Saturday, May 18, 2013

05-18-13 Activist Newsletter

May 18, 2013, Issue #191



By the Activist Newsletter

A nationwide week of protests began in many cities May 14 to demand access to emergency contraception without restrictions or ID requirements, and at an affordable cost. Word (Women Organized to Resist and Defend), National Women’s Liberation and other groups facilitated the demonstrations.

Actions are taking place in In San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, New Haven, Washington DC, New York City, Asheville, Albuquerque, Chicago, Gainesville, Syracuse and other cities across the United States.

Less than one month after the landmark Tummino v. Hamburg decision in which a federal court ruled that emergency contraception (known as Plan B) should be made available to all women without a prescription, Justice Department attorneys have announced that they will file to overturn that decision. The Obama administration is once again playing political football with women’s right to control their bodies and their health.

A New York Times editorial declared scathingly May 3 that by this action the Obama “Administration betrayed both reproductive rights and science.”

Shortly after the court’s ruling, the FDA announced it would make Plan B available over the counter without a prescription, but only to women over the age of 15. All women who purchase Plan B will be required to provide identification – yet another unnecessary restriction on women’s right to healthcare.

There are many ways in which this arbitrary, unnecessary age restriction would hinder women’s right to access safe, effective contraception. Many young women do not have such identification. This restriction unfairly blocks access for undocumented women and all women who do not wish to give their identification to pharmacy employees. Young women face enough shame and difficulty in accessing contraception and reproductive healthcare without additional arbitrary barriers set up at the whim of the Obama administration.

Arguing that there is no scientific or medical reason to restrict access to the Morning-After Pill, women took action to demand emergency contraception without restrictions. They shouted, "Obama: Hands off the Morning-After Pill!"

— To contact the Mid-Hudson WORD, email Donna Goodman,
The New Haven event follows below, and information about all the other actions this week is at WORD’s website,

By the Activist Newsletter

New Haven activists joined many others across the country in a May14 solidarity action to demand the placement of emergency contraception on pharmacy shelves without restrictions. The action was conducted as a small flashmob, with activists spread throughout a local pharmacy.

When the first chant was heard – “When women's rights are under attack, what do we do?” – responses came from all over the store: “Stand up, fight back!” and activists filed into the family planning aisle to continue chanting “Put Plan B on the shelves, or we will do it by ourselves!” and “No ID for Plan B!”

An organizer with WORD delivered a short speech decrying the Obama Administration's decision to demand government-issued ID with the purchase of emergency contraception. “Do you have to show ID to buy Tylenol?” she asked the group. “Do men have to show ID and prove that they're over 15 years old when they want to buy condoms? No. This is a sexist position. No woman should have to show ID to decide what to do with her own body.”

Activists then put mock Morning-After Pill boxes on the shelves and filed out, chanting. Shoppers in the pharmacy were very supportive of the action. “You guys are awesome,” one person said. “This is really great work you're doing.”

— Send a letter to President Obama now! Demand access to the morning-after pill for all women, over the counter and without restriction! Go to:

By Jack A. Smith,  Activist Newsletter

The front cover of the May edition of National Geographic has an intriguing headline. Just over a large photo of a baby of several months are the words: “THIS BABY WILL LIVE TO BE 120.” Wow. In smaller type an asterisk points out: “It’s not just hype. New science could lead to very long lives.”

The article inspires additional respect for the advances of science, genetics, nutrition and other research and opens new possibilities for human development. But in contemplating this new breakthrough in the quest for longer life it is useful to examine the world into which our new babies are entering.

I’m not just writing about the nuclear weapons, drone warfare, torture memos, global hunger, or the plethora of needless inequality and injustice that exists through the world. There’s also the impending catastrophe of global warming — something few of us worried about a generation ago, but now the very health and welfare of new generations is at stake.

A day after finishing the National Geographic article, I picked up the New York Times and on page one under a two-column headline was an example of the other half of the contradiction of increased longevity:

“Heat-Trapping Gas Passes Milestone, Raising Fears.” The article was chilling: “The level of the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, has passed a long-feared milestone, scientists reported Friday, reaching a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years. Scientific instruments showed that the gas had reached an average daily level above 400 parts per million [ppm].”

Commenting on the event, former Vice President Al Gore wrote: "We are reaping the consequences of our recklessness." (Gore’s brief article is below.) And environmental leader Bill McKibben declared:

“We’ve known for a long time that we’d pass the 400ppm mark; the trouble is, we’re passing it without any real national or international effort to slow down the production of CO2. So it’s an entirely grim landmark. Before we can get back to 350ppm [the goal of the activist movement against climate change] we actually have to stop increasing carbon concentrations. That’s a political task; it’s why we’re trying to build a movement strong enough to stand up to the fossil fuel industry. Their current business plans... take us to 600 or 700ppm, and they’re spending $675 billion a year looking for yet more coal and gas and oil.”

I can’t help but think about the children who are coming into the world today with a climate spinning out of control to the extent that the great majority of all life on earth is jeopardized. As far as those who may live 120 years are concerned, greenhouse gas concentration is projected to reach about 650ppm by the end of their lifespan.

A certain amount of deleterious climate change has already begun and will be with us for thousands of years. This toxic process will continue to become much worse until the key carbon producing industrialized nations implement an extensive worldwide emergency campaign to replace the use of fossil fuel (oil, coal, natural gas) with renewable energy resources (solar, wind, geothermal, etc.).

This is not so much a scientific problem. It is mainly a political problem. Science understands climate change, recognizes what must be done to prevent an impending catastrophe, and is ready to act. The political system of industrialized societies also understands climate change by now, recognizes what must be done, and refuses to act. Why is this?

The political system dominating today’s world — from progressive social democratic to reactionary dictatorial — is intimately bound to the capitalist economic system. This system is based on profit, competition and the marketplace, with little long-term planning. These days our financialized capitalist structure is focused on short-term gain — calculated quarterly, monthly and even daily.

Halting climate change is an urgent, expensive and long-term venture that may, in the end, require reductions in consumption within the rich countries — an anathema to capital. Higher profits may not be guaranteed in the beginning years (unless subsidized by government, which goes against today’s prevailing conservative ideology). Worldwide competition and the marketplace are extremely unpredictable and risky in an endeavor of this kind. This means the capitalist class is holding back until its profits can be assured. Thus, the political system is dragging its feet, and the ppm rises higher and higher.

Over the last 150 years the United States has pumped more greenhouse producing gases into the atmosphere than any other country — by far. In the last couple of years China (with four times the population) has exceeded the U.S. annual total but cannot come near to America’s aggregate amount. As such — and because Washington insists on being recognized as the leading global nation-state — the U.S. has an important responsibility in regard to fighting climate change.

In reality, the U.S. has not only ignored that responsibility but in effect has thumbed its nose at the rest of the world and its peoples in the process. Until the American government begins to fulfill its obligations there cannot be the extensive worldwide emergency campaign required to save the Earth.

Democratic President Barack Obama has a fairly good understanding of the dangers of climate change. He mentioned the subject in his political campaigns of 2008 and 2012 and in his 2013 State of the Union message — usually by advocating “market-based” initiatives (i.e., what’s good for business is good for America). But in his five years in office he has done nothing of real significance to halt global warming. Congress, of course, is a prime delinquent as well. The fossil fuel industry has many representatives and senators on its campaign contribution payroll.

For every presidential gesture in opposition to fossil fuel consumption, such as increasing gas mileage standards or a recommendation to cut a small portion of outdated federal subsidies for oil and gas companies, there are many more moves in the opposite direction. Obama has ordered greatly increased oil drilling on land and offshore, championing hydro-fracking to expand production of natural gas, and promoting illusions about “clean” coal and nuclear power.

Internationally, the White House has been an obstruction, not a leader, in terms of curbing fossil fuels. Its representatives to the annual UN meetings on climate change have invariably stalled progress. The White House simply refuses to engage in a confrontation with the go-it-slow American corporate and financial oligarchy.

The Obama Administration has been so derelict that it appears to be embarrassed about it in international circles. On an official trip to climate conscious Sweden May 14, Secretary of State Kerry referred to climate change as a “life and death” challenge. At a joint press conference with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, he confessed: “I have to say that I regret that my own country — and President Obama knows this and is committed to changing it — needs to do more and we are committed to doing more.”  Who’s been in charge for the last five years?

Obama is lucky because the only viable “alternative” the American people have in their two-party right and center right system is a Republican Party composed of hypocrites, ignoramuses and lackeys to big business. Many Republican politicians are well aware of the greenhouse danger, but would rather shut their mouths than buck the big boys. Actually, neither party will even consider taking appropriate action until the corporations, banks and Wall St. give the go-ahead.

This is not acceptable. There’s too much at stake. There’s so little time. We need a determined mass movement, as we had in America in the 1960s and early ‘70s, to break through this roadblock by every means at our disposal.

In the long run — if there is to be a long run — we must build a society where people come before profits, and where the masses of people come before the 1% who possess enormous wealth at the expense of all others. That’s the only way to avoid the global catastrophe that awaits future generations of children.

I do not entertain the slightest illusion that capitalism can pull this off. Sooner or later the system must be changed.

— J.A.S.

By Al Gore

On May 9, for the first time in human history, concentrations of carbon dioxide, the primary global warming pollutant, hit 400 parts per million in our planet's atmosphere. This number is a reminder that for the last 150 years — and especially over the last several decades — we have been recklessly polluting the protective sheath of atmosphere that surrounds the Earth and protects the conditions that have fostered the flourishing of our civilization.

We are altering the composition of our atmosphere at an unprecedented rate. Indeed, every single day we pour an additional 90 million tons of global warming pollution into the sky as if it were an open sewer. As the distinguished climate scientist Jim Hansen has calculated, the accumulated manmade global warming pollution in the atmosphere now traps enough extra heat energy each day to equal the energy that would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima-scale atomic bombs exploding every single day. It's a big planet—but that is a lot of energy. And it is having a destructive effect.

Now, more than ever before, we are reaping the consequences of our recklessness. From Superstorm Sandy which crippled New York City and large areas of New Jersey, to a drought which parched more than half of our nation; from a flood that inundated large swaths of Australia to rising seas affecting millions around the world, the reality of the climate crisis is upon us.

Our food systems, our cities, our people and our very way of life developed within a stable range of climatic conditions on Earth. Without immediate and decisive action, these favorable conditions on Earth could become a memory if we continue to make the climate crisis worse day after day after day.

— This is from Gore’s website. The U.S. Supreme Court cheated Al Gore out of the presidency in the 2000 election. He was just a so-so vice president during the eight years Democrat Bill Clinton was just a so-so president, but he’s the best ex-VP we’ve ever had (or even remembered), spending much of his time trying to educate the American people about climate change. His new book “The Future” is worth checking out. Despite sporadic reminders of his political limitations, many of the facts, figures and observations are very useful.

By Neela Banerjee, Los Angeles Times

Climate change could lead to the widespread loss of common plants and animals around the world, according to a new study released May 12 in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The study’s authors looked at 50,000 common species. They found that more than half the plants and about a third of the animals could lose about 50% of their range by 2080 if the world continues its current course of rising greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change affects the availability of nutrition and water for animals and plants. The narrowing of the geographic range of different common species means that plants and animals readily found in a given area could diminish markedly in those areas over the next seven decades.

“This study … tells us that the average plant and animal will experience significant range loss under climate change,” said the study’s lead author, Rachel Warren, of the Tyndall Centre at University of East Anglia, United Kingdom.

The new study predicted that plants, reptiles and particularly amphibians would face the greatest risks from climate change. It also concluded that sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, the Amazon region and Australia would likely lose the most species of plants and animals. It projected “a major loss of plant species” in North Africa, Central Asia and South America.

By Jack A. Smith, Activist Newsletter

Hamid Karzai has let the Pentagon’s cat out of the bag — to the displeasure of the Obama Administration. The Afghan president revealed inside information about President Obama’s war plans after all U.S. “combat troops” completely withdraw in 17 months at the end of 2014.

As was known in recent years, the Obama Administration actually plans to keep troops in Afghanistan after the “withdrawal” at least to 2024. They won’t be “combat troops,” so Obama didn’t actually mislead the American people. Instead they are to be Special Forces troops, who certainly engage in combat but are identified by a different military designation, as well as U.S. Army trainers for the Afghan military, CIA contingents, drone operators, and various other personnel.

The White House has kept other details secret, such as troop numbers and basing arrangements, until it is certain a final Strategic Partnership Declaration is worked out with the Kabul government. When that occurs, the White House expects to make the announcement itself at a time of its choosing, sculpting the information to convey the impression that another 10 years of fighting is not actually war but an act of compassion for a besieged ally who begs for help.

On May 9, however, during a speech at Kabul University, President Karzai decided to update the world on the progress he was making in his secret talks with the U.S., evidently without Washington’s knowledge.

“We are in very serious and delicate negotiations with America," Karzai said. "America has got its demands, Afghanistan too has its own demands, and its own interests.... They want nine bases across Afghanistan. We agree to give them the bases.

"Our conditions are that the U.S. intensify efforts in the peace process [i.e., talks with the Taliban], strengthen Afghanistan's security forces, provide concrete support to the economy — power, roads and dams — and provide assistance in governance. If these are met, we are ready to sign the security pact."

Washington evidently was taken aback by Karzai’s unexpected public revelations that made it clear President Obama is anxious, not hesitant, to keep American troops in Afghanistan. Few analysts thought there would be as many as nine bases. Neither the White House nor State Department confirmed requesting them but both emphasized that any bases in question were not intended to be permanent, as though that’s the principal factor.

If American engagement lasts until 2024 it will mean the U.S. has been involved in Afghan wars for most of the previous 46 years. It began in 1978 when Washington (and Saudi Arabia) started to finance the right wing Islamist mujahedeen uprising against a left wing pro-Soviet government in Kabul. The left regime was finally defeated in 1992 and the Taliban emerged as the dominant force among several other fighting groups in the mid-90s.

The CIA remained active in Afghanistan and was joined by the rest of the U.S. war machine weeks after the Sept. 11, 2000, terror attacks in Washington and New York. The objective was to overthrow the Taliban and destroy al-Qaeda, which also emerged from the Washington-financed wars. The U.S. swiftly took control of Kabul and al-Qaeda fled to Pakistan. Since then, the American foreign legion has been fought to a stalemate by a much smaller poorly equipped guerrilla force, which is where the situation remains today.

The U.S. has engaged in secret talks with the Taliban off and on for a couple of years. The hope is that the Taliban will agree to stop fighting and subordinate itself to the Kabul government in return for money, and a certain amount of administrative and political power within the national and certain provincial governments.

The Taliban will agree to nothing at this stage but an immediate and total withdrawal of U.S. military forces and the closure of bases. The White House evidently thinks that a combination of U.S.-trained Afghan forces plus the remaining Americans might bring their opponents to the bargaining table. The nine bases also provide the U.S. with a strong bargaining chip to relinquish at the right time.

Washington has additional reasons for remaining in Afghanistan, as we wrote in the May 31, 2011, issue of the Activist Newsletter — and little has changed:

“The U.S. has no desire to completely withdraw from its only foothold in Central Asia, militarily positioned close to what are perceived to be its two main enemies with nuclear weapons (China, Russia), and two volatile nuclear powers backed by the U.S. but not completely under its control by any means (Pakistan, India). Also, this fortuitous geography is flanking the extraordinary oil and natural gas wealth of the Caspian Basin and energy-endowed former Soviet Muslim republics such as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Lastly, Iran — a possible future imperial prize — is situated directly across Afghanistan’s western border.

“The U.S. wants to keep troops nearby for any contingency. Washington’s foothold in Central Asia is a potential geopolitical treasure, particularly as Obama, like Bush before him, seeks to prevent Beijing and Moscow from extending their influence in what is actually their own back yard, not America’s.” Soon after this was written the Obama Administration revealed its “pivot” to Asia. Remaining in Central Asia is now part of what we have called America’s “ring of fire” around China, singeing North Korea as well.

Karzai occasionally makes strong public statements that criticize the U.S. They seem mainly intended to bolster his position by showing the Afghan people he is not Uncle Sam’s total puppet, but he’s to be praised for these statements.

For example, he often complains openly when the U.S. commits war crimes in his country, which have been numerous. He has demanded the U.S. discontinue night raids on homes. In late February, according to the Guardian, he ordered “U.S. Special Forces to leave one of Afghanistan’s most restive provinces, Maidan Wardak, after receiving reports from local officials claiming that the elite units had been involved in the torture and disappearance of Afghan civilians.” He recently charged that Washington was allowing the Taliban to increase its violence to make it necessary for him to approve the U.S. demand to remain until 2024.

Washington named Karzai acting president soon after the Bush Administration’s aggressive invasion 12 years ago. His job was to serve the interests of the United States while governing Afghanistan. Karzai was elected president with decisive U.S. backing two years later. The Obama Administration maneuvered to oust him in the 2009 election, charging him with gross corruption, but its candidate withdrew just before the voting. Karzai legally cannot run for another term, but intends to continue playing a powerful role if he can pull it off.

Karzai is shrewd and realizes America’s intentions are far more corrupt than his own because he only wants money, power and a somewhat better deal for Afghanistan, while the hypocritical U.S. wants everything there is to grab for its own geopolitical interests. He has long been on the CIA’s generous payroll and also distributes payoffs to various warlords, some of whom are closer to the CIA than to the government. A week before the 2001 invasion the CIA was inside the country smuggling money to the warlords to join the impending war on the Taliban.

The White House dislikes the Afghan leader but he’s all they have at the moment. They desperately need him now, particularly until signing a final agreement on having U.S. troops remain until 2024. President Obama well remembers his humiliation when Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki rejected demands to keep troops in Iraq after the “withdrawal” date, Dec. 30, 2011.

Obama pressured Maliki for years to permit up to 30,000 U.S. troops in Iraq after the “combat troops” pulled out. In mid-October 2011 the Iraqi leader finally accepted 3,000 to 5,000 troops in a training-only capacity. The Iraqis then insisted that they remain largely confined to their bases, and refused Washington’s demand to grant legal immunity to the soldiers when they entered the larger society.

That was the deal-breaker. Washington routinely demands legal exemption for its foreign legions as a matter of imperial hubris, and would not compromise. The day after the deal collapsed, Obama issued a public statement intended to completely conceal his failure. "Today,” he said, “I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year."

Several important issues in the Washington-Kabul post-2014 negotiations seem to have been decided, including a U.S. payment of at least $10 billion a year to train and pay for some 400,000 Afghan soldiers and police officers. Among the remaining issues are two of considerable importance — troop strength and legal immunity for American personal (both for soldiers and tens of thousands of U.S. “contractors” who will remain in the country).

Reports circulated in the last few months that between 3,000 and 20,000 U.S. troops, mainly Special Forces, CIA contingents, drone operators and contractors of various kinds, will remain after 2014. The main air cover is expected to come from Navy aircraft carriers probably stationed in the Arabian Sea or Indian Ocean. Drones are expected to play a major role in battle as well as surveillance. Last year there were some 400 drone attacks in Afghanistan and that number is expected to continue increasing.

The New York Times reported Jan. 3 that “Gen. John R. Allen, the senior American commander in Afghanistan, has submitted military options to the Pentagon that would keep 6,000 to 20,000 American troops in Afghanistan after 2014…. With 6,000 troops, defense officials said, the American mission would largely be a counterterrorism fight of Special Operations commandos who would hunt down insurgents. There would be limited logistical support and training for Afghan security forces. With 10,000 troops, the United States would expand training of Afghan security forces. With 20,000 troops, the Obama administration would add some conventional Army forces to patrol in limited areas.”

The May 11 New York Times reported that “The Obama administration has yet to decide how large a force it would like to keep in Afghanistan, but administration officials have signaled that it is unlikely to total more than 10,000 service members. They said it was more important now to hash out a range of issues, like whether American troops would continue to have legal immunity in Afghanistan after next year, than to talk about the specifics of where troops would be based.”

The big remaining issue is immunity for U.S. personnel. Our guess is that, unlike in Iraq — where conditions are far different — Washington will find a way around the issue. It is difficult to see how the Kabul government of Karzai or his successor in next year’s elections can survive for long without substantial American financial support for a prolonged period.

American forces are engaged in Obama’s drone wars in western Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and soon Africa. Regime change in Libya would not have occurred had the Obama Administration refused to participate. President Obama has been fanning the flames of regime change in Syria for nearly two years, and now he’s about to up the ante. He’s strangling Iran with unjust sanctions and keeps warning that war is possible. He calls Hezbollah, the Shia self-defense organization in Lebanon, a terrorist organization, as he does Hamas in Gaza, the victim of overwhelming Israeli hatred and violence. And now Obama in moving more military power to East Asia to confront China.

If George W. Bush was in the White House today, a huge American peace movement would be out on the streets demanding an end to America’s endless immoral wars. But now a Democrat officiates in the Oval Office, his Nobel Peace Prize wisely hidden in a dark closet lest his militarist propensities provoke an unseemly contrast.

Obama’s many wars are but extensions of Bush’s wars plus killer drones, but the great majority of Americans either seem to have forgotten or simply don’t care about the wars, even though their tax money will amount to $80 billion for Afghanistan in fiscal 2014. Meanwhile, Pentagon generals anticipate various new wars of one kind or another well into the future. The battle against al-Qaeda is expected to last 20 more years. The world has become America’s battlefield.

Afghanistan? Didn’t we have a war there once? Oh, that’s right, it ended when we got rid of Bush, didn’t it?

By the Activist Newsletter

Private First Class Kimberly Rivera — a conscientious objector and pregnant mother of four — was sentenced to military prison April 29 for refusing to serve in the unjust Iraq War.

She was sentenced to 10 months behind bars and a dishonorable discharge by the military court in Ft. Carson, Colorado. Her fifth child is due in December. Her husband, Mario Rivera, is now the primary caretaker of their four young children.

Rivera was on a two-week leave in December 2006 when she decided not to return to Iraq for a second tour of duty. She and her family fled to Canada in February 2007, living there until their deportation back to the United States last year.

A text, video and full account of the case my be obtained from the April 30 edition of Democracy Now (linked below), on which this brief article is based.

Responding to the sentencing during his interview, Mario broke into tears, saying, "I think it was severely harsh, and I personally feel that the judge already made up his mind before the trial had even started. It's just too much. The kids need her."

Also interviewed was James Branum, a lawyer who represents Kimberly and dozens of other conscientious objectors. He said:

"The judge doesn't really give the rationale for why he made the decision he did. We do know there have been some resistance cases that have received greater sentences," Branum says, “but many other resisters receive little jail time or no jail time. And people that desert, generally, over 90% do no jail time at all. And so, we feel that Kim was singled out.

"Another thing, the prosecutor at trial said that he asked the judge to give a harsh sentence to send a message to the war resisters in Canada. The Canadian government, in deporting Kim, said she would not face any serious punishment because of her political and conscientious objection to war. And in reality, that's exactly what happened. That was the prosecution's argument, that because she spoke out against the war, she therefore should be punished."

While in Iraq, Kimberly has said she realized she couldn't morally continue with her duty and sought advice from the military chaplain. Branum explains: "The chaplain was very, very resolute that Kim needed to stay there, she needed to fulfill her mission, instead of giving her the spiritual counsel she needed at that moment. Instead, this chaplain told her basically, 'Suck it up. Continue on.' And that was not the advice she needed at that moment. She needed to know her rights. She needed to know AR 600-43 gives her the right to seek status as a conscientious objector. She didn't know that."

A broad and active movement of Canadians supported Rivera during her five-year residence and was outraged by her sentence. According to NBC News online: “The tremendous public outcry related to Rivera's case shows the deep and broad support that Canadians continue to express for Iraq War resisters. In a period of 10 days leading up to the Rivera family deportation, 20,000 people signed a petition supporting the family. Faith, labor and human rights organizations spoke out, Amnesty International adopted Kim as a prisoner of conscience and Archbishop Desmond Tutu published an opinion piece in The Globe and Mail newspaper calling the deportation order "unjust."

— Check out  Democracy Now’s coverage:


By Katie Halper

This was a bad month for the U.S. military. On May 5 a serviceman was arrested for sexual assault. And in what sounds like an Onion headline, the sexual assaulter really was the chief of the Air Force's sexual assault prevention unit. On May 6 a Pentagon report revealed that sexual assault had jumped from 19,000 cases in 2010 to 26,000 in 2012 — an increase of 35%.

Another highlight from May 6 was testimony from the Air Force's top commander, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Welsh managed to trivialize sexual assault both by emphasizing how common it was in society outside of the military and comparing it to consensual sexual interactions. Welsh noted that 20% of women report they had been sexually assaulted “before they came into the military…. So they come in from a society where this occurs…. Some of it is the hookup mentality of junior high even and high school students now, which my children can tell you about from watching their friends and being frustrated by it.”

Welsh is a general and a social scientist who studies sexual behavior. Somehow, he fails to grasp the distinction between consensual sex and rape.

Sexual assault in the military is systemic and rampant, not an isolated incident. In fact, a woman serving in Iraq or Afghanistan is more likely to be raped by a fellow service member than to be killed in the line of fire. Since 2006, more than 95,000 service members have been sexually assaulted in the U.S. military. More than 86% of service members do not report their assault. Less than 5% of all sexual assaults are prosecuted, and less than a third of those cases result in imprisonment. There are an estimated 13,000 homeless female veterans in the U.S. and  40% of them reported experiencing sexual assault. An Air force  brochure on sexual assault advises women how to respond to rape: “It may be advisable to submit [rather] than resist.”

Instead of shifting the blame and responsibility onto victims, attributing the epidemic to the prevalence of sexual assault outside the military, or to a so-called "hook up" mentality, the military must take responsibility and enact policy changes.

— From AlterNet May 8.

By Democracy Now

A third U.S. military official whose job was to prevent sexual harassment and assault has been accused of carrying out precisely the type of behavior he was supposed to stop.

Army Lt. Col. Darin Haas ran the sexual harassment and assault response program at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. He turned himself in late Wednesday on charges of violating a protection order and stalking his ex-wife.

Just one day earlier, it was revealed the Army coordinator of sexual assault prevention at Fort Hood, Texas, is being investigated for alleged sexual assault. There were reports Sgt. First Class Gregory McQueen had also been running a small-time prostitution ring.

Just days before that, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, head of the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, was arrested for allegedly groping a woman in a Virginia parking lot.

President Obama met with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and top military leaders May 16 to address what he termed the "scourge" of sexual assault in the military. His remarks came the same day lawmakers including New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand introduced legislation to strip military commanders of the ability to prosecute sexual assault, instead placing decisions about whether to try such cases in the hands of independent military prosecutors.

 According to last week’s Pentagon report, the conviction rate for sexual assault in the military was less than 1% percent in the last fiscal year. Gillibrand cited the report’s estimate that 26,000 service members were assaulted last year.

By Robert Borosage

“Spending cuts hold back U.S. growth,” warns a headline of the conservative Financial Times. No surprise there. Americans are in trouble. Wages are losing ground. Over 20 million need full-time work. The percentage of working-age Americans with jobs is at its lowest level since 1979.

And now cuts in government spending – led by the idiotic [and bipartisan] sequester that was designed to be so abhorrent that it would never be adopted – are crippling an already lame “recovery

Last week, the Congress heard from businessmen and women stranded on flights delayed because of the furloughs of air traffic controllers. Spurred by the anger of the moneyed class, it took only four days for the supposedly gridlocked Congress to “circumvent” the sequester for airline passengers.

Commentators noted that the Republican House leadership couldn’t seem to hear the cries of 800,000 jobless workers in 19 states who suffered cuts of an average of $120 a month in their unemployment checks. Or the thousands of children about to lose access to Head Start programs. Or the 140,000 households who will be deprived of housing vouchers. Or the 70,000 college students who will lose access to grants they depend on.

It’s no secret that when money talks, Congress listens. What is incredible is that Congress seems intent on driving this economy back into recession, which will lead to more unemployment and spreading misery.
The sequester cuts are merely the most perverse of Washington’s austerity lunacies. The economy is slowing. Exclude episodic spending on inventories, the growth in the first quarter of 2013 was 1.5% (down from 2.4% in the third quarter of 2012 and 1.9% in the fourth quarter).

Wages aren’t keeping up with prices. Families have been saving less. Add the payroll tax hike and consumers aren’t going to drive the economy. Exports are down since Europe is sinking under austerity, Japan is a mess and China is slowing. Business has been able to sustain profits by cost-cutting, moving jobs abroad, or displacing them with technology. But that can’t keep up for long. The stock market has soared, but can’t keep rising if the economy doesn’t follow.

This is a poisonous mix. The Federal Reserve is taking extreme measures to fend off economic decline, but it can’t do it alone. The situation, as The New York Times editorialized April 28, “urgently calls for more federal spending, not less.”

It is offensive that Congress should act with alacrity to relive the inconvenience suffered by airline passengers while doing nothing for the agonies being visited upon the weak and the impoverished. But it is both dumb and dangerous that the Congress continues to inflict austerity on Americans who are already struggling.

Enough. The fight over what kind of America we want can go on. The partisan feuds can continue. But it’s time to stuff the dumb and dangerous. Repeal the idiotic sequester now.

—From, April 28, 2013

By John Glaser

The Obama Administration has again accused the Chinese government of conducting cyber-attacks against U.S. government computer systems and defense contractors, but has yet to make public any hard evidence to that effect.

“In 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military,” said the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress, which was thoroughly coordinated from the White House.

China has consistently denied the accusations. On May 7, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hua Chunying, said: “We resolutely oppose all forms of hacker attacks. We’re willing to carry out an even-tempered and constructive dialogue with the U.S. on the issue of Internet security. But we are firmly opposed to any groundless accusations and speculations, since they will only damage the cooperation efforts and atmosphere between the two sides to strengthen dialogue and cooperation.” Even as the President chastises Beijing for alleged cyber attacks, Washington is aggressively beefing up its own offensive cyber capabilities and waging its own cyber warfare.

The largest government-sponsored cyber attack to date came out of Washington — the Stuxnet virus aimed at Iran’s civilian nuclear facilities. The U.S. routinely conducts cyber espionage, as international investigations have shown. And China apparently feels just as targeted as Washington claims to be.
“China is one of the world’s biggest victims of cyber attacks,” a Chinese news outlet reported in March.
“Major sources of the attacks include the United States, South Korea, Japan and India,” China Daily reported, citing a report released by Beijing Rising Information Technology Co.

The Obama administration’s bluster over the supposed Chinese cyber threat should not be viewed in isolation, but in the context of their explicit policy of military containment of China. The so-called Asia-Pivot consists of aggressively surging U.S. military presence and activities in the Asia-Pacific and bolstering China’s regional geo-political competitors.

The U.S.’s public relations campaign denouncing China for cyber-warfare is sure to help garner public support for aggressive U.S. policies toward China. But at the very least the accusations are baseless until evidence is put forth, and seem only to serve a political purpose, not a security purpose.
— From, May 7, 2013.


[Israel has been threatening to attack Iran for years. It charges the Islamic Republic is an “existential danger” to the Jewish State because it is allegedly building a nuclear weapon. The Tehran government denies this allegation, declaring its intention is to build nuclear power plants. U.S. intelligence agencies maintain Iran gave up any efforts to construct a nuclear weapon several years ago. What would happen if Israel attacked Iran’s peaceful nuclear facilities? Iran would fight back. It has an air force and conventional missiles, but no nuclear weapons. At that point, Israel’s response could be a nuclear retaliation. It possesses some 200 nuclear weapons and delivery systems. No one can rule out such an attack. Here is what it would look like.]

By Nick Turse

In those first minutes, they’ll be stunned. Eyes fixed in a thousand-yard stare, nerve endings numbed. They’ll just stand there. Soon, you’ll notice that they are holding their arms out at a 45-degree angle. Your eyes will be drawn to their hands and you’ll think your mind is playing tricks. But it won’t be. Their fingers will start to resemble stalactites, seeming to melt toward the ground. And it won’t be long until the screaming begins. Shrieking. Moaning. Tens of thousands of victims at once. They’ll be standing amid a sea of shattered concrete and glass, a wasteland punctuated by the shells of buildings, orphaned walls, stairways leading nowhere.

This could be Tehran, or what’s left of it, just after an Israeli nuclear strike.

Iranian cities — owing to geography, climate, building construction, and population densities — are particularly vulnerable to nuclear attack, according to a new study, “Nuclear War Between Israel and Iran: Lethality Beyond the Pale,” published in the journal Conflict & Health by researchers from the University of Georgia and Harvard University. It is the first publicly released scientific assessment of what a nuclear attack in the Middle East might actually mean for people in the region.

Its scenarios are staggering.  An Israeli attack on the Iranian capital of Tehran using five 500-kiloton weapons would, the study estimates, kill seven million people -- 86% of the population—and leave close to 800,000 wounded.  A strike with five 250-kiloton weapons would kill an estimated 5.6 million and injure 1.6 million, according to predictions made using an advanced software package designed to calculate mass casualties from a nuclear detonation.

Estimates of the civilian toll in other Iranian cities are even more horrendous.  A nuclear assault on the city of Arak, the site of a heavy water plant central to Iran’s nuclear program, would potentially kill 93% of its 424,000 residents.  Three 100-kiloton nuclear weapons hitting the Persian Gulf port of Bandar Abbas would slaughter an estimated 94% of its 468,000 citizens, leaving just 1% of the population uninjured.  A multi-weapon strike on Kermanshah, a Kurdish city with a population of 752,000, would result in an almost unfathomable 99.9% casualty rate. 

Cham Dallas, the director of the Institute for Health Management and Mass Destruction Defense at the University of Georgia and lead author of the study, says that the projections are the most catastrophic he’s seen in more than 30 years analyzing weapons of mass destruction and their potential effects.  “The fatality rates are the highest of any nuke simulation I’ve ever done,” he told me by phone from the nuclear disaster zone in Fukushima, Japan, where he was doing research.  “It’s the perfect storm for high fatality rates.”

Israel has never confirmed or denied possessing nuclear weapons, but is widely known to have up to several hundred nuclear warheads in its arsenal.  Iran has no nuclear weapons and its leaders claim that its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian purposes only.  Published reports suggest that American intelligence agencies and Israel’s intelligence service are in agreement: Iran suspended its nuclear weapons development program in 2003….

According to Paul Carroll of the Ploughshares Fund, a San Francisco-based foundation that advocates for nuclear disarmament, “the results would be catastrophic” if major Iranian cities were attacked with modern nuclear weapons.  “I don’t see 75% [fatality rates as] being out of the question,” says Carroll, after factoring in the longer-term effects of radiation sickness, burns, and a devastated medical infrastructure. 

According to Dallas and his colleagues, the marked disparity between estimated fatalities in Israel and Iran can be explained by a number of factors.  As a start, Israel is presumed to have extremely powerful nuclear weapons and sophisticated delivery capabilities including long-range Jericho missiles, land-based cruise missiles, submarine-launched missiles, and advanced aircraft with precision targeting technology.   

The nature of Iranian cities also makes them exceptionally vulnerable to nuclear attack, according to the Conflict & Health study.  Tehran, for instance, is home to 50% of Iran’s industry, 30% of its public sector workers, and 50 colleges and universities.  As a result, 12 million people live in or near the capital, most of them clustered in its core.  Like most Iranian cities, Tehran has little urban sprawl, meaning residents tend to live and work in areas that would be subject to maximum devastation and would suffer high percentages of fatalities due to trauma as well as thermal burns caused by the flash of heat from an explosion. 

Iran’s topography, specifically mountains around cities, would obstruct the dissipation of the blast and heat from a nuclear explosion, intensifying the effects.  Climatic conditions, especially high concentrations of airborne dust, would likely exacerbate thermal and radiation casualties as well as wound infections….

— From TomDispatch, May 12, 2023. This article continues at
—Nick Turse is the managing editor of and a fellow at the Nation Institute. . He is the author most recently of the New York Times bestseller Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam.”

By the Activist Newsletter

May Day rallies and marches took place throughout the United States this year — including two in the Mid-Hudson Valley — as part of International Workers Day celebrations around the world. May 1st is historically an occasion for emphasizing the struggle for worker’s rights, the poor and oppressed.

May Day was revived in the U.S. as a day for mass action in 2006, when immigrant workers and their allies staged a huge one day general strike for their rights. Ever since, it has emphasized the fight for full rights for all immigrants and working class unity.

This year, tens of thousands of people in countless cities and towns held events to commemorate the workers’ holiday. The union movement played a big role in the actions. The ANSWER Coalition was one of groups that organized rallies and marches across the country.

The biggest demonstration was in Los Angeles, where 50,000 marched. In New York City, 30,000 rallied in Union Square, then marched to City Hall.

The two May Day actions in the Mid-Hudson region included labor and students, as well as faculty and community supporters.

The first event was a campus rally at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, followed by a two-mile “International Workers’ March for the Empowerment of Workers and Immigrants." En route there was a second rally in the Latino community. The march ended at the Family Partnership Center with a celebration.

Vassar May Day Coalition and MEChA de Vassar organized the march and rally. About 150 people participated in some part of the day. The event was endorsed by the Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation, Somos la Llave del Futuro, La Voz, End the New Jim Crow Action Network (ENJAN), Community Voices Heard, Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson (an anti-foreclosure group), and the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter.

The second event was a rally on the campus of the State University of New York at New Paltz, which drew about 100 people. Members of a new campus student-labor coalition organized the event along with three campus unions — United University Professions, and two CSEA Locals. The rally was backed by NYPIRG, N.Y. Students Rising, and the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter.

Among the speakers was UUP chapter president Peter Brown, who criticized the low wages offered to part time adjunct professors and called for minimum payment of  $5,000 a course. UUP delegate Donna Goodman deplored the absence of obligatory paid family leave for American workers.

By Ethan Jury

Hundreds of people gathered in Philadelphia April 24 to celebrate the 59th birthday of Mumia Abu Jamal, America’s best known political prisoner.

Events began early in the afternoon with a demonstration in front of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, where attendees sang “Happy Birthday Mumia” and waved banners reading, “Free Mumia, End Mass Incarceration!” 

Activists chanted “Brick by brick, wall by wall, we’re gonna free Mumia Abu Jamal!” while a squadron of uniformed and plainclothes cops looked on from the sidelines and drivers passing the scene honked in solidarity. 

Mumia, now 59, has been imprisoned on death row for some 30 years for a crime he insists he did not commit — the killing of a police officer. Millions of people throughout the world have come to his defense throughout these long years.

Angela Davis spoke for many throughout the struggle for his freedom when she declared: “Mumia has become a symbol for all of us. A symbol of struggle; a symbol of hope. Our final goal is to bring Mumia home. He has spent too many years in those dark chambers of death.”

Amnesty International and such international leaders as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu have condemned the conviction and imprisonment of the noted writer, broadcaster and former member of the Black Panther Party. His trial has been condemned for judicial racism.

Speakers at the anniversary rally discussed the ties between Mumia’s wrongful imprisonment and struggles against racism, police brutality, the school-to-prison pipeline and mass incarceration. 
“His freedom would show the power of people united,” said Joshua Africa of MOVE. “It would show the value of mass movement,” agreed Sam Pinto, an organizer involved with the Students for Mumia coalition. “It would show that actions aren’t fruitless and can inspire.”

Nancy Monsour from the Existence is Resistance organization elaborated on the significance of the movement surrounding Mumia’s struggle to the struggle of political prisoners everywhere. “What is on trial is the conscience of all freedom-loving people around the world,” she said.

The day was not only a celebration of the enduring spirit of Mumia but also of the hard work by dedicated activists and family members who continue to fight for his freedom. Their organizing efforts recently won Mumia transfer off of death row, and they have now begun a new campaign demanding his full release from prison. 

At a public meeting following the demonstration, organizers announced a new petition seeking 1 million signatures demanding Mumia’s immediate release, but also stressed that “the petition alone” would not bring him home. Speakers discussed the importance of building a mass movement and how justice for Mumia would mean justice for all political prisoners and oppressed peoples, both in the United States and abroad. 

— Originally published in Liberation newspaper, April 26,
— For more information about Mumia Abu Jamal:
And to listen to his “Prison Radio” broadcasts,


[Nicolas Maduro, the elected successor to the late Hugo Chavez, did not attain the large majority that had been expected against U.S.-backed opposition leader Henrique Capriles in Venezuela’s April 14 presidential balloting. He won by a considerably smaller margin. Given the popularity of Chavez — and the extreme importance of the election throughout the hemisphere — why didn’t he obtain more votes? This article, written just the day after the voting, provides some answers.]

By Tamara Pearson

Things are chaotic here, as we recover from the surprise, disappointment, and a bit of hurt from the election results, but also go out in the street to express our support for those results, and to defend the national electoral system, one of the best and most secure voting systems in the world in a country which just loves to vote.

We move quickly from sad last night to concerned and determined today, as the caceroles sound around the neighborhoods and the opposition hangs outside the National Electoral Council (CNE) here in Merida, hundreds of them walking around with rocks and glass bottles in their hands, itching to have something to react to.

Still, as the pan clanging sounds around my neighborhood and people shout “Out! Out!” [referring to the government], making it just a little hard to think, it is important to understand yesterday’s results, as that helps us to understand the situation we’re in now, and plan somewhat for the future.

With the vote count updated this morning; 99.17% of votes counted, we see that 14,961,701 people voted this time, down just 214,552 from October’s presidential elections. That makes it clear that around 630-705,000 voters switched sides from voting for Chavez to voting for Capriles. The Chavista vote went down from 8,191,132 votes last October to 7,559,349 yesterday, and Capriles’ vote went up from 6,591,304 votes last year to 7,296,876 yesterday. Maduro beat Capriles then by 1.77% of the vote- close, although other elections around the world have been much closer.

The question though that many are wondering, is why did those voters switch to Capriles, rather than abstain? And secondly, how did the difference between the two sides narrow so much in the last week, given polls leading up to the election were predicting a 10-18% lead for Maduro?

It’s not common for voting trends to change so quickly, especially in the short amount of time that we had for this election. The election was called for  five weeks after Chavez died, and there were only 10 days officially allowed for campaigning, though Capriles started his speaking tour of the country straight away. However, this wasn’t a common election. It was brought about by Chavez’s passing. It started with us watching millions of people queuing to say goodbye to him, and frankly, we felt confident. We had won in October and in the December state elections, and we saw the outpouring of love for Chavez. The sense of who we had lost was so profound, it was hard to imagine people nonchalantly voting for his adversary in just over a month’s time.  Yet over the last week, I felt the mood change. It seemed we started to get just a bit tired, after a month’s of campaigning and mourning, and that Capriles’ supporters became incredibly confident.

The campaign stakes became continuing the beautiful, dignified, and very problematic revolution after Chavez, verses a tempting “change” after 14 years of Chavismo. Those who switched over, who chose “change”, were tempted by the “end to all problems” that Capriles promised. They believed you can just vote away all the problems that have continued or arisen over the last 14 years. They were short sighted and affected by the sabotage, by the fairly intense food shortages over the last month, the more frequent blackouts, and other problems that the private media conjured up.

The choice, this idea of voting for a revolution, for the dignity of the poor, and of the third world, was a lovely thing to get to vote on. Most of us understood it wasn’t about Maduro, about individual candidates, but about revolution v capitalism and imperialism. Yet that sort of campaign is not easy in a world where capitalism is still hegemonic. That sort of campaign requires, I think, a higher ideological strength of most Venezuelans.

The narrow victory draws our attention to some of the failures and challenges of the revolution. Although Venezuelan political consciousness, discussion, knowledge of history, interest in the media and so on is so much higher than in other countries without a revolution, the government has still focused too much on slogans, on key words like “imperialism” and socialism, and not enough on broad participation in debate and deepening political understanding. That was reflected in Maduro’s campaign, which focused on Chavez's memory, on continuing basic government social achievements such as the missions, but which de-emphasised just what Chavez stood for; his ideas, the battle for humanity, for economic justice, etc.

Further, the government hasn’t in the past, and didn’t during this campaign, explain the economic situation. It did not explain the devaluation well (nor consult the people on such a big economic decision, which might not have been a bad idea). We’ve gone 4 to 5 months without toothpaste in the shops, and we don’t know why. Further, the government either hasn’t done anything about the situation (found the hoarders, come down on Colgate for it, redistribute the hoarded toothpaste) or hasn’t told us what it has done.

When people lack a high political consciousness, it’s easy for them to become a little tired of no oil, or toothpaste, or margarine. Or the price of beer doubling in a month. Or the occasional black out. The government’s communication with the people needs to improve drastically. Further, in 14 years a lot has been addressed - we all know the list of inspiring achievements, but some problems such as bureaucracy, crime, and corruption persist, and it seems some people hope someone else will solve them.

Further, there is the idea of Chavismo without Chavez. According to a GISXXI poll conducted a few weeks before the elections, 20% of Chavez supporters believed there is no Chavismo without Chavez. While that is positive, in that 80% understand that its up to us to take responsibility and continue the revolution, that’s 20% of the Chavista support base who saw Chavismo as being about a specific leader, only, and would therefore be vulnerable to swinging their vote. In Merida, the rally for Maduro was about the same size (perhaps 10 blocks or so long) as when Chavez spoke here before the October elections. It gave me hope that most people understood that “we’re all Chavez” means that we keep fighting. I think it’s the Chavez voters who don’t attend such rallies, and some of the bureaucrats, who would likely have switched sides. That means we can be clearer now about our real support base.
Maduro’s campaign itself had its challenges and weaknesses. Unlike Capriles, who had already run in February (in primaries), and in October, then in December to win as governor of Miranda, Maduro had never campaigned before. He had little time to learn how to do it, and to consolidate himself as a possible leader in people’s eyes.

It has been a general strategy of the Chavez government to tone down its radical and ideological discourse in the lead-up to elections, and Maduro did the same thing. However in light of Capriles basically promising an improved version of the social aspects of the revolution, this time that might have meant that some people found it hard to see the difference. Of course the difference is huge, but I think Maduro failed to define what revolution without Chavez is. Rather than spending 40 minutes at the Merida rally talking about the bird that talked to him and spirituality, he should have talked about the meat of this revolution, its humanity, its solidarity – things the opposition doesn’t understand and doesn’t fight for.

On the other hand, this time round, from the side of the grassroots, this campaign was much more creative. Around Merida, clever, beautiful, and moving murals popped up everywhere. The PSUV youth painted huge banners and stopped the traffic in different points around the city. People worked really hard.

The opposition however, had the advantage that it had been campaigning well before Chavez died. Capriles, the Venezuelan (and international) private media, opposition groups like Javu, began trying to delegitimize the government, trying to create distrust of it- accusing it of lying about Chavez’s health and so on, since he became sick again at the end of last year. We can see the accumulated affects of that campaign now, as opposition supporters actually believe that fraud was committed in yesterday’s elections, despite them achieving their largest vote ever.

Once the elections were called and Capriles registered as a candidate, he went on the offensive. After initially screwing up and insensitively doubting the timing of Chavez’s death, he then ignored Chavez altogether (a good tactical decision for him) and attacked Maduro and the government again and again.

While he insulted and lied about every aspect and person in the government he could, at the same time his advisers seem to have given him acting classes, as he began to impersonate Chavez in every which way. In his speeches, he talked liked Chavez, he told anecdotes like Chavez, he tried to sound sincere, as Chavez had been, and he promised to do the same things the revolution was already doing, such as build 200,000 houses a year, and increase the minimum wage.

Capriles attacked the Supreme Court, then when elections began, the CNE too, as though they are one and the same thing as the government. He was aggressive about it, and promoted the idea that “we shouldn’t accept this anymore”. At the same time, he blamed the food shortages on the government, and I guess those who voted for him didn’t wander why most of the food shortages began during the election campaign.

All of this was massively backed up by private media (online, television, newspapers) here and overseas, which not only added to Capriles’ legitimacy, but gave his supporters confidence.
“They’re [the CNE and the government] burning the electoral boxes, the ones with our votes it in,” one opposition student told me today as they protested outside the CNE.

“The government will fall, the government has fallen, we’re not scared,” they chanted, as they walked around with their rocks and glass bottles in their hands, eager to have someone react so they could throw them somewhere. But the police were few today, and peaceful, and the Chavistas near the protest reacted a few times but largely were disciplined and held back.

It’s ironic that the extremely high turnout at the voting centers yesterday illustrates Venezuelans’ deep political interest and also their trust in their electoral system, yet half of those Venezuelans believe Capriles when he suggests that the CNE is biased or rigs the votes.

Capriles waged a dirty campaign, but for his aims, it was well done.  I remember one night a few days ago overhearing someone talking to their girlfriend. “Don’t worry, from Sunday things will be different,” he assured her.  That time, it felt like the opposition’s delusional belief election after election that finally they’ll win, had changed. It had become a committed confidence, it had become a cause.

Although we technically won last night, even Maduro has recognized that we also lost. Among other things, we wanted to send a message to the world that this revolution goes on, yet the results show some doubt. However, it is more complicated than that. We should recognize the problems and challenges, but also feel some comfort that this time, 7 million people largely voted for the revolution of the poor to continue. And they did that, despite most media being against us, despite the distortions and lies, despite the minor, but real, economic hardships, despite 14 years of marching and voting again and again, despite the bureaucracy in the government. As one comrade of mine said, “Chavez got us used to victories that were marvellously planned and masterfully lead by him. This time it was up to us to do it alone, and we won”. We can only learn from here.

— From, April 15. Tamara Pearson, previously a member of the Australian Socialist Alliance and collaborator with Green Left Weekly, has been living in Merida, Venezuela, since 2007. She is active in the Bolivarian revolution, including as a spokesperson for her communal council.


[One of the significant aspects of the Nov. 11 presidential election in Pakistan is that it may result in the beginning of a process eventually leading to normalization of relations between India and Pakistan. Relations have been strained and  frequently been hostile since partition separated the countries in 1947. This is a development of international significance, particularly to nations with a political stake in South Asian affairs, such as the U.S.]

By M. K. Bhadrakumar

The return of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to power in Pakistan after a hiatus of 14 years electrifies the regional politics of South Asia. Signals passing back and forth between New Delhi and Lahore underscore a subtle change having already appeared in the political vibes.

Typically, even as the results from the previous day's parliamentary poll were pouring in, Sharif told an Indian television channel on Sunday, "I will visit India whether India invites me or not."

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reciprocated within hours by breaking with protocol and congratulating Sharif on his "emphatic" victory in the "historic" elections and inviting him to visit India at a mutually convenient time. Manmohan phoned Sharif and, according to the latter, a "long chat" followed.

The two words – "emphatic" and "historic" – capture the mood in New Delhi. The Indian establishment has been keeping its fingers crossed that a strong government would be taking shape in Pakistan.

The reading in Delhi is that given the extremely complicated situation in Pakistan and the dangerous regional environment, tough decisions are called for in steering the ship of the Pakistani state through the shark-infested sea, which only a strong government in Islamabad could undertake.

From the Indian viewpoint, therefore, the outcome of Saturday's election has been "historic" insofar as it signifies a triumphant march of democracy. Pakistan's democratization profoundly impacts on the dynamics of the normalization of relations between the two countries.

To be sure, the prospect of Nawaz Sharif being at the helm of affairs in Islamabad comes as great relief to the Indian leadership. Sharif is a known figure to the Indian elites and Delhi knows it can do business with him.

In fact, things were beginning to look up in India-Pakistan relations at that point in 1999 when Sharif was ousted from power in the military coup led by General Pervez Musharraf.

In the Indian estimation, one main reason why the military conspired against the elected government led by Sharif was the apprehension in Rawalpindi that the normalization process with India that he was actively pursuing might gain traction….

— From Asia Times, May 14. The remainder of this article is at

By Stratfor, May 16, 2013

Recent diplomacy between Vietnam and Russia shows the two countries building momentum to take advantage of the considerable overlap in their strategic interests. On May 15, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung concluded his visit to Russia, where he met Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, and headed to Belarus to meet Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich. Dung's trip to Russia mostly consisted of routine bilateral discussions, but it shows the solid foundations on which Russo-Vietnamese relations stand.

Vietnam has an interest in inviting a third power into the region to give it an option for economic and military relations outside of U.S.-Chinese competition. Meanwhile Russia views Vietnam as the most accessible strategic foothold for its reviving interests in the Asia Pacific region.
Dung's itinerary highlighted two of the most important ongoing elements of the relationship: arms and energy. He visited Svetly Port in Kaliningrad to observe the diesel-electric Kilo class submarine that Russia is testing. Russia will send the submarine to Vietnam as the first of six such submarines slated to be transferred by 2016. These submarines will give Vietnam a more advanced and yet still cost-effective means of deterring more powerful states from taking advantage of its small navy and coastal vulnerability. 

Dung reportedly also visited a Russian nuclear power plant to get a preview of the facility that Russia plans to build in Ninh Thuan by 2015, which Dung and Medvedev claimed is on schedule. Russian planning, financing, construction, technology and training will go into this plant — all of which Vietnam badly needs to develop a viable and secure nuclear power program. Vietnam envisions building eight nuclear power plants by 2030 to bring nuclear energy to 6.6% of its domestic energy mix, according to the Ministry of Science and Technology. While Vietnam is careful to diversify its nuclear energy sources — Japan is slated to build its second nuclear plant at Ninh Thuan in the same time frame as Russia — it still offers the chance of a growing market for Russian nuclear exports.
Aside from these ongoing projects, the Vietnamese also want to increase the momentum of trade negotiations that would grant Hanoi access to the Russian-led Customs Union, which includes Belarus and Kazakhstan. The Customs Union hopes to eventually morph into a large common market, the Eurasian Union, but it is facing hurdles to expansion. 

In Russia's immediate periphery, the country has started to woo the rapidly growing emerging markets in East Asia. Vietnam, with a long history of relations with Russia, has become a trial for this kind of free trade agreement. Other East Asian states, like South Korea, have shown interest in conducting trade agreements with the Union, but Vietnam is the first to openly contemplate someday joining it. Though Vietnamese membership may be a long way off, the first round of negotiations for a trade agreement began in March. Dung and Medvedev acknowledged these talks, and Dung's visit to Belarus after his visit to Russia underlines this process.
The trade relationship needs to be reinvigorated. Russian exports to Vietnam have fallen since the global financial crisis, primarily due to lower exports of iron and steel, while Vietnamese exports to Russia have not fallen (electronic equipment especially has jumped). The Russians want to rectify this situation and open more space for exports to Vietnam as part of their broader economic policy of seeking growth in emerging markets. As for investment, Vietnam has cash and needs technology that Russia has to offer. The two sides signed more than 20 agreements, mostly in oil, natural gas, military cooperation, banking, railroads and higher education.

The investment relationship is also roughly reciprocal -- while the stock of Russian investment in Vietnam amounts to $2 billion as of 2013, the stock of Vietnamese investment in Russia amounts to $1.7 billion. Russia has offered to allow Vietnamese national oil company PetroVietnam to get involved in oil and natural gas exploration and production in the Orenburg and Yamal-Nenets regions. Russia does not need the cash but wants to strengthen the strategic relationship. It also hopes to expand its energy development projects in Vietnam's offshore oil and natural gas fields. Hanoi approves of increased Russian involvement in its offshore fields on its business merits and as a hindrance to China's attempts to assert its territorial claims and exercise sway over offshore production in the South China Sea.

Strategically, Russia's and Vietnam's interests match quite nicely. Russia is re-engaging with the Asia-Pacific economy just as Vietnam is trying more intently to mitigate threats from its traditional and newly ascendant rival, China, without having to become excessively dependent on its former foe and possibly unreliable partner, the United States.
But constraints frame this relationship. Vietnam's high growth rates have recently faltered due to weak demand abroad and a buildup of institutional inefficiencies, forcing the Communist Party to contemplate pro-efficiency reforms that require it to rethink the party's and the state's roles in the economy. The process of political and economic reorganization, which could become destabilizing, may bring down growth rates and prevent Vietnam from realizing the potential that foreign exporters anticipate. Still, Russia is operating in areas that fit with Vietnamese strategic priorities, so it may avoid losing much business even if Vietnam starts moderating its ambitions.

Russian interests in the region also have limits. Russia sees Vietnam as a base for its interests in maritime East Asia, including having an asset on the far side of China that can deny Beijing the full attainment of its regional and maritime ambitions. The Russians continue to work toward a deal to return to their old, and strategically valuable, resupply port at Cam Ranh Bay. But Moscow will avoid any serious East Asian entanglements unless they directly threaten Russian interests.

Still, Vietnam and Russia have compelling economic and militarily strategic reasons to work together more closely. They also have the advantage of distance, which prevents Russia from having to commit too deeply and Vietnam from provoking China excessively. After all, Beijing sees Russia as a less menacing Vietnamese partner than the United States.

Ultimately Hanoi will try to leverage its internal market and its natural resources to draw in outside players. But Hanoi has few illusions regarding the willingness of outside powers to hazard their security for its defense, and thus the submarines indicate the essential element for Vietnam. In this way, Russia provides the perfect third option for Vietnam outside of U.S.-Chinese bipolarity.

— Reprinted with permission from Stratfor,

SATURDAY, MAY 18, 2013

05-18-13 Activist Calendar

May 18, 2013, Issue #669
Send event announcements to

Sunday, May 19, WOODSTOCK: This is a very special occasion — read on: Tim DeChristopher is a young man who derailed an illegal federal oil and gas lease auction for 22,000 acres of public land in southern Utah in 2008. He was high bidder for the land at $1.7 million, but of course had no money. Ultimately, his action effectively safeguarded thousands of acres of Utah land. The land has been saved, a movement grown, and DeChristopher spent two years in federal prison for deceiving the system. He was released recently on Earth Day 2013 and will be at Upstate Films at 132 Tinker St. in Woodstock to talk about his actions and his perspective on the climate justice movement. The talk and a new 73-minute documentary, “Bidder #70, about Tim’s incredible exploit, will be begin at 2 p.m. Admission is $10. At 5 p.m., for those who are interested, there will be a reception at New World Home Cooking in Saugerties, 1411 Rt. 212. (Tickets for reception to be announced.) Frack Free Catskills, Catskill Mountainkeeper, and Woodstock Film Festival sponsor this event. A three minute film trailer is at!trailer/cxbx. Information, (845) 246-3449,

Sunday, May 19, ELLENVILLE: The 2012 documentary "Heist: Who Stole the American Dream?" will be screened at 4 p.m. at Empowering Ellenville, 159 Canal St, Ellenville. A discussion and general meeting will follow the film. We’re told “Heist” traces “the development of the sociopathic plutocracy from the 1940s to present times, and names names.” Information, Barbara Kidney (
845) 313-8035.

Monday, March 20, RHINEBECK: A Rally for Justice and Dignity in support of the healthcare workers at Ferncliff Nursing Home will take place at 5 p.m. at Star Park, 80 W. Market St. The sponsor is 1199SEIU, backed by the Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation. Information,

Wednesday, May 22, TROY: Award-winning journalist Jeremy Scahill, will speak at The Sanctuary for Independent Media at 7 p.m. He is the national security Correspondent for the Nation magazine and the author of the just published "Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield." (The documentary film "Dirty Wars,” based on the book, will be released next month.) Scahill also wrote "Blackwater: The World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army." The Sanctuary is located in a former historic church at 3361 6th Ave. (at 101st  St.) in North Troy. A donation of $10 is suggested, $5 student/low income). Advance tickets are available. Information, (518) 272-2390,

Saturday, May 25, NEW PALTZ and INTERNATIONAL: Worldwide protests against the biotechnology company Monsanto will take place today in 36 countries and 47 states. One of many events in the U.S. will be a March Against Monsanto in New Paltz starting from Peace Park across from Village Hall, 25 Plattekill Ave., a block south of Main St. The event begins at 2 p.m. with sign making. A half-hour rally starts at 2:15 p.m. follow by the march through town. Monsanto has come under attack from environmentalists, agriculturalists and average consumers over the company’s genetically modified organisms and genetically engineered foods. Congress passed, and President Obama signed, a biotech rider known as the “Monsanto Protection Act” by its critics that allows companies to plant and sell genetically altered products without gaining federal permission or labeling.  Speakers will include Liana Hoodes, Director of the National Organic Coalition; Joel Tyner, Dutchess County Legislator; Barbara Upton, New Paltz Women in Black; Billiam van Roestenberg, Liberty View Farm and Beth Dulay, who has a personal story to share on the dangers of GMOs. Sponsors include GMO? OMG! Hudson Valley for No GMO’s, Hudson Valley Seed LibraryOccupy New PaltzOccupy PoughkeepsieOccupy Northern DutchessGomen KudasaiClimate Action Coalition, New Paltz Women in Black, Veterans for Peace of the Hudson Valley, Four Winds Farm,Liberty View FarmEvolutionary Organics FarmOccupy Kingston, Occupy South Ulster, the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter, the Hudson Valley Chapter of WORD. The official website for the global March Against Monsanto is Information, Elizabeth Dulay, Barbara

Saturday, May 25, MONTGOMERY: The anti-Monsanto event in this Orange County town about a dozen miles east of Newburg will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a picnic and family activities at the Wallkill River School, Patchett House, 232 Ward St. We’re told it’s “featuring information tables, short documentaries, a speakers corner, GMO-free nibbles, tug-of-war, mask making, and bean bag toss. We encourage you to BYO Non-GMO picnic, blanket and/or chairs. At 8 p.m. there will be an outdoor movie followed by a discussion (indoors if rain).” Occupy Orange is the sponsor. Information, You may RSVP online at

Saturday, May 25, ALBANY: The 90-minute, 2011 documentary “Where Soldiers Come From” will be screened  at 7:30 p.m. at First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany (FUUSA)
405 Washington Ave. From a snowy small town in northern Michigan to the mountains of Afghanistan and back, this Emmy award-winning documentary follows the four-year journey of childhood friends, forever transformed by a faraway war. It looks at these young men as they are changed from reckless teenagers to soldiers looking for bombs in Afghanistan and, later, to veterans dealing with the silent war wounds of traumatic brain injury and PTSD. The New Yoek Times reviewer said it was "quietly devastating.... The real cost of distant political decisions is softly illuminated, as well as the shame of a country with little to offer its less fortunate young people other than a ticket to a battlefield." The Solidarity Committee of the Capital District, Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace, and Upper Hudson Peace Action are the sponsors of this free public event. Information, (518) 426-0883, About the film,

Monday, June 3, OLD CHATHAM: The documentary “Killing Us Softly” will be screened at 7 p.m. at Powell House Quaker Conference and Retreat Center, 524 Pitt Hall Rd., off County Rt. 13.We’re informed this film “takes a new and refreshing look at how advertising traffics in distorted and destructive ideals of femininity.” Refreshments will be served and a moderated discussion will follow. Free and public. Information (518) 766-2992. 

Friday, June 7, KINGSTON: This month’s selection in the Films of Palestine Series is "Roadmap to Apartheid." A free public screening begins at 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Catskills, 320 Sawkill Rd. This feature-length documentary by filmmakers Ana Nogueira (a white South African) and Eron Davidson (a Jewish American-Israeli), is an extremely ambitious project that is largely successful in achieving the difficult goals it sets for itself. The film is the very first documentary to offer an in-depth exploration of the parallels between South African and Israeli forms of apartheid. The screening will be followed by an audience discussion. Sponsored by: Middle East Crisis Response and Hudson Valley Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. Information,, (518). 678 2076.

Friday-Sunday, June 7-9, HIGH FALLS: The annual summer gathering of the People's Music Network (PMN) will take place this long weekend at the Epworth Camp and Retreat Center, 8 Epworth Lane,. Participants will swap songs, share experiences, attend workshops on music for social change and musical skills, and give music performances. The weekend will begin with a Friday evening concert featuring Pat Humphries and Sandy O, who together form “emma’s revolution.” Also performing will be Bev Grant, Bernardo Palombo, Evan Greer and Ted Warmbrand. There is a lot more information and details about all three days  — lodging, prices, workshops, meetings, etc, on the website, Other info, Diane Crowe,, (413) 548-9394.

Sunday, June 9, GARRISON: The Hudson Valley Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is sponsoring a 7 p.m. screening of the 40-minute, 2010 documentary “Living for 32.” This free public showing “is about the 32 people murdered in the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, and how survivor Colin Goddard subsequently became a leading advocate for gun reform.” A moderated discussion will follow the showing. The venue is the Depot Theatre, 10 Garrison's Landing. Seating is limited. Reservations are strongly recommended via,, (845) 323-3595.

Sunday, June 9, ELLENVILLE: “Hydrofracking: Environmental Impacts” is the topic of a talk by Karen Schneller MacDonald, an ecologist with Hudsonia. This 4 p.m. event is at Empowering Ellenville, 159 Canal St. Information, Barbara Kidney 
845) 313-8035.

Wednesday, June 12, NYACK: The Hudson Valley Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is sponsoring a 7 p.m. screening of the 40-minute, 2010 documentary “Living for 32.” This free public showing “is about the 32 people murdered in the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, and how survivor Colin Goddard subsequently became a leading advocate for gun reform.” A moderated discussion will follow the showing. The venue is the Nyack Library, 59 South Broadway. Seating is limited. Reservations are strongly recommended via,, (845) 323-3595.

Saturday, June 15, KINGSTON: the First Annual Juneteenth Celebration in Kingston, will take place 5-8 p.m. at New Progressive Baptist Church, 8 Hone St. Juneteenth, of course, is a celebration of the end of slavery and has deep roots and a long history in the African American community. The event is being put  together by the church and ENJAN (End The New Jim Crow Action Network). Information, Odell Winfield  at (914) 388-3092,

Thursday, June 20, DELMAR: "The Hyping of the North Korean Threat" is the topic of an important talk by Maud and David East, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Bethlehem Public Library, 451 Delaware Ave. They will discuss their experiences visiting North Korea in 1980, and share their analysis of the current hostilities between the United States and North Korea. There will be a Q&A discussion following the presentation. Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace is sponsoring this free public event. Information, (518) 466-1192,