Tag Archives: Civil Rights

Half a Million March in Massive Uprising Against Spanish Plan to Overtake Catalonia

Catalans poured into the streets of Barcelona Saturday following the Spanish prime minister announcement that he would move to take control of their region

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-21-2017

Catalans did not take the news that Spanish Prime Minister will move to impose direct rule on their region quietly on Saturday. Nearly half a million people marched in Barcelona soon after the prime minister’s press conference.

Carles Puigdemont, president of Catalonia, joined the demonstration before a planned speech responding to Mariano Rajoy’s statement that pending the approval of the senate, which his party controls, he would remove the Catalan government from power and call for a special election in the coming months.

The protesters chanted, “Freedom!” and “Rajoy, Rajoy, so you know we are leaving!” Continue reading

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Texas City Demands Hurricane Harvey Victims Support Israel to Get Relief

By James Holbrooks Published 10-20-2017 by The Anti-Mediaickinson on 8/27/2017 after Hurricane Harvey. Photo: YouTube

Dickinson, TX — Government suppression of free speech can take many forms. It’s not always censorship in the media or storm troopers in the streets bashing in the heads of protesters. For proof of this, one need look no further than Dickinson, Texas.

The small coastal town southeast of Houston took some of the worst Hurricane Harvey had to offer, with almost 7,400 homes damaged — many of them beyond repair. In response, the city council decided to set up a relief fund. People can donate to the city, and then a committee distributes the money to residents on a case-by-case basis. Continue reading

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‘People Are Dying’ But Trump Gives Himself Perfect ’10’ for Puerto Rico Response

“The lasting image of this administration may well be Puerto Ricans having to drink contaminated water from polluted streamswhile waiting for timely, appropriate federal aid.”

Written by Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-19-2017.

Image via Twitter.

Despite an estimated one million people still living without drinking water, 80 percent of the island wihout electricity, and fresh reports that people are “dying” on the island, President Donald Trump stirred outrage on Thursday by giving himself a perfect “ten” on his response to the crisis in Puerto Rico.

“The people in Puerto Rico are dying,” said National Nurses United (NNU) vice president Cathy Kennedy, who returned Wednesday from a two-week relief trip with the union’s Registered Nurses Response Network (RNRN). “Nurses have been going out into communities, where all they ask for is water and food. And when you have to make a decision of who’s going to get the food today or the water — we shouldn’t have to do that. The United States is the richest country in the world; Puerto Rico is part of the United States.”

Yet Trump told a different story about the recovery in the Oval Office on Thursday, speaking to reporters as Puerto Rican governor Ricardo Rossello looked on.

“I would give myself a ten,” he said. “We have provided so much, so fast.”

“Trump’s callous, self-appointed grade reflects everything that is wrong with the alleged relief effort in Puerto Rico,” Bonnie Castillo, director of National Nurses United’s Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN), told Common Dreams via email.

The nurses who returned from the relief trip, she continued, “are horrified by the massive damage, dislocation, and trauma they have witnessed. It includes one million people living in darkness, many of them in homes with roofs blown off, soaked furniture, dangerous black mold growing everywhere, lengthy waits for food and water from FEMA that often never comes, a decimated transportation system, and hazardous materials abundant.”

About one million Puerto Ricans were still without drinking water as of Thursday. According to status.pr, a website that is maintained by Puerto Rican officials with daily updates on the recovery, 80 percent of the island was still without electricity as Trump was speaking. More than half of the island’s cell phone towers are still not working and more than 4,000 people are still living in shelters.

FEMA has distributed about 23 million liters of water throughout the island—accounting for only about nine percent of Puerto Rico’s drinking water needs. Forced to drink from rivers, many on the island are being exposed to harmful bacteria and toxic chemicals.

The president put Rossello on the spot after grading himself, asking, “Did we do a great job?” The governor declined to give him a rating. He carefully thanked the administration for sending relief, while emphasizing that the island needs the same efforts that were afforded to Texas after Hurricane Harvey. “We need equal treatment, we need all the resources we can get.”

According to Castillo, “the lasting image of this administration may well be Puerto Ricans having to drink contaminated water from polluted streams, putting their health in serious danger, while waiting for timely, appropriate federal aid to millions of U.S. citizens.”

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Trump Revives Notorious GOP Dog Whistle in Call for ‘Welfare Reform’

Like Reagan before him, Trump is deploying the infamous “welfare queen” myth to justify shredding the safety net

Written by Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-16-2017.

President Trump. Image via youtube.

Rehashing a notorious Republican Party trope that accuses some Americans of cheating safety net programs, President Donald Trump on Monday saidhis administration is looking “very, very strongly” at “welfare reform.”

“People are taking advantage of the system and then other people aren’t receiving what they really need to live and we think it is very unfair to them,” Trump said during a meeting with cabinet officials. “Some people are really taking advantage of our system from that standpoint.”

Watch:

The welfare system was last “reformed” during the administration of former President Bill Clinton, and the results were devastating.

According to research by sociologists Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer, extreme poverty more than doubled in the two decades following the passage in 1996 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which imposed draconian work requirements on welfare recipients and converted federal welfare funds into block grants.

Now, Trump appears to be preparing to shred what is left of the social safety net. And as Clio Chang of Splinter News points out, Trump is deploying the same rhetorical formula as his welfare-slashing predecessors.

“It’s not difficult to decode what Trump’s saying,” Chang notes. “It’s the same tired line that politicians from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton have been using for decades: that some (read: mainly black) people are unfairly receiving welfare benefits and siphoning resources away from good, hard-working (read: mainly white) people. Reagan infamously spread the ‘welfare queen’ myth in the 1970s, a dog whistle that asserted black, single mothers were bilking the government’s welfare system.”

While Trump didn’t propose any specific changes to the welfare system on Monday, previous reports—along with his administration’s previous actions—have indicated that crucial safety net programs are squarely in the president’s crosshairs.

In one of his first speeches as president, Trump asserted that the American welfare system is “out of control,” and that people on welfare need to get “back to work”—despite the fact that most welfare recipients already have jobs.

And as Politico reported earlier this month, Trump is “mulling an executive order that would instruct federal agencies to review low-income assistance programs [as] part of a coming effort to make sweeping changes to the country’s welfare system.”

Trump’s Republican allies in the Senate, meanwhile, are gearing up to vote on a budget that would make room for $1.5 trillion in tax cuts and over $5 trillion in non-defense spending cuts—including $470 billion from Medicare and $1 trillion from Medicaid over the next decade.

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Under the Trump administration, US airstrikes are killing more civilians

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Smoke from an airstrike rises in the background as a man flees during fighting between Iraqi special forces and IS militants in Mosul, Iraq, on May 17, 2017. AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo

Steven Feldstein, Boise State University

When President Donald Trump took office in January, it was unclear whether the bombast from his campaign would translate into an aggressive new strategy against terrorism. At campaign rallies he pledged to “bomb the hell” out of the Islamic State. He openly mused about killing the families of terrorists, a blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits violence against noncombatants.

Ten months into his presidency, a clearer picture is emerging. The data indicate several alarming trends.

According to research from the nonprofit monitoring group Airwars, the first seven months of the Trump administration have already resulted in more civilian deaths than under the entirety of the Obama administration. Airwars reports that under Obama’s leadership, the fight against IS led to approximately 2,300 to 3,400 civilian deaths. Through the first seven months of the Trump administration, they estimate that coalition air strikes have killed between 2,800 and 4,500 civilians.

Researchers also point to another stunning trend – the “frequent killing of entire families in likely coalition airstrikes.” In May, for example, such actions led to the deaths of at least 57 women and 52 children in Iraq and Syria.

The vast increase in civilian deaths is not limited to the anti-IS campaign. In Afghanistan, the U.N. reports a 67 percent increase in civilian deaths from U.S. airstrikes in the first six months of 2017 compared to the first half of 2016.

The key question is: Why? Are these increases due to a change in leadership?

Delegating war to the military

Experts offer several explanations.

One holds that Trump’s “total authorization” for the military to run wars in Afghanistan and against IS has loosened Obama-era restrictions and increased military commanders’ risk tolerance. Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations notes: “Those closer to the fight are more likely to call in lethal force and are less likely to follow a value-based approach.”

In other words, an intense focus on destroying IS elements may be overriding the competing priority of protecting civilians. Because Trump has scaled back civilian oversight and delegated authority to colonels rather than one-star generals, the likely result is higher casualties.

Urban battlefield?

A second explanation points to the changing nature of the counter-IS campaign. The Pentagon contends that the rise in casualties is “attributable to the change in location” of battlefield operations towards more densely populated urban environments like Mosul and Raqqa.

This is a partial truth. While urban warfare has increased, Trump’s team has substantially escalated air strikes and bombings. According to CENTCOM data, the military has already used 20 percent more missiles and bombs in combined air operations in 2017 than in all of 2016. One notable airstrike in March, for example, killed 105 Iraqi civilians when U.S. forces dropped a 500-pound bomb in order to take out two snipers in Mosul. In fact, a Human Rights Watch analysis of bomb craters in West Mosul estimates that U.S. coalition forces are routinely using larger and less precise bombs – weighing between 500 and 1,000 pounds – than in prior operations. Finally, the urban battlefield explanation also does not account for increased civilian deaths in Afghanistan from airstrikes, where the environment has remained static for several years.

Pressure from the president

A third explanation of higher civilian casualties is that aggressive rhetoric from the president is inadvertently pressuring the military to take more risks and to deprioritize protecting civilians.

As former Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski observes: “If your leaders are emphasizing the high value of Raqqa and Mosul, while saying less about the strategic and moral risks of hurting civilians, it’s going to affect your judgment.” Words matter, especially coming from the commander-in-chief. In the face of such aggressive rhetoric, it should not come as a surprise that military officers feel encouraged – if not indirectly pressured – to take greater risks.

Unfortunately, the increased trend of civilian casualties is unlikely to diminish. In fact, signs abound that the White House is developing a new set of policies and procedures that will authorize more sweeping discretion to the military. In September, The New York Times reported that White House officials were proposing two major rules changes. First, they would expand the scope of “kill missions” and allow for the targeting of lower-level terrorists in addition to high value targets. Second – and more notably – they would suspend high-level vetting of potential drone attacks and raids.

These changes represent a sharp about-face. The Obama administration carefully crafted a deliberate set of rules guiding the use of force. In 2013, Obama released the Presidential Policy Guidance for Approving Direct Action Against Terrorist Targets (PPG), which created specific rules for determining when the use of force against terrorists was legally justified.

Then, in 2016, Obama issued an executive order on civilian harm that established heightened standards to minimize civilian casualties from military actions, and required the public release of information pertaining to strikes against terrorist targets.

While the latest actions from the Trump administration stop short of reversing Obama-era restraints, they are unsettling steps in the opposite direction. For example, it appears for now that the White House will preserve the “near certainty” standard, which requires commanders to have near certainty that a potential strike will not impact civilians. But this could change over time.

One senior official quoted in The New York Times article bluntly asserts that the latest changes are intended to make much of the “bureaucracy” created by the Obama administration rules “disappear.” As the White House dissolves the existing bureaucracy and relinquishes civilian oversight, Trump is embarking on a slippery slope that will potentially lead to major diminutions of civilian protection.

The current battle to take the Syrian city of Raqqa is emblematic of the stakes at hand. The U.S. is leading a punishing air war to soften IS defenses. In August, U.S. forces dropped 5,775 bombs and missiles onto the city. For context, this represented 10 times more munitions than the U.S. used for the whole of Afghanistan in the same month and year. The resulting civilian toll has been gruesome. At least 433 civilians likely died in Raqqa due to the August bombings, more than double the previous month’s total. Since the assault on Raqqa commenced on June 6, more than 1,000 civilians have been reported killed.

U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein cautions that the intense bombardment has left civilians caught between IS’s monstrosities and the fierce battle to defeat it. Zeid insists that “civilians must not be sacrificed for the sake of rapid military victories.”

The ConversationTrump would be wise to heed this warning. Even as U.S. forces continue to turn the tide on IS, the trail of destruction left in the campaign’s wake is unsettling. The specter of massive civilian casualties will remain a rallying point for new terrorist organizations long after anti-IS operations conclude.

Steven Feldstein, Frank and Bethine Church Chair of Public Affairs & Associate Professor, School of Public Service, Boise State University

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

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Man Who Raped and Impregnated 12-Year-Old Now Has Joint Custody of Her Child

By . Published 10-10-2017 by The Anti-Media

Sanilac County, MI — A 27-year-old Michigan man who allegedly raped and impregnated a 12-year-old girl nine years ago has just been granted joint custody of the child, against the mother’s wishes.

The Detroit News reports that Sanilac County Circuit court Judge Gregory S. Ross granted the convicted sexual assailant, Christopher Mirasolo, joint legal custody after a DNA test established he was the father. The story was reportedly first highlighted on “The Steve Gruber Show,” a radio program based out of Lansing, Michigan. Continue reading

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Urging Diplomacy, China Warns Trump’s North Korea Threats Could ‘Backfire Bigly’

The Chinese Foreign Ministry demands an end to Trump’s threats and name-calling

Written by Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-12-2017.

President Trump waiting to address the United Nations last month, where he threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” after Kim Jong-un’s regime conducted several missile tests. (Photo: United Nations/Flickr/cc)

Borrowing a word that subjected President Donald Trump to ridicule during the 2016 campaign, an editorial in the Chinese newspaper People’s Daily warned that Trump’s threats of war with North Korea could “backfire bigly,” and quoted high-level Beijing officials who urged the U.S. to engage in dialogue with Kim Jong-un’s regime.

“Trump has repeatedly made clear his distaste for dialogue with and preference for military action against the DPRK,” wrote Curtis Stone. “But war on the Korean Peninsula would be catastrophic, and dialogue remains the best option.”

A spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs also said the two parties should return to negotiations it held from 2003 to 2009 at the direction of the United Nations Security Council, resulting in a suspension of North Korea’s use of its plutonium-producing reactor.

“We hope that various parties can strictly observe and implement the U.N. Security Council resolutions, refrain from provoking each other and aggravating the contradiction, [and] exercise restraint and caution to ease the tension,” Hua Chunying said this week.

The editorial was released on the heels of Trump’s decision to send two strategic bombers over the Korea peninsula on Tuesday, and his latest tweets in which he said talks with North Korea have made “fools of U.S. negotiators” and “only one thing will work” to deter the isolated country from further nuclear proliferation and testing.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho responded to the military flyover with a statement about Trump’s speech at the U.N. last month, in which he threatened to “totally destroy” the country of 25 million people.

“By his bellicose and insane statement in the U.N. arena, Trump―it can be said―lit the wick of the war against us. We need to settle the final score, only with a hail of fire, not words.”

China stressed that both sides need to acknowledge the other party’s viewpoint, rather than sowing discord by engaging in name-calling and threats.

“Only by addressing the legitimate security concern of various parties in a balanced manner can we truly open the door to peacefully resolving the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. To this end, various parties need to show more sincerity, sit down at the negotiating table, enhance mutual trust through dialogue, and seek a viable way out for peaceful settlement of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue through negotiation.”

In the U.S., Trump’s escalating and threatening rhetoric has caused anxiety among many. A poll released Wednesday by the Associated Press found that 65 percent of Americans think Trump’s rhetoric has made the situation worse, and 45 percent say he’s made it “much worse.” Only eight percent of respondents approved of his handling of tensions with North Korea.

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Citing Dictatorial Tendencies, Critics Slam Trump for ‘Madcap Threat’ Aimed at NBC

While the president can’t take away the network’s ability to operate, former FCC commissioner calls ongoing attempts to intimidate journalists “chilling”

Written by Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-11-2017.

After an Oval Office meeting with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, President Trump attacked NBC for its reporting on his comments about increasing the nation’s nuclear arsenal. (Photo: @RT_America/Twitter)

Free speech advocates and journalists spoke out against President Donald Trump’s latest attack on the news media on Wednesday after he suggested a “challenge” of NBC’s license.

Michael Copps, the former FCC commissioner who now serves as special advisor to the grassroots organization Common Cause, noted that while Trump isn’t legally able to carry out his threats, his attempts to intimidate the press are deeply disconcerting: Continue reading

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In Peaceful Protest, Nuns to Deliver UN Nuclear Abolition Treaty to US Military Base

“Our politicians could be heroes of these times, if they start working with nations rather than against nations.”

Written by 

Sister Ardeth Platte, one of the nuns staging anti-nuclear weapons protests at two Colorado Air Force Bases this week, was arrested in 2000 and 2002 for similar actions. (Photo: Frank Cordaro/Flickr/cc)

Speaking out against the United States’ decision to forego last month’s United Nations treaty prohibiting the use and development of atomic weapons, two Catholic nuns on Monday will perform their latest in a long series of anti-nuclear protests.

Sister Ardeth Platte and Sister Carol Gilbert plan to present the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, signed by 53 countries, to officials at the Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, delivering the message that the U.S. must join with other nations to reach worldwide nuclear disarmament.

“We’re coming as peacemakers and peace advocates, to teach and show our concern,” Platte said in an interview with the Denver Post. “Our politicians could be heroes of these times, if they start working with nations rather than against nations.”

The U.S. was one of several countries with nuclear capability that did not sign the agreement. North Korea, Russia, and the United Kingdom were among the other nations that refused to take part in negotiations—which Platte and Gilbert say too many Americans don’t even know took place.

“We want the citizens of Colorado to know about this treaty,” Gilbert told the Post. “The treaty would make nuclear weapons illegal.”

The treaty was signed amid growing tensions between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who has tested several intercontinental ballistic missiles since July, launching them into the Pacific Ocean over Japan.

Last week, following weeks of antagonizing Kim using his Twitter account and in impromptu comments about unleashing “fire and fury” on the isolated country, Trump cryptically told reporters the U.S. could be currently be in “the calm before the storm.”

“We’re in an extremely dangerous time,” said Platte. “A strike could be launched from Colorado within 15 minutes and go 7,000 miles to its target within half an hour. It would be total devastation.”

The two nuns will also visit Schriever Air Force Base on Tuesday to deliver the same message, and ahead of their visit to Peterson will hold a vigil at a nuclear missile silo in Weld County, Colorado.

Gilbert and Platte have spent decades demanding an end to nuclear proliferation by countries including the U.S. Fifteen years ago they were convicted of sabotage for pouring blood on a missile stored in a silo in Weld County. They’ve also been arrested numerous times for staging peaceful protests at military bases like the ones they’ve planned for this week.

The pair say that the existence of the treaty signed by more than 50 countries has given them hope.

“I’ve been working on this issue for 50 years, and this is the greatest hope I’ve had,” Platte told the Post. “We finally have a tool, a treaty that declares criminality to the possession and threat of using nuclear weapons.”

 

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Sessions Issues Blatant ‘License to Discriminate’ With ‘Religious Freedom’ Memo

The new DOJ policy directive “will enable systemic, government-wide discrimination that will have a devastating impact on LGBTQ people and their families,” rights groups said

Written by for CommonDreams. Published 10-6-2017.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions intensified the Trump administration’s “all-out assault on LGBTQ people” Friday by issuing a “religious freedom” directive to federal agencies that rights groups said would “categorize LGBTQ Americans as second-class citizens who are not equal under the law.”

Outlined in a 25-page memo (pdf), the directive lays out the White House’s “muscular view of religious freedom” first expressed in an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in May. The memo details 20 “principles of religious liberty” to which all federal agencies will be expected to adhere.

“Under the new policy, a claim of a violation of religious freedom would be enough to override concerns for the civil rights of LGBT people and anti-discrimination protections for women and others,” the Associated Press noted. “The guidelines are so sweeping that experts on religious liberty are calling them a legal powder-keg that could prompt wide-ranging lawsuits against the government.”

In crafting the policy guidance, the Department of Justice (DOJ) consulted extensively with “religious and political groups with a history of opposing protections for LGBT people,” but not “specifically” with any LGBTQ rights organizations, Buzzfeed reported on Friday.

Unsurprisingly, the DOJ’s directive was met with effusive praise by right-wing lawmakers and religious organizations, and fierce condemnation by civil rights groups that argue the Sessions memo constitutes little more than a “license to discriminate” against the LGBTQ community.

Chad Griffin, president of Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights organization, said in a statement on Friday that the Sessions directive is a “blatant attempt to further Donald Trump’s cynical and hateful agenda.”

Justice Department policy as outlined in the new memo “will enable systemic, government-wide discrimination that will have a devastating impact on LGBTQ people and their families,” Griffin concluded. “Donald Trump and [Vice President] Mike Pence have proven they will stop at nothing to target the LGBTQ community and drag our nation backwards. We will fight them every step of the way.”

HRC argued in its press release that the Sessions directive would allow:

  • Federal contractors to deny services to LGBTQ people.
  • “Agencies receiving federal funding, and even their individual staff members, [to] refuse to provide services to LGBTQ children in crisis, or to place adoptive or foster children with a same-sex couple or transgender couple simply because of who they are.”
  • “A Social Security Administration employee [to] refuse to accept or process spousal or survivor benefits paperwork for a surviving same-sex spouse.”

The new DOJ memo comes amid a flurry of policy moves by the Trump administration this week that will disproportionately affect women and the LGBTQ community, including a rollback of the federal birth control mandate and a reversal of government policy that protected transgender workers from discrimination.

In a statement on Friday, Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, argued that the Sessions directive is “yet another mean-spirited attack against the LGBTQ community, people of color, and other minorities.

“Federal agencies, government contractors, and grant recipients should not be permitted to discriminate simply by citing a religious belief for doing so,” Gupta concluded. “We urge the federal courts to reject the radical efforts by this administration to justify discrimination on the basis of religion. We are strengthened as a nation when we work to protect and balance the rights and dignity of all.”

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