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‘Stand Up, Fight Back!’: Newark Students Protest Charter Schools April 5, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Education.
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Roger’s note: The Tea Party agenda to destroy (privatize) public education is alive and well in the hands of Arne Duncan, Obama’s Chicago basketball buddy and Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan (and various state governors and legislatures), via the strategy of charter schools, standardized testing, attacks on teachers and their unions and education for profit.  The reason for this, apart from the base economic motive, has to do with undoing the leveling and democratizing function of public education.  In its all-out war of the wealthy (the owners of managers of capital) against the rest of us, destroying what is left (after defunding and segregation) of public education will have tremendous negative impact on racial minorities, the poor and lower middle class.  At the university level, we are already seeing  more and more that only the children of the upper economic brackets are able to afford a college education.  A strong public education system and democracy are inseparable entities.  It is heartening to see, not only in Newark, but around the nation, students, their families and their teachers are fighting to reject the Tea Party/Koch Brother/Obama attacks on public education.

 

Hundreds of students walk out in march demanding public schools over charters

– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Newark students protest outside of city hall, April 3, 2014 (Photo via Twitter / Newark Student Union / @NewarkStudents)Following moves by the state of New Jersey to defund public schools in exchange for a flood of privately run charter schools, hundreds of students in Newark walked out of classes in protest on Thursday.

According to the Newark’s Star Ledger, almost 1,000 students from about nine schools gathered in front of City Hall around 1 p.m. with microphones and signs.

The protest was organized by the Newark Students Union, calling the protest the “March of Shame,” specifically targeting Superintendent Cami Anderson’s “One Newark” reorganization plan. The plan is set to close or downsize several public schools, fire a range of teachers, and move privately run charter schools into public buildings.

“Holding bullhorns and signs – some with the word ‘liar’ in bold letters above the silhouettes of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and state-appointed Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson – hundreds of middle and high school students walked out of schools and into the streets of this economically struggling city,” Al Jazeera America reports.

“Newark students: stand up, fight back!” the students chanted throughout the rally.

“The Anderson administration is not afraid to take quality schools away but is scared of students engaging in their right,” Newark Students Union president Kristin Towkaniek, told the crowd. “It’s your right to be here.”

“I’m walking out because the voices of the students need to be heard, and they will be heard,” said Towkaniuk ahead of the march.

“They said (the plan) will make Newark schools better,” Jose Leonard, a 16-year-old at Arts High School, told Al Jazeera America.  “They’ve been saying that for 20 years and we haven’t seen anything. It’s like they don’t care about the students.”

The protest follows a growing trend in students putting their foot down in opposition to a countrywide trend of defunding public education.

As Al Jazeera America reports:

In February, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett canceled his appearance at a Philadelphia public school after students and teachers at the school planned a protest over his budget cuts, which forced many of the city’s schools to cut all extracurricular activities. In Oklahoma, an estimated 25,000 converged on the capitol earlier this week to protest low school funding. Protests have also been held in Oregon and in Camden, N.J.

The protests in Newark aren’t new, either. Last year, high schools students formed the Newark Students Union and held a protest in the city’s downtown area, followed by another in March of this year.

“What’s happening in Newark follows a national pattern as we see states fund schools less than they did before the (2008) recession started,” said Jeff Bryant, a fellow the Campaign for America’s Future.

American Federation of Teachers New Jersey has video of the protest:

 

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In Oval Office Meeting, Malala Yousafzai Tells Obama to End Drone Strikes in Pakistan October 13, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Imperialism, Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan, Peace, War, War on Terror, Women.
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ROGER’S NOTE: I TURN OVER MY “ROGER’S NOTE” SPACE TODAY TO “TUTTLE,” WHO COMMENTED ON THIS ARTICLE IN COMMONDREAMS.ORG:

President Obama in conversation with Malala in the Oval Office

“Well Malala, it goes like this. I am the Ruling Elite and you are not. Your life is yet just another mere commodity to be used as fodder to heat the machine that devours the planet and the rest of your class. Posing with you here today is like posing with the Turkey I pardon every year when the American people celebrate the genocide carried out on the original peoples that inhabited this country. These people are now just an embarrassment and a nuisance. Which brings me back to you and your people. You see Malala your life is worthless to me and my investors. These photo-ops are just to keep the illusion going that we care. And you are now a willing participant in that fairytale. If you threaten me or my class or their ability to make a profit… I have a list… Where is that list?…Malia, darling could hand your father that piece of paper… thank you. See Malala, I have the right to Kill anyone in the ENTIRE world. ANYONE. yes, even U.S. citizens… see here, I killed a young man no more than a couple years older than you. And that was because of who his father was! hahaha! Imagine! Now Imagine, if you, Malala truly stood up and spoke out against me and my friends. So just to let you know, I will drone anyone anywhere I feel like because that’s just apart of my job as Ruler of the free world. Now smile for the camera.
Say Freedom!”

 

 

– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

 

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughter Malia meet with Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head by the Taliban a year ago, in the Oval Office, Oct. 11, 2013. PETE SOUZA — Official White House photo

Malala Yousafzai, the sixteen-year-old Pakistani girl who survived a gunshot to the head by members of the Taliban for speaking out on women’s right to education, told President Barack Obama in an Oval Office meeting on Friday that he should stop drone strikes in countries such as Pakistan.

In a statement released after the meeting, Yousafzai said that she told Obama that she is concerned about the effect of U.S. drone strikes in her country—a portion of the conversation that was omitted from White House statements so far.

 

“I [expressed] my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism,” Yousafzai said in a statement released by the Associated Press. “Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”

 

Yousafzai—the youngest ever nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize—was invited to the White House “for her inspiring and passionate work on behalf of girls education in Pakistan,” according to a White House statement.

 

Yousafzai also recently called on the U.S. and U.K. governments to end military attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan in an interview with BBC.

 

“The best way to solve problems and to fight against war is through dialogue,” she told BBC. “That’s not an issue for me, that’s the job of the government… and that’s also the job of America.”

 

Yousafzai was awarded a prestigious international human rights award—the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought—on Thursday, but did not win the Nobel Peace Prize, as was announced on Friday.

 

 

Gitmo Groups Call Out Obama Over Political Cowardice April 30, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Health, Human Rights, Torture.
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Roger’s note: On the first day of his presidency, Obama promised to close Guantánamo within a year.  That was over five years ago.  Guantánamo is a national disgrace and only one example of the president’s abominable lack of ethics, courage, and  of his broken promises.

‘Congress has very little to do with it’: Following press conference, groups say Obama has only himself to blame for Guantanamo

– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

U.S. President Barack Obama stated at a press conference on Tuesday that he would like to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison but said that Congress was to blame for blockading any such action.

However, rights groups are calling Obama’s bluff, saying he actually does have the power to transfer detainees and put an end to the indefinite detention, solitary confinement, and torture inherent within the military prison—without the approval of Congress—and that he simply lacks the political courage to do so.

Obama stated Tuesday:

Now Congress determined that they would not let us close it and despite the fact that there are a number of the folks who are currently in Guantanamo who the courts have said could be returned to their country of origin or potentially a third country. . . . And so I’m going to — as I’ve said before, we’re — examine every option that we have administratively to try to deal with this issue. But ultimately, we’re also going to need some help from Congress.

In response, lawyers for Guantanamo detainees at the Center for Constitutional Rights stated, “We praise the president for re-affirming his commitment to closing the base but take issue with the impression he strives to give that it is largely up to Congress.”

Rather than waiting for Congress to make a move on Guantanamo, CCR reports Tuesday that Obama has the autonomy to take a number of actions:

  • Congress is certainly responsible for imposing unprecedented restrictions on detainee transfers, but President Obama still has the power to transfer men right now. He should use the certification/waiver process created by Congress to transfer detainees, starting with the 86 men who have been cleared for release, including our client Djamel Ameziane.
  • Congress may have tied one hand behind his back, but he has tied the other: he should lift his self-imposed moratorium on transfers to Yemen regardless of a detainee’s status. It’s collective punishment based on citizenship, and needs to be reevaluated now.
  • President Obama should appoint a senior government official to shepherd the process of closure, and should give that person sufficient authority to resolve inter-agency disputes.
  • The President must demonstrate immediate, tangible progress toward the closure of Guantanamo or the men who are on hunger strike will die, and he will be ultimately responsible for their deaths.

Likewise, the ACLU affirmed Tuesday that Obama holds certain powers to release at least half of the Guantanamo detainees:

There are two things the president should do. One is to appoint a senior point person so that the administration’s Guantánamo closure policy is directed by the White House and not by Pentagon bureaucrats. The president can also order the secretary of defense to start certifying for transfer detainees who have been cleared, which is more than half the Guantánamo population.

Carlos Warner, an attorney representing 11 Guantanamo prisoners, said today:

I applaud President Obama’s remarks — he hasn’t mentioned Guantanamo in years — but the fact is that Congress has very little to do with it. NDAA as written allows the President to transfer individuals if it’s in the national security of the United States. The President’s statement made clear that Guantanamo negatively impacts our national security. The question is not whether the administration has the authority to transfer innocent men, but whether it has the political courage to do so.

And writing at the Lawfare Tuesday, Benjamin Wittes adds that Obama’s comments on Tuesday are a direct contradiction of his own self imposed policies. Wittes states:

The President’s comments are bewildering because his own policies give rise to the vast majority of the concerns about which he so earnestly delivered himself in these remarks.

Remember that Obama himself has imposed a moratorium on repatriating people to Yemen. And Obama himself has insisted that nearly 50 detainees cannot either be tried or transferred.

‘Torture Reinforcements’ Not ‘Medical Personnel’ Arrive to Combat Gitmo Hunger Strike

US Military Calls in ‘Force-Feeding Teams’ as Guantanamo Hunger Strike Continues

– Jon Queally, staff writer

A US military guard carries shackles at the US detention center in Guantánamo Bay. (Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images)

The US military has confirmed that at least 40 “medical personnel” have arrived at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in order to expand a force-feeding operation designed to counter an ongoing hunger strike by more than 100 prisoners protesting their indefinite detention and ill treatment.

But because the procedure of “force-feeding” is widely held as a form of torture, critics of the practice may well view the medical teams as nothing more than ‘torture reinforcements’ as the number of those approved for the painful process continues to grow and their conditions deteriorate.

Military authorities repeatedly claim that force-feedings are somehow necessary, but experts are unequivocal when they declare that the procedure is torture.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission considers the practice of force-feeding—in which detainees are strapped to a restraining chair, have tubes pushed up their nostrils and liquids pumped down their throats—a clear form of torture. In addition, the World Medical Association prohibits its physicians from participating in force-feeding and the American Medical Association has just sent a letter to the Pentagon calling the practice an affront to accepted medical ethics.

One detainee, speaking recently through his lawyer David Remes, described the process by saying it felt a “razor blade [going] down through your nose and into your throat.”

In an interview with the Guardian, Remes discussed the treatment of those at Guantanamo as he pushed back against the US military’s claims that it is safeguarding the prisoners by torturing them. “It’s like the way you would treat an animal,” he said. Watch:

Despite testimony like this and the many objections by human rights advocates, reports indicate that at least 21 men have been approved for force feeding at the US prison.

As The Guardian reports:

Authorities said that the “influx” of medical reinforcements had been weeks in the planning. But the news will fuel speculation that the condition of hunger-striking prisoners at Guantánamo Bay is deteriorating. Shaker Aamer, the last British resident being kept at the centre, told his lawyer earlier this month that authorities will soon see fatalities as a result of the current action.

“I cannot give you numbers and names, but people are dying here,” said Aamer, who is refusing food.

The action is a protest against conditions at the centre, as well as the indefinite nature of the remaining prisoners’ confinement. Aamer has been cleared for release twice, but is still behind bars after 11 years. He has never been charged or faced trial but the US refuses to allow him to return to the UK, despite official protests by the British government.

Late last week, president of the American Medical Association, Dr. Jeremy Lazarus, sent a letter to US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in order to remind the Pentagon that the AMA’s long-held view is that force feeding is both an unethical and inhumane practic practice.

As Reuters report:

[The AMA letter] urged the defense secretary “to address any situation in which a physician may be asked to violate the ethical standards of his or her profession.”

Hagel had just returned from a trip to the Middle East and it was unclear whether he had seen the letter, said Pentagon spokesman Army Lieutenant Colonel Todd Breasseale.

Asked if military doctors had raised ethical concerns about being asked to perform force-feedings, Breasseale said, “I can tell you there have been no organized efforts, but I cannot speak for individual physicians.

Vince Warren, director of the Center for Constitutional Rights which represents many of the detainees, welcomed the AMA’s letter.

“In reaffirming its long-standing opposition to force feeding Guantanamo prisoners, the country’s most prominent medical association has delivered a stinging rebuke to the Obama administration’s wholly inadequate response to the hunger strik,” Warren said. “The administration cannot force feed its way out of this growing medical emergency.”

He added, “The only true solution is to resume transfers of prisoners and close Guantanamo.”

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Tar Sands Resistance Heats Up With Week of Actions From US to Canada March 21, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment, First Nations.
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Published on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 by Common Dreams

Week of anti-pipeline actions erupt across the country

– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Climate activists on both sides of the U.S. and Canadian border are ratcheting up the fight against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline this week as the U.S. Senate ponders a recently proposed bill that would expedite its approval and “short-circuit” the State Department’s pipeline environmental review.

In the past week over 30 protests have taken place in dozens of U.S. cities as part of a “March 16-23, Week of Action to Stop Tar Sands Profiteers,” which has been coordinated by over 50 grassroots organizations.

So far, thirty-seven protesters have been arrested “for disrupting business as usual at TransCanada and their investors’ offices,” with more actions planned in the coming days.

“Organizers seek to expose green-washed corporations like TD Bank, a top shareholder in TransCanada, and force them to divest from the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline,” Tar Sands Blockade stated Wednesday.

“It’s encouraging to see people around the country taking action to stop tar sands profiteers,” said Ron Seifert, spokesperson for Tar Sands Blockade. “No longer will we allow them to build KXL and invest in toxic projects that endanger the health of low-income and communities of color. We will not allow ‘business as usual’ to continue.”

From the Tar Sands Blockade, below are a few highlights from the week of action so far:

Meanwhile, native leaders from both Canada and the U.S. took to the Canadian Parliament on Wednesday to urge opposition to both the Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipelines—telling lawmakers that an alliance of native groups on both sides of the border are preparing to fight the pipelines in the courts and through unspecified direct action in the coming months.

Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation said natives are determined to block the pipelines.

“It’s going to be a long, hot summer,” he said at a news conference.

“We have a lot of issues at stake.”

“We’re going to stop these pipelines on way or another,” said Phil Lane Jr. of the American Yankton Sioux.

“If we have to keep going to court, we’ll keep doing that,” said Chief Martin Louie of the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation in northern B.C., adding that pipeline opponents will never back down.

“We’re the ones that’s going to save whatever we have left of this Earth,” he said.

“We, as a nation, have to wake up,” said Chief Reuben George of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation north of Vancouver. “We have to wake up to the crazy decisions that this government’s making to change the world in a negative way.”

More actions are expected throughout the U.S. in the coming days including six more actions against TD Bank in New York City, Washington D.C., Montpellier, Vt., Newark, Del., New Haven, Conn., and Asheville, N.C., Tar Sands Blockade reports.

On Thursday, March 21 in Oklahoma, the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance is planning what is slated to be the largest action of the week. Activists have pledged to “physically stop KXL construction.

Click here for a full list of actions and live updates from around the country. March 18 – Over 40 rally outside Michels Corporation in Kirkland, Washington (Alex Garland) March 19 – Banner Drop in Oklahoma Promotes Week of Action (Tar Sands Blockade)

CIA Torture Whistleblower Sentenced to 30 Months January 26, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Torture.
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Roger’s note: the Obama administration knows no shame.  Our articulate, intelligent, urbane and witty president, by protecting the Bush torture regime in violation of his oath to defend the constitution, makes himself complicit in the torture; and inconvenient truth for those Obama fans.
Published on Friday, January 25, 2013 by Common Dreams

Sentencing exemplifies the ‘second McCarthy era’ against US whistleblowers by the Obama administration

– Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison on Friday for what critics of his prosecution are calling trumped-up charges by the Department of Justice for his exposure of the spy agency’s torture program established by the former Bush administration.

 

(Associated Press)

 

In a letter urging President Barack Obama to pardon the whistleblower, several high profile civil rights defenders including Ralph Nader and retired CIA officer Raymond McGovern stated:

[Kiriakou] is an anti-torture whistleblower who spoke out against torture because he believed it violated his oath to the Constitution. He never tortured anyone, yet he is the only individual to be prosecuted in relation to the torture program of the past decade. […]

The interrogators who tortured prisoners, the officials who gave the orders, the attorneys who authored the torture memos, and the CIA officers who destroyed the interrogation tapes have not been held professionally accountable.

Please, Mr. President, do not allow your legacy to be one where only the whistleblower goes to prison.

“He [was] prosecuted not by the Bush administration but by Obama’s,” added Robert Shetterly, an artist and activist who pointed to the fact that President Obama has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other presidents combined, despite pledges during his first presidential campaign to protect whistleblowers.

“The CIA leadership was furious that I blew the whistle on torture and the Justice Department never stopped investigating me…” – John Kiriakou

Such protections, then Senator Obama said, were vital “to maintain integrity in government.”

In October, Kiriakou was charged by the DoJ for violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) for releasing the name of an officer implicated in a CIA torture program to the media. Federal prosecutors had originally charged Kiriakou for violations against the Espionage Act—which held a sentence of up to 35 years—but a plea agreement saw those charges lessened.

Kiriakou was the first employee of the CIA to publicly acknowledge and describe details of the  torture program that thrived under the Bush administration.

“There is a legal definition of whistleblower and I meet that legal definition,” Kiriakou told Firedoglake in an interview Thursday.

He continued:

I was the first person to acknowledge that the CIA was using waterboarding against al Qaeda prisoners. I said in 2007 that I regarded waterboarding as torture and I also said that it was not the result of rogue CIA officers but that it was official US government policy. So, that’s whistleblowing. That’s the definition of whistleblowing. […]

The CIA leadership was furious that I blew the whistle on torture and the Justice Department never stopped investigating me from December 2007…They found their opportunity and threw in a bunch of trumped up charges they knew they could bargain away and finally found something with which to prosecute me. […]

I don’t think I am overstating this when I say I feel like we’re entering a second McCarthy era where the Justice Department uses the law as a fist or as a hammer not just to try and convict people but to ruin them personally and professionally because they don’t like where they stand on different issues… they can convict anybody of anything if they put their minds to it.

On the eve of the sentencing, Americans Who Tell the Truth and the Government Accountability Project unveiled a portrait of Kiriakou by Shetterly, the latest in the AWTT portrait series.  Kiriakou was heralded for his opposition to “this country’s flagrant use of torture and its attempt to justify that use.”