Monday, May 19, 2014

05-19-14 Activist Newsletter

May 19, 2014, Issue 202
If you are looking for the Activist Calendar
click on  April 27 in sidebar index


1.   Quotes Of The Month — Ida B. Wells (1862-1931)
2.   Climate Change Requires A Radical Solution
3.   Earth Could Warm 11 Degrees By 2100
4.   Western Antarctic Ice Sheet Is Collapsing
5.   Climate Change Risks Security And Wars
6.   Workers Strike For Living Wage
7.   Guantánamo Forced Feeding Stalled
8.   Right Wing Party Now Rules India
9.   More Women Than Men Earn Minimum Wage
10. Wealth Begets Wealth for Top 1%
11. America: ‘The Majority Does Not Rule’
12. Neoliberalism's War on Democracy
13. Vets Nix U.S. Troops Near Ukraine
14. Thousands March on Congress
15. ‘Cowboys and Indians’ Say ‘Stop Pipeline’
16. Arrests in Anti-Drone Protest
17. Urban Air Quality Gets Worse
18. Outdoor Pollution Worst for U.S. Blacks
19. Food Shortage Crisis by Mid-Century?
20. Grave Waste of Food In U.S.
21. The Origins of Jim Crow Segregation
22. Brown V. Board at 60
23. China's Environmental Challenges
24. Gabriel García Márquez Died April 17
25. Mourning The Loss of “Hurricane” Carter
26. Vatican: 3,500 Errant Priests Punished
27. New Hampshire to Legalize Adultery

EDITOR’S NOTE: The next issue of the Newsletter will be posted June 15, including an analysis of the May 25 Ukraine election and related developments, plus an examination of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy, focusing the U.S., China, Russia, Ukraine and NATO.

1.  QUOTES OF THE MONTH — Ida B. Wells (1862-1931
A fighter for racial and gender equality.

Ida Bell Wells, born a slave in Mississippi during the Civil War, was an African-American journalist,
newspaper editor, suffragist, sociologist and, with her husband, newspaper owner Ferdinand L. Barnett, an early leader in the civil rights movement. She documented lynching in the United States, showing how it was often a way to control or punish blacks who competed with whites. She was active in women's rights and the women's suffrage movement, establishing several notable women's organizations. Wells was a skilled and persuasive rhetorician, and traveled internationally on lecture tours. (Wikipedia.)

·      One had better die fighting against injustice than die like a dog or a rat in a trap."

     ·      "Somebody must show that the Afro-American race is more sinned against than sinning, and it seems to have fallen upon me to do so."

·      "The strong arm of the law must be brought to bear upon lynchers in severe punishment, but this cannot and will not be done unless a healthy public sentiment demands and sustains such action."

·   In slave times the Negro was kept subservient and submissive by the frequency and severity of the scourging, but, with freedom, a new system of intimidation came into vogue; the Negro was not only whipped and scourged; he was killed.

·      "The negro has suffered far more from the commission of this crime against the women of his race by white men than the white race has ever suffered through his crimes."

·      "The only times an Afro-American who was assaulted got away has been when he had a gun and used it in self-defense."


                        From KAL, The Economist
By Jack A. Smith, editor

Climate change is occurring with extreme rapidity. Recent news headlines warn us:  “Earth Could Warm 11 Degrees by 2100,” “Western Antarctic Ice Sheet Is Collapsing,” and “Climate Change Risks Security and Wars” — and this is just the beginning.

Had extreme measures been inaugurated worldwide 20 years ago to sharply curtail reliance on fossil fuels, much of what we are now experiencing — unwelcome temperature change, dangerous storms, droughts, floods, etc. — would have been minimized. But to this day Washington is among the tiny minority of countries tthat  have refused to ratify the basic UN document on climate change, the Kyoto Protocol.

The current stage of the climate crisis will afflict our Earth for innumerable generations to come, creating increasing havoc. Stage one will eventually transform to a crueler stage two later this century and other stages in time unless severe measures are introduced immediately. We know the dire consequences for future generations if we fail to act immediately.

The well-known Canadian scientist and broadcaster David Suzuki got it right when he said on the Bill Moyers PBS program this month: “Our politicians should be thrown in the slammer for willful blindness.... I think that we are being willfully blind to the consequences for our children and grandchildren. It’s an intergenerational crime.”

Despite the reality of climate change, the major capitalist industrialized countries — most certainly the United States —are moving at a snail’s pace, if moving at all, to mitigate its decimating effects on life on Earth. At issue is whether the capitalist system is willing and able to bring about the immense changes required to prevent climate change from developing into a global catastrophe from mid-to-end century. The evidence so far is that it will not move fast enough.

Virtually all scientists and most concerned people now understand why climate change is happening, and that it will become much worse. Some of them are part a growing mass movement to stop climate change, which we strongly support. But there’s a catch.

At this point, the problem is deeply embedded in a capitalist economic system based upon the relentless exploitation of the Earth and all its resources to obtain super profits that largely accrue to a small minority of people. Capital must be sharply challenged as a system if climate change is to be halted.

Some progress is being made in the conversion from oil, natural gas and coal to solar, hydropower, wind, biomass (biofuel) and geothermal energy, mainly in several smaller social democratic or liberal countries of Europe and elsewhere. But such progress is the exception and is dwarfed by the greenhouse gas emissions of the major industrialized capitalist economies, led by the U.S. (a market-driven economy) and China (a socialist market economy).

Of these societies, China — now the world’s largest annual contributor of CO2 to the atmosphere — is devoting the greatest amount of resources and money to develop sources of green energy, but the gap between its fossil and renewable fuels is immense. The U.S., which was the principal emitter of CO2 for well over a hundred years and remains the number one cumulative contributor of poisons in the atmosphere, became number two a few years ago.

Washington lags far behind most major industrial countries in efforts to limit greenhouse emissions. American presidents have known about an impending climate catastrophe at least since the Clinton Administration in the 1990s but have done virtually nothing about it. Given its wealth and powerful status as global hegemon, the United States government under the regimes of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, has been the principal obstacle to concerted global climate action.

President Obama has finally decided after five years to use the powers he already possesses without the need of Congressional approval to implement certain limited beneficial environmental measures, but this is hardly good enough. Now he is even giving hopeful speeches about climate change. But his few insignificant accomplishments are buried by a mountain of missed opportunities and his dedication to drilling for as much oil and fracking for as much gas as possible, turning our country into Saudi America.

As said in mid-May by Paul Jay, the senior editor of The Real News Network: Obama “has a big bully pulpit. He could be rallying the country for a new, green America... but [he’s done] next to nothing since he was elected.”

It is convenient to blame the far right and Tea Party know-nothings for America’s shameful lethargy in this regard, but that’s simply not the main problem. Climate deniers in Congress, exasperating as they are, constitute the farcical sideshow of a much bigger economic and political three-ring circus known as U.S.A. Inc. — the world’s largest business/government monopoly. Its run by the wealthiest sector of the population, including the corporate, banking and finance chieftains, and their well-paid minions in business and government, the mass media and other key institutions.

Theoretically, American democracy is a means of organizing a society based first and foremost on an honest electoral system to choose its leaders and hold them responsible. The electoral system is still based on one person, one vote, but it is corrupted absolutely by the power of big money contributions from the multi-millionaires and billionaires in the ruling class. And by seeing to it there are only two viable parties to choose from — both capitalist, one representing the right and far right and the other the center right — the Plutocracy cannot lose, no matter who wins.

Being capitalist, it’s also supposed to mean a society where citizens may not be economically equal, but assuredly not as unequal as conditions in the U.S. today. Of all the OECD’s major industrial economies America is last in equality. In its quest for ever-greater profits, this ruling class is shredding what remains of that democracy. In the process it has also fought to lower the income and politically disempower the middle and working classes.

According to economic columnist Eduardo Porter in the May 14, New York Times: “The growing concentration of income can, in fact, make inequality more difficult to correct, as the wealthy bring their wealth to bear on the political process to maintain their privilege. What’s more, disparities in income seem to produce political polarization and gridlock, which tend to favor those who receive a better deal from the prevailing rules.”

What’s this got to do with climate change? Everything. Fossil fuel interests (oil, gas, coal) are major elements of the U.S. economy — so much so that Washington subsidizes this industry with from $10 billion up to $52 billion a year (which includes costs of defending pipelines and shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf). Fossil fuel makes its owners, executives and stockholders incredibly rich. All America’s industries and corporations are dependent in one way or another on prevailing energy resources.

Most big corporations and financial interests are wedded to the short-term profit picture, such as a company’s quarterly economic performance charts. Heads roll when profits drop. The fossil fuel industry in particular, and big business in general, fear profits will fall if the U.S. sharply lowers greenhouse gas emissions.

Another factor is that a commitment to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and to stop the devastation of the ecological system means that the consumption in the richer countries inevitably must be reduced — an utter anathema for capitalism, which is based on continual expansion of demand. 

Neither the existing ruling class nor the political system will support the required massive and prompt transition to renewable fuels and the establishment of a sustainable ecological policy to slow down and eventually halt the continual increase in global warming and the decimation of the natural and human environment.

It will take decades of transformation away from fossil fuels and from conspicuous consumption for tangible progress to be made. But only in this way can global warming and ecological disaster be avoided.

In effect, however, the owners of big capital say to this: “No go! Our profits may fall. And we’re certainly not going to tell consumers to cut back on demand! We can make lots of money by adjusting to climate change — building sea walls, retrofitting businesses, schools and other structures to withstand powerful hurricanes or tornadoes, building houses in cooler parts of the country, selling air-conditioners, extracting oil from the Arctic and Antarctic and so on and on. It’s endless. We can finally sell refrigerators to Eskimos! Don’t you realize that adapting to climate change can be an economic boom for big business?

There are two options confronting the American people: (1) Long-term survival and a revived world for future generations by swiftly replacing fossil fuels to mitigate a potential climate change calamity for the 9.5 billion human beings who will inhabit the increasingly inhospitable world of 2050. (2) The other option, evidently intended to protect the economic status quo and strengthen immediate profits, is to prolong the transition to renewable energy as long as possible, meanwhile focusing on profiting from adaptation to rising temperatures and sea levels and so on.

Working toward a better world required requires a radical solution. There’s a fitting slogan in parts of the worldwide environmental movement that expresses the real situation: “System Change, Not Climate Change.” The existing capitalist system demonstrably works against the needs of the masses of people, and not only in climate change.

The U.S. economy is in long-term stagnation, kept going by financial bubbles that profit the wealthy and penalize the middle class, working class and poor; joblessness is expected to remain high in future years; 50% of the American people are low income or poor; many young people, saddled with excessive college debts, are often rewarded with substandard jobs and pay; personal privacy of almost any kind is on the way out, now that the NSA knows all and sees all. There’s more — war, racism, sexism, dead-end minimum wage jobs, and so on and on.

It is imperative that a far more powerful environmental movement develops in the next few years to put some effective breaks on greenhouse gas emissions and the despoliation of the land, water and quality of life. It’s time for the various components of the environmental and left political movements, while retaining their identities and missions, to unite in action on the issue of climate change and build the struggle for climate sanity into a powerful political force.

In this connection, it is timely to recall this statement by Hungarian philosopher István Mészáros: “The uncomfortable truth of the matter is that if there is no future for a radical mass movement in our time... there can be no future for humanity itself.”

The best opportunity we have to end increasing climate change — before high temperatures, air pollution, flooded coastlines, droughts, fierce storms, scarcity of potable water and famine reach disastrous heights — is system change.  This is already obvious to much of the left and will become clear to those in the struggle as the crisis increases but the government and business are content to take minimal steps, concentrating more on adaptation than mitigation.

The capitalist industrial world has done much to improve life in the last 200 years (not counting wars, imperialism, colonialism, exploitation and inequality) but now that same economic system’s industrialization is threatening life on Earth. The only alternative system to global capitalism, is 21st century socialism, which has learned a lot from its 150 years of efforts, experiences, trials, errors, and successes.

It took capitalism over 600 years to get to where it is now, including the colonial theft of three-quarters of the world and the degradation of its peoples, hundreds of years of slavery, Jim Crow segregation laws, gross inequality, wage-theft, the subjugation of women, child labor, the holocaust imposed upon Native Americans, two World Wars (including another holocaust), thousands of nuclear weapons ready for the next war, grotesque poverty for over half the 7.2 billion people on Earth today, and predictions of much worse environment changes with each passing decade.

That, they say, is the price of progress.  Another price, if we allow it to happen, will be severe climate change for future generations. Actually, capital is proving itself incapable of doing the right thing about three existential matters confronting the world and its people today and in the future: climate change, poverty/inequality, and wars.

Socialism isn’t finished because of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the development of market economies in some remaining societies. The first chapter of a longer book is over. It’s time for socialism’s second chapter.

Socialism comes in different varieties but none of them would allow profits to stand in the way of creating a society based on renewable fuels, sustainable development and new ecological, industrial, economic and social policies. It wouldn’t tolerate great inequality and poverty. It would do its best to avoid war. In our view the world needs this desperately requires system change, not climate change.

— If you haven’t seen this 1:45 min. video, don’t miss it! “Sing for the Planet,” at

11 DEGREES BY 2100

By the Environmental News Service, May 6, 2014

By the year 2100, if greenhouse gas emissions stay on their current path, the global temperature could

rise by more than 11 degrees Fahrenheit and sea levels could rise by up to four feet, affecting all Americans, finds the third U.S. National Climate Assessment released today.

From record heat and severe drought, torrential rains, storms and hurricanes, to sea level rise, states around the country are already feeling the effects of climate change, according to the assessment. The Northeast region, where most of our U.S. readers reside, will encounter increasing heat waves, mounting extreme precipitation events, and more coastal flooding due to sea level rise and storm surges.

“Climate change is not a distant threat. It is already affecting the country and the economy [and]  this is the loudest alarm bell to date,” said Dr. John Holdren, who heads the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, on a conference call with reporters this morning.

“It is the most comprehensive scientific assessment ever generated of climate change and its impacts across every region of the United States and major sectors of the U.S. economy,” said Dr. Holdren.
A team of more than 300 experts guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee produced the report, which was extensively reviewed by the public and by experts, including federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Jerry Melillo, chair of the Federal Advisory Committee, told reporters on the call, “The key message is – climate change is happening now and affecting Americans on a day-to-day basis and in the longer term as well.”

“For decades we’ve been collecting the dots about climate change, now we’ve connected the dots,” said Melillo, a scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. “All Americans will find things that matter to them in this report. We are all bearing the cost of increases in heat, heavy downpours and storm surges.”

Multiple lines of independent evidence point to a key message of the report, “The global warming of the past 50 years is primarily due to human activities.”

 “Natural drivers of climate cannot explain the recent observed warming,” the report states. “The majority of the warming at the global scale over the past 50 years can only be explained by the effects of human influences, especially the emissions from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) and from deforestation.”

“The emissions from human influences that are affecting climate include heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide, and particles such as black carbon (soot), which has a warming influence, and sulfates, which have an overall cooling influence,” states the report.

How hot the climate gets in this century depends on the level of these emissions. The lowest emissions pathway shown in the report assumes immediate and rapid reductions in emissions and would result in about 2.5°F of warming in this century. But the highest pathway, roughly similar to a continuation of the current path of global emissions increases, is projected to lead to more than 8°F warming by 2100, with a high-end possibility of more than 11°F.

These temperatures are far above the two degree Celsius (3.6°F) temperature rise that world leaders agreed is safe at the 2009 UN climate summit in Copenhagen.

Sea levels along U.S. coastlines could rise as much as four feet by 2100, said Dr. Tom Karl, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center and a National Climate Assessment Federal Executive Team member. “Back in 2000 we projected a rise in sea level of 10-17 inches. That figure has been updated in this report. We now project that sea levels could rise between 12 and 48 inches by 2100.”

That sea level rise is due in part to losses from the ice shelves of Greenland and Antarctic, which are both declining, adding water to the oceans, the scientists said.

The report states, “Rising temperatures are reducing ice volume and surface extent on land, lakes, and sea. This loss of ice is expected to continue.… Confidence is very high that the Arctic Ocean is projected to become virtually ice-free in summer by mid-century.”

A National Climate Assessment is issued every four years by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. This report divides the country into eight regions and shows that while the impacts of climate change vary from region to region, every region faces severe and costly impacts. There will be more competition for water in the arid Western states, more torrential rainfall in the Northeast and Midwest, and rising sea levels with giant storm surges along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts....

On May 6, President Obama hosted an event called Weather from the White House. He conducted a round of interviews with national and local meteorologists from New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, and Columbia, South Carolina to discuss the meaning of the facts contained in this report and the impacts climate change is having on Americans.... John Podesta, counselor to the President, said, “Hopefully, when the people understand the real world impacts happening right now, they’re going be more willing to take action.”

Environmental groups are urging immediate action in response to this report, particularly the first nationwide limits on CO2 emissions from existing power plants expected from the Obama Administration shortly.

Kevin Kennedy, director of the World Resources Institute’s U.S. Climate initiative, said: “Next month, the Obama Administration is expected take a critical step forward by introducing the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants. Power plants produce one-third of U.S. emissions and represent the greatest opportunity for the US to drive down its emissions. This will be a major – though not the only – step along the way to put America on course for a safer, low-carbon future. Further delay will only accelerate climate change and raise the costs of addressing its impacts
Eileen Claussen, president of the nonprofit Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, said: “Companies, communities, and individuals all need to better manage climate risks, both by reducing carbon emissions and by becoming more climate-resilient,” said Claussen. “Investments in mitigation will give our adaptation efforts a greater chance of success.”

Frances Beinecke president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “Our leading scientists send a stark message: Climate change is already seriously disrupting our lives, hurting our health and damaging our economy. If we don’t slam the brakes on the carbon pollution driving climate change, we’re dooming ourselves and our children to more intense heat waves, destructive floods and storms, and surging sea levels.”

By Suzanne Goldenberg

The collapse of the Western Antarctica ice sheet is already under way and is unstoppable, two separate
teams of scientists said on May 12. The glaciers' retreat is being driven by climate change and is already causing sea-level rise at a much faster rate than scientists had anticipated.

One portion of the ice sheet, the glaciers of the Amundsen Sea sector, contains enough ice to raise global sea level by four feet over decades and centuries to come. Loss of the entire western Antarctica ice sheet could eventually cause up to 13 feet of sea-level rise, devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world. But the researchers said that even though such a rise could not be stopped, it is still several centuries away..

The two studies, by NASA and the University of Washington, looked at the ice sheets of western Antarctica over different periods of time. The NASA researchers focused on melting over the last 20 years, while the scientists at the University of Washington used computer modeling to look into the future of the western Antarctic ice sheet.

But both studies came to broadly similar conclusions – that the thinning and melting of the Antarctic ice sheet has begun and cannot be halted, even with drastic action to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

“A large sector of the western Antarctic ice sheet has gone into a state of irreversible retreat. It has passed the point of no return,” Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at NASA and the University of California, Irvine, told a conference call. “This retreat will have major consequences for sea level rise worldwide.”

The two studies between them suggest sea-level rise will be far greater than envisaged by the United Nations’ IPCC report earlier this year. The IPCC forecast on sea-level rise did not factor in the melting of the western Antarctica ice sheet.

— From The Guardian, May 12, 2014. The author is the paper’s U.S. environment correspondent.

From The N.Y. Times, May 14, 2014

The accelerating rate of climate change poses a severe risk to national security and acts as a catalyst for global political conflict, a report published May 13 by a leading government-funded military research organization concluded.

The CNA Corporation Military Advisory Board found that climate change-induced drought in the Middle East and Africa is leading to conflicts over food and water and escalating longstanding regional and ethnic tensions into violent clashes. The report also found that rising sea levels are putting people and food supplies in vulnerable coastal regions like eastern India, Bangladesh and the Mekong Delta in Vietnam at risk and could lead to a new wave of refugees.

In addition, the report predicted that an increase in catastrophic weather events around the world will create more demand for American troops, even as flooding and extreme weather events at home could damage naval ports and military bases.

In an interview, Secretary of State John Kerry signaled that the report’s findings would influence American foreign policy. “Tribes are killing each other over water today,” Kerry said. “Think of what happens if you have massive dislocation, or the drying up of the waters of the Nile, of the major rivers in China and India. The intelligence community takes it seriously, and it’s translated into action.”

Boston was one of at least 50 U.s. cities where fast food workers went on strike May 15.
By the Activist Newsletter and various news sources

Fast food workers in over 50 U.S. cities and at least 35 countries held rallies May 15 to boost the minimum wage to $15 per hour and other demands. This was an extraordinary global day of militant solidarity and strikes by some of the lowest paid workers in the developed world from New York and Boston to Japan and Manila.

While such actions have taken place in a number of large U.S. cities before, such as New York City, where the fast food strikes began in 2012, Miami, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Sacramento have now become protest locations. The labor actions are part of a coordinated effort by the Service Employees (SEIU), which has funded organizers and community groups to contact workers.

While globalization has led to massive profits for the fast food giants and their top executives, the phenomenon also has the power to unite hungry workers from around the world in their quest for a fair living wage and democratic representation. 

Spanning five continents, the global movement brought together thousands of employees from the industry’s heavy hitters who have not only revolutionized the way the world eats, but are now an integral part of the labor market: McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC.

Some protesters in the U.S. noted that times have changed since the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008. Fast food workers are no longer teenagers trying to make an extra buck, but mostly adults who are struggling to feed their families while the giant corporations behind the industry make billions of dollars every year. Many are single women with children.

New York City strikers demonstrate May 15.
The families of more than half of all full-time fast food employees who work 40 or more hours per week in the U.S. earn so little they are enrolled in public assistance programs  — food stamps, Medicaid, and other social programs — at a cost of $7 billion annually.

The one-day strike is the latest in a series of demonstrations over the last 18 months, which have targeted fast food outlets. “We’re going to keep coming out, and we’re going to keep supporting this course until we get what we came out here for, which is for $15 [an hour] and a union,” said fast food worker Amber Graham.

In the United Kingdom, workers were also demanding an end to zero-hours contracts, a type of employment clause used in Britain, where a worker has very few employment rights and is at the mercy of their employer as to the hours they work and their pay. They also seek to raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour. The minimum wage in the United Kingdom depends on a person’s age: Those under 18 earn a minimum of £3.72 an hour, while those aged 18 to 21 earn £5.03 and those 21 and over earn at least £6.31 an hour. Apprentices aged 16 to 18 and those aged 19 or over who are in their first year only earn £2.68 an hour.

About 25 people took to the streets in London’s Trafalgar Square. Though their numbers were small,
the protester said they could still make a difference. “It took a long time for America to take off as well, and all these things usually start small,” he said. “And it’s about how it’s going on all over the world as well. It’s not just about here today. It’s about America, Asia, it’s about everyone all over the world.”

According to Labor Notes, “Taylor McLoon, an 18-year-old McDonald’s worker in Auckland, New Zealand, traveled to New York to show her solidarity. McLoon’s co-workers back in Auckland rallied May 15 in support of the U.S. strikers. Having global organizing means you can see it’s possible,” said McLoon. “They [bosses] can say no to the workers, but they can’t say no to the entire world.”
Ron Oswald, general secretary of the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), said U.S. fast food workers had inspired employees in the industry around the world to join them “in a fight for higher pay and better rights on the job.” 

The IUF is composed 2.6 million workers in 126 countries, and Oswald believes “this is just the beginning of an unprecedented international fast food worker movement — and this highly profitable global industry better take note."

The global day of protest comes on the same day McDonald’s employees in California, Michigan, and New York filed class-action lawsuits against the hamburger chain — which serves an estimated 68 million customers daily in 119 countries —alleging the company is making employees work off the clock, refusing to pay overtime and even charging employees to have their uniforms cleaned. 

“We’ve uncovered several unlawful schemes, but they all share a common purpose – to drive labor costs down by stealing wages from McDonald’s workers,” said Michael Rubin, the lawyer who filed the California suits.

One of many protests demanding Guantanamo close down.
By Spencer Ackerman

In a surprise challenge to one of the most controversial practices at Guantánamo Bay, a federal judge May 16 ordered a temporary halt to the forcible feeding of a hunger-striking detainee, marking the first legal halt to what human rights groups and detainees consider an abusive practice.

Judge Gladys Kessler, of the U.S. district court for the District of Columbia, barred military authorities at Guantánamo from performing an enteral feeding on Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian detainee, and from forcibly removing him from his cell for the purpose of feeding him.

Never before has a judge or any outside authority intervened in the hunger strike. Kessler ruled last year that she lacked the authority to do so, but an appeals court ruling in February decided that detainees at Guantánamo had the right to contest their force-feedings.

The Obama administration has defended the forcible feedings, in which a tube is painfully inserted into a detainee’s stomach through the nose, as the most humane option to keep detainees taking part in the strike alive.

[From the Activist Newsletter: The White House defense of forced feeding is mendacious. First of all, The UN Human Rights Office has condemned forced feeding of hunger strikers at Guantánamo Bay, calling it “torture” and a breach of international law. Second, there’s another “humane option” that President Obama ignores — free all the remaining prisoners now. They’ve been there 11 years without trial and have done nothing to deserve such barbaric treatment.]

— From the Guardian, May 16.
New President Narendra Modi favors business.
By Keith Jones 

The sectarian Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) have
swept to power in India’s general election, buoyed by popular anger over soaring food prices and mass unemployment and the support of Indian big business and the corporate media.

The BJP will have 282 seats in the incoming Lok Sabha—the first time in three decades any single party has secured a majority in the 545-member lower house of India’s parliament. The 54 seats won by the BJP’s NDA allies are more than the total secured by any of the opposition parties and mean that the government will have the support of at least 336 Lok Sabha MPs.

What hopes India’s workers and toilers have that the BJP will deliver on its election campaign promises of jobs and development will soon be dashed.

Big business has championed the BJP and its prime ministerial candidate — the self-styled Hindu strongman, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi — as the instrument through which to impose socially incendiary “pro-market” reforms in the face of mass popular opposition.

Modi is notorious for his role in instigating the 2002 Gujarat anti-Muslim pogrom. But he has impressed India’s corporate elite and the likes of Goldman Sachs, which recently issued a gushing report on Modi’s potential to serve as an “agent of change,” by lavishing investors with land and tax concessions, illegalizing strikes, and otherwise doing their bidding.

The Indian bourgeoisie’s enthusiasm for the arch-communalist thug Modi underscores that it is turning to reaction and authoritarian methods of rule to realize its ambitions to transform India into a hub of cheap-labor production for world capitalism.

Modi will do little for India's poor.
In an editorial published yesterday, the London-based Economist declared, “The last [Congress Party-
led] government dithered and was preoccupied with bolstering India’s welfare state. India’s new rulers must be more strategic and ruthless.”

Billions of dollars have poured into India’s money markets in recent weeks in anticipation of a BJP victory and on Friday, India’s stock markets again soared to record highs. But as last summer’s rupee crisis illustrated, India’s economy is massively dependent on in-flows of foreign capital and can be roiled by disgruntled foreign investors almost overnight. Standard and Poor’s reiterated yesterday that it will slash India’s credit rating to junk status if the new government does not demonstrate in the next two to three month’s its commitment to “fiscal prudence”—i.e., massive social spending cuts—and “structural reform.”

The May 16 election results constitute an historic debacle for the Congress Party, the party that has led India’s national government for all but 13 of the 67 years since independence.

The Congress has won just 44 seats, little more than a fifth of its tally in the last election and not enough under the rules of India’s parliament to be recognized as the official opposition. The Congress’s central role in the politics of the Indian bourgeoisie has been bound up with the broad multiethnic, cross-communal popular following it developed due to its association with the struggle against British colonial rule and the rudimentary reforms enacted in the aftermath of independence....

— From WSWS, May 17, 2014
By Jens Manuel Krogstade

Substantially more women than men are in jobs that pay the minimum wage or less, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data analyzed by the Pew Research Center. Men make up a larger share of the U.S. labor force than women (53%-47%). But among those who earn the minimum wage or less, 62% are women and 38% are men.

Congress is debating a hike to the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour), an idea that has strong support among the American public. Last week, a bill backed by the White House that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 failed to advance in the Senate. Senate Republicans filibustered to kill the bill despite opinion polls showing 72% of the public are in favor of the proposal. (Meanwhile, 21 states and some cities have a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum.)

In 2012, women’s hourly wages were 84% those of men – meaning that women earned about 84 cents for every $1 made by men, a gender pay gap of 16 cents, according to a Pew Research Center report.

Among those paid by the hour, some 5.4% of women (2.1 million workers) made the federal minimum wage or less in 2013. For men, that share is 3.3%, or 1.2 million workers. (Some people may be paid below the federal minimum wage, including those who make tips.) The difference has narrowed since 1979, when the share of hourly workers who earned federal minimum wage or less was 20.2% for women and 7.7% for men.

The biggest gap is between young women and young men. Among hourly workers ages 20 to 24, some 10% of women made the federal minimum wage or less in 2013, compared with 5.8% of men. By comparison, the gender gap narrows for older workers. Among hourly workers ages 30 to 34, some 4% of women made the federal minimum wage or less, compared with 2.7% of men. Among workers ages 60 to 64, women and men are about equally likely to work at the federal minimum wage—1.5% of women did in 2013, compared with 1.2% of men.

— From Pew Research center.

By Josh Bivens

A key point in Thomas Piketty’s new book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” is that strong forces
in the economy could, if unchecked, lead to an ever greater concentration of wealth and the incomes that flow from wealth. The fact that income from wealth (capital gains, interest, dividends and so on) goes disproportionately to those with the highest incomes means that rising income from wealth leads to greater income inequality. One reflection of this process in the United States is that the share of income from wealth going to the top 1% has greatly increased in the last few decades, rising from 33.5% of all income from wealth in 1979 to 54% in 2010.

Here are statistics on the share of income derived from owning wealth in the U.S. economy between 1979 and 2010, using data from the Congressional Budget Office  (see graph below). It adds up rents, dividends, interest payments, capital gains, and business income and calculates what share of this income derived from owning wealth — “capital income”— is claimed by the top 1% of households, the bottom 90% of households, and the 9% of households between the 90th and 99th percentiles.

In 1979, each of these groups actually claimed roughly similar shares of total capital income: the top 1% claimed 33.5%, the bottom 90% claimed 36.2%, and 30.3% was claimed by households between the 91st and 99th  percentile of the income distribution. By 2010, the top 1%’s share had increased enormously, while shares for both other groups fell. In the last year of the data, the top 1% claimed 54.0% of capital income, the bottom 90% claimed 22.9% and the intervening group claimed 23.0%.

This evidence indicates that Piketty’s worries are justified by historical data, as the top 1% has substantially increased the share of overall capital income that they claim. Further, if the trend continues, the top 1% will continue to raise its income share as capital income grows in importance and their share of capital income continues to rise.

— From Economic Policy Institute, April 23, 2014

By the Activist Newsletter plus various news sources

The serious political left in America has argued for over a century that a relatively small ruling class representing great wealth, major commerce and Wall Street dominated the economic and political system of the U.S., gravely compromising true democracy and promoting gross inequality.

But those who control the government, the educational system and the all-pervading commercial mass
media have diluted such apostasy through continual phantasmagorical depictions of the glories of an American society of milk and honey, of equality and matchless democracy, of opportunity and upward mobility for all.

Lately, due to the Great Recession, to reports of extreme and growing inequality, the decline of the working class and middle class, long term unemployment, revelations about the surveillance state, and a political system veering between the center right and the far right, the reality that the U.S. is much more a plutocracy than a democracy appears to be catching on.

Following is more evidence that the real truth is beginning to emerge, based on reports from RT and several news sources:

The first-ever scientific study that analyzes whether the U.S. is a democracy (choosing government representatives through fair elections) rather than a plutocracy  (government controlled by the wealthy class, even despite formal trapping of democracy) found the majority of the American public has a “minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy” compared to the wealthy.

The study, due out in the Fall 2014 issue of the academic journal Perspectives on Politics, sets out to answer elusive questions about who really rules in the United States. The researchers measured key variables for 1,779 policy issues within a single statistical model in an unprecedented attempt “to test these contrasting theoretical predictions” – i.e., whether the U.S. sets policy democratically or the process is dominated by economic elites, or some combination of both.

"Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts,” the researchers from Princeton University and Northwestern University wrote.

While “Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association,” the authors say the data implicate “the nearly total failure of 'median voter' and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories [of America]. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy."

The authors of “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” say that even as their model tilts heavily toward indications that the U.S. is, in fact, run by the most wealthy and powerful, it actually doesn’t go far enough in describing the stranglehold connected elites have on the policymaking process.

“Our measure of the preferences of wealthy or elite Americans – though useful, and the best we could generate for a large set of policy cases – is probably less consistent with the relevant preferences than are our measures of the views of ordinary citizens or the alignments of engaged interest groups,” the researcher said.

“Yet we found substantial estimated effects even when using this imperfect measure. The real-world impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater.”….

— The full report is at

An interpretation by  Tiago Hosisel of a  1946 work by Salvadore Dali
[Following is a portion of the introduction to a new book by Henry A. Giroux —Neoliberalism's War on Higher Education.” Giroux is a Professor of English and Cultural studies at Canada’s McMaster University, a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University, and the author of many books. This introduction will be completed at TruthOut, to which we link at the bottom of this excerpt.]

By Henry A. Giroux

Four decades of neoliberal policies have resulted in an economic Darwinism that promotes privatization, commodification, free trade, and deregulation. It privileges personal responsibility over larger social forces, reinforces the gap between the rich and poor by redistributing wealth to the most powerful and wealthy individuals and groups, and it fosters a mode of public pedagogy that privileges the entrepreneurial subject while encouraging a value system that promotes self-interest, if not an unchecked selfishness. 

Since the 1970s, neoliberalism or free-market fundamentalism has become not only a much-vaunted ideology that now shapes all aspects of life in the United States but also a predatory global phenomenon "that drives the practices and principles of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and World Trade Organization, transnational institutions which largely determine the economic policies of developing countries and the rules of international trade."

With its theater of cruelty and mode of public pedagogy, neoliberalism as a form of economic Darwinism attempts to undermine all forms of solidarity capable of challenging market-driven values and social relations, promoting the virtues of an unbridled individualism almost pathological in its disdain for community, social responsibility, public values, and the public good. As the welfare state is dismantled and spending is cut to the point where government becomes unrecognizable — except to promote policies that benefit the rich, corporations, and the defense industry — the already weakened federal and state governments are increasingly replaced by what João Biehl has called proliferating "zones of social abandonment" and "terminal exclusion."

One consequence is that social problems are increasingly criminalized while social protections are either eliminated or fatally weakened. Not only are public servants described as the new "welfare queens" and degenerate freeloaders but young people are also increasingly subjected to harsh disciplinary measures both in and out of schools, often as a result of a violation of the most trivial rules. Another characteristic of this crushing form of economic Darwinism is that it thrives on a kind of social amnesia that erases critical thought, historical analysis, and any understanding of broader systemic relations. In this regard, it does the opposite of critical memory work by eliminating those public spheres where people learn to translate private troubles into public issues. That is, it breaks "the link between public agendas and private worries, the very hub of the democratic process."

Once set in motion, economic Darwinism unleashes a mode of thinking in which social problems are reduced to individual flaws and political considerations collapse into the injurious and self-indicting discourse of character. Many Americans are preoccupied less with political and moral outrage over a country whose economic and political system is in the hands of a tiny, exorbitantly rich elite than they are with the challenges of being isolated and surviving at the bottom of a savage neoliberal order. This makes it all the simpler for neoliberalism to convince people to remain attached to a set of ideologies, values, modes of governance, and policies that generate massive suffering and hardships. Neoliberalism's "best trick" is to persuade individuals, as a matter of common sense, that they should "imagine [themselves] as... solitary agent[s] who can and must live the good life promised by capitalist culture."

As George Lakoff and Glenn Smith argue, the anti-public philosophy of economic Darwinism makes a parody of democracy by defining freedom as "the liberty to seek one's own interests and well being, without being responsible for the interests or well being of anyone else. It's a morality of personal, but not social, responsibility. The only freedom you should have is what you can provide for yourself, not what the Public provides for you to start out." Put simply, we alone become responsible for the problems we confront when we can no longer conceive how larger forces control or constrain our choices and the lives we are destined to lead.

Yet the harsh values and practices of this new social order are visible — in the increasing incarceration
of young people, the modeling of public schools after prisons, state violence waged against peaceful student protesters, and state policies that bail out investment bankers but leave the middle and working classes in a state of poverty, despair, and insecurity. Such values are also evident in the Republican Party's social Darwinist budget plans that reward the rich and cut aid for those who need it the most.

For instance, the 2012 Romney/Ryan budget plan "proposed to cut the taxes of households earning over $1 million by an average of $295,874 a year," at a cruel cost to those most disadvantaged populations who rely on social programs. In order to pay for tax reductions to benefit the rich, the Romney/Ryan budget would have cut funds for food stamps, Pell grants, health care benefits, unemployment insurance, veterans' benefits, and other crucial social programs. As Paul Krugman has argued, the Ryan budget isn't just looking for ways to save money [it's] also trying to make life harder for the poor — for their own good. In March [2012], explaining his cuts in aid for the unfortunate, [Ryan] declared, "We don't want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives."

Krugman rightly replies, "I doubt that Americans forced to rely on unemployment benefits and food stamps in a depressed economy feel that they're living in a comfortable hammock." An extremist version of neoliberalism, Ryanomics is especially vicious toward U.S. children, 16.1 million of whom currently live in poverty. Marian Wright Edelman captures the harshness and savagery of the Ryan budget passed by the House of Representatives before being voted down in the Senate. She writes:

“Ryanomics is an all out assault on our poorest children while asking not a dime of sacrifice from the richest 2 percent of Americans or from wealthy corporations. Ryanomics slashes hundreds of billions of dollars from child and family nutrition, health, child care, education, and child protection services, in order to extend and add to the massive Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires at a taxpayer cost of $5 trillion over 10 years. On top of making the Bush tax cuts permanent, the top income bracket would get an additional 10% tax cut. Millionaires and billionaires would on average keep at least an additional quarter of a million dollars each year and possibly as much as $400,000 a year according to the Citizens for Tax Justice.”

As profits soar for corporations and the upper 1%, both political parties are imposing austerity measures that punish the poor and cut vital services for those who need them the most. Rather than raising taxes and closing tax loopholes for the wealthy and corporations, the Republican Party would rather impose painful spending cuts that will impact the poor and vital social services. For example, the 2013 budget cuts produced by sequestration slash $20 million from the Maternal, Infant, and Early Child Home Visiting Program, $199 million from public housing, $6 million from emergency food and shelter, $19 million from housing for the elderly, $116 million from higher education, and $96 million from homeless assistance grants. These are only a small portion of the devastating cuts enacted. Seventy thousand children will be kicked off of Head Start, ten thousand teachers will be fired, and "the long-term unemployed will see their benefits cut by about 10%."

Under the right-wing insistence on a politics of austerity, Americans are witnessing not only widespread cuts in vital infrastructures, education, and social protections but also the emergence of policies produced in the spirit of revenge aimed at the poor, the elderly, and others marginalized by race and class. As Robert Reich, Charles Ferguson, and a host of recent commentators have noted, this extreme concentration of power in every commanding institution of society promotes predatory practices and rewards sociopathic behavior.

Such a system creates an authoritarian class of corporate and hedge-fund swindlers that reaps its own profits by “traders, private-equity managers and hedge-fund moguls, and the losers are most of the rest of us. The system is largely responsible for the greatest concentration of the nation's income and wealth at the very top since the Gilded Age of the nineteenth century, with the richest 400 Americans owning as much as the bottom 150 million put together. And these multimillionaires and billionaires are now actively buying… election[s] — and with [them], American democracy.”

Unfortunately, the U.S. public has largely remained silent, if not also complicit in the rise of a neoliberal version of authoritarianism. While workers in Wisconsin, striking teachers in Chicago, and young people across the globe have challenged this politics and machinery of corruption, war, brutality, and social and civil death, they represent a small and marginalized part of the larger movement that will be necessary to initiate massive collective resistance to the aggressive violence being waged against all those public spheres that further the promise of democracy in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and a host of other countries.

The actions of teachers, workers, student protesters, and others have been crucial in drawing public attention to the constellation of forces that are pushing the United States and other neoliberal-driven countries into what Hannah Arendt called "dark times" or what might be described as an increasingly authoritarian public realm that constitutes a clear and present danger to democracy. The questions now being asked must be seen as the first step toward exposing the dire social and political costs of concentrating wealth, income, and power into the hands of the upper 1%. What role higher education will play in both educating and mobilizing students is a crucial issue that will determine whether a new revolutionary ideal can take hold in order to address the ideals of democracy and its future….

— This article is continued at It begins with the subhead: “Neoliberal Ideology and the Rhetoric of Freedom”

By Veterans for Peace, April 20, 2014

The deployment of U.S. troops to Poland and the Baltics is causing alarm among antiwar and other U.S. military veterans, who fear that ratcheting up military tensions near conflicted Ukraine could lead to a war between the U.S. and Russia, two nuclear-armed powers.

“Wars are all too easy to start, even by accident, but they are very hard to stop,” said Michael McPhearson, Executive Director of Veterans For Peace. “It is time for cooler heads to prevail, and for honest diplomacy leading to a just and nonviolent outcome for the Ukrainian people.”

The veterans are reacting to a decision by the Obama administration to send troops to Poland, Estonia,
Latvia and Lithuania as the crisis in Ukraine heats up and Russia conducts military exercises on its border with Ukraine.

Only six hundred U.S. troops are being deployed at this time. But NATO's top military commander, U.S. General Philip M. Breedlove, said a 4,500-member American combat brigade from Fort Hood, Texas could be deployed to Europe.

   U.S. Defense chief Chuck Hagel and Polish Defense
Minister Tomasz Siemoniak met in May to discuss
sending U.S. troops and  equipment to Poland.
The first contingent of U.S. troops to arrive in Poland last week were 150 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team based in Vicenza, Italy. The 173rd Airborne is a rapid response team that played a key role in the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and saw major combat in Afghanistan.

“Ukraine is not a member of NATO but that could change if the U.S. has its way,” said Michael Prysner, a member of the Board of Directors of Veterans For Peace who participated in the invasion of Iraq with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. “The U.S. media is portraying Russia as the aggressor in Ukraine, while ignoring the major role the U.S. government has played in overthrowing the elected government of Ukraine and installing a government more to its liking.”

“Clearly the U.S. government has a dog in this fight,” said Gerry Condon, Vice President of Veterans For Peace. “The State Department was involved in February's regime change in Ukraine and the CIA Director made a 'secret' visit there two weeks ago, followed by Vice President Joe Biden last week. Billions of U.S. tax dollars are being promised to prop up a shaky government that came to power via a violent coup. And now U.S. troops are being deployed to the region.

"Some political forces in the U.S. are irresponsibly pressing President Obama to be more aggressive
with Russia," said Condon. "Veterans who have experienced the horror and futility of war have a different message for the president: scale down the rhetoric and pursue a diplomatic outcome.

“Veterans For Peace understands that Russia has reason to feel threatened by aggressive NATO expansion right up to its borders,” said Condon. “Even so, we urge Russia also to take steps to ease tensions and avoid war.”

In a statement released today, Veterans For Peace called for diplomacy and a nonviolent resolution to the crisis in Ukraine:

“We will work to understand the varying interests of different national groups and regions within Ukraine, and encourage a nonviolent, diplomatic outcome to this dangerous crisis. Washington and its European allies ought to reverse course and turn Ukraine into a field of cooperation with Russia through a jointly supported bailout devoid of geopolitical motivation.
“Good relations with both Russia and the European Union are in the best interests of all the Ukrainian people. A just and peaceful resolution that averts the threat of war is in the interests of all the world's people.”

— Veterans For Peace is a national organization founded in 1985. It is structured around a national office in Saint Louis, MO and comprised of members across the country organized in chapters or as at-large members. The organization includes men and women veterans of all eras and duty stations including from the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf and current Iraq wars as well as other conflicts. Our collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are often the innocent. Thus, other means of problem solving are necessary.

By Lauren McCauley

Washington: Nearly 2,000 demonstrators rallied outside the Capitol building April 28 to call for an end to skyrocketing inequality in America. Protesters shut down Pennsylvania Avenue as they demanded a livable wage and an end to the corporate domination of the national economy and politics.

Under the banner "Battle for the Capitol," marchers carried puppets of corporate lobbyists swarming a 10-foot high replica of the Capitol Building as they blasted rising inequality in America and the outsized influence of big money during elections and in the halls of Congress.

"This is what the new populist movement looks like," said James Mumm of the group National People's Action, which along with the Restaurant Opportunities Center and the National Domestic Workers Association, organized the protest.

"We have an unbelievable inequality crisis among communities of color and minimum wage workers," said Liz Ryan Murray, policy director with NPA, told Common Dreams. "While our families are suffering from low wages, lack of services and good infrastructure, corporations and the 1% are doing better and better every year."

Ryan Murray said that this week Congress is expected to extend tax cuts to corporations worth tens of billions of dollars. "These are straight up corporate giveaways to [General Electric] and others who use the tax code to get out of paying their fair share," she said, noting that Republicans are planning to put forth a proposal to make these giveaways permanent.

"We know we're dealing with some highly profitable corporations that could easily afford to pay their workers more," added Toby Chow, a community organizer with IIRON in Chicago, who traveled to Washington D.C. for the protest. "We also know that [in cities like Chicago] it is not possible to survive on the minimum wage."

"Really it comes down to alternatives," Chow continued. "Further fill the coffers of corporations or give hardworking people a chance to survive with dignity. We are here to fight for a new economy that is just and sustainable, that serves all of us—not just a few."

Groups such as NPA and Fight for 15 are calling for the minimum wage to be increased to at least $15 an hour. According to Ryan Murray, the NPA is "supportive" of President Obama's initiative to raise the wage to $10.10, though they said it is "not where we need to be."

— From Common Dreams (

Mounted  participants in week-long protest against Keystone XL pipeline.
By Ben Adler, Grist

Washington:  Visitors to the National Mall in late April have noticed an unusual addition to the monuments and Smithsonian museums: a collection of tipis. They were brought there by groups of Native Americans and Canadian First Nations, from as far away as British Columbia, and set up as an encampment to convince President Obama to reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. They were the central staging ground for a week of action, culminating in a march and rally on April 26 by the Reject and Protect coalition.

The theme of the week: “Cowboys and Indians.” It may sound strange to name a progressive movement after a politically incorrect and outdated children’s game. But the metaphor is surprisingly apt. The coalition is an alliance between those famous historical adversaries: North America’s indigenous people and the ranchers and farmers with whom they share the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains. Both groups are threatened by the Keystone proposal.

Native Americans say that the State Department has failed to consult them about the risks of running the pipeline near their lands and holy places such as burial grounds. And in Canada, First Nations near the tar sands in Alberta oppose the exploitation of the area, citing local health and environmental hazards. Tar-sands drilling has led to cancer clusters and to contamination that affects locals’ ability to hunt and fish, says Clayton Thomas-Muller, a member of the Cree Nation from Alberta and a campaigner in Ottawa for Idle No More, an indigenous advocacy organization.

Dramatic march against pipeline in Washington.
Ranchers, meanwhile, are having their land confiscated under eminent domain in order to get the
pipeline built. The cowboys and Indians have come together, Thomas-Muller told Grist, because “rural landowners are being treated like Native Americans.” That is to say, their land is being stolen and despoiled.
Groups such as Bold Nebraska, which was one of the main event organizers, mobilized previously apolitical farmers and ranchers to come to Washington for the week, while Native American and First Nations advocacy groups like Idle No More brought their constituents, and national environmental organizations such as, the Sierra Club, and Public Citizen lent logistical support.

Indians inhabited the tipis during the week (but not overnight due to National Park Service rules), answering questions from curious passersby. They also painted a tipi as a gift for President Obama. They presented it to the National Museum of the American Indian.

The procession to the museum was led by ranchers on horseback and a group of Indians holding a wide banner reading, “President Obama: Protect Our Sacred Water.” Mekasi Horinek of the Ponca Nation in Oklahoma held up one end of the banner. He had driven 1,500 miles to D.C. and since Monday had spent all of his days at the encampment. The first leg of Keystone XL, from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast, is already built near his home. If the rest of it is built, oil from the Albertan tar sands will course through it. “The Keystone pipeline will inevitably leak,” predicts Horinek. “Our land is going to be poisoned, and it will poison our drinking water.” Based on the historical and scientific evidence, experts believe that Horinek’s fears are warranted, and that the State Department underestimated the threat of leaks in its environmental impact statement on Keystone....


At the close of a two-day Veterans for Peace (VFP) “Spring Days of Drone Action” protest at Beale AFB April 29, 13 people were arrested as they attempted to enter the base at its two busiest gates to deliver an indictment charging President Obama, Col. Phillip A. Stewart, the base commander, and others with “crimes against peace and crimes against humanity.” 

The protest temporarily stopped traffic at the gates. All 13 were handcuffed, held for about two hours
and charged with trespass.  Their cases will be handled by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern Division of California, in Sacramento; they face up to six months in prison. 

Outside Beale AFB awaiting release of arrested comrades.
The U.S. Attorney apparently has not decided on a uniform legal response to the series of protest arrests at the base.   On April 1, Elliott Adams and Richard Gilchrist, also members of VFP, were detained for entering Beale in a drone protest, but they were given no citations, although they apparently remain open to prosecution. 

 “This is the most people arrested in a single action at Beale AFB,” reports the Rev. Sharon Delgado, speaking of the April 29 protest.  “Dozens have been arrested protesting drones at Beale AFB in the past year, including more than a dozen people and members of the clergy on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday this year”, she said.  “Three federal trials have been held, and earlier this month a lone protestor (Shirley Osgood) was found not guilty in U.S. Court in Sacramento.”

Beale is the home of the Global Hawk drone, believed used in aiding targeting for Predator and Reaper “hunter-killer” drones.

— Here is a video of the protest and arrests at the main gate:

Philadelphia on a bad day. It's one of the most polluted U.S. cities.
GENEVA, Switzerland, May 12, 2014 (ENS) – Air quality in cities worldwide fails to meet World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for safe levels, putting millions at greater risk of respiratory disease, lung cancer and other serious, long-term health problems, the health agency said, releasing new data this week.

About half the residents of reporting cities are exposed to air pollution at least 2.5 times higher than World Health Organization Air Quality Guideline levels. Only one in every eight people living in reporting cities breathes air that complies with the levels WHO recommends.

“Too many urban centers today are so enveloped in dirty air that their skylines are invisible,” said Dr. Flavia Bustreo, WHO assistant director-general for family, children and women’s health. “Not surprisingly, this air is dangerous to breathe. So a growing number of cities and communities worldwide are striving to better meet the needs of their residents – in particular children and the elderly.”

WHO’s new Urban Air Quality database covers 1,600 cities across 91 countries – 500 more cities than the previous database issued in 2011, showing that more cities are monitoring outdoor air quality, with growing recognition of air pollution’s health risks. The database covers the period from 2008 to 2013, with the majority of values for the years 2011 and 2012. In most cities where there is enough data to compare today’s air quality with that of previous years, the data show that air pollution is getting worse.
Some of the most polluted cities are: Dakar, Senegal; Mexico City; Karachi, Pakistan; Delhi, India; Ulaanbataar, Mongolia; and Seoul, South Korea.

By Science Daily, and The Guardian

Nearly half of all Americans live in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution, according to an American Lung Association (ALA) report released April 30. Nearly 148 million people live in areas where smog and soot particles make it unhealthy to breathe the air, according to the ALA's annual study on U.S air quality.

 Chevron petroleum processing plant is next to largely
black residential street in North Richmond , California.  
The report, which is based on data collected between 2010 and 2012, found smog, or ozone, had climate change.
worsened in 22 of the 25 biggest U.S. metropolitan areas, including Los Angeles, Houston, Washington-Baltimore, New York City and Chicago – and said there was a high risk of more high-ozone days because of 

A first-of-its-kind study by researchers at the University of Minnesota found that on average in the U.S., people of color are exposed to 38% higher levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) outdoor air pollution compared to white people.

Nitrogen dioxide comes from sources like vehicle exhaust and power plants. Breathing NO2 is linked to asthma symptoms and heart disease. The Environmental Protection Agency has listed it as one of the seven key air pollutants it monitors. The researchers studied NO2 levels in urban areas across the country and compared specific areas within the cities based on populations defined in the U.S. Census as "nonwhite" or "white."

The health impacts from the difference in levels between whites and nonwhites found in the study are substantial. For example, researchers estimate that if nonwhites breathed the lower NO2 levels experienced by whites, it would prevent 7,000 deaths from heart disease alone among nonwhites each year.

The study entitled "National patterns in environmental injustice and inequality: Outdoor NO2 air pollution in the United States" was published in the April 15 issue of PLOS ONE, a leading peer-reviewed scientific journal.

The researchers found that in most areas, lower-income nonwhites are more exposed than higher-income whites, and on average, race matters more than income in explaining differences in NO2 exposure. They also found that New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois had the largest exposure gaps between whites and nonwhites, irrespective of income. The urban areas with the largest exposure gaps between whites and nonwhites were New York/Newark, Philadelphia and Bridgeport/Stamford, Conn.



California’s Central Valley prime agricultural land  hit by drought, a harbinger  of worldwide future.
By Texas A&M AgriLife Communications, April, 17, 2014

WASHINGTON — The world is less than 40 years away from a food shortage that will have serious implications for people and governments, according to a top scientist at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"For the first time in human history, food production will be limited on a global scale by the availability of land, water and energy," said Dr. Fred Davies, senior science advisor for the agency's bureau of food security. "Food issues could become as politically destabilizing by 2050 as energy issues are today."

Davies, who also is a Texas A&M AgriLife Regents Professor of Horticultural Sciences, addressed the North American Agricultural Journalists meeting in Washington. on the "monumental challenge of feeding the world."

He said the world population will increase 30% to 9 billion people by mid-century. That would call for a 70% increase in food to meet demand.

"But resource limitations will constrain global food systems," Davies added. "The increases currently projected for crop production from biotechnology, genetics, agronomics and horticulture will not be sufficient to meet food demand." Davies said the ability to discover ways to keep pace with food demand have been curtailed by cutbacks in spending on research.

"The U.S. agricultural productivity [growth] has averaged less than 1.2% per year between 1990 and 2007," he said. "More efficient technologies and crops will need to be developed — and equally important, better ways for applying these technologies locally for farmers — to address this challenge." Davies said when new technologies are developed, they often do not reach the small-scale farmer worldwide.

"A greater emphasis is needed in high-value horticultural crops," he said. "Those create jobs and economic opportunities for rural communities and enable more profitable, intense farming." Horticultural crops, Davies noted, are 50% of the farm-gate value of all crops produced in the U.S.

[From the Activist Newsletter: Linguistically the term agriculture comes from the combination of the
Latin words agri (field) and cultura (cultivation). Horticulture comes from the combination of the Latin words hortus (garden) and cultura. Cultivating a field vs. cultivating a garden.]

He also made the connection between the consumption of fruits and vegetables and chronic disease prevention and pointed to research centers in the U.S. that are making links between farmers, biologists and chemists, grocers, health care practitioners and consumers. That connection, he suggested, also will be vital in the push to grow enough food to feed people in coming years.

"Agricultural productivity, food security, food safety, the environment, health, nutrition and obesity — they are all interconnected," Davies said. One in eight people worldwide, he added, already suffers from chronic undernourishment, and 75% of the world's chronically poor are in the mid-income nations such as China, India, Brazil and the Philippines.

"The perfect storm for horticulture and agriculture is also an opportunity," Davies said. "Consumer trends such as views on quality, nutrition, production origin and safety impact what foods we consume. Also, urban agriculture favors horticulture." For example, he said, the fastest growing segment of new farmers in California, are female, non-Anglos who are "intensively growing horticultural crops on small acreages," he said.


By the Activist Newsletter
Just one more pile of wasted food in America.

With an extreme drought afflicting farm crops in California and vast sectors of the West, extreme cold
this winter in the Midwest and Northeast shortening the growing season, and extreme weather in the South, it is expected food supplies and quality will suffer this year and that prices on many foods will increase.

Much of this bad weather is the product of climate change, and is expected to continue and worsen in future years. At the same time, American restaurants, retailers, institutions and families waste an extraordinary amount of food every year. Clearly a national effort to reduce this waste is necessary.

Following are brief excerpts we selected from a 30-page report on food losses in America released in February by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS). “Food loss” represents the amount of edible food, postharvest, that is available for human consumption but is not consumed for any reason, such as food discarded by retailers due to undesirable color or blemishes and plate waste discarded
by consumers at home or in restaurants, etc.:

In the United States, 31% — or 133 billion pounds — of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 went uneaten. Retail-level losses represented 10% (43 billion pounds) and consumer-level losses 21% (90 billion pounds) of the available food supply. (Losses on the farm and between the farm and retailer were not estimated due to data limitations for some of the food groups.)

The estimated total value of food loss at the retail and consumer levels in the United States was $161.6 billion in 2010. The top three food groups in terms of share of total value of food loss were meat, poultry, and fish (30%, $48 billion); vegetables (19%, $30 billion); and dairy products (17%, $27 billion). The total amount of food loss represents 387 billion calories of food not available for human consumption per day in 2010, or 1,249 out of 3,796 calories available per American per day.

Food waste represents 2.5% of U.S. energy consumption per year…. The production of this wasted food required the expenditure of around 300 million barrels of oil and over 25% of the total freshwater consumed by agriculture in the United States.

According to the EPA, food waste accounted for 34 million tons (almost 14%) out of the 250 million tons of municipal solid waste in the United States in 2010 as measured before recycling. Less than 3% of this food waste was recovered and recycled, with the remainder going to landfills or incinerators.

In 2012, 49 million people lived in food-insecure households in the United States out of a total population of over 305 million. Food insecurity is when the food intake of one or more household members is reduced and eating patterns are disrupted at times during the year because the household lacks money and other resources for food. Food-insecure households accounted for 14.5% of U.S. households: 9.2% had low food security and 5.7% had very low food security.

Reducing food waste will become an increasingly important strategy in the future to help feed a growing human population. It would help by increasing the amount of food available for consumption (particularly food for subsistence households in developing countries) and by lowering prices. The United Nations predicts that the world population will reach 9.3 billion by 2050 and this will require a 70% increase in food production. Currently, according to an ERS report, the number of food-insecure people reached 802 million in 2012 (Rosen et al., 2012).


Outside looking in. Southern black children in early 1960s were fenced out of while facilities.
[May 18 was the 118th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision approving state laws enforcing racial segregation of African Americans. The 7-1 racist decision is known as Plessy v. Ferguson.]

By Segregation, Opportunity, Race

The term “Jim Crow” originated in a minstrel show in the 1830s depicting a negative caricature of a
black person, and became a popular stereotype of black inferiority in U.S. culture by the 1850s. By the end of the 19th century, Jim Crow represented the system of racist laws that relegated African Americans to the status of second class citizens from 1877 to the mid-1960s.

The Reconstruction era began shortly after the Civil War ended when the federal government passed the 14th  and 15th Amendments and the two Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1875 in an effort to protect the civil rights of African Americans. Southern whites reacted by terrorizing and killing blacks, led by the Ku Klux Klan. Despite initial efforts, the federal government abandoned its efforts to protect African Americans’ civil rights in the South in exchange for Republican Rutherford B. Hayes receiving the presidency in the Compromise of 1877. The withdrawal of a federal presence in the South and the federal government’s promise not to interfere with state practices regarding blacks led to Jim Crow.

Although segregation had been established before 1896, the Supreme Court validated the practice in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). In Plessy, Homer Plessy challenged a Louisiana law that required separate accommodations for blacks and whites in railway cars, arguing that it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. In the opinion of the Court, rendered by Justice Henry B. Brown stated that the Act did not violate the 14th Amendment because state-mandated racial segregation was constitutional so long as the separate accommodations for blacks were equal to those for whites —t he “separate but equal” doctrine. The Court went on to say that the 14th Amendment did not guarantee social equality, but rather only political equality before the law.

The mythical Jim Crow.
Following the Court’s validation of “separate but equal” laws, the remaining Southern states passed laws mandating segregation on railroads. Racial segregation spread to all aspects of life, including education in primary, secondary schools and colleges, employment, housing, the military, public transportation, and public places. African Americans were severely disenfranchised and prohibited from marrying interracially.

In addition to laws and practices, Jim Crow also subjected African Americans to a set of social rules based on and meant to uphold white superiority. For example, whites were to be served before blacks if they ate together, a black male was not supposed to offer his hand to a white male, and blacks were always supposed to be introduced to whites and not vice versa. Under Jim Crow and until the 1930s, violence against African Americans increased in the form of lynchings and mob violence. Such lynchings often were committed as capital punishment without the sanction of law for crimes that were fabricated or exaggerated.

[From the Activist Newsletter: It was not until the mass struggles of the black civil rights movement and its white allies in the1950s and 1960s that the era of formal segregation finally ended. Informal segregation continues to exist in many states, however, in housing, employment and other areas, but the end of formal Jim Crow was a great victory for African Americans and all Americans. Unfortunately, the old devil keeps showing up in different incarnations, such as the disproportionate mass incarceration of blacks, especially the youths.]


By Richard Rothstein, Economic Policy Institute

Student harassed integrating Little Rock High School in 1957.
May 17 was the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, a ruling that had an enormous impact on American society. Its narrow result was to annihilate the “separate but equal” rule, previously sanctioned by the Supreme Court in 1896 that permitted states and school districts to designate some schools for “whites-only” and others for “Negroes-only.”
But more important, the Brown decision focused the nation’s attention on black subjugation in a fashion not seen since Radical Republicans attempted to reconstruct the South after the Civil War. Brown’s 1954 success in highlighting the nation’s racial caste system gave encouragement to a wave of freedom rides to desegregate interstate transportation, to national support for Rosa Parks’ determination to desegregate local buses and other public facilities.
This led to lunch counter sit-ins to desegregate restaurants and other public accommodations, to heroic efforts to register African Americans in the Deep South to vote, and to confrontations over admission of African Americans to southern universities. It also spurred civil rights legislation in 1957, 1960, 1964, 1965, and 1968 that, in combination, undid the nation’s legal support for race-based status. None of this would have taken place without Brown.
But Brown was unsuccessful in its purported mission — to undo the school segregation that persists as a modal characteristic of American public education today. Here are key elements of the American education system that have evolved in the wake of Brown:

   Although Brown stimulated a civil rights movement that desegregated many facets of American society, it was least successful in integrating education, the decision’s aim.
   Initial school integration gains following Brown stalled and black children are more racially and socioeconomically isolated today than at any time since data have been available (1970).
   Academic achievement of African Americans has improved dramatically in recent decades, but whites’ has as well, so racial achievement gaps remain huge.
   Schools for black children had enormous resource shortages in 1954. Inequalities still exist in some places, although they are much smaller. But resource equality itself is insufficient; disadvantaged students require much greater resources than middle-class white students to prepare for success in school.
   Expensive but necessary resources include high-quality early childhood programs, from birth to school entry; high-quality after-school and summer programs; full-service school health clinics; more skilled teachers; and smaller classes.
   Even with these added resources, students can rarely be successful in racially and economically isolated schools where remediation and discipline supplant regular instruction, excessive student mobility disrupts learning, involvement of more-educated parents is absent, and students lack adult and peer models of educational success.
   Schools remain segregated today because neighborhoods in which they are located are segregated. Raising achievement of low-income black children requires residential integration, from which school integration can follow. Education policy is housing policy.
   Federal requirements that communities must pursue residential integration have been unenforced, and federal programs to subsidize movement of low-income families to middle-class communities have been weak and ineffective.
   Correcting these policy shortcomings is essential if the promise of Brown is to be fulfilled.
Thurgood Marshall.
When the Supreme Court handed down its decision 60 years ago, Thurgood Marshall, head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) and chief attorney for the plaintiffs, predicted that there would be “no organized resistance” to the Supreme Court’s order and that schools nationwide would be fully desegregated “in up to five years,” ensuring that black children throughout the nation would have educations that would gain them entry to skilled jobs and colleges on an equal basis with whites.
In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson appointed Marshall to the Supreme Court where he spent the next 24 years in a fruitless struggle to prevent the perpetuation of school segregation, and indeed its exacerbation, after an initial rollback.
Today, things are getting worse. The typical black student now attends a school where only 29% of his or her fellow students are white, down from 36% in 1980. Subsequently, the courts, over Marshall’s and other pro-integration justices’ objections, began to free southern school districts from orders compelling them to adopt deliberate policies to integrate. In fact, black children are more racially and socioeconomically isolated today than at any time since data have been collected.
Of course, Brown did accomplish a great deal, even with respect to school desegregation. In Southern states in 1954, no whites shared schools with blacks.
Black student achievement, nationwide, and in every state, has improved at a spectacular rate since Brown. Although we don’t have a reliable measure of achievement going back very far in time, we have good data for the last few decades, from the federal test of math and reading, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). It shows, for example, that black fourth-graders now have average math scores that are better than average white math scores only a generation ago. Yet because average white achievement has also improved, the gap between black and white achievements remains. The average black student still performs better than only about 25% of white students, making the goal of equal qualification for the labor market a distant and daunting goal.
It's a lot better today, but there's still more to do.
It is too easy to forget that the Brown decision was propelled not merely by a principled objection to the idea of “separate but equal,” but by Southern states’ unrestrained contempt for the “equal” part of the formula. Black students were not only segregated but wholly denied meaningful educational opportunity. Schools 60 years ago were separate but not equal. In Clarendon, South Carolina, the school system at the heart of the Brown collection of cases, per pupil spending in schools for whites was more than four times the rate in schools for blacks. The capital value of schools for whites was nine times the value of shacks for blacks.
The pupil-teacher ratio in schools attended by whites was 28-to-1, for those attended by blacks it was 47-to-1. There were flush toilets in schools for whites and outhouses at schools for blacks; buses transported white students to school while black students walked; schools for whites had janitors while schools for blacks were cleaned by teachers and students themselves. High school vocational programs for whites included typing and bookkeeping, but high school vocational programs for blacks consisted of agriculture and home economics. And so on.
All that ended with Brown. Although not the intent of the Legal Defense Fund, Marshall, or the other plaintiff attorneys, the case did provoke Southern states to make schools for blacks and whites more nearly equal, if still largely separate.
We are today considerably more knowledgeable about the challenges to student achievement posed by race and social class status than we were in 1954, if less motivated to do much to address them.
— Richard Rothstein is a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute and senior fellow of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at the University of California (Berkeley) School of Law.  


Chinese family wearing face masks to protect against air pollution walk along a street in Beijing. 
By Stratfor, April 25, 2014

In recent years, the Chinese government has put in place some of the world's toughest emissions standards for airborne pollutants such as sulfur dioxide. Beijing has also drafted plans to limit coal use in key urban areas and to curb wasteful production in heavy polluting industries.

On April 24, the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress approved sweeping revisions to the Environmental Protection Law, providing for tougher penalties against polluters as well as methods to tackle smog, raise public awareness and protect whistleblowers.

These actions have accompanied pledges by the country's leaders to shift China from a political-economic model that prioritizes rapid growth over the environment, among other things, to one that places more emphasis on environmental protection, quality of life and domestic consumption.

Public outrage over pollution is growing, but so far the government has not equipped environmental regulators with the legal powers and human resources necessary to effectively enforce these measures. Chinese Minister of Environmental Protection Zhou Shengxian has said that his is one of the weakest bureaucratic departments in the world. In recent years, the ministry's piecemeal approach to regulating air pollution — a reflection of its limited capabilities and jurisdiction — has been no match for local governments and well-connected industries that need to maintain high levels of industrial activity for the sake of employment and revenues.

Similar institutional and structural economic constraints have hampered the government's ability to enforce environmental regulations on several other fronts as well, including water pollution and water resource depletion — both acute problems that overlap closely with public anxiety over air pollution in China's northern industrial heartlands.

However, the tables could soon begin to turn in Beijing's struggle to curb the worst environmental effects of China's industrial development, with important implications for businesses and investors in traditional domestic pillar industries such as coal and steel. Since taking power in early 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping's administration has outlined a set of measures that, implemented in tandem, could alleviate some of the conflicts of interest that have hobbled Beijing's efforts to enforce environmental regulations.

These measures could reduce local governments' reliance on the development-related fees that accompany continuous, rapid growth. Finally, Beijing has begun making efforts to boost the profile, legal jurisdiction and, most important, enforcement and punitive capabilities of the Ministry of Environmental Protection.


Pix gabriel
By The Economist April 26, 2014

In July 1965 Gabriel Garcia Márquez — Gabo to all who revered him later — decided to lock himself away in a house on Calle de La Loma in Mexico City. He ordered his wife to sell the car and get credit from the butcher. For 15 months, using only his index fingers, he typed for six hours a day in a room he called “The Cave of the Mafia.” He survived on a diet of good Scotch and constant cigarettes. At five in the afternoon he would emerge into the fading light with his eyes wide, as though he had discoursed with the dead.

Gabriel Garcia Márquez,  a leftist to the end.
Inside the four walls of that room lay the immense delta of the Magdalena river, the grey frothy sea of Colombia’s Caribbean coast, the suffocating swamps of the Ciénaga, the interminable geometries of the banana plantations, and a long railway line that ran into the farthest territories of his heart. It ended at the village of Aracataca, now renamed by him Macondo, where his maternal grandparents had brought him up amid prospectors, fornicators, gypsies, scoundrels and virginal girls bent over their sewing frames. In that room where he had locked himself away he inhaled the sweet milk-candy and oregano of his grandmother and absorbed again the political venting of his grandfather, who had fought on the Liberal side in the War of a Thousand Days and who, at the book’s beginning, took him to discover ice, a great block of infinite internal needles that boiled his hand when he touched it.

“One Hundred Years of Solitude,” the fruit of his self-imprisonment, sold 50 million copies in more than 30 languages. Critics observed that its style, magical realism as they called it, was not new: Jorge Luis Borges, a blind Argentine poet, had felt his way through those labyrinths before. But its fame was startling. The world was seduced by a Latin America where the Buendía family feuded internally and externally, with rifles or with silence, for generations; where death gave its female victims instructions to sew their own shrouds; where the blood from a suicide by shotgun flowed all through Macondo, carefully avoiding the carpets; and where Remedios the Beauty was taken up to heaven as she hung out sheets on the washing line.

And it was all true. So Gabo insisted, to those who found his world outmoded and impossible. What seemed fantastical and extraordinary was merely reality in its local guise. Between novels he kept up his first profession, journalism, fearlessly reporting government scandals and narcoterrorism. When he had become hugely famous the government of Colombia sent him to mediate with the FARC guerrillas. That was surely as surreal as anything he wrote in the house on Calle de La Loma.

What the world could not grasp about Latin American literature, he told his Nobel Prize audience in 1982, was the presence in it of the ghosts of the disappeared, as many as the population of Uppsala, and of émigrés and exiles, as many as there were Norwegians. These shadows, with their different reality, were as persistent as the continent’s beauty, its violence and its pain. In the year after he was born a crowd of banana workers, their number as fluid and fleeting as memory, were killed by the army in Aracataca, the bodies taken so silently by train to the coast that the story at once became myth. It grew with him.

His sympathies stayed on the political left. Under Gen. Rojas Pinilla Colombia became a dictatorship, and he took refuge in Mexico in 1961. For years he was refused entry to the United States [because of his politics]. Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez were proud to count themselves his friends. With Castro he went fishing and talked books, he said, not politics. But he had a weakness for the “halo of power,” of whatever color, and a soft spot for old autocrats still carrying, like Simón Bolívar in “The General in his Labyrinth,” their bullet scars, their memories of past glories and their faded battle tunics, with buttons made from the gold of Atahualpa.

Writing was difficult; the words came as painfully as kidney stones. Nonetheless, there was nothing else he had wanted to do in life. He burned “to write so I would not die.” The desire began with “The Thousand and One Nights” in childhood and the tale of the fish, slit for frying, with a diamond as big as an almond in its belly. It was reinforced in his cub-reporter-student days in the cafés of Barranquilla and Cartagena, where he discovered Kafka, Faulkner, Woolf and Hemingway. His strongest influence, though, remained his grandmother, who had told him with the most deadpan face that the strangest things were true.

Those tales assumed no division between the waking and dreaming state. Like him, his characters were often insomniacs, terrified of the dark and plagued, as he was, by intrauterine memories and premonitory dreams. Their affliction was so acute that their days became seamless and infinite as winter rain. Yet his lovers too, in sheer happiness, were in the same suspended state. His last substantial novel, “Love in the Time of Cholera”, based on the forbidden romance of his own parents, ended with the aged lovers on the creaking Magdalena steamboat, pushing through purple lotus and past crocodiles with their mouths agape to catch butterflies, out to the mouth of the sea. But as his grandfather had told him, when they first saw that horizon, “There is no shore on the other side.”

By John McDevitt

Here comes the story of the Hurricane

The man the authorities came to blame

For something that he never done

Put him in a prison cell but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world.
— Lyrics from “Hurricane,” (Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy, 1975)

Hurricane as a dapper older man.
Rubin “Hurricane” Carter — the only professional boxer to be awarded a world championship title belt outside of the ring — died of prostate cancer on April 20 at the age of 76 in Toronto, Canada. Carter and his friend John Artis were framed and convicted for the murder of three whites at the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson, NJ, first in 1967 and again, in a second trial, in 1976. Due to prosecutorial misconduct, he was released by habeas corpus after spending nearly 20 years in prison.

Carter’s life exemplifies both a struggle against the extreme racism of the cops and the courts as well as a courageous fighter spirit inside and out of the ring.

Carter was born in Clifton, N.J., the fourth of seven children and learned early on of the racist system. By adulthood, he had already spent nearly half of his life incarcerated for defending himself against a pedophile. He escaped from the notorious Jamesburg Home for Boys (a prison for children) and joined the U.S. Army. While stationed in Germany, Carter began to box for the U.S. Army. In the Army his record was an amazing 51 wins — 31 by KO — out of 56 fights.

After being honorably discharged in 1957, he returned to Paterson where he was arrested and imprisoned for 10 months at Annandale Reformatory for his earlier escape.

Hurricane  in his boxing prime, before he was framed.
Carter began boxing professionally in 1961. Although only 5’8”, Carter was an intimidatingly muscled presence at 155-160 lbs. — a presence that only became more prevalent later in the boxing world. Carter quickly became known as a fierce haymaker — with a powerful left hook — earning him the professional name “Hurricane.”

In 1966, Carter was the top rated contender for the world middleweight belt after knocking out other middleweights Ernie Burford, Florentino Fernandez and Emile Griffith in early rounds and also defeating Holly Mims, Gomeo Brennan, George Benton and Jimmy Ellis. He narrowly lost against Joey Giardello for the middleweight belt by judges’ decision in Giardello’s hometown of Philadelphia in 1964.

His professional career’s record was 27 wins — 19 by KO — 12 losses and one draw. However, systemic racism prevented Carter from ever using his talent and drive to achieve a title belt.

In 1966, Carter and Artis were arrested and dragged to the scene of the murders at the Lafayette Bar and Grill. Even with the lynch-mob hysteria created by the police, none of the witnesses or the one survivor of the shootings identified Carter or Artis as the suspects. Carter was interrogated for 17 hours and passed a lie detector test. In 1967 the men were convicted of the murders by an all-white jury, judge and prosecutor — with the testimony of two white ex-convicts. Carter and Artis received three lifetime sentences.

The two witnesses, Alfred Bello and Arthur Bradley, recanted their testimony and described how they were offered reward money and leniency for charges they were facing. As a result, Carter was freed on bail and tried a second time. However, racist prosecution that disregarded the facts again resulted in Carter’s conviction for a crime he hadn’t committed.

In 1975, World Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, inspired by Rubin Carter’s struggle, shocked the media when he announced that he was dedicating his bout with Ron Lyle to the incarcerated Carter. Ali became the co-chair of the Hurricane Fund.

Hurricane with Muhammad Ali.
That same year, Bob Dylan released the song “Hurricane” detailing the racist framing of Carter and his
friend Artis.

Carter was finally released from prison in 1985, due to prosecutorial misconduct, and the charges against him formally dropped in 1988.

Carter wrote two autobiographies and was the subject of a movie staring Denzel Washington, becoming a rallying call for fighters against racial injustice. Carter’s strength in struggling against the racist system with its cornerstone of mass incarceration was unyielding in prison and after his release. “They can incarcerate my body but never my mind,” Carter once said.

After his release, Carter founded a nonprofit organization, Innocence International, which worked to free the wrongly convicted.

The history of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter will long be remembered. His legacy lives on in the demands to end mass incarceration, to banish solitary confinement, and to outlaw racist injustice.

— John McDevitt is a frequent writer for Liberation News,, which published this article April 27.

By Democracy Now, May 6, 2014

The Roman Catholic Church has provided its most detailed account to date of the number of clergy
officials punished for allegations of child sexual abuse in testimony to the United Nations May 5.

Vatican representative Silvano Tomasi revealed: "There were, since 2004 to the end of 2013, 848 priests who were dismissed from the clerical status and reduced to the lay status, and several hundred more had received other types of penalties, so that together they are about 3,500 priests."

Tomasi says the church has paid more than $2.5 billion in compensation to child sexual abuse victims since 1950. The disclosures come as part of a United Nations hearing into the Vatican’s compliance with an international treaty barring torture. In response to Tomasi’s testimony, Barbara Blaine of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, accused the church of continuing to evade responsibility for its crimes against children.

"The bottom line,” she said, “is that everyone has known for decades that sexually abusing a child, raping a child, is crime. And so, for Tomasi to say today that they are learning, that they need more information, they relied on their psychologist, it just is — those are old excuses that don’t pan out, because everyone — even I knew as a child in the 1960s and '70s that raping children was a crime. So, for them to claim they didn't know any better is ludicrous."

By The Economist

After 223 years New Hampshire is about to make adultery legal. A law in 1791 called for convicted adulterers to be paraded on the gallows for an hour and then “publicly whipped not exceeding 39 stripes” before being sent to prison and fined £100 ($168 in today’s dollars), probably more than a year’s wages in those days.

The penalty has grown milder since then. Adulterers now face a $1,200 fine, which is not enforced. New Hampshire’s state House of Representatives voted to repeal the law in February; the state Senate is expected to follow soon. Not everyone is happy. A letter to the Concord Monitor huffed that adultery was “repugnant” and should remain a crime.

More than 20 states still have laws against adultery. Colorado did not decriminalize it until last year.
Courts rarely hand down convictions; the most notable of recent times was in Massachusetts in 1983, when two policemen caught a married man and woman having sex in a van. They weren’t married to each other, and the woman, who challenged the charge, was fined $50.

Few Americans want the state to police their bedrooms, but 93% think adultery is morally wrong, a recent CNN poll found. How many Americans have “strayed?” In the General Social Survey, 15% of wives and 21% of husbands admitted to it. But a separate survey found that 74% of men and 68% of women said they would indulge in an affair if they knew they wouldn’t get caught. The law may no longer punish cheaters, but their spouses will if they find out.

[From the Activist Newsletter: New York State Penal Law S 255.17 warns: “A person is guilty of adultery when he engages in sexual intercourse with another person at a time when he has a living spouse, or the other person has a living spouse. Adultery is a class B misdemeanor.” All we can say to New York State residents who plan to commit this “immoral” misdemeanor is this: Wise up — head to Motel New Hampshire!]

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