Monthly Archives: March 2013

Teens Trek 600 Miles Through Snow; Pro-Palestine Subway Ads Unveiled; North Dakota Abortion Fight

Cree Teenagers End Trek Through Snow: Last week, six Cree teenagers from Canada concluded a ten-week, 600-plus-mile journey on foot to Ottawa, the nation’s capital, on behalf of Cree solidarity as part of the Idle No More movement for indigenous rights. The half-dozen travelers, joined by nearly 300 people along the way, endured snowstorms and temperatures below 50 degrees Celsius, and were greeted with hospitality and kindness in many Canadian towns and cities throughout the way. The Cree activists were inspired by the much-publicized hunger strike of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, and were given counsel and guidance by leaders of the Cree community.

Pro-Palestine Ads To Grace New York Metro: On March 26, the group American Muslims for Palestine unveiled a campaign of ads it plans to roll out at Metro stations throughout New York City. The ads condemn ‘Israeli apartheid’ and call on the U.S. to stop sending aid to Israel. Timed to coincide with President Barack Obama’s visit to the Middle East, the new campaign comes just a few months after a series of “Support Israel, Defeat Jihad” ads were placed on New York subways by a right-wing activists. Previous pro-Palestinian ad campaigns have graced New York’s subways and Metro-North stations, including one last year by the Committee for Peace in Israel and Palestine that showed maps of a shrinking Palestinian territory through time.

Six-Week Abortion Ban Draws Fury:  More than 300 pro-choice activists converged in Bismarck, N.D. on March 25 to protest a wave of some of the most draconian anti-abortion laws in the nation. Three anti-abortion laws were signed by the governor that day, including one measure banning abortion as early as six weeks from conception. The rally was organized by the new Stand Up for Women North Dakota coalition, and occurred alongside rallies in Fargo, Grand Forks and Minot.

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Palestinians Unwelcome Obama; $1 Million in Medical Debt Abolished; ‘Persepolis’ Protests in Chicago

Rolling Jubilee Gains Momentum: Last week, Strike Debt activists announced that they have purchased and forgiven over $1 million in medical debt. The Rolling Jubilee campaign, launched earlier this year, used donations to forgive the emergency room bills owed by 1,000 randomly chosen people in Kentucky and Indiana, acquired for “pennies on the dollar.” Strike Debt has also launched a national week of action to demand cancellation of the country’s medical debt.

Palestinians Unwelcome Obama: On Wednesday, over a hundred Palestinians erected a 15-tent village on a hilltop in the disputed E1 area of the West Bank to protest Barack Obama’s visit to the region. The demonstration represented the latest in a series of Palestinian tent cities erected in defiance of Israel’s plans to build about 4,000 settlement housing units in the controversial E1 area, which would bisect the West Bank and compromise the territorial integrity of a future Palestinian state. Palestinian activists assert that the Obama administration has rubber-stamped this state of affairs.

Chicago Students Fight Book-Banning: Nearly 400 students at Chicago’s Lane Tech College Prep School attempted to stage a sit-in on Monday to protest the Chicago Public School’s removal of the graphic novel series ‘Persepolis’ from its seventh-grade curriculum. The demonstration, organized through Facebook and other social media, started at 8 a.m. with students flooding the hallways, and was broken up twenty minutes later by faculty, who locked the library doors to prevent students from entering. CPS officials say they removed the series of autobiographical novels–which depict the life of a young Iranian woman before, during and after the country’s Islamic revolution–due to their use of strong language and scenes of graphic violence. According to American Libraries, CPS has backtracked on the decision to remove the book from libraries, which students and faculty said amounted to censorship: “Chicago Public Schools (CPS) chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett has reversed a directive to pull Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, from CPS libraries, though she maintains the book is not appropriate for 7th graders and should be removed from classrooms.”

Tar Sands Week of Action: Environmental activists staged a ‘Stop Tar Sands Profiteers’ week of action nationwide to protest companies profiting from the destruction that could be caused by the Keystone XL Pipeline. In New Orleans on March 17, protesters blocked buses full of oil executives headed to the Howard Well Energy Conference, and disrupted corporate dinners throughout the French Quarter. On March 21st, 20 religious leaders from several denominations led an interfaith demonstration at the White House, followed by one at the Canadian Embassy. All in all, over 30 events were planned and executed by over 50 grassroots organizations opposed to the pipeline and the corporations that profit from it.

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The 5 Biggest Corporate Cyberbullies; Detainee Hunger Strike; Standing Up to Socialist Misogyny

Hunger Strike at Guantanamo: Approximately one hundred detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba have gone on hunger strike in protest of indefinite detention under cruel and inhumane conditions, lawyers representing two detainees revealed on Tuesday. The strike is also a reaction to unprecedented searches, confiscations, and desecrations of personal items by a new guard force. After lawyers representing detainees Kuwaitis Fayiz al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah first broke the news, subsequent lawyers confirmed that their clients have experienced significant weight and blood loss following weeks of refusing food along with most other inmates of Guantanamo’s Camp 6 facility. 166 men remain under indefinite detention at Camp 6, though 86 of them have been cleared for release since 2009.

SWP Imploding Over Handling of Rape Allegations: On Tuesday, 71 people resigned from the British Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) as controversy continues following allegations of sexual assault committed by a senior member of the party. The SWP leadership has been accused of setting up a “kangaroo court” to address allegations of rape dating back to 2008. The exiting party members asserted that “the SWP leadership has done everything it can to silence members’ genuine concerns on the matter” including bullying, silencing, and expulsions from the party in an effort to suppress the controversy. This is the latest in a string of sexism scandals to tarnish Britain’s far left.

Corporate Enemies of the Internet: To coincide the World Day Against Cyber Censorship on Tuesday, the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders released a special report on Internet surveillance. The “state enemies of the Internet”named in the repor include Syria, China and Iran. At a time when around 180 people are imprisoned worldwide for disseminating news and information online, Reporters Without Borders decries the use by governments of increasingly sophisticated surveillance technology to monitor and intercept electronic communication and arrest citizen-journalists. The report also identifies five “digital era mercenaries”—Gamma, Trovicor, Hacking Team, Amesys and Blue Coat—that act as “digital era mercenaries” that sell products used by authoritarian governments to violate human rights.

Intervention in Bahrain: Thousands of protesters clashed with military and police forcesThursday near Manama, the capital city of Bahrain. Demonstrators took the streets to mark the second anniversary of the intervention that suppressed the country’s 2011 uprising. Since the country’s Shia majority demanded reforms, political freedom and equality, talks have stalled between opposition forces and the government, which clamped down on dissent through a Saudi-backed military intervention. Though road barricades were erected, Molotov cocktails thrown and tires burnt on the streets of Manama, justice remains to be served to a regime which has killed more than 80 protesters and subjected thousands to imprisonment and torture since the Arab Spring-led uprising.

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Oil Giants for Feminism; Maple Spring Revival

The Changing Face of International Women’s Day: The first International Women’s Day in 1911 was the conception of socialists who wanted to expand women’s participation in the parties and trade unions. The idea behind it was that men would stay home and care for the children, while women went out and attended meetings. Since then, the holiday has been corporatized to the point that we’re now being asked to “Discover BP’s Feminine Side.” But the holiday hasn’t been completely evacuated of its political edge: Check out this article on international women’s day celebrations aimed at ending femicide in Mexico over at Bitch.

Expose AIPAC: On March 1st, activists from the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and Code Pink descended on Capitol Hill to greet members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The pro-Israel lobbying group is urging lawmakers to exempt aid to Israel from slated across-the-board cuts to government spending, by passing legislation to label Israel a ‘major strategic ally.’ Hoping that times of austerity would would change the conversation around AIPAC, activists staged a series of protests and workshops with the aim of eroding the near-unanimous support the lobbying group has enjoyed on Capitol Hill. Second only to Afghanistan, Israel receives more than $3 billion in U.S. aid every year.

Down With ‘Athena,’ Say Greeks: Thousands of university students marched in Athens this week to protest a new higher education reform bill that will cut deficits in the education budget by closing or merging more than 350 departments in universities nationwide. The proposed plan, ironically named ‘Athena’ after the Greek goddess of wisdom, has come under fire from students, many of whom will have to move to different cities to continue study, or else end up with a different degree entirely. As chants of ‘we want our diplomas, not worthless documents’ echoed across the streets of Athens, Greece shows little sign of recovering from the severe debt crisis that has thrown the country into tumult since 2009.

Maple Spring Revival: Montreal’s ‘Maple Spring’ may not be over just yet. On Tuesday,thousands of students demonstrated in Montreal against tuition fee increases levied by Montreal’s Parti Québécois (PQ). Quebec’s vibrant student movement had declared victory last after the newly-elected PQ cancelled the tuition hike that sparked a massive student strike last year.  But students are returning to the streets following an announcement by Premier Pauline Marois at an education summit last week that her government will increase tuition fees by 3%, only slightly less than the previously ruling Liberal party.

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Vital Signs: Bradley Manning Pleads Guilty; The Muslim Brotherhood’s ‘Harlem Shake’ Problem

from In These Times

Bradley Manning Sought to Reveal “True Costs of War:” Bradley Manning has pled guilty to 10 of the 22 charges against him, admitting to releasing sensitive logs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, video showing a U.S gunship killing civilians in Baghdad, and cables from the State Department to the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks. Though the ten charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, military prosecutors are expected to press for life imprisonment. Manning has denied, however, that he ‘aided the enemy, insisting that his leak did not benefit al-Qaeda’s operations against America. In a 35-page statement read in court, Manning defended actions that he believed “could spark a domestic debate on the role of our military in our foreign policy in general.” In a prepared statement, Manning also revealed that he had first approached mainstream news outlets with the information, but was ignored by editors.

Activists Held in ‘Grand Jury Witch Hunt’ Released: Two activists who refused to cooperate in a grand jury investigation were released from federal custody in Seattle yesterday following five months in detention, much of which was spent in solitary confinement. Katherine Olejnik and her roommate, Matthew Duran, both of Olympia, Washington, were held in civil contempt in September 2012 after they declined to testify in grand jury hearings. The hearings were reportedly related to last year’s May Day march in Seattle, during which protesters smashed windows and attempted to set fire to a federal courthouse, the federal order does not divulge what is being investigated. The court order releasing the two activists notes the decline of their physical and mental health as a result of prolonged solitary confinement. According to the Seattle Times, Olejnik and Duran could still be convicted for contempt of court.
Death of the Blue-Green Alliance?: On February 27, the AFL-CIO issued a statement calling for the expansion of the nation’s oil pipeline system. Many are calling the an indirect endorsement of construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Though executives of the AFL-CIO, at their annual meeting in Florida, called for for an energy policy that acknowledged the threat of climate change, they praised pipelines as a ‘low carbon emissions method of transporting oil and gas’ and argued that, were the Keystone XL pipeline not built, Canada would ship tar sands oil overseas by tanker in a more costly, carbon-intensive process. The decision may encourage President Obama to approve the pipeline, and will likely test the already tense alliances between organized labor and the environmental movement. Building trades unions are among the most enthusiastic backers of the pipeline, because of the thousands of jobs it would create for their members.

Dance, Dance Revolution: A student group in Tunisia calling itself ‘Satiric Revolutionary Struggle’ is staging large-scale ‘Harlem Shake’ protest dances in front of the Muslim Brotherhood’s headquarters and the Ministry of Education. The group has formed in retaliation against the February 23 arrest of four university students for filming a version of the popular online dance in their underwear. In a country where secularists and Islamists have been in tension since the Arab Spring, the Harlem Shake protests are enacted in defense of art and freedom of expression.

Demonstrators Defend the Voting Rights Act: On February 27, hundreds of people protested outside the Supreme Court as it considered whether to annul a section of the Voting Rights Act that requires southern states with a history of racism and voter discrimination to seek federal approval before making changes to state electoral procedures. Alabama Republicans, who consider the law an infringement on the civil rights of whites, are supported in their case by Justice Antonin Scalia, who called the Voting Rights Act a perpetuation of racial entitlement.” The diverse crowd was addressed by leaders of Latin American, African American, white, and elderly communities, united in their struggle to protect hard-earned civil rights.

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