News

TransCanada’s New “Best-in-Class” Gas Pipeline Explodes in West Virginia, Causing Fiery Blast

Truth Out - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 14:35

Last week, residents of Marshall County, West Virginia, awoke at 4:15 a.m. to a major natural gas rupture and explosion on TransCanada’s Leach XPress pipeline on Nixon Ridge — a quickly built pipeline only half a year old.

The fire was visible for miles, local TV news reported. Police warned anyone who could see the flames to evacuate — and the Emergency Management Agency director of neighboring Ohio County said officials had received dozens of 911 calls from locals able to see the fire, which was extinguished roughly four hours later. The blast was so powerful that one resident told a local CBS affiliate it felt like a tornado was passing through.

No one was injured, and no property damage was reported, TransCananda said in a statement released last week, adding that the cause of the explosion was not yet determined.

The Leach XPress pipeline is just six months old, having been put into service on January 1, 2018.

At the time, TransCanada emphasized that it was built quickly — but safely. “Leach XPress was done in less than a year,” Scott Castleman, manager of US Gas Communications for TransCanada, said in a January statement.

“We’re looking forward to generations of safe operations,” he added. “This is truly a best-in-class pipeline and we look forward to many years of safe, reliable, and efficient operation on behalf of our customers.”

Leach XPress is the first in a series of major TransCanada pipeline construction projects — and part of a larger sprint to build out oil and gas pipelines nationwide, spurred by an urgent push to get shale gas and oil to market.

“This is our first major pipeline in our growth portfolio,” Castleman said in January. “There’s currently about 8 and a half billion dollars in pipeline projects in the works for the US and TransCanada.”

Leach XPress, a 36-inch-diameter pipeline, went into immediate heavy service after it was built. Market research firm Genscape Inc. “said in a note to clients on Thursday that the Leach XPress segment has been flowing at or just above its operational capacity through May,” Natural Gas Intelligence reported.

The 160-mile, $1.6 billion dollar pipeline project is designed to carry 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day, moving it from the Marcellus and Utica shales down to the Southeast and Gulf Coast regions. Leach XPress runs from Marshall County, about 70 miles from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, into Ohio, and its gas then flows into the 12,000-mile Columbia Gas Transmission pipeline system.

Sprint to Build Pipelines

TransCanada also received US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval for two other pipelines, the company announced on January 1, the same day that Leach XPress went into service.

The company plans to spend $3.2 billion to build the 171-mile Mountaineer XPress and the smaller Gulf XPress pipeline in Appalachia and intends to have those pipelines up and running by the end of this year.

In March, FERC rejected a request to suspend construction of these projects from three environmental groups, the Allegheny Defense Project, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, and the Sierra Club, finding that their “generalized claims of environmental harm, however, do not constitute sufficient evidence of irreparable harm that would justify a stay.”

This year, pipeline companies plan to lay 14,657 miles of pipeline worldwide — roughly double the amount finished in 2017, an Oil & Gas Journal report found. Over 81 percent of those pipes will carry natural gas, the same fossil fuel in today’s pipeline blast.

And they’re planning to do it at starkly reduced costs of $5.94 million per mile, down from $7.65 million.

Meanwhile, whistleblowers at numerous pipeline companies have raised red flags about the impacts of rushed construction — including TransCanada.

DeSmog has previously reported numerous concerns raised by former TransCanada engineer Evan Vokes about construction problems and cut corners at TransCanada’s Keystone 1 and other pipelines.

“TransCanada keeps insisting the Keystone XL pipeline will be the safest pipeline ever built despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary,” Vokes, who was fired after ringing alarm bells internally, testified at a State Department hearing in Nebraska in April 2013. “In fact they are building the southern portion of the Keystone XL to the lowest permissible standards, just as they have the Keystone 1 and the Bison Pipeline.”

Former TransCanada engineer-turned-whistleblower Evan Vokes at a TransCanada construction site in Texas.Former TransCanada engineer-turned-whistleblower Evan Vokes at a TransCanada construction site in Texas.©2013 Julie Dermansky

The cause of the blast last week is not yet clear.

In November, the Keystone pipeline spilled roughly 210,000 gallons of bitumin from tar sands in northeast South Dakota, a spill that came on the heels of other spills on that same line in 2016 and 2011.

Separately, in October, an accident at a TransCanada meter station in Ohio killed a maintenance worker following a leak of pressurized gas that did not ignite.

The Calgary-based company’s operations in the US are massive, especially following its acquisition of the Columbia Gas pipeline network two years ago. It operates over 56,000 miles of pipes, which can be found in virtually all of the major North American gas-producing areas.

“Once we’re done, we’ll be the only company in North America that can move a molecule of gas right from Northern Alberta through the Midwest and to the Gulf Coast and into Mexico City,” President and CEO Russell K. Girling said in a July 2017 video commemorating the acquisition. “We are now moving one in every four molecules [of gas] that crosses this continent, and we are an extremely important part of the economic fabric of Canada, Mexico, and the United States.”

“We truly are the North American natural gas transmission company,” Girling added.

The post TransCanada’s New “Best-in-Class” Gas Pipeline Explodes in West Virginia, Causing Fiery Blast appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

An Employer Can Unilaterally Force Employees Into Secret Arbitration Systems

Truth Out - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 14:29

Janine Jackson: Just as the #MeToo movement demonstrates the power of solidarity in fighting workplace harassment, a Supreme Court ruling aims to force individuals with workplace complaints back into isolation. In Epic Systems v. Lewis, the Court’s conservative majority ruled that lower courts have to enforce individual arbitration clauses in employment contracts, which means that workers have to address complaints not through the courts, but in closed-door, one-on-one proceedings.

The ruling affects millions of people on the most fundamental level, but it didn’t get a great deal of explanatory press coverage. Joining us now to discuss what the ruling could mean, and how we can resist its impact, is Joanne Doroshow, founder and executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, and cofounder of Americans for Insurance Reform. She’s also adjunct professor at New York Law School. She joins us now by phone from here in town. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Joanne Doroshow.

Joanne Doroshow: Thank you; it’s great to be back.

This 5-4 ruling is not a total surprise, given the makeup of the court and the majority’s illustrated favoring of employer power over worker power, you could say, put broadly. But it does concretize or sanction practices that we know about, and that we’ve already seen harmful impact from, wouldn’t you say?

This is, as you say, not a completely unexpected decision; particularly, we were suspecting after the oral argument that workers might have been in trouble on this case. But it is distressing that the court—and I think that Justice Ginsburg delivered her dissent from the bench is an indication of what a dramatically unfortunate case result this is, in the impact that it’s going to have on workers around the country who have been cheated or harassed, discriminated against or harmed in any way—this really makes it almost impossible for them to vindicate rights in court anymore, this decision.

In the specifics, it’s about what looks like a wage-theft case. But it’s really about a number of, potentially, reasons or instances in which workers might have an individual complaint, but to take that complaint through individually costs a lot of money, first of all. And then, also, you’re alone, up against your employer. And that’s the very reason that workers band together, and that’s what this is undermining.

Yes, and just to step back for a minute, it’s not, of course, just workers that are affected by the problem we’re talking about. And the problem we’re talking about are forced arbitration clauses that are buried in the fine print of, these days, most credit card, cell phone, any kind of online terms-of-use agreements; nursing home admission forms; many other everyday contracts, including employment contracts.

And what they mean is that if the company cheats, defrauds, discriminates against or harms you in some way, you cannot sue the company in court, or have any kind of judge or jury trial. And instead, you’re forced to resolve your case in a private, secret, rigged arbitration system that’s controlled by the company. And you may have to pay the arbitrator. There’s no right to appeal.

And these clauses also have what’s called “class action bans” or “class action waivers,” which means that you—as you say—you cannot join with others, you have to only litigate your dispute individually, your small claim, let’s say. In most cases, this is going to mean that you’re not going to be able to bring your dispute to any kind of resolution at all, because you’re not going to be able to afford to do that.

That’s why class actions are so important: It allows you to join with others, cover the expenses that way. And also, when we’re talking about discrimination, let’s say, or harassment, it’s critical that you be able to join with others, in order to show a pattern or a practice of discrimination, or a systemic company policy. You can’t do that as an individual. So there are many reasons why class actions are so important. And what this decision did, it basically said that an employer can unilaterally prevent you from bringing class action, and force you into these secret arbitration systems.

And it rests—inasmuch as there’s an argument for it—it rests on this in-a-vacuum, kind of libertarian fantasy world in which labor, for example, is as mobile as capital, and all workers and consumers are completely informed and have choices. So if, for example, your prospective employer requires you, as a stipulation for employment, to sign away your right to class action suits, well, you just pick another employer, you know? You just go elsewhere.

And in the case of Epic Systems, they sent a form to their employees, and if you showed up for work, then you were deemed to have accepted the terms of that agreement. So you talk about small print, I mean, it’s small print and it’s also a kind of blackmail in a way.

Yes, and that goes to the issue of consent. What the other side says is, “Oh, you’ve consented, because you’ve signed this.”

Well, these are all “take it or leave it” contracts, and if you don’t take it, you don’t get a job, or, in the context of consumer contracts, everybody in the entire industry has them. There is no negotiation here.

And, sadly, what Congress was trying to do, with the National Labor Relations Act in the 1930s, is they made it illegal for employers to interfere in any way with the employees’ rights to engage in “concerted activity.” They knew that there was strength in numbers, and they needed to be able to join with others in order to get a fair deal from big companies, from employers.

And what this case did is basically said that legal concerted activity, like a class action, it’s OK to violate that section, basically, of the National Labor Relations Act; it’s OK for an employer to prevent concerted legal activity. So it really undermined the entire purpose of the labor law, which was the seminal piece of legislation enacted in the ’30s.

It’s shocking that the Court would just so casually do something like this, and yet they did it at a 5-to-4 vote. It was certainly not inevitable, but unfortunately, once Neil Gorsuch got on the Court, the vote became that. And he was the one that wrote this decision.

And they’re claiming that they’re basing their decision on this Federal Arbitration Act, which was enacted when it was about merchants, who were basically equally situated, dealing with one another, and now it’s been extended and extended. But it also was the case, wasn’t it, that the state, through the National Labor Relations Board, had been kind of on the side of a different interpretation of that, and so the Justice Department and the state itself has sort of switched sides on this, under Trump?

Yes, the solicitor general under Obama had briefed this case in favor of the workers. And when Trump came into office, they switched sides. Not that necessarily that would have made a difference in the decision, but yes, this certainly, from a legal standpoint, should not have been inevitable at all. There should have been a way to stop it. But we’re in unfortunate times right now, and no matter how hard I think the workers tried—and a number of state governments filed briefs in favor of the workers; the entire civil rights community briefed this, as did many small businesses, and certainly the consumer groups all weighed in for the workers, not to mention the unions; there was a massive number, a lot of briefs that were written in support of the workers in this case, from prominent people — and it still didn’t sway this court.

Let’s talk about responses. It does apply to non-unionized workers, so in terms of responses, you know increased unionization is part of it. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her dissent, seems to kick it to Congress, and say that Congress should step in here, but when we look at the Congress we’ve got, we’ve got to think about that. And then I’ve also seen, and you’ve just touched on it, the idea that states and localities can resist in some way, by, for example, denying contracts to companies that require these clauses. Or California has this Private Attorneys General Act, where workers can bring civil actions on behalf of the state against employers who violate labor laws. But I just wonder, what tools do you think are available—given the Supreme Court—to push back on the actual impact of this ruling?

You’re right, I mean, to have any kind of impact on this case is through the states. But there’s very limited things a state can do, because the way the Supreme Court looks at this, this federal law you mentioned, this 1925 Federal Arbitration Act, preempts or overtakes all state law. But that said, as you mentioned, states do have power through the marketplace. They do hire contractors, and they can establish terms for contractors that get taxpayer money, and it could include something to take care of these cases. Vermont also just passed a law that would cover unconscionable provisions in all kinds of contracts. So as long as the state law doesn’t specifically mention arbitration, it seems like, generally speaking, states can have some authority here.

But it is very limited, and obviously, what Justice Gorsuch said, and what Justice Ginsburg laid out, ultimately it is Congress’ responsibility to fix what this court has done. And this court has done a lot of bad things over the last decade, that we’ve been involved with as an organization. And So it’s not going to happen anytime soon. Maybe if we get both houses of Congress back and get a decent president in office, that could happen, but that’s a big if at this point.

Let me just ask you, finally, what you would look for from media in terms of explaining this issue to folks—more of, less of, in press coverage? What are your thoughts on that?

What’s been interesting about this issue is the #MeToo movement. It crosses into the #MeToo movement quite a bit, because these are provisions that are preventing sexual harassment and abuse victims from being able to litigate their cases as well. So you see, for example, Gretchen Carlson talking about this and having press conferences about it. You see it raised in the connection of Trump and Stormy Daniels; Trump has everybody in his business operations sign these arbitration clauses.

It is a way of explaining things to people, maybe in ways that don’t seem so legalistic and can turn people off. But it’s one of these issues, these under-the-radar issues that I hope that the media does pay some more attention to, because this is really an example of where elections have consequences. Without Gorsuch on this Court, we would be in a completely different situation on a case like this.

We’ve been speaking with Joanne Doroshow. She’s founder and executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy; they’re online at CenterJD.org. Joanne Doroshow, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

JD: Thanks for having me.

The post An Employer Can Unilaterally Force Employees Into Secret Arbitration Systems appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Allies of Evil

Truth Out - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 14:05

The post Allies of Evil appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Trump’s Attacks on Health Care Threatens Treatment for People With Opioid Disorders

Truth Out - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 13:58

Once again, the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are threatening to reverse progress made toward addressing the nation’s opioid woes.

Last week, the administration announced it would not defend the ACA against a lawsuit filed by conservative states, and the Justice Department filed a brief asking a federal court in Texas to throw out the individual mandate to buy insurance, along with popular provisions preventing insurers from denying or charging more for coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions, including opioid use disorders.

About 130 million Americans who are too young to qualify for Medicare have a pre-existing condition, including an estimated 1.9 million living with an opioid use disorder. Despite efforts by Congress public health leaders to expand access to treatment in response to an epidemic of deadly overdoses, only a fraction of people living with an opioid disorder receive treatment for the disease.
The Trump administration’s decision not to defend a law on the federal books is rare and clearly politically motivated, even as polls show that the ACA’s pre-existing conditions provision is popular among voters. Republicans in Congress threw out the individual mandate penalty with their recent tax overhaul, giving Texas and 19 other states the green light to file a lawsuit claiming that the ACA is unconstitutional.

The Affordable Care Act required insurance plans to start covering specific types of addiction treatment and prevents insurers from denying coverage because a patient has received treatment for opioid dependence in the past. That means both people who are seeking treatment for opioid disorders and those who have successfully completed treatment could be denied health coverage if the White House and its allies are successful in their campaign to dismantle key parts of the ACA.

Only 21 percent of people covered by private insurance and living with opioid dependence received treatment in 2016, according to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. People living with opioid disorders and covered by the Medicaid program, which was greatly expanded across the country under the Affordable Act, were twice as likely to receive treatment.

Several factors can explain this treatment gap, including the sheer cost of treating opioid disorders, which may require special medications or taking time off work for inpatient treatment. Kevin Fiscella, an opioid addiction specialist and professor of public health at the University of Rochester, said private insurance plans have appreciable deductibles, co-payments or co-insurance that can create “financial barriers” to addiction treatment.

Despite ACA requirements, a 2016 study found that the costs patients pay out-of-pocket for drug treatment can vary depending on how insurance providers comply with state rules. Out-of-pocket costs are often lower for those covered by Medicaid, according to Fiscella.

“Engaging more people in treatment will require reducing cost-related barriers to treatment,” Fiscella said in an email to Truthout in April. “I don’t think current policy has yet come to grips with this simple fact.”

The social stigma around living with an addiction and seeking help from a doctor may also prevent people living with opioid use disorders from seeking care. The ACA requires insurers to screen for substance use disorders, and if they began rejecting coverage for people who have a history of opioid misuse, this powerful stigma could be easily reinforced.

Only 21 percent of people covered by private insurance and living with opioid dependence received treatment in 2016.

Advocates have worked for years to expand health coverage for substance abuse and mental health problems, which often go hand-in-hand and have long been surrounded by stigma. Altha Stewart, president of the American Psychiatric Association, said the Trump administration’s decision not to defend the ACA’s patient protections is “very short-sighted” considering that the nation is “in the midst of an opioid epidemic and a 30 percent rise in suicide rates.”In some cases, treating opioid addiction can take years and several attempts, and insurers are already wary of covering people living with opioid use disorders. Many insurers already place authorization requirements and other restrictions on buprenorphine and other addiction medications, and a 2016 survey found that 56 percent of doctors said their patients had trouble accessing medication for opioid disorders despite having insurance coverage.

“We call upon the administration to reverse this decision and defend the rights of our patients,” Stewart said in a statement last week.

The Trump administration has worked tirelessly to undermine the ACA since Republicans in Congress failed to repeal it last year. The White House has also said that addressing the opioid overdose epidemic is also a priority, but much of its efforts have focused on prevention and law enforcement rather than providing people with the medical treatment they need.

If the courts decide to throw out the ACA’s provisions for pre-existing medical conditions, the Trump administration would come under serious pressure to replace them with new protections for people with opioid disorders and many other conditions.

The post Trump’s Attacks on Health Care Threatens Treatment for People With Opioid Disorders appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Henry A. Giroux: Trump’s Relentless Lies Demand We Make Truth-Telling Great Again

Truth Out - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 13:50

US President Donald Trump is a serial liar who appears to exult, if not take pride, in every petty deceit, particularly if it casts him into the glare of publicity.

With Trump preparing to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in Singapore in a highly anticipated summit this week, it’s worth a reminder: Not unlike Kim, Trump lies to hide the brutality of his cruel policies. He lies to discredit reliable sources of information and to discredit those public institutions that educate a public to create informed citizens who are able to distinguish between the truth and falsehoods.

He will lie about the summit. He can’t help himself.

The Washington Post reports that in his first 466 days in office, Trump has made more than “3,001 false or misleading statements,” averaging “about nine claims a day.”

Trump has lied, along with a tsunami of other fabrications, about former president Barack Obama’s birthplace, he’s made false claims about why he did not win the popular vote, he’s stated he knew nothing about payments prior to his election to the porn star Stormy Daniels, and he’s wrongly declared that the US is the highest taxed nation in the world.

Most recently, the New York Times reported that Trump’s lawyers have admitted that the president drafted a misleading statement about a meeting his son had with a lawyer associated with the Kremlin in Trump Tower, though for months he denied it.

He has falsely claimed 72 times that he passed the biggest tax cut in history; incorrectly states that he has eliminated Obamacare; and fallaciously argues that the Democrats were responsible for eliminating DACA (the Deferred Action for Child arrivals that he terminated).

“The Truth Is Dangerous”

In Trump’s Orwellian world, the truth is dangerous, thinking is a liability, and the sanctity of free speech is treated with disdain, if not the threat of censorship.

Trump uses an endless stream of tweets in which the truth is distorted for ideological, political or commercial reasons. Under the Trump administration, lying and the spectacle of fakery have become an industry and tool of power.

When will people start saying, “thank you, Mr. President, for firing James Comey?”

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 7, 2018

All administrations and governments lie at times, but under Trump, lying has become normalized, a calling card for corruption and lawlessness that provides the foundation for authoritarianism.

As in any dictatorship, the Trump regime dismisses words, concepts and news sources that address crucial social problems such as climate change, police violence and corporate malfeasance.

In Trump’s dystopian world, words such as a “nation of immigrants,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “diversity,” “entitlement,” “climate change,” “democratic,” “peaceful,” “just” and “vulnerable” disappear into a “memory hole.” Under the Trump regime, language has become a political tool and operates in the service of violence, unchecked power and lawlessness.

For Trump, lying has become a toxic policy for legitimizing ignorance and civic illiteracy. Not only does he relish lying repeatedly, he has also attacked the critical media, claimed journalists are enemies of the American people and argued that the media is the opposition party. His rallying cry, “fake news,” is used to dismiss any critic or criticism of his policies, however misleading, wrong or dangerous they are.

Facts Are Erased

There is more at stake here than the threat of censorship, there is also an attack on traditional sources of information and the public spheres that produce them. Trump’s government has become a powerful disimagination and distraction machine in which the distinction between fact and fiction, reality and fantasy are erased.

Under Trump, language operates in the service of civic violence because it infantilizes and depoliticizes the wider public, creating what Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl has called, in a different context, “the mask of nihilism.”

Trump’s attacks on any criticism of his policies and the truth go far beyond the public deploying of personal insults. In the case of his attack on the FBI and Department of Justice, his penchant for relentless lying constitutes both a possible obstruction of justice and an egregious attempt to discredit criticism and corrode democracy.

What happens when a government excludes language that addresses social problems, provides resources for the vulnerable and dismisses all information related to climate change?

Reminiscent of Book-Burning

Trump’s politics of erasure is more than a page out of the dystopian novels of George Orwell or Ray Bradbury, it also echoes an earlier historical period when censorship and book burning was the currency of fascist regimes. As American historian Karen J. Greenberg warns, the suppression of language opens the doorway to fascism.

The president’s fabricating Twitter machine is about more than lying, it is also about using all of the tools and resources to create a dystopia in which authoritarianism emerges through the raw power of ignorance, control and police-state repression.

Of course, Trump does not lie in isolation. He is encouraged by a right-wing disimagination machine that American sociologist Todd Gitlin rightly calls “an interlocking ecology of falsification that has driven the country around the bend” and into the abyss of authoritarianism.

Trump’s endless fabrications echo the propaganda machines made famous in the fascist regimes of the 1930s. He values loyalty over integrity, and he lies in part to test the loyalty of those who both follow him and align themselves with his power.

Trump’s lying must be understood within a broader attack on the fundamentals of education and democracy itself. This is especially important at a time when the US is no longer a functioning democracy and is in the presence of what sociologists Leonidas Donskis and the late Zygmunt Bauman referred to as a form “of modern barbarity.”

“Civic Illiteracy”

Trump’s lying undermines the public’s grip on language, evidence, facts and informed judgement, and in doing so promotes a form of civic illiteracy in which words and meaning no longer matter. Depriving the public of the capacity for critical analysis and discerning the truth from lies does more than empty politics of any meaning, it also undermines democracy.

As ethics wither, people become prisoners of their own experiences, indifferent to an ignorance and brutishness in which they become complicit.

As the theatre of lies, insults, and childish petulance triumphs over measured arguments, a world emerges in which the only real choices are among competing fictions — a world in which nothing is true and everything begins to look like a lie.

If the spirit and promise of a sustainable democracy is to survive, it’s crucial to make truth-telling virtuous again. If we are going to fight for and with the powerless, we have to understand their needs, speak to and with them in a language that is mutually understandable as well as honest.

There is also a need to reinvent politics through alternative narratives in which the American public can both identify themselves and the conditions through which power and oppression bear down on their lives.

This is not an easy task, but nothing less than justice, democracy and the planet itself are at risk.

Authoritarianism creates a predatory class of unethical zombies who produce dead zones of the imagination that even Orwell could not have envisioned, while using an unchecked language of lying to wage a fierce fight against the possibilities of a democratic future.

The time has come for progressives and others to develop a political language in which civic values, social responsibility and the institutions that support them become central to invigorating and fortifying a new era of civic imagination.

There must be a renewed sense of social agency, and an impassioned international social movement with a vision, organization and set of strategies to challenge the dystopian nightmare engulfing the United States, and a growing number of illiberal democracies all over the globe.

Pablo Neruda, the great Chilean poet, wrote after Franco destroyed the Spanish Republic: “I swear to defend until my death what has been murdered in Spain: The right to happiness.”

This tribute to justice, the public imagination, dignity and the right to be free from the curse of those who use their power to lie and malign the crucial institutions of democracy must once again be defended in the spirit of urgency and the “right to happiness” — not to mention the right to truth.

The Conversation

The post Henry A. Giroux: Trump’s Relentless Lies Demand We Make Truth-Telling Great Again appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

Why Antifascist and Pro-BDS Work Go Hand-in-Hand

Truth Out - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 13:30

Shortly after presidential candidate Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric and eventual rise to power emboldened a bigoted and anti-intellectual backlash at universities across the US, several colleagues and I who are engaged in Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) tactics against the Israeli state established a national network to fight fascism on college campuses, called the Campus Antifascist Network (CAN).

Zionists attacked us soon after. They targeted us precisely because we were also active in BDS work. The conservative blog Legal Insurrection sounded the alarm:

Palumbo-Liu and [Bill] Mullen, the organizers of the campus Antifa [sic] network, are two of the most aggressive anti-Israel pro-BDS faculty members in the country. They each have long histories of demonizing Israel and supporting the academic boycott of Israel….

The teaming of the BDS and Antifa movements is the single most dangerous development I have witnessed in the many years I have been covering campus BDS. Antifa will give BDS even more muscle to intimidate and threaten those who oppose the BDS agenda.

Interestingly, this kind of attack on antifascist, pro-BDS work is not restricted to the US. A very similar take appeared in Canada as well, using exactly the same arguments.

The reason the legitimacy of antifascist and pro-Palestinian work is denied by the right and by supporters of Israeli state policies is that our alliance exposes a contradiction we see more and more of globally: the strange convergence of supporters of Israel with virulently anti-Semitic far-right individuals and organizations. These forces deny their own anti-Semitism to normalize fascism and gain political power. Israel is an accomplice in this, willing to accept such hypocritical denials.

Moreover, that Israel itself is sliding into fascism is a criticism we find not only coming from outside of Israel, but also from within the state. A year ago, in June 2017, opposition leader and Zionist Union Chairman Isaac Herzog warned that Israel is headed toward fascism, and that its fate as a democracy was at stake: “We are going through a process of fascistization of the Israeli politics,” he said while speaking at a cultural event in central Israel. The Jerusalem Post, a conservative Israeli publication, noted that, “The opposition leader explained that the current government was ‘threatening artists, Supreme Court judges and threatening and firing journalists.’ Herzog also noted that media outlets were being shut down and that ‘now the academics and the professors are also being threatened and are afraid to open their mouths.'” 

Things have only deteriorated since then.

The recent US embassy’s move to Jerusalem is a breach of international law and remains intentionally inflammatory, blatantly violating the 1947 and 1948 UN resolutions that set up the Special International Regime for the city of Jerusalem. The 1948 UN Resolution 194 resolves that, “In view of its association with three world religions, the Jerusalem area … should be accorded special and separate treatment from the rest of Palestine and should be placed under effective United Nations control.” In direct contradiction to these resolutions, Trump’s embassy move acknowledges Jerusalem exclusively as the capital of the state of Israel.

Thus, the BDS critique of Israel’s policies, and the US’s role in facilitating those policies, is taking place across university campuses at a crucial time. Israel is acting opportunistically and aggressively to take advantage of the Trump presidency and the political disarray in the United States so much so that it has happily ignored the rampant anti-Semitism of former Trump advisers Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka. Israel’s continuing actions under the Trump administration display the contradiction that BDS and antifascist organizing, when paired, continue to expose: that anti-Semitism is acceptable so long as the anti-Semite is pro-Zionist.

Marriage of Zionism and Far-Right in Europe

In Europe, we find the same contradiction is taking shape among the extreme right. The Washington Post reports:

In France, the Netherlands and Sweden, right-wing nationalists are counterprogramming decades of deeply ingrained anti-Semitism in their ranks. Critics say some hard-right parties in Hungary and Greece remain hotbeds of anti-Semitism. But as left-wing parties in Europe press for boycotts of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians, many populist nationalists in Europe — at least in public — are pledging Israel their full support.

France’s proposition — that anti-Semitism is present only in the form of a “new anti-Semitism” emanating solely from Muslim and Arab societies there — is another attempt to deny the continuing presence of historical, non-Arab-based anti-Semitism.

This denial consolidates far-right and moderate politics and makes the far-right’s position more appealing to the general public. Primed by Islamophobia and anti-immigrant, anti-refugee sentiment, it is all too easy to reduce complex social and political problems to a slogan, and target one group as being the source of many, if not all, social ills.

It’s why the marriage of anti-Semitism and right-wing ethno-nationalism is truly dangerous: The coalition of right-wing ethno-nationalisms across Europe has had (and will continue to have) profound effects on not only immigrants and people of color, but also on the broader social, political and cultural worlds of Europe. Simply put, ethno-nationalism is a threat to democracy and the rule of law.

The solidarity between antifascist and pro-Palestinian organizing is founded on a critique of anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry.

In The Decline of the Nation-State and the End of the Rights of Man, Hannah Arendt wrote about the failure of the Minority Treaties of the 19th and early 20th centuries, in which the League of Nations, and later the United Nations, tried to get member states to guarantee the rights of minorities within their borders. But she argued that the right to equality under the law was soon trumped by inequality due to ethno-nationalism: “The transformation of the state from an instrument of the law into an instrument of the nation had been completed; the nation had conquered the state, national interest had priority over the law long before Hitler could pronounce ‘right is what is good for the German people.’ Here again the language of the mob was only the language of public opinion cleansed of hypocrisy and restraint.”

That is to say, the idea of a democratic state and all its peoples quickly becomes eclipsed by an ethno-nationalist project that elevates some over others. What Arendt calls “the mob,” here and elsewhere, is nothing less than a fascist mob whose vociferous exclamations of superiority have ruptured the decorum of public speech. What we find today, however, is the opposite: The far-right is happy to engage in hypocritical assertions that it has purged all its anti-Semitism, or at least, has restrained it.

The BDS and Anti-Fascist Solution

In contrast to this incongruous merging among right-wing forces, the solidarity between antifascist and pro-Palestinian organizing is founded on a critique of anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry. Both anti-fascist and pro-Palestinian activism target state practices rather than a “people” (that is, Jews). As BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti has said time and again, the movement’s object of critique is not a people, but an instrument of oppression.

A steadily growing criticism of Israeli state actions and the fact that Trump has made such a spectacle of his support for Israel has more and more people reconsidering their opposition to BDS. The ongoing killings of unarmed men, women and children in Gaza; the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear weapons deal; and the increased building of settlements are all adding to both Israel’s and Trump’s unpopularity, and therefore, a more sympathetic view toward BDS tactics. Americans are increasingly concerned about how far Trump will go in supporting Israel at the expense of US national interests and indeed, world interests. Many feel that withdrawal from the Iran deal unnecessarily puts Israel’s interests before the interests of the US.

Public sentiment in the US, especially among liberals and young people, is clearly shifting against Israeli state policies. Most recently, and most dramatically, Israel’s blacklist against human rights workers and organizations has hurt its public image immensely.

Israel’s planned deportation of Human Rights Watch (HRW) lawyer Omar Shakir is a case in point. His case follows that of the deportation of Katherine Franke, a Columbia University professor of law and member of Jewish Voice for Peace. Israel tried to falsely smear HRW as being pro-BDS. Having found no evidence of HRW’s or Shakir’s support of BDS, Israel came up with seven pages of evidence to use against Shakir from his past, including posters at Stanford University he put up in favor of divestment while he was an undergraduate student many years ago. At this point, Israel has temporarily halted the proceedings due to international condemnation.

The fears of those who “worry” about the merging of antifascist work with pro-Palestine work are indeed coming true, but not for the reasons they state. Left-wing activists engaged in both antifascist and pro-BDS work are not driven by anti-Semitism, but its opposite: They are driven by a shared value in fighting bigotry and ethno-nationalism.

In this sense, we are ardently committed to fighting the anti-Semitism that is found in the words and actions of white supremacists, and the words and actions of an ethno-nationalist government that claims it speak for all Jews to elevate its interests above that of the democracy it claims to espouse.

The post Why Antifascist and Pro-BDS Work Go Hand-in-Hand appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

The False Choice Between Jailing Children and Separating Families

Truth Out - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 13:27

The Trump administration is giving Congress an ultimatum: overturn legal limits on the incarceration of children and expand family detention, or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will continue to separate families who illegally cross the border.

The administration is asking Congress to roll back protections for migrant children in immigration laws to allow DHS officials to more easily jail and deport them. The changes would also make it more difficult for children to pursue asylum.

Moreover, White House officials are blaming Democrats for an increase in migrants at the border, saying their refusal to spend more on border security has given immigrants fleeing Central America incentives to enter the US without permission. “The current immigration and border crisis … are the exclusive product of loopholes in federal immigration law that Democrats refuse to close,” Stephen Miller, the president’s top adviser on immigration policy, told reporters last month.

This isn’t the first time the White House has tried to reverse protections in order to lock up more families. Facing a much more drastic surge of unaccompanied children and families in 2014, the Obama administration proposed some of the same changes, relying heavily on jailing families over releasing them with a court date.

But the administration was forced to scale the practice back, releasing thousands of families after a federal court ruled in 2015 that jailing children (even with parents) for longer than 20 days violated the 1997 Flores agreement, a court settlement resulting from a previous legal challenge to government’s practice of incarcerating children.

Now, the Trump administration is pressuring Democrats to overturn the Flores agreement so the White House can again ramp up family detention. Without family jails, the Trump administration contends that its hands are tied, and must separate families so that the adults can be jailed and prosecuted under the Justice Department’s new “zero-tolerance” policy.

Not only is there no statute mandating that the government criminally charge families who cross the border without permission, there have long been alternatives to both separating families and placing them together in immigrant jails.

Trump Officials Shutter Alternative Program

The Trump administration is well aware of this fact: It terminated the least-restrictive alternative to detention available to asylum-seeking families crossing the border without permission a year ago last June.

The government-contracted “Family Case Management Program” served 630 families in April 2017 before it was shut down last summer, according to The Associated Press. The program operated in Chicago, Miami, New York, Los Angeles and the Baltimore/Washington, DC area after it was introduced in January 2016. While some of the program’s participants were referred to the program post-release, some were sent directly to caseworkers from the border, skipping detention entirely.

Social workers from organizations partnered with the program helped families find lawyers and navigate the complex immigration system, obtain housing and health care, and enroll kids in school.

More importantly, advocates say, it kept families together and out of custody, providing traumatized asylum-seekers with the resources they need to pursue and win their cases, while maintaining children’s normal social development and a natural family experience.

The Trump administration terminated the least-restrictive alternative to detention available to asylum-seeking families crossing the border a year ago.

The Trump administration directed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to end the program after outlining its other priorities last year in the fiscal 2018 budget: a $1.6 billion increase to expand the detention and deportation apparatus, including cutting the ribbon on a new 1,000-bed immigration detention jail in Houston.

The administration instead opted to put women previously eligible for the program into the intrusive, surveillance-oriented “intensive supervision” program that straps more than 80,000 “low-risk” immigrants with electronic ankle monitors.

Social workers and refugee advocates who worked with the terminated program or have operated similar case management services say providing families with counseling and social services outside of a detention setting is not only the most humane option, it is the most sensible option: It’s cheaper, more legally effective and doesn’t further strain an already-overburdened system.

The Most Humane, Least-Restrictive Alternative

The horrors of the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy resulting in the separation of families are stacking up as the policy continues.

US Customs and Border Patrol officials recently confirmed that a Honduran man strangled himself in his holding cell last month after he learned he would be separated from his family.

Over the weekend, asylum-seeking mothers who have been transferred a federal detention center in SeaTac, just south of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, told a group of lawmakers who visited the immigrant jail Saturday that they could hear their children screaming for them in another room.

Washington State lawmakers’ testimony comes after Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley’s attempted visit to a converted Walmart in Brownsville, Texas, that is now serving as a temporary facility holding separated children in custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). He told reporters this month that he witnessed children being held in “dog-kennel-style cages” at a separate facility in McAllen, Texas.

The image of that facility was “seared in my mind,” Senator Merkley said during a press call. “This just goes beyond anything I could imagine. It’s morally bankrupt. It’s wrong on every level. As everyone understands, you don’t hurt children in order to influence policy choices of their parents.”

Moreover, ICE officials are running out of space to jail immigrants apprehended under the new zero-tolerance policy, and are now temporarily moving 1,600 detainees into federal prisons. Border agents likewise told NBC News they are similarly running out of space to shelter separated children at the US border. As of last week, nearly 300 of the 550 children in custody at border stations had been held longer than the legal limit for immigrants in the government’s temporary facilities.

Like separation, incarceration offers a similar set of traumas for children, even when they do remain with their parents. As Truthout has previously reported, women and children must endure the migratory traumas of crossing through Mexico to the US, where threats from gangs and traffickers often rival the violence of the Central American Northern Triangle. After surviving the journey, separation and/or incarceration acts as a final traumatic blow. Both can have long-lasting impacts affecting the psychological and neurological development of children, according to child psychologists and pediatricians.

Community management provides a measure of accountability while keeping families together and out of custody.

The Most Sensible Alternative

The Trump administration’s 2019 fiscal year budget requests $184.4 million for ICE’s “Alternatives to Detention Program,” with nearly all of that money going to its “Intensive Supervision Appearance Program,” involving weekly office check-ins, unannounced home visits and ankle monitors. The request is an increase from last year’s budget, which requested $57 million for intensive supervision.

The canceled Family Case Management Program cost the government $36 a day per family while it operated, compared to $319 per-person for a family detention jail bed as of last year.

Like separation, incarceration offers a similar set of traumas for children, even when they do remain with their parents.

Katharina Obser, senior policy adviser for migrant rights and justice at the Women’s Refugee Commission, notes that it’s also more affordable when compared to the expenses of separating families. After factoring in the costs of space in a US Marshals Services facility or an immigrant detention bed combined with the costs of space in an ORR facility for separated children, it’s still hundreds of dollars cheaper.

Still, the Trump administration agued intensive supervision was the cheapest option, costing $5-$7 per adult last year, when it terminated the Family Case Management Program (while keeping expensive family jails operating within their legal limits).

But Miriam Camero, a case manager in Houston with the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), who works with families recently released from a family detention jail in Karnes City, Texas, says the drawbacks of ankle monitors outweigh the cost benefits.

“I can attest to the fact of how life is just so difficult for clients because that’s their current tracking method if they can’t afford bond,” Camero says. “The general population perceives ankle monitors to be related to criminal matters. It affects both the child and the mother. The child gets teased at school. Sometimes the school does keep on asking the mother for her criminal background when she clearly doesn’t have any.”

Camero learned early on that a crucial component of her job would not only be coordinating legal and social services but breaking down the social stigmas that come with ankle monitors, which the vast majority of her clients wear. During Hurricane Harvey, many of her clients were unable to charge their waterproof monitors and had to deal with the devices’ incessant beeping as floodwaters filled their houses, she said.

RAICES formerly operated its own program providing social services to families after their release, including a post-release hotline for participants. While that program ended after a staffing shortage, Camero’s work in Houston continues the organization’s efforts.

For refugee advocates, community management of asylum-seekers offers an alternative not only to detention and separation, but to more damaging alternatives like intensive supervision.

Additionally, they say, separating families adds to an already-whopping backlog of more than 685,000 cases that are jamming up immigration courts and leading to mass trials of immigrants. Border agents render children “unaccompanied” when they are separated, severing legal cases that would otherwise be processed together. Not only that, but the influx of children rendered unaccompanied by the state has also strained the resources of agencies tasked with their care.

“The absurdity of the separations … is also a matter of resources. ORR is traditionally an under-resourced agency for all the responsibilities they have to care for these kids, so the numbers of kids who are going into their care who otherwise wouldn’t need to be in their care is really incredible,” said Jennifer Podkul, director of policy for Kids in Need of Defense, an organization which works to provide legal representation and due process for unaccompanied minors in the immigration system.

The canceled Family Case Management Program cost the government $36 a day per family, compared to $319 per person for a family detention jail bed.

Lastly, case management has proven incredibly effective in terms of realizing compliance with immigration laws. Camero says, for instance, that none of her clients has ever missed a court appearance. They do sometimes run late to ICE check-ins, but that’s why one of the services she provides is transportation.

“A lot of these people just want their day in court, and to be able to explain why they can’t come back [to their home countries]. If they get that opportunity, a lot of them are willing to take whatever order the judge provides for them,” said Manoj Govindaiah, who directs family detention services at RAICES.

Since Camero’s case management program started only two years ago, she doesn’t yet know how successful her clients will be in terms of winning asylum, as most of their cases are still winding their way through the courts.

Similarly, Truthout was unable to ascertain the percentage of how many participants were successful in winning asylum in the now-shuttered Family Case Management Program. “I think, had [the program] continued to be operational to the present day, I believe we’d continue to have the same compelling data [on compliance], but we’d also just have much more data of what happens to families who are enrolled in this program,” Obser said.

Still, according to a letter issued by Ann M. Schlarb, president of the GEO Group division that landed the ICE contract to operate the Family Case Management Program, 99 percent of participants “successfully attended their court appearances and ICE check-ins,” including at least a dozen families who were ultimately deported. Schlarb didn’t respond to Truthout’s request for comment regarding the program and its operations.

The fact that her Boca Raton, Florida-based private prison corporation operated the now-terminated program, however, was its one drawback, according to refugee advocates.

“At the end of the day, GEO is a for-profit corporation concerned about the bottom line, and … a company that doesn’t necessarily look out for the people that it’s charged with being custodian of,” said Govindaiah. “So, it seemed like an odd choice [for the ICE contract], especially when there are so many organizations … that do a lot of work with refugee and asylum-seeking populations, and would have seemed the more natural fit for this type of work.”

Expanding Community Management

Religious-affiliated organizations like the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities USA and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service have long provided caseworkers to asylum-seeking families entering the United States.

As Truthout reported during the massive influx of unaccompanied children in 2014 for instance, Catholic Charities of Dallas worked to provide legal support for children placed in temporary shelters in the city at the time, sending caseworkers to three such facilities to provide legal orientations and assessments for them, and determine if they could be reunited with family members in the US.

Border agents render children “unaccompanied” when they are separated, severing legal cases that would otherwise be processed together.

Even the for-profit GEO Group understood the practical experience that organizations like these have when it comes to case work: They partnered with Bethany Christian Services to serve families in the Baltimore/Washington DC area, for example.

In Camero’s mind, expanding community management programs and the number of caseworkers for families “is completely doable” — especially amid the outcry against family separation.

Following a massive day of action on June 1 against family separations, communities throughout the US are again gearing up to join rallies and vigils in even greater numbers across 45 cities June 14.

For Camero and Govindaiah, the public backlash against current crisis of separations at the border provides an opening to push for expanding these organizations’ capacity to do case work for families who would hopefully skip detention entirely.

“There’s no reason to have [detention jails or separations] when we have organizations that can still be able to do something like [case management], and it allows for organizations to expand and be able to do this,” Camero said.

They worry, however, that as legal challenges to separations pend, the result could be an expansion of electronic monitoring and even family detention — if Democrats eventually cave to the administration’s demands. Further, they caution, any efforts to resurrect the defunct case management program should make sure it’s awarded to an appropriate organization.

“So much of the last few weeks have been this administration making it sound like it has no option but to separate families, and that’s so incredibly disingenuous when you have this program that, if … your concern is … that people might not comply with their requirements, this would have been exactly what these families needed,” said Obser.

The post The False Choice Between Jailing Children and Separating Families appeared first on Truthout.

Categories: News

'The world will see a major change': Kim Jong-un commits to 'complete de-nuclearization' in historic agreement with Trump who says he'll 'absolutely' invite North Korea leader to White House

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 07:19

'The world will see a major change': Kim Jong-un commits to 'complete de-nuclearization' in historic agreement with Trump who says he'll 'absolutely' invite North Korea leader to White House -- President Trump said in his first remarks that 'it's an honor' to be meeting with Kim, whom he expects to have 'a terrific relationship' with now that they've been personally introduced --Kim told the U.S. president, 'It was not easy to get here...old prejudices and practices worked as obstacles on our way forward, but we overcame all of them' | 12 June 2018 | President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un concluded a day of talks in Singapore by signing what the U.S. president described as a 'very comprehensive' document. Trump did not go into further detail about the contents of the agreement that was a framework for further talks. 'People are going to be very impressed. People are going to be very happy, and we’re going to take care of a very big and very dangerous problem for the world,' Trump claimed. 'And I want to thank chairman Kim. Spent a lot of time together today, very intensive time.' Trump said, providing slightly more detail, that denuclearization would be a process and that he believes it will happen 'very quickly' following the signing of the document.

Categories: News

Full text of the Trump-Kim agreement

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 07:11

Breaking: Full text of the Trump-Kim agreement  --A photo of the document President Donald Trump signed revealed that the leaders agreed on four primary points. | 12 June 2018 | President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed an agreement at the conclusion of Tuesday's historic summit. Here's what it says, according to a photo of Trump's signed document:

Joint Statement of President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea at the Singapore Summit

President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) held a first, historic summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018...

Convinced that the establishment of new U.S.-DPRK relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognizing that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:

1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
2. The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Categories: News

Kim commits to 'complete denuclearisation'

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 06:43

Kim commits to 'complete denuclearisation' | 12 June 2018 | (Key points) --Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un sign 'comprehensive' joint document after talks --The leaders share a 13-second handshake before a one-on-one meeting and a second meeting with aides
Trump says he is confident of a "terrific relationship" with Kim --Kim says the leaders have overcome obstacles to attend the summit

02:27 Kim commits to "complete denuclearisation of Korean Peninsula" in the document.

02:25 The document commits the US to "security guarantees" and looks to the establishment of "new US-DPRK relations"...

02:24 Details are starting to emerge on the document the leaders signed.

Categories: News

Fresh explosion of Kilauea volcano sends lava spewing 180ft into the air as experts warn impact on Hawaii's animal and marine life will last for decades

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 06:17

Fresh explosion of Kilauea volcano sends lava spewing 180ft into the air as experts warn impact on Hawaii's animal and marine life will last for DECADES --No one has died in this Hawaii eruption but about 600 homes have been swallowed by lava flows | 11 June 2018 | A small explosion at the summit of Hawaii's erupting Kilauea Volcano on Sunday sent ash spewing into the air, creating a driving hazard for roads on parts of the Big Island, the US Geological Survey said. Lava fountains from a fissure in the volcano reached as high as 180 feet (55 meters) from Saturday night into Sunday, pushing flows of molten rock into the Pacific Ocean, it said. Kilauea, on Hawaii's Big Island, first started erupting on May 3, resulting in lava oozing over residential communities and heading towards the Pacific Ocean. The lava first met the ocean on May 20.

Categories: News

Trump: Kim summit 'better than anybody could have expected'

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 05:44

Trump: Kim summit 'better than anybody could have expected' | 12 June 2018 | President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un were heading to “a signing” after their "fantastic meeting," Trump told reporters Tuesday after emerging from a working lunch at their Singapore summit. "A really fantastic meeting," Trump said with Kim at his side. "A lot of progress, really very positive, I think better than anybody could have expected. Top of the line, really good. We’re going right now for a signing." The two leaders did not respond to reporters' questions on what they would be signing.

Categories: News

Trump: Kudlow in hospital after heart attack

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 05:28

Trump: Kudlow in hospital after heart attack | 11 June 2018 | President Trump announced from Singapore on Tuesday that his top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, was hospitalized outside Washington, D.C., after suffering a heart attack. "Our Great Larry Kudlow, who has been working so hard on trade and the economy, has just suffered a heart attack," Trump tweeted as he arrived at the denuclearization summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later described the heart attack as "very mild" and said Kudlow is expected to make a "full and speedy recovery."

Categories: News

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un share historic handshake

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 05:16

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un share historic handshake | 12 June 2018 | Donald Trump has met Kim Jong-un, shaking the North Korean leader's hand and posing for the cameras at a historic summit in Singapore. Mr Trump arrived at the Capella hotel on Sentosa island looking slightly pensive, fiddling with his jacket buttons; Mr Kim appeared relaxed. The pair greeted each other at a luxury hotel on the island, just off the Singaporean coast, before heading in for talks about denuclearisation.

Categories: News

June 11th Audio Statement from Mexican Anarchist Prisoner Miguel Peralta

It's Goin Down - Tue, 06/12/2018 - 02:15

The post June 11th Audio Statement from Mexican Anarchist Prisoner Miguel Peralta appeared first on It's Going Down.

The following is an audio statement marking June 11th from Mexican anarchist prisoner Miguel Peralta, imprisoned since 2015 in Oaxaca. The audio is followed by an English translation and the Spanish transcription. https://itsgoingdown.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/June-11-Miguel-Peralta.mp3

 

Solidarity statement from Miguel Peralta (Political Prisoner from Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, Oaxaca, Mexico)

Miguel:

Greetings to all of the comrades who receive these sincere words.

It’s not easy to say these two vast words: LONG-TERM SENTENCE. When we already know that their justice and carceral systems are worth nothing. The judicial apparatus and the criminals hide their faces behind the scales of justice, they distort and file documents in order to imprison the comrades who struggle against the establishment. They are hungry for flesh.

Similarly, it is difficult to adapt to isolation. We cannot allow ourselves to watch the days, months, and years pass on the calendar, while we endure the humiliation. We must fight the fear that prison generates and the sicknesses that we acquire here on a daily basis. We cannot stop searching for alternatives and improvising resistance as if we don’t have “the boot to our neck”. This is also a difficult task.

Long and enduring resistance could be the answer to these impositions, long and enduring struggle. Although it robs us of our energy, I think that our spirit will resist and keep beating like our enraged hearts, longing to walk, FREE!! One day we will manage to snatch back the days and nights that they have robbed from us, comrades.

Freedom to the Prisoners!

Down with the Prison Walls!

San Juan Bautista Cuicatlán, Oaxaca

Declaración solidaria de Miguel Peralta (Preso político de Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, Oaxaca, México)

Miguel:

Saludos a todos los compas que puedan hacer llegar estas palabras sinceras.

No es nada fácil hacer mención a estas dos extensas palabras, LARGA CONDENA, cuando de ante mano sabemos que sus sistemas de justicia y penitenciario no sirve para nada, el sistema judicial  y los nefastos que ocultan sus rostros detrás de la balanza, hambrientos de carne de presidio se encuentran tergiversando y  maquilando los expedientes empolvados por la justicia tomando siempre en consideración criterios personales, morales y de consigna para condenar a los compas que se encuentran en lucha contra lo establecido.

De igual manera es muy difícil asimilar el tiempo en el aislamiento y no podemos detenernos solo a mirar cómo se caen los días, los meses, los años del calendario y soportar la humillación, combatir los miedos que la cárcel genera, las enfermedades que adquirimos en el devenir de la cotidianidad, buscar alternativas e improvisar la resistencia para no estar con “la bota en el cuello” todos los días, es también una tarea difícil.

Larga resistencia podría ser la respuesta ante estas imposiciones, larga lucha aunque de repente se nos van las fuerzas. Creo que nuestro espíritu resistirá y se mantendrá latiendo como nuestros corazones enrabiados, anhelando caminar, ¡libres! Algún día lograremos arrebatarles las noches y los días que nos han robado, compas.

¡Presos a la calle!

¡Abajo los muros de las prisiones!

San Juan Bautista Cuicatlán Oaxaca

Categories: News

June 11, 2018 Statement from Marius Mason

It's Goin Down - Mon, 06/11/2018 - 23:25

The post June 11, 2018 Statement from Marius Mason appeared first on It's Going Down.

A statement on June 11th from Marius Mason.

Thank you for coming together again to support all the long-term anarchist prisoners. Your support and encouragement are the life breath for anyone trying to keep heart and soul together while spending so many years away from the inspiration and motivation that our committed communities of resistance provide. It seems like the longer I am away, the more those memories seem necessary to me, feeding my spirit with the knowledge that a new world is possible.

I want to wish my comrades in the Earth First!, IWW, animal rights and native sovereignty movements many victories, as well as to extend my love and hope to the good friends struggling for queer and trans rights.

“I am forever in your debt. Stay strong, do right, be brave..I am so proud to call you my family.”

My blood pumps still because you live and fight. I want to send a wild wolf howl to all the anarchist buddies and friends yet to be met who have sent me their stories, their love and their vision describing a world without hierarchy. I see through your eyes and dream with you. My life is small here, though still bigger than it was in my old constricted Unit. I have met many, many wonderful people and so many new trans friends. Yet I have such limited capacity and I have been feeling my age and some age-related health problems….but I continue to advocate for my request to complete my medical transition. I am discouraged that the TEC (which decides cases like mine for the BOP) has NOT met yet, though I had been told by staff here that my case would be heard this past week. I will keep our community informed as to how that process continues to unfold. It is a long arc towards justice, but with your help and support… surely, all trans prisoners asking for medical relief will be vindicated.

I feel like it is so hard now to contribute meaningfully to creating the world that we dream of so passionately. I find that it is difficult to follow the news of our campaigns in the free world to defend the water, to protect our animal brothers and sisters, to demand a society that is not built on hate and exclusion but rather built on love and inclusion… But I am committed to supporting my fellow prisoners here, and try to do that work with integrity, offering comfort and support in both their day to day hurts and troubles and in their/our long-term goals for dignity and ultimately – freedom. I am so much stronger because I know that you are with us, helping us to persist until that day of freedom comes. You have my ever-lasting gratitude for carrying me through these long seasons of waiting.

I am forever in your debt. Stay strong, do right, be brave..I am so proud to call you my family.

Love and solidarity,
Marius Mason

Categories: News

On Turning Orange: A Friendly Letter to Those who Urged us to Vote

It's Goin Down - Mon, 06/11/2018 - 23:08

The post On Turning Orange: A Friendly Letter to Those who Urged us to Vote appeared first on It's Going Down.

The following critique of electorialism in the context of Ontario in so-called Canada was originally published on North-Shore.Info.

There are many ways in which the recent Ontario election is disappointing, and the new leader is barely even one of them. No – though Doug Ford is a despicable rich jerk whose own entitlement to power was strong enough to persuade others to give it to him, the situation is actually much worse.

As the election approached, the political system deployed every trick to get people to put aside their disgust and participate. It’s understandable that someone trying to sit in the halls of power would claim that Ford is so bad that you’re wicked too if you don’t grab a ballot and try to stop him. But to see this kind of lazy thinking and moralistic manipulation repeated by so many who should know better is truly depressing.

Because vote or don’t vote, it doesn’t really matter. As a political act, it ranks about equal with other gestures that take ten minutes and are mostly symbolic: like holding up a protest sign as a camera pans across a crowd, taking the time to argue your opinions with a stranger, or throwing up a few agitational stickers on a bus shelter. Vote or don’t vote, because we’re going to fight hard against whoever gets in, right?

And yet it seems like many people transformed into actual NDP supporters for a month or so there, sounding as if that party wasn’t just a lesser evil, but could actually act on your behalf to bring about the kind of world you want to live in. Which is unsurprising if you’re a social democrat or a middle-of-the-road progressive of the kind that make up the baseline Canadian political position. But so many of the election season orange-coloured shapeshifters wouldn’t say that about themselves: “we’re anarchists”, they might say, or “we’re socialists”, “we’re revolutionaries”.

I believe you, I want to believe you’re radicals and that I’m not so alone, which is why I’m bothering to write to you and not to those folks who feel perfectly represented by the views on CBC radio. I was genuinely shocked how many people were repeating things along the lines of, “Go vote because the blue team wants to hurt marginalized people so you’re super fucked up if you don’t”. I’m not trying to say there was no difference between the positions of the parties, but if your desires go any further than cautious income redistribution, there is nothing for you to vote in favour of in Ontario politics. So why such insistence?

And for those of us who call ourselves anarchists or anti-authoritarians, how change comes about matters. It’s not that I oppose the specific choices made by leaders; I oppose the ability of anyone to control the lives of others. I’m against leaders. I push back against Trudeau for exactly the same reasons I did Harper, like how my pals in the States were no less hostile to Obama than they are now to Trump.

Yeah, my income went up when Wynne raised the minimum wage and I’m thinking about going back to school because I’d get tuition free now. But I don’t actually want either of those things – I don’t want a boss, I don’t want a wage, I don’t want a diploma, I don’t want job training. These measures promote equality within the existing system, so go ahead and vote for them if that feels worthwhile. But don’t forget that they also legitimate the system as a whole: better wages let the wage relation itself off the hook; better access to education contributes to the illusion of a meritocracy.

So if you care so deeply about some (frequently hypothetical) ultra marginalized person who needs your protection from Doug Ford, don’t pretend your advocacy for voting does anything to get that person out of the situation where they need protecting, where they are dependent on the benevolence of voters or of the powerful. It’s going to be a long four years and I expect things will heat up quite a bit before they’re through, so we need to be clear about where we stand. Are we fundamentally comfortable with the system and just asking for moderate reforms? Or are we anti-capitalists and anti-authoritarians who carry the seed of something radically different? Are we making requests of the powerful, or are we working for a world in which there are no rulers or ruled? These choices have consequences in how we live and how we organize, and if Horwath had been elected instead of Ford, none of that would be any different.

Categories: News

JUNE 16TH: Anti-Capitalist Queer Bloc in Portland, OR Pride Parade

It's Goin Down - Mon, 06/11/2018 - 23:03

The post JUNE 16TH: Anti-Capitalist Queer Bloc in Portland, OR Pride Parade appeared first on It's Going Down.

The following is a call for a radical bloc at the Portland PRIDE parade on June 16th.

Fuck Rainbow Capitalism.

We are calling for radical queers, anti-capitalist, and anti-authoritarians to converge on the SW corner of Everett & Park at 10 AM sharp, we will be leaving to enter the parade at 10:30 AM. Bring noise makers, PA’s, banners, propaganda, and your most faggy attire.

Cover your face and any identifiable body art. We intend to march in the parade, it is likely the parade police, ppb, and the good gay citizens of Portland will attempt to kick us out for not paying the offensive fee, but fuck them. We’ll keep each other safe and make our presence known.

See you there queers. <3

Categories: News

Prison Abolitionists Rally for Human and Environmental Health at Pittsburgh Polluters’ Offices

It's Goin Down - Mon, 06/11/2018 - 21:14

The post Prison Abolitionists Rally for Human and Environmental Health at Pittsburgh Polluters’ Offices appeared first on It's Going Down.

Action report from the Fight Toxic Prisons convergence.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — On the heels of the 3rd Annual Fight Toxic Prisons Convergence, dozens of organizers, community members, and friends and family of currently- and formerly-incarcerated peoples marched through downtown Pittsburgh, making stops at the headquarters of EQT and ending at a power plant belonging to coal utility NRG Energy on the North Side. The demonstration concludes a weekend of lectures, workshops, and discussion about mass incarceration and its links to environmental health.

EQT Corporation, a major oil and gas company notorious for poisoning drinking water supplies across rural Appalachia, is one of the largest companies involved in fracking, with 793 active wells in Pennsylvania alone. They’re also one of the top ten worst polluters in the industry, according to a 2015 report published by the Natural Resources Defense Council. In 2012, EQT received several charges for water pollution and disturbance of waterways, and a $1.1 million fine for poisoning drinking water supply sources through a shale pit leak at Rock Run in Tioga County, PA, and has received several other fines, violations, and complaints as well.

The march culminated in a rally at the NRG Energy Center calling attention to the health and human rights atrocities occurring at SCI Fayette, a state-run prison that currently houses 2,176 inmates. SCI Fayette was built in 2003, directly on top of a toxic coal ash dump that has been in operation for decades, receiving millions of tons of waste from coal processing companies, including NRG.

The inmate population of SCI Fayette, and the surrounding community of Labelle, PA, have reported alarmingly high rates of health issues linked to the ash that blows off the dumping site and into the surrounding air.

Richard Mosley, a member of Fayette Health Justice and Put People First PA and a former prisoner at Fayette, spoke to the crowd via telephone about his experiences there, including respiratory ailments and medical neglect. “I was admitted into the infirmary well over 10 times and at medical at least 40 times during my four years at SCI Fayette. My weight dropped down from 225lbs to 170lbs. I got so sick at one point that I kept a letter with me to send to my family in case I died.”

Other speakers at the rally highlighted campaigns and organizations working alongside and on behalf of prisoners everywhere, including Shandre Delaney of Human Rights Coalition (HRC), a prisoner-led human rights organization based in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, PA. HRC was a local host of the Fight Toxic Prisons Convergence.

Speaking to the crowd, Ms. Delaney said “HRC believes that it is critically important that prisoners are treated with humanity in every aspect of their incarceration. A prison sentence should not become a death sentence because of the lack of healthcare or the access to legal remedy or complaint of their treatment.”

HRC is involved in drafting legislation to end solitary confinement in Pennsylvania, as well as highlighting ongoing cases of abuse behind prison walls. They were also involved in co-producing a report on the toxic conditions at SCI Fayette with the Abolitionist Law Center, a legal advocacy nonprofit based in Pittsburgh.

More information about the Fight Toxic Prisons Convergence can be found at: FightToxicPrisons.org

Categories: News

A Call for a Worldwide Day of Action in Solidarity with J20 Defendants

It's Goin Down - Mon, 06/11/2018 - 20:46

The post A Call for a Worldwide Day of Action in Solidarity with J20 Defendants appeared first on It's Going Down.

A call for worldwide solidarity in the form of pickets and rallies outside of DOJ offices and US embassies to call for the dropping of charges against J20 defendants.

Over the last week, the government’s flimsy case against J20 defendants has begun to crack. The second trial ended in acquittals and mistrials for 4 defendants, and 10 others had their charges dropped in a prosecutorial attempt to avoid sanctions for withholding evidence. After 17 months of blatant repression against people who resisted capitalism, fascism, and the Trump regime on Inauguration Day, the state has failed to convict a single person at trial.

We are calling for a worldwide day of action in solidarity with the remaining 44 defendants on June 25th, the first day of the next trial. The prosecution and the criminal legal system it is a part of can be influenced by our collective actions and solidarity. It’s time to pull out all the stops and do everything we can to pressure the government to drop all the charges.

Plan a rally outside a DOJ office, or a US consulate. Organize a prisoner letter writing event. Throw a benefit show, a radical film screening, or a fundraising raffle for the legal defense fund. Drop a banner. Use your imagination, and make us impossible to ignore.

We know we’re stronger when we stand in solidarity with each other despite our personal and political differences. Our movements are more resilient than the petty bureaucrats who imagine they can break it. The love we have for each other is stronger than their jails and courthouses. We will bury them beneath the new world in our hearts.

Love and solidarity,
some defendants and supporters

Categories: News

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