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Myanmar Democracy Activists Break Ranks With NLD Party

Fri, 06/29/2018 - 14:24


Driven by disappointment with Aung San Suu Kyi’s record in government, veteran activists in Myanmar are launching a new party, as youth consider new vehicles for change in an environment still dominated by the military. Divergent views on the Rohingya crisis, however, have frustrated key alliances.

Myanmar’s pro-democracy activists once were united around Aung San Suu Kyi in her struggle against military rule. Ethnic minority groups placed hope in her ability to bring peace to regions decimated by decades of civil war. Her National League for Democracy’s (NLD) landslide win in the 2015 election sparked optimism across a divided nation.

Since then, the NLD government’s poor record on civil liberties — retaining laws that restrict free speech and the right to protest — its treatment of civil society, and its approach to ethnic minority grievances have alienated influential backers in ways that arebeginning to alter Myanmar’s political landscape.

Winds of change

Ko Ko Gyi, a former Aung San Suu Kyi ally and student leader in the 1988 uprising against military rule that gave rise to the NLD, has for the last year been establishing a new political party with the hope of attracting democrats dissatisfied with the NLD.

Under Myanmar’s military junta, the 56-year-old activist spent more than 17 years in jail, including for his involvement in a demonstration to mark Aung San Suu Kyi’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. Yet, despite his wish to run as an NLD candidate in the 2015 election, the party declined to nominate him.

His Four Eights People’s Party, named in reference to the “8888” general strike on August 8 during the 1988 uprising, is now in a standoff with the electoral commission after the group’s application to register as a party drew more than 200 complaints, purportedly from members of the public upset at the appropriation of a national movement.

The commission sent an email to Ko Ko Gyi on June 14 that gave the party a month to change its name, flag and logo to omit reference to “8888,” warning the application would be canceled if they failed to do so. The email, seen by VOA, cited the by-law that outlines the application and objections process, but did not state under what grounds the complaints were accepted.

The electoral commission, whose head was appointed by Aung San Suu Kyi, did not respond to a request from VOA to clarify the legal basis of their ultimatum to the party. Ko Ko Gyi told VOA the law was on his side and his group would not back down on its chosen name.

“We became a minority”

Ko Ko Gyi highlighted Aung San Suu Kyi’s failure to make meaningful progress in the now seven-year-old peace process with an array of ethnic armed groups.

“The peace process is running on one leg,” he said, through an excessive focus on armed leaders and a failure to “empower ethnic civil society.”

He said his primary strategy was to build alliances with ethnic parties in Myanmar’s conflict-riven borderlands on a platform of “equality” and “federalism.” Most of these parties lost heavily to the NLD in 2015 but stand to gain from disillusionment of minority groups with Aung San Suu Kyi’s failure to condemn fresh Myanmar army offences.

Ko Ko Gyi’s attempt to build a broad coalition faltered, though, when several prominent youth leaders left the nascent party late last year because of differences over the Rakhine State crisis, which spiraled in August after an army crackdown on Rohingya militants sent close to 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing into neighboring Bangladesh.

Moe Thway, 38, who co-founded the pro-democracy youth group Generation Wave in 2007, and Thet Swe Win, 32, an interfaith activist, told VOA they left the party’s organizing committee because their own sympathy toward Rohingya claims for citizenship could not be reconciled with Ko Ko Gyi’s antagonistic view.

Ko Ko Gyi confirmed that that is why they and several other members left, but he declined to discuss his own views on the Rakhine State crisis.

Prominent youth activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi, 26, said she chose not to join the party for similar reasons, citing a generational divide in attitudes.

“We were raised in a more open society, more exposed to the world than the previous generation,” she explained.

Thet Swe Win said many young people in Myanmar also adopt a nationalist line that casts the Rohingya as dangerous illegal migrants.

“We became a minority,” he said of himself and the few other, mostly young, activists who dare to speak up for them.

Thinzar Shunlei Yi said the Rakhine crisis has been “a test of who is a real human rights defender and who is not. It was shocking for us. It felt like our work wasn’t paying off.”

Moe Thway said he and fellow youth activists are now strategizing about how to strike out in a more independent direction. And they are debating whether or not to found a new party.

“If the NLD welcomed all democratic forces, we wouldn’t have to form new parties. But they closed all the doors,” said Thet Swe Win.

The youth leaders acknowledged that Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD remain broadly popular in Myanmar, and that criticizing the current government exposes them to public reproach.

How Mass Incarceration Damages Democracy

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 15:05

From nonprofit Common Cause:

Today, Common Cause issued a new report examining how corrections industry influence, felony disenfranchisement and prison gerrymandering fuel mass incarceration and undermine democracy. Democracy Behind Bars looks at our broken criminal justice system and how it is manipulated for the benefit and profit of the prison industry. The report goes on to examine the work going on in the states to restore voting rights to citizens who have served their time and to curb mass criminalization and incarceration.

“Americans expect and deserve a true participatory democracy, but millions of citizens have found themselves stripped of their right to vote even after they have served their sentences,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause President. “Mass criminalization and incarceration, and those who profit from it, continue to undermine our democracy. But at the state level, voters and legislators are taking the initiative and moving to reform the system and repair the damage it has done to our democracy.”

As the report emphasizes, the American criminal justice system “is influenced by many of the same political forces that distort and corrupt other areas of government policy and action: the influence of special interest money in elections and lobbying of our elected officials, partisan disputes over voting rights and redistricting, abuses of power, and ethical breaches.”

“Mass incarceration has risen to levels that break our democracy,” said Aleks Kajstura, Legal Director, Prison Policy Initiative. “The report rightly highlights issues such as prison gerrymandering – the practice of counting incarcerated people at the location of the prison rather than at home for redistricting. This means that representation is granted based on the size of the prisons rather than the number of actual residents. Through prison gerrymandering, mass incarceration creates pervasive vote dilution that extends to cover most Americans.”

“With the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world, the mass criminalization of our citizens is a defining issue of our time,” said Keshia Morris, Common Cause Census & Mass Incarceration Project Manager. “One in thirty-five adults in this country have been under correctional supervision, but that number swells exponentially in our nation’s poorest regions and neighborhoods. Prison industry influence, felony disenfranchisement and prison gerrymandering are part of how we got here.”

One in thirty-five adults in this country have been under correctional supervision, prison industry influence, felony disenfranchisement and prison gerrymandering are part of how we got here.

Democracy Behind Bars examines a variety of factors that contribute to including:

  • Felony Disenfranchisement
  • Prison Gerrymandering
  • Corrections Industry Money in Politics
  • Incentives for Over-Policing
  • The Opportunities for Influence-Buying in Prosecutorial & Judicial Elections
  • The Adverse Impacts of Industry Influence on the Prison Population

The report release featured a panel of advocates and experts including Marc Howard, director of the Prisons and Justice Initiative at Georgetown University, Aleks Kajstura of the Prison Policy Initiative, Nicole Porter of The Sentencing Project and Davon Woodley, who has devoted his life since his release from prison to helping former incarcerated persons readjust to society. The event will be livestreamed on the Common Cause Facebook page at 10 a.m. today and a recording will be available after.

The report was written by Joe Maschman, Common Cause Legal Fellow, with editing and other assistance from Keshia Morris, Census & Mass Incarceration Project Manager; Paul S. Ryan, Vice President for Policy and Litigation, and Dale Eisman, Senior Writer/Editor. Research assistance was provided by Common Cause interns Alex Brown, Sam Genova, Raulston Tiger Li, Nadja Linke, and Lily Oberstein. Kerstin Diehn was responsible for layout and design, Jack Mumby, Common Cause’s deputy digital director, for website development and Kenneth Campell for video support.

To view the full report, click here.

New Ban on Covert Foreign Interference in Australian Politics

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 14:56


Australia’s Parliament passed sweeping national security legislation on Thursday that bans covert foreign interference in domestic politics, makes industrial espionage for a foreign power a crime and offends the nation’s most important trading partner, China.

The two bills covering foreign interference, espionage and influence transparency have been criticized as criminalizing dissent. The Senate made them law with the support of the center-left Labor Party opposition on the last day of Parliament before mid-August.

The conservative government says the legislation, first proposed in December, is the major cause of a rift in diplomatic relations with China. But the government maintains it is not aimed at any particular country.

Foreign interference in the latest U.S. and French presidential elections plus the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom have been cited as justifications for the reforms.

Individuals lobbying for foreign governments will have to be listed on a public register in a step toward making foreign influence on Australian politics more transparent.

Attorney General Christian Porter said Australia’s national security has been substantially enhanced by the new protections against agents who could undermine Australia’s democratic institutions and processes.

“We have heard time and time again from our most senior national security leaders that we live in a time of unprecedented foreign intelligence activity against Australia with more foreign agents, from more foreign powers, using more tradecraft to engage in espionage and foreign interference than at any time since the Cold War,” Porter said in a statement.

“This sends a strong message to those who would seek to undermine our way of life that Australia is acutely aware of activities against our national security and will continue to take the steps necessary to thwart their activities,” he added.

The law includes 38 new crimes and broadens the definitions of existing crimes. The new crimes include stealing trade secrets on behalf of foreign government, which is punishable by 15 years in prison.

A person who engages in covert or deceptive activity to influence political or governmental process, such as organizing a rally, without revealing he or she was operating on behalf of a foreign government could be guilty of a range of foreign interference crimes with maximum penalties ranging from 10 to 20 years in prison.

Both bills were substantially amended in recent weeks on the advice of a parliamentary committee that scrutinized them, narrowing their focus and reach and increasing the number of organizations that are exempt.

Charities that accept foreign funding but not foreign government direction are exempt, the Catholic Church will not have to register as an agent of the Vatican, and the media have legal protections in reporting leaked national security information.

The minor Greens party opposed the bills, arguing they curtail press freedom, the right to protest and the work of non-government organizations.

“This is a sad day for Australia. We’ve taken giant steps today down a dangerous path for our country,” Greens Sen. Nick McKim told Parliament.

Australian media have reported that the bills were the result of a classified government report commissioned by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2016 that found that the Chinese Communist Party had tried to influence Australian policy, compromise political parties and gain access to all levels of government for a decade. The government won’t comment on the media reports.

China protested Turnbull’s announcement of the foreign interference ban.

The Chinese foreign ministry said in December that Turnbull’s remarks were prejudiced against China and had poisoned the atmosphere of China-Australia relations.

A related bill announced in December to ban foreign political donations, of which China has been the largest source, is still being drafted. Labor has voluntarily refused to accept foreign donations.

Reviewing the Players Set to Influence Zimbabwe’s elections

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 14:47

The first round of the presidential election, to include parliamentary and local government elections, will be held on 30 July. If there is no presidential candidate that is able attain 50 percent plus one vote, the second round is planned for 8 September 2018. This article tries to examine some of the internal or external factors that may affect the outcome.

Elections unknowns

The real challenge is between ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) whose candidate is incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance; a grouping of seven political parties. The biggest unknown is how many of the other 21 candidates will split votes in the first round. Pan-African research organization, Afrobarometer, recently projected ZANU-PF support at 42 percent of the votes against MDC alliance’s 31 percent. This effectively means that there would be 27 percent of votes that may go to the other candidates. If Afrobarometer’s prediction is to come true, the presidential election will be heading for a second round.

External partners that may influence elections

SADC: The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), the regional grouping of 16 nations, including Zimbabwe, can exert great influence. It is the first port of call in endorsing the outcome of the elections before other international partners can generally accept the outcome.

African Union (AU): The African Continent grouping of 53 nations (excluding Morocco which recently applied for re-admission) has much more weight when it comes to endorsement of the outcome of the elections results. SADC observers’ mission through member states will generally end up speaking through the AU and its final determination as a gathering of African states is recognized internationally.

Britain: It will exert a lot of influence considering that it is the former colonizer and is keen on re-engagement with Zimbabwe as its involvement has been stalled for the past 18 years because of the accelerated land reform program initiated by ZANU-PF. The central issue of the quarrel is around who should compensate the whites whose land was taken for resettlement of indigenous people. Britain’s Margaret Thatcher had agreed to honor the Lancaster House agreement that brought independence to Zimbabwe where a verbal agreement was made by Britain and United States to compensate white farmers for land taken by government for re-settlement.

When Tony Blair labor government came into power in the late 90’s, Britain reneged on the agreement made with the previous government. Zimbabwe’s government insists that it will only compensate on improvements made on the farms and not for the land which it argues was forcibly taken from their forefathers by the British settlers led by Cecil Rhodes. This bilateral disagreement with Britain resulted in gross human rights violations exacerbated the ZANU-PF instigated farm invasions and eventual turbulent election cycles.

The United States led the international community by enacting the Zimbabwe Economic Recovery and Democracy Act (ZIDERA) that has produced a host of sanctions that include making it an offense for American companies to do business with Zimbabwe and travel restrictions for senior ZANU-PF officials. The European Union also imposed similar measures although there has been a relaxation of the terms in recent years. For the first time in 16 years the EU and United States based National Democratic Institute (NDI) and International Republican Institute (IRI) will be observing the 30 July harmonized elections with the EU already having deployed 44 long term observers.

Individual bordering countries

Neighboring countries are observing the upcoming harmonized elections and in particular the presidential election with keen interest. Zimbabwe has an unofficial estimate of 3 million citizens in South Africa and more in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Mozambique among other countries.

South Africa mediated during the 2008 harmonized elections that left over 200 mainly opposition supporters dead and thousands more scurried for cover internally or in neighboring countries. The mediation resulted in a Government of National Unity (GNU) that was in place 2009-2013. ZANU-PF was led by former president Robert Mugabe whilst MDC-T was led by the late Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.  It is felt that the stability of Southern African cannot be accomplished without free, fair and credible elections in Zimbabwe.

The international community

The international community like both SADC and AU are primarily concerned with free, fair and credible elections. If Zimbabwe undergoes a similar crisis as was witnessed in the 2008 disputed presidential elections, this could result in unwelcome repercussions for the whole region and Africa as a whole. Therefore Zimbabwe has an obligation to ensure that they conduct harmonized elections that are seen by local and international observers as free, free and credible.

In conclusion, it is interesting to note that the Zimbabwean general elections are being fought on bread and butter issues, notably: job creation, infrastructure development, revamping the education and health delivery sectors and the promise of fighting the scourge of corruption that Transparency International Zimbabwe in 2016 noted is fleecing the government of up to US $1 billion annually. What holds true at the moment is that whichever party wins, there is a long and winding road ahead in rebuilding the country which has been stagnant since the early 2000’s.

Hey America: Love is the Answer!

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 13:45
John Lennon – link

The annihilation of the world is the rational result of irrational people. Very often, we hire psychopaths to be the boss, foreman and administrators. Why does the alpha male usually get the job or the psychopath eventually rise to the top? In the business and banking communities, alpha males and psychopaths are in charge while the rational level headed people are stuck picking up the pieces or are assassinated (John Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X).

What’s wrong with promoting the hard working, intelligent person with ethics? Wouldn’t their good virtues encourage and motivate everyone around them? I’m not saying that I have all the answers but too many times I see people with an underdeveloped skill set promoted to places of power, because of their violent demeanor, that’s all they know.

The fool and the ignorant have only intimidation and violence as tools. They get into high positions that should require knowledge and conviction. Do not throw out the proverb that you catch more bees with honey.

Is this why Trump chose Exxon Mobil’s Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State over Senator Bob Corker? And please don’t say it’s because of his rumored stature. This eventually led to the appointment of the Tea Party’s Mike Pompeo who has led the State Department into threats and bellicose rhetoric on Iran.

Yeah, we like to promote jerks and esteem men of low moral content. Individuals such as George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Dick Cheney with a capital D, Donald Rumsfeld and the boldest of them all: Donald Trump. Most of these people received draft deferments but, as true chicken hawks, can think only about war. That’s why I stop in reverence and pause every time I hear the sage peace activist and martyr John Lennon sing the phrase “Love is the Answer”!

We like to promote jerks and esteem men of low moral content. Most of them received draft deferments but, as true chicken hawks, can think only about war. That’s why I stop in reverence every time I hear the martyr John Lennon sing: “Love is the Answer”!

Saudi Women Human Rights Defenders Still Imprisoned

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 13:11

From a press release by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, a United Nations agency that works to “promote and protect the human rights that are guaranteed under international law”:

UN human rights experts are urging Saudi Arabia to immediately release a number of women’s human rights defenders arrested in a nationwide crackdown by the authorities, as the country celebrates the official lifting of the ban on women driving on Sunday.

“In stark contrast with this celebrated moment of liberation for Saudi women, women’s human rights defenders have been arrested and detained on a wide scale across the country, which is truly worrying and perhaps a better indication of the Government’s approach to women’s human rights. We call for the urgent release of all of those detained while pursuing their legitimate activities in the promotion and protection of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia,” the experts said in a joint statement.

“Women human rights defenders face compounded stigma, not only because of their work as human rights defenders, but also because of discrimination on gender grounds,” they added.

The crackdown began on 15 May 2018 with a spate of arrests of prominent women’s human rights defenders. Over the following three weeks, some 12 other human rights defenders, including both women and men, were also arrested. The majority of them have been specifically advocating for women’s human rights and for the lifting of the driving ban. Reports indicate that a number of those arrested face extremely serious charges, raising fears that each could face up to 20 years in prison.

Although exact charges have not been confirmed, reports have stated that some of the defenders stand accused of engaging in suspicious communications with foreign entities working to undermine Saudi national security, and of trespassing against the country’s religious and national foundations.

Among those arrested is Mohammed Saleh Al-Bajadi, a co-founder of the now-banned Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), who was reportedly forcibly disappeared from his home on 24 May 2018. There are also concerns over at least one woman human rights defender who is being held incommunicado.

“Saudi Arabia has won acclaim for its modernization under Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, including the ending of the ban on women driving, but these arrests portray a contradictory stance in policy regarding women’s rights,” the experts said.

Though four of those arrested have been released, the majority remain in detention. It is believed that some cases have now been transferred to the Special Criminal Court.

“We reiterate our long-time concern over others detained in Saudi Arabia on the basis of their activism and the exercise of their right to freedom of expression as well as their right to freedom of association, including Raef Badawi,” the experts said.

“We urge the Saudi Government to show a true commitment to improve its human rights record by taking a more progressive stance, especially with regards to women’s rights. The first step in demonstrating such commitment is to free the human rights defenders who remain in prison solely as a result of working to advance the enjoyment of rights for all,” the experts concluded.

The experts have been in contact with the Government of Saudi Arabia regarding the issues highlighted.


* The UN experts: Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. Seong-Phil Hong, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expressionMs. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorismMr. Bernard Duhaime, Chair of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary DisappearancesMr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voulé, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of associationMr. Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rightsMs. Ivana Radačić, Chair of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice.; Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Unified Congolese Opposition Coalition Looking More Likely

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 16:23


Congolese opposition leader Moise Katumbi said on Monday he was in favor of a coalition that could include another opposition figure, Jean-Pierre Bemba, who is expected back in the country soon after his war crimes convictions were quashed on appeal.

Katumbi, Bemba, and Felix Tshisekedi, leader of Democratic Republic of Congo’s largest opposition party, are the main likely opposition contenders in a December presidential vote to choose a successor to President Joseph Kabila.

Bemba, a popular former rebel leader and vice president, left Congo in 2007 and has spent the last 10 years in prison in The Hague. But he is expected back in Congo in July and could participate in the vote.

Katumbi said he had visited Bemba several times during his 10-year detention to show support.

“I am in favor of a union of all opposition parties, including with Bemba, who is a major actor. Unity is strength,” Katumbi said, during a question-and-answer session on Twitter.

Katumbi added that he was also on good terms with Tshisekedi and they all had the same objective, ending Kabila’s rule.

It remains unclear whether the three opposition figures can agree on a single candidate for the presidency.

Kabila has not yet ruled out trying to circumvent term limits to stand again, keeping the country in suspense ahead of what could be its first democratic transition of power.

If he decides not to seek another mandate, Kabila could anoint a ruling party successor who could benefit from the party’s machinery and deep coffers.

Katumbi, who is currently in Europe, said he planned to return to Kinshasa between July 24 and Aug. 8 to register for the vote.

The millionaire businessman and former governor of Congo’s copper-producing Katanga province, said a decision by authorities to cancel his Congolese passport, and questions over his nationality, were government maneuvers aimed at stopping him from participating in the vote.

“Rest assured, I’m Congolese and I’ll be a candidate. I’ll campaign in the country, it is my right. Fear nothing,” Katumbi said, responding to questions on Twitter.

Tehran Merchants Join New Round of Iranian Economic Protests

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 13:36


Iranian merchants in the capital’s Grand Bazaar held a rare protest Monday against the plummeting value of Iran’s currency, the rial, as other demonstrators also took to the streets.

Most shop owners closed their stores Monday in Tehran’s main bazaar as thousands of people gathered in the streets. Video posted to social media showed protesters heckling those shopkeepers who refused to close their stores, shouting “cowards.”

Demonstrators later gathered in front of parliament, about 2 kilometers from the Grand Bazaar, leading to a confrontation with police in which authorities fired tear gas at the protesters.

Iran’s semi-official news agencies described the protests at the Grand Bazaar as erupting due to the fall of the Iranian rial.

Iran’s currency has plunged almost 50 percent in value in the past six months, with the U.S. dollar now buying around 90,000 rials on the black market, despite government attempts to control the currency rate.

Earlier this year, Iran’s government set an exchange rate of 42,000 rials to $1, but this action only generated a vibrant black market.

Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi said Grand Bazaar merchants returned to work Monday after the government promised to help them access hard currency for their imports.

Iran’s government has been struggling with a range of economic problems, including high unemployment and growing fears about the impact of the reinstatement of U.S. sanctions after U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the nuclear deal with Iran.

Similar economic protests roiled Iran this past December and January, spreading to around 75 cities and towns. However, those protests largely were focused in Iran’s provinces as opposed to Tehran itself.

Administrators’ Strike Threatens July Mali Presidential Election

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 13:33


Mali local government administrators at the front line of organizing next month’s presidential election launched a seven-day strike Monday demanding more security and allowances, two unions representing them said.

The administrators, who hold the rank of prefects or sub-prefects, are the government’s representatives at the local level. They are in charge of organizing the July 29 vote, and said the strike will last until at least July 1, after talks with the government collapsed over the weekend.

“We are concerned about our safety and working conditions. We have requested benefits in accordance with regulations, but we have not been listened to,” said Olivier Traore, secretary general of one of the unions.

The strike comes against a backdrop of growing security concerns and instability ahead of the election, and could impact the organization of the vote. France told Mali’s government on Tuesday to react strongly after at least 16 Fulani herders were killed in the latest suspected ethnic clash.

The unions are also asking for increased security protection for members’ offices and homes.

Ousmane Christian Diarra, a senior official of another union, said 54 prefects and their deputies, and 285 sub-prefects had walked out Monday and the strike was followed by nearly 100 percent of administrators across Mali.

“If at the end of the seven days we are not satisfied, as we said in the notice, the strike will be renewed automatically and will be unlimited until full satisfaction of our demands,” Diarra said.

He added that the strike could impact the schedule of election preparation, including the distribution of voter cards, which is carried out by the administrators. It will also paralyze the central administration.

Distribution of the cards started on June 20 and was expected to run until July 27.

Mali has been in turmoil since Tuareg rebels and loosely allied Islamists took over its north in 2012, prompting French forces to intervene to push them back the following year. Those groups have since regained a foothold in the north and center.

Will Europe Punish Hungary’s Orban for Democratic Slide?

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 13:22


Some European lawmakers urged the EU on Monday to consider stripping Hungary of its voting rights to punish it for weakening democracy and the rule of law, a move which prompted a swift rebuke from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties committee (LIBE) voted in favor of triggering a formal punitive procedure, citing concerns about the independence of the judiciary, freedom of expression, the rights of minorities, and treatment of migrants and refugees in Hungary.

The European Parliament as a whole is expected to endorse the proposal in September but it is unlikely to lead to any swift action against Hungary as that would require all other EU states to back the idea.

But the LIBE move highlighted a widening rift between the liberal EU founders and Hungary – part of a grouping of newer, eastern member states which are now run by nationalist eurosceptics and have resisted an EU push to host asylum seekers.

Orban dismissed the committee’s vote as an attempt to pressure Hungary to change its policies on migration, state news agency MTI reported.

“But, given that Hungarian voters have already made their decision about this issue, there is nothing to discuss,” he said, according to MTI.

Orban’s Fidesz party won by a landslide in elections last April, partly on a wave of support for his hardline migration policies, including a refusal to take in anyone from the new arrivals from the Middle East and North Africa.

During his eight years in power, Orban has increasingly put pressure on courts, media and non-government groups. Though the EU has often protested, it has largely failed to stop him in what his critics denounce as a growing authoritarian drive.

Orban’s other nationalist, eurosceptic ally Poland would most likely shield Budapest from any sanctions even if the Article 7 punitive procedure was launched against Hungary.

Orban has made clear he would block any such move against Warsaw, which has been at odds with the bloc for more than two years over its own judicial reforms that critics say weaken courts and the rule of law in the largest ex-communist EU state.

Twenty-eight EU ministers will discuss their concerns about Poland again on Tuesday at a session in Luxembourg.

EU leaders are preparing to discuss immigration policy in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, seeking to heal a deep division in a bloc already badly shaken by Brexit.

Worrying Rise in Persecution of Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses

Mon, 06/25/2018 - 10:00


Advisers to President Vladimir Putin have questioned the legality of a slew of criminal cases opened against members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and asked the General Prosecutor’s office to protect the group’s freedom of belief.

Russia’s Supreme Court ruled in April last year that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were an “extremist” organisation and must disband, a move the group unsuccessfully appealed.

Since then, at least 19 members have been detained on criminal charges in Russia with one, Danish citizen Dennis Christensen, now held for more than a year and put on trial for extremism.

The Russian Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, which advises Putin but does not have policy-making powers itself, said it believed law enforcement agencies were flouting the constitution and misinterpreting last year’s ruling by locking people up for collective bible reading and praying.

“It cannot but be a cause for concern because the criminal prosecutions and detentions have taken on a systemic character,” the council said in a statement which the Jehovah’s Witnesses publicized on Thursday.

“The situation evokes associations with the Soviet period when Jehovah’s Witnesses suffered groundless repression because of their faith.”

The fact that the council has intervened on the group’s behalf does not necessarily mean that Putin will take up their cause though the subject is likely to be raised at the council’s next meeting with the Russian leader.

‘Glimmer of optimism’

The Jehovah’s Witnesses, a United States-based Christian denomination known for its door-to-door preaching and rejection of military service and blood transfusions, has around 170,000 followers in Russia.

The U.S. State Department on Monday said it was deeply concerned by what it described as the growing number of religious prisoners held in Russia, saying that people were being persecuted “in retaliation for peaceful religious practice.”

And on Tuesday, more than 60 well-known Russian writers, historians and rights activists signed an appeal demanding the authorities stop prosecuting the group, describing the legal onslaught on its members as a test for Russian society.

Yaroslav Sivulskiy, a member of the European Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses, said on Thursday the council’s intervention had given his group “a glimmer of optimism.”

“We hope that common sense will prevail and that someone wise … will say that this has all gone too far,” he said. “If the authorities can do this to us they can apply the same logic to do the same to anyone in Russia.”

The Making of a Fascist Empire

Sun, 06/24/2018 - 21:30

I believe the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the beginning of the end for the United States of America even though President Johnson signed into law many ideals of his deceased predecessor during Johnson’s push for “The Great Society”. With Vice President Johnson waiting in the wings, a coup d’etat had taken place. I’m one of those old conspiracy theorists that believes this to be true.

I believe President Jimmy Carter suffered the same political fate as JFK, because of George H. W. Bush. Bush made a deal with an Iranian cleric Mehdi Karrubi, Speaker of the Parliament, through William Casey to keep the hostages until after the Presidential election. Campaign manager William Casey became CIA Director as H.W. Bush became Vice President and Reagan became President. William Casey died seven years later of a brain tumor the day before he was to testify before the Senate about the Iran contra scandal.

Since then I cannot, but think about what the Israelites went through on Masada after the crucifixion of Christ. Israel went through the awful destruction of Masada because of the uprising of zealots and Titus of Rome squelched the insurrection and razed Masada to the ground. What are we going to go through for the Southern Republican Uprising?

The Republican base was largely Democrat before we lost the South due to the Civil Rights Era’s activism and the resulting legislation of the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations. Many a Republican Presidents have since used racist code and tax breaks to the rich to rile up the southern base into a frenzy against minorities and common sense.

Since then Reaganomics brought about the moral and economic decay of our country, even if it has been shrouded in a cloak of religious piety. We keep making excuses for bad behavior because of culture, religious ties and creepy relational mores.

Many southern states went on bidding wars “Corporate Tax Breaks”’ to capture corporate offices and facilities relocating and the northern states following too late. There was a boom in the south and places like Atlanta cleaned up, so did Texas. The north then started to feel the curse of Wall Street and the South celebrated its new found fortune. The biggest losers have been the Rust Belt Cities, state and local governments, pension programs and especially the working class and minorities.

The Presidency of Bill Clinton and the signing of the NAFTA agreement that was drafted by H. W. Bush and birthed in the first campaign of Ronald Reagan, brought the South along with the rest of the country to the ground, especially if you worked in a factory or were outsourced.

The creed of Reaganomics is greed is good. Just tell that to the child that doesn’t see his parents anymore because of a two job work load or is going to bed hungry. Is this the so-called “Promised Land”? Now that the South is experiencing “Paradise Lost” and they have a mad man as their messiah who holds nothing sacred but violence and placating the business community, our future is as uncertain as the people who voted for him.

The Best Of My African Democracy Memes

Sun, 06/24/2018 - 21:11

As Democracy Chronicles Founder and Editor-in-Chief I have made almost 1,000 political memes of one kind or another. Collections of different sorts can be found on Flickr including Adrian’s Favorite Memes, the Democracy Flag Series and Democracy Quote Memes. Today I am proud to announce a new collection I have put together to highlight some of my favorite artistic creations that highlight the struggle for democracy in Africa. This African Democracy Memes collection is aimed to fill a void in African democracy promotion.

The Democracy Chronicles main locally-hosted collection of my political memes can be found at “Political Memes Featuring Original Pro-Democracy Art“. But for a full (and unedited) collection you need to visit Democracy Chronicles Flickr. These totally original and unique political cartoons were made with Photoshop and all images were created to accompany an article on our website.

These are free for you to use and spread around and can be considered to be under the most permissive Creative Commons license – copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format. Also you can remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially.

I hope you enjoy and I would love to read some reactions so add your comments below! Take a look…

Funke Opeke is a Nigerian electrical engineer and founder of Main Street Technologies

Congo’s history during colonialism is horrific

Democracy Chronicles writer Mahmoud Mansi

Eritrea highlighted.

The late Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. Art based on the Libyan flag.

Outline of Somaliland Somaliland’s colonial flag

Art based on the logo of the Nigerian People’s Democratic Party.

On Chinese Influence Operations in the Democratic World

Sat, 06/23/2018 - 21:42

The Hudson Institute, a politically conservative non-profit American think tank founded in 1961, organized a very interesting June 20th event at their headquarters in Washington, DC. The panel included some of the latest insights from the conservative foreign policy experts on efforts by the Chinese President to spread its influence in the democratic world, much as the Soviet Union and modern Russia have been doing for generations. From the event description:

Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has invested an estimated $10 billion per year projecting its influence into the politics of overseas democracies. Key to this effort is the United Front, a “magic weapon” strategy that seeks to build mutually beneficial relationships with well-placed western businessmen, political officials and donors, and members of the Chinese diaspora community in order to make the “foreign serve” the CCP goals.

Two notable and well documented examples of the United Front strategy are Australia and New Zealand, whose politics, media, academia, and business life have been successfully targeted by Beijing-linked individuals and organizations, primarily through financial means. Weak campaign finance rules, a lack of alternative, independent funding for academic Chinese studies programs, and limited revenue options for cash-strapped media outlets have all contributed to Australia and New Zealand’s China problems. And the United States is a major target of CCP influence and interference operations, as well.

This important geopolitical challenge is examined in a comprehensive new report by Hudson Senior Fellow Jonas Parello-Plesner.

Jonas Parello-Plesner is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute leading a “project on Middle East politics and the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq and Syria financed by a grant by the Danish government (DANIDA)”. The other speaker in the video is Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian is a Security Reporter at the The Daily Beast. The video is about 1.5 hours. Take a look:

A New Way to Fight Discrimination: Living Libraries

Sat, 06/23/2018 - 17:04
Congolese priest Mick Ngundu speaks to Veronique Couque in Caen, France. Their paths might never have crossed had it not been for Living Libraries. – Copyright L. Bryant VOA


Father Mick Ngundu has survived the rolling conflict that has ravaged the Democratic Republic of Congo, emerging as a passionate advocate of the poor and critic of corruption he claims poisons chances of democracy. From the stately grounds of a former French monastery, he describes how many in his resource-rich homeland are too destitute to afford electricity.

French retiree Veronique Couque is listening. She has never stepped foot in sub-Saharan Africa. Their paths might never have crossed had it not been for a growing citizen movement known as Living Libraries designed to smash stereotypes and prejudice through dialogue.

“They allow you to actually speak to a black, or an Arab or a Jew, and discover what it’s like to be that person,” said Natacha Waksman, a former French diplomat who helped to launch the latest Living Library encounter this month in the Normandy city of Caen. “It allows you to discover what it’s like to be that person. It’s an opportunity to break barriers.”

The initiative coincides with a new report by Europe’s top rights watchdog that shows rising levels of xenophobia and hate speech across the region, partly driven by populism, terrorist attacks and the massive influx of migrants, the subject of a European Union summit next week.

Along with newer targets like Africans and Arabs, the study authored by the 47-member Council of Europe finds older prejudices also linger against Jews, Roma and the LGBT community, despite strides in some countries.

Changing the narrative

“It’s not that there is no will to change things, but it shows we need to make more efforts” said Zeynep Usal-Kanzier, a lawyer at the council’s European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance, in Strasbourg, France. “We still have to encourage a change in the narrative, for example, by showing the positive contribution of well-governed migration.”

Living libraries also aim to shape the shifting narrative, supporters say, by offering people a chance to meet those they might otherwise shun and ask them frank questions. The initiative’s motto: Don’t judge a book by its cover.

“The living books are often people who have personal experiences of discrimination or social exclusion that they are willing to share with the readers,” said Tina Mulcahy, executive director of the council’s European Youth Centre, which promotes Living Libraries and has written an organizer’s guide. Like their brick-and-mortar counterparts, Mulcahy said, readers can check out subjects they’re interested in, “borrowing” human books for conversations.

Founded by a Danish NGO nearly two decades ago, Living Libraries have spread to more than 60 countries to date, including the United States, New Zealand and India. In Hungary, where right-wing lawmakers toughened anti-immigration legislation this week, Living Libraries have been held nearly annually in Budapest since 2001.

On a recent afternoon, the Caen event was packed, as visitors sat down for conversations with the homeless and immigrants like Ngundu.

For the Roman Catholic cleric, who now works as a priest in Normandy, the experience has been transformative.

“Since I experienced war, I can offer ideas for how to end it,” he said, sketching out ideas for starting similar initiatives in local schools.

Moving forward

“It helps people think, and perhaps move forward,” added Couque, the elderly reader, who described her conversation with Ngundu as a primer on politics and development.

Waksman, the former diplomat, is already thinking beyond Caen, describing cross-border initiatives that might bring Europeans together.

“That would give people another image of Germans, for example,” she said. Perhaps Britons might not have backed Brexit, she added, had they been more in touch with fellow EU nationals.

In Normandy, some have approached Waksman about starting an online library, but that is one idea that she rules out.

“I believe it’s great that people actually get to meet, shake hands, look into each others’ eyes,” Waksman said. “With our smart phones and virtual lives, it becomes harder and harder to talk to each other. This creates an intimacy that’s helpful in today’s society.”

Government Removes Restrictions on Major Ethiopian Websites

Sat, 06/23/2018 - 16:57


Ethiopia’s government says it has removed internet restrictions on 246 websites and TV channels, the latest reform under the country’s new prime minister.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s chief of staff, Fitsum Arega, announced the news Friday on Twitter, saying “freedom of expression is a foundational right.”

“A free flow of information is essential for engaged and responsible citizenry. Only a free market of ideas will lead to the truth,” he added.

The unblocked news sites include two prominent pro-opposition sites — the Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT), based in Amsterdam, and the Oromia Media Network (OMN), based in Minnesota.

Many of the unblocked news sites are run from overseas.

The media rights group, the Committee to Protect Journalists, welcomed the decision Friday.

“Allowing Ethiopians to access these news outlets is a positive sign that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is committed to delivering his promise to end Ethiopia’s censorship of the independent press,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal.

Since Ahmed took office in April, he has made major changes to the country, including releasing almost all jailed journalists, dropping charges against activists critical of the government and moving to liberalize the economy.

He has also pledged to work toward reconciliation with rival Eritrea by implementing a long-ignored 2002 border demarcation. Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki this week described the peace overtures from Ethiopia as “positive signals.”

The White House said Thursday that it was encouraged by recent progress Ethiopia and Eritrea have made toward resolving their longstanding differences. A statement described the leadership of Ahmed and Afwerki as “courageous.”

On Saturday, Ethiopians are expected to hold massive rallies, including in the capital, Addis Ababa, to show support for the Ethiopian government’s ongoing reforms.

Will it be War Again?

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 22:39

Why would anyone want to follow this president to war, even considering the a long line of unjust American wars? The start of this country resulted in the genocide of 60 million Native Americans and just when we had a chance to do right by them, and while they were trying to save the drinking water for 7 million Americans, we sprayed them with rubber bullets, tear gas and barking dogs, in front of the many women and children who were in attendance. Who will teach these Washington DC chicken hawks right from wrong?

Iran has kept its end of the nuclear deal and to start a war with Iran or put sanctions back on them would be criminal. I know there’s a lot of money to be made but we haven’t even done right by the soldiers who fought for this nation under George Bush Jr..

Who will speak up for these poor kids that the unscrupulous have called to fight? Who will speak up for the poor Iranians who are being caught up in the crosshairs? President Trump is trying to gather another 80,000 soldiers to make our country military ready. Good luck with that.

So far he hired another 1000 recruiters to fulfill this mission, so much for the all-volunteer army of Bush and Rumsfeld. Little known to most people was Bush Jr’s court martial of soldiers for showing signs of war fatigue. This story was first aired on NPR, but was pulled shortly after, hardly ever to be covered again. I can still remember watching U.S. soldiers going to the VA hospital with missing limbs on my way to work day after day after day.

U.S. Secretary of Defense General Jim Mathis is asking for 30 NATO divisions in case of a Russian attack. Nobody wants to attack us. We create our own problems and we have them cornered and if they do attack. I believe at this point we would be the ones doing the provoking.

We are still putting advisors in the Ukraine training Ukrainians to fight against Russia, sound familiar? Not to mention we’re still in Afghanistan, just one country away from the Russian border. We were having war games in South Korea until recently that were even upsetting relations with China. We have a major military base in Germany, Poland just offered us 2 billion dollars for a permanent base and we recently had a war game exercise with 18,000 troops called “Saber strike“ exercise which involved Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and 17 other Allied countries.

Again we basically have Russia surrounded. Remember what happened in the Cuban Missile Crisis? It was the closest we ever came to nuclear annihilation.

So now we are putting ten times the stress on Russia and that’s ok? Finland has been working on a huge war game for 2020 that is 3 years in the making and is on the Russian border. The U.S. has been doing military exercises in Sweden. Norway has asked the U.S. to double the U.S. soldiers stationed there and plans to move the soldiers closer to the Russian border.

In February of this year, Bloomberg said 8 out of 10 jobs are still unfilled at the State Department while still fresh on my mind is the memory of Secretary of State Jim Mathis saying “if you don’t fund the State Department fully then I’ll need to buy more ammunition ultimately”.

We have to worry if Trump plans to go to war to win re-election as a war president, like George Bush Jr. before him. And would he go to war just to please munition manufactures? He already signed the biggest defense spending bill in U.S. history at $1.3 trillion with $700 billion going to the Department of Defense alone. What’s he trying to accomplish? Reagan did the same when he was President, including the never developed or deployed Star Wars missile defense system, and we know what happened to the middle class because of Reagan’s actions. Do we really need another arms race with Russia or anywhere else? Been there, done that.

Private Prison Lobby Sees Only Profit Under Trump

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 17:52

Democracy Now! recently featured a great interview on how the current immigration crisis is tied to a successful year for private jails during a show that was hosted, as always, by Amy Goodman. Democracy Now! is an “independent global news hour that airs weekdays on nearly 1,400 TV and radio stations”. Their website has a post that contains a full transcript from the interview and this description:

President Donald Trump’s executive order ending family separations at the border opts to indefinitely detain families together instead. The Nation reports that this policy will directly benefit the two largest prison companies in the United States: GEO Group and CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America.

We speak with Bob Libal, the executive director of the Austin-based civil and human rights group Grassroots Leadership. They sued the state of Texas when it tried to classify ICE’s family detention centers as “child care” facilities. They won, but the detention centers continue to operate without a license. His new article in the Texas Observer is headlined, “It’s Time to Decriminalize Immigration.” It is co-authored with Judy Greene.

The video is about 8 minutes. Take a look:

5 Ways to Increase Latino Voter Turnout

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 17:35

This article was published by the Center for American Progress.

By 2060, Latinx Americans will account for more than one-fourth of the U.S. population. As one of the fastest-growing and youngest demographic groups in the United States, Latinx Americans possess tremendous potential to influence public policy. Yet voter suppression tactics, systematic barriers to registration and voting processes, and neglect from partisan and nonpartisan organizations have undercut Latinx political participation and depressed voter turnout.

For three decades, these forces have preserved a nearly 20 percentage-point gap in voter turnout between Hispanic and white Americans. Less than half of all eligible Latinos voted in the 2016 presidential election, compared with 65 percent of eligible white Americans. In 2014, just 27 percent of eligible Latinos voted—the lowest rate ever recorded for Latinos in a midterm election.

Tens of millions of Latinx American citizens are systematically excluded from their nation’s electoral process. It is past time to empower this group to leverage its full political power. Here are five ways to increase voter turnout in Latinx American communities.

1. Eliminate voter purging policies

Earlier this month, conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court gave states the green light to engage in one of the most insidious forms of voter suppression: discriminatory voter purging. Voter purging is the process of removing individuals from voter rolls due to clerical errors, reliance on inaccurate data, or largely unsubstantiated suspicion that an individual recently voted in another state or has not voted recently.

Lawmakers claim this process is necessary to protect against voter fraud, despite evidence that true occurrences are extremely rare. In actuality, this tactic is used to target Latinx Americans and other people of color. In 2012, for example, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) attempted to remove180,000 individuals—a majority of them Latinx—from the state’s voter rolls under the guise of preventing noncitizens from voting. Gov. Scott’s list of people eligible for purging was riddled with errors and would have barred thousands of citizens from voting.

Roughly 30 other states are currently using the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, one of the most dangerous tools enabling voter purges. This discriminatory and unreliable system generates lists of potential double voters using first and last names. As a result, it unfairly targets people of color with common last names—including Latinx Americans with last names such as Garcia and Hernandez. In fact, 1 in 6 Hispanics living in Crosscheck states has been found on lists of potential duplicate voters.

With a stamp of approval from conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, anti-voting advocates across the country are expected to ramp up efforts to pass discriminatory voter purge laws in their states. To protect the right to vote for Latinx Americans and other people of color, lawmakers must aggressively combat these efforts as well as dismantle existing voter purge policies.

2. Prohibit strict voter ID requirements

Another common voter suppression tactic is strict voter ID requirements. Like voter purges, this tactic is employed under the guise of protecting against voter fraud. In actuality, these unfair laws are designed to target low-income people, elderly people, and people of color.

In Texas, for instance, lawmakers engaged in a “pattern of conduct unexplainable on grounds other than (the) race factor” as they sought to enact one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country. In 2016, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the state’s first proposal due to its “discriminatory effect” on Latinx Americans and African Americans. Experts found that eligible Latinos are “242 percent more likely to lack an accepted voter ID than are non-Hispanic whites.” Instead of abandoning these efforts to suppress voter turnout, however, Texas lawmakers doubled down and passed a second iteration. Current law forces voters to present one of the state’s limited forms of photo ID or an alternative form of ID as well as sign a declaration of their identity and reason for not possessing one of the limited forms of photo ID under threat of perjury.

Other states—including North CarolinaWisconsin, and Kansas—have attempted to enact similar measures, at times targeting people of color with “almost surgical precision.” This pattern undermines democratic participation and has created a situation in which more than 1 in 10 Latino voters “reported encountering problems with identification needed to register or vote” during the 2016 election cycle. This is not accidental. A recent study found that elected officials who advocate for strict voter ID laws are less likely to respond to the concerns of Latino constituents. Rather than perpetuating the myth of voter fraud to justify voter suppression, lawmakers should be making it easier for citizens to vote.

3. Reform voter registration procedures

Voter registration is a significant barrier to political participation for Latinx Americans. In fact, just 57 percent of eligible Latinx Americans are registered to vote, compared with 74 percent of white Americans. But data show that when Latinx Americans are registered to vote, as many as 83 percent turn out on election day. Therefore, state policymakers should consider reforming laws to make registration easier and more convenient

One way to make registration more convenient is to allow young people to register early so that they are eligible and prepared to vote when they reach voting age. Known as preregistration, this policy is known to increase turnout among young voters of color by 8 percentage points. This could be particularly beneficial for Latinx Americans, who are the youngest of the nation’s largest racial and ethnic groups overall.

Same-day registration and automatic voter registration (AVR) are also promising pro-voter policies.  Same-day registration allows voters to register and vote on election day, while AVR automatically registers individuals when they visit government agencies, unless they opt out of the system. More research is necessary to determine the full benefits of these policies, but early indicators suggest that they may increase voter turnout. Ultimately, increasing voter registration in Latinx American communities is an essential way to increase turnout on election day.

4. Address language barriers to voting

Language barriers prevent millions of American citizens from exercising their fundamental right to vote. This is particularly problematic in Hispanic communities. While English proficiency among Latinos has increased significantly over the past 30 years, almost 1 in 3 Latinos cannot speak English “very well.”* And while Latinos make up just 18 percent of the U.S. population, they are 63 percent of the limited English-proficient population. The Voting Rights Act requires that certain jurisdictions provide language assistance at the polls, yet 1 in 6 Latino respondents to a 2016 survey reported “lack of Spanish-language assistance or materials” as a barrier to voting.

Also in 2016, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund identified dozens of Texas counties that failed to provide bilingual voting information on their websites ahead of the presidential election. And this year, a coalition of voting rights organizations have identified multiple Florida counties that have neglected their responsibility to “provide bilingual voting materials” for a growing number of Puerto Rican residents. All Americans deserve the opportunity to vote, regardless of English proficiency. Lawmakers everywhere should ensure that language assistance is available to any American citizen interested in voting.

5. Prioritize Latinx American outreach in political campaigns

Data show fewer than 1 in 3 Latinos had any election-related contact ahead of the 2016 election, compared with 46 percent of whites. Less than half of eligible Hispanics ultimately turned out to vote—the lowest rate among the country’s four largest racial and ethnic groups. Voter contact is an underutilized but effective method for increasing Latinx turnout. For example, during the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial race, partisan and nonpartisan organizations devoted significant resources toward Spanish-language advertisements, polling, and canvassing in Latinx American communities. And compared with the 2013 gubernatorial race, there was a 114 percent increase in early and absentee voting among Latinos. Election day turnout also increased by 5 percentage points in “heavily Hispanic districts.”

Yet even in Virginia, just 44 percent of Latino voters ultimately reported contact with a campaign or community organization ahead of the election. Political parties and other nonpartisan organizations must do more to engage with Latinx American communities. This includes listening to, learning from, and crafting targeted solutions for this population. Important groups such as Voto LatinoNALEO Education Fund, and Mi Familia Vota Education Fund have shown the way forward to increasing voter engagement in Latinx communities. Now other organizations must follow their lead.


For far too long, voter suppression, systemic barriers, and lack of engagement have stifled political participation in Latinx American communities. The nearly 20 percentage-point gap in voter turnout between Latinx and white Americans needs to be addressed. Policymakers must devote resources toward addressing this persistent problem because for a democracy to thrive, the voices of all citizens must be heard.

Connor Maxwell is a research associate for Progress 2050 at the Center for American Progress.

Author’s note: This number does not distinguish between citizens and noncitizens.

Political Accountability in America

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 17:00

Sorry for having so much religious talk in the articles of late. I haven’t been that faithful going to church myself as much as coaching sports and having family and friends over to the house for barbecues and parties, though I try.

In Christianity they have something called accountability that is good and bad. The right partner, usually the same sex, can help you tremendously and they usually are concerned about three areas: adultery, sobriety, and sometimes financial integrity. It is usually adultery and sobriety that get the most enforcement.

Again they can be a great help or they can cause you to drive into that pothole as I’ve heard before by focusing on the error to the point of panic then fulfillment. The best place is the middle ground of humble liberty.

So where am I going with this, well it’s back to the narcissist and chief. I remember when he was running besides the chants of “lock her up”, there was a mention of altering the first amendment, and the other rallying point was pulling the country out of NATO. I will be the first to admit that I don’t like being told what to do but I do regard the requests of a friend for my own good and the good of others. The point of NATO is to keep civilized nations at the bargaining table of accountability instead of going to war of which I exclaim a resounding yes!!!!

The other is free speech. Corporate America has been allowed to turn the media into a monopoly and it is past time to enforce the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act to break up the monopolies. And I also believe we need to reenact the media regulations that Reagan stripped from the news networks. What we have now for news on TV are opinions and propaganda, not the news and many times not the truth.

I know that many places around the country are up in arms about guns and gun rights, but please let me say something to this matter, everybody talks or communicates even if is a grunt or hand gesture, everybody is important made in God’s image and deserves to be heard. That is what makes America great and democracies attractive.

So right now Nikki Haley said the “US is pulling out of the UN human rights council and that we will lead on human rights outside of the council”. This concerns me especially in the light of our current disposition and policy on illegal aliens especially the border children. He needs to hear the world’s condemnation on this matter and hopefully repent to a sane course of action.