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Venezuela Launches School for Human Rights & People’s Power


Last week, the Venezuelan Public Defender’s Office launched a school for human rights education that will be run by the state-funded Juan Vives Suria Foundation in Caracas and will carry out seminars in twelve of the country’s 23 states.

The new school will aim to “dismantle the liberal, reductionist, and individualist vision of human rights”, said Gabriela Ramirez, Venezuela’s chief public defender, during a press conference at the foundation, which is named after a Catholic Priest famed for his activism in defense of human rights.

“Our vision is not just to train the staff of the Public Defender’s Office, but rather to build an enduring culture of human rights, just as our constitution calls for, and that it be the communities themselves that have the capacity and the competence to defend their rights”, said Ramirez.

Social workers and community activists who have already been leading human rights campaigns or who have denounced human rights violations will be the initial participants in the school. While enrolment is free of charge, aspirant students must submit a proposal outlining a social problem in their community and how their human rights education will help them solve it. The school will also offer a certificate of training in the new Anti-Corruption Law for local advocates who can vigil the behaviour of government institutions and of their own communal councils.MORE


Venezuela has got issues but I am really curious as to what comes out of this.
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Yemen women burn face veils to protest attacks

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Hundreds of Yemeni women have set fire to a pile of female face and body veils on a main street in Sanaa to protest the government's brutal crackdown against the country's popular uprising.

The act of women burning their clothing is a symbolic Bedouin tribal gesture signifying an appeal for help to tribesmen.

Wednesday's protest comes as clashes intensify between forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh and renegade fighters who have sided with the opposition in demands that the president step down.

Medical and local officials say up to 25 civilians, tribal fighters and government soldiers died overnight in Sanaa and the city of Taiz despite Saleh's ceasefire announcement late Tuesday.

Saleh has clung to power in the face of more than nine months of massive protests against his rule.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen's president on Tuesday called in the U.S. ambassador and told him he would sign a deal to step down, a U.S. official said. The embattled leader, who has made that pledge several times before, spoke as violence shook his capital.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh informed Ambassador Gerald Feierstein of a new cease-fire, but clashes on the streets threw that into doubt. Activists said seven protesters were killed and 10 wounded.MORE
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Why do we need an Occupy Australia?

Many Australians have questioned the need for an Occupy movement of our own. In contrast to the US, we’re not struggling in quite the same way, economically, having never slipped into recession or been caught up in the Eurozone debt crisis. There are no largescale cuts to public jobs as in Europe or the U.S. At The Referral, Kimberley Ramplin points out that the Australian economy is quite healthy, comparatively speaking:


5.2 per cent unemployment in September 2011. As the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Measures of Australia’s Progress 2011 report shows, pretty much everything (barring productivity) has improved since 2000. Including unemployment. The bad news? That increase applies to threatened animal species due to climate change. The average weekly income per full-time employed adult is $1,305. The average hourly income is between $29.70 and$33.10 (the disparity? Female wages c.f. men) (Source: ABS)

I’ve lived in Australia and the U.S and I know from personal experience that the substantially lower standard of living in the U.S is something few Australians can truly understand. Things are not perfect in Australia economically – not with the astronomical housing prices – but we can’t say that the middle class has collapsed in the same way as in the U.S.


We do ourselves no favours when we uncritically mimic American models without changing them to suit local conditions. The cultural cringe is no more useful in activism than it is in other areas. The 99/1% slogan is powerful stuff indeed but doesn’t adequately address the income distribution of Australia as accurately in the United States. Activism must respond to local needs to be successful.

So what's wrong with Australia? A lot, as it turns out


But the interesting thing is what she decided to leave out...that awesome economic bubble somehow manages to miss the Aborigines. Apparently this isn't a local need? Of course, that capitalist system was immeasurably boosted by colonization, stealing, killing and otherwise exploiting said Aborigines and their land, which brings up the whole issuetastic problem with the name Occupy and what it reveals about the terms of debate anyway.
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The Montreal Metro System will be fully wheelchair accessible in 2058


I know a lot of people skip titles of posts. Please read the title of this one.

I had an argument with someone at school on Thursday and it's still sitting with me. I think this is because we'd had an earlier argument on a similar subject on Tuesday. As you can probably imagine, it was about disability, or more specifically, about how disabled people have existed and advocated for themselves since long before the mainstream folks started paying attention, and well before I ever started paying attention.

The argument on Thursday was about my colleague's disagreement with the abstract for a master's research paper on disability discrimination in the Montreal Metro System. I'm not from Montreal, so the place this system has in Montreal was a bit much for me to grasp. Apparently it's a big thing, a progress thing. A thing about how Montreal has been advancing into the future. When it was opened in 1966, it was opened to everyone.

Everyone, of course, except people who can't walk up and down stairs.

The presentation and follow-up short video talked explicitly about ableist constructions of public spaces. She called it out very bluntly: this is discriminatory. This has always been discriminatory.

The part that others tend not to get, the part my colleague at the university didn't get, is that the people at the time knew this.MORE from trouble
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But someone needs to explain how a NATO strike killed him when he had been discovered in a drainage hole by rebels.


Graphic footage showing him after his death in Sirte


Muammar Gaddafi killed as Sirte falls: NTC military chief says toppled leader died of wounds following capture near his hometown of Sirte.


Muammar Gaddafi has been killed after National Transitional Council fighters overran loyalist defences in Sirte, the toppled Libyan leader's hometown and final stronghold.

"We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Muammar Gaddafi has been killed," Mahmoud Jibril, the de facto Libyan prime minister, told reporters on Thursday in Tripoli, the capital.

Crowds took to the streets of Sirte, Tripoli and Benghazi, the eastern city that spearheaded the uprising against Gaddafi's 42-year rule in February, to celebrate the news, with some firing guns and waving Libya's new flag. 

Abdul Hakim Belhaj, an NTC military chief, said Gaddafi had died of his wounds after being captured on Thursday.

The body of the former Libyan leader was taken to a location which is being kept secret for security reasons, Mohamed Abdel Kafi, an NTC official in the city of Misrata, told the Reuters news agency.

Earlier, Abdel Majid, another NTC official, said the toppled leader had been wounded in both legs.

Sirte captured

The news came shortly after the NTC captured Sirte after weeks of fierce fighting.

 


Al Jazeera's Tony Birtley reports from Sirte

 

Fighters flashing V for victory took to the streets in pick-ups blaring out patriotic music.

"Thank God they have caught this person. In one hour, Sirte was liberated," a fighter said.

Al Jazeera's Tony Birtley, reporting from Sirte, said Libyans there celebrating the beginning of a "new Libya".


MORE



Who was Muammar Gaddafi? Video


What does Gaddafi's fall mean for Africa? As global powers become more interested in Africa, interventions in the continent will likely become more common.

"Kampala 'mute' as Gaddafi falls," is how the opposition paper summed up the mood of this capital the morning after. Whether they mourn or celebrate, an unmistakable sense of trauma marks the African response to the fall of Gaddafi.

Both in the longevity of his rule and in his style of governance, Gaddafi may have been extreme. But he was not exceptional. The longer they stay in power, the more African presidents seek to personalise power. Their success erodes the institutional basis of the state. The Carribean thinker C L R James once remarked on the contrast between Nyerere and Nkrumah, analysing why the former survived until he resigned but the latter did not: "Dr Julius Nyerere in theory and practice laid the basis of an African state, which Nkrumah failed to do."

The African strongmen are going the way of Nkrumah, and in extreme cases Gaddafi, not Nyerere. The societies they lead are marked by growing internal divisions. In this, too, they are reminiscent of Libya under Gaddafi more than Egypt under Mubarak or Tunisia under Ben Ali.

Whereas the fall of Mubarak and Ben Ali directed our attention to internal social forces, the fall of Gaddafi has brought a new equation to the forefront: the connection between internal opposition and external governments. Even if those who cheer focus on the former and those who mourn are preoccupied with the latter, none can deny that the change in Tripoli would have been unlikely without a confluence of external intervention and internal revolt.

More interventions to come

The conditions making for external intervention in Africa are growing, not diminishing. The continent is today the site of a growing contention between dominant global powers and new challengers. The Chinese role on the continent has grown dramatically. Whether in Sudan and Zimbawe, or in Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria, that role is primarily economic, focused on two main activities: building infrastructure and extracting raw materials. For its part, the Indian state is content to support Indian mega-corporations; it has yet to develop a coherent state strategy. But the Indian focus too is mainly economic.

The contrast with Western powers, particularly the US and France, could not be sharper. The cutting edge of Western intervention is military. France's search for opportunities for military intervention, at first in Tunisia, then Cote d'Ivoire, and then Libya, has been above board and the subject of much discussion. Of greater significance is the growth of Africom, the institutional arm of US military intervention on the African continent.
MORE
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The Road Not Built: Redefining Progress At Home and Abroad

Local opposition to a proposed road in Trinidad brings new understanding of “progress,” and what it means to be rooted.

Most Americans love roads: Ours is a country of roads with a network of highways that rivals any other. So too does the U.S. government love roads. When the Obama administration passed its epic $787 billion stimulus plan just weeks after taking office, where did much of the money go? Into fixing and upgrading our highways.

When U.S. aid agencies look to poorer nations, they too love to fund the building of roads that can deliver crops to markets and ports and bring “progress” to remote areas. After all, who could be against a road?

In our stay in Trinidad and Tobago, the two-island nation off the coast of Venezuela, we discover that more people than we expected are opposed to a particular road. Their reasons turn the prevailing view of progress on its head and add to our understanding of “rooted” communities.

As we prepare to travel to Trinidad, we notice something strange on maps of the island: The coastal road that goes almost entirely around Trinidad stops for a 17-mile stretch in the center of the northern coast. Our research reveals that government promises and plans to complete the road go back to 1962 when the country gained independence. Some five decades later, still no road.

Not only does the couple not want a road, they want the entire mountain region to be declared a protected area to be stewarded by the people who live around it and in it.

This intrigues us. So we travel to three towns that surround the no-road area in part to see what life is like at the end of the road and to find out the “what,” “why” and “how” of the unfinished project.

MORE
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Gold or Water: The Fight Goes on in El Salvador

At this moment, unbeknownst to most of the world, the government of El Salvador is in the midst of a decision that could make it the first country in the world to ban gold mining. Corporate eyes are trained on this tiny nation, hoping it will decide that mining revenues are too lucrative to forgo. So too should those of us who believe that people and their ecosystems come first be doing our part to make sure that corporate interests do not determine what should be a democratic decision among Salvadorans.

Earlier this year, we traveled to El Salvador for The Nation to learn more about how the first progressive government (led by the FMLN party) in El Salvador in decades was deliberating over its choices. As part of its 2009 election promises, the government of Mauricio Funes had announced it would grant no new mining permits during its five-year term and that it was considering a permanent ban. Once elected, the Funes government initiated a major “strategic environmental review” to help set longer-term national policy on mining.

So, we found ourselves at the Ministry of the Economy, which along with the Environment Ministry, is leading the review. (Can you imagine the U.S. Treasury Department and EPA joining forces to do a collaborative review of U.S. policy?) With us was the man overseeing the review process from the economy ministry: engineer Carlos Duarte. Duarte explained that the goal was to do a “scientific” analysis, with the help of a Spanish consulting firm.

We pushed further, trying to understand how a technical analysis could capture the two sides of such a high-stakes issue. On one hand, El Salvador is a country of deep poverty, with people desperately in need of jobs. How could it not be tempted by visions of earnings from gold exports, especially now that gold’s price had skyrocketed from under $300 an ounce a decade ago to over $1,500 an ounce at the time of our meeting with Duarte? This view is perhaps best epitomized by former Salvadoran finance minister and mining company economic adviser Manuel Hinds, who said that “renouncing gold mining would be unjustifiable and globally unprecedented.”

On the other hand, there is the environmental cost. Here we quoted to Duarte from Maria Silvia Guillen, the head of the Salvadoran human rights group FESPAD: “El Salvador is a small beach with a big river that runs through it. If the river dies, the entire country dies.”MORE
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The Sticky Situation Surrounding Plumpy'nut


Afro-Leo is pleased to bring you a guest post by Isaac Rutenberg, PhD, Patent Agent at Bozicevic, Field & Francis LLP in San Francisco, CA, USA. If you would like to contact Isaac directly, he can be reached at rutenberg@bozpat.com.

Is intellectual property always harmful to poor people? Plumpy’nut has been cited as an example that supports the case against allowing patent rights in matters of humanitarian aid. On the contrary, Plumpy’nut is a shining example of how proper use of intellectual property protections could have significantly enhanced international aid and development work.
A recent article in the NYTimes describes the row that has developed over Plumpy'nut. In short, Plumpy'nut is a revolutionary peanut-based product with the potential to end or significantly reduce severe acute child malnutrition. Developed by Dr. Andre Briend, a "crusading pediatrician" who became tired of traditional (frequently unsuccessful) solutions to acute malnutrition, Plumpy'nut is a simple product that is remarkably effective and practical.

So why the row? Turns out that the Plumpy'nut formulation has been patented in 38 countries, including the US, France, and much of Africa. The owner of the patent, the French company Nutriset, appears to be bent on commercializing not just the miracle product but the entire process of combating acute malnutrition. Nutriset and Nutriset's collaborators (including a US for-profit company manufacturing Plumpy'nut in New Jersey for distribution to USAID) have defended their approach and their product, taking steps to prevent others from producing similar products. Criticism of Nutriset has been unsurprisingly harsh: non-profits worldwide say that Nutriset is trying to profit on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable children. Inevitably, there is the claim that intellectual property is to blame for this disaster.

I say, not so fast. The NYTimes article says that Nutriset obtained the patent rights because Dr. Briend "signed a consulting agreement" with Nutriset after developing Plumpy'nut, since he "never knew anything about manufacturing food." This is somewhat vague, but according to a United States Patent and Trademark Office database, Dr. Briend and a co-inventor assigned (i.e., sold) the patent to Nutriset. This left Nutriset entirely in charge of the patent – Dr. Briend has no say in how it is used.

Why didn't he open source copyright the formulation?


You should read the New York Times article. Just be prepared to RAGE. The Peanut Solution
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Chilean girls stage 'occupation' of their own school in education rights protestFor five months, girls demanding free university education for all have defied police to occupy their state school


Sleeping on a tiled classroom floor, sharing cigarettes and always on the lookout for police raids, the students of Carmela Carvajal primary and secondary school are living a revolution.

It began early one morning in May, when dozens of teenage girls emerged from the predawn darkness and scaled the spiked iron fence around Chile's most prestigious girl's school. They used classroom chairs to barricade themselves inside and settled in. Five months later, the occupation shows no signs of dying and the students are still fighting for their goal: free university education for all.

A tour of the school is a trip into the wired reality of a generation that boasts the communication tools that feisty young rebels of history never dreamed of. When police forces move closer, the students use restricted Facebook chat sessions to mobilise. Within minutes, they are able to rally support groups from other public schools in the neighbourhood. "Our lawyer lives over there," said Angelica Alvarez, 14, as she pointed to a cluster of nearby homes. "If we yell 'Mauricio' really loud, he leaves his home and comes over."

For five months, the students at Carmela Carvajal have lived on the ground floor, sometimes sleeping in the gym, but usually in the abandoned classrooms where they hauled in a television, set up a private changing room, and began to experience school from a different perspective.

The first thing they did after taking over the school was to hold a vote. Approximately half of the 1,800 students participated in the polls to approve the takeover, and the yays outnumbered the nays 10 to one.

Now the students pass their school days listening to guest lecturers who provide free classes on topics ranging from economics to astronomy. Extracurricular classes include yoga and salsa lessons. At night and on weekends, visiting rock bands set up their equipment and charge 1,000 pesos (£1.25) per person to hear a live jam on the basketball court. Neighbours donate fresh baked cakes and, under a quirk of Chilean law, the government is obliged to feed students who are at school – even students who have shut down education as usual.

So much food has poured in that the students from Carmela Carvajal now regularly pass on their donations to hungry students at other occupied schools.

Municipal authorities have repeatedly attempted to retake the school, sending in police to evict the rebel students and get classes back on schedule, but so far the youngsters have held their ground.

Read more... )
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NAMIBIA Skulls Repatriated - But No Official German Apology

BERLIN, Oct 4, 2011 (IPS) - A delegation of Namibian government representatives and leaders of the indigenous Herero and Nama people who came to Germany to repatriate 20 skulls of their ancestors were once again disappointed in their hopes for dialogue and an official apology.

The skulls were of victims of the mass murder of 80,000 Herero and Nama between 1904 and 1908, which were stolen by the former colonial 'Kaiserreich' for racial research some 100 years ago.

"When the Great Powers partitioned Africa in 1884, unfortunately we were allotted to the Germans," said Advocate Krukoro of the Ovaherero Genocide Committee, one of the 60 Namibian delegates, during the Sept. 27-Oct. 2 visit to Berlin.

In 1904, some 17,000 German colonial troops commanded by General Lothar von Trotha launched a brutal war of extermination against the Herero and Nama people, after they revolted against the continued deprivation of land and rights. Following their defeat at Waterberg on Aug. 11, 1904, they were hunted, murdered or driven deep into the Omaheke desert where they died of thirst.

Thousands of men, women and children were later interned in German concentration camps, and died of malnutrition and disease. The territories of the Herero and Nama people were seized, their community life and means of production destroyed. The discussion about the mass murder did not start until Namibia gained independence from South Africa in 1990.

Germany's foreign ministry has routinely avoided the use of the term "genocide" in dismissing the Herero and Nama peoples' claims for compensation, using instead vague phrases such as "Germany's historic responsibility with respect to Namibia."


Cornelia Pieper, the minister of state in the German foreign office, did the same this time around. "Germans acknowledge and accept the heavy moral and historical responsibility to Namibia," she said on Sep. 30 at the Charité University in Berlin, which hosted the ceremony in which the skulls of nine Herero and eleven Nama people were handed over to the Namibian delegation.

The remains of four females, 15 males and one child were part of the Charité anatomical collection. They were used by German scientists in research that had the aim of proving the supposed racial superiority of white Europeans over black Africans.

Now, 100 years later, the president of the executive board of the 300-year-old institution, Karl Max Einhaeupl, deplored "the crimes perpetrated in the name of a perverted concept of scientific progress" and said: "We sincerely apologise".

The treatment of the Herero and Nama people in Namibia – mass extermination on the grounds of racism, extermination through labour, expropriation of land and cattle, research to prove the alleged superiority of white people – is widely seen as a precursor to the Holocaust. MORE
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A Contrast in Discourses: Sicilia and the Peace Caravan in Oaxaca

The Annihilating Language of the Left Meets the Language of Humanity of Drug War Victims

This month’s journey by Javier Sicilia, family members of drug war victims and the Caravan of Peace provided a closer look at how different sectors of the Mexican left are receiving the emergence of the country’s first explicitly nonviolent movement on a national scale. The difference between Sicilia’s Gandhian strategy and discourse and those of more strident and militant traditions was especially magnified in the state of Oaxaca, where the caravan traveled September 11, 12 and 13, a majority-indigenous state which has its own deep history of struggle. ...

Oaxaca’s history of popular struggle is among the deepest in the hemisphere. We’ve learned a lot from it, particularly from the Zapotec communities of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, who in the 1980s launched the first resistance against the one-party rule of Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI, in its Spanish initials). Much of my own early formation in Mexico came learning from my late friend, the exceptional community organizer and labor lawyer Carlos Sanchez, assassinated in 2003 in Juchitán, at the age of 49, while returning from his daughter’s 15th birthday celebration.

It is not easy to work or live in Oaxaca with a social conscience and not become overwhelmed at times with grief over the sheer volume of political assassination, unjust imprisonment and violence inflicted on good people who have worked to right wrongs and injustices. One day your friend and neighbor are there, fighting the good fight. The next day he and she are gone, forever. Then you watch helplessly as their children are raised fatherless or motherless. You see and feel the gaping holes left in communities throughout the state’s seven regions, and the long term consequences of such political violence, compounded today by the economic violence of the prohibitionist drug policy and its escalating consequences on all of Mexico, including Oaxaca, a key south-to-north funnel in the routes of South American cocaine.

MORE

YES!!!

Oct. 3rd, 2011 07:46 pm
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Supreme Court ruling opens doors to drug injection clinics across Canada Sit DOWN conservatives!!


The Supreme Court of Canada has opened the door to supervised drug injection clinics across the country in a landmark decision on Friday that ordered the federal government to stop interfering with Vancouver’s controversial Insite clinic.

The Court was persuaded by evidence that drug addicts are considerably safer administering their own injections under medical surveillance rather than obtaining and injecting hard drugs on the streets of the city’s troubled Downtown Eastside.

In its 9-0 decision, it said the federal government has the jurisdictional right to use criminal law to restrict illicit-drug use – but that the concerns it cited in an attempt to close Insite were “grossly disproportionate” to the benefits for drug users and the community.

“During its eight years of operation, Insite has been proven to save lives with no discernible negative impact on the public safety and health objectives of Canada,” the Court said. “The effect of denying the services of Insite to the population it serves and the correlative increase in the risk of death and disease to injection drug users is grossly disproportionate to any benefit that Canada might derive from presenting a uniform stance on the possession of narcotics.”

In ordering the Harper government to exempt the clinic from prosecution for its activities, the Court said that the government cannot simply close down clinics based on its own distaste for legally sanctioned drug injections.

It said that the consequences of interrupting the work of the clinic could have such “grave consequences” that only a direct court order can be assured that the spirit of the judgment would not be circumvented. MORE
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MEXICO Peace Movement Meets Zapatistas


PALENQUE, Mexico, Sep 19, 2011 (IPS) - The Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity, headed by Mexican writer Javier Sicilia, travelled through southeastern Mexico and reached the heart of the territory controlled by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), bringing a message of solidarity.

Sicilia and other relatives of victims of the wave of violence triggered by the militarisation of the war on drugs by the government of Mexican President Felipe Calderón visited the "autonomous community" of Oventic, in the southern state of Chiapas, Friday Sep. 16.

The community is part of the territory under the influence of the EZLN, guerrillas who took up arms in 1994 in Chiapas to demand democratic reforms and greater recognition of indigenous rights. After two weeks of skirmishes with the army, a truce was agreed. The barely-armed group remains in political and administrative control of part of the state, where communities are organised autonomously under local councils.

No Zapatista commanders took part in the meeting, but the peace movement activists were welcomed by the Junta de Buen Gobierno (Council of Good Government). The meeting lasted for over three hours. Five EZLN representatives listened to the victims' testimonies, but made no statement.

"They have their own methods and sense of timing. The main thing is that it was possible to hold this meeting," one of the coordinators of the peace movement, Pietro Ameglio of the Peace and Justice Service (SERPAJ), told IPS.

On May 8, when a national march convened by Sicilia arrived in the Zócalo, Mexico City's central square, the Zapatistas held a demonstration in the southeastern town of San Cristóbal de las Casas in support of the peace movement.


MORE


MEXICO Peace Caravan 'Has Made Us Feel Stronger'

OAXACA, Mexico, Sep 13, 2011 (IPS) - With a huge hug, Olga Reyes from Chihuahua, who has lost six family members in Mexico's wave of drug-related violence, greets Araceli Rodríguez from Mexico state, the mother of a young federal police officer who "disappeared" in Michoacán two years ago.

They are both travelling with the Peace Caravan, heading for Mexico's southern border with Guatemala.

Reyes and Rodríguez then embraced Rosario Ocampo, the niece of Lucio Cabañas (1939-1974), a rural schoolteacher and leader of the insurgent Partido de los Pobres (Party of the Poor). Her family were displaced from their home and forced to flee from the southern state of Guerrero after the legendary guerrilla fighter's widow was murdered two months ago.
MORE


MEXICO
Peace Caravan Tells Migrants 'You Are Not Alone'


TECÚN UMÁN, Guatemala, Sep 16, 2011 (IPS) - Lucía and her family left their village in Guatemala village at 8:00 am to join the Peace Caravan, but they had to wait for six hours at the Rodolfo Robles bridge between Ciudad Tecún Umán, in Guatemala, and Ciudad Hidalgo, in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.

When the motorcade, led by writer Javier Sicilia and activist Julián Le Barón, of Mexico City and Chihuahua state, respectively, finally arrived at the Guatemalan border, Lucía had held her one-year-old son in her arms for ages. Tired out by the wait, he was fast asleep, oblivious of the commotion on the international bridge.

"We came to represent our organisation (the Campesino Unity Committee), because there is a lot of crime, a lot of poverty, and many people are being killed or are victims of extortion in Mexico," the young mother told IPS.
MORE
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France bans public Muslim prayers

MUSLIMS will be banned from praying outdoors in France from today in the latest move by officials to remove Islam from the public sphere.

The ban, announced by the government yesterday, infuriated French Muslim leaders, one of whom accused President Sarkozy's government of treating them like cattle.

They say that Muslims, who pray outdoors only because of a lack of space in mosques in France, feel stigmatised.

But Claude Gueant, the Interior Minister, said that the sight of hundreds of people gathering in the streets of Paris and other cities for Friday prayers was "shocking".

It comes after laws to prohibit pupils from wearing headscarves in schools and women from wearing the niqab, the full Muslim veil, in public.

Mr Gueant described outlawing street prayers as the latest brick in the wall that is shoring up the secular nature of the French state. He said that he had nothing against Islam, but wanted it out of the public eye.

...

Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front, was accused of racism when she said that the worship amounted to an "occupation" - a word that for many French is associated with the Nazi invasion during the Second World War.

But the government now appears to be on the same wavelength, with Mr Gueant agreeing that street prayers would "upset" his fellow countrymen.MORE


Wait a second. Muslims praying on Paris streets are a fucking occupation!? WHAT now? I ain't even hitting the Nazi invasion, what about the French occupation, invasion, colonization of a good chuck of the world's surface not too long ago? And for damn sure they weren't doing anything as innocuous as praying the streets!!!!


And why oh why can't Muslims build bigger mosques to spare our Mr. Gueant's racist, white-supremacist, ignorant, discriminatory, ahem! delicate sensibilities? Why, because the fucking French gov't refuses to give em the permits! See how that works?

France to ban Muslim street prayers

“Here we have the hypocrisy of the French right. On one side, they authorize in the street and on the other side, they say ‘look French people, Muslims are taking over our streets and speak of invasion’,” French lawmaker Axel Urgin told a Press TV correspondent.

Even though France has the greatest Muslim population in Europe, Paris has only one mosque. This lack of mosques leaves French Muslims no choice but to attend Friday prayers at about a dozen street locations across France.

“If we are praying in the street, it’s because we have no other choice. We are using what we have, and that is the street,” the president of Muslim Association of Openness, Moussa Niambele said.

French politicians use the country’s 1905 secularism law as reasoning why Muslims cannot be financially assisted by the government to build mosques. Right-wing mayors also allegedly refuse issuing construction permits to those who have the money.MORE


via [livejournal.com profile] ontd_political

Ah... All these civilized European countries. Such a contrast to all those barbaric Global South countries, yes?
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**TRIGGER WARNING: discusses topics and stories around rape and sex slavery within prisons.**


Ed Mead, organizing prisoner


Writing on the back of picture reads, “MAS [Men Against Sexism] member Ed Mead + Danny Atteberry (misidentified as “lovers” in CM [“Concrete Mama”, a nickname for the prison]) walk the tier of Big Red, the isolation unit at Walla Walla State Pen. 77 or 78

Ed Mead was arrested relatively early in the Brigade’s trajectory, so he spent much of his organizing time behind bars. In his close to twenty-year sentence, Mead led work strikes, filed petitions, and generally did his best to fan the flames of discontent wherever he went. This made him something of a scourge to prison administrators, who bounced him through state and federal penal systems, moving him along whenever his organizing efforts began to bear fruit.

One of his more notable efforts was Men Against Sexism (MAS), a group of “tough faggots” who forcibly stopped the buying and selling of prisoners by prisoners for the purpose of sexual exploitation [violent pimping of weaker prisoners by stronger ones] in Walla Walla. During the group’s zenith in 1978, MAS proved so effective that a feminine male prisoner could wear a dress around without threat of violence. MORE


pic at the source.


Ed Mead and Men Against Sexism: The Story of a Revolutionary Queer Prison Group

**TRIGGER WARNING: discusses topics and stories around rape and sex slavery within prisons.**

Ed Mead is a revolutionary, Queer, Godless Commie and Ex-Political Prisoner who went to jail for his part in a group called theGeorge Jackson Brigade, which carried out a number of bombings, prisoner liberation’s and bank expropriations to further anti-capitalist struggle in the Pacific Northwest.

Earful of Queer talked with Ed about the history of his incarceration and his work with the revolution prison group called Men Against Sexism, which used violence and the threat of violence to stop rape within prisons in the Northwest of America in the 70′s.

We hear about the rise and fall of Men Against Sexism, failed escape attempts by Ed Mead & other revolutionaries, and the state of prison resistance then and now.

This is a beautiful collection of stories of queers engaged in class war against the state, and of small victories in that struggle.

Audio interview at the link



Ed Mead's Website
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Here's a 2009 article: Forgetting the Caribs of Trinidad

A stream of newspaper articles, and public comments on their contents, have been published over the past six months in Trinidad's Guardian newspaper. It has been a while since I have had a chance to cover the latest news, as reported by the media. Though not unexpected, some of the news is very striking about the degree to which the indigenous Caribs of Trinidad are suppressed, even while supposedly being celebrated, and forgotten even as they are commemorated. It seems that the authorities and elites in Trinidad are not content with any display of Caribness that goes beyond superficial performances and outright simulation. To some extent, the organized body of Caribs, the Santa Rosa Carib Community, is also responsible for buying into that system of official diversity management, whereby select groups are trotted out solely for the purpose of public performance, as if they were barely living, quasi-archaeological artifacts dancing in the state's cultural showcase. Now it seems that they are growing increasingly upset with the superficiality of the attention paid to them, but have not yet devised a strategy that does anything other than produce more of the same: more commemorations in place of any real transformation.

Mockery and Superficiality at the 5th Summit of the Americas

Let us begin with this year's Fifth Summit of the Americas (see also on Twitter). The first in a series of articles that touched on the Carib "presence" at the 5th Summit was Foreign delegates to get taste of local culture, by Michelle Loubon (3 April 2009). There is no note of potential controversy -- on the contrary, it seems that some much needed post-colonial revision will be presented:

In history classes, children learn that before Columbus came, T&T was inhabited by the Caribs and Arawaks. This is followed by the description of the Caribs as ‘warlike’ and the Arawaks as ‘peaceful.’ The Arawaks were decimated, but there remains a strong Carib community in the town of Arima—which diligently celebrates the Feast of Santa Rosa every year. For the 2009 Summit of the Americas, visiting US president Barack Obama and the other dignitaries will get a cultural history lesson on these indigenous peoples from reigning bandleader Brian Mac Farlane.
MORE


I remember those history classes. I didn't realize that Caribs and Arawaks still existed still until Pirates of the Caribbeans fucked up a couple of years ago.
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Wikileaks: The U.S. Embassy in Trinidad and Tobago, the Amerindians, and Indigenous Rights



Thanks to the recent release of WikiLeaks' U.S. Embassy cables, we have a complete set for Trinidad and Tobago, and many of the items are quite striking and revealing. One is of particular relevance to Trinidad's Indigenous community. It seems that the U.S. Embassy worked to temper any Trinidadian embrace of a new Indigenous Rights charter (that being drafted by the OAS), and that on the other hand, the Trinidadian government had a very selective view of what rights it had actually signed on to at the UN, as well as seeming agreeable to making concessions to the U.S. Of course none of this international diplomatic chatter on the rights of Trinidad's Indigenous People was previously made public.

Apparently the public profile of Trinidad and Tobago's Indigenous community, specifically the Santa Rosa Carib Community, came up in discussions between the Government of Trinidad and Tobago (GOTT) and an officer in the Political Affairs section (PolOff) of the U.S. Embassy in Port of Spain, according to a WikiLeaks cable. The cable is marked as "sensitive but unclassified". In a meeting that took place on 22 October 2007, Ms. Delia Chatoor of the Multilateral Affairs Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs mentioned that "Trinidad and Tobago's own small Amerindian community had recently become more vocal, and that a week dedicated to the history and culture of the group had just concluded [Amerindian Heritage Week]". These remarks were made in connection with developing a government position on the work of the Organization of American States (OAS) in preparing a Draft Declaration of Indigenous Rights (DRIP) (also see this and that), and in light of the then recent passage of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples--which the GOTT approved. We already know, from other WikiLeaks cables, that the U.S. worked actively on the international front to try to pressure governments to vote against the UN Declaration. However, the remarks by the Trinidadian government official are rather curious.MORE

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Nicaragua's Antidote to Violent Crime


GUATEMALA CITY, Sept 7, 2011 (IPS) - The so-called "Northern Triangle" of Central America, plagued by poverty, violence and the legacy of civil war, is considered one of the most violent areas in the world. But neighbouring Nicaragua has largely escaped the spiralling violence, and many wonder how it has managed to do so.

There are undoubtedly a number of reasons that crime rates are so much lower in Nicaragua than in its three neighbours to the north – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – but analysts and experts point to two fundamental aspects: community policing and greater social cohesion.

In the view of Helen Mack, the head of the Myrna Mack Foundation, a Guatemala City-based human rights organisation, the focus taken by Nicaragua's police force "makes a huge difference."

"The three countries of the Northern Triangle are influenced by the United States, and the police have played a supporting role to the army, protecting the state by means of repression. Meanwhile, the Nicaraguans, after the (1979) revolution, based their police forces on the Cuban model, which is focused on the community," said the activist, whose group is pushing for police reforms in Guatemala.

On Jul. 19, 1979, the left-wing Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) overthrew the regime of General Anastasio Somoza, putting an end to the nearly half-century Somoza family dictatorship.

One of the main achievements of the revolution was increased citizen participation, aimed at strengthening economic, social, political and cultural rights.

During the years of fighting the Somoza dynasty, the Sandinistas created the Civil Defence Committees. Once the FSLN seized power, these gave way to the Sandinista Defence Committees – neighbourhood watch structures – which evolved in 1988 into the Nicaraguan Communal Movement.


MORE
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'Ditch the witch': How the Murdoch press is using misogyny to wage war on Australian PM Julia Gillard

A year ago, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard had won her first election, silencing grumbles from some corners that she hadn’t properly won the leadership of the Australian Labor Party from previous leader Kevin Rudd. The ALP win was a close thing. Gillard had to scramble to negotiate with three independents and the Australian Greens in order to form a coalition – in part because her party lost a lot of votes on its left flank to the increasingly popular Greens. Not only was Gillard remarkable for the close shave, or for being Australia’s first female Prime Minister, but she was also an unmarried atheist without children and with a reputation for progressive thinking. In Australia’s fairly conservative political landscape, in which it seemed unlikely that we’d have a Prime Minister who wasn’t a very wealthy married Christian father any time soon, this was unbelievable.

A year on, the left is just slightly confused about Gillard’s swing to the right – see for instance, our esteemed editor on the “Malaysian solution.” One might then wonder why, just a year out from the election in which they backed Gillard, Rupert Murdoch’s conservative media is baying for her blood.

What’s going on exactly? The big news story in Australia over the last few months has been a proposed carbon tax. Should it go ahead, only 0.02 per cent of Australian businesses will be taxed under this scheme, and 90 per cent of households will receive compensation for the increase in expenses they will undergo as we change over to clean energy. So far, so good – except barely anyone in the country knows those facts. Whoever is running the media show over at the ALP is floundering. Pushed hard by opposition leader Tony Abbott and Murdoch’s News Limited, the only message that is getting through is that the carbon tax is outrageous. Given that News Limited has control of about three quarters of metropolitan daily newspaper circulation in Australia, that’s quite a push. Read more... )

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2008 Part 7: Women in India Form Their Own Political Party

DELHI, India (WOMENSENEWS)--It is a mellow December morning in Delhi. Soft sunlight filters through the trees that line the boulevards of the city's stately Krishna Menon Marg neighborhood.

Suman Krishan Kant, however, is oblivious to the tranquillity outside the windows of her well-appointed bungalow.

The prominent social activist is reviewing and paying bills while files wait on the table for her attention. The elegant waiting room outside is beginning to fill in with men and women hoping to meet with her and enlist her advocacy with government agencies on their behalf. One of them, for instance, is a widow who hopes Kant will help her application for an increase in her pension.

It is the beginning of another working day for the president of the country's all-women's political party.

In October, Kant, the widow of former vice president Krishan Kumar Kant, joined with other influential women to launch the United Women's Front to address issues such as women's illiteracy, early marriage and tokenism in parliament, where women hold just 8 percent of seats. To qualify for official party status, the group had to muster at least 100 members and pay about $300 in registration fees.

Read more... )
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INDIA Campuses Lead Gay Rights Struggle


KOLKATA, India, Sep 5, 2011 (IPS) - It was with some trepidation that Nivvedan, a student at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) - Bombay, helped launch ‘Saathi’ (Companion), catering to the needs of people with different sexual orientations on campus.

Yet, when Saathi held its first meeting in July it attracted not only students but also alumni and even some members of the faculty. "There’s a lot of confusion around sexuality in our society. We have encountered it in our campus too," Nivvedan told IPS.

Nivvedan expects Saathi to grow as "students who need support gain better confidence in the sessions. Right now most of them would rather discuss things in an informal way with other fellow students."

"I believe the issue of sexual orientation, homosexuality etc. should be discussed and awareness created right from student life," said Nivvedan, acutely conscious of the fact that the initiative is the first one of its kind on an Indian campus.

Ketan Tanna, activist with ‘Gay-Bombay’, an informal group of "like-minded gay people," says: "None of the colleges in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) has active lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activism or any guidance cell, so this is a first."

The initiative by IIT-Bombay suggests that gay rights are slowly gaining acceptance into India’s conservative society and that its decriminalisation by an order of the Delhi High Court order in 2009 is beginning to have an effect. MORE
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OP-ED Language Becomes a Political Weapon in Israel


TEL AVIV, Sept 1, 2011 (IPS/Al Jazeera) - Speaking to the U.S. congress in May, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu boasted that his country is a beacon of freedom in the Middle East and North Africa, that it is the only place where Arabs "enjoy real democratic rights".

It's true that Palestinian citizens of Israel have some democratic rights, like the vote. But, as Netanyahu told congress: the "path of liberty is not paved by elections alone." And the summer months have seen an acceleration of worrisome anti-democratic trends.

First, the Knesset passed the anti-boycott law, a move that was widely condemned as a strike against free speech and democracy. Even some of Israel’s staunchest supporters expressed concern.

Now lawmakers have introduced a bill that proposes to change the definition of Israel as "Jewish and democratic" to "the national home of the Jewish people".

If passed, the legislation would become part of Israel's Basic Laws, which are used as a working constitution.

Whenever a conflict between democracy and Jewish values arises, the new definition of Israel would allow courts and legislators to favour the latter. According to Haaretz, the proposed bill will also make halacha, Jewish religious law, "a source of inspiration to the legislature and the courts". And, in the spirit of favouring the Jewish character of the state over a state for all its citizens, the legislation would also downgrade Arabic from an official language to one with "special status".

Arabic is the mother tongue of 20 per cent of Israel's citizens. It has been an official language of the land since 1924, when the British mandate set three: English, Hebrew, and Arabic.

Linguistic marginalisation

When the state of Israel was established in 1948, English was struck from the books. While Arabic remained an official language, it has always gotten second class treatment- as have the citizens who speak it.

Many government forms - including those for Social Security and National Insurance - come in Hebrew only. Arabic-speakers are under-represented in the public sector. So if a Palestinian citizen has weak Hebrew, he or she may be deprived of services or benefits they are legally entitled to and desperately need.

The results are sometimes devastating.
MORE
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Moldova: “Our Romanian Language” Day Protest



Moldova is one of the few countries in the world that celebrates Language Day, a holiday usually marked by nations that have fought for the right to speak their native language.

Twenty-two years ago, on August 31, 1989, while still a part of the Soviet Union, after fierce deliberations, Moldova adopted the Romanian language as the state language and returned to the Latin script. During the Soviet rule, the country had been forced for almost 50 years to use the Cyrillic script, and the Soviet Union continuously propagated the existence of the Moldovan language as a distinct entity from the Romanian language.

Twenty years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the official language is still an issue of dispute in Moldova, where the Constitution calls it Moldovan, the educational system teaches Romanian, and the ethnic minorities insist on formalizing the Russian language as a second official language.

Ahead of this year’s celebration of Our Romanian Language Day, the Moldovan netizens organized via Facebook [ro] a protest demanding the authorities to replace the phrasing “Moldovan language” with “Romanian language” from the highly disputed 13th Article of the Moldovan Constitution.
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