Monthly Archives: February 2018

Rights Advocates Decry ‘Unconscionable’ State Dept Decision to Cut Women’s Rights From Annual Report

“This development is a transparent attempt by the Trump administration to not only de-prioritize reproductive rights, but effectively erase them from the broader conversation on human rights.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 2-22-2018

At the direction of a top State Department aide, the department’s annual human rights report will be stripped of language relating to women’s reproductive rights and discrimination. (Photo: Marc Nozell/Flickr/cc)

Human rights groups on Thursday denounced the State Department’s plans to re-frame its upcoming global human rights report, paring down its focus on women’s reproductive rights and discrimination—saying the decision is clear evidence that the rights of marginalized groups are insignificant to the Trump administration.

“Reproductive rights are human rights,” said Tarah Demant, Amnesty International USA’s director of gender, sexuality, and identity, in a statement. “This development is a transparent attempt by the Trump administration to not only de-prioritize reproductive rights, but effectively erase them from the broader conversation on human rights. We must not let this attack on basic rights go unchallenged.” Continue reading

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New Report Details How Americans Who Have Debt Held by Collection Agencies Can Get Thrown in Jail

New ACLU publication looks at how “debt collection industry uses prosecutors and judges as weapons against millions of Americans who can’t afford to pay their bills.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 2-21-2018

“Consumers have little chance of justice when our courts take the debt collector’s side in almost every case—even to the point of ordering people jailed until they pay up,” says report author Jennifer Turner. (Photo: Bill Smith/flickr/cc)

Threatened with arrest for a case involving a few dollars in debt held by a collection agency?

This is not a science fiction, nor a scenario from the United States more than 185 years ago when debtors prisons were still allowed. Rather, it’s a part of the current justice system where, in states across the country, state courts and local prosecutors abet debt collectors in arresting and jailing some of the tens of millions of Americans who have debt held by private collection agencies.

The injustice is laid out in new report from the ACLU, “A Pound of Flesh: The Criminalization of Private Debt.” Continue reading

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Research Exposes $16 Billion Bottled Water Industry’s Predatory Marketing

The industry spends billions of dollars per year convincing Americans that bottled water is safer than tap—even though more than two-thirds of the product comes from municipal water sources

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 2-20-2018

Americans spend about $16 billion per year on bottled water—which comes largely from the same sources as tap water. (Photo: Raul Pachecho-Vega/Flickr/cc)

Bottled water companies have relied on predatory marketing practices and exorbitant lobbying efforts to sell Americans on the inaccurate belief that pre-packaged water is cleaner and safer than tap water—a notion that is costing U.S. households about $16 billion per year.

In a new report entitled “Take Back the Tap,” Food & Water Watch explains that 64 percent of bottled water comes from municipal tap water sources—meaning that Americans are often unknowingly paying for water that would otherwise be free or nearly free. Continue reading

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Instability Mounts in Puerto Rico Amid Privatization Efforts and Power Authority’s Cash Shortfall

“If this is not disaster economics and this is not setting the stage for commercialization of services that are there to promote equality, I don’t know what is.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 2-19-2018

Many rural areas in Puerto Rico remain without power, and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said Monday that privatization has directly resulted in delays to restoration. (Photo: Western Area Power/Flickr/cc)

As nearly 250,000 Puerto Ricans remain without power five months after Hurricane Maria struck the island territory—the longest blackout in U.S. history—the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) said Sunday it will reduce its operating reserve to save money, as the island’s government moves toward privatizing the authority.

A federal judge denied PREPA a $1 billion loan over the weekend, saying the authority could not prove it needed the additional cash injection. The company will now reduce its reserve by 450 megawatts, saving $9 million per month but likely resulting in more power outages. Continue reading

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Genocide? As Gaza Dries Out, Israel Turns Off Fresh Water Spigot

Rather than heeding the warnings from the UN to open up Gaza’s blockade and allow vital aid, what we have witnessed over the course of the last decade is a periodic all-out Israeli assault on Gaza’s vital infrastructure.

By Darius Shahtahmasebi. Published 2-15-2018 by MintPress News

Palestinian children fill their bottles with water from a UNICEF tap in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: UNICEF

Near the end of last month, Haaretz reported that, according to an expert hydrologist, 97 percent of Gaza’s drinking water has been contaminated by sewage and salt. The UN also confirmed that this was the case early last year, and clearly, the situation has remained unchanged even up until 2018. Robert Piper, the UN’s local coordinator for humanitarian and development activities, has called the situation “really very serious” and stated that “[w]e are falling far behind the demand for clean drinking water for Gazans.”

This kind of mistreatment is part and parcel of an overall package of deprivation that continues to plague the Palestinian people. There are some 2 million residents in Gaza affected by this egregious policy, famously one of the most densely populated areas on the planet. Gaza’s water resources are fully controlled by Israel and the division of groundwater is something that was provided for in the Oslo II Accord. However, despite the fact that under the Accord Israel is allocated four times the Palestinian portion of water resources, it has been revealed that Israel has been extracting 80 percent more water from the West Bank than it agreed to. Continue reading

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Because ‘Nothing Has Changed Since Columbine,’ Students, Teachers Call for Nationwide School Walkouts

“The time to act is now.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 2-17-2018

Image: National Student Walkout

As families continue to grieve and hold funerals for the 17 victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla., students and educators are calling for a nationwide day of action including school walkouts to protest lawmakers’ deadly inaction on gun control legislation.

The day set for the actions is April 20, which will be the 19th anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School. Continue reading

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ICC Weighing More Than a Million Statements by Afghans Alleging War Crimes Violations

Trove of claims submitted to International Criminal Court alleges crimes committed by various factions since 2003, including Afghan forces, the Taliban, the CIA, and the U.S. military.

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 2-16-2018

A U.S. soldier in Spin Boldak, Afghanistan on Feb. 8, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Army/Capt. Lindsay Roman

International Criminal Court (ICC) judges are weighing over one million statements from Afghans who allege they are victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by actors in the armed conflict there, including Afghan forces, the Taliban, the CIA, and the U.S. military.

The victims began submitting their statements to the ICC judges in late November after ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked the court for authorization to begin a formal probe of possible war crimes committed in Afghanistan, saying, “there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in connection with the armed conflict in Afghanistan.” The development, said Solomon Sacco, head of international justice at Amnesty International, was “a seminal moment for the ICC.”   Continue reading

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As Nation Suffers 18th School Shooting in 45 Days, Trump Budget Would Slash Funding for Background Checks

The president’s 2019 budget would cut allocations to enhance national database system by 16 percent

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 2-15-2018

Funding cuts for background checks in President Donald Trump’s new budget proposal would make it more difficult for states to compile criminal records of prospective gun owners. (Photo: Erik Jaeger/Flickr/cc)

As a Florida community reels from the nation’s latest mass shooting—the 18th school shooting in the first 45 days of 2018—President Donald Trump is pushing for a new federal budget that would call for cuts to programs that aim to keep guns out of the hands of people with criminal records.

The National Criminal Records History Improvement Program and the NICS Act Record Improvement Program provide funding to states to improve their reporting of domestic violence and other violent crimes in order to include perpetrators in the national background check database for gun purchases. Continue reading

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Icebreaker Pt 1 – Secret Homeland Security ICE/HSI Manual for Stripping US Citizenship

A confidential manual, which Unicorn Riot has obtained in full, guides the US Department of Homeland Security’s little-known investigative arm, Homeland Security Investigations, in targeting and stripping citizenship from naturalized foreign-born Americans.

This is the first story in Unicorn Riot’s “Icebreaker” series, which aims to promptly release this information in complete form, with your support. An anonymous source provided Unicorn Riot with Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent handbooks covering 22 years of confidential internal federal law enforcement policies.

Published 2-14-2018 by Unicorn Riot

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House Members Are Pushing a Bill That Will Roll Back the Rights of People With Disabilities

By Susan Mizner, Disability Counsel, ACLU. Published 2-13-2018

The entrance to the post office in a small town was up a flight of 20 steps. When told he needed to make the post office accessible to wheelchair users, the postmaster was befuddled. “I’ve been here for thirty-five years and in all that time I’ve yet to see a single customer come in here in a wheelchair,” he said, according to Joe Shapiro in his 1994 book, “No Pity.”

It would seem the postmaster didn’t see the irony in that response. But it’s because of that lack of awareness from business owners and government workers that Congress in 1990 passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which promoted the integration, acceptance, and everyday rights of people with disabilities. But this week, the House of Representatives could undermine a key tenet of that landmark civil rights law. Continue reading

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