Archive for July 2012

New Report Blasts NYPD Repression of Occupy Movement

New York City police used “aggressive, unnecessary and excessive force” in response to the Occupy Wall Street movement protests that began last September, said Sarah Knuckey, a New York University law professor and co-author of a new report that details 130 separate incidents of police abuse. Police violence was directed “not only at protesters, but also against bystanders, independent legal observers and, particularly, journalists.” The report asks Mayor Michael Bloomberg to initiate an independent review of police behavior over the last ten months, calls for creation of an independent inspector general’s office to oversee NYPD, and demands accountability for past abuses. If the city fails to respond in good faith, said Prof. Knuckey, the U.S. Justice Department will be asked to intervene. A consortium of law schools plans to issue additional reports on police treatment of Occupy demonstrators in other cities.

Rich Hide $21 to $32 Trillion Offshore

A study commissioned by the Tax Justice Network-USA shows the global financial elite have stashed between $23 trillion and $32 trillion in secret offshore accounts. “Governments are losing all of this potential revenue that could be used to provide basic services and to stop all the cutting of jobs all over the world,” said network executive director Nicole Tichon. “Conservatively,” tax revenues from the hidden funds “could range anywhere from $190 billion to $280 billion, which is a little more than twice the amount” that the world’s rich countries spend “on all overseas development aid.”

Obama Fails Federal Workers of Color

The Obama administration has “turned a deaf ear” to minority federal employee’s complaints of racist abuse, assaults, rapes and beatings in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Lawrence C. Lucas, president of the USDA Coalition of Minority Employees. “This administration has failed, and failed miserably,” said Lucas, who was interviewed on William Jones III’s Internet radio program, Wake Up New Orleans. “How can people go to the polls and vote for people who, when you ask them for help, you’re talking to deaf ears.”

Big Business Takeover of Philly Schools

It is very clear that businesses are beginning to have more to say about what happens in the schools than the parents” in communities of color in Philadelphia, said the city’s teachers union president, Jerry Jordan. The Philadelphia School Reform Commission has targeted at least 40 public schools for closure, and plans to turn 40 percent of classrooms over to charter schools, despite studies that have shown “the vast majority of charter schools” in Pennsylvania “are not doing as well as the neighborhood public schools.” The transition plan was drawn up by a corporate consultant firm from Boston, and paid for by the William Penn Foundation and the local United Way.“

Black Radio Has Gone Corporate

I think the term ‘Black radio’ no longer applies, except to say that there are Black people on the radio, and there are a couple of Black people who own some stations, but for the most part Black commercial radio acts pretty much the same” as general market media, said veteran broadcaster Davy D, host of the syndicated daily show Hard Knocks Radio. White listeners share the same complaints about constant repetition of “top ten” songs, as Blacks. Davy D and other media activists sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, requesting an investigation into Black-oriented radio’s accountability to the Black listening public.

Boycott Hyatt Hotels

Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) has joined the global boycott of the Hyatt hotel chain. “Hyatt has really taken a low-road path,” contracting out much of its work force as temporary employees, said IWJ executive director Kim Bobo. “These perma-temps are paid minimum wage or just a little above, they have no vacations, no sick days, no health care.”

UNAC: U.S. Hands Off Syria

The United States and its European allies are attempting to “get ahead” of the Arab Spring by destabilizing the regime in Syria. “To claim that this is a humanitarian intervention is thoroughly false,” said Chris Gauvreau, of the United National Anti-War Coalition. “The so-called humanitarian intervention in Libya was a disaster, leading not to democracy but to another elite regime characterized by odious policies including racism against Black Africans.”

CIA and U.S. Military Officials Sued in Targeted Killings The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) charge the United States violated international law and its own Constitution with the killing of three Americans citizens in Yemen, last year. “These deaths are connected to a broader program of targeted killing that, in our view, has no lawful basis,” said CCR lawyer Padiss Kebriaei. American-born cleric Anwar Aulaqi, his teenage son and an associate were never formally charged with any crime. No Compromise with Stop-and-Frisk New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is “trying to gather up Black politicians and Black ministers who will sit down and negotiate ‘reforms’ to stop-and-frisk,” said Carl Dix, a founder of Stop Stop-and-Frisk. “But, you can’t reform injustice – you have to get rid of it.” Dix took part in the final day of a family vigil for Ramarley Graham, the unarmed Black teenager killed by police in his Bronx home in front of his family. Half a Million to be Disenfranchised by Photo ID Laws At least 500,000 eligible voters will find they can’t vote on Election Day, due to photo ID laws passed in ten states, according to a report from the Brennan Justice Center. Keesha Gaskins, co-author of the report, said many of those affected “live more than 10 miles from an ID-issuing office” and “lack access to a vehicle.” The Black Belt South and Brown Belt areas bordering Mexico are “really graphic examples of where these problems” arise, said Gaskins. Black Radio Facing “Demise” With radio in general confronting a “dying revenue stream,” Black-oriented commercial broadcasting “may be entering an era in which there will be no concessions to culture” and to Black political and social development by the mega-chains that own the media, said Dr. Todd Burroughs, of Morgan State University, in Baltimore. Burroughs is among the signatories to a letter asking the Federal Communications Commission to investigate “the demise” of Black radio. Black Soldiers Crucial to American War of Independence Black soldiers “were the most experienced fighters” at Yorktown, comprising a quarter of the soldiers under General George Washington’s command in the decisive battle, said Alan Gilbert, author of Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War for Independence. Gilbert disputes estimates that only 5,000 Blacks fought for American separation from Britain. However, far more Blacks served with the British, who promised freedom, while Washington’s Continental Army did not.

Media Ignore Report on Extrajudicial Killings of U.S. Blacks

An exhaustive report on the deaths of 110 Blacks in the United States at the hands of police, security guards and self-appointed vigilantes during the 6-month period ending June 30 “clearly indicates there is a human rights crisis in the U.S.,” said Ajamu Baraka, of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. “If these numbers were coming from somewhere else, indicating that a particular population was being subjected to militarized violence from the state…many people around the world would agree that there was, in fact, a human rights issue.” Yet, even so-called progressive media “aren’t picking up on the report,” said Rosa Clemente, the Green Party’s 2008 vice-presidential candidate. Clemente and Baraka spoke on the online program Your World News, hosted by Solomon Commissiong.

LIBOR Banking Fraud’s Global Impact

“We’ll never know how much losses could be attributed” to the international bankers’ LIBOR interest rate fixing scheme, “because it’s literally an impossible calculation to make,” said Dr. Richard Wolff, economics professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “In terms of its social impact, it’s the biggest scandal we ever had.” Dr. Wolff predicts “all the borrowers who have a case” that they lost money from the fraud “are going to be filing legal suits to recover damages.”

Black Radio Ruined by Syndications

“While we celebrate Tom Joyner and Steve Harvey and Michael Baisden, they’re exactly what’s wrong with our radio and our insight and our information,” said Paul Porter, veteran broadcaster and publisher of the influential newsletterIndustry Ears. Local Black-oriented stations “don’t touch on local issues, they don’t deliver local news. The best they can do is some local traffic.” Porter estimates that Black adults are 75 times more likely to hear syndicated radio programs than adult whites.

A Nursing Corps for the African Diaspora

Forty-five nurses will soon graduate from a Sierra Leone school founded by the All African People’s Development and Empowerment Project, the first wave of an “African nursing corps that can be deployed anywhere in the African world, said AAPDEP’s Aisha Fields. At present, one out of eight Sierra Leone women die in childbirth. Globally, “our people have been at the mercy of others, and it hasn’t ever turned out well for us,” said Fields. The nursing school must raise a $5,000 accreditation fee by July 25.

Milestone for Richmond Rights Defenders

The Defenders for Freedom, Justice and Equality, which began as an ad hoc group dealing with criminal justice issues, marked their tenth anniversary, in Richmond, Virginia. Ana Edwards, one of the founders, noted that back in 2002 other local organizations were not saying “it is capitalism that is one of the contributing factors to why we have a prison industrial system that requires that we feed it – that we put bodies in there.” The Defenders buttress their non-stop organizing work through a quarterly newspaper and weekly radio show. “We are absolutely committed to the idea that the war at home and the wars abroad are inextricably linked,” said Edwards.

Black Is Back Coalition National Conference

The Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations holds a national conference in Newark, New Jersey, August 18. “We will examine the role of elections in this society, the role of money in elections, and the question of how, or whether, Black people should be involved,” said Black Is Back chairman Omali Yeshitela. “The idea of voting simply for the sake of voting is not something that any rational person” advocates.

Pennsylvania’s Assault on the Very Poor

Seventy thousand of the state’s poorest people were given virtually no notice that they are to be removed from cash public assistance. State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas said Republicans also want to use “asset testing” to keep people off food stamps and are discussing making the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program into a loan, to be repaid when recipients gain employment. Meanwhile, corporations are getting “carte blanche access to drilling” for natural gas in the state. “So, while we are throwing people into the street on one hand, we are fattening corporate welfare at an alarming rate,” said the Philadelphia lawmaker.

Canadian Police are as Racist as U.S. Cops

The youth activist group Justice Is Not Colour-Blind is demanding an end to racial profiling and police raids in the Black community of Toronto, Canada. “Racial profiling is rampant in Toronto,” said Odion Fayalo, of JINCB. The police practice of arbitrarily demanding that Black males produce ID, called “carding,” is the Canadian version of stop-and-frisk.

Manning Marable Got it Wrong on Malcolm X

The late Dr. Manning Marable’s 2011 book Malcolm X: A Life of Reinventionattempts to “liberalize Malcolm X” and misrepresent his revolutionary nationalist politics, said Morgan State University professor Jared Ball, an editor and contributor to A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manny Marable’s Malcolm X. Marable “would have welcomed an exchange and criticism of his book,” said Dr. Ball, but “those who walk in his footsteps…will not engage in principled debate.”

Malcolm X Radio to Power Up

Low-power FM radio station WMXP needs $15,000 to bring the broadcast signal to full power, said Atty. Efia Nwangaza, director of the Malcolm X Center for Self-Determination, in Greenville, South Carolina. WMXP’s programming “connects the local community with the national and international Black community and provides an opportunity for political education that would not otherwise be available.”

Give the People Medicare-for-All

The U.S. Supreme Court’s vetting of President Obama’s health legislation means Americans will be forced to “spend up to 9 percent of their income and still not get actual healthcare,” said Dr. Margaret Flowers, who joined other physicians in a brief on behalf of Medicare-for-All. The Obama bill amounts to “corporate welfare on steroids,” said Dr. Flowers. Jean Ross, a co-president of National Nurses United, said “No one should have to wait till they’re 65 to have the best healthcare system. We need Medicare-for-All, from the time you’re born.”

Mandatory Life in Prison for Juveniles is Unconstitutional

In every area of the law we protect child status, except in the criminal justice system, where we increasingly sentence them just as if they are adults – even if they’re as young as 13 or 14,” said Bryan Stevenson, of the Equal Justice Initiative. Under the high court’s ruling, juveniles can still be sentenced to life, but the penalty cannot be mandatory. Minorities make up about 70 percent of kids serving life terms.

Arizona Immigration Decision is a Victory, But…

It is wrong to assume that Justice Roberts has a rebirth as some type of moderate,” said Shanta Driver, national chairperson of BAMN, By Any Means Necessary. Racial profiling remains embedded in U.S. immigration practice, “including the federal Secure Communities Act,” backed by the Obama administration.

It’s “All Purely Race” in Jasper, Texas

The Texas town where three white men chained and dragged James Byrd Jr. to his death behind their pickup truck, in 1998, recently recalled two of its Black city councilmen and fired its first African American police chief. The town’s racists “believe that they can do and say anything without anybody taking issue with them,” said Atty. David Bersen, who filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint on behalf of ex-police chief Rodney Pearson. “It’s all purely race.”

Lynne Stewart Sentence Stands

Human rights lawyer Lynne Stewart lost her appeal of a 10-year prison sentence for her conduct in defending a client on terror charges. Stewart, 72, is held at a medical prison near Fort Worth, Texas, where she recently underwent surgery. “They’re referring to Lynne as having disrespect for the law,” said her husband,Ralph Poynter. “My reaction is, anybody that has studied the history of American law knows it’s based in genocide, slavery and the double standard. The only things we can look up to in America that are positive are those people that followed justice rather than law.”

New Orleans Katrina School Firings Illegal

A federal judge ruled that local and state officials acted illegally when they fired 7,500 New Orleans public school employees to make way for charter schools, in the wake of the 2005 Katrina disaster. Seven of the former employees won cash awards ranging from $48,000 to $48,000, and the total owed to the entire class of plaintiffs could run in the tens of millions. “From the beginning it was a wrongful takeover” based on “manufactured evidence of failure,” said Willie Zanders, lawyer for the plaintiffs. “Many people saw this as an opportunity to privatize public education.” Eighty percent of New Orleans schools are now charters.

POP Demonstration Marathon Passes One-Year Mark in Newark

We’ve certainly drawn attention to the issue of unemployment in our community,” said Larry Hamm, chairman of the People’s Organization for Progress (POP), based in Newark, New Jersey. POP set out last June 27 to hold daily demonstrations, 7 days a week, to match or exceed the 381-day longevity of the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama Bus Boycott. The grassroots activists are building for a huge rally for jobs, peace, equality and justice on July 11 – with help from a coalition of 179 endorsing organizations.

U.S. Enables Genocide in Congo

The United States has been an enabler” of Rwanda’s destabilization of the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, contributing to the deaths of 6 million Congolese since 1996, said Claude Gatebuke, of the African Great Lakes Network. “The U.S. is one of the largest donors to the Rwandan government in terms of funds, but also military training” to the tune of over $1 billion in the past decade, said Gatebuke. “When you give a world criminal more resources, they commit more crimes.”

Buju Banton Loses Appeal

A federal appeals court confirmed Jamaican musical artist Buju Banton’s 10-year sentence on charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. The government case against Banton, who turns 39 on July 15, relied heavily on a paid informer. “Buju’s case represents a lot of cases in America in terms of the use of confidential informants who make millions of dollars of untaxed income,” saidChris Sweeney, editor of the New Times, in Miami. Dr. Carolyn Cooper, a member of Banton’s support committee and a lecturer at the University of the West Indies, in Jamaica, said “There are many of us who feel that Buju’s arrest and incarceration is really an attack on the Jamaican music industry, because of the kinds of messages that some of the artists have sending out about sexual politics. So many of us in Jamaica believe that it is a set-up.”

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