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Arrested activists released after Sudanese bread protests

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 10:54

Sudan has released more than 80 political activists and students who were detained in the wake of deadly protests last month against rising bread prices and government’s economic policies. The move was ordered on Sunday by President Omar al-Bashir, the latter’s aide said.聽 “We will continue to eradicate the reasons behind the protests and arrests,” Abdulrahman…


Putin Seeks to Destroy the Muslim People of Ukraine’s Crimea

Sun, 02/18/2018 - 16:04

Bakhchisaray, Ukraine – The mosque looked like a bandaged patient. The 500-year-old limestone building was wrapped in wooden scaffolding and long pieces of cloth that hid geometric ornaments and Koranic calligraphy. Next to it lay heavy bundles of steel rods that seemed alien in the courtyard of the seemingly weightless, palatial complex out-of-a-fairy-tale, built for Crimean…


Average Congressperson 12 Times Wealthier Than Average Citizen

Sun, 02/18/2018 - 12:46

There’s a reason why members of Congress always seem to be so out of touch with their constituents. According to recent financial filings by members of Congress, the average Senator and Representative have more than 12 times the wealth of average American citizens. With such a massive disconnect, is it even possible for them to understand…


The Russian election is fake, but Navalny is hammering Putin

Sun, 02/18/2018 - 12:42

In the presidential election due next month, Vladimir Putin will be running against a whole bunch of candidates, who have neither a chance, nor – it seems – the desire to defeat him. But outside the virtual reality of Kremlin propaganda, this campaign will be remembered as a standoff between the incumbent leader of Russia and…


The gifted playwright championing Cherokee human rights

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 18:41
‘Early Indian Languages’ map made by US government in 1970 – link

Cherokee playwright Mary Kathryn Nagle is fighting for the rights of Native Americans both onstage and off. Her new play, “Sovereignty,” at the Arena Stage in Washington, DC, weaves together her rich Cherokee heritage, tribal justice in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the larger fight to protect indigenous women. These are all areas that Nagle…


Satirical North Korean political art is defector’s way of hitting back

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 18:26

Click here for Sun Mu’s website.

As the Winter Olympic Games take place in South Korea, FRANCE 24 talks to a North Korea-born artist about his satirical work. The opening ceremony at this month’s Winter Olympics Games was a dazzling spectacle. But what stole the show was the image of athletes from North and South Korea walking side-by-side behind a unified flag…


VIDEO: The unique challenges facing Central European democracy

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 17:56

The National Endowment for Democracy recently held a fascinating presentation concerning the dynamics underscoring the rise in authoritarian right wing politics in Hungary and in Central Europe more generally. The video features the results of the work of Gabor Scheiring who is a NED Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow and an elected member of the Hungarian National Assembly, the national parliament. The event was held at NED’s International Forum for Democratic Studies in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, February 14.

Senior Director of the Reagan-Fascell Fellowship Program Sally Blair moderated the event and there were additional comments from Christopher Walker, a influential member of NED’s executive leadership team. Here is the summary from the event invitation:

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Hungary and Poland were heralded as among the most successful cases of liberal reform of the former socialist countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Yet two and a half decades later, authoritarian politics have reemerged in the public life of both countries. How can this puzzle of post-socialist illiberalism in Central Europe be explained?

Some observers claim that countries in the region have never been truly democratic, and their recent turn merely fits an historical pattern. Others argue that the success of illiberal politics is rooted in the clever political maneuvering of authoritarian politicians. In his presentation, political economist Gabor Scheiring will offer a third explanation.

Based on new data and case studies, he will argue that it is impossible to understand illiberalism’s role in Central Europe without analyzing the rightward shift of the working middle class and the political mobilization of the national business elite. His presentation will shed light on the socioeconomic roots of the authoritarian turn in Hungary, while also offering comparative insights into recent developments in Poland and the Czech Republic. Christopher Walker will offer comments.

The video is about 80 minutes. Take a look:

Join the conversation in our comments section below!

How US government arms purchases fund gun lobbyists

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 17:30

By Brian DeLay, Associate Professor of History, University of California, Berkeley. Attendees attend a candlelight vigil for the victims of a shooting at a Florida school. AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee As teenagers in Parkland, Florida, dressed for the funerals of their friends – the latest victims of a mass shooting in the U.S. – weary outrage poured…


German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel freed from Turkish jail

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 16:52

A German-Turkish journalist who was freed in Turkey after spending more than a year in jail without trial said he was held “hostage” by Ankara and that other journalists are still stuck in Turkish prisons just “for doing their job”. Deniz Yucel, 44, the Turkey-based correspondent of Die Welt newspaper, landed in Berlin on Friday night…


South Korean songs given rare public performance in North

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 16:49

North Korea has allowed songs from the South to be played in public for the first time in years, state media said Saturday, as a thaw in usually frosty ties gains momentum thanks to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. A North Korean band “played several southern songs” when they performed before party officials and artists in Pyongyang…


VIDEO: A Conversation on Capitalism, the Climate and Justice

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 14:07
At the historic Riverside Church – All photos by Cat Watters

There was a packed house at the historic Riverside Church last night where Michelle Alexander and Naomi Klein participated in a conversation about the incompatibility between Capitalism, the Climate and Justice. I attended this event, hosted by Union Theological Seminary at the historic Riverside Church in downtown Manhattan. From the event description:

The Spirit of Justice is a conversation about what it will take to birth a new America, a nation in which every life and every voice truly matters. The last presidential election was a painful reminder that it is dangerous to view American history as a slow but steady march towards greater freedom, justice, and equality for all. The truth is far more complicated. But one thing is clear: Since the days of our nation’s founding, there have always been people who have courageously embraced and embodied a spirit of justice.

People of all colors, backgrounds, and walks of life have, in various ways, shown up in American history as revolutionaries, challenging us to reimagine what dignity, justice, and equality ought to mean and forcing us to reconsider who should be considered worthy of our collective care, compassion, and concern. While some may wish to return to a time when most Americans had few rights and little hope for justice, The Spirit of Justice aims to amplify the voices of modern-day revolutionaries — artists, activists, scholars, healers, teachers and more — who are committed to moving forward in new ways with a keen understanding of the political history and moral dilemmas which brought us to this moment in time.

Michelle Alexander

Alexander talked about needing to define what we are for rather than what we are against. “It became very clear that is was easy to unite about what we were against but, we had a lot more difficulty defining with clarity what we were for”. She is a visiting professor of social justice at Union Theological Seminary, as well as the author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness“.

Naomi Klein

For her part, Naomi Klein spoke about growing up to not be a part of the war machine. She described her father being a war defector and moving the family to Canada to escape the draft. Klein also spoke of her father being raised in a very leftist/socialist family of and how her grandfather was a key union organizer in the famous Disney animators’ strike of 1941. For his efforts, he became blacklisted and never able to work again as an artist after that.

Klein said, “The utopian muscle is a muscle and we need to exercise it like any other muscle and get together in groups of people and look each other in the eye and dare to dream about what we want instead”. This is something I’ve personally been saying for decades and trying to get people engaged in.

Klein has authored many best-selling books, including “No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need“, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate“, “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism ” and “No Logo“.

Overall, I was hoping for a conversation that was more hard hitting and that would relay a wake up call to the audience reflecting the true state of emergency we really are in. I felt it was a bit too relaxed and casual for what we are facing in this country and the world. You can watch the full video of the event right here and make your own decision:

South Africa’s new president builds confidence with speech

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 13:39
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa – link

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa today delivered his maiden State of the Nation Address after his election on 15 February 2018 to the position of President of the Republic following the resignation of Jacob Zuma two days ago. Much was expected of him and it would seem that he did live up to expectations.

He addressed almost, if not all burning national issues. In no particular order here: reviving the economy; reforming the mining sector; restructuring State corporations; encouraging entrepreneurship; boosting the ease of doing business; encouraging tourism in a bid to give no credit to xenophobia; welfare redistribution; free education at undergraduate level; fiscal reforms; boosting confidence in Government; resizing the Government apparatus etc.

Two key issues stood out as bones of contention. First, the nation was very attentive as to how Ramaphosa was going to address the so-called confrontation between the white capitalist power and black economic emancipation. Ramaphosa seems to have found the way around this dilemma by simply addressing the situation head on. He made it clear that South Africa’s doors must be opened to national and foreign investments in an ethical and lawful society devoid of all corruption. He then went on to state that the Government would work towards building entrepreneurship capacities within the black community and especially among black women.

On the issue of land distribution, Ramaphosa was blunt: “expropriation without compensation”. A statement that immediately led to a loud round of applause in the parliamentary building while in the streets could be heard cheers. However, to avoid any feelings of injustice to those concerned, President Ramaphosa did two things. He recalled the moral backing of this measure by stating that it was in order to redress a grave historical injustice, an argument that no sane white owner of vast swathes of land can refute. Second, he gave assurances about the conduct and nature of the redistribution that will be done in a way as not to harm the agricultural sector and therefore the economy.

This 2014 South Africa Products Export Treemap reflects a diverse economy – link

In addition, President Ramaphosa thrashed out how the issue of ‘State Capture’ will be handled. He stated that under his new administration, the Justice department will begin inquiries into the extent of State Capture in South Africa and address the situation appropriately. This likely means that the Guptas, Zuma and other former government bigwigs might have to face justice.

Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address has been welcomed by all political parties in Parliament. MPs from different parties gave him a vote of confidence which they warned could be reversed if implementation of all the wonderful things promised starts to lag. In particular, the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Julius Malema, said his party will be watching the President and will hold him accountable if he fails to keep his promises and implement his policies. According to Malema, the major expectation for the EFF was that ex-president Zuma now be tried and punished for his crimes.

President Ramaphosa’s speech was a masterpiece for canvassing for votes. The confidence in state institutions that this speech has brought back to country is a plus for his party, the African National Congress (ANC), that has been struggling in recent years due to former President Jacob Zuma’s mistakes. Not only the promises Ramaphosa made to the black population but the promise of fair opportunities for all, might lead to the return of those ANC voters who had left the party due to Zuma’s errors.

While South Africans look on, teeming with hope, the rest of Africa is left in the cold. At a time when the continent is in dire need of a leader or hegemon that can help bring about security and stability, President Ramaphosa’s speech seemed almost completely oblivious of South Africa’s presence on the African continent. He has indeed created confidence in foreign investors about coming to South Africa, to the extent that the South African Rand made gains in international markets even while he was still speaking, but it is glaring that he declined to mention South Africa reaching out to the rest of Africa. South Africa’s internal problems are clearly the ONLY priority for Cyril Ramaphosa. Charity begins at home.

How Italian elections reveal the flaws in European democracy

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 12:08

“Perhaps only a war can wake our country from slumber and give direction to our politics.” Most people would be surprised to hear a young progressive utter these words in a cafe in Rome. But I have heard them more than once. And only a few weeks before the national elections on March 4, the question…


At the ‘Frack It Up’ Rally Taking Aim at NY Governor Cuomo

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 13:33
Pramilla Malick

Pramilla Malick is a regular Minisink mom, and the Democratic nominee for NYS Senate in the 42nd district of New York. She said at the event’s start:

“Valentine’s Day is an appropriate day for us to send a message to Gov Cuomo and to other elected officials that it’s time to Break Up with Fossil Fuels. Break Up with their lobbyists, break up with their donation money. IT’S TIME TO LOVE NEW YORK, LOVE OUR AIR LOVE OUR WATER AND PUT PEOPLE FIRST”.

Demonstrators at this event were protesting the latest allegations of the corruption of Joseph Percoco, one of the two of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s closest aids, who used ‘ziti’ as a codeword for payoffs tied to Cuomo’s upstate nefarious dealings. Percoco is a long-time friend to the Cuomo family who was considered a “third son” to Andrew Cuomo’s father Mario Cuomo, former Governor of New York state from 1983 to 1994. Percoco has been accused publicly of “taking $315k in bribes by robbing a Maryland-based energy company and a Syracuse development firm in pay-to-play schemes”.

From the event’s Facebook page, titled “LOVE NY DON’T FRACK IT UP! CUOMO MUST BREAK UP WITH LOBBYISTS“.

Right now one of the biggest corruption trials in NY’s history is underway involving Cuomo’s closest former aide and an executive from CPV, a company that bought influence at the highest levels of government to build the CPV Valley fracked-gas power plant in Orange County. This plant will lock NYC into fracked gas dependency for the NEXT 40 YEARS!! We know what this means for the climate and for communities from the fracking fields in PA to the power plant. in NY. Absolute catastrophe! This plant alone will support 150 fracking wells per year and increase the state’s greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector by 10%. Built on bribes and lies why has Cuomo not yet shut it down?? And even worse, just as this trial began the power plant fired up sickening residents as far as ten miles away.

This story is being covered extensively by major media but no one is reporting on the victims of these alleged crimes. Please use social media or write LTEs to tell the media to cover the victims!! 

A hundred or so demonstrators came out yesterday to tell Gov Cuomo to ‘Break up with Big Fossil Fuel’ companies. Many came from Orange County, New York to protest the CPV power plant being built in their area. Celebrity actor James Cromwell (far right) standing with the crowd. Cromwell has been involved in many demonstrations and has been arrested and served a couple of days in jail. In the photo he is waiting for his turn to speak.

Running against Governor Cuomo in the next election is Terry Gibson, a former NY state Senator from the Hudson Valley. He stopped by to tell the crowd, “I intend to primary Governor Cuomo as a ‘justice Democrat’ to help the people of New York. Today I’m here to say, We don’t need a court trial to tell us what we already know about hydraulic fracturing. We’ve known for a long time that it’s a toxic process. It’s toxic to our families, it’s toxic to our water supplies, to our food supply, to our state and planet”. Scott Martan lives in Orange County, NY with his wife Melissa and their two sons, one which they brought today, Isaac. Scott spoke at the event and said, “This is about everybody, it’s not just about us in Orange County. We are ground zero for the destruction right now but, if we don’t stop this now, we’re all going to be the victims.” Scott read a quote from Governor Cuomo, ‘Too often governments respond to the whispers of the lobbyists before the cries of the people, and that’s what they’re doing out here”. Melissa Marten of Orange County holding one of her young sons, Isaac, speaking about not knowing anything about the CPV power plant until last year at this time. When it was constructed – that’s how the community found out. “It was kept from us, there was no notification, no public announcement. We contacted everyone to help us and everybody passed the buck. We have 40 years, they’re telling us, 40 years of VOC’s (volatile organic compounds), a particulate matter. Everyday, all day that we have to breathe. My sons will be older than I am now before this place runs its course.” From an organization, Beyond Extreme Energy, Ted Glick also spoke: “I just want to talk about one thing, gas is not clean. Gas is a dirty fossil fuel. It pollutes our air. It is worse than coal when is comes to climate change”. Laura Schindel of Food and Water Watch, an organization which has led the fight against fracking, started out with a chant, “Cuomo and fossil fuels sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G, first come bribes then comes permits then CPV and we all get polluted”. Tina Bonger from Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (SAPE) who lives a quarter mile from the Indian Point Power Plant and the AIM pipeline due to be shut down. She said, “They say all politics is local. The power from Indian Point is not needed and neither is power from CPV and Cricket Valley. You can see that, that’s on record, go to the town of Portland website. You can see these independent grid experts testify to the fact that we don’t need this energy AND THE REASON WE DON’T NEED THIS ENERGY IS BECAUSE OF RENEWABLES, OF GREEN HABITS AND STANDARDS”. New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams spoke about how corruption is normal in Albany.

“This is the Valentine’s Day card that will be delivered to Governor Cuomo showing a picture of NY state’s famed black dirt region. It’s a world famous mineral rich formation in Orange County and the power plant will completely contaminate this rare soil,” Pramilla Malick stated. Artist and activist Kim Fraczek spoke about the upcoming action in Albany on April 23rd named “Storm the Castle, Halt NY InFRACKstructure”. See the ‘Stop NY Infrackstructure‘ website. Actor James Cromwell

And then actor James Cromwell spoke briefly but powerfully stating:

“We don’t have a ban a fracking, we have a moratorium. It doesn’t have the power of law behind it, it only has the whim of this Governor and the whim of the next governor. If we want to make a change in this state we have to make sure the next Governor is a Progressive who understands the danger of fossil fuel and these kinds of power plants. There is corruption in Washington, there is corruption in Albany, there is corruption in this city. The only way we’re going to do it is vote for those people who don’t accept money from pacs, from large corporations and from dark money. YOU CAN PROTEST ALL YOU WANT, YOU CAN EVEN GO TO JAIL, IT DOESN’T STOP ANYTHING”.

For my video of James Cromwell’s powerful talk see here:

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Actor James Cromwell Actor – Activist speaking briefly yet, powerfully at yesterday's Don't Frack NY event at 40 Foley Square

Posted by Cat Watters on Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The livestream of the entire event I recorded can be seen here:

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Love NY Don't Frack at 40 Foley Sq

Posted by Cat Watters on Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Why African audiences celebrate Black Panther movie release

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 12:03

The release this week of Marvel Studios’ latest superhero outing, “Black Panther”, has triggered the enthusiasm of African movie fans and a sense of pride that Hollywood has finally plugged a gap. With an almost entirely black cast and a young African-American director, Ryan Coogler, the film has already won rave reviews for its stereotype-busting portrayal…


Behind Ethiopian PM’s exit are signs of democratic pressures

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 11:22

Some describe it as a “transformational moment”; others the result of an “unprecedented” wave of protests. But whatever it is labelled, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s surprise resignation is setting the stage for a crucial succession race that is likely to shape the future course of a country rocked by violent unrest and political instability. Hailemariam,…


Cambodia Passes Law Outlawing Government Criticism

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 11:19

Cambodians will now be constitutionally obligated to “defend the motherland” and forbidden from insulting the king under a number of new legislative changes that observers say suggest a prolonged assault on civil liberties in the country. A new lèse-majesté law similar to one in Thailand that observers say has been blatantly and systematically misused to silence…


6 Turkish journalists sentenced to life in prison over coup

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 10:49

A Turkish court has sentenced six journalists to life in prison in relation to a failed coup attempt in 2016, state media reported. The six journalists were sentenced to aggravated life sentences for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order”, an unnamed judicial source told Anadolu news agency on Friday. Turkey has accused the journalists of having…


It’s getting harder to prosecute politicians for corruption

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 10:33

By Peter J. Henning, Professor of Law, Wayne State University. The Supreme Court overturned the corruption conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell AP/Andrew Harnik The high-profile corruption case against New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez was recently dropped by federal prosecutors after a five-year investigation into gifts and campaign contributions given to the senator by a…


State Houses Still More Than 100 Years From Gender Parity

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 10:27

The true “Year of the Woman”—when women in state politics will finally hold as many legislative seats as men—won’t be coming anytime soon. Or, for that matter, anytime this century. It might be on track for 2150. It may seem counterintuitive: Last month, the 11 women who were sworn in to the Virginia House of Delegates…