Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Jimmy Carter on Meeting with Hamas

Food, Forests and Fuel

To follow up on Affad's and Yesi's posts, below are excerpts from an excellent article by the activist and writer Vandana Shiva. The article is a few months old but still very much relevant. Reading articles like these makes me want to drop everything and help out these activists in their struggle for a better world.

In 2007, no one can deny that man-made climate change is taking place. However, the commitment to mitigate and help the vulnerable to adapt does not match the recognition of the disaster.

Mitigation requires material changes in production and consumption patterns. Globalisation has pushed production and consumption worldwide to higher carbon dioxide emissions. WTO rules of trade liberalization are in effect rules that force countries on a high emissions pathway. Similarly, World Bank lending for super highways and thermal power plant, industrial agriculture and corporate retail coerces countries to emit more greenhouse gases. And giant corporations such as Cargill and Walmart carry major responsibility in destroying local, sustainable economies and pushing society after society into dependence on an ecologically destructive global economy. Cargill is an important player in spreading soya cultivation in the Amazon, and palmoil plantations in the rainforest of Indonesia thus increasing emissions both by the burning of forests and destruction of the massive carbon sink in rainforests and peat lands. And Walmart's model of long distance centralized trade is a recipe for increasing the carbon dioxide burden in the atmosphere.

...

Another false solution to climate change is the promotion of biofuels based on corn and soya, palmoil and jatropha.

Biofuels, fuels from biomass, continue to be the most important energy source for the poor in the world. The ecological biodiverse farm is not just a source of food; it is a source of energy. Energy for cooking the food comes from the inedible biomass like cow dung cakes, stalks of millets and pulses, agro-forestry species on village wood lots. Managed sustainably, village commons have been a source of decentralized energy for centuries

Industrial biofuels are not the fuels of the poor; they are the foods of the poor, transformed into heat, electricity, and transport. Liquid biofuels, in particular ethanol and bio-diesel, are one of the fastest growing sectors of production, driven by the search of alternatives to fossil fuels both to avoid the catastrophe of peak oil and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. President Bush is trying to pass legislation to require the use of 35 billion gallons of biofuels by 2017. M. Alexander of the Sustainable Development Department of FAO has stated: "The gradual move away from oil has begun. Over the next 15 to 20 years we may see biofuels providing a full 25 per cent of the world's energy needs."


Continue at Znet

For socal folks, Vendana Shiva will be speaking at UCI on April 30th - don't miss out! If you attend, please do share your thoughts.

Top CIA Operatives Admit Al-Qaeda Is a Complete Fabrication



I recently came upon a BBC documentary from 2004 called “The Power of Nightmares.” In it top CIA officials openly admit, Al-Qaeda is a total and complete fabrication, never having existed at any time. The Bush administration needed a reason that complied with the laws so they could go after “the bad guy” namely laws that had been set in place to protect us from mobs and “criminal organizations” such as the Mafia. They paid Jamal al Fadl, hundreds of thousands of dollars to back the U.S. Government’s story of Al-Qaeda, a “group” or criminal organization they could “legally” go after. I’m posting it up here but since it is a little long you can go directly to the link here, to let it load and watch later.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

More on Global Food Crisis

Affad recently posted on the topic of worldwide food shortages across the globe. The situation is getting worse as the price of food worldwide continues soaring. A couple articles I recently read do an excellent job of covering the situation and also delve deeper into the reasons to why this is happening. I’ll provide a few excerpts of each article but urge you to read them in order to get a better understanding of the issues.

Article 1:

In Haiti, where most people get 22% fewer calories than the minimum needed for good health, some are staving off their hunger pangs by eating “mud biscuits” made by mixing clay and water with a bit of vegetable oil and salt.[1]

Meanwhile, in Canada, the federal government is currently paying $225 for each pig killed in a mass cull of breeding swine, as part of a plan to reduce hog production. Hog farmers, squeezed by low hog prices and high feed costs, have responded so enthusiastically that the kill will likely use up all the allocated funds before the program ends in September.

Some of the slaughtered hogs may be given to local Food Banks, but most will be destroyed or made into pet food. None will go to Haiti.

This is the brutal world of capitalist agriculture — a world where some people destroy food because prices are too low, and others literally eat dirt because food prices are too high.

…The actions in Haiti paralleled similar protests by hungry people in more than twenty other countries.

In Burkino Faso, a two-day general strike by unions and shopkeepers demanded “significant and effective” reductions in the price of rice and other staple foods.

In Bangladesh, over 20,000 workers from textile factories in Fatullah went on strike to demand lower prices and higher wages. They hurled bricks and stones at police, who fired tear gas into the crowd.

The Egyptian government sent thousands of troops into the Mahalla textile complex in the Nile Delta, to prevent a general strike demanding higher wages, an independent union, and lower prices. Two people were killed and over 600 have been jailed.

In Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, police used tear gas against women who had set up barricades, burned tires and closed major roads. Thousands marched to the President’s home, chanting “We are hungry,” and “Life is too expensive, you are killing us.”

In Pakistan and Thailand, armed soldiers have been deployed to prevent the poor from seizing food from fields and warehouses.

Similar protests have taken place in Cambodia, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Honduras, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Niger, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Thailand, Uzbekistan, and Zambia. On April 2, the president of the World Bank told a meeting in Washington that there are 33 countries where price hikes could cause social unrest.

Article 2:

Fidel Castro called biofuels "genocide," and he was right. And there can be no question as to the identity of the perpetrators of this global genocide: the Lords of Capital that formulate the foreign and domestic policy of the United States. That policy calls for 20 million acres of corn from states like Iowa to be converted from food to fuel. As should have been expected, such a massive diversion almost immediately pushed up the price of all other basic foodstuffs - a global disaster made quick and easy by the fact that, over the past several decades, planetary food production has been taken over by agribusiness - the speculative human parasites that control how food is bought and sold, and to whom, and for what purpose. These Lords of Capital are killers on a mass scale.

These are nothing less than crimes against humanity, and cannot help but destroy the lives of millions who are already at the very edge of the precipice.

The so-called "market" - which is actually a club of super-rich men who distort and destroy everything of value to humanity that they touch - will be the death of us all, and much quicker than through the effects of global warming, which is also greatly accelerated by the ghoulish, greedy rush to grow food for cars rather than people. In such a murderous environment -manipulated purely for the profits of the Lords of Capital - neither trees nor peasants stand a chance. The United Nations says it needs about half a billion dollars for the most critical cases of starvation, but no amount of emergency aid is sufficient to make up for the wild price rises that have already occurred - and which will put trillions in the pockets of the Lords of Capital.

Agribusiness wiped out small farmers in the U.S., and impoverished and pushed off the land untold millions of peasants, worldwide. Now the Lords of Capital have imposed a triage of death by starvation on the planet. The people who live on two dollars or less per day will have to die, and then, as prices rise, the three dollar people will follow.

Again I ask the question, what is the solution to this issue, much like others, when there is a worldwide system that thrives off of such injustices? The markets are not the solution. Capitalism is not good for people and other living things.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Change of lingo for Bush admin...about time!

The Bush administration has launched a new front in the war on terrorism, this time targeting language.

Federal agencies, including the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counter Terrorism Center, are telling their people not to describe Islamic extremists as "jihadists" or "mujahedeen," according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. Lingo like "Islamo-fascism" is out, too.

The reason: Such words may actually boost support for radicals among Arab and Muslim audiences by giving them a veneer of religious credibility or by causing offense to moderates.

For example, while Americans may understand "jihad" to mean "holy war," it is in fact a broader Islamic concept of the struggle to do good, says the guidance prepared for diplomats and other officials tasked with explaining the war on terror to the public. Similarly, "mujahedeen," which means those engaged in jihad, must be seen in its broader context.

U.S. officials may be "unintentionally portraying terrorists, who lack moral and religious legitimacy, as brave fighters, legitimate soldiers or spokesmen for ordinary Muslims," says a Homeland Security report.


Continue here

Hat tip: Marya Bangee

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Savants

MashaAllah. Savants are known to have genius talents whether it is in music, art, mathematics, or memory in general. Whether they were born this way or acquired it via brain damage, their talents truly are a gift. There is research that we may all have the potential to be savants but because our sensory systems prioritizes our first 5 senses and any other intermediate senses that we may not be aware of such as language, the brain loses a lot information . Therefore, instead of getting 100% of any experience we only get the jist of it. The brain is just so complex, mysterious and interesting. Here are some videos of savants. I urge you to learn more about them.




U.S. Student Held in Solitary Confinement on Terrorism Charges

By Tom Eley
24 April 2008

In a chilling example of the expanding prosecution of individuals on trumped-up charges of “terrorism,” Syed Hashmi, a 27-year-old US citizen and former student at Brooklyn College in New York City and at London Metropolitan University, is being held in solitary confinement in a federal prison on trumped-up charges of providing material support to Al Qaida. He could face as much as 70 years in prison.

In June 2006, Hashmi was arrested by British security personnel at Heathrow Airport, where he was waiting for a flight to Pakistan where he was to visit relatives. Eleven months later, Hashmi was extradited to the US, where he was placed in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan under conditions of extreme isolation.

Hashmi grew up in a Pakistani-American family living in Queens, New York City. He majored in political science at Brooklyn College, graduating in 2003. He then studied international relations at London Metropolitan University, earning a Masters Degree in 2005.

The evidence against Hashmi is based on the plea bargain of Mohammed Junaid Babar, another US citizen arrested on five counts of aiding Al Qaida. In exchange for testimony against Hashmi and other cases pending in Canada and the UK, Babar stands to receive a substantially reduced sentence.

According to Babar, he stayed at Hashmi’s London apartment in 2004 en route to Pakistan to deliver items such as raincoats and waterproof socks to an Al Qaida representative. He claimed that Hashmi served as a conduit in this alleged pipeline of non-lethal material, by virtue of the fact that Babar kept the items in the student’s apartment. Hashmi is also accused of allowing Babar to use his cellular phone.

While the offenses Hashmi is alleged to have committed occurred in Britain, he became the first person ever extradited by the British government to the US on terrorism charges, while never being charged in Britain itself. Under US law, any American citizen accused of aiding terrorism abroad may be charged in the US. The extradition strongly suggests that British authorities did not believe the evidence strong enough to support a prosecution there.

Hashmi’s former professors at Brooklyn College have recently circulated a “statement of concern” via e-mail. According to Jeanne Theoharis, Hashmi’s senior thesis advisor, “the statement makes no presumption about Syed’s guilt or innocence but focuses on the constitutional issues raised by his case and the ways his civil rights and liberties have been abridged.” Theoharis intends to present the petition to members of Congress, the Justice Department, and the media.

Hashmi faces severe isolation in prison, conditions imposed by the office of the US Attorney General under its so-called “special administrative measures” or “SAMs.” Theoharis described these medieval regulations:

“Hashmi must be held in solitary confinement and may not communicate with anyone inside the prison other than prison officials. Family visits are limited to one person every other week for one and a half hours and cannot involve physical contact. While his correspondence to members of Congress and other government officials is not restricted, he may write only one letter (of no more than three pieces of paper) per week to one family member. He may not communicate, either directly or through his attorneys, with the news media. He may read only designated portions of newspapers—and not until thirty days after their publication—and his access to other reading material is restricted. He may not listen to or watch news-oriented radio stations and television channels. He may not participate in group prayer. He is subject to 24-hour electronic monitoring and 23-hour lockdown, has no access to fresh air, and must take his one hour of daily recreation—when it is given—inside a cage.

Read on here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Americans in America Targeted for Assasination by Israel

Not sure, but the death of Riad Hamad Esolh seems to have gone un-noticed in the Palestinian circle of Activists in the MSA's and on the West Coast. Riad Hamad Esolh's body was found in a lake in Austin, after what police described was a suicide. However, reports are now coming in that it might be far more sinister then that, in fact, some are suggesting that it was an assassination? This is Riad blog, his obituary, here is a little bit about PCWF his organization (I wont provide the direct link, go google it) and read below:







Kurt Nimmo
Infowars
April 22, 2008

On the Alex Jones Show today, Dr. Ibrahim Dremali, Director of the Islamic Center of Greater Austin, described the condition of Riad Hamad Esolh's body after he allegedly committed suicide by trussing himself in duct tape and throwing himself in the Colorado River in Austin, also known as Lady Bird Lake.

Islamic law requires the deceased be washed prior to burial and this was what Mr. Dremali did less than 24 hours after Mr. Hamad was pulled from the Colorado River and after an autopsy, although it appears Hamad's family did not give permission for an autopsy. Normally, according to Dr. Dremali, the "police contact Islamic Center before they do anything" and they did not do this in the case of Mr. Hamad.

Dremali described to Alex Jones the condition of Hamad's body. It appeared as if he had been "attacked by an animal in the jungle," Dremali said. Hamad was cut from the shoulder to the stomach; his arms were cut and his face was bruised and the rear of his skull was bashed in. Dremali said Hamad's brain was missing. Alex speculated Hamad's brain was missing because he may have been shot in the head.

Dremali stressed that suicide is forbidden under Islamic law. Moreover, the claim Hamad committed suicide is specious because he had children and was in the process of obtaining a doctorate degree.

Dr. Dremali would not speculate if Riad Hamad was assassinated, although it is now obvious, considering the condition of the body, he did not commit suicide.

If indeed Riad Hamad was assassinated, this would dovetail with Israel's declaration they will target assassinate "Palestinian extremists," apparently including American school teachers who send textbooks to Palestinian school children, obviously a terrorist event. Israeli intelligence, according to United Press International, considers violating U.S. sovereignty and murdering U.S. citizens as "operational maneuverability."

I don't know about you, but I would think being in America, and especially as a citizen, one would think our government would take issue with such a malevolent attitude, then again we are dealing with yet another Israeli spying case, so it begs to question who exactly are we allied with and in whose interest are we looking out for?

No, You Forget MSA UCSD is the most Terroristic

See I was spending the day going over MSA activities, after seeing that FrontPage Magazine, I knew they got it all wrong. UCI, UC Berkeley, UCLA - they have nothing over UCSD. I should know, I went to UCSD.

UCSD had the first propaganda wall, and the first successful take down of the propaganda wall. UCSD had an entire issue of the the "Dawn" the tabloid Jihadist newspaper dedicated to "super sonic jihad" activities attacking in propaganda fashion Israel. It was UCSD that prominently displayed anti-Semitic "Zionsim=Nazism" signs on campus, Library walk of all places, with over two blocks worth of Art, graphics and facts. It was Amir Abdul Malik's first outdoor venue speech. It was UCSD that coined the term "Muslim activist" to cover up the real purpose and design of MSA's in the United States- to take over the Supreme Court!

It was UCSD where the MSA lead a student uprising against FREE SPEECH, lead to the shut down of a respectable University Newspaper: The Koala. Using communist tactics and allying with left wing liberal forces they spread a virulent negative perspective of the paper.

So yes, I am not only bitter but outright angry. All those years trying to not associate with Muslims because of being labeled a terrorist now seems to have paid off for nothing, seeing that MSA UCSD wasn't even on the terrorist network list!

How could they have gotten it so wrong? I mean come on - Queensborough Community College? Who the hell goes there?

Maybe Daniel Pipes could create a special category for UCSD, because we are in a "League of our Own". UCSD is like the Sex Pistols to Punk. Or the Ramones to "new wave" (huh?). UCSD is like the Harvard of institutionalized "terrorizing networks". UCSD is like Edward Said's Orientalism, re-writing the entire face of Academic activism on campuses. UCSD is like the Al-Qaeda manual to Muslim activism on college campuses, like duh!

Being such an outlier on the curve, Pipes probably felt it was unfair to include us in the "list of stealth Jihadist" MSA's so as not to be an anomaly.

See great minds do tend to think a like. Though I am not sure if Pipes was following this great mind, because Queensborough Community College? (What The Monkeybutt?)

No really, that's out of left field. Its like saying Cuba is a democracy. Or like Mugabe is the greatest elected official in the world, right after Emperor Bush and Comrade Putin.

Look I have the pictures to prove it:

Subversive forces work to undermine President Bush's evidence gathering. This picture raises questions on how the UCSD MSA can be so small yet present everywhere, where is their funding coming from? (2002)



Amir Abdul Malik, the fiery "anti-Semite", a consistent


Spreading propaganda and "Right of Return" in other words, the annihilation of Israel. (2005)


Here using morbid tactics, placing body outlines all over campus to win sympathy for terrorist organizations, during the "Peace not Apartheid Week"- (Spring 2005)



Spring 2004, "Justice in Palestine Week" all members wore black to intimidate any other voices but theirs. This picture is of the shirt produced by the MSA for this week, where did they get funding for this?


Though outnumbered, there were Freedom loving patriots undercover monitoring the "hate fest". Patriots are never intimidated by fascists.

The intimidation continues, while celebrating the 56th anniversary of the establishment of the only Democracy in the Middle East, MSA drew on propaganda and "shock and awe" tactics to diminish the Jewish student presence on campus.



Part of the intimidation and Antisemitism displayed proudly with consent from Chancellor Dynes at the time.


The notorious propaganda wall- this is from 2004.

The wall propaganda destroyed, and the terrorist wearing TERRORIST garb worn by Hamas militants trying to prop it back up.


Promoting illegal sanctions against Israel, a MSA co-sponsored talk on Divestment (2002)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Invest in Peace, Divest from Occupation

The BDS movement (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) against Apartheid Israel has been gaining incredible momentum this past year. Most recently, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers voted to support the boycott movement, which makes it the first national union in North America to do so - a historical moment.

Jewish Voice for Peace has recently launched a blog, Invest for Peace, to support American churches and Christian communities with their brave BDS initiatives. Check it out here.

What I really like about this campaign is that it gives the BDS movement a face, literally. JVP is requesting allies to post a short message along with their photo on the blog:


This week, Methodists have a chance to make history, but they need your support. They are gathering at their General Conference, a meeting that takes place once every four years, to make policy decisions for their 11.5 million member denomination.

They have already felt the sting of charges of anti-semitism for taking principled stands on the Israeli occupation, as well as considering selective divestment.

They need to hear from Jews and allies who are willing to stand up, tell the truth, and act for justice.

We've created a website for Methodist delegates (and Presbyterian delegates who are meeting in June) called "Invest in Peace."

Please send a photo and a short, positive message of support for our blog www.investinpeace.org. You can do this easily by sending an e-mail to investinpeace@jewishvoiceforpeace.org with a photograph attached and your personalized message in the body.


I think what the photo does is re-emphasize the fact that the Palestinian supporters are a diverse group of people from different faiths, ethnicities, and backgrounds all of whom realize the injustices committed by Israel against the Palestinians and are not willing to remain silent about it. At the end of the day, this is what the global BDS movement is all about.

I'm sure JVP could use all the support they can get!

Do You Twitter?

Maybe you should. I joined Twitter today, and according to the friends they were able to track thru my Gmail address book a lot of folks have some catching up to do.

Why would you want to join another online social network though: Maybe because if you're the kind of person who likes challenging authority and is always at risk of being visited by the Department of Homeland Security, this little social network could be your best friend?

When Egyptian police scooped up University of California, Berkeley, graduate journalism student James Karl Buck, who was photographing a noisy demonstration, and dumped him in a jail cell last week, they didn't count on Twitter.

Buck, 29, a former Oakland Tribune multimedia intern, used the ubiquitous short messaging service to tap out a single word on his cellular phone: ARRESTED.

The message went out to the cell phones and computers of a wide circle of friends in the United States and to the mostly leftist, anti-government

bloggers in Egypt who are the subject of his graduate journalism project.

The next day, Buck walked out a free man with an Egyptian attorney hired by the university at his side and the U.S. Embassy on the phone.

Twitter, the micro-blogging service for cell phone users, allows messages up to 140 characters long. Twitter users can allow anyone they wish to join their network and receive all their messages. Buck has a large network, so Twitter gave him an instant link to the outside world.

He recalls advice from his Twitter friends came in mounds of terse messages.

"It was a combination of things. My Egyptian friends told me to play the 'American (card)' and try to force my way out," Buck said. They also told him that it was no big deal and to just stay calm.

Meanwhile, U.S. friends on his Twitter net called the university and the American Embassy. They also alerted the Associated Press, the International Herald Tribune and other media, which helped put the heat on the Egyptian authorities. He was released Friday and returned home Sunday.

Full Story: The Mercury News

Want to join or just learn more?
Check out the Twitter site!

Monday, April 21, 2008

For Those Who Ask Why I Don't Have a Facebook...

Reality television, consumed with liberal doses of MySpace and Facebook, will make friendships of the future far more promiscuous. So says a newly-released study about people who invest a lot of time in creating profiles of themselves online (which is increasingly all of us). The authors of the study have discovered an intriguing trend in the way people are re-define "friendship" after hanging out a lot online. The good news is that current trends all point to more casual sex for people who "friend" each other online.

While plenty of studies have already shown that friendships have become much more casual in an era of "friending" random people on MySpace, this new study takes that idea further. Its authors describe how reality TV and social networking sites feed into each other, creating a world where many people think of themselves and their friends less as real people and more like iconic celebrities. The researchers call this a shift toward having "mediated" selves, as if all social interactions take place via the media.


Continue here

I'm not saying Facebook et al. is all bad, but for me, the bad outweights the good.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Israeli Soldier Confesses

This article from the Independent yesterday highlights some of the disgusting acts of violence Israeli soldiers commit against Palestinian youth and families. We all know it gets worse than this though.

The dark-haired 22-year-old in black T-shirt, blue jeans and red Crocs is understandably hesitant as he sits at a picnic table in the incongruous setting of a beauty spot somewhere in Israel. We know his name and if we used it he would face a criminal investigation and a probable prison sentence.

The birds are singing as he describes in detail some of what he did and saw others do as an enlisted soldier in Hebron. And they are certainly criminal: the incidents in which Palestinian vehicles are stopped for no good reason, the windows smashed and the occupants beaten up for talking back – for saying, for example, they are on the way to hospital; the theft of tobacco from a Palestinian shopkeeper who is then beaten "to a pulp" when he complains; the throwing of stun grenades through the windows of mosques as people prayed. And worse.

The Israeli public was given an unflattering glimpse of military life in Hebron this year when a young lieutenant in the Kfir Brigade called Yaakov Gigi was given a 15-month jail sentence for taking five soldiers with him to hijack a Palestinian taxi, conduct what the Israeli media called a "rampage" in which one of the soldiers shot and wounded a Palestinian civilian who just happened to be in the wrong place, and then tried to lie his way out of it.

But as the 22-year-old soldier, also in the Kfir Brigade, confirms in his testimony to Breaking the Silence, it seems that the event may not have been exceptional. Certainly, our interview tells us, he was "many times" in groups that commandeered taxis, seated the driver in the back, and told him to direct them to places "where they hate the Jews" in order to "make a balagan" – Hebrew for "big mess".

Then there is the inter- clan Palestinian fight: "We were told to go over there and find out what was happening. Our [platoon] commander was a bit screwed in the head. So anyway, we would locate houses, and he'd tell us: 'OK, anyone you see armed with stones or whatever, I don't care what – shoot.' Everyone would think it's the clan fight..." Did the company commander know? "No one knew. Platoon's private initiative, these actions."

Did you hit them? "Sure, not just them. Anyone who came close ... Particularly legs and arms. Some people also sustained abdominal hits ... I think at some point they realised it was soldiers, but they were not sure. Because they could not believe soldiers would do this, you know."

Or using a 10-year-old child to locate and punish a 15-year-old stone-thrower: "So we got hold of just some Palestinian kid nearby, we knew that he knew who it had been. Let's say we beat him a little, to put it mildly, until he told us. You know, the way it goes when your mind's already screwed up, and you have no more patience for Hebron and Arabs and Jews there.

"The kid was really scared, realising we were on to him. We had a commander with us who was a bit of a fanatic. We gave the boy over to this commander, and he really beat the shit out of him ... He showed him all kinds of holes in the ground along the way, asking him: 'Is it here you want to die? Or here?' The kid goes, 'No, no!'

"Anyway, the kid was stood up, and couldn't stay standing on his own two feet. He was already crying ... And the commander continues, 'Don't pretend' and kicks him some more. And then [name withheld], who always had a hard time with such things, went in, caught the squad commander and said, 'Don't touch him any more, that's it.' The commander goes, 'You've become a leftie, what?' And he answers, 'No, I just don't want to see such things.'

"And the parents saw it. The commander ordered [the mother], 'Don't get any closer.' He cocked his weapon, already had a bullet inside. She was frightened. He put his weapon literally inside the kid's mouth. 'Anyone gets close, I kill him. Don't bug me. I kill. I have no mercy.' So the father ... got hold of the mother and said, 'Calm down, let them be, so they'll leave him alone.'"

He believes it would be possible even within these constraints to treat Palestinians better. He adds: "We did night activity. Choose a house at random, on the aerial photo, so as to practise combat routine and all, which is instructive for the soldiers, I mean, I'm all for it. But then at midnight you wake someone up and turn his whole house upside down with everyone sleeping on the mattresses and all."

As one said: "We did all kinds of experiments to see who could do the best split in Abu Snena. We would put [Palestinians] against the wall, make like we were checking them, and ask them to spread their legs. Spread, spread, spread, it was a game to see who could do it best. Or we would check who can hold his breath for longest.

"Choke them. One guy would come, make like he was checking them, and suddenly start yelling like they said something and choke them ... Block their airways; you have to press the adams apple. It's not pleasant. Look at the watch as you're doing it, until he passes out. The one who takes longest to faint wins."

Read on here.

Stand up for Justice: Speak up for Sami

Submitted by Guest Blogger Zeenat Iqbal

"Our defense is not in our armaments, nor in science, nor in going underground. Our defense is in our law and order." - Albert Einstein

In November 2007, the world was up in arms at the disintegration of the fundamental rule of law in Pakistan – resulting from the dismissal of Supreme Court justices, the arbitrary detention and abuse of human rights activists and political dissenters and the claim that "judicial interference" was an underlying premise of the declaration of the state of emergency. The American Bar Association, local Bar associations, human rights activists and even to some extent, Congress, loudly and strongly criticized the Musharraf government, and condemned its actions. It is incomprehensible - then - that the very same advocates are not up in arms in the face of the disintegration of the fundamental rule of law in the United States.

Dr. Al Arian was publicly indicted in 2003, endured an agonizing five month trial (costing over $50M), and in light of every obstacle - was acquitted (i.e. 12 jurors voted not guilty) on 8 of the 17 charges. The jury was 10-2 in favor of acquittal on the remaining nine charges, which is an overwhelming number - usually adequate for the government to abandon further prosecution. This however, was no ordinary case. The orders for Dr. Al Arian's 2003 arrest came from high up in the Department of Justice, and he was going to be held up as the poster child for prosecution under the Patriot Act. The fact that the government's defeat was considered "one of the Justice Department's most embarrassing legal setbacks since 9/11," did not deter.

In the shadow of another trial (the nine charges could have been retried), Dr. Al Arian - who had by this time spent over 34 months in prison, away from his wife and five children (two of whom were barely into their teens), under harsh and demeaning conditions, and was knee deep in legal fees, all for no wrong doing on his part - agreed to cut a deal with the government. One guilty plea, in exchange for a ticket out of the country once he had served his sentence, and no obligation to cooperate with the government in any following legal proceedings.

Sweet deal?

Not even close. Almost immediately after the deal was set, Dr. Al Arian faced continued harassment. First, at the hands of a bigoted federal judge Dr. Al Arian was accused of actions that he had been acquitted of only months before, and was sentenced to the highest possible term - 57 months. It's a miracle that the time he had already served was honored, leaving only about 20 months to serve. Second, no sooner had he begun to serve his sentence did the Department of Justice start their next onslaught - subpoenaing Dr. Al Arian to appear as a witness before a grand jury (for an unrelated matter). Since then, he has been called before two additional grand juries (for a total of three) - each of which he has refused to appear before for two reasons. One, a matter of principle, and two, a matter of self defense. Dr. Al Arian's plea agreement had been negotiated in a way such that he would not be required to cooperate, and the government should be required to honor its agreement. Dr. Al Arian had also been advised by his attorneys that his testimony may lead to a perjury trap.

The perjury trap is a (very common) technique used by desperate prosecutors that are unable to convict a defendant on substantive criminal charges. The nature of the grand jury proceedings is self serving in of itself - the proceedings are held with only the prosecutor and the grand jury in the room, and inevitably end up in an indictment for the government to enforce; it is completely antithetical to the adversarial nature, and hence relative transparency, of our justice system. To illustrate the absurdity of the grand jury, Judge Sol Wachtler, the former Chief Judge of New York State, stated that a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to "indict a ham sandwich" - a prosecutor has free reign, and is barely restrained through the usual protections in a normal courtroom. In a grand jury proceeding, according to Jon Turley, if "the government wants to charge your client with perjury, it is almost certain to be able to do so by asking enough questions over the course of the proceeding." (Free Sami Al-Arian) The government has already attempted to distort Dr. Al Arian's words and bring more charges against him, indicating its intent to go after him in any way they can. Hence the added absurdity - if Dr. Al Arian testifies before the grand jury - he is undoubtedly going to be charged with perjury, in a continuation of the harsh prosecutorial tactics by the DOJ and its Asst. US Attorneys (AUSAs) - particularly AUSA Gorden Kromberg.

So - basically - Dr. Al Arian is now caught between the fat and the fire.

On the one hand, if he agrees to testify - Dr. Al Arian will no doubt be cornered, his words distorted and in some way accused of perjury - the only weapon left in the government's arsenal.

On the other hand, if he continues to refuse to testify - as he has for the past three grand juries - the DOJ is likely going to bring criminal contempt charges against him, which hold a sentence of upto 5 years.

The final layer, in this extremely complicated legal battle, is time and the running clock. As of April 11, 2008, Dr. Al Arian has completed his sentence which included an additional 11 months for which he was held in civil contempt for failure to testify before the second grand jury in 2007. The government has since transferred Dr. Al Arian to immigration custody - presumably for deportation. He has continued to suffer at the hands of insensitive and irrational jail personnel who continually offend his dignity and his fundamental human rights. In another twist of logic, it appears that Dr. Al Arian will not be deported any time soon. Whether he will remain at his current facility - Hampton Roads in Virginia - or if he will continue to be shuttled around from facility to facility while the DOJ plans its next move is yet to be seen.

So - what is a man to do in the face of gross misuse of power, injustice and ultimately, no political support? Dr. Al Arian - a strong believer in activism - has begun a non-violent protest, in the only form he has left. He is on a hunger strike (think Gandhi), now past 46 days without food. Here again, time is the enemy - each day that Dr. Al Arian continues his protest, he grows weaker and more vulnerable to his medical conditions (diabetes, for one thing) that are going un-attended.

At this point - if you've chosen to read this far - your question is probably: why should we care?


The answer is simple, and almost deafening. We should care because the prosecution and continued persecution of Dr. Al Arian has cost American tax payers over $50M. We should care because a man's life is at stake, and our efforts from the outside can save him - the saving of one life, is like saving all of humanity and we have that opportunity. We should care because we live in a civilized society with a fundamental rule of law that our country was founded upon, and our freedoms depend on - the continued imprisonment of Dr. Al Arian is not in accordance with the rule of law. We should care because no matter what - when a debt (reasonable or not) is paid, the bondage should not continue. We should care because our ancestors either founded this country or came to it with a common goal - the ability to be free, and live fully in a just and fair society without persecution for thoughts, beliefs or practices.

Dr. Al Arian stands for everything we hold dear - free speech, free expression, political participation, and most importantly - justice. If we don't speak up, our silence will muffle the voices of those that speak truth to power.

Contribute to Dr. Al Arian's legal fund at: Free Sami Now



Also check out the 53 minute version of the documentary USA v. Al Arian at Link TV.

(These videos are accurate upto March 2008; Dr. Al Arian has since been transferred to immigration custody and awaits deportation - which is not forthcoming. Immigration authorities are holding Dr. Al Arian indefinitely, and he is being subject to grave mistreatment. Please see Free Sami Now for how to help, and to learn more about this case.)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Justice for Qana victims

Twelve years ago, on April 18, 1996, I was at work listening to the radio when I heard that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had attacked the compound in Qana. I rushed home and frantically called Lebanon. My brother told me the unbearable news: my boys were dead.

A U.N. investigation concluded that it was unlikely the strike on the U.N. compound was a mistake, as the IDF had claimed. The U.N. General Assembly condemned the attack as a violation of international humanitarian law, found that Israel should compensate Lebanon for the destruction, and has repeatedly adopted resolutions calling on Israel to bear the cost to the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon. These resolutions have gone unheeded.

Since that day 12 years ago, I -- along with survivors of the Qana attack -- have sought justice for the many lives lost -- lives of the young and old, of children and grandmothers. We have pled for those responsible to account for their actions. We went to the United Nations, to no avail. We sought justice in the U.S. courts -- unsuccessfully. Three years ago, Qana survivors brought a case with the help of a U.S. human rights organization, the Center for Constitutional Rights, on behalf of the injured survivors and all of us whose children, parents, and spouses were killed in the attack. The suit against retired IDF Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon brought while he was a fellow in Washington, D.C., was dismissed because the court found that Ya'alon was shielded by Israel's immunity. Where do we turn next?


Full article here

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Towards meaningful interfaith dialogue

Interfaith dialogues are tricky.

Some are a cover for 'missionary dialogue' and aim at promoting one faith over the others. It is easy for one to compromise his/her beliefs when taking part in events of this type especially if one does not have a solid understanding of his/her own faith.

Others are meaningless, superficial gatherings to exchange smiles and handshakes and pretend that all religions are created equal. Those are a complete waste of time, and I would go as far as saying they make a mockery of religions and their followers because they do not allow a true exchange of ideas.

Then there is a third type which is the truely fruitful one. Those are the dialogues based on respect, which seriously tackle the issues, stereotypes, misunderstandings...and create an atmosphere of trust and genuine love and understanding.

Of course, there are always the interfaith debates but those are a different story. My favourite comment on those is one I heard from Sheikh Yusuf Estes: Debates bring a lot of heat, but not much light.

Going back to dialogues, I think all interfaith dialogues, whether between faith leaders and scholars or student activists, fall into one of the above categories.

Having said that, I greatly respect the stance taken by American Muslim leaders towards the Pope's visit to the US and dialogue with the Catholic church. In order for this dialogue to be meaningful, it should be based on trust and respect and not attempt to cover the differences but rather help shed the light of knowledge and understanding on them.

Excerpts from letter by American Muslim leaders to Pope [emphasis added]:

"We have always sought and will continue to seek harmonious relations with our Catholic neighbors and fellow citizens. This requires that we engage each other in honest and serious dialogue that does not overlook real differences, but always remains respectful and truly sincere, and gives each side ample opportunity to express its views. Thus, we reiterate our commitment to actively work with the Catholic Church and American Catholics on all issues of common ground, whether it is creating justice for all, ending poverty, or preserving human dignity and human life. Should you wish to engage Muslim Americans in a serious exchange of views; the Muslim American community stands ready to participate."


For full text of letter and more coverage of Pope's visit, click here.

Also, check out John Esposito's thoughts on the Pope's trip here.

The New Racism



Recently I’ve been noticing many debates, news stories and blogs on the topic of race and race relations. However many of these debates don’t really view racism as a principal organizing tenet of social inequality in the U.S. but instead consider racial inequality as something secondary to social class inequality or as an ideological phenomenon and thus lacking in significance. In my opinion, racism is by no means secondary or less significant than class but in fact takes on a life of its own as a source of social inequality both ideologically, economically or politically and socially in which the placement of actors in racial categories or races is no accident. There are many intersectionalities of different social positions in which racism becomes its own form of oppression with its own consequences that then configure the allocations of material goods and cultural capital along racial lines much like class and gender.


I think it is very important for the Muslim community to take on this debate and try to understand the reality of race and racism in today’s society in order to truly grasp what it is we are dealing with. When race is viewed as a peripheral or secondary issue to class is wrong as it does not present an adequate theoretical base for understanding racial phenomenon.


In the analysis of race it is important to note that it is a concept that is usually defined as having a largely ideological basis and fundamentally class reductionist. While deeming people as inferior is not new, the articulation of race and racism as institutional is. For the most part societies as well as scholars have moved past the early biologically based definitions of race. The current social construction and categorization of race is said to be based on supposed biological distinctions such as phenotypical differences, but also truly based on social, political and economic processes and interests. Since biological differences are perceived as permanent characteristics of people and since people respond differently when they believe others are biologically different, then this association is accompanied with perceptions of psychological, intellectual and behavioral inferiorities. The important matter at hand is whether race as a construct is considered to have its own structural foundation or simply a result of another construct (such as class).


In categorizing race as lacking its own structural foundation limits the understanding of racial phenomenon and stunts the ability of any activist to create real social change. For example when class struggle is considered the primary expounding variable of social life, racism or race-based struggles are not regarded as actually racial but generally considered a derivative of class regardless of whether it is viewed as fostered by the bourgeoisie, the product of intra-working class strife, or as the product of contingent historical processes. Hence, racial struggles are viewed as not having a real base. Furthermore, since racism is based on ideological and irrational terms most stop short of providing an in-depth theoretical analysis of racism and its structure. In turn, this poses the problem that if racism is not part of the society but instead the characteristic of racist individuals or an ideology that affects members of the working class, then social institutions cannot be racists and the study of racism should be a matter of surveying the people in a society who hold racist beliefs. As a result of racism not having an independent structural tenet, racism can be falsely interpreted as being in decline, only identifying overt racist behavior and missing the subtle and inconspicuous forms of racism that are evident in today’s society.


Others, to which I have to agree with, argue that racism is by no means secondary or less significant than class but in fact takes on a life of its own as a source of social inequality both ideologically and institutionally. When viewed from this position, an alternative framework is possible for the understanding of racial phenomena at the economic, political, social, and ideological levels. When done so it is evident that they are partially structured by the placement of actors in racial categories or races, aka white supremacy. Because there are intersectionalities, racism becomes its own form of oppression with its own consequences that then configure the allocations of material goods and cultural capital along racial lines. Therefore it has its own structural foundation for the reason that it guides organizational and institutional action. Hence the racial structure of a society consists of the racial hierarchy that is both variable and contingent and which produces access to better jobs, primary positions in the political system, and perceptions of higher social estimation to name a few.


Take today’s new racism which is a lot more sophisticated and subtle than Jim Crow racism and yet is as effective as the old maintaining the status quo. It is so sophisticated that the larger number of analysts and researches claim that racism has and is steeply declining in contemporary America. In fact to speak of racism as existing in today’s society is controversial. When the conceptualization of racism is done so in terms of a secondary manner, the idea that racism is declining is bound to be the result seeing that it is based off the notion that racism is fundamentally ideological. In addition, the “old racism” that blacks for example, experienced during the Jim Crow period was overt. What’s worse is that even after blacks successfully challenged Jim Crow laws, challenged their socioeconomic positions, and developed many political organizations and movements, blacks still had to deal with the challenges of new racism. This new racism has a new covert nature of racial discourse and racial practices like the avoidance of using racial terminology in racial conflicts by whites but that at the same time maintain a racial agenda over political matters.


What is of significance is that even among the so called “progressive minded” individuals and groups, the idea that class is of more importance to race or that race comes from the emergence of class conflict, is quite popular. The inability to view racism within its own social constructs in the long run, has serious social implications towards effective social change and contributes to the furthering of color blind racism. Then this color-blindness is deemed as less significant in U.S. society, in light of meritocracy in that whereas for whites racism is what they would consider as prejudice, for people of color racism is something that is systematic or institutionalized. For this reason, this society has moved into more subtle forms of racism called colorblind racism in which people who claim to not being racist say things like, “I do not see color all are equal to me.” Yet they can say this from atop their hill of privilege that ironically continues to perpetuate that same racism they are claiming does not exist and can do so by rationalizing minorities’ contemporary status as the product of market dynamics, naturally occurring phenomena, or their ascribed cultural limitations.


Seeing how racism, historically speaking, is a recent phenomenon born out of the usefulness to justify the conquest of people, everything we have come to know as normal including all the literature out there, is basically bias because of this early understanding and academic conceptualization of the topic. Also, one of the reasons why this new way of defining racism is controversial is because what it is essentially telling all those liberals, those so called “progressive” people is that even aside from all their token kindness and supposed fights for equality; in reality they aren’t doing anything. It is not and will not be easy to stand up and challenge this system because of the type of power relationships that exist, where white males, through manifest destiny, sought to conquer and dominate this land, have systematically killed, tortured, exploited, and exterminated people who did not reflect their power structure, who stood in their way of expansion and more power, and posed a threat to their power and way of life. Therefore since the state is used to enforce their system of power and to keep it intact by way of the police, the courts, the prison system, their government, government agencies, and even their school and ideologies, anybody that rises up or resists the power structure will be faced with repression. This is a very complex matter to discuss and to do so in one blog is difficult therefore I’ll try to elaborate on it more at a later time.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The World is Starving...

More than the normal

I have not seen anyone talk about this, on this blog or on others, and it is fascinating that something as horrible and as wide spread is not gaining the attention of activists or the general population.

Maybe it is just out of control so people shrug it off. Yet the fact that food shortages are spreading across the world, from Cairo to Manila and Haiti to Karachi, is amazing!

Just so our readers are aware there is a food crisis that the "world" not some part of Africa or war torn area of the region is faced with but rather, the world is facing a food crisis.

To the point where Darfur agencies only had food for a week because of inflation of food. Food prices in the US grew not solely to the down turn in the economy but rather also the use of corn in ethanol fuel pushing the price of corn up, which is used in all our food stuff. Flour in Cairo, rice in Karachi- food in general is all of a sudden in short supply.

GLOBAL WARMING? I don't know, you be the judge, but the fact is a major downturn in the economy for the US is linked to the soaring food prices and shortages. Our own government subsidizes farmers to not grow food, to throw food away, and here we are in the beginning of what many analyst say is the worst food shortage in the modern era.

You can read more here, here, here, and here.

Remember major food shortages lead to major civil and societal unrest...so this time the revolution just might be televised?

No Checkpoints in Heaven

This story really touched me...maybe because the father's heroism was subtle yet very real. Just one story of thousands, but one worth reading:

I still vividly remember my father's face -- wrinkled, apprehensive, warm -- as he last wished me farewell 14 years ago. He stood outside the rusty door of my family's home in a Gaza refugee camp wearing old yellow pajamas and a seemingly ancient robe. As I hauled my one small suitcase into a taxi that would take me to an Israeli airport an hour away, my father stood still. I wished he would go back inside; it was cold and the soldiers could pop up at any moment. As my car moved on, my father eventually faded into the distance, along with the graveyard, the water tower and the camp. It never occurred to me that I would never see him again.

I think of my father now as he was that day. His tears and his frantic last words: "Do you have your money? Your passport? A jacket? Call me the moment you get there. Are you sure you have your passport? Just check, one last time ..."

...

As a young man and soldier in the Palestinian unit of the Egyptian army, he spent years of his life marching through the Sinai desert. When the Israeli army took over Gaza following the Arab defeat in 1967, the Israeli commander met with those who served as police officers under Egyptian rule and offered them the chance to continue their services under Israeli rule. Proudly and willingly, my young father chose abject poverty over working under the occupier's flag. And for that, predictably, he paid a heavy price. His two-year-old son died soon after.

My oldest brother is buried in the same graveyard that bordered my father's house in the camp. My father, who couldn't cope with the thought that his only son died because he couldn't afford to buy medicine or food, would be found asleep near the tiny grave all night, or placing coins and candy in and around it.

My father's reputation as an intellectual, his obsession with Russian literature, and his endless support of fellow refugees brought him untold trouble with the Israeli authorities, who retaliated by denying him the right to leave Gaza.

..

But when the Palestinian uprising of 1987 exploded, and our camp became a battleground between stone-throwers and the Israeli army, mere survival became Dad's new obsession. Our house was the closest to the Red Square, arbitrarily named for the blood spilled there, and also bordered the "Martyrs' Graveyard." How can a father adequately protect his family in such surroundings? Israeli soldiers stormed our house hundreds of times; it was always him who somehow held them back, begging for his children's safety, as we huddled in a dark room awaiting our fate. "You will understand when you have your own children," he told my older brothers as they protested his allowing the soldiers to slap his face. Our "freedom-fighting" dad struggled to explain how love for his children could surpass his own pride. He grew in my eyes that day.

It's been fourteen years since I last saw my father. As none of his children had access to isolated Gaza, he was left alone to fend for himself. We tried to help as much as we could, but what use is money without access to medicine? In our last talk he said he feared he would die before seeing my children, but I promised that I would find a way. I failed.

Since the siege on Gaza, my father's life became impossible. His ailments were not "serious" enough for hospitals crowded with limb-less youth. During the most recent Israeli onslaught, most hospital spaces were converted to surgery wards, and there was no place for an old man like my dad. All attempts to transfer him to the better equipped West Bank hospitals failed as Israeli authorities repeatedly denied him the required permit.

"I am sick, son, I am sick," my father cried when I spoke to him two days before his death. He died alone on 18 March, waiting to be reunited with my brothers in the West Bank. He died a refugee, but a proud man nonetheless.

My father's struggle began 60 years ago, and it ended a few days ago. Thousands of people descended to his funeral from throughout Gaza, oppressed people that shared his plight, hopes and struggles, accompanying him to the graveyard where he was laid to rest. Even a resilient fighter deserves a moment of peace.


Complete story here

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Enough with the bad language

I have noticed a recent trend amongst young Muslims that is quite disconcerting - the use of foul language. I am not referring to practices of uninformed, or non-practicing Muslims; but rather, of active members of the community. Establishing morality and virtue is part of the responsibility of Muslims; and this should be carried out in all circumstances, irrespective of public perception.

As juvenile as it seems, I think one of the reasons for this trend is the classic "fitting in" phenomenon that we all experienced in high school. Once some people, who are seen as active, practicing Muslims are seen using foul language, it slowly becomes okay for others. Now, to clarify, I'm not talking about the "f word," but rather, the "lighter" foul language that Western society often ignores because it is seen as popular vernacular. Although some of these words have now found themselves in PG-13 movies in recent years, as people who supposedly live according some semblance of moral consciousness, Muslims should really know better.

In today's day and age of course, language is more prevalent in our facebook accounts, blackberry's, and status messages. Our boundaries should not change simply because the words are not uttered in person.

So, you say that words are just words, and don't really mean anything? There isn't an "intent" behind it? Here are some simple tests to figure out if you should really be using foul language:

  • Would you use the word in the presence of your mom?
  • Would you use the word in the presence of your most-respected shaykh/imam?
  • How would you feel if Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) heard you speak? What words would you use then? What words would you not use?

If we truly believe that all of our speech is being recorded, and will be played back to us on the Day of Judgement, then we'd be more careful. Lets try and rise above the fray, and help bring some morality to this society, rather than flocking with the rest of the sheep.

Hadith (Prophetic saying) to contemplate:

Abdullah bin 'Amr mentioned God's Apostle saying that he was neither a Fahish nor a Mutafahish (person who uses bad language). Abdullah bin 'Amr added, God's Apostle said, 'The best among you are those who have the best manners and character.'

May Allah bless him and grant him peace.

And Allah knows best.

The failing Arab Neoliberals

American puppets in the Arab world have managed to lose whatever little credibility they started out with.

One of the significant features of April 6, a chaotic day in Egypt, was the disappearance of all liberals from the public scene as if what was going on is irrelevant to what they preach.

Whether the call by "some activists" for a general strike, leading to civil disobedience, in the country to protest escalating economic hardships for the majority and political oppression was successful or not is not a matter of discussion.

The most important fact is that there was a move - even if the security apparatus of the Egyptian state managed to limit its impact. Such a move was expected to be an opportunity for the liberal forces to show that their deeds match their words, which did not happen.

The case in Egypt is an example of the rest of the Arab world, where liberals, or neo-liberals to be specific, assumed the role of change in recent years.

...

With the rise of political Islam in the region more than three decades ago, neoliberals identified themselves as a secular force propagating modernisation against that trend.

The public associated them with Americanisation and Westernisation attitudes, strongly resisted as a means of subjugation and humiliation. The neoliberals are mostly ex-leftists who were already unpopular among the masses, and they alienated themselves more by turning 180 degrees from what they used to preach before.

Ordinary people question the genuine beliefs of those who switched overnight from anti-imperialism and the struggle against capitalism to defenders of American policies and pro-Israel.


Continue here

Monday, April 14, 2008

San Francisco Tibet Torch Run Down

Submitted by Guest Blogger Connie Pham

“Free Tibet. Free, free Tibet.” The chants are still echoing in my ears now that I’m back from the ebullient streets of San Francisco! Sister Christine and I went to protest Beijing’s Olympic torch as it made its only North American stop here in SF. Here’s a quick run-down from our view on the ground:

Tuesday, 04/08/2008:
-When I found out the Tibetan Association of Southern California was organizing a caravan to the Bay Area during my spring break, I could not pass up the offer. So, in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, sister Christine and I joined the San Diego contingent in a 14-seater van. After making it to SF in record time, we arrived at UN Plaza at Market and Hyde by noon where a boisterous rally was already underway.

-After a press conference and the opening of the Tibetan Freedom Torch ceremony, organizers released doves into the brisk mid-day sun. The international media was out there in full force. Within the first half hour, Christine was interviewed by KPFA-Berkeley. I was approached by a crew from Univision, the giant Spanish news channel. The reporter was combing the crowd for a Spanish speaker to interview. After faltering through some simple but impassioned sentences, an aide working for City Hall stopped to help me translate my message. His name was Gus, he said, and since there would be Latin American media out here today and tomorrow, it would be good to be able to speak to them! (That inspired me the following day to make my own sign: “Derechos Humanos para los Tibetanos” [Human Rights for the Tibetans]. Christine’s sign read “Paz en Tibet” [Peace in Tibet]. Our signs attracted foreign tourists and passers-by, who were all empathetic to our cause. Together with a group of some very savvy and socially conscious students from Oakland’s Skyline High School, we turned it into a chant worth dancing to! Can you imagine?)

-Not long after, hundreds of human rights activists swarmed the street to the steps of City Hall. Though the ACLU had succeeded in forcing transparency of the torch route, Mayor Gavin Newsom had yet to sign the Board of Supervisors’ resolution critical of China’s crackdown in Tibet. After organizers met to mete out security details, we proceeded to march another mile or two towards the Chinese Consulate. Our line stretched for several city blocks. San Franciscans honked their support in traffic, and above us, a small plane flew by, carrying a banner that read “Stop the Cultural Genocide in Tibet.” Considering that there had been a minor explosion at the consulate recently, we were escorted by a phalanx of police officers along the planned route.

-The whipping wind made it a perfect day for flags. The sight of so many Tibetan flags wavering was a glorious and inspiring sight. I draped one around me and wore it as a cape all day long.

-After we wound our way back to UN Plaza, there was a two-hour break. We ran into some old friends who were now living in Grass Valley. Good Morning America thought we represented a good cross section of attendees—and what’s more, we actually made it onto the show the next morning, if only for 3 seconds!


6:30 pm- Candlelights for Human Rights vigil began at UN Plaza. This was my 7th trip to the Bay Area, and for the 7th time, I was woefully unprepared for the 40-degree weather. We were eaten up by the bitter cold, but the warmth in our hearts was undeniable as we listened to Archibishop Desmond Tutu’s words of encouragement. Chris Daly, SF’s City Supervisor, was proud to announce passage of his resolution, in which the city would meet the torch with “protest and alarm.” The program included activists advocating on behalf of East Turkestan and a cultural performance. After a local group of monks broke into spontaneous prayer, Richard Gere came to read us excerpts of His Holiness’ the Dalai Lama’s most recent open letter to Tibetans. Several thousand of us shouted “Free Tibet Now!” with our voices resounding against the city’s hotels and office buildings, making the scene at once both haunting and ethereal. It was surreal. A slideshow played against a backdrop and local Tibetan band rocked out as we left for the night, vowing to rest for the next day.

-Tenpa Dorjee, our wonderful driver, took us to El Cerrito on the other side of the Bay, where we would be staying at his friends’ home. Ngawang’s spacious house offered warm food, cozy lodging, and a beautiful view of the Bay and for this we are forever grateful.

Wednesday, 04/09/2008:
-The local morning news entertained us during breakfast. Reporters stated that spectators had turned out for the torch relay as early as 5am. No disturbances to be had— yet. We took the BART down to Ferry Park, where people were broken into affinity groups. We were warned of provocations, and urged to remain calm. Tibetans from Utah, Minnesota, and throughout North America showed up to what felt like a pow-wow of indigenous spirit and resilience. By 9 am, roving groups of protestors lined up along the Embarcadero and moved up and down the sparse streets. Barricades were up and police on mounted police patrolled the corridor, but where were the anticipated crowds of spectators?

-Local Beijing supporters set up shop along the piers. They waved the Chinese flag and shook their heads, but they were largely outnumbered. Besides a few shouting matches, we were peaceful. Group leaders and monitors made sure of it. At noon, my group made it back to Ferry Park and by this time, a coalition of Darfur and Burma activist groups had total control of the streets. Darfur activists were all in green, and Burma supporters were in burgundy. We alternated our chants. From across the street, I spotted old friends from college who were now up here for work or grad school. Small world! Displays of support were creative and beautiful. We chanted. We sang. We reveled. There was a template for signs that read “Another _________ for a free Tibet.” So we had grandmas, teachers, vegans, bikers, techies, Coloradans, feminists, black males, truthers, peacers, and otherwise, sentient beings vouching for us. A little girl blew bubbles, and a marching band ensemble came to play our way to peace. Office workers in their skyscrapers waved down at us and in the midst of this, the ice cream vendor was having a good day.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

You know there is something terribly wrong with the world when...

... an artist hitch-hicking, dressed as a bride, to promote world peace is murdered in cold blood. Story here

What makes it worse is that she was murdered in a country whose population is 99% Muslim (at least on paper).

Out of all the horrible things that happen every day, this particular story shook me. What is happening to our humanity?

This lady was just trying to make a difference. I do realize that there are innocent civilians that die unjustly every day from hunger, crime, wars... but somehow this is different.

How much lower can we sink?

Friday, April 11, 2008

I-97 Campaign Launched in Seattle

(Fabulous News!)

Campaign to Divest Seattle's Retirement Fund from Illegal Wars & Occupations in the Middle East

For Immediate Release: April 7, 2008

A citizens group called Seattle Divest From War and Occupation has launched a ballot initiative this week that aims to divest city employees' retirement funds from corporations that are participating in illegal wars and occupations in the Middle East. The group is taking specific aim at two corporations, Halliburton Holding Company and Caterpillar, Inc.

"It's time to divest," said Chanan Suarezdiaz, Seattle chapter president of Iraq Veterans Against the War. "As an Iraq combat veteran, I would like to see our city divest from companies that are profiting from wars that affect the lives of other human beings � people who are being occupied, jailed, and dehumanized."

"The people of the city of Seattle pride ourselves on being progressive and thoughtful," said campaign endorser Amy Hagopian, a former Seattle school board member and a University of Washington faculty member. "It's time to put our money where our mouths are. We have to stop investing in the companies that fuel war and occupation." Hagopian led efforts at Garfield High School to end high school military recruiting in 2005.

The initiative sponsors urge disinvestment not only for moral reasons, but also for financial stewardship reasons. Carla Curio, campaign spokesperson, noted that the city has a responsibility to look after the financial health of its employees' retirement system, by avoiding investment in companies whose illegal or immoral activities can turn into financial liability in the future. "As the historic 1998 settlement between major tobacco companies and various state attorneys general demonstrated, poor practices that are tolerated today could well become major financial liabilities tomorrow," said Curio.

Only last week, our nation marked the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., after whom this county is named. As Dr. King reminded us, "There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right."

This initiative mandates that the city of Seattle not invest its employees' retirement funds in corporations that participate directly in or profit from the US-led military occupation of Iraq, corporations that provide direct material support for activities of the [apartheid] Israeli government within the occupied territories of West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights, or corporations with a presence in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. Furthermore, the initiative mandates that if the government of [apartheid] Israel were to launch a military attack on Iran, the city of Seattle would divest its funds from Israeli government bonds.

The initiative takes specific aim at two corporations, Halliburton Holding Company and its subsidiaries, which have a major presence in Iraq, as well as Caterpillar, Inc. which sells armored bulldozers to the [apartheid] Israeli military for use in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights. It was one such Caterpillar bulldozer that took the life of peace activist and Olympia, WA resident Rachel Corrie during at attempted demolition of a home in the Gaza Strip on March 16th, 2003.

In the Gaza Strip, 1.5 million people, mostly refugees from [apartheid] Israel in 1948, live in an open-air prison, unable to exit, and with electricity, fuel, and water under [apartheid] Israeli control. In Iraq, several hundred thousand civilians and over 4,000 US service people have lost their lives.

The city of Seattle boycotted corporations doing business with apartheid-era South Africa under resolution 27220. As it was then, it is the responsibility of the city of Seattle and its citizens to take a strong moral and fiscal stand against companies that violate international law, by not investing in them.

"We must prevent our financial investments from subsidizing the destruction of communities where these companies do their business, while maintaining a sober understanding of our fiduciary responsibilities to the city's retirees. As Seattle led the way during apartheid, when many ridiculed our efforts, we must lead the way again," Hagopian said. "On this fortieth anniversary of Dr. King's assassination, it is the least we can do."

More Information:
Seattle Divest From War
media@divestfromwar.org
(206) 299-4186

Excellent questions Ron Paul!



On a side note, this article provides much needed insight into the recent battle in Basra, to which Paul eluded.