Author Archives: MNgranny

About MNgranny

An activist since the age of 17, MNgranny embraced the Occupy Movement from its beginning. After earning a BA in Mass Communications and enjoying a 30 year career, she is now disabled and dedicates her life to changing the world for the next generation. Her experiences include volunteering in community service organizations and taking leadership roles throughout her academic and professional life. She is also a survivor of rape and domestic violence, a published author and a master naturalist. She has focused for the last several years on studying Middle East geopolitical impacts, and specializes in Kurdish history, culture and politics.

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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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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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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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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Accusing Facebook of ‘Effectively Banning Professional Journalism,’ Brazil’s Largest Paper Ditches Platform

Facebook has become “inhospitable terrain for those who want to offer quality content,” said Folha de S. Paulo’s executive editor

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 2-9-2018

In an article published on Thursday, Folha—which has over 5.7 million followers on Facebook—noted that over the past several months it had begun to detect a sharp decline in interactions not just with its own Facebook posts, but with those of other major Brazilian newspapers as well. (Photo: Legal Loop)

Accusing Facebook of discriminating against “quality” content and accelerating the spread of “fake news” with its newly-unveiled algorithm, Brazil’s largest newspaper Folha de S. Paulo—which boasts a print and online subscriber base of 285,000 people—has announced that it will no longer publish its articles on the social media platform.

“In effectively banning professional journalism from its pages in favor of personal content and opening space for ‘fake news’ to proliferate, Facebook became inhospitable terrain for those who want to offer quality content like ours,” Sérgio Dávila, Folha’s executive editor, said in a statement. Continue reading

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Reproductive Rights Groups Slam WH Report on Trump’s ‘Unconscionable’ Global Gag Rule

State Department assures that “disruption of services” has been minimal, but women’s rights groups decry loss of the massive and destructive healthcare services in impoverished countries around the world

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 2-8-2018

Health clinics in developing countries were put at risk for losing funding last year when President Donald Trump announced he would reinstate the global gag rule, taking U.S. aid from NGOs and their local partners unless they agreed to stop providing abortion care and counseling. (Photo: World Bank/Flickr/cc)

Women’s rights groups on Thursday denounced a report issued by the State Department on the impact of the Trump administration’s reinstatement of the global gag rule, also known as the Mexico City policy—saying the misleading document ignores the clear negative impacts the policy is having on poor communities and women around the world that have lost access to vital health services.


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Trump, Congress and the case for Treason

What happens when a sitting president kicks the legs of Democracy’s stool?

Written by Carol Benedict

President Donald Trump delivered his 2018 State of the Union address on January 20, 2018. Since that time, the consequences and ramifications put forth in that speech are still being discussed after having set new precedents to the tone, nature and policies spelled out to the American people.

Congress has always held the tradition that when the sitting president delivers these speeches, the opposing party withholds applause and ovations for most the speech, and only the most basic and inarguable points receive unanimous approval. Like all traditions in Washington since Trump’s inauguration, this too has now changed.

Agreeing with a critic who called the actions of the democrats “treasonous” and “un-American” for not applauding policies they disagree with, Trump has taken a step into an entirely new territory that should have caused alarm bells to go for all.

“You’re up there, you’ve got half the room going totally crazy, wild—they loved everything, they want to do something great for our country. And you have the other side, even on positive news—really positive news, like that—they were like death and un-American. Un-American,” the president said. “Somebody said, ‘treasonous.’ I mean, yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”

The White House quickly defended Trump’s words, saying it was meant as a joke. When the President of the United States makes a JOKE of calling for the DEATHS of the opposing party’s members of Congress, we have entered a perception and introduction to authoritarian rule and dictatorship. Opposing the president is not punishable by death in the US, and to suggest otherwise demonstrates total ignorance or self-absorption. In fact, the 1st Amendment to the Constitution provides for the right of every American to not only disagree with the government or even the President, but to also assemble together to make their grievances known. Most people know this concept as “protest” or “dissent.”

In service to our country, we have put together a short refresher course about the history of Treason charges in the US since World War II. Let’s begin with what the law states as the punishment for Treason.

“Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”
(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 807; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(2)(J), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2148.)

One person convicted of treason was Tomoya Kawakita, a Japanese-American sentenced to death in 1952 for tormenting American prisoners of war during World War II. Even such a clear-cut case created qualms; Kawakita was commuted to a life sentence and was eventually deported to Japan and barred from ever entering the United States again.

On June 19, 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed after being convicted of committing espionage for the Soviet Union. They were accused of transmitting nuclear weapon designs to the Soviet Union; at that time the United States was the only country with nuclear weapons. They were also accused of providing top-secret information about radar, sonar, and jet propulsion engines to the USSR. Espionage is considered a treasonable act.

Treason is a serious, non-jokable charge with very unfunny consequences. But don’t overlook this as just another benign statement from an overly-vociferous president. What he is actually demanding here is a One Party System that does not allow dissent or protest, that prevents a press from publishing negative articles and results in job losses of federal employees who oppose his authority.

His latest claim is that if he does not get his way on immigration, he will shut down the government. This holds the American people hostage and in economic jeopardy and is questionably illegal.

The irony in all of this is that for all intents and purposes, this president has walked up to the line of committing Treason himself, and is so close in reality that only legal experts can parse out if or why he has not actually committed that crime. In psychology, this is called “Projectionalism;” to accuse others of what you are carry inside yourself.

Since taking office, Trump has assembled quite a laundry list of things he has done for the benefit of the Russian government.

* Shortly after his inauguration, Russian officials were invited to an Oval Office meeting, in which Trump revealed to Foreign Minister Lavrov secrets that compromised the coordination of intelligence gathering with Israeli operatives, jeopardizing Israeli and the U.S. ability to track down terrorists and proliferates.
* Following the events in the Ukraine in 2014 and Russian interference in the 2016 elections, Congress imposed sanctions against Russia and individual operatives of the Russian government. Since taking office, Trump has refused to take actions to impose these sanctions, despite the fact the law requires him to do so.
* The recent meeting in the United States dealing with cybersecurity and counterterrorism between CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the heads of Russia’s intelligence agencies, one of which is included in the above mentioned sanctions and not allowed travel to the US.
* The Gasleys, a tanker carrying Russian LPG, docked in Boston and unloaded its cargo recently. Russia’s gas and oil industry is currently under sanctions, or is supposed to be at any rate.
* The Nunes memo and the Republican efforts to discredit the FBI and other intelligence services as a way to slow or stop Robert Mueller’s investigation has weakened the trust between Congress and the intelligence community, and has shown sources that their identities may not be protected.
* On April 7, 2017, the Trump administration launched a cruise missile strike against Shayrat airbase in Syria. The US launched 58 cruise missiles at the base, yet the base was operational within two days of the attack. Why? Because Trump had warned the Russians about the attack, so most of the planes, etc. had been moved before the missiles were even launched.

Moreover, words in the State of the Union address called for extending presidential powers and other non-restrictive measures which, in effect, abolish the Rule of Law for the President and his Administration’s activities.

America is now teetering on the balance between being ruled, not governed; in complete spineless fear, the GOP clenches their power at the cost of democracy and nation, shredding the ideals of the Constitution as fast as this administration has shed regulations protecting the American people, environment, public lands and diverse society.

At the fulcrum, we wait for something – anything – to prevent further decay of the country once known as a shining example of democracy.

About the Author:
Carol Benedict is an independent researcher and human rights activist. She is also an independent Journalist and a professional member of the US Press Association.

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Countering Trump’s ‘Hostility’ Toward Media, Bill Would Protect Journalists From Intimidation and Assault

“It is clear that not only is the role of the news media in our democracy under attack, but the safety of individual journalists is threatened.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 2-5-2018

Condemning President Donald Trump for creating a “climate of extreme hostility to the press,” more than a dozen Democrats in the U.S. House, with support from the largest communications labor union in the country, have proposed the Journalism Protection Act, which would make it a federal crime to attack or intimidate reporters on the job.

“President Donald Trump’s campaign and administration have created a toxic atmosphere,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), the bill’s lead sponsor. Continue reading

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‘Crisis No One Is Talking About’: GOP Threatens Healthcare of 26 Million People

Sens. Sanders and Baldwin demand urgent action as thousands of community health centers face uncertain future without federal funds

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 2-3-2018

Millions of Americans may not be able to easily access healthcare if Congress continues to withhold funding from community health clinics. (Photo: Pixnio/Flickr/cc)

While the Republican-controlled Congress finally approved funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program in late January after it lapsed in September, lawmakers have failed to renew funding for thousands of community health centers, which also expired in the fall—a move that “has quietly created a new healthcare crisis for 26 million Americans.”

“If Congress doesn’t fund community health centers,” Vox‘s Sarah Kliff details in a report published Friday, “thousands are expected to close.” Continue reading

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