Truthout Stories Fri, 22 May 2015 07:30:04 -0400 en-gb Say Her Name: Families Seek Justice in Overlooked Police Killings of African-American Women

As the Black Lives Matter movement grows across the country, the names of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Freddie Gray have become well known. All died at the hands of local police, sparking waves of protest. During this time, far less attention has been paid to women who have been killed by law enforcement. Today, a vigil under the banner of Say Her Name is being organized in New York to remember them. We are joined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, professor of law at UCLA and Columbia University, founder of the African American Policy Forum and co-author of the new report, "Police Brutality Against Black Women."


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: As the Black Lives Matter movement grows across the country, the names of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Freddie Gray have become household names. All died at the hands of local police, sparking waves of protest. During this time, far less attention has been paid to women who have been killed by law enforcement, women like Tanisha Anderson, Rekia Boyd, Miriam Carey, Michelle Cusseaux, Shelly Frey and Kayla Moore. Well, today, a vigil under the banner of "Say Her Name" is being organized in New York to remember these and other women.

AMY GOODMAN: With us today are three guests here in New York who will be attending the vigil. Frances Garrett is the mother of Michelle Cusseaux, who was killed in 2014 at close range by a Phoenix police officer who had been called to take the 50-year-old woman to a mental health facility.

Martinez Sutton is also with us. He is the brother of Rekia Boyd, who was fatally shot [in 2012] by an off-duty police officer in Chicago.

Also with us is Kimberlé Crenshaw, professor of law at UCLA and Columbia University, founder of the African American Policy Forum. She's the co-author of this new report. The group is releasing the report today. It's titled "Police Brutality Against Black Women."

Professor Crenshaw, let's start with you. Lay out what it is that you have found.

KIMBERLÉ CRENSHAW: Well, we have known that there's been a problem with police brutality for decades. And over the last years, as we've been talking about just now, there has been a movement that has grown in response to it. And there are certain frames around which we understand police brutality. There's the driving while black. There's the entire frame around Mike Brown being seen as literally a monster, and that justifies the excessive force that was used against him. What we know less about is how black women have experienced police brutality. And all during this time that we have been marching around police brutality, there have been a steady number of women who have also been killed, and we haven't really known their names, we haven't really understood their circumstances.

So, the report was basically an effort to literally lift up the names of people like Michelle Cusseaux or Rekia Boyd, to recognize that black women experience police brutality in many of the same ways that black men do and also in some ways that are different. Many of the cases that we talk about in the report involve police literally coming into people's homes, into their bedrooms, and actually killing them. So it's important that if we understand that the names that we repeat, the stories that we repeat, help us think about how to broaden the demands against police brutality, we have to include women in it, so some of the interventions that are necessary extend to the ways in which women are also vulnerable to police brutality.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And why do you think there's been so little attention or even publicity on these women who have been killed?

KIMBERLÉ CRENSHAW: Well, I think there are a couple reasons. I mean, men, in general, are killed more by the police than women, so there are more opportunities. But women are still killed, too. And when they are killed, they're not part of the conversation. And our argument is it's partly because the frames that we have are not frames that are gendered, as female. We understand police brutality largely through a traditional frame of this is state-sponsored lynching, and we understand lynching as extrajudicial efforts to constrain and suppress and repress black masculinity. It is also true throughout history black women have been lynched. They've also been subject to other kinds of racial violence, like rape and sexual abuse. And we're finding that not only are black women killed by police, they're also subject to some of these same historical problems of sexual abuse. So they're women that many people don't believe. They're women that are seen as vulnerable. They're women that are not empathized with or seen as sympathetic or women in need. And so that, in turn, prompts a certain kind of coercive or violent response to them or an effort to abuse them, knowing that no one will believe them.

News Thu, 21 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Alan Greenspan, Fearmonger

(CREDIT: BATEUP; Australia/CartoonArts International/The New York Times Syndicate)(CREDIT: BATEUP; Australia/CartoonArts International/The New York Times Syndicate)When Alan Greenspan left the Federal Reserve in 2006, he had nearly divine status in the eyes of the financial press and, I'm sorry to say, quite a few economists. Since then, of course, the former chairman's reputation has faltered badly.

Whether or not you blame Fed policy for the housing bubble (you shouldn't), Mr. Greenspan denied the bubble's existence, even as it was inflating, while actively blocking efforts to tighten financial regulation.

But it's his track record since leaving office that is truly remarkable. Mr. Greenspan has been an inflation and debt fearmonger, helping to make his successor's already hard job even harder - and he famously complains about ungrateful markets that keep failing to deliver the crises he predicts.

After a brief moment of doubt about the wisdom of financial markets, Mr. Greenspan has gone right back to denouncing regulation, while proclaiming that markets get it right "with notably rare exceptions."

I currently have in my inbox a notice that as the Fed holds its annual meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyo., later this year, Mr. Greenspan will address a counterconference organized by a group called the American Principles Project. The organization combines social conservatism - anti-gay-marriage, anti-abortion rights, pro-"religious liberty" - with goldbug economic doctrine.

The second half of the group's agenda may be appealing to Mr. Greenspan, a former Ayn Rand intimate. As the late economist Paul Samuelson once remarked: "You can take the boy out of the cult, but you can't take the cult out of the boy."

But the antigay stuff? And helping these people attack his former colleagues at the Fed?


Bernanke and the Inflationistas

Ben Bernanke, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, recently delivered a righteous smackdown of the Wall Street Journal's editorial page: "It's generous of the WSJ writers to note, as they do, that 'economic forecasting isn't easy,'" he wrote on his Brookings Institution blog. "They should know, since The Journal has been forecasting a breakout in inflation and a collapse in the dollar at least since 2006, when the [Federal Open Market Committee] decided not to raise the federal funds rate above 5-1/4 percent."

It has taken Mr. Bernanke almost no time in his blogging career to start sounding pretty much identical to liberal econobloggers like Brad Delong - and others one might think of!

And of course Mr. Bernanke is right that The Wall Street Journal has been consistently wrong on inflation, just as it has been consistently wrong on interest rates. The Journal has spent a very long time peddling a specific kind of scare story - debt! printing presses! Zimbabwe! - that has been utterly wrong, but is never revised.

But what's interesting here is that The Journal is far from alone in peddling this story - it's also the staple of financial television shows and many financial publications. After all these years, there are still avid consumers of complete predictive failure.

We really need to stop pretending that this story has anything to do with rational argument. There's something about "inflation derp" that goes straight to the ids of certain people - largely, one suspects, angry old men (though it would be nice to have hard evidence about exactly which demographic derp appeals to).

And they will keep regarding The Journal as the place to get the truth no matter how much money it costs them.

Opinion Thu, 21 May 2015 13:44:30 -0400
Sgt. James Brown, 26, Survived Two Tours in Iraq Only to Die Begging for His Life in Texas Jail

Newly released video has revealed the dying moments of an African-American active-duty soldier who checked himself into the El Paso, Texas, county jail for a two-day sentence for driving under the influence, and died while in custody in 2012. Authorities claimed Sgt. James Brown died due to a pre-existing medical condition, but shocking new video from inside the jail raises new questions about what happened. The video shows guards swarming on top of him as he repeatedly says he can't breathe and appears not to resist. By the end of the video, he is shown naked, not blinking or responding, his breathing shallow. Attorneys say an ambulance was never called. Brown was eventually brought to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His family had long suspected foul play in his death but received little information from authorities. They've now filed a lawsuit against El Paso County saying his constitutional rights were violated. We are joined by Brown's mother, Dinetta Scott.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today with a story about an Iraq War veteran who served two tours in Iraq only to die in a county jail in El Paso, Texas. Sergeant James Brown was just 26 years old when he mysteriously died in 2012 after he reported to jail for a two-day sentence for driving while intoxicated. Brown, who was African-American, was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at the time. His family had long suspected foul play in his death but received little information from authorities, who said he died because of a pre-existing medical condition. Well, a local news station, KFOX14, recently obtained video from inside the jail showing Brown's last moments.

AMY GOODMAN: The video shows something happened which caused Brown to bleed in his cell. When he refuses to speak with guards, a team in riot gear storms in and swarms on top of him, while he repeatedly says he can't breathe and appears not to resist. A warning to our audience: The following video is disturbing.

SGT. JAMES BROWN: I can't breathe! Dude, I can't breathe! Help me! Help me! Help! I can't breathe! I'm choking on my blood! Help me! I'm choking on my blood! I'm choking on my blood! I'm choking on my blood!

AMY GOODMAN: "I'm choking on my blood!" said Sergeant James Brown. As his condition deteriorates, as he's carried to an infirmary and has a mask placed over his face, he's then given an injection. He begs for water and is given half a Dixie cup as he heaves. Sergeant Brown repeatedly states he's having severe trouble breathing.

SGT. JAMES BROWN: Now that's blocking too much air. That's over my nose and my mouth. Could you unhook my arm out of this?

PRISON GUARD: You need to calm down first.

SGT. JAMES BROWN: Can I lay on the floor?


SGT. JAMES BROWN: Well, you're going to have to do one or the other to help my breathing. Please, that's all I ask.

PRISON GUARD: You got to calm down a little bit first.

SGT. JAMES BROWN: I will. I just need the mask - please.


SGT. JAMES BROWN: Please. Please. I can't breathe. I can't relax. You've got to take this mask off, dude, please.

PRISON GUARD: Can't take it off, sir. I'm sorry.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: By the end of the video, Brown has said he can't breathe at least 20 times. Then he is left naked in a cell, not blinking or responding, his breathing shallow. Attorneys say an ambulance was never called. Brown was eventually brought to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Authorities claim he died from natural causes after an autopsy report cited a, quote, "sickle cell crisis." But his family says he died as a result of his treatment in jail. The family's attorney, B.J. Crow, spoke to KFOX.

B.J. CROW: When a 26-year-old active military person checks in to jail for a court-imposed sentence on a Friday, and he leaves Sunday, you know, in a casket, something went horribly wrong there. He was bleeding out the ears, the nose, the mouth. His kidneys shut down. His blood pressure dropped to a very dangerous level. And his liver shut down.

AMY GOODMAN: Sergeant James Brown's family has filed a lawsuit against El Paso County saying his constitutional rights were violated. Democracy Now! invited El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles to join us on Democracy Now! today, but he declined. He did send a statement saying, quote, "Mr. Brown's death was an unfortunate tragedy. The Sheriff's Office has conducted a thorough review of the facts surrounding Mr. Brown's death and, based upon all the evidence obtained, determined that his death was caused by a pre-existing medical condition."

Well, for more, we go to Seattle, Washington, where we're joined by Sergeant James Brown's mother, Dinetta Scott.

Ms. Scott, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you explain the significance of this video that has now been released because a local TV station in El Paso had been trying to get it for years now? The death of your son, Sergeant Brown, occurred in 2012. It's now 2015. Tell us about the significance of what you know now.

DINETTA SCOTT: Amy, I have not watched this video in its entirety. I have seen four seconds of it, and I heard my son begging for his life. I can't watch it. I do know that it is very disturbing. The part that I did see, where he is unable to breathe, it's devastating. It's inhumane. It's unexplainable what happened to him.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Were you ever told by authorities that the video existed and why it's never come to light or been made public since then?

DINETTA SCOTT: No, that was never explained to us.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of the autopsy report, did authorities - what did they tell you about how your son died?

DINETTA SCOTT: The medical examiner stated that it was a sickle cell crisis due to him being restrained. That's why he went into a sickle cell crisis. And he stated that he had viewed this on the video. And that's when we said, "A video exists. We would like that video." And nothing ever came of that until two-and-a-half years later, which is where we're at now.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, the video is just astonishing. But can you go back to 2012 to - did you talk to your son before he self-reported into the jail? He was stopped for DUI, and he was going to be held - what? For two nights?

DINETTA SCOTT: Correct. He received the DWI in 2011, and they had continuously went to court. When he got his sentencing, it was five days with time served, so since he had already served three days when they initially picked him up, he only had to do the weekend. I spoke to him prior to him checking in on that Friday night, and then I received a call from him Saturday morning, stating that the jailers had said he was going to have to stay incarcerated for seven days instead of the initial two days. And he said, "Could you please send money so that I can pay the court fine, so that I can leave here? Because I need to report to duty on Monday."

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, he had already served two tours in Iraq, and he was still on active duty?


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And when was he diagnosed with post-traumatic stress?

DINETTA SCOTT: I believe it was the beginning of 2011.

AMY GOODMAN: Did he talk to you about the conditions in the jail, Dinetta Scott?

DINETTA SCOTT: No, he just basically said he needed to get out of there, and could I please get the money so that he could leave, and he would explain everything to me when he got out.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you describe your son, Sergeant James Brown, to us?

DINETTA SCOTT: Excuse me. He was a jokester. He was very confident, a natural born leader, loyal to no fault, a loving person. Either you liked him, or you didn't. He didn't really care what people thought of him. He just was a loving kind of guy, one of a kind. And I'm not saying that just because he's my son. He just was a genuine person. He didn't sugarcoat things, and he didn't lie to you. If you wanted to know the truth, that's the person that you would ask. And many of his friends said, you know, if you wanted somebody to have your back, you wanted James Brown to have your back.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And the terrible irony of him coming back from serving his country twice in Iraq to end up in a cell, dead in a cell, in El Paso, Texas?

DINETTA SCOTT: In that video, I heard my son begging for his life on US soil. This was not his enemy that he was facing. This was a US citizen that was treating him like he was an animal. And it should not be allowed. That should not happen to anyone in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: We were just showing pictures of James. How many kids does he have?


AMY GOODMAN: How old are his children?

DINETTA SCOTT: His stepson, Armani, is 12, and his daughter, Jayliah, is five.

AMY GOODMAN: When did he join the military?


AMY GOODMAN: Was it right out of high school?

DINETTA SCOTT: No, he graduated in 2004, and he was in a car - a motorcycle accident in 2003, which he had to have a rod put into his femur, so he opted to wait a year to have that rod removed so that he could join the military. So his joining was delayed.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In the past year or two, we've seen this enormous growth of the Black Lives Matter movement as a result of what's happened in Ferguson and Cleveland and other African-American men killed under - in police custody. Your son died almost three years ago. And your sense of the connection to this movement that has grown up in the United States in the last two years?

DINETTA SCOTT: I believe it - race isn't an issue. I believe it's men who have been given a certain amount of authority who are abusing it. It's very unfortunate that all the victims have been African-American, but this lies within our system. These are people that are abusing their authority and using it inappropriately.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Dinetta Scott, what has happened to these guards? One, the pile-on we see in the cell, then this mask is put over him. He is begging, saying he's not - he can't take the mask off, can they take the mask off, that he can't breathe, that he is choking on his own blood. What happened to all these guards?

DINETTA SCOTT: Absolutely nothing.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to play one clip for you. KFOX14 in El Paso interviewed one of the last people to see Sergeant Brown alive, a fellow prisoner who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

ANONYMOUS PRISONER: He was like, "I didn't do nothing. You know what? I'm staying back here. I'm keeping my mouth shut." Well, he grabbed him. They took him out, and they took him to a little room in front of us. They took him back there. They kind of roughed him up. And when they were bringing him out, a guard from behind gave him a - I don't know what this shot is called. Some guys here were telling me that some places can do that. I never knew they can do that. They gave him a shot, and he collapsed. I guess he didn't react good to it. And when he collapsed, that's when they jumped on him, and they kind of beat him up and picked - I mean, he was out of conscious, so really there was no need for them to jump on him the way they did. Pretty bad. Like he was already out of conscious, and it's like you jumping on somebody and putting your elbow in their neck. You know, you can probably snap somebody's neck like that. And they picked him up and dragged him out.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was a fellow prisoner who spoke on the condition of anonymity. He was speaking on a jail phone through a glass. Dinetta Scott, can you respond to what he described about what happened to your son, Sergeant James Brown?

DINETTA SCOTT: It's inexcusable. They all need to be held accountable for what they did to my son. The sheriff made a statement that my son died of natural causes. There was nothing natural about the way that he died. They never should have went in that cell. They never should have pulled him out. And if there was a problem, they should have contacted the military, or they should have contacted mental health, somebody that was able to deal with him, instead of rushing him like that and attacking him and beating him when he's down and can't defend his self. It's unacceptable.

AMY GOODMAN: What are you asking for in the lawsuit?

DINETTA SCOTT: I want change. I want policies and procedures put in place that will protect our soldiers when they are in public facilities, that the military step in and take accountability for their soldiers. These are men that they trained. They should never be put in the hands of civilians, because civilians live one life, and soldiers live another life. And they need to be dealt with by soldiers. Policies need to be put in place for CID, that when an incident happens in a public facility, they need to go in and investigate, instead of just taking the word of that institution. They need to find out what happened to their soldier. And if they have a liaison in place, they would already know what went wrong, when it went wrong, or whatever the case may be. I believe if my son would have had a representative from the military with him every step of the way, we wouldn't be here today.

AMY GOODMAN: One last question: Do we know what your son was injected with? In that video, we see him injected at least once by the guards.

DINETTA SCOTT: According to the report, it was [Haloperidol] and Ativan, combination. I am not sure on the exact amount that was given to him, but according to the jail report, that is what they state they gave him.

AMY GOODMAN: Dinetta Scott, we want to thank you for being with us, mother of Sergeant James Brown, also our condolences. Sergeant James Brown died after being held in an El Paso County jail in 2012. He served in Iraq two tours of duty before he came home. He was on active duty at the time.

This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. Do black women's lives matter? That's the question that's being raised by a group of people around the country, those who have lost loved ones, black women, at the hands of authorities, of police. Stay with us.

News Thu, 21 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Can the DOJ Reform the Baltimore Police Department?

See The Real News Network's website for both earlier in-depth reporting and current coverage of events in Baltimore, where The Real News Network studios are located.


ANTON WORONCZUK, TRNN: The announcement of a full-scale civil rights investigation into the Baltimore City Police Department earlier this month brought with it an important question: will it lead to meaningful and enduring reform? Freddie Gray's death led to the indictment of six officers and a swift response from the Department of Justice, which has announced it's beginning an investigation into possible constitutional or civil rights violations by the Baltimore Police Department.

LORETTA LYNCH, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: This investigation will begin immediately, and will focus on allegations that Baltimore Police Department officers use excessive force, including deadly force, conduct unlawful searches, seizures, and arrests, and engage in discriminatory policing.

WORONCZUK: Many are cautiously optimistic that federal intervention will produce real change in a department whose deep-seated problems were thrust upon the national stage. But an analysis by The Real News Network of past federal interventions shows mixed results. One study by Noah Kupferberg, professor at Brooklyn Law School, looked at cities that agreed to federal intervention in the form of legal agreements called consent decrees following an investigation by the DOJ.

In New York City, his research found that the consent decree likely pressured the city to release startling data. Arrests in the city increased 422 percent from 2002 to 2006, over the same time period of the federal intervention. And in New Jersey, after four years of federal monitoring and oversight, racial disparities in stops, searches, and arrests among state troopers increased, an issue which was the initial spur for the DOJ investigation. His conclusion: "The DOJ and the public should abandon the idea that police consent decrees will alter racial disparity, and instead use such decrees as a means of requiring the recording and public release of data, thus forcing openness and transparency in law enforcement."

The need to reform the data collection practices of police departments is reflected in the experience of David Rocah, senior staff attorney for the Maryland ACLU. In 2013 he requested stop and frisk data of the Baltimore police.

DAVID ROCAH, SENIOR STAFF ATTORNEY, ACLU-MARYLAND: What their response to that request showed was that they were expending a significant amount of effort compiling data in a way that was utterly useless. There's been a lot of talk in Baltimore, as in other cities, about data-driven policing. And yet, it's remarkable to which we don't collect the right data about what officers are doing as a way of changing behavior.

WORONCZUK: Another study conducted by Harvard University and funded by the LA Police Foundation claimed successful federal intervention. It cited a 15 percent drop in the use of force by the LAPD from 2004 to 2009, while noting that blacks and Hispanics faced use of force disproportionately. Police were also shown to have engaged in more arrests, and more citizens faced felony charges while overall crime was decreasing throughout the city. Rocha says one should not conclude that DOJ oversight necessarily leads to more intrusive or aggressive policing, but he does believe that current federal and state policy sets limits on the success of police reform.

ROCAH: Now, I think there are questions to be asked about what it is that we're asking police to do, and what things we're making crimes. And I think a lot of the problems with policing today stem in significant part from our so-called war on drugs.

WORONCZUK: Many police reform advocates point to the 2001 consent decree in Cincinnati as an example of successful federal intervention following uprisings in response to the killing of 15 black men over seven years. Its major achievement included an independent civilian police review board as well as new policies for community-based policing, and training for police responding to people with mental illness or drug addiction. The role of third parties such as the American Civil Liberties Union was crucial to its success, says Michael Brickner, senior policy director of the ACLU-Ohio.

MICHAEL BRICKNER, SENIOR POLICY DIRECTOR, ACLU-OHIO: Because again, oftentimes when it's just the city and the Department of Justice there's not necessarily a voice for the people who are affected. And the ACLU, we could play a really unique role in that we were there to represent the community, and I don't think had other interests, like you sometimes see with the city or even the Department of Justice.

WORONCZUK: That's why people such as Dayvon Love from Baltimore-based Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle say they want a seat at the table.

DAYVON LOVE, LEADERS OF A BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLE: Ultimately like I've always said, it's about independent black institution-building, developing our fortitude to force law enforcement and political establishment to act in the way that is in our best interests.

WORONCZUK: Brickner also cited the willingness of all parties to go ahead with the agreement, including the Cincinnati Police Union and city officials, as key to its success.

BRICKNER: We did not all sit down and hold hands and sing Kumbaya. There were a lot of really tense moments after the collaborative agreement were brought about. Things that did not work as well as we had hoped. But that commitment towards everyone kind of moving towards reform was always there no matter what happened.

WORONCZUK: The Maryland ACLU's experience in Baltimore suggests reform efforts will not be any easier. In 2010 the ACLU settled a lawsuit against the Baltimore Police Department over tens of thousands of illegal arrests as a result of controversial zero tolerance policy.

ROCAH: I would say that the police departments' efforts to comply with the settlement left something to be desired. There was in my view an improper withholding of information. There were significant delays in implementing specific parts of the settlement, and there were continuing problems with adhering to some of the terms over the life of the consent decree.

The DOJ by itself can't reform the Baltimore Police Department. The ACLU can't reform the Baltimore Police Department. The Baltimore Police Department has to reform the Baltimore Police Department, and whether or not that will happen I think depends in significant part on the degree to which there is continuing community pressure for reform.

WORONCZUK: With Stephen Janis, this is Anton Woronczuk for The Real News Network.

News Thu, 21 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Why This US Doctor Is Moving to Canada

I'm a U.S. family physician who has decided to relocate to Canada. The hassles of working in the dysfunctional health care "system" in the U.S. have simply become too intense.

I'm not alone. According to a physician recruiter in Windsor, Ont., over the past decade more than 100 U.S. doctors have relocated to her city alone. More generally, the Canadian Institute for Health Information reports that Canada has been gaining more physicians from international migration than it's been losing.

Like many of my U.S. counterparts, I'm moving to Canada because I'm tired of doing daily battle with the same adversary that my patients face – the private health insurance industry, with its frequent errors in processing claims (the American Medical Association reports that one of every 14 claims submitted to commercial insurers are paid incorrectly); outright denials of payment (about one to five percent); and costly paperwork that consumes about 16 percent of physicians' working time, according to a recent journal study.

I've also witnessed the painful and continual shifting of medical costs onto my patients' shoulders through rising co-payments, deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses. According to a survey conducted by the Commonwealth Fund, 66 million – 36 percent of Americans — reported delaying or forgoing needed medical care in 2014 due to cost.

My story is relatively brief. Six years ago, shortly after completing my residency in Rochester, New York, I opened a solo family medicine practice in what had become my adopted hometown.

I had a vision of cultivating a practice where patients felt heard and cared for, and where I could provide full-spectrum family medicine care, including obstetrical care. My practice embraced the principles of patient-centered collaborative care. It employed the latest in 21st-century technology.

I loved my work and my patients. But after five years of constant fighting with multiple private insurance companies in order to get paid, I ultimately made the heart-wrenching decision to close my practice down. The emotional stress was too great.

My spirit was being crushed. It broke my heart to have to pressure my patients to pay the bills their insurance companies said they owed. Private insurance never covers the whole bill and doesn't kick in until patients have first paid down the deductible. For some this means paying thousands of dollars out-of-pocket before insurance ever pays a penny. But because I had my own business to keep solvent, I was forced to pursue the balance owed.

Doctors deal with this conundrum in different ways. A recent New York Times article described how an increasing number of physicians are turning away from independent practice to join large employer groups (often owned by hospital systems) in order to be shielded from this side of our system. About 60 percent of family physicians are now salaried employees rather than independent practitioners.

That was a temptation for me, too. But too often I've seen in these large, corporate physician practices that the personal relationship between doctor and patient gets lost. Both are reduced to mere cogs in the machine of what the late Dr. Arnold Relman, former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine, called the medical-industrial complex in the U.S.

So I looked for alternatives. I spoke with other physicians, both inside and outside my specialty. We invariably ended up talking about the tumultuous time that the U.S. health care system is in – and the challenges physicians face in trying to achieve the twin goals of improved medical outcomes and reduced cost.

The rub, of course, is that we're working in a fragmented, broken system where powerful, moneyed corporate interests thrive on this fragmentation, finding it easy to drive up costs and outmaneuver patients and doctors alike. And having multiple payers, each with their own rules, also drives up unnecessary administrative costs – about $375 billion in waste annually, according to another recent journal study.

I knew that Canada had largely resolved the problem of delivering affordable, universal care by establishing a publicly financed single-payer system. I also knew that Canada's system operates much more efficiently than the U.S. system, as outlined in a landmark paper in The New England Journal of Medicine. So I decided to look at Canadian health care more closely.

I liked what I saw. I realized that I did not have to sacrifice my family medicine career because of the dysfunctional system on our side of the border.

In conversations with my husband, we decided we'd be willing to relocate our family so I could pursue the career in medicine that I love. I'll be starting and growing my own practice in Penetanguishene on the tip of Georgian Bay this autumn.

I'm excited about resuming my practice, this time in a context that is not subject to the vagaries of backroom deals between moneyed, vested interests. I'm looking forward to being part of a larger system that values caring for the health of individuals, families and communities as a common good – where health care is valued as a human right.

I hope the U.S. will get there some day. I believe it will. Perhaps our neighbor to the north will help us find our way.

Opinion Thu, 21 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
"Shell No": From Sea to Land, Seattle Residents Fight Oil Giant's Plans for Arctic Drilling

A major campaign is underway in Seattle against oil giant Shell's plans to drill in the remote and pristine Arctic this summer. On Monday, hundreds blocked the entrance to the the city's port, where Shell has docked its 400-foot-long, 355-foot-wide Arctic-bound Polar Pioneer drilling rig. On Saturday, about 500 environmentalists and indigenous leaders took to kayaks and small boats in a protest described as "Paddle in Seattle." The Shell rig arrived Thursday even after Seattle's mayor announced its permit as a cargo ship does not apply to oil rigs. Now the Seattle City Council has issued a notice of violation against Shell and could issue fines of up to $500 a day. All this comes after the Obama administration announced conditional approval for the company's plans last week. We are joined by Seattle City Councilmember Mike O'Brien, who was among the hundreds of kayakers in Saturday's action.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We end today's show in Seattle, where a major campaign is underway against oil giant Shell's plans to drill in the remote and pristine Arctic this summer. On Monday, hundreds blocked the entrance to the the city's port, where Shell has docked its 400-foot-long, 355-foot-wide Arctic-bound Polar Pioneer drilling rig. On Saturday, about 500 environmentalists and indigenous leaders took to kayaks and small boats in a protest described as "Paddle in Seattle." The Shell rig arrived Thursday, even after Seattle's mayor announced its permit as a cargo ship does not apply to oil rigs.

AMY GOODMAN: Now Seattle's City Council has issued a notice of violation against Shell and could issue fines of up to $500 a day. All this comes after the Obama administration announced conditional approval for the company's plans last week.

For more, we're joined by Seattle City Councilmember Mike O'Brien. On Saturday, he was among hundreds of kayakers who surrounded the rig for a Paddle in Seattle.

Welcome to Democracy Now! So, if the mayor is opposed, if the City Council says no, how is the Shell rig allowed to be at the port as a base of its operations for drilling in the Arctic, Mike O'Brien?

MIKE O'BRIEN: Well, the Port of Seattle is a separate governmental entity, and they apparently cut a deal to sign a contract with a contractor that's contracting with Shell last fall and that only came out to public light in early January. There was a couple days' notice, a short meeting. People showed up in protest. But by then, the deal was done, and the contract was signed in February.

Now, since then, there's been a total outrage in the city of Seattle for this deal, and there may be an opportunity for the Port of Seattle to revisit that contract, at which point a lot of us are hoping that they reconsider their decision and don't allow Shell to stay here.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And could you talk about your decision to join the protests?

MIKE O'BRIEN: Well, you know, Seattle is known as an environmental city, and I represent the people of Seattle, who are very committed to protecting our wild spaces, like the Arctic, and very committed to fighting climate change. And when you have a company like Shell, who knows that we already have three times more oil in the ground than we can safely burn without preventing catastrophic climate change, and they're saying, "That's not enough. We want to go drill more," in a very - in an environment, frankly, that there's no safe way to drill Arctic oil, that just goes against everything we stand for in this city. And when they want to bring their drilling fleet right into the waterfront of Seattle and store those ships and that 30-story drill rig, it just calls on all the people of Seattle, including myself, to go out there and say, "We cannot accept this. We need a better way, a new energy policy. And we need Shell to reconsider their option, too."

AMY GOODMAN: Very quickly, can you talk about the notice of violation that the city, that Seattle, served on Shell?

MIKE O'BRIEN: So, as I said, the port's a different entity, but they needed to get a permit from the city of Seattle to operate their terminal. We issued a permit about 20 years ago to operate that as a cargo terminal. Shell Oil hosting a - storing its oil rig there is not a cargo facility, and so they are now in violation of that permit. We've issued the notice earlier this week. They have a few days to get into compliance, which would largely mean removing the oil rig, or applying for another permit, which would take months to likely get. If they're not in compliance in the next week or so, we have the right to start issuing fines. Unfortunately, the maximum fine is pennies for Shell Oil. It's $500 a day.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I also wanted to ask you about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, the secretive 12-nation trade agreement which would stretch from Japan to Chile. On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry visited Boeing's 737 factory in Renton, near Seattle, to call for support of the TPP. I wanted to ask you what you thought about that.

MIKE O'BRIEN: Well, a little over a month ago, the City Council unanimously passed a resolution stating our opposition to fast-track authority for TPP and stating our very strong concerns about what we had heard is in that trade agreement. Now, it's hard to fight against something that no one actually knows what's in it because it's very top-secret, but what I've heard and what we've all heard from every single environmental leader, every single labor leader, in the region and in the country, is that this is a bad deal for workers, this is a bad deal for the environment. And we think it's just appalling that something like this would get fast-track authority to move forward.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, how does Seattle - how can you make a difference in Seattle as a city councilmember? And also, in this last minute we have, can you link these global trade agreements with the movement for better wages in the United States? Seattle was a leader in the $15-an-hour movement. You passed it, the City Council. Now Los Angeles has just announced they have passed $15-an-hour wage, that will be in place in 2020.

MIKE O'BRIEN: You know, we care a lot about our workers in Seattle. We're a very trade-dependent state. So any type of trade agreement, we want to be very careful that it's going to help the workers in Seattle, not hurt it. And frankly, the past number of trade agreements we've seen have undermined workers in our city and in our country. But we know there is a strong workers' movement. It's great to see what happened in Seattle now happening in Los Angeles and San Francisco, too. And we think this is a moment where workers are having their voice. And something like this international trade agreement, that's cut in secret, undermines that movement that's so powerful.

AMY GOODMAN: And the issue of the $15-an-hour minimum wage that you have spearheaded, the Seattle City Council, in passing, the significance of Los Angeles now doing the same?

MIKE O'BRIEN: You know, one of the things we heard when we passed our minimum wage was jobs will just leave Seattle, they'll go somewhere else, no one will pay that. The reality of what we've seen to date and elsewhere is that people are still flocking to Seattle to open businesses. Workers are coming here, because they know they will be treated fairly. And when you see other cities following in - following in line with what Seattle did, I think it sends a strong signal that this is actually a wave of the future, not a mistake. And we're really proud of being a part of that here in Seattle.

AMY GOODMAN: Mike O'Brien, we want to thank you for being with us, Seattle city councilmember who was part of the effort to stop Shell's oil rig from docking in Seattle, part of the kayaks. And in March, he also led a unanimous vote on a resolution against the TPP.

News Thu, 21 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Who Gets to Decide What Winning Looks Like?

The last month of my work at GetEQUAL has been filled with a multitude of opportunities: from visiting Indianapolis, Indiana to help organize in the aftermath of the RFRA bill, attending a White House summit for LGBTQ Leaders of Color, to gathering with the rest of GetEQUAL staff to reflect on our growth and future goals.

In all of these spaces, important questions about the roles folks in the LGBTQ movement play - and what the future of the LGBTQ movement looks like overall - have surfaced for me. Who gets to decide what LGBTQ movement spaces look like? Who is setting the tone for our conversations in the LGBTQ movement? Who decides we have to listen to the same people over and over again?


Attending the White House LGBTQ People of Color Convening reminded me of my childhood: I had always dreamed of being in The White House. Though it was exciting to be in a space of people whose voices are rarely amplified in spaces like the White House, the space reflected the divisions among people of color and LGBTQ people. There was a very small group of trans people of color present. The number of trans women of color represented was even smaller.

Despite being a small group of TWOC represented in the space,It was powerful to see Ms. Major and Ruby Corado, both incredible trans women of color pioneers, honored by a community they've given their lives to, - just as it was powerful to see Lourdes Ashley Hunter of the Trans Women of Color Collective speak so powerfully, holding the White House accountable for a lack of initiatives regarding the intersections of LGBTQ people of color and what our needs are. The White House attempted to uplift the little bit they have done for the trans community - specifically their support of "Leelah's Law" and having a gender neutral bathroom in the restroom. However there was no mention of the 10 trans women murdered this year alone which forced me to pose questions to Obama administration officials about full federal equality and why The White House has not declared #BlackLivesMatter. Trans women of color demonstrated why we are leading the movement and how trans women of color can take ownership of a space even when it does not reflect us, leading the LGBTQ movement now as we have led throughout the movement's history. Yet even in this space, intersectionality failed - once again, trans women of color had to fight to be heard and to have our voices acknowledged. 

I experienced similar disappointment that was far more personally painful in Indiana. In talking to Indiana LGBTQ leaders about Ashley Sherman, a trans woman murdered in Indianapolis, I found that those leaders were not even aware of her murder and that, even after becoming aware, there was a great deal of shaming around the nature of her death. This lack of awareness, and the violence that came from the role I was expected to fill as a trans woman of color to educate these folks on all things trans, didn't just reflect Indiana but more broadly what happens to trans women of color in LGBTQ spaces.


Lots of people aspire to do work with trans women of color, but do not do the work to develop practices that authentically manifest those aspirations. The question must be asked, whose lead is the LGBTQ movement actually following? 

I brought all of these experiences with me when GetEQUAL staff gathered recently in North Carolina for a retreat. It was a collective moment to build and strategize, and to have tough, respectful conversations. Because our conversations were grounded in the words of folks impacted by criminalization, immigration, reproductive justice, and religious discrimination in the LGBTQ community, and the intersectional way these issues affect LGBTQ people, there was not the erasure that usually happens in strategy sessions. When you organize this way, then the result will be successful - and it's why GetEQUAL has such a unique place in the movement. There's no other grassroots organization talking about Full Federal Equality that specifically reflects and is centered in marginalized communities. There's no other organization devoted to fighting tokenization, white supremacy, erasure, patriarchy and capitalism in the LGBTQ movement from the ground up. When you work from that lens, it creates opportunities for successful wins.

Winning looks like Mya Hall not being murdered by the police. Winning looks like undocumented folks returning home without having to request a pardon or wear an ankle bracelet. Winning looks like trans women having access to jobs, and no longer being murdered in the streets. Winning looks like reparations. Winning looks like LGBTQ people being able to access medical care without the threat of discrimination or denial because thinly veiled religious beliefs, and for Ky Peterson to have access to medical care in prison.


Winning looks like so much more than what the LGBTQ movement has defined winning as previously. When we see these things as winning, we can find new answers to the questions facing the LGBTQ movement - and then, we will win.

Opinion Thu, 21 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
On the News With Thom Hartmann: Bill de Blasio Unveils His Progressive Agenda to Combat Inequality, and More

In today's On the News segment: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveils his 13-point "Progressive Agenda to Combat Inequality"; once again, Pope Francis has spoken truth to power; the Justice Department has let another bank off the hook for its crimes; and more.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.


Thom Hartmann here - on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News...

You need to know this. While many in the Democratic party continue to move towards the Right, some are working to get the party back in touch with our progressive roots. Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke to a crowd from the steps of the US Capitol Building, and unveiled his 13-point "Contract with America." Officially called "The Progressive Agenda to Combat Inequality," the plan was modeled after former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's conservative blueprint with the same name, and it addresses a wide range of progressive economic policies. However, while Mayor de Blasio joined Sen. Elizabeth Warren to lay out their vision for the future, many in the corporate media focused not on his proposals, but on his refusal to endorse Hillary Clinton, or on his audacity to seek a national spotlight. Rather than discussing the perceived slight, the national media could be focusing on proposals like universal pre-K, paid family leave and a $15 an hour minimum wage. These ideas are just a few of the policies laid out in a new progressive blueprint for our nation, and they are just the type of proposals that the US people have been calling for. If we really want to get serious about fighting inequality and ensuring a better future for our country, we have to embrace the policies that make those goals possible - and that starts with actually talking about them. After his announcement, Mayor de Blasio said, "It's very convenient for a lot of folks in Congress not to act on these issues right now, according to their conventional political assumptions." He added, "We have to change those assumptions. The only way to do that is at the grass roots. It has to become impossible to ignore the voices of the people calling for change on these issues." And, forcing the mainstream media to talk about these policies is the best way to ensure that we can't be ignored. Let's make it clear that we want to hear about more than the political horse race, by demanding more focus on actual policy.

Once again, Pope Francis has spoken truth to power. At an event last Monday, the Pontiff spoke to 7,000 school children, and one of them asked him a question about war. In response, the Pope said, "Why so many powerful people do not want peace? Because they live off wars!" He called the $400 billion global arms trade an "industry of death," and said that people who profit from making and selling weapons "make more money with the war!" Even the children he was speaking to can understand that it is wrong to profit off of death and destruction. And, even young people can see that it's harder to achieve peace when we have such powerful forces working against that goal. All over the world, huge corporations manufacture products that are designed to kill, and allow executives and investors to pretend like they're anything but war profiteers. Just like his comments on capitalism and greed, the pope is right and it's time for the world to rethink our policy of perpetual war.

Ever since the 2008 financial crash, authorities from the United States and Europe have been investigating the big banks at the heart of the so-called "Libor-rigging scandal." Although it took a few years, the European Union fined Citigroup almost $80 million as one of six banks involved in the scandal. Here in the US however, the too-big-to-jail bank isn't even getting a slap on the wrist. According to a statement by the bank on Monday, the Justice Department declined to prosecute "based on the facts and circumstances as the Department of Justice currently understands them." And, while some would take that to mean that the bank is innocent, others may see it as the "facts and circumstances" give the banksters way too much power in our nation. It's been years since illegal gambling and market manipulation crashed our economy, and there hasn't been one single person sent to jail. So, it should come as no surprise that our Justice Department let another bank off the hook for their crimes.

Before the end of the next month, the Supreme Court will issue a ruling in the case of King v. Burwell. That's the looming case that threatens to eliminate the subsidies that help more than 7 million Americans afford health insurance. And, while the Justices may be split on that decision, the US public is pretty much in agreement on how the court should rule. According to a recent Associated Press poll, the majority of the US public wants the Supreme Court to leave the subsidies in place. As of last week, 56 percent of those surveyed said that they want tax subsidies to remain in tact for all health exchanges, and only 31 percent said that the tax benefits should be eliminated for individuals on the federal exchanges. These poll numbers illustrate why even Republicans in Congress have tried to protect insurance subsidies, even if their efforts were more about politics than policy. Hopefully, our nation's highest court listens to the will of the people, and protects the subsidies that make healthcare affordable.

And finally...We may have plenty of reasons to complain about Facebook's policies, but their employee benefits are no longer one of them. Last week, the social media giant issued new guidelines for minimum pay, vacation, sick days and even paid parental leave. And, the new policies must also apply to contractors. As of May 1, these guidelines extend to janitors, security guards and all support staff at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California. The move comes after the unionization of shuttle bus drivers that transport Facebook employees, and other pressure from contract and temp workers in the industry. That backlash prompted Facebook to mandate benefits for contract workers, and even agree to absorb the extra costs until contract companies can meet the new requirements. Although they should have been pushing for these benefits all along, it's great to see Facebook going to such lengths to ensure that everyone who helps make their business happen gets the benefits that they deserve.

And that's the way it is - for the week of May 18, 2015 - I'm Thom Hartmann - on the Economic and Labor News.

News Thu, 21 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Chicago Just Became the First US City to Pay Reparations to Victims of Police Torture

For nearly 20 years, officers of the Chicago Police Department tortured more than 100 people. How survivors and their lawyers won a decades-long fight. 

In 2005 Standish Willis, a lawyer from Chicago, was home with a broken ankle. He was working on the case of a man who claimed that, years ago, he had been tortured by police. On the radio in the background, President George Bush argued that the U.S. military's actions in Abu Ghraib did not constitute torture. That's when Willis had an idea: "We could make the torture case international, and embarrass the United States."

On May 6, after decades of lobbying, international intervention, and grassroots organizing, Chicago became the first U.S. city to offer reparations to victims of police violence. From 1972-1991 more than 110 mostly African American men were tortured into confessions by Jon Burge, a police lieutenant, and his subordinates. 

Last week's success comes 21 years after Burge was fired for his misconduct.

"The city had lived so comfortably with the torture for so long that I thought not much could disturb that," said John Conroy, a former reporter who first covered police torture in Chicago 25 years ago.

Conroy heard about the movement to bring reparations in 2010, but didn't think it would be successful. "I think it can be safely said that millions of people in this city have known for at least 22 years that the torture occurred," he said. "But there has never been a palpable atmosphere of outrage."

Chicago's city council unanimously approved an ordinance granting $5.5 million to the victims of torture, in addition to social and psychological services. The money will be divided evenly among the victims, with a cap of $100,000 per person. Any previous settlements will be deducted from their share.

According to The Chicago Reporter, the city has already spent $64 million in civil settlements for torture cases that occurred during Burge's tenure. But the ordinance provides more than just money: It includes a formal apology and recognizes the torture of Chicago residents as a violation of international human rights law.

It also mandates the creation of a center for torture survivors and their families; a public memorial to the victims; psychological counseling; free enrollment in City College for the victims, their children, and grandchildren; prioritized access to health and social services; and the inclusion of Burge and the torture incidents in the 8th- and 10th-grade curricula of Chicago public schools.

Burge was suspended from the police force in 1991 and subsequently fired in . The acts gained even more publicity in 2003 when Governor George Ryan pardoned or gave clemency to all of the death row inmates convicted under Burge. 

So far, the city has paid settlements to some survivors. But Burge and the officers who worked with him remained free despite the efforts of the victims' lawyers to have them prosecuted as human rights offenders. According to Willis, the State's Attorney, Assistant U.S. Attorney, and Justice Department were approached, but would not prosecute the officers involved.

"We tried a little bit of everything," Willis said. "And they wouldn't do it. They simply would not do it until we went international."

America's "Torture Capital of the World"

In 2008, when Chicago was bidding to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, Willis brought former Olympian runner John Carlos to the city. They called Chicago the "Torture Capital of the World," and said it was unworthy of hosting the games.

In 2006, Joey Mogul, a lawyer for People's Law Office, which helped draft the ordinance and defend the victims, presented the case to the UN Committee Against Torture in Geneva. The UN then called on the U.S. government to investigate the torture cases further.

This led to Burge's arrest in 2008. He was charged with obstruction of justice and perjury, but only convicted of latter (the statute of limitations prevented him from being charged with torture). Burge served four years in prison. He is now retired in Florida and still receives a pension.

The ordinance for reparations was first submitted to the city council in October 2013. It was set for hearing a few months later, but the event was canceled due to a "lack of political will," according to Mogul.

In 2014, the case was presented again to the United Nations Committee Against Torture, which came out in support of the ordinance. Amnesty International, We Charge Genocide, and Project NIA also supported reparations. They helped organize Twitter power-hours, sing-ins at city council meetings, postcard campaigns, petitions, and marches to get the city's attention.

It is important these cases be recognized as torture and a violation of international human rights law, said Mogul. "It recognizes that torture did in fact occur in the city, on our own South Side, to black people—and that is profound."

This is important for a city where police brutality is still very much a current reality. Just last year, a police commander was indicted for shoving his gun down a man's throat. Two years before that, Rekia Boyd was shot and killed by an officer.

New generation, new education

Marcia Chatelain is a historian of African American life and culture, and assistant professor in the department of history at Georgetown University. And last year, after the police shooting of Mike Brown and subsequent uprising in Ferguson, Missouri, she also started #FergusonSyllabus—a resource to encourage teachers to talk about the events in their classrooms.

Chatelain says teaching about these torture cases—and the reparations won by survivors, activists, and lawyers—in public schools is a huge step forward. But success hinges on teachers agreeing on their goals and contextualizing police violence and terror in their communities.

"For so many young people in Chicago who live in this type of violence, it's important that they see it recognized in their curriculum," says Chatelain. "It connects a very specific moment in history to the consequences in which they are living….it's a comprehensive approach to restorative justice."

News Thu, 21 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Add Korea to the Axis of Diplomacy

Women are stepping in to try something different on the Korean peninsula.

The George W. Bush administration famously dubbed Iran, Iraq, and North Korea the "Axis of Evil."

The White House accused that ominous-sounding triumvirate of funding terrorism and developing weapons of mass destruction. The goal was to garner public support for the "war on terror" that's devastated the Middle East and militarized U.S. foreign policy.

After a decade of disastrous military interventions, the Obama administration has been experimenting with a different way to deal with adversaries: diplomacy. Already this approach is bearing fruit with Iran and Cuba. Now it's time to chart a diplomatic roadmap in another region with long-festering hostility: the Korean peninsula.

Sixty-two years ago, the United States and North Korea signed the Korean Armistice Agreement to stop the horrific fighting between the U.S.-backed South and the Soviet-backed North that was responsible for the deaths of nearly 4 million people.

But a peace treaty never followed. Border tensions, war games, skirmishes, infiltrations, and defections continue to divide Korean families and keep the peninsula on the edge of conflict.

"If you've done the same thing for 50 years and nothing has changed, you should try something different," President Barack Obama said recently of Cuba. The same is true with North Korea. Isolating and condemning Pyongyang while preventing contact between ordinary citizens has certainly not helped to open the reclusive regime or bring peace to the peninsula.

That's an ironic misnomer, since the DMZ is actually the most militarized border in the world. It's flanked with cluster bombs, landmines, armed troops, barbed wire, and surveillance equipment.So a group of international women is stepping in to "try something different." On May 24 — International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament — I'll be one of 30 women from 15 countries who will engage in an historic march from North to South Korea, crossing the "Demilitarized Zone" (DMZ) along the border.

This will be only the third time in 70 years that an international group has crossed it. We'll also hold international peace symposiums in both Pyongyang and Seoul, where we can listen to Korean women and strategize about peace initiatives.

The women involved in Women Cross the DMZ include peace activists, writers, professors, lawyers, gender equality advocates, former diplomats, UN representatives, and humanitarians. Famous women's rights activist Gloria Steinem will be there, along with Nobel Peace Prize winners Mairead Maguire and Leymah Gbowee.

We aim to call attention to the unresolved issues between North and South Korea — issues that have led to provocative annual U.S.-South Korea military exercises, North Korea's nuclear weapons program, and a rampant arms race in Northeast Asia.

Ultimately we want help bring about a peace accord that would begin the process of reconciliation on the peninsula, including the reunification of millions of Korean families.

Women have historically proved pivotal in ending seemingly intractable conflicts.

Women were key to facilitating the peace process after decades of fighting in Northern Ireland. Women brought the warring parties of the Second Liberian Civil War to the negotiating table, ending years of bloodshed. And now, women are putting a global spotlight on Korea.

This brave band of women is forging a path we hope others will follow. If Obama would add Korea to his administration's ongoing initiatives on Iran and Cuba, this axis of diplomacy could become his most lasting legacy.

Opinion Thu, 21 May 2015 00:00:00 -0400