Thursday, December 18, 2014

Max's letter in The Baltimore Sun/Clashing Face-to-Face on Torture

Saturday, December 13, 2014 - NEWS - THE BALTIMORE SUN Page 17

MARYLAND VOICES

YOUR TURN

The torture debate

CIA torturers must be punished

Finally, after a lot of protesting and lobbying, those of us in Baltimore’s peace and justice community are ecstatic that the executive summary of the torture report was finally released “Report condemns CIA over torture“ [The Baltimore Sun, December 10, 2014].

It was poetic justice that the emails of CIA operatives involved in torture provided the rope to hang themselves. Of course, the apologists are bellyaching that “enhanced interrogation” [sic] really and truly worked. However, the hands-on torturers informed their superiors that it did not.

There is so much law breaking in the summary. However, most noteworthy was the contract received by two psychologists to teach torture is particularly egregious. They were paid more than $80 million. Who justified this maddeningly misuse of tax dollars?

Of course, there are many villains who allowed torture, despite its inadequacies, to be implemented during the bogus War on Terror. In my opinion, however, Michael Hayden is probably the Arch Villain, though Dick Cheney runs a very close second.

After his stint at the National Security Agency where he shredded the constitution, Mr. Hayden became the director of the CIA. And of course, Hayden has taken to the airways pontificating that the torture was legal, that it provided dynamic results and that the oversight committees never said no.

Of course, the record shows that he was wrong on all counts.

Mr. Hayden and the other torturers should be prosecuted. Unfortunately, members of the elite operate under a different justice system than the one I encounter when protesting. Failure to prosecute the torturers means it will happen again.

Max Obuszewski, Baltimore

Clashing Face-to-Face on Torture

consortiumnews.com/2014/12/14/clashing-face-to-face-on-torture/

Exclusive: It’s rare on TV when you see two former senior U.S. officials clashing angrily over something as significant as torture. Usually decorum prevails. But ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern wasn’t going to let the ex-House intelligence oversight chief get away with a bland defense of torture, as McGovern recounts.

By Ray McGovern

When you get an opportunity like this, don’t fall back – I heard my Irish grandmother telling me last Thursday as I took my place at the table to discuss torture with a former congressional committee chairman whose job it was to prevent such abuse.
Almost rubbing shoulders with me on my right was former House Intelligence Committee chair (2004-2007) Pete Hoekstra, a Republican from Michigan. Central China TV had asked both of us to address the findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture. I said yes, of course, since I was highly interested in how Hoekstra, with his front seat for the saga of “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques,” would try to ‘splain it all.

Here was a unique chance to publicly confront a malleable, moral dwarf who had been in a uniquely powerful position to end the torture. The moment was also an odd one, for Hoekstra – not the brightest star in the constellation – seemed oblivious to his gross misfeasance and dereliction of duty. Or how his behavior might look to non-torture aficionados.

Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (left) argues with ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern about the Senate torture report on CCTV America’s “The Heat” on Dec. 11, 2014. (Screenshot from program)

Hoekstra took over the House intelligence “oversight” committee in 2004 when former chair, Porter Goss, a Republican from Florida, was picked as the perfect – as in fully-briefed-and-complicit – functionary to become director of the CIA, replacing “slam-dunk” George Tenet. Tenet left in disgrace in July 2004, still seeking those notional Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” in vain.

Last week, amid the unfolding torture scandal, Hoekstra went on CCTV America’s daily talk show, “The Heat,” to offer a heated defense of what he insisted on still calling “enhanced interrogation techniques.” My opportunity for a blunt exchange with him over exactly what the House Intelligence Committee knew came near the end of the show.

I had already been trying hard to decode for the TV audience the bull-excrement coming from Hoekstra and others quoted on the program. At one point, as luck would have it, the moderator asked me about the CIA’s fear-driven argument that the “urgency” of preventing additional terrorist attacks justified short-cuts like torture.

A hat tip here to my VIPS colleague Larry Johnson, who had called my attention earlier that day to the actual time sequence involving the capture and interrogation of detainee Abu Zubaydah, noting that if that scenario reflected “time-urgency,” we are all in serious trouble.

After FBI interrogators, using the traditional rapport-building approach to Abu Zubaydah, extracted a good deal of useful information from him in April 2002, Washington (for reasons not yet fully clear) ordered the FBI to give him over to CIA officials. They kept him in solitary confinement, asking him no questions, from mid-June 2002 until Aug. 4, giving time for torture-friendly lawyers in Washington to come up with some tortured legal justifications to “authorize” waterboarding and other abusive techniques. Zubaydah was then waterboarded 83 times, yielding no useful intelligence.

Clashing with Hoekstra

As the program neared its end, the host turned back to me and asked me to respond to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s ardent defense of the torture program. I focused my criticism on Cheney as the “eminence grise” behind the Bush administration plunge into the “dark side.”

But I also saw an opportunity to press Hoekstra on his knowledge and complicity, though I framed my question to give him an out on direct knowledge about the grisly torture techniques, from waterboarding and hanging people from ceilings to forced nudity and “rectal rehydration.”

“I don’t know if he [Cheney] checked with you, Congressman Hoekstra, he really should have, but I’m amazed if you were either unaware of these things or whether you condoned them,” I said, addressing Hoekstra only inches away.

“I think I’ve been very open,” Hoekstra responded, indicating that he did know and did approve.

McGovern: “You condoned them. My God!”

Hoekstra: “I explained this to you. Members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, leadership on both sides, Gang of Eight …”.

McGovern: “Thought that torture was okay?”

Hoekstra: “Thought that the enhanced interrogation techniques …

McGovern: “That’s torture.”

Hoekstra: “… were appropriate.”

McGovern: “Let’s not use these sobriquets. This was torture.”

Hoekstra: “No, the Justice Department … characterized them as legal. To say that you were aghast that we heard, no.”

McGovern: “I’m aghast that you were briefed on it. You’re supposed to be overseeing these things, you should stop these things. … You were co-opted.”

Hoekstra: “No, we weren’t. Republicans and Democrats were fully briefed on these programs and we agreed with them.”

I still thought I’d give the former congressman a path out of the pro-torture corner that he was painting himself into, by suggesting that he might be simply embarrassed that he had been misled by the CIA and the Bush administration, that he had been kept in the dark about the darkest of the dark side, but Hoekstra just kept painting.

McGovern: “You were lied to and you’re ashamed to admit that you were lied to.”

Hoekstra: “I’m not ashamed that I was lied to. I’m admitting that these programs were briefed to us. I’ve talked to my staff going back and said after this ‘revelation’ came out …how much of what is in this Dianne Feinstein report, this partisan report, this Democrat report, how much did we know? Ninety to 95 percent.”

McGovern: “Oh, my God! What a terrible admission! Aren’t you ashamed?”

Hoekstra: “No, I’m not ashamed.”

McGovern: “My God!”

Then, Hoekstra tried to suggest that I was being disloyal to my former colleagues at the CIA as if the few senior officials who pushed for the torture and the few – mostly contractors – who carried it out were representative of most CIA personnel among whom I had served for 27 years. Hoekstra was waving a red flag, so I played the bull, forsaking the usually obligatory deference and politeness. I let him have it. (Sometimes it doesn’t help to be Irish.)

Hoekstra: “I reached a different conclusion as did many of your colleagues at the CIA …”

McGovern: “These are not my colleagues! These are thugs hired by Dick Cheney!”

Hoekstra: “These are people you walked away from. These are heroes for America…”

McGovern: “These are thugs headed by Dick Cheney!”

Hoekstra: “…who are protecting America.”

That was when the host politely brought the program to a conclusion. [For this exchange, see minutes 8:23 to 10:41 of Part Three, though I think the entire program is worth watching. Part One, Part Two and Part Three.]

Limited US Viewing

Few Americans are likely to be among those who saw “The Heat” on Dec. 11 or will see it on YouTube. But there is some consolation in the claim that, according to CCTV, a billion Chinese-speakers normally watch the dubbed-into-Mandarin version of this program, and not only in China. Even if the actual number is only half that, well, that will amount to about 500,000 viewers more than the audience in the United States. Some solace.

Since Dec. 9, when the Senate report was released, I also have been interviewed on Canadian TV, Aljazeera, Russian TV, Sky News (UK), two taped Russian prime-time Sunday evening TV programs, Radio Scotland (BBC), Radio New Zealand, and three Radio Pacifica programs. Some of the above hosted me as many as four times, and I have had to turn down, or refer to others, additional invitations (yes, all of these from abroad, as well).

For some reason, despite a prompt press release issued on Tuesday morning, U.S. media remain uninterested in my blunt commentary on the subject of torture. As the CCTV interview indicated, I cannot be counted on to be pleasant when discussing torture, particularly with those who could have, and should have, prevented it.

Which reminds me that after my four-minute impromptu debate with Donald Rumsfeld in Atlanta on May 4, 2006, I was asked by CNN’s Paula Zahn, “How long have you had this personal animus toward the Secretary of Defense? And why did you follow him all the way down to Atlanta?”

No personal animus, I could honestly explain to Paula; I just have this thing about folks who start wars of aggression and enable torture (the sobriquet “enhanced interrogation techniques” was not put into the public lexicon until four months later).

As for following Rumsfeld “all the way down to Atlanta,” I explained that I had gotten to Atlanta the day before – very pleased to have been honored with the ACLU’s National Civil Liberties Award (won the previous year by Coretta Scott King). The chance to attend Rumsfeld’s speech was just a bonus.

But I must confess. I do have a personal beef with Hoekstra, who, in 2006, pulled one of the dirtiest tricks I ever encountered personally. Without telling other members of the House Intelligence Committee, he added to the draft Intelligence Authorization Act for FY’07 (HR5020) a provision enabling the government to strip intelligence veterans of their government pensions. HR5020 passed the full House, but Congress opted instead for a continuing resolution.

So maybe it is more a case of Hoekstra having some animus toward my veteran intelligence colleagues and me, who had been exposing the torture overlooked (if not blessed) by his committee. His attempt to make revoking our pensions legal came shortly after March 2, 2006, when – as a matter of conscience in protest against torture – I went to his House office and returned the Intelligence Commendation Medallion given me at retirement for “especially meritorious service,” explaining “I do not want to be associated, however remotely, with an agency engaged in torture.”

On Dec. 11, after time ran out for “The Heat,” I took the opportunity to let Hoekstra know very directly that we were very much aware of his low-life move against us.

Earlier, when the CCTV moderator, in introducing me, had noted that I had returned my Intelligence Commendation Medallion over the issue of CIA torture, I was sorely tempted to ask Hoekstra why he sent me neither acknowledgment nor reply to my letter. But I quickly decided that it would likely be easier – and far more important – to call him to task on his unconscionable misfeasance in condoning torture itself, than on the dirty trick he almost succeeded in pulling on my former intelligence officers and me.

So I waited until we ran out of time to tell him we are aware of what he had tried to do and what we thought of it, and suggested that the sooner he went back to Michigan the better it would be for honest people in Washington.

Below is the letter I gave Hoekstra in April 2006. Actually, I had to give it to his aides; there were indications that he was hiding in his inner office, but they said he was not. Perhaps he was at CIA being briefed on “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.”

March 2, 2006

Dear Congressman Hoekstra:

As a matter of conscience I am returning the Intelligence Commendation Award medallion given me for “especially commendable service” during my 27-year career in CIA. The issue is torture, which inhabits the same category as rape and slavery — intrinsically evil. I do not wish to be associated, however remotely, with an agency engaged in torture.

Reports in recent years that CIA personnel were torturing detainees were highly disturbing. Confirmation of a sort came last fall, when CIA Director Porter Goss and Dick Cheney—dubbed by the Washington Post “Vice President for Torture”—descended on Sen. John McCain to demand that the CIA be exempted from his amendment’s ban on torture. Subsequent reports implicated agency personnel in several cases of prisoner abuse in Iraq, including a few in which detainees died during interrogation.

The obeisance of CIA directors George Tenet and Porter Goss in heeding illegal White House directives has done irreparable harm to the CIA and the country—not to mention those tortured and killed. That you, as Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, show more deference to the White House than dedication to your oversight responsibilities under the Constitution is another profound disappointment. How can you and your counterpart, Sen. Pat Roberts, turn a blind eye to torture—letting some people get away, literally, with murder—and square that with your conscience?

If German officials who were ordered to do such things in the 1930s had spoken out early and loudly enough, the German people might have been alerted to the atrocities being perpetrated in their name and tried harder to stop them. When my grandchildren ask, “What did you do, Grandpa, to stop the torture,” I want to be able to tell them that I tried to honor my oath, taken both as an Army officer and an intelligence officer, to defend the Constitution of the United States—and that I not only spoke out strongly against the torture, but also sought a symbolic way to dissociate myself from it.

We Americans have become accustomed to letting our institutions do our sinning for us. I abhor the corruption of the CIA in the past several years, believe it to be beyond repair, and do not want my name on any medallion associated with it. Please destroy this one.

Yours truly, Ray McGovern

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He served as an Army Infantry/Intelligence officer and then as a CIA analyst for a total of 30 years, and is now a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Reporter James Risen Faces Subpoena in CIA Whistleblower Case

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/27551-reporter-james-risen-faces-subpoena-in-cia-whistleblower-case

The US government has ordered Risen to participate in a hearing next month. (photo: Bill Risen)

Reporter James Risen Faces Subpoena in CIA Whistleblower Case

By Democracy Now!
17 December 14

In one of the most significant press freedom cases in decades, the United States government has confirmed that it will seek limited testimony from New York Times reporter James Risen. On Tuesday, Risen was ordered to participate in a hearing early next month in advance of the trial of a former CIA officer who is charged with revealing classified information. However, Risen has vowed not to testify at the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, who is accused of giving him classified information that revealed a botched CIA plot to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. If he refuses, Risen could face jail time. Prosecutors say they will not ask Risen if Sterling was his source, but it is unclear what else he will be asked. We speak to Marcy Wheeler, investigative blogger who runs EmptyWheel.net and writes for ExposeFacts.org.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In one of the most significant press freedom cases in decades, the United States government has confirmed that it will seek limited testimony from New York Times reporter James Risen. On Tuesday, Risen was ordered to participate in a hearing early next month in advance of the trial of a former CIA officer who is charged with revealing classified information. However, Risen has vowed not to testify at the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, who is accused of giving him classified information that revealed a botched CIA plot to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. If he refuses, Risen could face jail time. Speaking on Democracy Now! earlier this year, Risen emphasized the importance of a free and unhindered press.

JAMES RISEN: Without aggressive investigative reporting, we can’t really have a democracy, because the only real oversight for the government is an independent and aggressive press. And I think that’s what the government really fears more than anything else, is an aggressive investigative reporting in which we shine a light on what’s going on inside the government. And we can’t do that without maintaining the confidentiality of sources.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we go to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where we’re joined by Marcy Wheeler, investigative blogger who runs EmptyWheel.net, writes for ExposeFacts.org.
Marcy, welcome back to Democracy Now! Talk about the significance of what the Justice Department put forward to James Risen yesterday.

MARCY WHEELER: Well, they claim it was a limited request for testimony. They’re asking him to confirm that he wrote the chapter of the book in question, as well as two earlier articles, one which they claim and one in which he explicitly refers to Jeffrey Sterling as a source. So, they’re going to ask to lay out that he did write these articles. They’re going to ask him to say that his source or sources for the chapter in question, he has a confidentiality agreement with. And then they’re also going to—I mean, they’re basically not going to ask him who his sources are, but they are going to get him on the stand. And my—I think what that then does is give the defense the opportunity to be the bad guys, because they have every incentive to try and demonstrate that Risen has more than one source for this story.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: So, your sense is that they would then hope that the defense would then begin to question Risen and put him on the spot?

MARCY WHEELER: Right. I mean, the last line of the filing they submitted yesterday basically said, "Well, this is what we’re going to do, but we can’t control what the defense does, and they have a Sixth Amendment right to actually, you know, confront their accusers." And Jeffrey Sterling’s lawyers have already started saying, "Look, you know, we have all of these documents from Risen from this period, which aren’t even necessarily related to this story, but things like FedEx receipts, and we might want to ask him about that."

And one of the—I mean, one of the underlying things that has developed in this case recently is that we now know that four of the other people who were cleared into this compartment for the Merlin story, for the botched nuclear weapons story, they have, according to the CIA, mishandled classified information in the past. And one of those people is the guy who was Sterling’s supervisor at the time, who would be one of the key witnesses against Sterling. And so, I can certainly understand—he’s facing prison time himself—why he would want to at least raise some doubts or raise some questions about how many sources Risen has.

And frankly, I mean, a reporter of James Risen’s caliber doesn’t rely on a single source for a story. And that would then still put Risen in the position of having to reveal details about his reporting, possibly the number of his sources, or what have you, that would get to the same questions the DOJ was getting to and would have the same effect of putting him at risk for contempt of court.

AMY GOODMAN: So that means he still faces years in prison.

MARCY WHEELER: Yeah, I mean, I think that he still could be jailed, because, frankly, in this case, the judge in the case, Leona Brinkema, was sort of saying, "I think the government needs to decide whether they want to take this or not, if they can’t rely on Risen." She doesn’t have that choice with the defense. I mean, the defense has the right to mount a defense, and the most obvious way for Sterling to do so is to say, "Look, you know, all these other people were cleared into this. They have been confirmed to have brought documents home from work, and therefore there’s no reason why you should assume"—to the jury—"that I am Risen’s only or even his source at all." And that would rely on digging up details about Risen’s reporting. I mean, I don’t know that’s what the defense wants to do, but that just seems like the obvious thing, and the government is very clear that at this point they have a limited request for Risen, but they can’t control what the defense would do.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And the general implications of this, given the fact that you have a person like James Risen, so well known as a major journalist in the country, having to battle this way, for other journalists, who—the impact, the chilling effect that this has on them?

MARCY WHEELER: Well, absolutely. I mean, remember that Risen was—Risen’s sources were being investigated not just for this story during this entire period, but also for the warrantless wiretap story. And there’s at least the appearance that this limited case was DOJ’s effort to go after Risen directly. And one of the details that has come out in this case is, as I said, the amount of documentation about Risen’s reporting that DOJ already has in hand. And, you know, A, it’s chilling, because it makes it very clear things like phone records, FedEx records, travel records, DOJ is getting that, or at least got that in the case of one of the top investigative journalists in the country. And then, moreover, that they would keep going with this—I mean, this story was years—we’re going back to 2000, right? This is an old story. It’s not a risk to national security anymore, yet DOJ persists and persists in pursuing Risen on the stand. And that just seems like a witch hunt.

AMY GOODMAN: And then the Obama administration may try to force another reporter to testify. Preet Bharara has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to approve a subpoena for 60 Minutes producer [Richard] Bonin over his interactions with an al-Qaeda press office during a period of time?

MARCY WHEELER: Right. And again, I mean, Eric Holder would like to appear as if he doesn’t want to rely on journalists as sources, but time and time again, you know, they at least consider it, even while the government—you know, we keep getting more and more evidence about the government leaking their own information, yet journalists keep getting targeted by DOJ.

AMY GOODMAN: Marcy Wheeler, thanks so much for being with us, investigative blogger who runs EmptyWheel.net and writes for ExposeFacts.org, speaking to us from Michigan.
And this breaking news: ABC is reporting American Alan Gross, who’s been held in prison in Cuba for five years, has been freed and is on his way to the U.S.

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Murder in the Rainforest

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/312-16/27550-murder-in-the-rainforest

Marcos Avilques (L) and Marcio Kokoj of the Coordination of the Indigenous
Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (photo: Mariana Bazo/Corbis)

Murder in the Rainforest

By Alexander Zaitchik, Rolling Stone
17 December 14

At the U.N.'s latest climate talks, indigenous tribes showed again that they're frontline allies in the climate fight. So why aren't we protecting them?
n the morning of December 5th, a dark piece of news began circulating at the U.N. climate talks in Lima: The body of José Isidro Tendetza Antún, a leading Ecuadorian indigenous-rights and anti-mining campaigner, had been found in a riverside grave near his village, his remains bound in rope, showing signs of beating and torture. Antún had planned to be in the Peruvian capital last week, where hundreds of indigenous leaders from around the world gathered to demand recognition and rights, as both defenders of the world's rainforests and underappreciated players in the effort to slow climate change.

The outlines of Antún's murder were grimly familiar to indigenous activists. The spread of logging, agriculture and extractive industry into once remote forests has sparked social conflict under the tropical canopies of Amazonia, Africa and Asia. Rising native resistance is met with repression and violence, the screams from which don't often reach the outside world. The situation is especially bad in the northwest Amazon. News of José Antún's death in Ecuador follows the September killing of four Peruvian indigenous anti-logging activists near the Brazil border. The group's slain leader, Edwin Chota, had also planned to travel to Lima and use his famed energy and eloquence to help sound the indigenous alarm. Two of the widows faced down threats from local loggers to attend in his name.

This jungle violence isn't just a human tragedy or a local environmental story — it is global climate politics. The first days of the Lima summit — known as COP 20, for the twentieth session of the Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change — saw the publication of data that quantifies, for the first time, the exact size of the climate impact made by indigenous populations as front-line guardians of imperiled rainforests. The size of this impact, a kind of negative carbon footprint, is staggering. Nowhere is this more true than in the Amazon that begins just over the mountains from the just-concluded negotiations.

"The territories of Amazonian indigenous peoples store almost a third of the region's aboveground carbon," said Woods Hole Research Center scientist Wayne Walker. "That is more forest carbon than is contained in some of the most carbon-rich tropical countries, including Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo."

Walker is an author on a new peer-reviewed study, "Forest Carbon in Amazonia," slated for publication in the journal Carbon Management. The report, released at the start of COP 20, details how preserving carbon-rich forests and protecting indigenous rights are two sides of the same climate coin. Designated indigenous territories in the Amazon contain 28,000 megatons of stored forest carbon, according to the study, which statistically unpacks the close correlation between titled indigenous land and the integrity of carbon-storing tropical rainforests. When granted legal protection of their land, indigenous populations continue to husband their ancestral environment as they have for centuries. "International recognition and investment in indigenous and protected areas are essential to ensuring their continued contribution to global climate stability," said Richard Chase Smith, of Peru's Instituto Bien Comun, a co-author of the study.

That's the good news — that the rainforest has natural protectors already living there. The bad news is the world's governments, including some of the biggest rainforest nations, have failed to grant title to indigenous territories or protect them from loggers and state-backed oil and mining projects. "We have never been under so much pressure," said Edwin Vásquez, a study co-author and president of COICA, the Indigenous Coordinating Body of the Amazon Basin. The Woods Hole study estimates that 40 percent of the forests holding carbon on indigenous are now under direct threat by the spread of industry. Failure to protect this land, the authors argue, raises the odds of "dieback," a dreaded feedback loop scenario in which climate change causes wilting forests to begin releasing their own carbon. "Releasing the carbon currently at risk in Amazon [indigenous territories] alone — equivalent to clearing all of Peru's forests — would increase the probability of Amazon dieback, with deleterious and potentially irreversible effects on the atmosphere and the planet," notes the Woods Hole report.

Prior to the study, the correlation between indigenous land-rights and healthy tropical forests was intuitive. Now that it's backed by official literature, indigenous groups hope the world will begin treating them as important allies whose struggle has global significance.

"We have always known that indigenous peoples manage forest resources sustainably, and therefore are major actors in the protection of the Amazon landscape, but now we have scientific evidence that their territories act as barriers to deforestation," said Ana Saenz, a researcher with Peru's Instituto Bien Comun (Common Good Institute). Saenz is co-author of another new study showing that indigenous populations protect their forests even when they live in proximity to roads and other access routes to markets. But these cultures can only take so many cuts before they begin to bleed out and absorb the values of the encroaching culture, with its tractors and chainsaws.

Prior lack of hard data never stopped indigenous groups from attending international climate fora and pressing their complaints. Indigenous representatives addressed some of the first COP gatherings, and were soon sitting in as official observers. They've organized official events like this year's Indigenous Pavilion and lobbied successfully for inclusion in treaty language. There are indigenous veterans of the climate circuit with more experience than the youngest negotiators representing major economies.

One of these veterans is Mina Susana Setra, deputy of the Peoples' Alliance of the Archipelago, an umbrella group representing 15 million indigenous Indonesians. Setra says the crises facing the world's indigenous communities are accelerating and converging, along with their response. "In every country, indigenous people face the same problems and share the same basic vision," she said. "The vision is self-governance in our own territory, without violence or intervention, so that we can maintain our relationship with nature. Without the land, without the water, there's nothing. That's why we fight and die to protect it."

This is not just rhetoric. A growing body count is evidence that indigenous activists must accept death as a possible price for their activism, set as it is in remote regions where state and private security forces often have free rein.

For throwing a floodlight on these two colliding trends — threats to the rainforests and violence against those trying to defend them — there is no better stage than the Peruvian government complex that housed the UN talks. Among the nine Amazonian countries, Peru contains the second-most rainforest, after Brazil. It also leads the world in parceling out its forests and land to the highest bidder: 40 percent of Peru's total area, including most of its rainforest, is controlled by private industry, largely oil and mining. As any Peruvian activist will tell you, the country's rulers have no patience for organized opposition to this Great Amazonian Sell-Off. The country ranks fourth in the repression of environmental activists (at least 57 have been murdered in the last 12 years) and shows an active contempt for the human rights and land claims of its 14 million indigenous citizens.

Along with land titles and the freedom to be left alone, many indigenous activists want something more from the consumer society that feeds on its trees and minerals. They want to transform it according to indigenous values, to help it understand why it's better to live in a world without corporations that dump cyanide-laced mining waste into rivers where people drink and swim.

During an impassioned speech delivered to the Indigenous Caucus in Lima, a Congolese indigenous leader challenged his brothers and sisters to be more assertive in their interactions with UN diplomats.

"We must be more than just witnesses here, we must demand to be used for what we know," he said. "The people in those conference rooms don't know as much as they think they do. If they did, they wouldn't be in this situation."

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Baltimore Activist Alert - December 18 -20, 2014

32] Homeless service – Dec. 18 - 19
33] DSA meeting – Dec. 18
34] Vigil for peace at White House – Dec. 19
35] Vigil for Justice in Palestine – Dec. 19
36] Protest sanctions on Venezuela – Dec. 19
37] Christmas Time Peace Vigil – Dec. 19
38] Ballroom Dancing – Dec. 19
39] Simulcast of D.C. - Bethlehem Christmas Service – Dec. 20

32] – Gather at 14th and U Sts. on Thurs., Dec. 18 at 4 PM, and at 5 PM join a candlelight procession to Freedom Plaza, 14th St. NW and Pennsylvania Ave., WDC. On Fri., Dec. 19, the program starts at 9 AM. At 10 AM, march to the New York Presbyterian Church for an 11 AM National Coalition for the Homeless service for homeless people who have died in DC in 2014. People For Fairness Coalition is an organization of current and former self-advocates who work to end homelessness in D.C. through outreach, advocacy and peer-sharing. Join them for the second year they're holding an overnight vigil in honor of people who are homeless who died in DC, and calling for an end to life and death on the street. See https://www.facebook.com/events/742417235835956/?ref=6&ref_notif_type=plan_user_invited.

33] – On Thurs., Dec. 18 at 6:30 PM at the Hunan Dynasty, 215 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, WDC, there is Combined Membership Meeting & Post-Mortem of the National March Against Police Violence. The meeting will lead off with approximately 1.5 hours of discussion of last Saturday's national march against police violence, Democratic Socialists of America's participation in it, and how socialist politics relate to the issues raised in the march. The remaining hour of this meetup will be devoted to a DSA membership meeting. Topics on the agenda include a summary of the chapter's recent strategy-making session, discussion of the chosen campaign for next year, for a $15 minimum wage throughout the greater metro D.C. region, and agenda-setting for future general meetings and Socialist Salons. Visit https://www.facebook.com/events/683260065128653/?ref=6&ref_notif_type=plan_user_invited.

34] – On Fri., Dec. 12 from noon to 1 PM, join the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in a vigil urging the powers that be to abolish war and torture, to disarm all weapons, to end indefinite detention, to close Guantanamo, to establish justice for all and help create the Beloved Community! The vigil takes place at the White House on Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Contact Art @ artlaffin@hotmail.com or at 202-360-6416.

35] – A vigil for Justice in Palestine/Israel takes place every Friday from noon to 1 PM at 19th & JFK Blvd., Philadelphia, across from Israeli Consulate. It is sponsored by Bubbies & Zaydes (Grandparents) for Peace in the Middle East. Email cswartz@pil.net. Go to http://phillyjewishpeace.org/.

36] – On Fri., Dec. 18 from 4:30 to 7 PM, go to the Capitol Building for a rally. A solidarity statement from the people of the U.S. to the people of Venezuela will be read. Following the statement, march to the Gallery Place Chinatown Metro and on to the White House to call on Pres. Obama to veto the Venezuela sanctions bill. At the White House, there will be a celebration of the beauty of Venezuelan culture through art. Go to https://www.facebook.com/events/1518902598385383/?ref=6&ref_notif_type=plan_user_invited.

37] – There is usually a silent peace vigil on Fridays, from 5 to 6 PM, sponsored by Homewood Friends and Stony Run Meetings. It has been moved back to Homewood Friends Meetinghouse, 3107 N. Charles St. The Dec. 19 vigil, which will remind us that War Is Not the Answer and that there is the need to stop torture, is the annual Christmas Party event. Singing and refreshments will be available following the vigil.

38] – There is an opportunity to participate in ballroom dancing, usually every Friday of the month, in the JHU ROTC Bldg. at 8 PM. Turn south on San Martin Dr. from the intersection of Univ. Parkway and 39th St. Drive on campus by taking the third left turn. The next dance will be Dec. 19. Call Dave Greene at 410-599-3725.

39] – On Sat., Dec. 20 at 10 AM, be at a joint simulcast service with the people of Bethlehem at the Washington National Cathedral, Massachusetts and Wisconsin Aves. NW, WDC 20016-5098. This is the 8th ANNUAL BETHLEHEM PRAYER SERVICE. If you cannot be at the National Cathedral, you can gather with others in your community to watch the service live at www.nationalcathedral.org.

In Bethlehem, Palestinian Christians continue to bear witness to their faith this Christmas, as they have done for generations. Once again, join in seeking and offering hope for a better future. Prayers, readings and hymns alternate between Washington, D.C. and Bethlehem via the Internet, bringing together people of different lands, languages, and ethnic backgrounds in celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace. Episcopal and Lutheran bishops, other clergy & laity will participate in this joint simulcast Christmas service. Prayers, readings and hymns alternate between the two far-removed locations via the Internet, bringing together people of different lands, languages and ethnic backgrounds.

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/.

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

'Biggest Fracking Victory Ever!' as New York Bans Dangerous Drilling in State

commondreams.org/news/2014/12/17/biggest-fracking-victory-ever-new-york-bans-dangerous-drilling-state

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

'Biggest Fracking Victory Ever!' as New York Bans Dangerous Drilling in State

'Fracking has no place in New York or anywhere,' says prominent activist after announcement by Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Jon Queally, staff writer

Anti-fracking protesters outside Governor Andrew Cuomo's policy summit in 2012. (Photo: Credo Action/cc/flickr)
It's official. New York state will ban fracking.

After years of lobbying and aggressive public protest by state residents to make permanent a short-term moratorium on the controversial oil and gas drilling practice, Gov. Andrew Cuomo cited harm to public health as the key reason for the decision to announce an all-out ban. "The potential impacts of fracking on water, air, land resources, community and local services are significant," Cuomo said in a tweet just after the decision was made public.

In response to the news, Wenonah Hauter, director of Food & Water Watch, which has fought aggressively against fracking in New York and across the country, declared the development as the "Biggest fracking victory ever!"
"Our growing national movement has persevered," Hauter added in a statement. "We applaud Governor Cuomo for acknowledging the overwhelming science that speaks to the inherent dangers of fracking to public health and the environment. Fracking has no place in New York or anywhere, and the governor has smartly seized a golden opportunity to be a real national leader on health, environmental protection and a future free of polluting fossil fuels."

As the New York Times reports on Wednesday:

The Cuomo administration announced Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State, ending years of uncertainty by concluding that the controversial method of extracting gas from deep underground could contaminate the state’s air and water and pose inestimable public-health risks.

"I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York," said Howard Zucker, the acting commissioner of health.

That conclusion was delivered publicly during a year-end cabinet meeting called by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in Albany. It came amid increased calls by environmentalists to ban fracking, which uses water and chemicals to release natural gas trapped in deeply buried shale deposits.

The state has had a de facto ban on the procedure for more than five years, predating Mr. Cuomo’s first term. The decision also came as oil and gas prices continued to fall, in part because of surging American oil production, as fracking boosted output.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has listened to his constituents and scientists, said celebrating environmental activists, as they applauded Wednesday's announcement.

Jubilant reactions among local activists and national environmental leaders was swift on Twitter:
— NYAF (@NYAgainstFRACK) December 17, 2014

Yes! "Cuomo to Ban Fracking in New York State, Citing Health Risks" @nytimes http://t.co/DPXB4hGH70

— Jamie Henn (@Agent350) December 17, 2014

— Sierra Club (@sierraclub) December 17, 2014

BREAKING: #Cuomo to essentially ban #fracking in NY. A huge BFD, and a testament to great organizing by activists in NY and across US!

— Michael Brune (@bruneski) December 17, 2014

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

US and Cuba to Restore Diplomatic Relations in Historic Overhaul

commondreams.org/news/2014/12/17/us-and-cuba-restore-diplomatic-relations-historic-overhaul

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

US and Cuba to Restore Diplomatic Relations in Historic Overhaul

Following release of prisoners from both countries, U.S. will establish embassy in Havana
Nadia Prupis, staff writer

The U.S. and Cuba swapped prisoners on Wednesday. (Photo: Stewart Cutler/flickr/cc)

Update:

Following Wednesday's momentous prisoner swap, U.S. officials said the country will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years, including re-opening of the American embassy in Havana which has been shuttered for nearly half a century.

In a speech on Wednesday, President Barack Obama called the U.S. embargo against Cuba "a failure."
"We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries," Obama said. The deal, which involved trading American contractor Alan Gross for the last remaining members of the so-called Cuban Five, will "begin a new chapter among the nations of the America" and move beyond a "rigid policy that’s rooted in events that took place before most of us were born," Obama added.

A full end to the economic blockade against Cuba would require legislation by Congress, but the administration signaled that it would welcome that move by lawmakers. Immediate changes set to be implemented include loosening restrictions on all travel categories, remittances, and banking and financial transactions.
"The dinosaurs in Miami who have kept US-Cuba relations in the Stone Age are finally dying out," human rights activist Medea Benjamin, who lived in Cuba for 4 years and has worked for 30 years to normalize relations, told Common Dreams. "Obama's announcement is a recognition that the new generation of Cubans agree with the majority of Americans that the embargo is a relic of the Cold War that should be put to rest. Now we just have to overcome the dinosaurs in Congress."

The deal comes after 18 months of secret negotiations in Canada, as well as a meeting in the Vatican, and one final 45-minute telephone call between Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro on Tuesday.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest released a statement Wednesday admitting its decades-long failure in Cuban relations. "It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba," the statement said. "We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. It does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse."

Guardian journalist Ewan McCaskill called the deal "a [b]reakthrough in U.S.-Cuban relations after a wasted half-century of mindless hostility and sanctions."

Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said the change in policy towards Cuba was prompted by a political shift in Latin America that has seen the U.S. become increasingly isolated diplomatically in the region.

"Relations between Latin America and the Obama administration have been the worst probably of any U.S. administration in decades," Weisbrot said on Wednesday. "This will help, but new sanctions against Venezuela will also raise questions in the hemisphere about whether this is a change in direction or merely a giving up on a strategy that has failed for more than 50 years."

"Because of the historic transition in Latin America over the past 15 years, with left governments elected in most of the region, basically the rules and norms were changed for the whole hemisphere. Various Latin American governments—and not just those on the left—have been increasingly vocal in recent years that the status quo cannot stand, and that Cuba must be treated as an equal, and welcomed into fora such as the Summit of the Americas," Weisbrot said. "Washington’s Cuba policy is being pulled into the 21st Century thanks to this regional shift."

Earlier:

The U.S. and Cuba exchanged prisoners Wednesday morning as part of a landmark deal that paves the way for an overhaul of American relations with the island nation and allows U.S. contractor Alan Gross, as well as the last three members of the so-called Cuban Five, to go home.

President Barack Obama is expected to announce Gross' release at noon.

CNN reports:

Gross' "humanitarian" release by Cuba was accompanied by a separate spy swap, the officials said. Cuba also freed a U.S. intelligence source who has been jailed in Cuba for more than 20 years, although authorities did not identify that person for security reasons. The U.S. released three Cuban intelligence agents convicted of espionage in 2001.

President Barack Obama is also set to announce a broad range of diplomatic and regulatory measures in what officials called the most sweeping change in U.S. policy toward Cuba since the 1961 embargo was imposed.
The Cuban Five were a group of intelligence officers who were convicted of espionage in 2001, allegedly for collecting information on U.S. military bases and Cuban-American leaders in exile. The three who were included in the swap are Gerardo Hernandez, Luis Medina, and Antonio Guerrero.

Gross was arrested by Cuban authorities in 2009 while working to bring satellite phones and computer equipment to the island's Jewish communities. Although Gross had traveled to Cuba as part of a U.S. Agency for International Development program, he did not have the permits required under Cuban law to distribute communications equipment. He was arrested under suspicion of espionage and convicted of "acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state."

CNN continues:

Wednesday's announcement that the U.S. will move toward restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba will also make it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba and do business with the Cuban people by extending general licenses, officials said. While the more liberal travel restrictions won't allow for tourism, they will permit greater American travel to the island.

Secretary of State John Kerry has also been instructed to review Cuba's place on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, potentially paving the the way a lift on certain economic and political sanctions.

Writing at Vox.com, Ezra Klein outlines what each nation has agreed to as part of the new agreement:

What the US will give Cuba

• Diplomatic opening: The U.S. will take steps toward restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba, severed since 1961.
• Embassy in Havana: This will include the goal of reopening a US embassy in Havana in the coming months. The embassy has been closed for over half a century.
• Release alleged Cuban spies: The US will release three Cubans who were convicted of espionage and imprisoned in the US: Gerardo Hernandez, Luis Medina, and Antonio Guerrero. All three prisoners were members of the "Wasp Network," a group that spied on prominent members of the Cuban-American community. CNN reports that Hernandez, the group's leader, was also linked to the downing of two two civilian planes operated by Brothers to the Rescue, a U.S.-based dissident group.
• Easing business and travel restrictions: The U.S. will make it easier for Americans to obtain licenses to do business in Cuba, and to travel to the island. CNN reports that the new rules still won't permit American tourism, but will make it easier to visit for other purposes.
• Easing banking restrictions: Americans will be able to use credit and debit cards while in Cuba.
• Higher remittance limits: Americans will be able to send up to $2000 per year to family members in Cuba. Cuban-American remittances are a major source of income for many Cuban families.
• Small-scale imports of Cuban cigars and alcohol: US travelers will be able to import up to $400 in goods from Cuba, including $100 in alcohol and tobacco products.
• Review of basis for sanctions: Secretary of State John Kerry has been ordered to review Cuba's status as a "state sponsor of terrorism." If his review determines that Cuba no longer deserves that status, that will be a first step towards lifting at least some US sanctions.
What Cuba will give the US
• Release Alan Gross: US contractor Alan Gross had been imprisoned in Cuba for the last five years on charges of attempting to undermine the Cuban government. His detention has been a major issue for the US and the Obama administration. He has been released and is on his way back to the United States.
• Release political prisoners: Cuba will release 53 political prisoners from a list provided by the United States. CNN also reports that Cuba is releasing a US intelligence source who has been imprisoned in Cuba for more than 20 years, but it is not clear whether that individual was one of the 53 included on the list.
• Increased internet access: Cuba will allow its citizens increased access to the internet. The US has long sought this as a means of increasing pressure within Cuba for democratic reform.
• Access by the UN: Cuba will allow officials from the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross to return to its territory.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

US Congress Passes Bill Increasing Weapons in Israel by $200 Million

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/27548-focus-us-congress-passes-bill-increasing-weapons-in-israel-by-200-million

Israeli troops. (photo: BBC)

US Congress Passes Bill Increasing Weapons in Israel by $200 Million

By Ken Klippenstein, Paul Gottinger, Reader Supported News
17 December 14

The US Senate has unanimously passed a bill supplying Israel with military equipment that would enable it to execute an air strike on Iran. The bill, titled the US-Israel Strategic Partnership Act, includes the sale of advanced aerial refueling tankers, which refuel fighter jets in midflight – necessary for Israeli fighter jets to reach targets in Iran. This is particularly noteworthy since the Bush administration had refused to provide Israel with refueling tankers.

The sale of the refueling tankers follows a 2013 arms sale to Israel that included V-22 Ospreys. Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution stated shortly after the sale that Ospreys are “the ideal platform for sending Israeli special forces into Iran.”

The bill, which was also passed in the House earlier this year, expands the US weapons stockpile in Israel by a value of $200 million, to a total of $1.8 billion. Israel used weapons from this stockpile during its most recent military operation against Gaza, “Operation Protective Edge.” Israel also used the stockpile during its 2006 invasion of Lebanon.

The bill has generated concern among experts. Mike Coogan, legislative coordinator at US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, told RSN that the air refueling capabilities, expanded satellite cooperation, and access to US satellite data that the bill would grant Israel “sounds quite dangerous.”
“It sounds like a formula for attacking Iran.”

The bill may also be in violation of the Leahy Law, which prohibits US weapons exports to military units responsible for consistent human rights violations. Israel’s most recent major military offensive, “Protective Edge,” would seem to have violated elementary human rights.

Richard Falk, former UN special rapporteur on Palestinian rights and professor of international law at Princeton, told this journalist, “the evidence that I’m aware of suggests the commission of serious crimes against humanity and war crimes in the course of this operation.”

The UN high commissioner for human rights likewise suggested that there was “a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes.” The UN secretary general condemned the high civilian death toll Israel inflicted upon the Palestinians: “I condemn this atrocious action. Israel must exercise maximum restraint and do far more to protect civilians.” Amnesty International called on the UN to “impose an arms embargo on Israel/Gaza.”

Andrew Feinstein, former minister of Parliament for South Africa and arms industry expert, told RSN that the bill is “in flagrant violation of the International Arms Trade Treaty, which the US supported and which prohibits the export of weaponry to countries engaged in conflict or where conflicts are likely to be extended or intensified by such exports.”

“It is further proof of the heinous role that the US plays as the biggest seller of weapons globally and reminds us again of US complicity in the continued occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people, which violates numerous international laws, conventions and UN resolutions. Israel continues to act as a shop window for US weapons at the cost of the lives of thousands of innocent Palestinians.”

Coogan was also critical of the expanded access to weapons stockpiles that the bill would afford Israel. He said, “it’s morally, financially, and legally problematic to continue to give Israel access to the weapons stockpiles, particularly in light of how they used them in their war on Gaza this summer.”

“It looked like, for a time, the Obama admin actually suspended a shipment of weapons to Israel – specifically, hellfire missiles – but then apparently started to resend those. But the thought behind the original suspension was that Israel was using it in violation of international law and US law.”

“I think it was shown by numerous human rights organizations that Israel was using ammunition stored in those forward-deployed stockpiles in clear violation of US and int’l law. So it’s a mystery to us why a country of laws – purportedly – would continue to give Israel access to weapons that it uses in flagrant violations of those laws.”

Retired political science professor and Israel expert Norman Finkelstein told RSN that the significance of the bill is that, “for all the bad blood between Obama and Netanyahu, nothing fundamental has changed in the US-Israel strategic relationship.”
________________________________________
Ken Klippenstein is a staff journalist at Reader Supported News. He can be reached on Twitter @kenklippenstein or via email: ken@readersupportednews.org

Paul Gottinger is an independent journalist whose work focuses on the Middle East and the arms industry. He can be reached on Twitter @paulgottinger or via email:paul.gottinger@gmail.com

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Can't you join us at Rep. Sarbanes' Towson office at 4:30 PM on December 17/Surgeon General Finally Confirmed in Major Win Over Gun Lobby

Friends,

Did you sign the letter? Can you join us in delivering the letter at 4:30 PM on December 17 to the office of Rep. John Sarbanes, 600 Baltimore Ave., Suite 303, Towson, MD 21204? The letter is available upon request.

Kagiso,

Max

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/27533-surgeon-general-finally-confirmed-in-major-win-over-gun-lobby


Vivek Murthy, the new Surgeon General of the U.S. (photo: Charles Dharapak/AP)

Surgeon General Finally Confirmed in Major Win Over Gun Lobby

By Tara Culp-Ressler, ThinkProgress
16 December 14

On Monday evening, the Senate finally confirmed President Obama’s nominee for U.S. Surgeon General, filling a position that’s been left vacant for the past 17 months.
“I applaud the Senate for confirming Vivek Murthy to be our country’s next Surgeon General,” Obama said in a statement. “As ‘America’s Doctor,’ Vivek will hit the ground running to make sure every American has the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe.”

Dr. Vivek Murthy’s confirmation marks the end of a long fight with the gun lobby, which tried toblock him from being approved because of his characterization of gun violence as a public health issue. Murthy has also faced ongoing opposition from some Republican leaders who have criticized him for being too much of a “political activist.” In addition to his stance on guns, he founded the organization Doctors for America and has been a vocal supporter of the Affordable Care Act.

Nonetheless, the new Surgeon General was confirmed this week by a 51-43 vote — made possibleby Democrats’ move to amend the Senate rules last fall so that executive brand nominees only need a simple majority to be confirmed.

Now, he’ll assume the role of the primary government spokesperson on public health issues. According to Murthy’s supporters, that’s a particularly important role in light of the ongoing Ebola epidemic. “It is more important than ever that we have a level-headed surgeon general in place who can calmly communicate with the American people,” argued a petition pressuring Congress to confirm Murthy.

The Surgeon General is also responsible for overseeing the 6,700 members of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, a team of health professionals that traces its history back to the U.S. Marine Hospital Service, which protected Americans against the spread of disease as sailors returned from abroad in the 1800s. Today, the corps members are deployed to respond to natural disasters and other potential public health threats, like foodborne illnesses.

Plus, Murthy will chair the National Prevention Council, a new partnership created by Obamacare that coordinates across 20 different government agencies to promote community-based wellness programs. So far, that council has mainly focused on promoting tobacco cessation and expanding access to healthy foods.

Murthy has been candid about the kind of work he plans to do in the Surgeon General’s office. During Senate hearings in February, he said that if were confirmed, he would focus on preventing childhood obesity, increasing rates of childhood vaccination, and driving down smoking rates. He said that he’s “deeply passionate” about disease prevention.

The American Public Health Association praised Murthy’s nomination, saying in a statement that the confirmation of a new Surgeon General will lead to “positive health outcomes” for the country. “For 140 years, the U.S. surgeon general has helped make our nation healthier,” the group said. “The costs of tobacco on our country, both in lives and money, have dropped for 50 years thanks in large part to effective leadership from the bully pulpit.”

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Why Speaking Out Is Worth the Risk

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/27526-why-speaking-out-is-worth-the-risk

US Army private Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in military prison for leaking classified government material to the website WikiLeaks. (photo: Juan Osborne/Amnesty International)

Why Speaking Out Is Worth the Risk

By Amnesty International
16 December 14

Chelsea Manning is serving a 35-year prison sentence for leaking classified US government documents to the website WikiLeaks. From her prison cell in Kansas, Chelsea tells us why speaking out against injustice can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Why did you decide to leak documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

These documents were important because they relate to two connected counter-insurgency conflicts in real-time from the ground. Humanity has never had this complete and detailed a record of what modern warfare actually looks like. Once you realize that the co-ordinates represent a real place where people live; that the dates happened in our recent history; that the numbers are actually human lives – with all the love, hope, dreams, hatred, fear, and nightmares that come with them – then it’s difficult to ever forget how important these documents are.

What did you think the consequences might be for you personally?

In 2010, I was a lot younger. The consequences felt very vague. I expected the worst possible outcome, but I didn’t have a strong sense of what that might entail. But I expected to be demonized and have every moment of my life examined and analyzed for every single possible screw-up that I’ve ever made - every flaw and blemish - and to have them used against me in the court of public opinion. I was especially afraid that my gender identity would be used against me.

What was it like to feel the full force of the US justice system and be presented as a traitor?

It was particularly interesting to see the logistics involved in the prosecution: the stacks of money spent; the gallons of fuel burned; the reams of paper printed; the lengthy rolls of security personnel, lawyers, and experts – it felt silly at times. It felt especially silly being presented as a traitor by the officers who prosecuted my case. I saw them out of court for at least 100 days before and during the trial and developed a very good sense of who they were as people. I’m fairly certain that they got a good sense of who I am as a person too. I remain convinced that even the advocates that presented the treason arguments did not believe their own words as they spoke them.

Many people think of you as a whistleblower. Why are whistleblowers important?

In an ideal world, governments, corporations, and other large institutions would be transparent by default. Unfortunately, the world is not ideal. Many institutions begin a slow creep toward being opaque and we need people who recognize that. I think the term “whistleblowers” has an overwhelmingly negative connotation in government and business, akin to a “tattle-tale” or “snitch”. This needs to be addressed somehow. Very often policies that supposedly protect such people are actually used to discredit them.

What would you say to somebody who is afraid to speak out against injustice?

First, I would point out that life is precious. In Iraq in 2009-10, life felt very cheap. It became overwhelming to see the sheer number of people suffering and dying, and the learned indifference to it by everybody around me, including the Iraqis themselves. That really changed my perspective on my life, and made me realize that speaking out about injustices is worth the risk. Second, in your life, you are rarely given the chance to really make a difference. Every now and then you do come across a significant choice. Do you really want to find yourself asking whether you could have done more, 10-20 years later? These are the kinds of questions I didn’t want to haunt me.

Why did you choose this particular artwork to represent you?

It’s the closest representation of what I might look like if I was allowed to present and express myself the way I see fit. Even after I came out as a trans woman in 2013, I have not been able to express myself as a woman in public. So I worked with Alicia Neal, an artist in California, to sketch a realistic portrait that more accurately represents who I am. Unfortunately, with the current rules at military confinement facilities, it is very unlikely that I will have any photos taken until I am released – which, parole and clemency notwithstanding, might not be for another two decades.

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

US TV Provides Ample Platform for American Torturers, but None to Their Victims

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/27529-focus-us-tv-provides-ample-platform-for-american-torturers-but-none-to-their-victims

Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg. (photo: Rex Features)

US TV Provides Ample Platform for American Torturers, but None to Their Victims

By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept
16 December 14

Ever since the torture report was released last week, U.S. television outlets have endlessly featured American torturers and torture proponents. But there was one group that was almost never heard from: the victims of their torture, not even the ones recognized by the U.S. Government itself as innocent, not even the family members of the ones they tortured to death. Whether by design (most likely) or effect, this inexcusable omission radically distorts coverage.

Whenever America is forced to confront its heinous acts, the central strategy is to disappear the victims, render them invisible. That’s what robs them of their humanity: it’s the process of dehumanization. That, in turns, is what enables American elites first to support atrocities, and then, when forced to reckon with them, tell themselves that - despite some isolated and well-intentioned bad acts – they are still really good, elevated, noble, admirable people. It’s hardly surprising, then, that a Washington Post/ABC News poll released this morning found that a large majority of Americans believe torture is justified even when you call it “torture.” Not having to think about actual human victims makes it easy to justify any sort of crime.

That’s the process by which the reliably repellent Tom Friedman seized on the torture report to celebrate America’s unique greatness. “We are a beacon of opportunity and freedom, and also [] these foreigners know in their bones that we do things differently from other big powers in history,” the beloved-by-DC columnist wrote after reading about forced rectal feeding and freezing detainees to death. For the opinion-making class, even America’s savage torture is proof of its superiority and inherent Goodness: “this act of self-examination is not only what keeps our society as a whole healthy, it’s what keeps us a model that others want to emulate, partner with and immigrate to.” Friedman, who himself unleashed one of the most (literally) psychotic defenses of the Iraq War, ended his torture discussion by approvingly quoting John McCain on America’s enduring moral superiority: “Even in the worst of times, ‘we are always Americans, and different, stronger, and better than those who would destroy us.’”

This self-glorifying ritual can be sustained only by completely suppressing America’s victims. If you don’t hear from the human beings who are tortured, it’s easy to pretend nothing truly terrible happened. That’s how the War on Terror generally has been “reported” for 13 years and counting: by completely silencing those whose lives are destroyed or ended by U.S. crimes. That’s how the illusion gets sustained.

Thus, we sometimes hear about drones (usually to celebrate the Great Kills) but almost never hear from their victims: the surviving family members of innocents whom the U.S. kills or those forced to live under the traumatizing regime of permanently circling death robots. We periodically hear about the vile regimes the U.S. props up for decades, but almost never from the dissidents and activists imprisoned, tortured and killed by those allied tyrants. Most Americans have heard the words “rendition” and “Guantanamo” but could not name a single person victimized by them, let alone recount what happened to them, because they almost never appear on American television.

It would be incredibly easy, and incredibly effective, for U.S. television outlets to interview America’s torture victims. There is certainly no shortage of them. Groups such as the ACLU, Center for Constitutional Rights, Reprieve, and CAGE UK represent many of them. Many are incredibly smart and eloquent, and have spent years contemplating what happened to them and navigating the aftermath on their lives.

I’ve written previously about the transformative experience of meeting and hearing directly from the victims of the abuses by your own government. That human interaction converts an injustice from an abstraction into a deeply felt rage and disgust. That’s precisely why the U.S. media doesn’t air those stories directly from the victims themselves: because it would make it impossible to maintain the pleasing fairy tales about “who we really are.”

When I was in Canada in October, I met Maher Arar (pictured above) for the second time, went to his home, had breakfast with his wife (also pictured above) and two children. In 2002, Maher, a Canadian citizen of Syrian descent who worked as an engineer, was traveling back home to Ottawa when he was abducted by the U.S. Government at JFK Airport, held incommunicado and interrogated for weeks, then “rendered” to Syria where the U.S. arranged to have him brutally tortured by Assad’s regime. He was kept in a coffin-like cell for 10 months and savagely tortured until even his Syrian captors were convinced that he was completely innocent. He was then uncermoniously released back to his life in Canada as though nothing had happened.

When he sued the U.S. government, subservient U.S. courts refused even to hear his case, accepting the Obama DOJ’s claim that it was too secret to safely adjudicate. The Canadian government released the findings of its investigation, publicly apologized for its role, and paid him $9 million. He used some of the money to start a political newspaper, which has since closed. He became an eloquent opponent of both the U.S. War on Terror and the Assad regime which tortured him as part of it.

But all you have to do is spend five minutes talking to him to see that he has never really recovered from being snatched from his own life and savagely tortured at the behest of the U.S. Government that still holds itself out as the Leader of the Free World. Part of him is still back in the torture chamber in Syria, and likely always will be.

Nobody could listen to Maher Arar speak and feel anything but disgust and outrage toward the U.S. Government – not just the Bush administration which kidnapped him and sent him to be tortured, but the Obama administration which protected them and blocked him from receiving justice, and the American media that turned a blind eye toward it, and the majority of the American public that supports this. But that’s exactly why we don’t hear from him: he isn’t on CNN or Meet the Press orMorning Joe to make clear what Michael Hayden and John Yoo really did and what the U.S. government under a Democratic president continues to shield.

There are hundreds if not thousands of Maher Arars the U.S. media could easily and powerfully interview. McClatchy this week detailed the story of Khalid al Masri, a German citizen whom the U.S. Government abducted in Macedonia, tortured, and then dumped on a road when they decided he wasn’t guilty of anything (US courts also refused to hear his case on secrecy grounds). The detainees held without charges, tortured, and then unceremoniously released from Guantanamo and Bagram are rarely if ever heard from on U.S. television, even when the U.S. Government is forced to admit that they were guilty of nothing.

This is not to say that merely putting these victims on television would fundamentally change how these issues are perceived. Many Americans would look at the largely non-white and foreign faces recounting their abuses, or take note of their demonized religion and ethnicity, and react for that reason with indifference or even support for what was done to them.

And one could easily imagine such interviews quickly degenerating into a blame-the-victim spectacle. When Fareed Zakaria this week interviewed former Guantanamo detainee (and current detainee rights advocate) Moazzem Begg, Zakaria demanded that Begg condemn ISIS even though Begg kept explaining that he was “abused cruelly, inhumanely and degradingly” by the U.S. Government, that “pictures of my children are waved in front of me while I’m being beaten and tortured and abused by people who claimed to be the bastions of freedom and democracy and human rights,” and that “whatever the situation was, the Taliban and the ISIS, they didn’t torture me. They didn’t put me into dungeons. They didn’t beat me. They didn’t threaten to, you know, abuse my family. They didn’t do that to me. So I can only talk to my experience.”

What this glaring omission in coverage does more than anything else is conclusively expose the utter fraud of the U.S. media’s claims to “objectivity” and “neutrality.” Outlets like The Washington Postand NPR still justify their refusal to call these torture tactics “torture” by invoking precepts of “neutrality”: we have to show all views, we can’t take sides, etc.

But that’s pure deceit. They don’t show all sides. They systematically and quite deliberately exclude the victims of the very policies of the U.S. Government they pretend to cover. And they do that because including those victims would be too informative, would provide too much information, would be too enlightening. It would, for many people, shatter the myths of American Goodness and the conceit that even when Americans do heinous things, they do it with Goodness and Freedom in their hearts, with a guaranteed and permanent status as superior. At the very least, it would make it impossible for many people to deny to themselves the utter savagery and sadism carried out in their names.

Keeping those victims silenced and invisible is the biggest favor the U.S. television media could do for the government over which they claim to act as watchdogs. So that’s what they do: dutifully, eagerly and with very rare exception.

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Monday, December 15, 2014

Democrats Who Voted for Spending Bill Received Twice as Much From Financial Industry Than NO Voters

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/27476-democrats-who-voted-for-spending-bill-received-twice-as-much-from-financial-industry-than-no-voters

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi broke with the Obama administration and urged other Democrats not to approve the spending bill. (photo: Susan Walsh/AP)

Democrats Who Voted for Spending Bill Received Twice as Much From Financial Industry Than NO Voters

By Philip Bump, The Washington Post
13 December 14

We'll start with the thing that will catch your attention, as is the way: Democrats who voted for the giant spending bill on Thursday night received, on average, twice the campaign contributions from the finance/insurance/real estate industry as their colleagues who voted against it.

Debate over the bill, you'll remember, ended up being centered on the repeal of a restriction on big banks imposed after the financial collapse that led to the recession. The vote in the House -- which ended up being far narrower than the White House would have liked -- resulted in an interesting geographic split. Here's how it looked.

Democrats in conservative areas (the South, upstate New York) voted for the bill. Republicans in conservative areas ... didn't. That doesn't hold true universally, but it's striking to see Kansas and Texas and Louisiana have so much of that lighter red color, showing Republicans who bucked Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and opposed the measure. (The black areas are districts whose representatives didn't vote.)

We cross-referenced the vote with data from the Center for Responsive Politics on how much each member had received in campaign contributions from the finance/insurance/real estate industries. This isn't only from PACs affiliated with those industries, we'll note; it also includes employees of firms in those industries. On average, members of Congress who voted yes received $322,000 from those industries. Those who voted no? $162,000. Here's the split by party.
Averages can be deceiving, of course, so here's another way to look at it. We color-coded each member of the House by party and then by how much money he or she had received from those industries as a function of the member who had received the most. On the chart below, darker colors mean the members took in more cash from the finance sector.

It's clearly noticeable, particularly on the Democratic side, how those who had received the most in campaign contributions were also more likely to vote "yes" on the bill.

It's important to remember that there isn't as clear a line from campaign contributions to congressional votes as people often assume. That's a tough argument to make in this context, of course, but it's worth remembering that it's not clear in which direction the influence flows. Did the financial, et al., industries give to these members of Congress because they are more likely to be sympathetic on issues such as bank deregulation? Did Congress vote for deregulation because of the contributions? The answer is a third option: Influence is complex and often impossible to trace.

There is another important reason that people give to members of Congress: power. The No. 1 recipient of contributions from those industries is that dark red box in the middle of the Republican "yes" votes: Speaker John Boehner.

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Max Obuszewski’s comments and requests made to the WYPR Community Advisory Board on December 3, 2014

Max Obuszewski’s comments and requests made to the WYPR Community Advisory Board on December 3, 2014

It is my hope that WYPR 88.1 can provide better programming and become a better public radio station.

1] Peace and justice activists continue to be ignored on the YPR programs. This leads to important stories being ignored. For example, there is no coverage about the connection between Pentagon spending and Baltimore poverty, or climate chaos, the military research, including a killer drone contract, at JHU’s Applied Physics Laboratory, a peace perspective on ISIS, the unconstitutional behavior of the National Security Agency and how the U.S. drone program kills an estimated 28 noncombatants for every militant.

I encourage CAB members to read this article: “Poor Kids in Baltimore Have It Worse Than Those in Nigeria.”See http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/27269-poor-kids-in-baltimore-have-it-worse-than-those-in-nigeria. Yes, we have many problems in Baltimore, and in my opinion, WYPR programming should consider seeking guests who might offer some solutions.

I suggest the following. For example the Everyman [sic] Theatre recently presented the play GROUNDED, which is about the psychological damage down to a “drone pilot”trained to use a computer to kill people in other countries. Why not interview the playwright George Brant?

David Hartsough, author of “Waging Peace: Global Adventures of A Lifelong Activist,” is on a book tour in the area. Hartsough, an anti-war activist since the 1950s, should be interviewed.

Long-time peace activist Kathy Kelly, just back from Afghanistan, was sentenced to three months in prison in December, and will start her sentence in January. She was convicted for taking bread and an indictment against the U.S. killer drone program to a military base. What a story she could tell.

Rory Fanning, who became a conscientious objector after two tours of duty as a Ranger in Afghanistan, wrote a book WORTH FIGHTING FOR and spoke recently at Red Emma’s. He walked from Norfolk to San/Diego to raise money for the Pat Tillman Foundation. His life story is remarkable.

Another public radio station did an interview with Dr. Thabit Abdullah. He was tortured by Saddam’s secret police, but he opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

YPR hosts should consider some of the speakers at Red Emma’s Bookstore Cafe, as consistently it has timely discussions. For example, Frida Berrigan, daughter of Philip Berrigan and Elizabeth McAlister, just spoke at Red Emma’s after the publication of her book on parenting for activists: "It Runs in the Family: On Being Raised by Radicals and Growing into Rebellious Motherhood."

There is room on the station’s local programs for more substantial issues. To take one example, Midday actually aired an interview with Earl Swift twice. His book AUTO BIOGRAPHY is about the thirteen owners of a 1957 Chevy. I would describe the interview and the book as fluff.

And Dutch Ruppersberger was recently on Midday extolling praise for the NSA, ignoring the unconstitutional behavior of its data-mining program. Sadly, Dutch is opposed to net neutrality. How about a progressive voice or two.

With some patience, a listener can find some progressive guests. The May 1st interview on Midday with Nomi Prins was excellent. It was a thrill to hear Tom Hall on May 2 interview Walt Michael and Caleb Stine about Pete Seeger. Also worthy of listening were two Midday shows. On October 23, the subject matter was “The Invisible Soldiers”— U.S. funded mercenaries and on October 31, there was a show about Poverty Capitalism.

2] I am hoping I can get an answer as to what happened to two Fresh Air interviews, both of which were dealing with serious issues. On August 11, Dave Davies was interviewing Eric Schlosser about his book “Nuclear 'Command And Control': A History Of False Alarms And Near Catastrophes.” It is a terrifying book which cries out for nuclear disarmament. Someone cut off the interview midstream, and a portion of a previous Fresh Air interview came on.

This happened again on YPR during the October 7 Terry Gross interview with Jonathan Eig, the author of “The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution.” YPR cut off the interview midstream and replayed a portion of an earlier Fresh Air interview.

How did this happen? Were the interviews cut off because of a complaint? Was there an underwriter intervening? Can the CAB get me an answer?

3] The recent drive to form a union indicates all is not well in Happy Valley. At the November 19 board meeting, Tony Brandon said a union was unnecessary. That is normal management-speak. He added, if I understand what he said, a union at YPR would allow WAMU to poach listeners. This made no sense to me. I suggest that the CAB should invite one of the employees who voted for a union to speak.

The station responded to the union drive to hire an anti-union law group to fight collective bargaining—Jackson Lewis. How much did management pay this firm, and what funds were used?

CAB members should read the articles about the union drive written by Ed Ericson in The City Paper. The initial vote was in favor of the union. However, in another vote which went against unionization, two hosts were declared management and people like Hugh Sisson were determined to be employees. The liberal David Warnock, however, did not vote. Anirban Basu, the conservative economist was given the vote, despite the fact he is an underwriter. And now he is part of the group preparing for the inauguration of Larry Hogan.

While Joel McCord interviewed some of us who demonstrated outside YPR in favor of the union, nothing ever aired. I am far from naïve to think the news department would allow our pro-union voices to be heard. There was a reporter from The Daily Record who also interviewed us, and her story did appear.

www.citypaper.com/news/mobtownbeat/bcp-wypr-management-hires-unionbusting-law-firm-to-quash-union-efforts-20141111,0,1619276.story

WYPR management hires union-busting law firm to quash union efforts By Edward Ericson Jr. City Paper 11:39 AM EST, November 11, 2014

Below is a portion of the article:

Workers at the NPR-affiliated radio station WYPR are raising questions about the station’s policies in the wake of their failure to form a labor union. At the forefront: How does a station underwriter become an “employee” under labor law?

Last week a hearing officer at the National Labor Relations Board effectively ruled against several challenges union organizers made to the makeup of the proposed bargaining unit, and that left the union without enough votes to win the election.

www.citypaper.com/blogs/the-news-hole/bcp-wypr-union-effort-fizzles-20141105,0,2096052.story

citypaper.com

The News Hole

The WYPR union effort is dead

By Edward Ericson Jr.
6:24 PM EST, November 5, 2014

Below is a portion of the article:

“This is a disappointing conclusion that reflects an imperfect process,” the WYPR Organizing Committee says in a statement sent via email. “When we started our union effort, we proposed a bargaining unit that included regular, full-time staff who produce WYPR’s programming. A majority of the full-time regular production and news staff still believe that our workplace and work product would be improved by collective bargaining.

“While we certainly think it’s important for employees to be compensated justly for their work, this was never the essential tenet of our grievances. We want to work at a radio station that values and prioritizes its locally produced content; that understands the importance of an effective firewall between commercial and editorial concerns; and where all staff feel empowered to raise legitimate concerns without fearing that we’ll be ignored, ostracized, or dismissed.

“We are disheartened by management’s decision to spend significant station resources to undermine our democratic effort. We hope they will commit as fully to making measurable improvements to the workplace and supporting the production staff. Because a public argument between staff and management could damage the reputation of WYPR and rattle the good faith of our valued listener/members, we will offer no further comment.”

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Can you sign on to this letter?/Can you help deliver it at 4:30 PM on Dec. 17?



Rep. John Sarbanes
600 Baltimore Ave.
Suite 303
Towson, MD 21204

December 17, 2014

Dear Representative Sarbanes:

Members of the Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore are voters and supporters of Progressive Democrats of America, and we trust you will be observing this Season of Peace and Compassion. Please give consideration to cosponsor the following legislation, (if you haven't already), and to oppose policies that could undermine diplomacy and the well being of American families.

This is the time to give diplomacy with Iran time to work. Progress may be slow, but it promises positive results. We strongly urge you to hold off on any new sanctions or any other actions that could set back ongoing negotiations and risk another costly, tragic war.

Please contact Rep. Raúl Grijalva’s office at (202)-225-2435 to cosponsor H.Con.Res. 114 to require the House to debate military intervention against ISIS. Warfare created the conditions that gave rise to ISIS. More warfare will increase instability in the Middle East. Also, please vote against new or renewed Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF).

Please oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and any other multinational commercial agreements that that would serve multinational special interests, and hurt American families. Also, oppose “fast track” or any other accelerated approval procedure that might abridge Congressional oversight.

Please contact Rep. Hank Johnson’s office at (202) 225-1605 to cosponsor H.R. 5478, the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act. This legislation would amend the program that authorizes the Secretary of Defense to transfer military equipment to local police forces that makes communities look like war zones, and threatens—rather than promotes—public safety.

Please contact Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton's office: (202) 225-8050 to cosponsor H.R. 292, the New Columbia Admission Act, legislation to set forth procedures to bring the state of New Columbia into the union—ending the injustice of taxation without representation for 100,000s in Washington, D.C.

Please contact Rep. Peter DeFazio's s office: (202) 225-6416 to cosponsor H.R. 630, the Postal Service Protection Act of 2013, to recalculate and restore retirement annuity obligations of the United States Postal Service (USPS), eliminate the requirement that the USPS pre-fund its Retiree Health Benefits Fund, restrict postal facilities closures, create incentives for innovation, and maintain levels of postal service.

Finally, we are seeking an end to the use of killer drone strikes, which we believe to be illegal and unconstitutional. We ask you to speak out against this assassination program, which ignores any veneer of due process. Consider as well a request for the full, unclassified release of information surrounding the administration’s drone policy.

We look forward to your response. And when you are ready, we would like to meet with you, preferably in Baltimore. But if necessary, we will travel to your D.C. office. We thank you for your consideration regarding these critically important issues, and look forward to ongoing discussion and engagement with you in the coming months.

Peace,

Max Obuszewski, on behalf of Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore/Fund Our Communities
Apt. 206, 431 Notre Dame Lane, Baltimore 21212