Saturday, April 23, 2016


Thursday, April 23, 2016, Issue #226
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The Hudson Valley Activist Calendar (click on) 4-1-16 APRIL CALENDAR


1.   Photo of The Month
2.   The Women Fighting the Islamic State
3.   The Future of U.S.-Cuban Relations
4.   Cuban Party Congress Looks Forward
5.   New Momentum in Russia-China Partnership
6.   Washington Rattles More Sabers at Moscow
7.   Neocon War Hawks Back Clinton, Not Trump
8.   Listen, Liberal
9.   Verizon Strikers Challenge Company Greed
10. The New Morality of Pope Francis
11. Washington Protest Says 'No' to AIPAC.
12. New York, California Raise Minimum to $15
13. Global Warming Swiftest Since Dinosaurs
14. Latin American Environmentalists Face Death
15. Rally Against Police Violence
16. Long Live The Easter Rebellion
17. Tough Times For Endangered Orangutans

And still they come 

Europe is locking its doors to halt the flow of migrants escaping war in the Middle East, but still they come, as does this overcrowded boat off the coast of Greece in mid-April. Under the recent EU-Turkey deal refugees arriving on Greek islands from the Turkish coast from March 20 onwards face deportation to Turkey unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece. Countries adjacent to Greece  are using force to prevent refugees from crossing the border. Pope Francis visited the Greek island of Lesbos last week, highlighting the plight of nearly 4,000 migrants who are in waiting to see whether they’ll be granted asylum in Greece or be deported to Turkey.

Libya is now a favored departure point to Italy for those escaping poverty in Africa or war in the Middle East. The United Nations has revived its call for regular pathways for admitting refugees and asylum seekers to Europe after reporting that 500 people drowned in the sinking of a boat off the coast of Libya. The U.S. continues to admit only a pathetic handful of refugees from the Middle East despite Washington's participation in the wars and regime changes that have set the region ablaze.

Refugees stand around a fire in the squalid tent city at Idomeni, on the Greek-Macedonian border.
(AP Photo byVadim Ghirda)

Women guerrilla fighters call for release of Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party imprisoned by Turkey since 1999. Female fighters follow Öcalan's leftist ideology 
which holds that women are central to Kurdish independence. (All photos by Diego Cupolo.)
By Norma Costello, reporting from Sinjar for the Independent (UK), April 10, 2016

"Raping the Yazidi women was part of the Islamic State's plan. Destroy the women, destroy the culture,” Haveen, a 22-year-old Kurdish fighter says as she scans the road ahead.

Dressed in the green guerilla uniform synonymous with Kurdish armed groups, Haveen and her friend Denis keep watch, as two members of a unit of fighters within the YBS — a Kurdish civil defense militia. The all-women or “jin” unit based in Kananshor village near Sinjar mountain is home to a rotating group of female fighters made up of local Yazidi women and Kurds from nearby Turkey and Syria.

"I have been fighting for a long time now. I was on the frontline but I was injured by an IED [Improvised Explosive Device]," Haveen explains, pointing to a scar near her eye. 

Denis, an energetic 30-year-old fighter from Turkey, said the women set up in Sinjar after IS stormed the region in August 2014. Thousands of women were taken captive as IS seized control of Sinjar in north-western Iraq, home to hundreds of thousands of members of the minority religion Isis has labeled as infidels. Isis abducted younger women and children and murdered men and older women. Those who could not flee were killed and buried in mass graves.

"After what happened to the Yazidi women it's important to have all women units here," Denis says.
The YBS is an offshoot of the People's Protection Units (YPG) — the paramilitary wing of Syria's Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD). The YPG, who have been one of the most effective forces fighting IS, say they are training Yazidi women to fight against any further incursions into Yazidi land.

"We have to support these women and help them to protect themselves. Isis took those women and children because they wanted to destroy their honor. We help train the Yazidi women to defend themselves and then they can control their own future. That’s why we’re here" Denis says.

Denis said for Kurdish women who grow up
 with  the ideology of becoming independence  fighters 
  is not unusual. We never played princesses as little girls," she joked.
The women fighters live in separate quarters from the men, and romantic relationships are strictly forbidden." We live separately but that’s the only difference," Haveen says. “On the frontline we are all the same."

The women’s base is adorned with pictures of female martyrs and brightly colored carpets. It boasts a strategic vantage point, with a clear view of all cars entering the Yazidi village. Leaning out the window, Denis erupts into laughter when asked how successful the women’s units have been in the battle against IS.

"They are so scared of us! If we kill them they can't go to heaven. It makes us laugh.... We make loud calls of happiness when we see them to let them know we are coming. That’s when they become cowards,” she says. Under the strict interpretation of Islam by IS, if a fighter is killed by a woman he cannot go to heaven, a fact the women clearly relish.

"I like that when we kill them they lose their heaven. I don’t know how many of them I’ve killed," Haveen says as she takes a drag of her cigarette. "It’s not enough. I won’t be happy until they’re all dead."

Three hours away in a predominantly Arab village close to the Syrian border, Kurdish fighters explain how they retook the village — which had been held by IS — two weeks ago

“We waited in the mountains for weeks.... We lost 15 fighters, 14 men and one woman,” a young guerrilla who gave his name as Dilsan explains.

The YBS has attracted young fighters from neighboring Syria. 

“I came to kick IS out of these lands,” an 18-year-old fighter named Rozaline explains. "I came for the Yazidi women. I saw them cutting women’s heads off in Rojava [what Kurds call the three Kurdish enclaves just south of the Turkish border in Syria]. I saw so many awful things. I don’t want to see any more cutting and killing”

The former medical student left her studies to spend three months training with the YPG in the mountains in Syria. A recent recruit to the frontline — she arrived four days ago after IS launched an attack to retake the village — Rozaline says she is there to avenge the Yazidi women.

“I must protect the Yazidi women from those animals…. I hate them so much but I’m not afraid. Kurdish women sing when we go into battle. We know they are cowards," she says, while the other "Jin" fighters let out the shrill celebratory ululation call they use in battle.

"This is why we fight," said young Haveen who is 
determined to avenge the Yazidi women. In Sinjar mass
 graves are being discovered on a daily basis. 

The women are in high spirits — but Isis fighters are just a few kilometers over the horizon. Two suicide bombers recently drove a car loaded with explosives to within 500 meters of the group’s base. Fragments are scattered all over the village, as our YBS driver weaves his way through carefully through the sandy terrain littered with recently removed IEDs set by IS.

"They came to destroy our base but one of our fighters shot them," says Amara, a Syrian fighter.

On the road back to Kananshor the car passes a militia base where Kurdish fighters are evaluating their last offensive against IS. A small woman shouts into a microphone, assessing the group's strengths and weakness. Dozens of young guerrillas sit listening to the speech, a common occurrence after an IS offensive.

Passing through areas of Sinjar Mountain we see how the exposed bones of Yazidi women in mass graves are slowly being fenced off by members of the U.S.-based Yazda group — an NGO which aims to support the Yazidis. In the nearby city of Duhok the International Commission for Missing People (ICMP) prepare to exhume the remains of those massacred by IS in order to build a genocide case — a gruesome task that has enlisted a team of international experts and forensic anthropologists.  

Denis, who has already spent a large part of her life as a fighter, says protecting the Yazidi women is just one step in their plan to defend women’s rights globally.

"You and me, we are free, I am a fighter, you are a journalist but our sisters around the world — they suffer under the power of men, in Africa, in Asia, in Europe and American women suffer like the Yazidis. The fight of our women is a fight for all women," she says.


Down with the blockade; it's still being enforced despite "normalization" of U.S.-Cuba relations.
By Jack A. Smith,
Washington's partial rapprochement with Havana, symbolized by President Barack Obama's recent visit to Cuba, is more advantageous to the United States than the neighboring country it has ostracized, sanctioned and subverted for over five decades.

This is not to say that the small island nation of 11.3 million people has gained nothing from President Obama's efforts to mitigate over 56 years of Yankee hostility, beginning overtly a year after the 1959 armed revolution that freed Cuba not only from a vicious dictatorship but 467 years of foreign domination — by Spain from 1492, replaced by the U.S. from 1899. It ended with the Cuban Revolution on New Year's Day 1959.

Despite Obama's significant visit to Havana March 21-23, his cordial dialogue with President Raul Castro, and the declaration that “I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas,” the principal contradiction between Washington and Havana has not changed substantially: The Cuban revolutionary government is committed to retain a socialist system, including a measure of private enterprise and foreign investment. The U.S. government is committed to eliminating socialism in the Western Hemisphere, though a modification in methodology now will seek to attain that goal with honey, not acid. It will take a more leftist White House and Congress to allow a truly more equal and friendly relationship to develop — and that's not on the present horizon.

President Castro alluded to U.S. intentions in his opening report to the 7th Communist Party congress April 16 when he noted: " We are not naive nor do we ignore the aspirations of powerful external forces that are committed to what they call the 'empowerment' of non-state forms of management, in order to create agents of change in the hope of putting an end to the Revolution and socialism in Cuba by other means."

In this regard, President Obama's Dec. 17, 2014, announcement of Washington's new attitude toward Cuba is instructive: "I do not expect the changes I am announcing today to bring about a transformation of Cuban society overnight." The timing is ambiguous; the transformation to capitalism remains the goal.

Castro continued: "We are willing to carry out a respectful dialogue and construct a new type of relationship with the United States, one which has never existed between the two countries, because we are convinced that this alone could produce mutual benefits. However, it is imperative to reiterate that no one should assume that to achieve this Cuba must renounce the Revolution’s principles, or make concessions to the detriment of its sovereignty and independence, or forego the defense of its ideals or the exercise of its foreign policy — committed to just causes, the defense of self-determination, and our traditional support to sister countries."

U.S. press coverage of the party congress — what there was of it — was slanted against socialism in many cases. The New York Times article from Mexico City April 20 is a case in point. It appeared to be entirely based on oppositional points of view. "Despite a dramatic shift in relations with the United States and tentative economic changes," one paragraph alleged, "the leaders of the Castros’ generation are in no hurry to make room for new blood. It is a blow to younger Cubans who are eager for a more pluralistic system led by people closer to their own ages and unencumbered by socialist orthodoxies." The article grudgingly mentioned that some younger members "were appointed to senior Communist Party positions." Associated Press staffers in Havana did a fairly good job of objective reporting.
 A number of Cubans, including asrtist  Yasser Castellano who created this picture, suspect  an
ulterior motive may be behind Washington's new policy.  Virgil's Aeneid, of course,
recounts how the Greeks used a Trojan Horse to defeat Troy after a 10-year siege.
Carefully charting a future course for a government in transition and the inevitable integration of a younger generation into leadership is the party's most important responsibility at this time. Those who won the revolution and/or who guided socialist Cuba through extraordinary difficulties imposed over these decades by the depredations of U.S. imperialism and the implosion of the Soviet camp want to get it right. The party will be identifying younger candidates over the next five years who will best implement the medium and long range plans (up to 2030) being worked out during that time. While most of the top posts of the political bureau were unchanged this time, the party selected five younger members in a bid to diversify the leadership.

Raul Castro, who will be 85 in June, assumed the presidency in 2008 when President Fidel Castro resigned due to illness. He will step down in two years. No successor has been named but it is assumed that First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel, 57, will become the next president. He graduated college as an electronic engineer and served as Minister of Higher Education from 2009 to 2012. Díaz-Canel was elected to his present post in 2013. Future presidents will serve no more than two five year terms. Both Raul Castro and Ramon Machado Ventura, 85, were reelected to their posts as first and second secretaries of the party. Raul reported as the congress ended "This Seventh Congress will be the last led by the historic generation." He also suggested that by the next congress it would be best for leaders becoming 70 to relax and "take care of grandchildren."

Fidel Castro, who will be 90 Aug. 13, spoke briefly on the last day of the four-day congress attended by 1,000 delegates and 260 guests. Now referred to as "the historic leader of the revolution," Fidel received an ovation when he said, obviously referring to himself, "everyone will eventually die, but the ideas of Cuban communists will prevail, as proof that on this planet, if you work with fervor and dignity, the material and cultural goods that humans need can be produced, and we must fight relentlessly to obtain them." (See article below this for a report on the party congress.)

Fidel Castro placed a wreath at the Lincoln Memorial in April 1959 during an 11-day good will tour of the U.S. three months after revolutionary forces ousted Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. He sought good relations with the U.S. but several months later Washington imposed sanctions and plotted his overthrow.

President Obama has relaxed several painful penalties imposed upon Cuba, but many more remain. Washington may in time terminate over a half-century of severe economic sanctions, including an international trade blockade, but it will take an act of congress to do so, and that may not be forthcoming for many more years, or until Cuba publicly shreds the red flag. A large majority of Republicans and a lesser number of Democrats are devoted to retaining sanctions for the time being, but this may begin to change

A majority of the American people (58%) not only favor reestablishing diplomatic relations (while just 24% oppose), but 55% favor the United States ending its trade embargo against Cuba. These polls were taken a few months ago before the Obama family received a popular welcome Havana. Interestingly, and largely forgotten, is that the average American was never enthusiastic about Washington's break in relations with the island. In 1977, for instance, 53% of Americans told Gallup that diplomatic relations with Cuba should be re-established. But Washington's prolonged Cold War of choice and indulging of the wishes of anti-revolutionary Cubans in Florida always took priority.

As we noted when Obama first hinted at reconciliation with Cuba, An encouraging sign in the end-sanctions argument is the fact that very large sectors of U.S. business and agriculture desperately want access to the Cuban market which has been deprived of many goods for decades.

In addition, however, the U.S. propaganda against the island is continuing. During Obama's days in Cuba the American mass media — which invariably echoes Washington's true sentiments regardless of diplomatic camouflage  — focused primarily on the misrepresentation that the Cuban government disparages "human rights," and that hundreds of political dissidents have been in prison for years  — or "languishing in dungeons across the island," in the words of Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.
Raul and Che Guevara in a mountain hideout.
At his joint press conference with President Castro March 21, Obama introduced this theme when he said: "Wherever we go around the world, I made it clear that the United States will continue to speak up on behalf of democracy, including the right of the Cuban people to decide their own future. We’ll speak out on behalf of universal human rights, including freedom of speech, and assembly, and religion." American presidents have been uttering such hypocrisies for decades as they protect and arm dictatorships and overthrow governments unwilling to serve U.S. interests.

Obama asked for questions from the press and CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta then addressed Raul Castro: "President Castro, my father is Cuban. He left for the United States when he was young. Do you see a new and democratic direction for your country? And why [do] you have Cuban political prisoners? And why don’t you release them?”
Castro replied: “Give me the list of political prisoners and I will release them immediately." It does not appear that any list was forthcoming. The government denies that dissidents are being held on political grounds; it says they are there for various violations of Cuban law.
According to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation — an independent group opposed to the Havana government —there were 80 political prisoners all told in Cuban jails. The Cuban authorities do arrest people engaging in disruptive or illegal demonstrations — but in virtually all cases they are released in a few hours.

Two guerrilla fighters (1958), Haydee
Santamaria and Celia Sanchez, who went on to
 become high government officials in Cuba.
On March 2, three weeks before Obama's visit, Deputy Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken issued a U.S. statement to the UN Human Rights Council that included a condemnation of Cuba. It said in part: "In Cuba, we are increasingly concerned about the government’s use of short-term detentions of peaceful activists, which reached record numbers in January. We call on the Cuban government to stop this tactic as a means of quelling peaceful protest." 

Last week, police in Washington arrested 1,200 people who were nonviolently demonstrating and offering civil disobedience for good causes and no big deal was made of it by the American press. During Obama's stay in Havana a couple of dozen people were arrested for civil disobedience (and released within hours) and the U.S. press went wild with charges of violating human rights.

There are many situations where negative U.S. policies and actions against Cuba continue, but only one more will be noted for now — the Cuban Adjustment Act. Cuba is a relatively poor country, hardly least because of U.S. sanctions. Washington is continuing its long practice of inducing Cubans to migrate to nearby Florida, legally or illegally, in order to convey to the world the impression they are fleeing their homeland for freedom. It's an old Cold War trick. According to an Oct. 1, 2015, article in Florida's Sun-Sentinel daily paper:

"Unlike other immigrants, Cubans are granted entry to the United States just by reaching land. The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 enables them to become permanent legal residents a year after they arrive, far faster than any other nationality.... Cuban immigrants are granted immediate access to welfare, food stamps and Medicaid, a practice that has ballooned from a $1 million federal allocation in 1960 to at least $680 million a year today." Many Cubans have migrated since President Obama announced he sought better relations in December 2014, fearing the program would be discontinued. In this the U.S. profits from the Cuban brain drain by offering good salaries to economically struggling doctors, top athletes, college graduates and many other talented people who were educated and trained at state expense in Cuba.

Telesur, the leftist Venezuelan news outlet summed up Obama's trip with these words:

"It was a victory for an unyielding Cuba, whose people and leaders never surrendered in the face of a decades-long, U.S. onslaught. It marks the first time in 88 years that a U.S. president has touched Cuban soil. It's an admission by the Obama administration that U.S. policy toward Cuba has failed. Yet in spite of all this, some raw wounds in diplomatic relations were not addressed.

"Cuba insists that before there is a normalization of relations between the two countries, the U.S. must end its blockade; return the illegally-held Guantanamo Bay; change its immigration policies toward Cuban migrants; stop transmitting radio propaganda into the country and attempting to build an opposition; and finally stop all attempts at regime change. The U.S. president failed to change policy over the illegal blockade, or apologize for the crippling financial damage it has caused over more than half a decade."

President Obama at his two-hour meeting with Cuban critics of the socialist government.
Just last month, Obama renewed a 20-year-old state of national emergency to continue to administer the blockade against the Caribbean island.... It bans ships and planes from the U.S. from entering Cuban waters or airspace without government permission, and requires the president to annually renew these emergency powers.

According to the UN the blockade has cost Cuba more than US$117 billion (a huge sum for this small country), deprived Cubans of life-saving medicines, and caused extra hardships for millions of Cubans. If this isn't a massive attack on human rights what is?

The U.S will benefit more quickly and profoundly than Cuba due to its new relationship, particularly in world "leadership" — Obama's code word for global hegemony. There are three connected aspects to this observation:

1. The nations of the world are strongly opposed to Washington's bullying, sanctions and other expressions of antagonism toward a much smaller country that has done it no harm. Last October, for the 24th year in a row, the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to denounce the U.S. economic, commercial and financial blockade. The vote was 191 to 2 (U.S. and Israel). By indicating he wanted to "normalize" relations, Obama sought to rid Washington of the repeated embarrassment of global condemnation. The vote probably will continue until Congress scraps  all its repressive sanctions but Obama's gesture will alleviate the pressure.

2.  For over 100 years the U.S. essentially dominated Latin American and Caribbean nations and top hemisphere inter-regional organizations. This began to change dramatically less than 20 years ago as key governments in the region moved left and more distant from the Yankee overlord. Although it was a founding member of the Organization of American States (OAS), Cuba was banned by the U.S. from attending meetings of this important group for 47 years but was invited to return by a majority vote of all the countries in 2009. Havana's response was that while Cuba welcomed the Assembly's gesture, in light of the Organization's historical record "Cuba will not return to the OAS." Cuba was also banned from the first six meetings of the Washington-backed Summit of the Americas, but strong support from Latin America and Caribbean countries made it possible for Raul Castro to attend in 2015.

Since then, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) was formally established in 2011 in Caracas, with the initiative of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and the support of Cuba. CELAC includes all 33 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, including Cuba, and excludes the United States and Canada. Its task is to encourage deeper integration of the countries in the region. Other important new groups that reduce Yankee control are ALBA (an alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas) and UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations).

The Obama administration has long been aware that the U.S. was losing much of its clout in a crucial region of 640 million people and that the best way to restore some semblance of authority was to publicly declare that Washington would scrap the Cold War with Cuba. In December 2014 Obama announced: “We will end an outdated approach [to Cuba] that, for decades has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries." This 55-year policy not only intentionally crippled the economy of a small nation; it was major factor in the loss of U.S. influence in the region. Obama now is working toward regaining its dominant "leadership" south of the border.

In an article for the April 2016 issue of The Atlantic magazine, based on various interviews with Obama, Jeffrey Goldberg writes that Obama "cited America’s increased influence in Latin America — increased, in part, he said, by his removal of a region-wide stumbling block when he reestablished ties with Cuba — as proof that his deliberate, nonthreatening, diplomacy-centered approach to foreign relations is working."

Other factors are involved, of course. Many of these left governments are suddenly in economic or political trouble. Raul pointed out in his report to the party congress: "Latin America and the Caribbean find themselves experiencing the effects of a strong, articulated counteroffensive, on the part of imperialism and oligarchies, against revolutionary and progressive governments, in a difficult context marked by the deceleration of the economy, which has negatively impacted the continuity of policies directed toward development and social inclusion, and the conquests won by popular sectors.... This policy is principally directed toward the sister Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and has been intensified in recent months in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Brazil, as well as Nicaragua and El Salvador. Recent setbacks for governments of the left in the hemisphere are being used to announce the end of a progressive historical cycle, opening the way for the return of neoliberalism and demoralization of political forces and parties, social movements and working classes, which we must confront with more unity and increased articulation of revolutionary action."

3. The purpose of better relations with Cuba is to further weaken left regimes in the region (including Cuba) and reverse the erosion of U.S. "leadership" in the Western Hemisphere. Obama feared further withering away of Washington control in Latin America/Caribbean would negatively impact its strategic global hegemony. Strengthening U.S. world supremacy is the most important element of Obama administration foreign/military policy, the highest priority of which is to contain China's influence in Asia and the world and to isolate Russia. The improvement of U.S. relations with Iran and Myanmar as well as Cuba is part of this project, as are the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership pact with Europe, and the ongoing Pentagon military buildup in proximity to China and Russia.

The worst human rights abuses, including torture,
take place at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo, Cuba.
Obama's stay in Havana was welcomed by the Cuban people because it indicated the Yankee Colossus was reducing its continuous punishment of their country for being socialist and not willing to follow where Washington leads. His speech to the Cuban nation March 22 was very carefully composed. "I have come here to extend the hand of friendship to the Cuban people," he said, artfully avoiding extending it to the Cuban government.
He went on: "Having removed the shadow of history from our relationship, I must speak honestly about the things that I believe, the things that we as Americans believe. I can’t force you to agree, but you should know what I think. It’s time to lift the embargo, but even if we lifted the embargo tomorrow, Cubans would not realize their potential without continued change here in Cuba."

The notion that it is possible for a superpower, after inflicting decades of castigation and pain on a small nation, to remove the "shadow of history" with a few soothing words and a false smile is insulting and absurd. Many Cubans were happy to hear him say, "It's time to lift the embargo," aside from the reality that it's not going to be lifted for many years. But if it ever is ended, Obama pretentiously informed the Cuban people that they would not be able to live up to their potential unless they reorganize their society in a way that satisfies the ever so judgmental and angry Uncle Sam.

In all Obama's many pronouncements in Cuba about U.S. dedication to human rights he never mentioned Washington's intrusions on human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean during the last 63 years. They include backing the fascist dictatorships in Argentina and Brazil, and supporting violent regime change in Chile against democratically elected President Salvador Allende. In addition there were U.S. intrusions, invasions, CIA changes in regime, and other American abuses in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Haiti, Guyana, Ecuador, Honduras, Bolivia, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Grenada, Suriname, Panama, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and of course the CIA-organized and President Kennedy-approved disastrous invasion of Cuba April 17, 1961. The CIA and Cubans the agency controlled carried out up to 100 failed assassination attempts on the life of President Fidel Castro.

Obama removed Cuba from its list of state of sponsors of terrorism in May. This opened the way toward closer relations. But Cuba never supported terrorism. It defended itself against U.S. terrorism many times.  Havana opposed fascist dictatorships in Latin America. It supported those fighting for freedom. Cuba sent its troops to fight and die against the U.S.-backed South Africa's war against Angola.

Here is an excerpt from a longer accounting of U.S. crimes against Cuba compiled by Salim Lamrani a decade ago. He lectures at the Paris Sorbonne, and has written several books about Cuba (in French).

"U.S. official documents that have recently been declassified show that, between October 1960 and April 1961, the CIA smuggled 75 tons of explosives into Cuba during 30 clandestine air operations, and infiltrated 45 tons of weapons and explosives during 31 sea incursions. Also during that short seven-month time span, the CIA carried out 110 attacks with dynamite, planted 200 bombs, derailed six trains and burned 150 factories and 800 plantations.

"Between 1959 and 1997, the United States carried out 5,780 terrorist actions against Cuba – 804 of them considered as terrorist attacks of significant magnitude, including 78 bombings against the civil population that caused thousands of victims.

"Terrorist attacks against Cuba have cost 3,478 lives and have left 2,099 people permanently disabled. Between 1959 and 2003, there were 61 hijackings of planes or boats. Between 1961 and 1996, there were 58 attacks from the sea against 67 economic targets and the population.

"The CIA has directed and supported over 4,000 individuals in 299 paramilitary groups. They are responsible for 549 murders and thousands of people wounded.

"In 1971, after a biological attack, half a million pigs had to be killed to prevent the spreading of swine fever. In 1981, the introduction of dengue fever caused 344,203 victims killing 158 of whom 101 were children. On July 6, 1982, 11,400 cases were registered in one day alone.

"Most of these aggressions were prepared in Florida by the CIA-trained and financed extreme right wing elements of Cuban origin." (There are additional official documents but these have not been released to our knowledge. J.A.S.)

Furious right wing Cubans in Miami  demonstrated against Obama's visit,  but it was small.

Any major Cuban economic gains resulting from less antagonism by the U.S. will take some time to materialize, argued Stratfor March 15: 

"The majority of U.S. businesses cannot trade with Cuba because of the embargo, which is held in place by several pieces of legislation. The embargo's future will depend on the political mood in the United States. Both houses of the U.S. Congress — currently controlled by the Republican opposition — would have to pass legislation undoing provisions of the previous acts to end it. This is unlikely to happen during the remainder of the Obama administration, which will not be able to find the consensus needed to pass controversial legislation during an election year.

"So the task of normalizing economic relations with Cuba will fall to the next U.S. president, and it will take several additional rounds of negotiations before the subject of lifting the embargo even comes up for serious discussion. The United States and Cuba have yet to settle major outstanding issues, such as compensation to U.S. property owners for assets seized after the 1959 revolution. The Cuban government also does not even minimally meet any of the human rights stipulations laid out in the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996 for lifting the embargo. Though new legislation could potentially supersede these requirements, it is plausible that lawmakers concerned about Havana's treatment of dissidents could use the topic to stall discussions. Until the embargo is lifted, it is likely that if the U.S. government wants to boost trade and financial transactions between specific U.S. business sectors and Cuba, it will have to loosen existing federal restrictions through the U.S. Department of the Treasury."

The White House has already taken some steps in this regard a week before the visit to Cuba, according to the March 15 Wall Street Journal: "The Obama administration unveiled some of the most extensive changes in decades to rules on U.S.-Cuba trade, financial transactions and travel, including a provision that effectively lifts the long-standing ban on American tourists visiting the country.

"The new measures, presented March 14, ease restrictions on American financial institutions and significantly broaden Cuba’s access to the global economy. They allow Cuban citizens to earn salaries from U.S. companies and to have American bank accounts for limited purposes, as well as permit the use of U.S. dollars in financial transactions with Cuba ." The White House then voided remaining limits on individual travel to Cuba, which will be a boon for the tourist industry.

An article in the April 5 Foreign Affairs online, written from Cuba by Anne Nelson and Debi Spindelman, made some useful observations about Cuba that should be considered by U.S. business leaders who plan to get richer in Cuba:

"With the opening (of the new relationship), there promises to be a headlong rush to find, or construct, a Cuba that resembles the United States. But that should not come at the expense of the other Cuba, mysterious and complex, that’s well worth exploring. To start with, there’s Cuba’s often overlooked success in indicators of human development. The World Bank reported that in 2013, Cuba’s life expectancy, at roughly 79 years, exceeded that of the United States for the first time. [Infant mortality per thousand live births in Cuba is 4.2. In the U.S. it is 6 per thousand.] The Cubans are proud of their security, a product of banning guns and severely limiting narcotics trafficking and drug abuse. The country’s system of preventive medicine has been highly effective. Every week, teams of medical students make weekly door-to-door check-ups, effectively curtailing many infectious diseases across the island. In recent weeks Cuba has mobilized its army reserves to fumigate every household in the country to limit the spread of the Zika virus....

"Cubans in both Havana and the rural interior... [are] aware of the advantages they stand to lose in a transition: cities in which drugs are rare and gun violence is unknown, a society that is committed to nourishing and educating all of its children. Cubans are asking how to integrate the most constructive aspects of the U.S. system without inviting its attendant plagues. For its part, the United States, as well as U.S. entrepreneurs seeking to set up shop on the island, should approach Cuba in a spirit of discovery, with much to offer, much to gain, and much to learn." They probably won't, of  course, but it's a good idea.

Rafael Hernandez, Cuban political analyst and head of the Temas magazine told China's Xinhua news agency: "We are not rushing towards a free market economy, nor is our government taking us there. This is a gradual process of transformation, economic diversification and development of a nationalist private sector."

According to Xinhua: "Havana must reduce its dependence on imports and develop a greater capacity to produce goods.  Hernandez said 'The Cuban people have very high expectations and demands from this reform era because their hope is to restore the quality of life they had in the 1980s just before the Soviet collapse.'

"He also stressed the next several years will be essential for Cuba to speed up reforms initiated in 2011 and that the Cuban leadership is aware of the importance of implementing key reforms such as putting an end to the country's double currency system, increasing productivity, efficiency and salaries in the state sector and providing a legal framework for private businesses.

"At the same time, the party leadership wants to avoid any chaotic shake-up within its ranks as economic reforms are implemented and the revolutionary leaders hand over power to the younger generation. In the next five years we'll see an articulated, gradual and easy-going generational transition among the top political positions in the country," Hernandez said.
Fidel and Cuban troops with captured U.S. weapons just as the CIA-organized
invasion collapsed on the beaches of the Bay of Pigs in April 1961.

President Obama indicated he would like to visit Fidel during his brief visit if it could be worked out, but it didn't happen. Fidel has been ill for years but he often meets with visitors and writes a frequent column for the daily paper Granma. He went to a children's school and talked to some of the young kids a two weeks after Obama's departure. And just days after Obama and his family arrived back home Fidel published a 1,500-word column titled "Brother Obama." which said in part:

"Obama made a speech in which he uses the most sweetened words to express: 'It is time, now, to forget the past, leave the past behind, let us look to the future together, a future of hope. And it won’t be easy, there will be challenges and we must give it time; but my stay here gives me more hope in what we can do together as friends, as family, as neighbors, together.'

"I suppose all of us were at risk of a heart attack upon hearing these words from the President of the United States. After a ruthless blockade that has lasted almost 60 years, and what about those who have died in the mercenary attacks on Cuban ships and ports, an airliner full of passengers blown up in midair, mercenary invasions, multiple acts of violence and coercion?

"Nobody should be under the illusion that the people of this dignified and selfless country will renounce the glory, the rights, or the spiritual wealth they have gained with the development of education, science and culture.

"I also warn that we are capable of producing the food and material riches we need with the efforts and intelligence of our people. We do not need the empire to give us anything. Our efforts will be legal and peaceful, as this is our commitment to peace and fraternity among all human beings who live on this planet."

President Obama indicated he would like to visit Fidel during his brief visit if it could be worked out, but it didn't happen. Fidel has been ill for years but he often meets with visitors and writes a frequent column for the daily paper Granma. He went to a children's school and talk to some of the young kids a couple of weeks after Obama's departure. And just days after Obama and his family arrived back home Fidel published a 1,500-word column titled "Brother Obama," which said in part:


Elderly Fidel and Raul at the party congress as the historic leaders of the Cuban
revolution prepare for  the future development of their changing society without them
By the Activist Newsletter

[Note: Much of the context for this article is in "The Future Of U.S.-Cuban Relations," above.]

The April 16-19 7th Cuban Communist Party (CCP) Congress was almost entirely directed toward planning for the future under complex new internal and external conditions.

Internally, new and younger leadership will begin to take charge of the state and party at the next party congress in 2021, or perhaps earlier as revolutionary veterans, such as octogenarians President and First Secretary of the CCP Raul Castro and historic leader Fidel Castro retire or pass away.

The most important work of the Cuban party and government over the next five years is developing the economic, social and political nature of a mixed economy of socialism with aspects of capitalism. In the process Cuban leaders have pledged that the non-socialist element will be contained and secondary. The new economic structure is viewed as a necessity after over 55 years of crippling sanctions and subversion from the United States and the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the socialist camp.

Externally, the Obama administration has declared that Washington's continual hostility toward Cuba has failed to attain its objective of destroying socialism and reinstating total capitalism. As the world's dominant capitalist power the U.S. government still seeks to banish socialism from the Western Hemisphere but will depend upon more peaceful and patient methods.

However, the worst subversion of all — the trade blockade — remains operative, perhaps for many years until the election of a less right wing congress in Washington. Even so, President Barack Obama's decision to "normalize" relations removes many obstacles to economic development.

President Raul Castro — who was reelected as First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party April 19 — established the parameters of the anticipated new economy in his major report to the congress:

"Decisions made with regard to the Cuban economy will never, under any circumstance, mean a break with the ideals of equality and social justice of the Revolution and much less rupture the strong union between the majority of the people and the Party.

"Neither will we allow such measures to generate instability or uncertainty within the population.... The introduction of the rules of supply and demand is not at odds with the principle of planning. Both concepts can coexist and complement each other for the benefit of the country, as has been successfully shown by China’s reform process and the renovation process in Vietnam, as they call it. We have used the term updating to describe our process, as we are not changing the fundamental objectives of the Revolution....

"We reaffirm the socialist principle of the predominance of the ownership of all the people over the basic means of production, as well as the need to relieve the State of other activities not decisive to the development of the nation. Just as we aspire to greater efficiency and quality in state sector production and services, we also favor the success of non-state forms of management, on the basis, in all cases, of strict compliance with current legislation....

"As we safeguard the memory of the nation and perfect differentiated ideological work, with special emphasis on youth and children, we must reinforce anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist culture among ourselves, fighting with arguments, conviction and resolve the attempts at establishing patterns of petty bourgeois ideology characterized by individualism, selfishness, the pursuit of profit, banality, and the intensifying of consumerism....
"Neoliberal policies which encourage the accelerated privatization of state property and social services, such as health, education and social security, will never be applied under Cuba’s socialist model."

Although it was not mentioned, a number of these guarantees — assuming they will define the final economic plan in several years and are ironclad in practice — retain a relatively larger proportion of socialism than that of Cuba's Chinese friends.

According to an Associated Press dispatch from Havana near the end of the congress: "From establishing a model for 'sustainable and prosperous socialism' to coming up with a strategic plan that will last until 2030, the work of this party congress seems to be continuity.... But even though Cubans can now buy and sell homes and cars, self-employment has been expanded to nearly a half-million workers, fledgling private enterprises may hire workers and there is a new foreign investment law, Castro made it clear that Cuba isn’t heading toward a return to capitalism: 'The recognition of the existence of private property has generated honest concerns among not just a few of the participants in discussions leading up to this congress, who expressed worries that doing so was taking the first steps toward the restoration of capitalism in Cuba,' he said. 'I’m obliged to tell you that this is in no way the goal.'

"Many Cubans are skeptical of free-market capitalism, wary of American power and cannot envision a society without the free health care and education put in place by the 1959 revolution. Party member Francisco Rodriguez, a gay activist and journalist for a state newspaper, told AP that Obama's nationally televised speech in Old Havana, his news conference with President Castro and a presidential forum with Cuban entrepreneurs represented "capitalist evangelizing" that many party members dislike.
Miguel Díaz-Canel, vice president,
"During the debate at the meeting, Miguel Díaz-Canel, vice president of the Council of State and Castro’s presidential heir-apparent in 2018, said the private sector is intended to be a complement to the state sector and to contribute to the development of socialism. 'The introduction of the rules of supply and demand aren’t at odds with the principles of planning,' he said. 'Both concepts are able to coexist and complement each other in benefit to the country.'

"Delegates to the last party congress five years ago agreed on 313 changes in the economy and other areas of society but only 21% have been fully implemented so far. The current gathering examined the remaining work to be done and sought to reconcile differences of opinion and how to accelerate the process.

"Raul (as he is spoken of by Cubans) frankly acknowledged 'the main obstacle we have faced, just as we had predicted, is the issue of outdated mentalities, which give rise to an attitude of inertia or lack of confidence in the future. There also remain, as was to be expected, feelings of nostalgia for the less difficult times in the revolutionary process, when the Soviet Union and socialist camp existed. At the other extreme there have existed veiled ambitions to restore capitalism as a solution to our problems.'"

A key task of the meeting was the conceptualization of Cuba’s future socio-economic model of development which outlines the theoretical bases and essential characteristics of the social and economic model the party aspires to create. Raul declared "the conceptualization and fundamentals of the National Development Plan, after being reviewed by the Congress, [will] be submitted to a process of democratic discussions by members of the Party and Young Communist League, representatives of mass organizations and broad sectors of Cuban society." Revisions will then be made and this extremely important guide to Cuba's future will be implemented. Raul then asserted: "In socialist and sovereign Cuba, the ownership of the basic means of production by all the people is and will continue to be the main form of the national economy and the socio-economic system and therefore constitutes the basis of the actual power of workers."
Raul also discussed the importance of a single-party state: "In Cuba we have a single Party, of which we are proud, which represents and guarantees the unity of the Cuban nation, the main strategic arm on which we have relied to build the work of the Revolution and defend it from all kinds of threats and aggression. It is therefore no coincidence that we are attacked and demands made of us, from almost all over the planet, to weaken us, to divide us into several parties in the name of sacrosanct bourgeois democracy... If they manage some day to fragment us, it would be the beginning of the end in our homeland, of the Revolution, socialism and national independence, forged with the resistance and sacrifice of several generations of Cubans since 1868 [the first uprising against Spain.]"
The party leader devoted the last portion of the report to Cuba's internationalism and opposition to imperialism: "The sister peoples of the Third World which are making an effort to transform the legacy of centuries of colonial domination, know they can always count on the solidarity and support of Cuba, and that we will continue fulfilling our cooperation commitments, on the basis of sharing what we have, not what we have left over.
"Increasingly more serious are threats to international peace and security, as a result of U.S. imperialism’s attempts to impose its hegemonic position in the face of changes in the world’s equilibrium, and of the philosophy of usurpation and control of strategic natural resources, made evident by the increasingly offensive and aggressive military doctrine of NATO; the proliferation of non-conventional wars under the pretext of fighting “international terrorism;” the sharpening of differences with Russia and China; and the danger of a war in the Middle East of incalculable dimensions.

"We hold the firm conviction that the Venezuelan people will defend the legacy of our beloved compañero Hugo Chávez Frías, and prevent the dismantling of the accomplishments achieved. To the Bolivarian and Chavista Revolution, to President Maduro and his government, and to the civic-military union of the Venezuelan people, we reiterate our solidarity, our commitment, and energetic rejection of efforts to isolate Venezuela while dialoging with Cuba."


Chinese President Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin drawing closer together.
By Stephen Blank

Many observers of the Russo-Chinese relationship continue to believe that it is merely a marriage or axis of convenience, which will only last as long as it does not damage its two players’ other rational interests. This attitude clearly embodies the distinctive belief, particularly prevalent in the United States, that all governments — Moscow and Beijing included — are merely calculating Realists with no other motive. However, mounting evidence shows that this view fails to capture the growing closeness of Russian and Chinese positions on many global issues. Moreover, proponents of this perspective fail to see that China continues to make material concessions to Russia to keep it on China’s side, whereas Russia is also willing to take steps damaging to its relations with third parties in order to please China.

Notably, Chinese President Xi Jinping recently urged both governments to strengthen communication and coordination in international security and on regional issues (presumably Korea, Southeast Asia, Japan, the Middle East and Ukraine) to achieve political solutions. He also reiterated that bilateral Sino-Russian cooperation plays a key role in safeguarding peace and stability in Asia and in the world more generally (China Daily, Xinhua, March 26). Beyond that, China’s Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli recently met with Gazprom head Alexander Miller and vowed to improve bilateral energy cooperation (Xinhua, March 22). To mollify Russia, China recently lent Gazprom $2.17 billion; and it appears that further loans to Russian energy companies as well as further Chinese investment in them will be forthcoming, thus representing a tangible manifestation of Chinese support for Russia against the West. Indeed, China has already become the largest consumer of Russian crude oil (RT, March 14).

This cooperation is not only occurring in the energy sphere. China has now made advance payments for Russia’s high-tech S-400 surface-to-air anti-aircraft missile system, which it should begin receiving in 2017. While the specific missile that will be sold as part of the S-400 system has not yet been conclusively revealed, if it is the 40N6 model, it will provide China with the capability to cover a range of up to 400 kilometers. That will allow China to strike over all of Taiwan as well as reach targets as far as New Delhi, Calcutta, Hanoi, Seoul and all of North Korea. Armed with 40N6 missiles, Beijing’s S-400 launchers would also be able to fully protect the Yellow Sea and China’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea. But even a shorter-range missile would represent a significant upgrading of China’s capability for anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) operations (TASS, March 21). This will certainly upset the military balance in the region, which is not necessarily in Moscow’s interest. Yet, Russian defense expert Vasily Kashin, of the Moscow-based Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technology, a think tank closely tied to the defense industrial complex, has simultaneously advocated for still more enhanced military cooperation with China. Furthermore, Kashin has advocated for strong Russo-Chinese industrial cooperation in electronics and mining (Xinhua, March 25).

On a different note, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced plans to continue its major military buildup on the Kurile Islands, the southernmost of which are claimed by Japan. In particular, Moscow is looking to deploy Bal-E and Bastion-P mobile coastal defense missile systems, anti-ship missiles, as well as Eleron-3 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Russia is also considering setting up a naval base on those islands (Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, March 25).

It should be clear to any observer that this announcement regarding the further militarization of the Kuriles is a direct insult to Japan and its leader, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The timing of the announcement is particularly damaging to Moscow-Tokyo ties, as Abe is planning to travel to Russia to try and bring about a normalization of bilateral relations based on a transfer of at least two of the Kuriles back to Japan. Evidently, Russia is not prepared to make any meaningful concessions to Japan at the expense of Moscow’s ties to Beijing — Tokyo’s arch-rival in East Asia. And this decision represents a practical response by Russia to the closer coordination on regional security that Xi has called for.

China and Russia’s joint opposition to the U.S. decision to deploy the THAAD missile defense system to South Korea against a North Korean threat provides another notable example. Similarly, with regard to competing territorial claims in the South China Sea, while Russia says it would like to see these issues resolved peacefully and is unlikely to be enthusiastic about Chinese dominance there, its officials have now moved to follow China’s line by calling for the United States to stay out of the region. Indeed, Russian authorities have even declared that US presence in the South China Sea could constitute a threat to Moscow (RIA Novosti, December 8, 2015.

[On April12 Moscow expressed unequivocal support for China's position: "Regarding the situation in the South China Sea, we proceed from the following premise. All states involved in these disputes must respect the principle of the non-use of military force and continue searching for mutually acceptable political and diplomatic solutions. It is necessary to stop any interference in the talks between the concerned states and any attempts to internationalize these disputes (as the U.S. demands).... Only negotiations, which China and the ASEAN countries... are conducting, will produce the desired result, that is, a mutually acceptable agreement."

Given all these signs of ever-closer rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing, even at the expense of their other interests, is it really possible — let alone useful — to continue to cling to the belief that the Sino-Russian relationship is merely a temporary marriage of convenience?

— From Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 13 Issue: 62, March 30, 2016.

U.S. NATO  troops brought heavy artillery  into Lithuania to train with that country's military.
By Andrea Germanos

American military officials announced March 30 plans to increase the number of U.S. troops and equipment in Eastern Europe to counter what the Pentagon described as "an aggressive Russia." The plan still needs approval from the U.S. Congress.

The decision comes just weeks after Russia's foreign minister warned that NATO's military build-up near Russia's borders is "counterproductive and dangerous," and that the military alliance's members "are whipping up 'Russia's threat' myth." Part of the expansion plan was already revealed by the Obama administration last month.

U.S. European Command said in a statement Wednesday that starting in February 2017, there will be continuous rotations of three Army combat teams and upgraded equipment in Europe. "That equipment would allow for the rapid deployment of ground forces," Military Times reports.

The Guardian notes that the plan marks a reversal of President Obama’s reduction of forces after concluding that Russian "aggression" poses an enduring threat to continental stability.

"This is a big step in enhancing the Army's rotational presence and increasing their combat equipment in Europe," U.S. European Command head Gen. Philip Breedlove stated. "This Army implementation plan continues to demonstrate our strong and balanced approach to reassuring our NATO allies and partners in the wake of an aggressive Russia in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. This means our allies and partners will see more capability—they will see a more frequent presence of an armored brigade with more modernized equipment in their countries."

The Wall Street Journal described it as "the first such deployment since the end of the Cold War."
From the Journal's reporting on March 30:

"The U.S. has been intermittently rotating about 4,200 troops in and out of Europe since 2014, on top of the roughly 62,000 U.S. military personnel assigned permanently on the continent. The Pentagon now aims to rotate in an Army armored brigade each year and divide the rotational force of 4,200 among six eastern members — Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria."

The New York Times reported last month:

"Under a 1997 agreement known as the NATO-Russia Founding Act, both sides pledged not to station large numbers of troops along their respective borders. Administration officials said they were confident that the new deployments would not be seen as breaching that agreement. In any event, Poland and the Baltic States argue that Russia’s incursion in Ukraine was a clear violation of the act, and that NATO should no longer abide by it.

Russia's Permanent Representative to NATO Alexander Grushko addressed the new development on Rossiya 24 TV  March 30, according to Russian news agency Tass, saying, "Cooperation will be possible only when NATO countries start realizing that the policy of confrontation contradicts their own national interests."

— From Common Dreams,  March 30, 2016

Hillary Clinton in Libya just after she and her policies helped bring down the government in October 2011. This was Clinton's project and she stands by it today even though warring factions have split the country in several parts and the Islamic State now occupies extensive territory. U.S. Special Forces and bombers are currently in Libya trying to avoid a catastrophe. Clinton was also a strong advocate of regime change in Syria, which led to the present deplorable situation, and she strongly backed the Iraq war.  
By Branko Marcetic

Hillary Clinton, one neoconservative writer wrote, had “begun the campaign as the former First Feminist” and “ended it as the Warrior Queen, more Margaret Thatcher than Gloria Steinem.”

The neoconservative Right would have you believe this election affords them a uniquely tough choice. On the one hand, there’s Hillary Clinton, liberal bogeywoman and hated embodiment of the Democratic establishment. On the other, there’s Donald Trump, who has repeatedly called the Iraq war a mistake, accused the Bush administration of lying to drag the United States into said war, claimed he would be “neutral” in his dealings with Israel and just recently sketched out an “unabashedly noninterventionist approach to world affairs” for the Washington Post editorial board.

Whether or not Trump believes any of this is, as usual, up for debate. But some neocons are so disgusted with his rejection of foreign policy establishment thinking that they’ve declared the unthinkable: They’re going to vote for Hillary Clinton. Clinton, one neoconservative writer wrote, had “begun the campaign as the former First Feminist” and “ended it as the Warrior Queen, more Margaret Thatcher than Gloria Steinem.”

Concerned that Trump would “destroy American foreign policy and the international system,” author Max Boot told Vox that Clinton would be “vastly preferable.” Historian Robert Kagan has also come out in favor of Clinton, saying he feels “comfortable with her on foreign policy.” Eliot Cohen, a former Bush administration official who has been called “the most influential neocon in academe,” declared Clinton “the lesser evil, by a large margin.”

It would be convenient to accept that this support is just part of a Faustian bargain neocons have reluctantly entered into because of the looming specter of Trump. But the truth is, neocons and assorted war hawks have long had a soft spot for Clinton and her views on foreign policy.

When President Obama nominated Clinton for secretary of state in 2008, Richard Perle, one of the Iraq War’s primary cheerleaders and chairman of the Defense Policy Board in the lead-up to the war, said he was “relieved.” “There's not going to be as much change as we were led to believe.”

Perle, who was sometimes referred to as the “Prince of Darkness” and who once predicted there would be “some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush,” made clear his support for Clinton was not due to a lack of choices. “I heard about others on the list [for secretary of state] that I wouldn't be happy about,” he said. “Those were mostly Republicans.”

In the same interview, George Shultz, secretary of state under Ronald Reagan and an early proponent of what would come to be known as the “Bush doctrine,” stated that: “I think she could be a very good secretary of state.” Deeming her “well-informed” and “curious,” Shultz’s only concern about her selection was that, having competed against Obama in a sometimes vicious campaign for the Democratic nomination, their relationship might be weakened.

That same year, conservative writer Noemi Emery, writing for the neocon Weekly Standard, dubbed Clinton “The Great Right Hope.” She wrote about the “relief” felt by conservatives that she was bringing her “steely-eyed stare” to the position of secretary of state, saying:

As for the conservatives, many of those who began 2008 willing to do anything to defeat her tended to end it feeling sorry she lost. They began to tell themselves and each other they would sleep better at night if she were the nominee of her party.

Clinton, she wrote, had “begun the campaign as the former First Feminist” and “ended it as the Warrior Queen, more Margaret Thatcher than Gloria Steinem.”

Three years later, Dick Cheney, the neocon’s neocon, appeared to urge Clinton to launch a primary challenge against Obama. “I think it’s not a bad idea,” he told ABC. Asked if she would have been a better president, Cheney replied:

Hillary Clinton is a pretty formidable individual and I think she’s probably the most competent individual they’ve got in their—in their cabinet. And—frankly, I thought she was going to win the nomination last time around…maybe there will be enough ferment in the Democratic Party so that there will be a primary on their side.

— From the In These Times blog, March 23.


Kirkus Review of Thomas Frank's new book:

Listen Liberal, Or, What Ever Happened
to the Party of the People?, 320 pages

In essence: How the "party of the working class" has switched its focus to well-heeled professionals, more concerned with social issues than economic inequality.

“This is a book about the failure of the Democratic Party,” writes political analyst and Baffler founding editor Frank (What's the Matter With Kansas, Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right, 2011).

“What ails the Democrats?” he asks. “So bravely forthright on cultural issues, their leaders fold when confronted with matters of basic economic democracy.”

Where David Halberstam once showed how reliance on “the best and the brightest” resulted in wrongheaded decisions on Vietnam, Frank builds a similar case for economic policy, as Ivy League presidents (Bill Clinton, Barack Obama) have surrounded themselves with Ivy League advisers whose perspectives aren’t those of what was once the blue-collar base of the Democratic Party:
“Thus did the Party of the People turn the government over to Wall Street in the years after Wall Street had done such lasting damage to…well, the People.”

 Frank is particularly acidic on the Clinton presidency, calling his cabinet “a kind of yuppie Woodstock, a gathering of the highly credentialed tribes,” and claiming, “what he did as president was far outside the reach of even the most diabolical Republican.”

In the author’s estimation, the hope of the Obama administration turned hopeless. Since Frank is far from a lone voice in the wilderness in his perspective, you’d think he might see allies in the Occupy movement and the Bernie Sanders campaign, but he barely acknowledges the former and makes no mention of the latter, making it seem as if more recent developments lie outside his analysis.

Rather than insisting on radical reform from the left or even a third party alternative, he seems to feel that Hillary Clinton is inevitable: “I myself might vote for her,” because it would be a “terrible thing” if any of the Republicans became president.

The book is a hard-hitting analysis of the Democratic Party that may leave some readers confused by the author’s ambivalent, punches-pulling conclusion.


Striking Verizon workers picket outside a Verizon office in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo / Mike Groll)
By Donna Goodman

Nearly 40,000 Verizon workers went on strike from Massachusetts to Virginia April 13, after 10 months of trying to negotiate with the company, and after working without a contract since August 2015. Three quarters of the striking workers are represented by Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the remainder by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

A statement by the New York State AFL-CIO declared:

"After 10 long months of negotiations, Verizon seems unwilling to settle a fair agreement.  Verizon made $39 billion in profits over the last three years — and $1.8 billion a month in profits over the first three months of 2016 — but the company is still insisting on givebacks that would devastate jobs.

"The company wants to gut job security protections, contract out more work, freeze pensions, shutter call centers and offshore those jobs to Mexico and the Philippines. And that is just the beginning.  Verizon has also refused to negotiate any improvements in wages, benefits or working conditions for Verizon Wireless retail workers who formed a union in 2014."

The policy that workers found most galling was the transfers, for up to two months, out of their hometowns to work in some other Verizon location. CWA member Kenny Trainor, a father of two, said he can't be absent from his Poughkeepsie, N.Y., home for weeks at a time and has tried to get himself removed from transfer lists. "Verizon's transfer policies are a big hardship on families," he said. "The company doesn't care. They just expect me to get family and friends to help out. But three weeks isn't babysitting. Someone who's taking care of your kids for three weeks at a time is raising your kids."

Verizon has not budged since June, when negotiations began, and union members described the company's "last best offer" as no different from its very first, unacceptable, offer. What drove the workers to the picket lines was this ultimatum: unless the unions agreed to a litany of concessions and ratified a concessionary agreement by May 20, the company would assert the right to transfer workers to any Verizon location from Massachusetts to Virginia, away from their families, for up to two months at a time

The company's business is divided between its wireless and wireline divisions. Most of the striking workers are employed on the wireline side, which includes landlines and the fiber optic network. The company views the wireless side, which yields the highest profits, as its future. Workers in these jobs are largely not unionized and are paid less than those in the wireline side.

Dutchess County, N.Y., Executive Marc Molinaro addressed the large Poughkeepsie crowd, offering his support to the strikers, and thanking CWA for having supported him in his election campaign.

James Gescheidle, Executive Vice President of CWA Local 1120, called Verizon's refusal to negotiate with the workers "the face of corporate greed."  The company, he said, is raking in more than $1.5 billion dollars a month in profits, pays no federal income tax, and still wants more "flexibility" from its workers. He noted that the company had refused to consider union proposals for medical savings and wants to shift more healthcare costs on to retirees. More than raises in salary, he said, the workers want an end to the transfers. "Local workers are transferred from the Hudson Valley to Westchester, and then to Brooklyn and the Bronx." The company also wants to contract out more jobs.

Gescheidle predicted a long strike. "We want the public to know that we completely reject outsourcing of jobs. We need to keep jobs here in the Hudson Valley and in the United States. The company is turning what was once a career into just a job." He said that unions like CWA were protecting middle class jobs that are needed to bring everyone up. The strike is getting support from both private and public sector unions.
Thousands of Verizon workers rallied in Midtown Manhattan April 18.(Credit CBS) 
Rob Pinto, Chief Steward of CWA Local 1120, said: "Verizon is bringing in more than 1.5 billion in profits per month and wants to decimate our contract and our families." Repeating the most consistent message of the day, he said, "We're not going to give back. We're on strike against corporate greed. The striking workers were unanimous in denouncing the greed of Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, who makes nearly $20 million a year.

The Verizon strike is the biggest U.S work stoppage since 2011, when another Verizon strike lasted two weeks. It is also significant in light of the decades long decline of labor's power. While the strike remains a powerful tool in unions' struggles against management, its use has diminished for a variety of reasons: low union membership — the lowest since 1954 when union membership was quite high but the population was half today's size; the increase in corporations' holdings, so that closing down one plant or location does limited harm to the employer; companies' readiness to send jobs overseas; high unemployment rates and the availability of non-unionized strike breakers; laws and court judgments against strikes, which put strikers and union leaders in jeopardy of fines and prison; and anti-union sentiment among sectors of the public, who often don't support strikers, seeing the inconvenience strikes cause to consumers rather than the just cause of workers fighting for fairness at work.

Two dramatic exceptions to this decline were the 2005 New York City Transit Workers Union strike, led by Roger Toussaint, and the 2012 Chicago Teachers Union strike, led by Karen Lewis. The TWU strike yielded some benefits to the workers but landed Toussaint in jail and cost the union millions of dollars in fines. The Chicago strike was immediately successful, but within a few short years the city administration began closing schools again, one of the key issues on which the strike was based. The CTU held a one-day job action on April 1 and is planning additional ones.

Public sector unions have been mobilizing for months to protect their workers from court decisions that could deprive the unions of dues from non-member fee payers. Having won the recent Supreme Court case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the unions expect to face more challenges, as dozens of cases are in the pipeline on the way to the Supreme Court. The Verizon strikers at Wednesday's rally were quick to assert their solidarity with public sector unionists.

To sign a petition to Verizon's CEO Lowell McAdam, asking him to negotiate with Verizon workers, and to find the locations of picket lines you can join, go to .

— Donna Goodman is a co-editor of the Activist Newsletter and an elected delegate of United University Professions, the union representing faculty and professional staff of the State University of New York system. Her book on feminism will be published in a few months.



Pope Francis visited thousands of refugees stranded in a camp in Lesbos, Greece, April 16 seeking to bring their plight to world attention. Speaking to the multitude he declared: "I have wanted to be with you today. I want to tell you that you are not alone. In these weeks and months, you have endured much suffering in your search for a better life." Francis explained that he and the other religious leaders present came not just "to be with you and to hear your stories, but also to call the attention of the world to this grave humanitarian crisis and to plead for its resolution."
[Every distant now and extremely remote then during the nearly 2,000-year existence of the Roman Catholic Church it has been necessary to implement certain reforms to preserve the institution from mass popular disaffection. We live in one of these rare periods as the worldwide scandal of priestly pederasty, among other issues, has drastically weakened Roman Catholicism economically and as a vibrant moral presence. Progressive Pope Francis was selected as the messenger of needed reform. His latest transformations liberalize marriage, family life and sexuality — all, as usual, without an iota of change in rigid Church doctrine. That's the price. Francis is 74, and his eventual successors may not resume, much less enlarge, his campaign. But there is a good chance that future Vatican bureaucracies will not disavow what he has accomplished because it is too important for the survival of the Church. As non-believing materialists, who view such reform as a small step forward, we have considerable respect for Pope Francis, but who are we to judge? This article clarifies what has just happened.]

By James Carroll, New Yorker

I could have used Pope Francis’s latest apostolic exhortation (April) 8, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), when I served as a Catholic priest, almost half a century ago. I was ordained in early 1969, a few months after the promulgation of “Humanae Vitae,” the Vatican’s resounding condemnation of “artificial birth control,” which would define my future. I was a chaplain at a university where, true to the era, the norms of sexual morality had been upended. I certainly saw the need, in those wild days, for a humane and ethical analysis of the state of sexual intimacy, personal commitment, erotic longing, and gender rights. But, believe me, the triumphalist salvo from Rome made the moral condition worse, not better. Like many priests of my generation, I declined to affirm the birth-control teaching. On the contrary, I encouraged the young people who sought my advice to be sexually responsible, especially since the mature use of contraceptives could avoid a later choice about abortion.

Oddly, perhaps, this approach did not make me an outlaw renegade. Priests like me, in counseling our fellow-Catholics, operated under the rubric of the so-called pastoral solution, which allowed us to quietly defy Vatican dogma when the situation seemed to call for it. In the confessional booth or the rectory parlor, we could encourage our parishioners to decide for themselves, by examining their own consciences, whether the doctrine of the Church applied to them in their particular circumstance. (We cited the lessons of the Second Vatican Council, which, taking up the theme of responsible parenthood, only three years before, had said, “The parents themselves, and no one else, should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God.”)

The fact that, a generation later, the vast majority of Catholics disregard “Humanae Vitae” shows how effective the pastoral solution has been. But this solution has always been offered as an option in the shadowy private forum — in those off-the-record consultations between confessor and penitent. Preachers never addressed the subject from the pulpit. Everybody in the Church knew that “Humanae Vitae” was a moral teaching with no center, but that, too, was treated like a secret. Popes did not speak of the encyclical’s being ignored, nor did bishops or priests. Catholic lay people have made their declaration mainly by having about two children, like everybody else, and going regularly to Communion, with no questions asked. There has been a tacit understanding, as if the seal of the confessional itself applied, that this nearly universal choice to disobey the Church not be spoken of. Why? To protect the myth of the immutability of doctrine.

Pope Francis has now brought the pastoral solution out of the Catholic shadows. “The Joy of Love” is his concluding exhortation after the Synod on the Family, which unfolded in the course of the past two years. Comparable in scope, compassion, and eloquent wisdom to last spring’s climate-change document, “Laudato Si’,” this new statement is, in effect, the Pope’s summary and conclusion about the questions raised at the Synod, which found itself focused on whether divorced and remarried Catholics can receive Communion. Francis takes that up. He says, all but explicitly, yes they can. But it is how he does so that lends this declaration its revolutionary significance.

Formerly, in accordance with the Catholic doctrine of the “indissolubility” of marriage, the divorced and remarried were officially shunned. They remained in the pew while most others in the church went forward to the Communion rail. But that shunning is history. “It is important that the divorced who have entered a new union should be made to feel part of the Church,” Francis declares. How that feeling is expressed in practice is to be determined, he writes, not by “a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases,” but by “a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases.”

The Pope — to the disappointment of many liberals, no doubt — is not replacing an old set of harsh and restrictive rules with a new set of flexible and merciful rules. Rules, actually, are not the point. It is true that this document does little explicitly to uproot the structures of misogyny and homophobia that have long corrupted the Catholic tradition, but it does give a fresh impetus to change on these issues. Francis’s watchword is mercy, but mercy adheres, first, not in alterations of doctrine but in the new way that Catholics are invited to think of doctrine. When human experience, with all of what the Pope calls its “immense variety of concrete situations,” is elevated over “general principles,” a revolution is implicit. Francis explains: “It is true that general rules set forth a good which can never be disregarded or neglected, but in their formulation they cannot provide absolutely for all particular situations.”

The pastoral solution lives in this realm of “particular situations,” where, as Francis insists, “constant love” must prevail over judgmentalism. Every situation is different, and a subtle moral discernment is required to see how general principles apply to it. For centuries, the assumption of the Catholic hierarchy was that lay people were not capable of such discernment, but, with Francis, that is no longer true. “The Joy of Love” is directly addressed to the laity, who are encouraged to pursue conscientious moral discernment by consulting not only pastors but one another. Who knows the ins and outs of married life better than married people?

Pope Francis addresses refugees, some with signs asking for help.
Conservatives have long warned of the dangers involved in a forthright, public acknowledgment that moral complexity requires flexibility. Rules and doctrines, they worry, will be undermined if absolutist attitudes about their meaning are mitigated. The conservatives are right, and they will surely see this new exhortation as a further source of concern. Pope Francis’s emphasis on mercy toward the divorced and remarried doesn’t only mean that those people will more freely partake of Communion. It also means that the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage, however much it is still held up as an ideal, will not grip the moral imagination of the Church as it once did.

Such a progression has already occurred in Catholic attitudes about contraception. Once the vast majority of the faithful took for granted their right and duty to weigh situation against principle — and decided, mostly, that the principle didn’t apply — it was only a matter of time before the hierarchy itself did the same. That is the significance of Pope Francis’s own conclusion, offered in February on his plane ride back from Mexico, that the Zika-virus pandemic requires a change in the Church’s policies on contraception. In that drastic situation, the principle of “Humanae Vitae” simply does not apply. As has happened before, the private forum had become public. Official Church teaching on birth control may never change, but its meaning will never be the same. Moral discernment belongs to the people.

The change that Francis has wrought on the Catholic imagination is one that I, for one, all those years ago, never imagined would come from the top, where order was taken to be holy, and the moral confusion an uncertain young priest might feel was expressly forbidden. Better late than never. Pope Francis is calling many of us home, while sending no one away. “I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion,” he writes. “But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness.” The point, of course, is that the Church, too, is marked by human weakness, as this halting progress toward reform so clearly shows. But here, again, the goodness is what counts. Francis is inviting the Church to leave behind the tidy moralism of the pulpit and the sacristy in order to do “what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street.”


ANSWER and Al-Awda supporters marching Convention Center
By the ANSWER Coalition

People from across the country converged on Washington, D.C., March 20 for a national demonstration in solidarity with Palestine. Co-sponsored by the ANSWER Coalition and Al-Awda: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, the rally was endorsed by dozens of organizations in the antiwar, international solidarity and anti-racist movements. 

The marched was called to protest against the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) convention. Held annually, the gathering drew high-level politicians who declare their support to the racist Israeli regime and its oppression of the Palestinians. This year, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump gave speeches. Demonstrators were able to stand directly outside the convention center where AIPAC was meeting, unfurling a giant Palestinian flag.



By the Activist Newsletter

Big business and the conservative politicians of both parties said it couldn't be done, but suddenly the minimum wage in California and New York is gradually being raised to $15 an hour. Other states are in the process of boosting the minimum to $10 and $12 an hour, while the federal minimum remains at $7.50. What happened?

Times have been changing in America, as the 2016 presidential campaign clearly shows, largely because of stagnant wages, extreme inequality, the loss of working class jobs, the big-money subversion of democracy and the absence of government social programs to benefit working families.

The "Fight for 15" began three years ago with the first one-day strikes by low-wage fast food workers, helped in many cases by the Service Employees International Union. At the beginning few observers thought the goal would be won. But as other low-wage workers joined the struggle — combined with anger at the government  and the recent uprisings against the established leadership of the Democratic and Republican parties — some politicians finally recognized it was time to act.

Here's what is going to happen in California and New York, courtesy of the Institute for Policy Studies:

In California, Gov. Jerry Brown will raise the minimum wage to $15 in 2023 for all employees and in 2022 for those in firms with more than 25 employees. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan would raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2018 in New York City and by 2022 in the City’s suburbs and on Long Island. The minimum wage upstate would rise to at least $12.50, with the possibility of then going higher. These increases are significantly larger in scope than what has been typical of recent federal and state minimum wage hikes. Furthermore, both proposals would raise the wage floor to levels relative to the wages of typical workers that have not been the norm for at least three decades....

The Berkeley Labor Center estimates that 5.6 million workers — or the entire bottom third of the California workforce — would benefit from the California increase (excluding those already helped by various city initiatives). The Economic Policy Institute's analysis estimates that 3.2 million workers, or 37% of the New York workforce, would benefit from a statewide increase to $15, although the number affected by the current proposal would be less, given the smaller wage hike in the upstate region.

Adjusted for inflation, New York’s current $9 minimum wage is 6% below the national minimum wage in 1968, its peak year in inflation-adjusted terms. California’s current $10 minimum is just 4% above the 1968 value. Using the CBO’s projections for inflation, going to $15 by 2023 is equivalent to $12.80 in 2015 dollars, a 28% boost from 1968. There are two things worth noting about this increase in purchasing power. First, prices are higher in New York and California relative to the national average (15.3% and 12.3%  percent, respectively), so comparing them to national price changes overstates the purchasing power of the minimum wage for people in these states. Second, productivity has more than doubled in the nearly five decades since 1968. These proposals would set a wage floor that reflected just one quarter of the improvement in our economy’s ability to generate income because of this productivity growth since the Johnson administration.....

The California and New York targets will allow individuals and households to come close to meeting a living standard that is ‘modest but adequate.’ The Economic Policy Institute’s measure of a "modest but adequate" family budget shows a single adult living in California and working full time would need to earn $14.22 an hour in Fresno (in today’s dollars) and $19.89 in San Jose to meet basic living expenses. In the New York metro area and on Long Island, a full-time childless worker needs $20.92 and $19.50, respectively, to meet this standard. Under the planned higher minimum wages and with various social supports even the lowest-paid workers could attain a decent standard of living. That is a goal worthy of bold policy making like a higher minimum wage, which is essential to making sure that working people get a fair return on their work and enjoy shared prosperity. It’s about time.


Albert Lukassen’s world is melting around him. When the 64-year-old Inuit man was young, he could hunt by dogsled on the frozen Uummannaq Fjord, on Greenland’s west coast, until June. This photo shows him there in April. (Photo credit: Ciril Jazbec National Geographic)
By Marianne Lavelle

Carbon is pouring into the atmosphere faster than at any time in the past 66 million years — since the dinosaurs went extinct — according to a new analysis of the geologic record. The study underscores just how profoundly humans are changing Earth’s history.

The heat-trapping carbon emissions rate is 10 times greater today than during the prehistoric hot period that is the closest precedent for today's greenhouse warming.

That period, known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), was marked by a massive release of the Earth's natural carbon stores into the atmosphere. (It’s not clear what caused the PETM, but volcanic eruptions and methane gas release are suspects.) The excess carbon triggered a 5°C (9°F) temperature increase, along with drought, floods, insect plagues, and extinctions.

The new analysis of the sediment record concludes that the carbon rush at the start of the PETM extended over at least 4,000 years. That translates to about 1.1 additional gigatons of carbon per year. Today, fossil fuel burning and other human activity release 10 gigatons of carbon annually.  

Richard Zeebe, an oceanographer at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, who led the research published Monday in Nature Geoscience, said the findings show the challenge for predicting how the planet will change.

"It means we don't have a really good analog in the past for the massive amount of carbon we're releasing," he said. "Even if we look at the PETM and say the transition to a warmer climate may have been relatively smooth, there's no guarantee for the future."

Drought, one of the drastic consequences of global warming.
The PETM transition, 55.8 million years ago, caused massive changes in where plants and animals lived, rapid evolution of some species, and extinction of others. (See photos of how scientists know what the climate was like in the PETM.)

Half of all single-celled shelled organisms on the sea floor were wiped out, but many microorganisms on the ocean surface flourished during the PETM and expanded their habitats. The new study suggests that today's marine life may not be so lucky, wrote geologist Peter Stassen of the University of Leuven in an editorial accompanying the new research. During the PETM, those organisms may have had time to adapt through migration or evolution—time that won't be available to modern sea life.

Scott Wing, curator of fossil plants at the Smithsonian Institution, said the rate of carbon release during the PETM has been an important question. "A really fast addition strongly changes the composition of the atmosphere and acidifies the surface ocean, and of course, organisms have to deal with those BIG changes," Wing wrote in an email.

It’s been hard to get a handle on the speed of the carbon pulse that set off the PETM.  Scientists have to read the story told in sediment—the layers of organic material that have settled year by year on the ocean floor. Zeebe and his colleagues, using a sediment core drilled in New Jersey, based their analysis on the pattern of carbon and oxygen isotopes in the sediment samples.

The new estimate of the rate of carbon release at the PETM onset is similar to that found in 2011 by a team led by Pennsylvania State University. The Penn State group based their sediment analysis on what is known as an "age model;" they dated a sediment core sample drilled in Norway based on physicists' recreation of the rhythms of Earth's orbit around the sun. Slight changes in that orbit leave a pattern of iron concentrations in the sediment.

Lee Kump, head of geosciences at Penn State, said he was "heartened" that the new approach arrived at numbers in line with his team's estimates, although he noted both papers come to the same grim conclusion.

"The lesson for society is the same," he said. "We are now exceeding by an order of magnitude the rate of carbon release during one of the most remarkable global warming events in Earth's history."

— From the National Geographic, March 21, 2016 


       Demonstrator holds picture of  murdered environmentalist Berta Cáceres Flores in front of mural.

By Darryl Fears

Long before gunmen burst into Berta Cáceres Flores Flores’s house in rural Honduras March 3, Beverly Bell gave up any hope that her friend would live to an old age. “This was a marked woman,” said Bell, who kept a long list of the death threats. “Everyone knew it.”

The slaying of the internationally known environmentalist was condemned from the State Department to the Vatican. But for activists who work in Latin America, Cáceres’s murder was tragically familiar.

Two-thirds of environmentalists who died violently around the world since 2002 lost their lives in that region. For the five years ending in 2014, more than 450 were killed, according to an international network of conservationist groups. Over half were in Honduras and Brazil.

Berta Cáceres giving a speech. 
Among the more recent deaths: A young worker who protected sea turtles in Costa Rica was kidnapped and brutally beaten. A farmer in Peru was shot 12 times for protesting a hydroelectric dam. A Guatemalan activist who linked a massive fish kill to pesticides sprayed by a palm oil company was gunned down near a courthouse in broad daylight. A Brazilian activist who fought logging in the rain forest was ambushed and fatally stabbed while returning home with his wife.

The common thread in virtually every case is the fight by communities to stop government-approved corporate development of remote lands. Slain environmentalists frequently have attempted to halt projects such as dams and logging involving hundreds of millions of dollars, which stand to enrich local providers of labor and materials.

Those locals have an interest in eliminating whoever gets in the way, according to John Knox, a United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and the environment and a professor of international law at Wake Forest University.

Most victims are indigenous people “who are oppressed, largely marginalized and are considered almost expendable by the powers that be,” he said.

The risks they face also reflect a legacy of U.S. intervention throughout the 20th century, noted Dana Frank, a history professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

“The United States famously nurtured and funded dictatorships, corrupt governments and military rule throughout most of Latin America,” Frank said. “The post-coup regime in Honduras continues that tradition,” and the same is true in Guatemala, Colombia and other countries, she added. (Continued at:
— Washington Post, March 25,2016,

By Liberation News

In response to a national call to action by the Justice 4 Akai Gurley Family Committee to demand the maximum jail sentence for NYPD killer cop Peter Liang, the ANSWER Coalition and the Party for Socialism and Liberation mobilized in San Francisco’s Mission District on April 1.

In a rally and march that shut down several streets and locked-down the Mission’s Police Station, the demonstration saw anti-police brutality organizers from around the country stand in solidarity with San Francisco’s own victims of racist police terror. The murders of Alex Nieto, Mario Woods and Amilcar Perez-Lopez, among others, have sparked mass outrage, led to organized resistance and fighting unity between San Francisco’s an

Speaker Kerbie Joseph of the ANSWER Coalition, declared: "Right now in New York City, we had a two week trial where Liang was convicted. But the DA, who is supposed to be working on behalf of the family, recommended five years probation, six months house arrest, and five hundred hours of community service. So basically within this system, you kill a Black man on the street, you kill a Latino man on the street, you get to sit in your house."


Rebel fighters in Dublin awaiting signal to launch Easter Monday uprising.

By the Activist Newsletter

April 24 is the 100th anniversary of the historic Easter Rebellion in Dublin, Ireland. This heroic struggle, waged for independence against the colonial British Empire by about 1,200 armed men and women followers of the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, was crushed in six days by the overwhelming force of “Britannia’s Huns with their long range guns.” (Although the anniversary is usually celebrated on Easter Sunday, which varies every year, the uprising actually took place on Monday, April 24, 1916.)

The rebels were led by schoolteacher Padraic Pearse and James Connolly, the great Irish socialist revolutionary and working class leader. The insurgents seized the General Post Office and several other locations, and issued a proclamation declaring that Ireland, subjugated by Britain for several hundred years, was now a republic and a sovereign independent state. They were attacked by a British force said to number 60,000. British naval guns virtually destroyed the post office building (and other sectors of Dublin) where the rebels were mainly situated.

Just before the rebels were forced to surrender, Pearse wrote: “I desire now, lest I may not have an opportunity later, to pay homage to the gallantry of the soldiers of Irish Freedom who have during the past four days been writing with fire and steel the most glorious chapter in the later history of Ireland. Justice can never be done to their heroism, to their discipline, to their gay and unconquerable spirit in the midst of peril and death. If I were to mention the names of individuals my list would be a long one. I will name only that of Commandant-General James Connolly, commanding the Dublin Division. He lies wounded, but is still the guiding brain of our resistance.”

After the rebel defeat, in which hundreds of patriots died, Britain executed 15 leaders of the rebellion, including Pearse and Connolly, who was the last to die.

Citizen Army gathers at headquarters of the Transport and General Workers Union which Connolly headed. The sign atop the building reads: "We serve neither King nor Kaiser , but Ireland."
The uprising was doomed from the start, a fact anticipated by many of the participants. Many people at the time thought it reckless. And yet, as noted in the best of several books we have read on the rebellion (Rebels — The Irish Rising of 1916 by Peter De Rosa), “The final bullet exploding in Connolly’s brain broke the last of Ireland’s chains.”

The failed uprising directly led to the 1919-21 independence war, which resulted in the liberation of 26 of Ireland’s 32 counties (the other six counties remain to this day a possession of Great Britain). Would that Connolly had lived to help guide the liberation effort and its aftermath, but that is another matter. This 100th anniversary is a reminder that those who struggle for social justice or revolution often suffer bitter defeats — but history shows that out of some such setbacks eventual victory emerges, though not always as originally imagined.

Long live the martyrs of Easter Monday, 1916! J.A.S.



A Bornean orangutan climbs 98 feet up a tree in the rain forest of Gunung Palung National  Park, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. This photo, taken last August, won the first prize in the 2016 World 
Press Photo contest. The photographer is Tim Laman. 

By the Activist Newsletter

Our closest animal relative — the orangutan, with whom human animals share 97% of their DNA, and both of which are classified as a subgroup of the Great Apes — is in deep trouble.

Extinction in the wild is likely in the next 10 years for the two living species — Sumatran Orangutans and soon after for Bornean Orangutans. They live in dense rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra in Southeast Asia. The Sumatran species (Pongo abelii) is critically endangered and the Bornean species (Pongo pygmaeus) of orangutans is endangered according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

The Sumatran and Bornean Orangutans' rainforest habitats are disappearing at an alarming rate. The reasons are human made:

1.     Logging is an obvious problem for orangutans who spend their lives in trees.

2.     Fires endanger the orangutans and the smoke confuses them leaving them vulnerable to death from loss of habitat (food). Fires are commonly started to clear the land and undergrowth for farming and palm oil plantations.

3.     Palm Oil Plantations are now the leading suppliers for a global market that demands more of the tree's versatile oil for cooking, cosmetics, and biofuel. But palm oil's appeal comes with significant costs. Palm oil plantations often replace tropical forests, killing endangered species, uprooting local communities, and contributing to the release of climate-warming gases. The orangutans that are displaced starve to death, are killed by plantation workers as pests, or die in the fires.

4.     Poaching orangutan infants and hunting for meat also threatens the species. Mothers are often killed for their babies, which are then sold on the black market for pets.

Orangutans are extremely patient and intelligent mammals. They are very observant and inquisitive. In Malay and Indonesian "orang" means "person" and "utan" is derived from hutan, which means "forest." Thus, orangutan literally means "person of the forest." Long may these "persons" remain in their forests, but that is up to their larger-brained cousins, which isn't particularly assuring.

— This information is based on several sources, primarily The Orangutan Project.