Category Archives: Homeless

Will anyone protect the Rohingya?

 

Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office via Wikimedia Commons

Vincent A. Auger, Western Illinois University

Since August, the Rohingya, an ethnic minority in Myanmar, has faced what a United Nations official called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Recent reports describe a campaign by Myanmar security forces to drive the Rohingya from the country permanently. Hundreds of thousands have fled to camps in neighboring Bangladesh, creating a new refugee crisis.

This is exactly the type of atrocity that the United Nations vowed to combat in 2005, when it asserted a “responsibility to protect” civilian populations from genocidal violence. Yet, little has been done.

Why has “the responsibility to protect” failed, and can the Rohingya be helped?

Responsibility to protect

The “responsibility to protect” doctrine resulted from the humanitarian catastrophes of the 1990s: Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo and especially Rwanda. The world struggled to balance respect for state sovereignty with the imperative to prevent the slaughter of civilians. In 2001, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty issued a report redefining the problem. It stated that states had primary responsibility to protect their populations. But, if they could not or would not, then that duty could be exercised by the international community.

This concept was affirmed by the United Nations at the 2005 World Summit. However, my research on the origins and implementation of the responsibility to protect has demonstrated that this consensus was superficial. Many states, including the United States and China, gave lip service to a “responsibility to protect,” but were unwilling or unable to implement it. The conditions under which the responsibility to protect could be invoked remain deliberately ambiguous.

Words in action: Libya and Cote d’Ivoire

Despite this tepid support, in 2011, the United Nations authorized two operations in countries where civilians were at risk.

In Cote d’Ivoire, United Nations peacekeeping forces intervened to remove the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, who had lost an election and was using the country’s security force to attack civilians in an attempt to remain in power. U.N. forces helped oversee a political transition and maintain security. This intervention was widely seen at the U.N. as a success.

The other intervention was in Libya, after the country’s leader Muammar Gaddafi threatened to slaughter those who opposed his regime. The intervention – led by Britain, France and the United States – successfully prevented Gaddafi’s slaughter of civilians. But it also led to the collapse of his regime, his murder by rebel forces and continuing conflict in post-Gaddafi Libya.

Failure to protect

Despite humanitarian crises in Syria, Yemen and South Sudan, the responsibility to protect has not been used by the U.N. since 2011 to justify intervention. The Libya case helps to explain this: Once the intervening forces helped overthrow Gaddafi, Russia and China declared that the “responsibility to protect” was merely a pretext for the West to conduct regime change. Those countries have repeatedly vetoed U.N. Security Council resolutions on Syria.

Implementing the “responsibility to protect” faces other challenges as well. One is that an intervention to protect civilians may encounter armed resistance from those who are committing the atrocities, as would likely be the case in Syria. A larger, more capable international military force would be necessary to defeat them. Many states will be deterred by the greater costs and risks of such an intervention.

Another challenge is that states and international organizations have multiple goals and priorities. They may not wish to jeopardize relations with the offending regime, or risk other national interests, in order to stop violence. They may even help the regime that is committing the atrocities, as the Russian government has done in Syria, to advance those interests.

Finally, a successful intervention may lead to a costly commitment to provide long-term security and relief – a “responsibility to rebuild,” so to speak. For most states, these potential costs of intervention far outweigh their willingness to act to save lives.

What can we do for the Rohingya?

All these challenges to implementing the responsibility to protect are evident in the Rohingya case. Myanmar authorities have resisted any international role in the crisis, raising the cost of potential intervention. In any case, other states have little interest in taking action. China is shielding Myanmar from pressure in the U.N. Security Council and is trying to pull Myanmar into its sphere of influence. President Trump has not made Myanmar a priority for American foreign policy. Russia, India and other states prefer to work with the regime to further their own interests in the region.

What can be done, then?

Economic and political sanctions against the Myanmar military are a possibility. But without Chinese participation, they would have limited effectiveness. Sanctions might also lead the Myanmar military to reverse recent democratic reforms in the country.

An alternative would be for the United States and other countries to sharply increase aid to Bangladesh, which is hosting the fleeing Rohingya civilians. They might also consider accepting some Rohingya as refugees. However, this could be problematic given the current debate on refugees in the United States and many other countries.

The ConversationIn the longer term, diplomatic and financial pressure, as well as the possibility of indictment for crimes against humanity, may convince Myanmar’s military leaders to cease the ethnic cleansing and allow some Rohingya to return. Unfortunately, no international cavalry is likely to ride to the Rohingya’s rescue.

Vincent A. Auger, Professor of Political Science, Western Illinois University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Trump Vows to Make Paul Ryan’s Nightmarish Budget Vision a Reality

President Donald Trump’s campaign promises on safety net programs would certainly be broken if House Speaker Paul Ryan gets his way

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-26-2017

President Donald Trump on stage with Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan at the GOP congressional retreat on Thursday. (Screenshot)

In Philadelphia on Thursday, President Donald Trump seemed to reassure his party that he supports right-wing budget priorities like those embraced by House Speaker Paul Ryan—whose past budget plans have been denounced as “cruel,” “draconian,” “a massive cut-off of state funds to the most vulnerable population in the country,” “going after what Americans want, on issue after issue,” and “a Koch brothers’ dream and the American peoples’ nightmare.”

“He’s writing his heart out,” Trump said, looking over at Ryan during his address at the Republican congressional retreat. “And we’re actually gonna sign the stuff that you’re writing—you’re not wasting your time.” To the room of GOP lawmakers, who erupted in whistles and applause, Trump continued: “He would write and send it up—and nothing would happen. But now it’s gonna happen.” Continue reading

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Despite Arrests, Peace Activists Vow to Keep Feeding City’s Homeless

‘The hunger enforcement officers are here. This is their idea of serving the public.’

By Nika Knight, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-9-2017

Food Not Bombs volunteers hold up a banner in a city park in Tampa, Florida. (Photo: Tampa Food Not Bombs/Facebook)

Seven activists with the peace group Food Not Bombs were arrested for feeding homeless people on Saturday in a public park in Tampa, Florida.

The group is undaunted and maintains it will return to the park on Tuesday to serve anyone in need of food. “We intend to expose the city’s cruelty in the face of thousands in our community who are struggling with issues of food insecurity, mental and medical health issues, poverty, and homelessness,” a spokesperson for Food Not Bombs told McClatchy. Continue reading

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A Message to Donald J. Trump

Inauguration (left,) vs Women’s March (right). Photo: Mashable (composite of EarthCam screengrabs)

You are now President of the United States of America.

We, the People, have already noticed a few things, and we’d like to tell you what you apparently are not being told by your “advisors.”

Your removal of the term “Civil Rights” from the White House website implies that these are no longer a concern to a man that was elected to serve ALL Americans, not just those that “look” like you.

Your removal of all information regarding Health Care from the same website implies that the health care of the people of this country is not important enough to you to even indicate what you plan to do now that measures have already been taken to effectively terminate coverage under the ACA.

Your removal of all discussion of Climate Change is a clear example that you are not willing to listen to science and reason when it comes to protecting America’s valuable resources for generations to come.

You attack through tweeting those that offend you, as though it makes you look “presidential.” It instead reveals the immature, narcissistic individual you are, one that must have instant gratification whenever a pimple in life appears on your ugly face of divisiveness.

You brag about assaulting women, and insult the victims of your misogyny.

You indicate you want the equivalent to a “Christian caliphate” in this country: emulating what the enemy is demanding makes one weak, not strong. Even 1st graders know that, Mr. President. It also validates what ISIS is doing.

You asked for military style parades during your inauguration, while veterans that have served go without medical care, homes or jobs. You have stated you intend to fly war planes over our cities to remind us that our military is great, while we feed homeless veterans living in our parks, the planes drowning out our conversations with them.

America is a nation of law. We are not governed by corporate organizational structures. You won’t get your way all the time, and you can’t scream “You’re Fired!” at everyone that sees things differently.

Your first act was to claw back a relief package for low to middle income mortgage holders that would have saved them on average $500 a year. That doesn’t sound like much money to you, but to the American people you are supposed to serve, it can make the difference between having a home and not having a home. You proved to these people your heartlessness right from the beginning of your term.

You claim to have a mandate. Let us remind you that you were elected by 46% of the vote, from which only 30% of the population even chose to participate in. This means, in fact, you hold office because only 14% of eligible voters in this country decided to vote for you, and many did so simply in objection to your opponent. This is not a mandate.

A MANDATE is what happened the day AFTER your inauguration, when the entire world sent you a rejection notice.

I expect you won’t like what I’ve said here, and so much so that you will try to shut this website down. That doesn’t matter, because you see, where I am is a place all of America is. You seem to think you hold the power to shut down the MINDS and CONSCIOUSNESS of every American, you DON’T. We won’t stop.

You seem to think that attacking media for reporting things you don’t like is your right. You appear to think that executive power includes control of the nation’s press. As an American and a journalist, let me remind you that your oath of office is to protect the US Constitution. You apparently are not familiar with that document, so here is the 1st Amendment to it, protecting the media from what you threaten them with. To act against the 1st Amendment is a violation of your oath and is an impeachable offense.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Shape up, or we will ship you out as easily as you were shipped in.

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Top 5 Stories You Missed in 2016 While Everyone Mourned Dead Celebrities

By Jake Anderson. Published 1-3-2017 by The Anti-Media

Photo: Chris Barker

First of all, let me confess that I shed some tears when David Bowie died. I know all 20+ of his albums by heart, and it felt like a piece of my childhood had disappeared. A few years ago, when Philip Seymour Hoffman died, I also cried. It’s a strange emotional symbiosis that occurs when you mourn for a deceased celebrity, and the point of this article is not to cast aspersions. However, 2016 has basically become known as the year a bunch of celebrities died, so there’s no better time to assess the phenomenon (and make sure it doesn’t distract us from other issues).

Over Christmas weekend, millions of people mourned the loss of George Michael and Carrie Fisher. They were advocates for gay rights and mental illness, respectively, and the nation reeled from the passing of two beloved iconic figures. Earlier this year, music legend Prince passed away, devastating tens of millions of fans for whom the musician represented everything from their adolescence in the 1980s to political statements of gender-bending. The list of celebrities who died in 2016 is extensive and, for some, unnerving. Continue reading

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Unhappy Holidays: Houston Police Force Homeless People to Throw Away Food

On Thursday, the Houston Police Department targeted a group of homeless advocates who were attempting to hand out hot food and gifts to the homeless.

By Derrick Broze. Published 12-24-2016 by The Anti-Media

Photo: Jack Newton/flickr

Houston, TX — Local activists attempting to hand out food and gifts were shocked on Thursday afternoon when Houston police forced the homeless to throw away the donations.  Around 1 pm on Thursday,  several individuals met in downtown Houston to distribute plates of hot food, blankets, and other supplies to the city’s growing homeless population. Soon after, Houston police arrived on the scene of two different intersections where the homeless advocates were giving out gifts and food.

According to witness testimony posted on Facebook, the police instructed the homeless to throw away everything they had been given. Not only were the police called, but they brought a large waste management truck and are forcing the homeless to throw away their food, pillows and other items,” reads one post. Continue reading

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America Has Unofficially Declared War on the Homeless

By Josie Wales. Published 12-23-2016 by The Anti-Media

Photo: Ed Yourdon from New York City, USA (Helping the homeless Uploaded by Gary Dee) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Police departments across the country have been ramping up raids on the homeless, stealing coats, blankets, and other personal items and leaving those on the street with no protection from the cold and rain.

The Homelessness San Diego Facebook page recently posted a video of city workers conducting an “encampment sweep” that was recorded by homeless advocate Michael McConnell. According to CW6, “the city says it routinely posts clean-up notices downtown as part of its regular weekly abatement schedule.

The Denver Police Department released a statement last Thursday evening defending police officers caught on video taking blankets, sleeping bags, and tents from homeless people and issuing some citations. Freezing temperatures didn’t stop the cold-hearted cops from confiscating the items “as evidence of the violations.”

The video taken by a bystander went viral after being shared by the ACLU of Colorado’s Facebook page. It was swiftly followed up by an open letter to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Denver City Council, and city officials. The letter, which expresses horror at the willingness of the local government officials to endanger the lives of the homeless, “demands that the City immediately (1) direct its police officers to cease confiscation of blankets and other survival gear possessed by people experiencing homelessness, (2) suspend enforcement of the Denver Urban Camping Ban through the winter months, using that time to explore alternative approaches to homelessness that do not criminalize people for having nowhere they can afford to live and (3) end the coordinated sweeps of people experiencing homelessness, whether they are conducted through police, public works, private security, all of the above, or any other means.”

This is not the first time Colorado authorities have come under fire for their brutal treatment of the homeless. In February of this year, Denver Law School released a report called Too High A Price: What Criminalizing Homelessness Costs Colorado, which examined the economic and social cost of the anti-homeless laws. According to the paper, “Laws that criminalize panhandling, begging, camping, sitting or lying in public, and vagrancy target and disproportionately impact homeless residents for activities they must perform in the course of daily living.”

Los Angeles deployed an entire task force to crack down on homeless people, imposing their own “encampment sweeps” in September. The ironically named “Homeless Outreach and Proactive Engagement” teams are supposed to help reduce the number of people living on the street, but they appear to be doing nothing more than turning those who are less fortunate into criminals.

The ACLU declared a small victory over the summer when it successfully defended the rights of a man charged with trespassing after trying to gain access to emergency shelter. According to Jessie Rossman, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Massachusetts:

“Today’s landmark, unanimous ruling has affirmed, e.in the state high court’s own words that ‘our law does not permit the punishment of the homeless simply for being homeless.’”

Anti-homeless laws are cruel, unconstitutional, and create more hardship for those targeted, making it harder for them to get back on their feet. It is unthinkable to believe that stealing blankets and clothing from people living on the street is justifiable by any legislation, and it is terrifying to see law enforcement follow orders to do so without blinking an eye.

This article is republished under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license

 

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Escalating the War on Low-Income Families

By Paul Buchheit. Published 8-22-2016 by Common Dreams

For the nation's poor, things are not getting better. They are getting worse. (Photo: Pixabay/CC0)

For the nation’s poor, things are not getting better. They are getting worse. (Photo: Pixabay/CC0)

Illinois Governor Rauner recently cut “Meals on Wheels” for seniors and at-risk youth services. Chicago residents were hit with a nearly 13% property tax increase. Some Chicago public schools could face 2017 cutbacks of an incredible 20 percent.

But six of Illinois’ largest corporations together paid ALMOST ZERO state income taxes this year. Full payment of their taxes would have exceeded the $1.1 billion Chicago Public School deficit. Continue reading

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Superbugs, Sewage, and Scandal: Are Rio Olympics Poised for Disaster?

Companies at center of grafting scheme construct Olympic Village, raw sewage pours into Rio de Janeiro, and protests sweep nation

By Nika Knight, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-1-2016

Thousands of dead fish float in the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon, where the Olympics rowing and canoeing competitions will take place, in 2015. (Photo: Marcelo Sayao/EPA)

Thousands of dead fish float in the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon, where the Olympics rowing and canoeing competitions will take place, in 2015. (Photo: Marcelo Sayao/EPA)

A biology professor has simple advice for athletes and tourists descending on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the Olympics’ start on Friday: “Don’t put your head underwater.”

Dr. Valerie Harwood, chair of the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of South Florida, remarked on the dangers posed by Rio’s water to AP, which reported Monday that a 16-months-long study revealed that “the waterways of Rio de Janeiro are as filthy as ever, contaminated with raw human sewage teeming with dangerous viruses and bacteria.” Continue reading

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Transforming the poverty industry

When governments place maximizing revenue over serving those in need, the vulnerable are harmed. And when the vulnerable are harmed, so are we all.

By Daniel L. Hatcher. Published 6-21-2016 by openDemocracy

openDemocracy oD-UK oDR oD 50.50 Transformation Activism Economics Intersectionality Nonviolence Culture Love and Spirit Environment Care OurBeeb More Transforming the poverty industry DANIEL L. HATCHER 21 June 2016 When governments place maximizing revenue over serving those in need, the vulnerable are harmed. And when the vulnerable are harmed, so are we all. Headquarters of the US Department of Health and Human Services, Washington DC. Credit: Wikimedia/Matthew G. Bisanz, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Headquarters of the US Department of Health and Human Services, Washington DC. Credit: Wikimedia/Matthew G. Bisanz, CC BY-SA 3.0.

In an effort to shore-up its budget, New Jersey is taking federal government assistance away from school children from poor families. The state has hired a private contractor called the Public Consulting Group to access more school-based federal Medicaid funds. This money is intended to help schools serve special education needs more effectively, but New Jersey has diverted over 80 percent of the funds to its general coffers for other uses—effectively taking tens of millions of dollars from school children every year. Meanwhile, in the face of insufficient funding, schools in the state have resorted to selling ads on school buses. Continue reading

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