-2015 at openDemocracy

It was like spring in autumn. The weather had been turning warm, day after day, in this early November 2015 in Paris. One month later the town will host the UN Climate Conference COP21… Such unseasonable weather, the hottest November ever, must for sure have something to do with climate change.

It was an evening of football, with France vs. Germany at the Stade de France, in Saint Denis, north of Paris. Meanwhile the café’s terraces on the 11th arrondissement, the “swinging quarter” of the City, were packed with people enjoying the equable temperature. Nearby, 1500 people were gathering at the Bataclan, a well-known and popular music-hall, to attend the hard rock concert of the group Eagles of Death Metal. Continue reading

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Supreme Court to Hear ‘Most Important Abortion Rights Case in 25 Years’

Draconian law already ‘causing real harm to women across the state of Texas,’ says women’s health advocate

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-13-2015

The court has not heard a major abortion case since 2007. (Photo: ian mcwilliams/flickr/cc)

The court has not heard a major abortion case since 2007. (Photo: ian mcwilliams/flickr/cc)

Setting the stage for what a leading women’s health advocate said will be “the most important abortion rights case in almost 25 years,” the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed (pdf) to review a “draconian” Texas law designed to shut down clinics that provide safe, legal abortion services.

“Today the Supreme Court took an important step toward restoring the constitutional rights of millions of women, which Texas politicians have spent years dismantling through deceptive laws and regulatory red tape,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which brought the case on behalf of a coalition of women’s health providers. “We are confident the Court will recognize that these laws are a sham and stop these political attacks on women’s rights, dignity, and access to safe, legal essential health care.” Continue reading

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‘Climate Not For Sale’ Declares Public as Fossil Fuel Giants Drool over Federal Auction

‘The health of our communities and our public lands should not be auctioned off to the highest bidder’

By Sarah Lazare, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-12-2015

"Selling of our public lands to the highest bidder should not be allowed," said Zabrina Arnovitz with Rights For All People, a Colorado-based immigrant justice group that participated in Tuesday's protest. (Photo courtesy of Taylor McKinnon/Center for Biological Diversity)

“Selling of our public lands to the highest bidder should not be allowed,” said Zabrina Arnovitz with Rights For All People, a Colorado-based immigrant justice group that participated in Tuesday’s protest. (Photo courtesy of Taylor McKinnon/Center for Biological Diversity)

As the federal government moves to sell off public land to private fossil fuel corporations, opponents from across the United States charge that such auctions constitute affronts to local communities, crimes against the climate, and attacks on the common good.

That opposition was demonstrated early on Thursday as people from local and national organizations rallied outside of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) oil and gas lease sale in Lakewood, Colorado—where more than 90,000 acres of publicly-owned land in the central and eastern parts of the state are on the auction block. Continue reading

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No Excuse, Says Human Rights Lawyer, Obama Can Still Close Guantánamo

President undermined his own plan to shutter the notorious facility by agreeing to the “defense” bill

By Sarah Lazare, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-11-2015

512px-Camp_Delta,_Guantanamo_Bay,_Cuba

After President Barack Obama agreed on Tuesday to sign a $607 billion “defense” bill that undermines his own plan to shutter the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, media outlets sounded the death knell for hopes that the facility will close before his term ends in 2017.

But Omar Shakir, a Bertha fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, told Common Dreams that the president, in fact, still retains the ability to close the prison—and must act now to fulfill his repeated pledges. Continue reading

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US Program To Save Child Refugees Has Welcomed This Many: Zero

More than 5,400 minors from Central America applied to get in to US as refugees. All of them are still waiting.

Written by Nadia Prupis, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-5-2015.

After an irregular entry into Mexico near Ciudad Hidalgo, to move north through the country, to the US border, many Central and South American migrants begin their journey in Arriaga, Chiapas, Mexico, the railhead of the freight train known as 'La Bestia' (The Beast), climbing atop of the rail cars, exposed to the elements and extortion by criminal gangs lying in wait along the route. Vendors sell food, water and cardboard pallets to lie on for the journey.

After an irregular entry into Mexico near Ciudad Hidalgo, to move north through the country, to the US border, many Central and South American migrants begin their journey in Arriaga, Chiapas, Mexico, the railhead of the freight train known as ‘La Bestia’ (The Beast), climbing atop of the rail cars, exposed to the elements and extortion by criminal gangs lying in wait along the route. Vendors sell food, water and cardboard pallets to lie on for the journey.

 

A year after President Barack Obama launched a program to grant asylum to Central American children fleeing violence or seeking to reunite with family members, the statistics are in: not one child has made it to the U.S. through that initiative.

New analysis by the New York Times published Thursday reveals that the Central American Minors Program, established last December, received asylum applications from more than 5,400 children in countries like El Salvador and Honduras, most of whom are seeking to escape street gangs or sexual assault—but none of them have been accepted.

In fact, only 90 children total were even interviewed by the Department of Homeland Security, and only 85 qualified for any sort of refugee status and even they remain languishing because their paperwork has not been filed.

“Really, it’s pathetic that no child has come through this program,” Lavinia Limón, the president and chief executive of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants nonprofit, told the Times. Referring to administrative officials, she added, “I wonder if it were their child living in the murder capital of the world, whether they would have more sense of urgency.”

The Times writes:

The Central American Minors program also allows the Department of Homeland Security to grant a two-year temporary entry into the United States for children who do not qualify as refugees. Those immigrants must apply to renew their entry status every two years and are not eligible to pursue American citizenship.

Obama announced his plan in response to the groundswell of young refugees making the dangerous and often-deadly trek across the U.S. border in massive numbers last year. But as immigration and human rights experts noted at the time, the program’s heartening promises of assisting vulnerable children did nothing to address sluggish bureaucratic roadblocks and ignored the U.S.’s own role in fueling the refugee crisis.

As Ivy Suriyopas, co-chair of the anti-trafficking group Freedom Network, explained in an op-ed last year:

[A]lthough the number of unaccompanied minors dropped in August, the 4,000 slots allocated for refugees from Latin America and the Caribbean for fiscal year 2015 is grossly insufficient.

In June alone, more than 10,000 unaccompanied minors crossed the U.S. border and in the ten months since October 2013, nearly 63,000 children have been identified at the border.

With so few spots and so many refugees, the Times wrote on Thursday, it’s little wonder the program has failed so completely.

“We need to fix the program so that it works and so that children have a real opportunity to get protection,” said Kevin Appleby, the director of migration policy at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “They have to make the program workable. Right now, it’s not workable.”

State Department officials defended the delays, saying it was important to move slowly to avoid making mistakes. And principal deputy assistant secretary of state Simon Henshaw said the department was preparing to interview more than 400 children next month.

But that means little to children who are stuck in a violent limbo while their applications wait for processing.

“They have set up an elaborate, bureaucratic, step-by-step system,” said Limón. “The children are in danger, and they can’t wait. It’s just sad, and, I think, indefensible.”

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