HERF - HAITI EMERGENCY RELIEF FUND

Written by Super User on . Posted in Front News

HERF - HAITI EMERGENCY RELIEF FUND

DONATE HERE: http://www.haitiemergencyrelief.org/Haiti_Emergency_Relief_Fund/donate.html

As we write this, Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, killing at least 900 people and leaving thousands without shelter or food. The hurricane has devastated the city of Les Cayes and many villages in the Southwestern part of the country, destroying crops and livestock and reversing the gains in food production made by women’s agricultural cooperatives and other local farmers. The torrential rains and winds have also hit the capital, Port-au-Prince. With massive flooding comes the increased danger of water-borne diseases, particularly cholera (brought to Haiti by UN troops), which has already reached epidemic proportions.

We ask that all friends of Haiti donate as much as they can to the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund. Your donations will go directly to grassroots organizations in Haiti which are saving lives by helping people on the ground access water, food and shelter, and reconstructing their lives. Unlike the big NGOs which were accused of profiteering from the billions donated by a generous public after the earthquake, HERF pays no wages and takes no cut. All our work is done by volunteers and all the money we collect goes directly to those who need it, starting with women – the primary caregivers in every community.

The hurricane hit Haiti just days before the recalled October 9th elections were due to take place. People had worked very hard for over a year, risking their lives to demand free and fair elections after the 2015 electoral results were declared fraudulent. Elections have now been postponed. Popular organizations in Haiti are hard at work trying to ensure that families and communities can survive and rebuild, and that when a new election date is set every vote counts and is counted.

This is a critical time for all friends of Haiti to step up our solidarity. Please donate on line at: http://www.haitiemergencyrelief.org/Haiti_Emergency_Relief_Fund/home.html

Or to:

Haiti Emergency Relief Fund

c/o East Bay Sanctuary Covenant

2362 Bancroft Way

Berkeley, California 94704

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

All donations are tax-deductible.

Thank you so much for your generous support, Haiti Emergency Relief Fund Board of Directors: Walter Riley, Maureen Duignan, O.S.F., Pierre Labossiere, Marilyn Langlois, Robert Roth

East Bay Sanctuary Covenant is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, tax ID# 94-3249753

Tel: +510-595-4650

 

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Plan Colombia, Permanent War, and the NO Vote

Written by Super User on . Posted in Front News

by Laura Carlsen

www.commondreams.org

Plan Colombia, Permanent War, and the NO Vote

The Colombian people voted NO to peace. Or to be exact, 50.2% of 37% of the eligible population voted no. In the referendum held Oct. 2, the majority of voters decided to scuttle four years of peace talks dedicated to ending 52 years of bloodshed.

The vote came just days after the celebratory signing of the agreement, considered exemplary for achieving a bridge between historic enemies and dealing broadly with the root causes of the conflict. The rest of the world was stunned.

Most pundits have begun the post-mortem analysis of the referendum saying something like “Colombians did not vote against peace.” They go on to discuss factors including people’s ignorance of the accords, or their mistaken belief that after four years it could simply be renegotiated.

But the fact of the matter is that the NO voters voted clearly and unambiguously to continue the war. The words on the ballot read: “Do you accept the final agreement to terminate the conflict and build a stable and lasting peace?” It’s almost inconceivable that any population would vote no on this proposition, but they did.

So why?

Although even former president Alvaro Uribe, the nation’s lead warmonger, now makes the politically correct statement that the ultimate goal is peace, the macho sentiments of total domination and punishment (of one side), along with a strong dose of Cold War hysteria (yes, in the 21st century) won the day.

The NO promoters knew what they were doing. They were not promoting an alternative peace. As a 32-year old NO voter quoted in the New York Times put it, “If ‘no’ wins, we won’t have peace, but at least we won’t give the country away to the guerrillas.”

His statement reflects the patriarchal logic that has started and perpetuated wars since time immemorial–the only good enemy is a dead enemy, and if I don’t win, nobody wins.

At least some NO voters and many of the leaders are betting on continuing war until they gain by force their entire military and political agenda–a prospect that, given the war’s longevity to date could easily be another half century. Or never.

The Perks of Permanent War

For many NO promoters, including Uribe himself, “never” could be the best-case scenario. Basking in the limelight of a political career rebuilt on the ruins of one of the most complex and progressive peace agreements in history, Uribe released proposals for revamping the peace agreement designed to throw a monkey wrench into any process to salvage peace in Colombia.

Analysts stated that Uribe’s wish list is aimed at “torpedoing the peace accords”. No one expects the FARC to accept Uribe’s terms, which include being banned from politics; serving 5-8 year sentences in confinement for crimes, including drug trafficking; pardoning Colombia’s security forces for serious crimes, and eliminating the meticulously negotiated Tribunal for Transitional Justice.

Huge sectors of the population reject them as well, since the proposals also would wipe out the parts of the Peace Accord that regulate the return of stolen lands to peasant and indigenous communities and seriously hamper if not strike plans for reparations to victims.

To pretend that everyone wants peace and the only issue is, how is to ignore the fact that the war benefits many powerful interests. Those interests will fight to keep fighting.

On the political front, war assures military control over a population and justifies authoritarianism and repression through fear. In general, the most militarized parts of the country are areas where peasant, Afro-Colombian and indigenous peoples are defending their lands and resources from the incursions of transnational corporations and mega development projects. Fear and murder are powerful repressive tools.

War is also a huge business. Thanks to U.S. Plan Colombia and policies that fanned the conflict, Colombia became the third largest recipient of US aid in the world during the war, behind Israel and Egypt. The budget for security forces skyrocketed; between 2001 and 2005, it grew more than 30% and by 2006 it was double 1990—some $4.48 billion for military and police.

U.S. Interests

The U.S. government also has a vested interest in continuing the war. The conflict justified Plan Colombia, the $10 billion dollar counterinsurgency, counternarcotics plan that allowed the Pentagon to establish military presence in Colombia, both physically and by proxy. With the pretext of the internal conflict, the U.S. government built up a platform not only for control in Colombia, but also with regional strike capacity, as leaked in the proposed agreement to establish seven US military bases.

Plan Colombia and its later incarnations kept U.S. contracts for weapons, espionage and intelligence equipment and military and police training flowing to the most powerful lobbying industries in the nation. Billions of dollars have been poured into Plan Colombia and national security investment that ended up in the pockets of political elite and defense companies. In the 2010-2017 budgets, the United States has allocated $2.13 billion in military and police aid–most of that during the peace talks.

The country was converted into a testing ground for the latest in counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare techniques and equipment from the United States. The blood spilled on its soil feeds the global war machine, to such an extent that Colombia has been groomed as an exporter of counterinsurgency and “security” training, despite its reputation as a gross violator of human rights and the disastrous humanitarian impact of its prolonged war. So very powerful interests saw the peace agreement as a threat. In addition to Uribe followers who viewed it as soft on the FARC, the war economy of the nation and its ally, the United States, was at stake.

In this context, the US government reacted tepidly when peace was voted down. Bernard Aronson, the special envoy to the peace talks, expressed no regret in a press interview after the vote, stating, “We believe Colombians want peace, but clearly they are divided about terms of settlement…” The State Department limited its statement to support for Colombian democracy and further dialogue. After four years of ostensibly supporting the peace talks, neither mentioned the vote as a setback.

An analysis published by the US Army War College, although it is not an official document, openly expresses relief at the continuation of indefinite war in Colombia. Through a mixture of hawkish arguments and lies, the analysis recognizes that the country now enters into a “period of uncertainty”, but notes that this “presents a strategic situation less grave and more manageable, than had the accords been approved.”

It goes on to predict that the FARC will likely break the ceasefire, despite its explicit and public commitment to respect it even in the absence of the guarantees provided in the peace agreement. This position, coming from sources close to the US military, which has in many senses called the shots in Colombia’s war since Plan Colombia began in 2000, indicates that there is a dangerous possibility of a provocation to further undermine the peace process that has now been thrown into crisis by the NO vote.

The writers also advise President Santos to retract his commitment to the ceasefire following the vote. They note that Santos promised to “not authorize military operations in the areas where FARC units are located in order to avoid an incident which breaks the fragile truce. Yet, not doing so will allow FARC dissidents to operate with almost complete impunity in these areas.  Indeed, within the new background of uncertainty, such impunity will increase incentives for FARC units to continue illicit activity, such as drug trafficking, since doing so will pose relatively low risks.”

War Engenders More War, Not Peace

Before the NO vote, the U.S. press hailed Plan Colombia for making peace possible. President Obama, in his self-congratulatory last speech to the UN stated we “helped Colombia end Latin America’s longest war.” The logic of this bizarre argument went that were it not for the military debilitation of the guerrilla thanks to the US-Colombian military alliance, the FARC could never have been brought to the negotiating table.

The NO vote is the classic example of the fallacy of that logic. The war fomented by Plan Colombia built up a mentality that made peace an unacceptable solution for many. It revealed the fundamental clash of perspectives between diplomacy and annihilation.

The lesson couldn’t be clearer: War is a terrible preparation for peace. Peace depends on much more than a favorable correlation of forces. Peace, at its core, is a rejection of force as the way to confront differences, and a search for non-violent solutions to conflict and conflict prevention.

With U.S. military theorists openly calling for reopening hostilities, it is a dangerous myth to assume that at this juncture everyone wants peace and the only open question is how to do it. Plan Colombia, the U.S.-sponsored war on drugs and Uribe’s Democratic Security posit continued militarization. Those who promote peace and reconciliation in the country must deal with that mentality head on. To second-guess or justify NO voters with “they-know-not-what-they-do” arguments reflects the kind of complacency and misreading of the public that created this dangerous debacle in the first place.

There is no doubt that a massive campaign of misinformation and scaremongering played a role. Voters were bombarded with alarmist messages that spun out wild scenarios, from a legislative takeover by the former FARC to a “Chavez-Castro style dictatorship”. CNN’s footage of the NO celebration showed the crowd chanting “The NO won, now we won’t have a Cuban dictatorship”. It didn’t seem to matter that there was no logical relationship between voting for the peace agreement and the nation becoming a dictatorship. For followers of Uribe, who led the massive campaign against the negotiations and the acceptance of the agreement, the vote was ideological and personal. It represented the right against the left, and Uribe against Santos. For many people stuck in bitter partisan politics, to vote for peace was to vote in favor of the latter.

It is also likely that many people did not have a clear understanding of the accords or their implications, which is a failing of the negotiators and SI (yes) promoters that left a fatal opening for NO propaganda. Some voters also apparently believed that four years of arduous negotiations with the technical support of scores of international experts and mediators could simply be reopened and “fixed” to their liking, despite that the president made it clear there was “no Plan B”. Some NO voters quoted in the press even expressed dismay that they had won, believing they were merely casting a protest vote.

Despite these factors, the NO vote reveals a major obstacle: Society has been trained over years of conflict—one of the longest-running internal conflicts in the world–to acquiesce to war as the only response, to dehumanize the enemy and overlook the obvious fact that it takes two sides to sustain hostilities. A society that believes that the only solution is to drive the enemy into the ground–even when they are men and women from your own country and a reflection of serious social problems, into the ground.

This is the patriarchal mentality that the war industry thrives on. Plan Colombia has fomented this mentality since it began. It conflated a war on drugs with a counterinsurgency war to justify foreign intervention and broaden the war. The U.S. government knew that military funding was going directly to paramilitary groups. A 2010 empirical study demonstrated a measurable relationship between increases in US security funding and paramilitary homicides. War propaganda presented the FARC as the sole culprit, when terrible atrocities were being committed on both sides.

With the exceptions of Arauca and Norte de Santander, the departments on Colombia’s borders that have suffered most in the war voted to end it. They know what it’s like to feel their houses shaken by bombs, to risk life and limb walking through minefields, to lose their loved ones in crossfire. They know that to stop the violence in their day-to-day lives is far more important than the political games of how punishment and power are dished out.

War as a policy is almost always favored by those farthest from the battlefields.

The Road to Peace

Understanding the very real and perilous obstacles is not the same as being pessimistic or defeatist at this point in the Colombian peace—it’s a process. It’s important not to minimize the enormity of this setback–President Santos’ Nobel Peace Prize may be deserved but it’s a sorry consolation prize for having gotten so close only to be slapped down. But it’s also important to acknowledge that there is still room to move forward.

The peace accords opened up a dialogue and allowed the nation to envision peace. Grassroots organizations are mobilizing in defense of this vision and the possibility of a new reality.

This is the hope on the horizon. Since the NO vote, thousands have marched to support the peace process in Bogota and also in Cali and cities across the country. The marches have awakened and united groups of indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombians, victims, students, human rights defenders, peasants, women and the LGBT community in defense of peace.

The international community should openly and actively support the call for a broad grassroots dialogue for peace. It must continue to be firm and vigilant, because there will be a serious attempt to force a return to the model of military annihilation of the left-wing guerrillas while leaving in tact rightwing paramilitaries and other militarist structures.

International organizations committed millions of dollars to support peace implementation and it must be clear that those funds will only be released when the process is back on track. Part of creating adequate conditions is to deny any new funding to militarism– including the war on drugs, which acts as a thinly veiled excuse for militarization.

The NO vote unexpectedly flipped the political situation back in favor of the rightwing hawks. This uprising could not only flip it back in favor of peace, but also create a social movement capable of going beyond the accords in terms of establishing social justice and human rights and addressing the enormous backlog of demands from below.

Laura Carlsen

Laura Carlsen (lcarlsen(at)ciponline.org) is director of the Americas Policy Program (www.americaspolicy.org) in Mexico City, where she has been an analyst and writer for two decades. She is also a Foreign Policy In Focus columnist.

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"Welfare Reform" Is Pushing Women Into Unwaged Work -- It's Time to Change

Written by Super User on . Posted in Front News

By Sarah Jaffe, Truthout June 29, 2017

www.truth-out.org

"Welfare Reform" Is Pushing Women Into Unwaged Work -- It's Time to Change 

Welfare reform briefly became a hot topic on the campaign trail last year when Hillary Clinton was criticized for supporting the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, signed into law with great fanfare by President Bill Clinton, who famously declared that the law would "end welfare as we know it." The law did precisely that, turning the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program into the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant, which came along with stringent requirements for the people, most of them women, who received it. Since that time, extreme poverty has spiked in the country, and the share of single mothers with no income or benefits has gone from 12 percent to 20 percent. But welfare rights activists never stopped fighting for their rights, and many are backing a bill being reintroduced by Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, the RISE Out of Poverty Act.

Reverend Annie Chambers (Big Momma’s House, Baltimore, MD): I am one of the eight women that started the National Welfare Rights Organization … But now, the system has changed, it's so bad for people that we have got to get back to that. That is what we are talking about now. Even training the younger people -- the younger men and women now, because a lot of men are raising their children -- to come back to the drawing board. They really need to know how to organize, how to go into the districts, how to work with district managers and social workers and fight for what they need. Even to go to the governor, the White House. I have been locked up in every state in the United States because we got out there and fought.

Contact Rev. Annie Chambers at 443-768-7682, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 247 N. Dallas Court, Baltimore, MD 21231

Rachel West (US PROStitute’s Collective, San Francisco Bay Area): We are supporting this initiative because when welfare reform was brought in, millions of women were literally thrown into the street -- no income, nothing. How were women supposed to support their kids when that happened? Well, it is even documented now that women went into prostitution. A lot of women had to feed their kids. Into shoplifting, selling drugs, whatever women could do to survive. Into so-called "crimes of poverty." Then, what happened was a lot of women ended up going to prison. There is a direct connection between welfare reform and women going to prison for crimes of poverty. We know the fastest growing prison population now is women, mostly women of color, and 70 percent are mothers. That is the major reason why we are supporting this, because we don't think women should be forced into prostitution through poverty and lack of any means to be able to survive. Contact US PROStitute’s Collective at https://uspros.net/ or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Pat Gowens (Welfare Warriors, Milwaukee, WI): On welfare, ever since 1996 when the Clintons did the welfare reform bill, the moms have to work for no pay for 30 hours a week, and the average check is $390. For instance, in Milwaukee, our Head Start program was using 96 women at 20 hours a week for no pay. No pay, no Social Security credits, no unemployment credit, no protection from sexual harassment, because there is no money. And you have to do that to get a $390 check…and if you don't, you get sanctioned. The welfare bill (the TANF bill) allowed time limits to be as low as 18 months to two years. In Wisconsin it is two years. After that, you can't get any benefits. So, if you have no job, you are in the street with no money, no benefits… The RISE Out of Poverty Act would say that instead of only allowing mothers to do this unwaged work, that women could do their mandatory hours on job search, number one, and they could also do it going to college... In the states right now, they can require the mother to leave their babies at two months, three months, whatever, one year. In Wisconsin, it is two months. At that point, the children have no one-on-one care anymore from their mom, and the mom has to again go into that unwaged workforce or, if she can find a job, the paid workforce. This [RISE] would say the states couldn't do that. They would have to let the mothers be home…one year…or more… [and] they can't use the TANF money simply to take children away because of poverty.

Contact the Welfare Warriors at www.WelfareWarriors.org, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. For the full article and to add your comments: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/41100- welfare-reform-is-pushing-women-into-unwaged-work-it-s-time-to-change-that Or listen to the whole interview https://thebaffler.com/interviews-for-resistance/the-poor-under-attack

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"What to the Slave is 4th of July?": James Earl Jones Reads Frederick Douglass's Historic Speech

Written by Super User on . Posted in Front News

by Democracy Now!

www.commondreams.org

"What to the Slave is 4th of July?": James Earl Jones Reads Frederick Douglass's Historic Speech

In a Fourth of July holiday special, we begin with the words of Frederick Douglass. Born into slavery around 1818, Douglass became a key leader of the abolitionist movement. On July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York, he gave one of his most famous speeches, "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro." He was addressing the Rochester Ladies Antislavery Society. This is actor James Earl Jones reading the speech during a performance of historian Howard Zinn’s acclaimed book, "Voices of a People’s History of the United States." He was introduced by Zinn.

Transcript

HOWARD ZINN: Frederick Douglass, once a slave, became a brilliant and powerful leader of the anti-slavery movement. In 1852, he was asked to speak in celebration of the Fourth of July.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS: [read by James Earl Jones] Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is a constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes that would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour forth a stream, a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and the crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.

AMY GOODMAN: James Earl Jones, reading Frederick Douglass’s famous 1852 Independence Day address in Rochester, New York. It was part of a performance of Howard Zinn’s Voices of a People’s History of the United States.

© 2016 Democracy Now!

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'Hands Off Medicare': Sanders, Other Lawmakers Call Out Trump's Promises

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by Nadia Prupis, staff writer

'Hands Off Medicare': Sanders, Other Lawmakers Call Out Trump's Promises

'You told the seniors of this country you were on their side'

 

U.S. lawmakers, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), along with seniors and activists on Wednesday delivered more than one million petition signatures demanding that President-elect Donald Trump does not gut Medicare.

"You told the seniors of this country you were on their side, you told working people you were on their side," Sanders said in a press conference marking the petition delivery. "You said you would not cut Social Security, you would not cut Medicare...millions of us are going to demand that you keep your promise."

On the campaign trail, Trump explicitly said he would not cut the program that provides government-subsidized health insurance to Americans 65 and older. But many fear that with Trump's rise to power, and the reelection of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to House Majority Leader, Republican control over the government may put Medicare on the chopping block.

As Common Dreams recently reported, Trump's transition website states that the administration will "modernize" Medicare—a code word for privatization, something Ryan has outspokenly supported, as Huffington Post's Jonathan Cohn and Jeffrey Young explain.

Meanwhile, Trump has also nominated Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) for Health and Human Services Secretary, further indicating that the program is at risk. Price is not only a Medicare opponent, but also a close ally of Ryan's, as Social Security Works pointed out in a statement Wednesday.

Sanders was joined by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), and senior members of organizations like MoveOn.org and National Nurses United (NNU).

"The November election results did not give anyone a mandate to dismantle one of the most popular public programs in U.S. history, Medicare," said NNU co-president Jean Ross in a statement Tuesday. " As nurses we are absolutely opposed to Rep. Paul Ryan's schemes to destroy it by converting it into a program that further enriches the insurance industry and denies care to seniors because they can't afford it."

"Medicare works and that's why we think it should be expanded so that everyone in our nation has access to quality care regardless of their ability to pay," Ross said. "Nurses will make our voices heard across the country in the face of the threat of privatization and profiteering off sickness which is at the heart of the Ryan proposal."

The threat to Medicare comes amid Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) once Trump enters office.

As NNU executive director RoseAnn DeMoro wrote in an op-ed for Common Dreams on Tuesday, a better idea would be Medicare for all—a key component of Sanders' presidential platform.

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