The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will no longer defend groups that insist on marching with firearms, following violent gatherings of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend.
“The events of Charlottesville require any judge, any police chief, and any legal group to look at the facts of any white-supremacy protests with a much finer comb,” Anthony Romero, the ACLU’s long-serving executive director, told the Wall Street Journal Thursday evening. Continue reading →
Today, March 8, 2016, is International Women’s Day. The theme for this year is “Pledge for Parity” and will be recognized around the world as women gather in discussion, workshops, rallies and through outreach programs to not only celebrate the achievements of women in the past, but to also encourage future endeavors and accomplishments.
Pledge For Parity. We thought throughout the last year about who, while aligning with the mission and values we hold to, best represented the struggle of fighting for equality, be it gender, nationality, economic or ethnic in orientation. The goal with this year’s theme is to raise global awareness and bring women center-front in roles of governance, leadership, employment and opportunities in education. Efforts are also being made to eliminate gender-specific issues such as child brides, female genital mutilation, honor killings and other forms of female oppression and dehumanization to exert control.
Women have led the way in activism as well. If it were not for Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Hurley Medical Center in Flint. Michigan, the world might still not know of the lead-poisioned water crisis still unfolding there. Without Jane Kleib and her efforts with Bold Nebraska, there would most likely be a really ugly pipeline being installed in Nebraska. If it were not for the life of Rozerin Chukar, we might not have a full understanding of the tragedy unfolding in Turkey’s SE region. All these women are considered worthy of the honor of our International Woman of the Year award.
Unfortunately, something occurred last Thursday that simplified our task, leading to our first and hopefully last posthumous nomination for International Woman of the Year.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Our 2016 International Woman of the Year award goes to Berta Cáceres, the co-founder of the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). An internationally known indigenous and environmental activist and organizer, Berta was assassinated in her home last Thursday. Democracy Now! ran an excellent piece on her the morning after she was assassinated; we’ve taken the liberty of republishing it here:
Honduran indigenous and environmental organizer Berta Cáceres has been assassinated in her home. She was one of the leading organizers for indigenous land rights in Honduras.
In 1993 she co-founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). For years the group faced a series of threats and repression.
According to Global Witness, Honduras has become the deadliest country in the world for environmentalists. Between 2010 and 2014, 101 environmental campaigners were killed in the country.
In 2015 Berta Cáceres won the Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s leading environmental award. In awarding the prize, the Goldman Prize committee said, “In a country with growing socioeconomic inequality and human rights violations, Berta Cáceres rallied the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras and waged a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam.”
HONDURAS–At approximately 11:45pm last night, the General Coordinator of COPINH, Berta Caceres was assassinated in her hometown of La Esperanza, Intibuca. At least two individuals broke down the door of the house where Berta was staying for the evening in the Residencial La Líbano, shot and killed her. COPINH is urgently responding to this tragic situation.
Berta Cáceres is one of the leading indigenous activists in Honduras. She spent her life fighting in defense of indigenous rights, particularly to land and natural resources.
Cáceres, a Lenca woman, grew up during the violence that swept through Central America in the 1980s. Her mother, a midwife and social activist, took in and cared for refugees from El Salvador, teaching her young children the value of standing up for disenfranchised people.
Cáceres grew up to become a student activist and in 1993, she cofounded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to address the growing threats posed to Lenca communities by illegal logging, fight for their territorial rights and improve their livelihoods.
Berta Cáceres and COPINH have been accompanying various land struggles throughout western Honduras. In the last few weeks, violence and repression towards Berta Cáceres, COPINH, and the communities they support, had escalated. In Rio Blanco on February 20, 2016, Berta Cáceres, COPINH, and the community of Rio Blanco faced threats and repression as they carried out a peaceful action to protect the River Gualcarque against the construction of a hydroelectric dam by the internationally-financed Honduran company DESA. As a result of COPINH’s work supporting the Rio Blanco struggle, Berta Cáceres had received countless threats against her life and was granted precautionary measures by the InterAmerican Commission for Human Rights. On February 25, 2016, another Lenca community supported by COPINH in Guise, Intibuca was violently evicted and destroyed.
Since the 2009 military coup, that was carried out by graduates of the U.S. Army School of the Americas, Honduras has witnessed an explosive growth in environmentally destructive megaprojects that would displace indigenous communities. Almost 30 percent of the country’s land was earmarked for mining concessions, creating a demand for cheap energy to power future mining operations. To meet this need, the government approved hundreds of dam projects around the country, privatizing rivers, land, and uprooting communities. Repression of social movements and targeted assassinations are rampant. Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate. Honduran human rights organizations report there have been over 10,000 human rights violations by state security forces and impunity is the norm–most murders go unpunished. The Associated Press has repeatedly exposed ties between the Honduran police and death squads, while U.S. military training and aid for the Honduran security forces continues.
As anger and suspicion towards the Turkish government mounts in the wake of a deadly bomb attack over the weekend, the country’s largest labor union and the left-wing People’s Democratic Party (HDP) launched a nationwide strike on Monday to “protest the fascist massacre and to commemorate the death of our friends.”
From the University Medical Hospital in Istanbul to the main square in Adana, located in the country’s south—workers, students, and pro-Kurdish campaigners staged mass protests and pickets across the country, in the first of a two-day general strike. Employees of the municipality of Maltepe walked joined in the work stoppage, holding signs that read, “We are in mourning, we are in protest, we are on strike.” Continue reading →
Seventy years ago today, the world as we knew it changed forever. On that day, the United States became the only country to ever use nuclear weapons against another country.
At the time this photo was made, smoke billowed 20,000 feet above Hiroshima while smoke from the burst of the first atomic bomb had spread over 10,000 feet on the target at the base of the rising column. Photo public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Somewhere between 45,000 and 80,000 people died that day, and between 19,500 and 40,000 people died in Nagasaki three days later. The same number would die as a direct result of the two bombs over the next four months.
The genie had been let out of the bottle. What had been accomplished could be duplicated. The Soviets, who already had a nuclear program underway, made the acquisition of a nuclear weapon a top priority. The arms race had come to “peacetime,” and the military-industrial complex grew in power by leaps and bounds.
Of course, you need delivery systems for these weapons. Besides strategic bombers, the United States and the Soviet Union both had missile development programs. Where did that knowledge come from? Scientists who worked for the Nazis at places such as the Peenemünde Army Research Center. Here in the US, the recruitment was known as Operation Paperclip.
Since Truman’s order authorizing Operation Paperclip expressly excluded anyone found “to have been a member of the Nazi Party, and more than a nominal participant in its activities, or an active supporter of Nazi militarism,” the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) created false employment and political biographies for the scientists, while also erasing from public record the scientists’ Nazi Party memberships and régime affiliations. Once that was done, the scientists were granted security clearances by the U.S. government to work in the United States.
So, not only did we (the United States), kill thousands of people in a horrific manner never used before or since, we also brought in war criminals to make the weapons even more deadly. But wait! There’s more…
We hear from various media outlets about the dangers of relaxing sanctions against Iran, and how this will lead to Iran getting nuclear weapons. Where did Iran get its nuclear technology to begin with? If you guessed the United States, you guessed right. Under the “Atoms for Peace” program proposed by President Eisenhower in the early 1950s, American Machine and Foundry (AMF) built nuclear reactors in Iran, Pakistan and Israel. Notice that the only country of those three that hasn’t built a nuclear weapon is Iran…
The memorial at Ground Zero, Nagasaki. Photo by Dean S. Pemberton (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
It’s been seventy years, and the horror is still present. There’s still close to 200,000 people alive today that are classified by the Japanese government as hibakusha; a Japanese word that literally translates as “explosion-affected people,” and refers to people who were exposed to radiation from the bombings.
We in the United States claim to be the only judge of who can or can’t have nuclear weapons, while at the same time we’re responsible for the spreading of nuclear technology to the very countries who we worry about, and we’re the only country to ever use one. Our hypocrisy can be staggering at times.
North Tower Fountain National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Photo by Kai Brinker via Wikimedia Commons
The opening ceremony for the long delayed National September 11 Memorial Museum took place on May 15. In attendance were many current and past politicians including President Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Michael Bloomberg, Rudy Giuliani, Bill de Blasio, Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo. Noticeably absent were George W. Bush and Dick Cheney – but that’s a different story.
The Museum opens on May 21, and there’s a couple things that are rather disturbing about it. First of all, there’s an underground “remains repository”, with some 8000 unidentified body parts from the more than 1000 people who were still buried in the rubble- they were moved to the repository. And, even more disturbing to me, there’s a gift shop.
A black and white “Darkness Hoodie” printed with an image of the Twin Towers. The pullover, like other “Darkness” items, bears the words “In Darkness We Shine Brightest.” Price: $39.
Silk scarves printed with 1986 photos by Paula Barr, including a panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline. Another depicts “lunchtime on the WTC Plaza.” They go for $95 each.
“Survivor Tree” earrings, named after a pear tree that stood in the World Trade Center plaza and survived 9/11. Made of bronze and freshwater pearls, a pair costs $64. A leaf ornament molded from the swamp white oaks at the memorial is said to change from amber to dark brown “and sometimes pink around the time of the 9/11 anniversary.
”Heart-shaped rocks inscribed with slogans such as “United in Hope” and “Honor.” One rock bears a quote by Virgil that is emblazoned on a massive blue-tiled wall in the museum: “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.” It costs $39.
Diana Horning lost her son on 9/11; her son’s body’s never been recovered. She told the New York Post; “To me, it’s the crassest, most insensitive thing to have a commercial enterprise at the place where my son died.” She further went on to say “Here is essentially our tomb of the unknown. To sell baubles I find quite shocking and repugnant. I think it’s a money-making venture to support inflated salaries, and they’re willing to do it over my son’s dead body.” She also objects to the cafe in the museum (yes, there is a cafe, because nothing stimulates the appetite like being in a place where thousands died, I guess).
National September 11 Memorial South Pool. Photo by NormanB via Wikimedia Commons
The museum is self-funded, so all proceeds from the gift shop, cafe and admissions are supposed to go towards operating expenses. Joe Daniels, the museum’s president and CEO, says “What’s most important is whether the stories it tells… helps fulfill our promise to never forget... We have to pay for it, we have to make sure this museum is available forever for everyone.” What he doesn’t mention is his $378,000 salary. And, while there’s a plaque saying that the gift shop was “made possible through the generosity of Paul Napoli and Marc Bern,” what it doesn’t mention is that they’re partners in a law firm that made $200 million in taxpayer-funded fees and expenses suing the city on behalf of 10,000 Ground Zero workers.