SpeakOut http://www.truth-out.org Sat, 29 Aug 2015 10:50:37 -0400 en-gb Trial by Fire for Ecuador's President Correa http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/32562-trial-by-fire-for-ecuador-s-president-correa http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/32562-trial-by-fire-for-ecuador-s-president-correa

Multi-colored ponchos, lime green government banners and gray and olive police armor have filled the streets of Quito and other cities in Ecuador this month. Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa and opposition protesters have been engaged in a war of words and displays of physical presence in public spaces since the major nonviolent challengers, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), and its allies launched a nationwide strike and march on August 13. Correa is one of the cohort of presidents challenging US hegemony in Latin America, and he has taken over the leading role in promoting regional integration and denouncing US intervention after Hugo Chavez's death. For this reason, the protests, and Correa's increasingly repressive response to them, will be carefully watched by those in other countries wishing to gauge whether the ''Bolivarian moment'' has peaked.

Multi-colored ponchos, lime green government banners and gray and olive police armor have filled the streets of Quito and other cities in Ecuador this month. Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa and opposition protesters have been engaged in a war of words and displays of physical presence in public spaces since the major nonviolent challengers, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), and its allies launched a nationwide strike and march on August 13. Correa is one of the cohort of presidents challenging US hegemony in Latin America, and he has taken over the leading role in promoting regional integration and denouncing US intervention after Hugo Chavez's death. For this reason, the protests, and Correa's increasingly repressive response to them, will be carefully watched by those in other countries wishing to gauge whether the ''Bolivarian moment'' has peaked.

The widespread dissatisfaction with the Ecuadorian government masks several distinct factions within the opposition coalition. Indigenous groups and environmentalists, which initially supported Correa's ''Citizen Revolution,'' are critical of his pursuit of mining and petroleum projects, and of the government's heavy-handed treatment of protesters. Unions oppose labor code changes. Bankers and the urban middle class have rejected proposed legislation to increase inheritance taxes and capital gains taxes for wealthier citizens. A growing chorus of dissenters has denounced the government's proposed constitutional amendments, especially the elimination of presidential term limits without a popular referendum. This last grievance represents the closest thing to a unifying complaint, since each faction, regardless of why it is upset, is worried about the prospect of Correa's administration continuing indefinitely.

Since coming to office in 2007, President Correa has sought to diversify the economy beyond oil and agriculture, investing heavily in mining and hydroelectricity. He has funded major infrastructure projects and investments in education by renegotiating petroleum contracts during a time of high oil prices, increasing state capacity to collect taxes in a country where tax evasion was historically a practiced art and by taking on debt from China in exchange for future oil supplies and profits. As state revenues have plummeted in the face of declining oil prices, however, cost-cutting measures and proposals for new revenue streams (i.e. taxes and extractive industry contracts) have eroded Correa's remarkably durable high approval ratings to a low of 45 percent. The country's political stability is more at risk than at any time in Correa's eight-year time in office, with the possible exception of the abortive 2010 coup attempt by police.

Despite passing a unique Constitution that gave legal standing and rights to nature and recognized indigenous rights to sumak kawsay, or good living, the government has jailed indigenous protesters, and has sent armed police to facilitate mining extraction. CONAIE says it is the combination of the government's turnaround on extractive industries and anti-democratic repression of free speech and protest that are the most important driving forces behind the national strike and march.

Protest leaders have tried to maintain a consistent message that they are targeting the government's policies, and are not trying to topple the regime itself: CONAIE president Jorge Herrera said, "The goal is not to remove President Correa, but to change the political structure of the country." As the violence and chaos have escalated, however, dozens of indigenous activists as well as police have been injured and hospitalized, with more than 30 protesters arrested. Street chants of Out Correa, out!have become increasingly common. The government has labeled the opposition movement "coup plotters" and accused them of being manipulated by his right-wing political opponents, often resorting to racist portrayals of indigenous protestors as misguided pawns of traditional politicians.

The indigenous uprising, and the broader political dissention surrounding it, represents a watermark political test for Correa. His ability to overcome his personal shortcomings is likely to be the biggest factor determining if he can weather the storm. If he drops his bid to eliminate term limits without a referendum, and shows clearly by holding violators accountable that his government will not engage in arbitrary arrests or repression of peaceful protesters, the opposition is unlikely to be able to maintain a cohesive coalition given the fractured and competing interests in play. Correa still has a (quickly diminishing) chance to solidify his legacy as a progressive technocratic reformer who has improved Ecuador's stability and reduced inequality. If he continues his past record of bullying and intolerance of dissent, and persists with the violent repression that is sending his legitimacy into a tailspin, however, he will further strengthen the elements of the opposition that want him to join so many Ecuadorian presidents before him who have been toppled through mass street protests. International pressure is needed to convince him that the stakes of trampling democracy to repress protest are more serious than just a damaged ego.   

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SpeakOut Fri, 28 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Wine and Water Watch Challenges Invasive Wine Empire http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/32561-wine-and-water-watch-challenges-invasive-wine-empire http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/32561-wine-and-water-watch-challenges-invasive-wine-empire

Activists objecting to the overgrowth of the wine/hospitality industry in rural areas of four Northern California counties have met monthly for half a year. At their August 15, meeting in Healdsburg, Sonoma County, one of the wine industry's epicenters, they agreed to name themselves Wine and Water Watch (WWW).

They ratified the following mission statement: "We challenge the over-development of the wine tourism industry and promote ethical land and water use. We advocate agricultural practices that are ecologically regenerative."

The new WWW name replaces the temporary name of Four County Network. Attendance has varied from around two dozen to over 50 activists, by invitation only.

Activists objecting to the overgrowth of the wine/hospitality industry in rural areas of four Northern California counties have met monthly for half a year. At their August 15, meeting in Healdsburg, Sonoma County, one of the wine industry's epicenters, they agreed to name themselves Wine and Water Watch (WWW).

They ratified the following mission statement: "We challenge the over-development of the wine tourism industry and promote ethical land and water use. We advocate agricultural practices that are ecologically regenerative."

The new WWW name replaces the temporary name of Four County Network. Attendance has varied from around two dozen to over 50 activists, by invitation only.

The group's focus has been to study the wine industry and examine its over-expansion, especially in rural areas. Individual participants have published some of their research widely, attended meetings of Sonoma County's Wine Advisory Group, which is dominated by the wine industry, have been interviewed by local media and held protest signs in Napa County. They have sent many letters to editors and government officials. A mass movement seems to be emerging.

Among those participating in WWW have been activists from various groups, including Preserve Rural Sonoma County, Napa Vision 2050, Hidden Valley Lake Watershed, Valley of the Moon Alliance, Westside Association to Save Agricultureand Community Alliance with Family Farmers. They speak at the meetings as individuals, rather than as representatives of groups.

Participants include organic farmers, grape-growers, wine-makers, lawyers, artists, writers, parents, community activists and others concerned about the future of the counties, towns and rural areas where they live.

About 30 people attended the August 15, monthly meeting. Community advocate andgrape-grower Judith Olney, who chairs the Westside Community Association Advisory group and works with the Sonoma County Water Coalition, welcomed people to the Healdsburg meeting. She distributed a list of 30 groups in Sonoma County working on related issues.

"I have a strong interest in pesticide contamination," said Lake County's Elizabeth Montgomery. "The Wild Diamond vineyard proposed would be on top of a vulnerable aquifer and close to my home. I do not appreciate being driven out of my home by pesticides."

"Don't let the well go dry," author Jonah Raskin remembered his father teaching him. In fact, wells have been going dry throughout California in this fourth straight drought year, especially when a new vineyard moves in next door.

"I'm concerned with all these wineries, wineries, wineries," said David Garden of Napa County. "The single crop for Napa is now grapes." During his childhood, "in l940, there were five wineries, whereas there are now 500. We had almonds and all kinds of food crops."

"The degradation of the quality of life and small town character is what concerns me," Denise Hunt of Healdsburg said. "We need to learn how to work with people on all sides. Healdsburg has been ranked as one of the top 10 small towns." This generates much tourism and drives up prices on essentials, such as housing and food.

Terry and Carolyn Harrison of Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) also commented on the importance of working with both agricultural and environmental groups. "Entertainment, hospitality and tourism are killing the rural areas," one participant said."Wineries as event centers displace local food production."

"We're facing large developments," said Linda Hale of Valley of the Moon Alliance (VOTMA). "Chinese businessmen are already here with two huge wineries/event centers planned in Sonoma Valley."

Olney reported observing meetings of the Wine Advisory Group, which was created to advise Sonoma County's Planning and Resources Management Department. "The group is two-thirds wine industry and one-third community. We have learned that the county is out of compliance with its own General Plan. Outlaw wineries break the rules and get off scot-free."

WWW is a grassroots collaborative group. Direct, deep democracy with "one person, one vote" can be slow, cumbersome, sometimes messy and even frustrating. On the other hand, it can build community by its participants, which is so important for long-term struggles, and which will be necessary with the powerful wine industry.

Some WWW members feel that it is important to first try all official channels possible, but the struggle against Big Wine can only be won "on the ground." Through picketing, groups such as Watertrough Children's Alliance and Apple Roots Group were able to get a "Stop-Work" order on a Paul Hobbs vineyard, at least temporarily, and caused him to shut down a wine tasting that was being peacefully picketed.

The "Grape Rush" in Sonoma and Napa counties has made grapes an invasive species that threatens to consume water and land. Sonoma County has more than 60,000 acres in grapes and only about 12,000 in food crops.

One cannot live on wine alone. Life is impossible without either food or water. The once diverse agricultural land of Sonoma and Napa Counties now has to import more food, as the "Grape Empire" colonizes more land and water. Nearby Lake and Mendocino counties are at risk.

What might be described as a "mass movement" or even a "rural rebellion" seems to be growing here in Northern California.

For more information, go to WineWaterWatch.org (in development).

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SpeakOut Fri, 28 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Let It Shine http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/32551-let-it-shine http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/32551-let-it-shine

"This little light of mine, I'm gonna' let it shine! Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine."

Imagine children joyfully singing the above line that eventually became a civil rights anthem. Their innocence and happy resolve enlighten us. Yes! In the face of wars, refugee crises, weapon proliferation and unaddressed climate change impacts, let us echo the common sense of children. Let goodness shine. Or, as our young friends in Afghanistan have put it, "#Enough!" They write the word, in Dari, on the palms of their hands and show it to cameras, wanting to shout out their desire to abolish all wars.

"This little light of mine, I'm gonna' let it shine! Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine."

Imagine children joyfully singing the above line that eventually became a civil rights anthem. Their innocence and happy resolve enlighten us. Yes! In the face of wars, refugee crises, weapon proliferation and unaddressed climate change impacts, let us echo the common sense of children. Let goodness shine. Or, as our young friends in Afghanistan have put it, "#Enough!" They write the word, in Dari, on the palms of their hands and show it to cameras, wanting to shout out their desire to abolish all wars.

This past summer, collaborating with Wisconsin activists, we decided to feature this refrain on signs and announcements for a 90-mile walk campaigning to end targeted drone assassinations abroad, and the similarly racist impunity granted to an increasingly militarized police force when they kill Brown and Black people within the US.

Walking through small cities and towns in Wisconsin, participants distributed leaflets and held teach-ins encouraging people todemand accountability from local police, and an end to the "Shadow Drone" program operated by the US Air National Guard out of Wisconsin's own Volk Field. Our friend Maya Evans traveled the furthest to join the walk - she coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (VCNV) in the UK. Alice Gerard, from Grand Isle, New York, is our most consistent long-distance traveler, on her sixth antiwar walk with VCNV.

Brian Terrell noted what mothers speaking to CODEPINK, as part of the Mothers Against Police Brutality campaign, had also noted: that surprisingly many of the officers charged with killing their children were veterans of the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He recalled past national events, such as the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago, where organizers tried to recruit temporary security officers from amongst US veterans. Former soldiers, already traumatized by war, need support, health care and vocational training, but instead are offered temp jobs to aim weapons at other people in predictably tense settings.

The walk was instructive. Salek Khalid, a friend of VCNV, shared "Creating a Hell on Earth: U.S. Drone Strikes Abroad," his own in-depth presentation about the development of drone warfare. Tyler Sheafer, joining us from the Progressive Alliance near Independence, Missouri, stressed the independence of living simply, off the grid and consuming crops grown only within a 150-mile radius of one's home, while hosts in Mauston, Wisconsin, welcomed Joe Kruse to talk about fracking and our collective need to change patterns of energy consumption. The ability to withhold our money and our labor is an important way to compel governments torestrain their violent domestic and international power.

We weren't alone. We walked in solidarity with villagers in Gangjeong, South Korea, who had welcomed many of us to join in their campaign to stop militarization of their beautiful Jeju Island. Seeking inter-island solidarity and recognizing how closely they share the plight of Afghans burdened by the US "Asia Pivot," our friends in Okinawa, Japan, will host a walk from the north to the south of the island, protesting construction of a new US military base in Henoko. Rather than provoke a new cold war, we want to shine light on our common cares and concerns, finding security in extended hands of friendship.

On August 26, some of the walkers will commit nonviolent civil resistance at Volk Field, carrying the messages about drone warfare and racial profiling into courts of law and public opinion.

Too often we imagine that a life swaddled in everyday comforts and routines is the only life possible, while half a world away, toprovide those comforts to us, helpless others are made to shiver with inescapable cold or fear. It's been instructive on these walks touncoddle ourselves a little, and see how our light shines, unhidden, on the road through neighboring towns, singing words we've heard from children learning to be as adult as they can be; attempting to learn that same lesson.

The lyric goes "I'm not going to make it shine: I'm just going to let it shine." We hope that by releasing the truth that's already in us we can encourage others to live theirs, shining a more humane light on the violent abuses, both at home and abroad, of dark systems that perpetuate violence. On walks like this we've been fortunate to imagine a better life, sharing moments of purpose and sanity with the many we've met along the road.

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SpeakOut Thu, 27 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
#ILookLikeASurgeon: Being Queer in Surgery http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/32550-ilooklikeasurgeon-being-queer-in-surgery http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/32550-ilooklikeasurgeon-being-queer-in-surgery

Surgery has a rich culture, full of strengths that exceed and defy the stereotype of surgeons as privileged white men who believe they are gods. In surgery there is a shared commitment to a goal, to individual excellence but also to true teamwork, to honoring the privilege of our patients' trust, to finding problems and fixing them, to getting quickly to the heart of the matter, whatever it is. As a surgeon-in-training, I am learning how to perform operations, but I am mostly learning how to make high-stakes decisions in imperfect circumstances, and as an imperfect individual.

This is what makes being a surgeon the best job in the world, and it has been inspiring to see surgeons celebrating one another through #ILookLikeaSurgeon. The photos from around the world show a broad understanding of the people who bring diversity to surgery, but also of how our diverse backgrounds inform our work. As a queer woman and a surgeon, this conversation feels rich, inclusive and important.

2015 0827speakout1Surgery has a rich culture, full of strengths that exceed and defy the stereotype of surgeons as privileged white men who believe they are gods. In surgery there is a shared commitment to a goal, to individual excellence but also to true teamwork, to honoring the privilege of our patients' trust, to finding problems and fixing them, to getting quickly to the heart of the matter, whatever it is. As a surgeon-in-training, I am learning how to perform operations, but I am mostly learning how to make high-stakes decisions in imperfect circumstances, and as an imperfect individual.

This is what makes being a surgeon the best job in the world, and it has been inspiring to see surgeons celebrating one another through #ILookLikeaSurgeon. The photos from around the world show a broad understanding of the people who bring diversity to surgery, but also of how our diverse backgrounds inform our work. As a queer woman and a surgeon, this conversation feels rich, inclusive and important.

As surgeons we have a lot in common, but we also bring our own unique experiences to the work. As I learn to operate, I draw on my attendings' teaching and expertise, my patients' generosity, but also on my background as an artist. Working with paint, fiber and clay has taught me the joy of working with my hands, learning new physical skills, and balancing speed and precision. I also bring my identity as a queer person to surgery. This can mean building a special bond with my lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) patients, making sure their partners, families, and identities are not only tolerated but welcomed. It can sometimes mean giving advice about anal sex after hemorrhoid surgery. It means always, always, always using the name, pronouns, and gender that a patient prefers.

2015 0827speakout2

Being queer in surgery means living in a world that assumes I am straight, and coming out over and over again. Although the reactions of my surgical colleagues are rarely hostile, they can be a bit awkward. Being queer in surgery also occasionally means pulling a colleague or student aside to tell them why I didn't laugh at a particular joke, or why they shouldn't assume that a married man has a wife.It also means letting some of these moments slide, wishing that it were someone else's turn to intervene.

I've been involved in LGBTQ organizing and activism in one way or another since middle school. I've been out since high school. It's a little bit about who I'm attracted to, and a lot about how I see the world. At the beginning of medical school I was one of two openly LGBTQ people in my class of 200, and I spent a lot of time not only explaining myself to my classmates and teachers, but also working for the inclusion of LGBTQ health issues into the curriculum.

For me, being queer in surgery means giving special attention to what alienation from healthcare feels like. Many of us from have experienced real discrimination at the individual or community level, leading us to present late or not at all; or to act in ways that perplex or annoy our doctors. Depending on our healthcare providers' responses, this can lead to worse health outcomes. It also means being aware of health disparities that affect LGBTQ people beyond HIV: disparities in cancer, mental health and substance abuse, as well as insurance and access to care.

It means being aware of transgender-specific health care: transgender people are among the only individuals who often need surgery just to be themselves. Trans people, often with limited resources, save money for procedures that can be life-saving, but that insurance often doesn't cover. They frequently travel for services that are only available in a few places. Not every trans person wants or gets surgery, and gender confirmation surgery is not in the scope of all surgeons' training. But still, our profession plays a critical role in transgender people's lives.

Thinking about the experiences of my LGBTQ friends and patients also gives me a special appreciation for surgeons just being surgeons. Surgeons like to get to the point, and we can be single-minded about it. We don't usually like endless debates or complications. While at times this might make us less sensitive to certain issues that affect our patients, it can also be a good way to approach everyone equally. For LGBTQ patients this can be an advantage. The average surgical history does not include a lot of invasive, personal questions. Being brisk can sometimes make us less judgmental, not more. So I was pleasantly surprised when, as part of a surgical team caring for a transgender woman with acute cholecystitis, the only person who cared about her genitalia was the person putting in the Foley.

I approached #ILookLikeaSurgeon with some suspicion. I am a woman and a surgery resident, and I know there are not enough of us, especially in leadership and mentorship positions. But as a white, upper middle class woman with an elite education, I come to surgery with an enormous amount of privilege already, and this disparity does not seem like the most urgent one. In addition, many discussions of women in surgery often seem to assume a uniform experience about life as a woman and a surgeon, and as a queer person, my life works differently. The assumption is often that all the women in the room date and marry men; have children at all or in the same way; and think about childcare as primarily their responsibility. I know many colleagues find solidarity in these conversations, but these are not my assumptions or my experience, and I have often felt invisible in these conversations. In its own way, invisibility is as exhausting as Q3 call.

Like many, I had a baby during my research years. Unlike my straight female colleagues, my partner got pregnant and gave birth. I did not operate pregnant or miss clinical time for prenatal visits or maternity leave. But more than that, my partner was not raised to believe that someone else would be the primary caregiver, so there's no pressure from reversing stereotypical gender roles. When I finish research in June, I know I am going to experience stress and sadness from not spending as much time with my kid as I wish I could. I know many of the fathers I work with feel this tension as much as the mothers, even if they are not expected to talk about it. On the other hand, I do need to make sure that my job offers partner benefits for health insurance that will cover us all. I'm only going to let my career take us to cities where we feel comfortable; where we have community; and where we are going to feel okay about raising our kid without her feeling like she's always the only one who has to explain her family. There are some family-friendly towns and institutions that might not be as friendly to my family.

So yes, #ILookLikeaSurgeon, I act like a surgeon, and I also look and act like myself. Our diversity matters to us, and it matters to our patients. We can bring our whole selves to their care, and they need us to.

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SpeakOut Thu, 27 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Cambodia Year Zero Continues to Raise Awareness About History of Khmer Rouge http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/32526-cambodia-year-zero-continues-to-raise-awareness-about-history-of-khmer-rouge http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/32526-cambodia-year-zero-continues-to-raise-awareness-about-history-of-khmer-rouge

Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia - the British television documentary that I produced in 1979 - showed how violent US administrations had helped to bring Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge to power. This story holds echoes of the Islamic State in the Middle East today.

Between 1969 and 1973, secretly and illegally, President Nixon and his National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger dropped the equivalent in bombs of five Hiroshimas on Cambodia, a country where most people lived beneath straw. In transmitting Nixon's order for a "massive" bombing of Cambodia in 1969, Kissinger said, "Anything that flies on everything that moves."

Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia - the British television documentary that I produced in 1979 - showed how violent US administrations had helped to bring Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge to power. This story holds echoes of the Islamic State in the Middle East today.

Between 1969 and 1973, secretly and illegally, President Nixon and his National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger dropped the equivalent in bombs of five Hiroshimas on Cambodia, a country where most people lived beneath straw. In transmitting Nixon's order for a "massive" bombing of Cambodia in 1969, Kissinger said, "Anything that flies on everything that moves."

According to Pol Pot, his movement - beginning as a small sect - had consisted of "fewer than 5,000 poorly armed guerrillas uncertain about their strategy, tactics, loyalty and leaders." Once Nixon's and Kissinger's B52 bombers had gone to work, the West's ultimate demon could not believe his luck. For what the White House began, Pol Pot completed; the tens of thousands they bombed to death were described in a Commission of Inquiry as "the first stage in a decade of genocide."

When I arrived in Phnom Penh in 1979, the city was devastated and mostly deserted. The only civilians seemed to be orphaned children brought in from the forest by the liberating Vietnamese. All were starving. There was precious little food, no power, and no clean water. Millions of dollars worth of redundant bank notes washed through the streets in the afternoon monsoon as the National Bank of Cambodia, which the Khmer Rouge had blown up, spilled its worthless treasure into the poorest place on earth.

Cambodia Year Zero, as the documentary has become known, was credited with alerting the world to the suffering of the people of Cambodia under the fanatical regime of Pol Pot. It raised tens of millions of dollars for Cambodia's children - mostly unsolicited - and became the most watched documentary throughout the world. The story behind the documentary is described in depth in Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and Its Triumphs.

On the 60th anniversary of the founding of ITV, Britain's and Europe's biggest commercial broadcaster, this film has been named as one of the network's 60 top programs.

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SpeakOut Wed, 26 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
US Bows Out After Plowshares Conviction Is Vacated http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/32525-us-bows-out-after-plowshares-conviction-is-vacated http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/32525-us-bows-out-after-plowshares-conviction-is-vacated

The 2012 Transform Now Plowshares anti-nuclear action made the "Fort Knox" of weapons-grade uranium look like "F Troop." Three senior peace activists got through four chain-link fences and past multiple "lethal force" zones before stringing banners, spray-painting slogans and pouring blood on the Highly-Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee - all without being noticed by guards.

The guard that finally spotted the three activists - Sr. Megan Rice, 85, of New York City; Greg Boertje-Obed, 60, of Duluth; and Michael Walli, 66, of Washington, DC - testified that he knew a peace protest when he saw one. He had watched a lot of them whileon duty at Rocky Flats, the former plutonium warhead factory near Denver, Colorado. That's why he shrugged off official protocol and didn't draw his gun on Greg, Megan and Michael that night.

The 2012 Transform Now Plowshares anti-nuclear action made the "Fort Knox" of weapons-grade uranium look like "F Troop." Three senior peace activists got through four chain-link fences and past multiple "lethal force" zones before stringing banners, spray-painting slogans and pouring blood on the Highly-Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee - all without being noticed by guards.

The guard that finally spotted the three activists - Sr. Megan Rice, 85, of New York City; Greg Boertje-Obed, 60, of Duluth; and Michael Walli, 66, of Washington, DC - testified that he knew a peace protest when he saw one. He had watched a lot of them whileon duty at Rocky Flats, the former plutonium warhead factory near Denver, Colorado. That's why he shrugged off official protocol and didn't draw his gun on Greg, Megan and Michael that night.

Yet the trial judge, the prosecutor, government witnesses and the Knoxville, Tennessee, jury decided to transform symbolic peace protest into "sabotage" - the "intentional and willful" injuring of "national defense." The trial judge, Amul Thapar - after first forbidding any expert defense evidence or testimony regarding the outlaw status of nuclear weapons production - played his part and waited for the inevitable default convictions (on sabotage and damage to property), then ordered senior citizens jailed pending sentencing because, he said, the technical terms of the charge fit the definition of a "federal crime of terrorism." Commentators howled at the idea of equating sloganeering and spray painting with bomb building, but the religious pacifists were taken away in cuffs and ankle chains - just like any dissident in China, Iran or North Korea.

Finally, after three years of legal wrangling and 24 months in jail and prison, a successful appeal decision has hinted at what a kangaroo dance the trial was. Last May, the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals, voting two-to-one, threw out the "sabotage" convictions, declaring, "No rational jury could find that the defendants had that intent [sabotage] when they cut the fences … Nor could a rational jury find that the defendants had that intent when they engaged in the protest activities outside." US Circuit Judge Raymond Kethledge, writing for the majority, said, "It takes more than bad publicity to injure the national defense."

The appeals court decision could have been challenged by the Justice Department with an appeal to all 23 judges of the 6th Circuit, buton June 22, the government threw in the towel. Resentencing on the damage charge is set for September 15, but no more prison time isexpected after the appeals court wrote that the two years already served by Greg, Megan and Michael is "substantially" more than what federal guidelines require.

Blind Spot Taints Appeals Court Decision

The appeals court made one grossly ill-informed distinction between the case at issue and two previous Plowshares actions. In symbolic protests against Minuteman III nuclear missile silos, the "Silo Pruning Hooks" (Carl Kabat, Helen Woodson, Paul Kabat and Larry Cloud Morgan) damaged a concrete silo lid in Missouri in 1985; and the "Sacred Earth and Space Plowshares" (Sisters Ardeth Platte, Carol Gilbert and Jackie Hudson) did symbolic damage to a silo in Colorado in 2002.

The appeals court claimed that, unlike actions taken at weapons manufacturing sites, protests against bunkers with armed nuclear weapons on alert like Minuteman missiles should be characterized as "sabotage" because "even a brief disruption of operations would have grievously impaired the nation's ability to attack and defend. (Imagine, for example, if Soviet [sic] infiltrators had similarly disrupted the facilities' operations in the minutes before a Soviet first strike.)"

This hypothetical scenario by the appeals court betrays a profound ignorance of the size of the US nuclear arsenal, its diversity and destructive capacity. The United States had 450 Minuteman III missiles ready to launch, not just one.

Further, in addition to dozens of nuclear-armed B-52 and B-2 bombers, the Navy has 14 Trident submarines, each armed with 24 missiles, each of which carry five to eight nuclear warheads that can fly 6,000 miles. If only four of these submarines are simultaneously on patrol, their 480-768 warheads could incinerate every major city on Earth - not merely those in "Soviet" territory.

Even the Air Force knows its overkill capacity. A computer glitch at Wyoming's FE Warren Air Force Base in October 2010 took 50 Minuteman missiles off-line. Yet, according to Lt. Gen. Dirk Jameson, Deputy Commander in Chief of Strategic Command, the shutdown had "no real bearing on the capabilities of our nuclear forces." Lt. Col. John Thomas, a spokesman for the Air Force's Global Strike Command, said at the time, "The wartime capability of that squadron [of missiles] was never significantly affected." The appeals court is also ignorant of the fact that dozens of Minuteman missiles are regularly "disrupted," for repairs or upgrades, without any slacking of US nuclear war readiness.

The appeals court cited the testimony of an Air Force Lt. Col. who said, regarding missile protests, that "it would be unwise to launch the missile in those circumstances." And thousands of higher authorities have gone further and said it would be unwise to launchnuclear attacks under any circumstances. In what should stand as the last word on the subject, former Reagan Presidential Adviser and Cold War anti-Soviet hawk Paul Nitze wrote in 1999, "I can think of no circumstances under which it would be wise for the United States to use nuclear weapons, even in retaliation for their prior use against U.S. …" This from arguably the most hawkish of US officials in the Cold War.

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SpeakOut Wed, 26 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Consorting With the Devil: Professionals Selling Out for Blood Money http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/32505-consorting-with-the-devil-professionals-selling-out-for-blood-money http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/32505-consorting-with-the-devil-professionals-selling-out-for-blood-money

Throughout the Cold War, and doubtless right down to the present, professional people with skills relevant to "national security" have been secretly recruited to work for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Department of Defense (DoD). Universities are among those particularly targeted. Scholars and campus research centers have received CIA and DoD funding for conferences and publications, for collecting intelligence while abroad, and even for spying, all under cloak of secrecy.

Among the more notorious examples is the 1985 scandal at Harvard, in which the head of its Center for Middle Eastern Studies Center was found to have a financial contract with the CIA for research and conferences. He was forced to resign. Yale has had unusually close ties with the CIA dating back many years, contributing student recruits and directors. 

Throughout the Cold War, and doubtless right down to the present, professional people with skills relevant to "national security" have been secretly recruited to work for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Department of Defense (DoD). Universities are among those particularly targeted. Scholars and campus research centers have received CIA and DoD funding for conferences and publications, for collecting intelligence while abroad, and even for spying, all under cloak of secrecy.

Among the more notorious examples is the 1985 scandal at Harvard, in which the head of its Center for Middle Eastern Studies Center was found to have a financial contract with the CIA for research and conferences. He was forced to resign. Yale has had unusually close ties with the CIA dating back many years, contributing student recruits and directors.

Universities are hardly alone in having intelligence ties to government agencies. Foreign affairs specialists working at think tanks, living abroad, or serving in nongovernmental organizations are also prey. I was one of those people. In 1966, following my graduate education, I was hired by the RAND Corporation in California to work in a classified, DoD-sponsored project to assess "Viet Cong Motivation and Morale." The project aimed at finding weaknesses in the enemy's thinking that the US military could exploit through psychological warfare and bombing. I and others read field interviews with captured Vietnamese soldiers to try to discover what drove their dedication and willingness to fight no matter the hardships. Like some other of my RAND colleagues, I wound up concluding exactly the opposite of what the Pentagon funders of the project wanted, namely, that the "enemy" was us, and that Viet Cong motivation could not be overcome by napalm, Agent Orange, or carpet bombing (and in fact was heightened by such actions). The best US strategy, we concluded, was to get out of Vietnam. But most colleagues at RAND did not see things that way, and, the RAND-DoD partnership continued.

Telecommunication companies, starting with AT&T and Verizon, are also part of the intelligence network. Thanks to Edward Snowden, they are now known to have had a long and friendly relationship with the National Security Council (NSC) under the NSC's Special Source Operations. AT&T for over a decade (at least to 2013, perhaps still today) collaborated with the NSC in collecting billions of emails and wiretapping United Nations Internet communications. The companies received hundreds of millions of dollarsfor allowing the NSC to tap communications between foreigners and between US citizens and foreigners.

The latest revelation concerning those who "consort with the devil" concerns psychologists in the American Psychological Association. In utter disregard for professional ethics, a number of prominent psychologists worked closely with the CIA's and thePentagon's torture programs in Afghanistan. They not only condoned but personally profited from torture, all in the name of supportingthe US war effort. It was a case of first-class collusion, abuse of authority, and conflict of interest - and it went largely unnoticed until recently.

The report on the psychologists cited above finds that at every fork in the road, when choices had to be made about participation in thetorture programs, they rationalized participation on the basis that the various torture tactics employed really didn't amount to torture. Left unsaid was that some of the decision makers were under contract with the CIA or the Pentagon, or served on one of their advisory committees. Several of them used approval of participation in torture to then contract with the Pentagon or CIA for profitable work, including ways to improve interrogation techniques.

You would think that such unethical, indeed disgraceful behavior would warrant a complete overhaul of the APA's ethics guidelines, dismissal from APA posts of those psychologists who participated in the torture programs, and public naming and shaming of others who were involved. But so far, despite not one but two major reports on the APA's involvement the APA reportedly is merely considering what to do. As though the honorable thing to do is somehow unclear.

Private professionals working secretly on projects that enhance war making is a problem that is likely to get worse as opportunities outside government to pursue one's chosen academic craft diminish. Anthropologists who can't find tenure-track teaching positions are working for DoD in Afghanistan. Lawyers find government positions more lucrative than private practice - and then, as under George W. Bush, authorize torture and other illegalities. Think tank experts shill for the government in hopes of landing on the inside. All these people will, of course, vigorously assert their independence of mind, when in fact they have been co-opted. The question then is, Who speaks for peace and what are the rewards for it?

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SpeakOut Tue, 25 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Warning: Industry Spin Likely Bad for Your Health and the Environment http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/32502-warning-industry-spin-likely-bad-for-your-health-and-the-environment http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/32502-warning-industry-spin-likely-bad-for-your-health-and-the-environment

Beware the amicable folks on trendy blogs or slick web sites who promise to restore common sense or set the record straight about GMOs or organic food. They get paid to dupe the public.

Record growth of organic, non-genetically modified food sales has beefed-up efforts by the industrial food and agriculture sector to manipulate a public fearful of contaminated food. American consumers forked over $35 billion for certified organic products in 2013. Last year, shoppers spent $ 10 billion on non-GMO certified food.

Beware the amicable folks on trendy blogs or slick web sites who promise to restore common sense or set the record straight about GMOs or organic food. They get paid to dupe the public.

Record growth of organic, non-genetically modified food sales has beefed-up efforts by the industrial food and agriculture sector to manipulate a public fearful of contaminated food. American consumers forked over $35 billion for certified organic products in 2013. Last year, shoppers spent $ 10 billion on non-GMO certified food.

The trend has not gone unnoticed. According to a report released by Friends of the Earth earlier last month, a giant backlash designed to advance thecauses of industrial agriculture is underway. Food industry and agrochemical industry trade associations spent an estimated $126 million from 2009 to2013 to engineer the conversation surrounding food, sustainability, public health, and policy.

Using a technique devised in 1913 when the pork industry paid a group of doctors to extol the health benefits of bacon, corporations and special interest groups employ a front groups, or "third-parties" to endorse their products and share industry-friendly messages.

Today, advertising hotshots create covert organizations that sound legitimate to "craft a narrative about food that is intended to defuse public concern about the real risks of chemical-intensive industrial agriculture and undermine the public's perception of the benefits of organic food and diversified, ecological agricultural systems."

The Internet provides a particularly effective arena to orchestrate insidious campaigns that downplay the benefits of food grown without chemicals. Not only do these campaigns vilify GMO critics, they perpetuate a myth that merely questioning the alleged safety of GMOs demonstrates scientific ignorance on par with climate change denial.

Groups with credible-sounding names — like US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, Center for Consumer Freedom, Center for Food Integrity and Keep Food Affordable — have co-opted the look and language of legitimate, science-based websites to advance the cause of companies like Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences, the California Strawberry Commission, Merck Animal Health, and the National Pork Board.

Industry-funded websites bombard consumers with confusing messages and distorted, false information. They portray organic food advocates as "elitist food nannies," claiming that organic food is no better than conventional. They claim that GMOs will feed the world even though most GMOs are grown forindustrial use and recent reports, including this one, show that the productivity gap between organic crops and conventionally farmed ones is pretty smalland can be further reduced by implementing better farming methods.

Using a technique devised in 1913 when the pork industry paid a group of doctors to extol the health benefits of bacon, corporations and special interest groups employ a front groups, or "third-parties" to endorse their products and share industry-friendly messages.

Since women comprise the bulk of consumer spending and make most decisions about what food to buy, they are especially vulnerable to predation byindustry-funded bloggers and webinar producers. For example, Big Food companies advertise on the BlogHer Network, the biggest women blogger network in the country, and sponsor the network's conferences. They also try to influence blog content by paying for posts or sending bloggers gifts.

Simultaneously, expert public relations firms generate insidious campaigns to plant seeds of doubt about the growing evidence that links the rise in autism, allergies, diabetes, and other health problems to the increase use of synthetic chemicals on crops. So-called "mommy bloggers" are routinely targeted for vicious personal attacks by other paid bloggers who dismiss the merits of organic food. At the Pork Network website, for instance, you can find this headline: "Stop letting 'crunchy mommas' tell your story."

They use webinars, Twitter, and other social media to spread propaganda that deliberately obfuscates the truth, making it difficult to sort fact from fiction.The media often derives information from these unreliable sources without disclosing industry ties, further compounding the problem. Native advertising — ads that look and read like editorial content — placed across online platforms and mainstream media, is another way companies and trade groups covertly influence the narrative about food and farming in the media. And as Kraft discovered when it generated 1.1 billion ad impressions in one year through native advertising, it can be a far better return on investment than traditional advertising.

Front groups also routinely attack and question the credibility of journalists and scientists to "distract from the content of the messages by maligning thepeople." Syngenta's sustained campaign against UC Berkeley scientist Tyrone Hayes for revealing the harmful impact of the company's herbicide atrazine is just one example.

Sound bytes and bullet points promoted by third-party hired hacks are creating what the FOE report calls the echo chamber effect: messages crafted bythe industry, are "moving up the ladder of credibility," giving industry spin disguised as content "the semblance of veracity."

The report recommends that media institutions, the public and advocates rigorously scrutinize both the messages and messengers supplying the public with a steady diet of deception. To counteract the hijacking of the discourse surrounding food, it will require considerable vigilance and tenacity in sortingthe wheat from the chaff.

Follow the money. Check the source. Question motives.

This report serves as an urgent appeal to ramp up the volume on demands for a just, sustainable food system.

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SpeakOut Tue, 25 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
New Orleans Memorializes Beloved Saxophonist Tim Green http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/32486-new-orleans-memorializes-beloved-saxophonist-tim-green http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/32486-new-orleans-memorializes-beloved-saxophonist-tim-green

Today marks the first year anniversary of the passing of Tim Green, musician, educator, activist, and, let's just say what is true, a "Renaissance man of our time." Tim Green was a man whose warmth and friendship still causes those who were fortunate to have known him to call up his many qualities: spiritual, transcendent, classy and so much more!

Tim Green would have been pleased to know that among his peers, all these adjectives are inseparable from what he recognized as his true vocation, music. Standing in front of the New Orleans Post Office a few years ago, I ran into Tim. He told me then that doctors had recommended that he undergo surgery to have one of his lungs removed.

New Orlean’s new proclamation of Tim Green Day. (Image: Don Paul)New Orlean’s new proclamation of Tim Green Day. (Image: Don Paul)Today marks the first year anniversary of the passing of Tim Green, musician, educator, activist, and, let's just say what is true, a "Renaissance man of our time." Tim Green was a man whose warmth and friendship still causes those who were fortunate to have known him to call up his many qualities: spiritual, transcendent, classy and so much more!

Tim Green would have been pleased to know that among his peers, all these adjectives are inseparable from what he recognized as his true vocation, music. Standing in front of the New Orleans Post Office a few years ago, I ran into Tim. He told me then that doctors had recommended that he undergo surgery to have one of his lungs removed.

"Doctor, would I still be able to play my horn? No?! Well, then… it might as well be over right now." Tim Green thought of life without being able to play his horn as being buried alive.

This past Thursday, August 20, the City Council of New Orleans issued a Proclamation that August 24 would be Tim Green Day. Nadine Ramsey of the Council included in her presentation a roster of the musicians Tim had worked with—the Neville Brothers, Johnny Adams, Irma Thomas, James Singleton, Peter Gabriel, Stevie Nicks, and many more—and noted how beloved Tim was by his peers.

Claude Bryant and Helen Gillet were two musicians attending the ceremony. While we waited to receive the proclamation, Claude Bryant shared that he first met Tim at age 15 while delivering newspapers. "Tim had just moved here with his wife Rita," said Bryant. "He had a shed in the back of his house where he would go and practice." One day, Bryant confessed, he got up the nerve to knock on the shed door and told Tim Green, "listen, I don't know who you are, but that stuff you're playing in there… you oughta' be playing out here!"

Claude spoke about Green's affinity for reggae. "It didn't matter what kind of music, he got into it and gave it his stamp. His soul." Gillet, a cellist noted for her experimentation, spoke of how sympathetic Green was as an improviser. "For Tim, it was always about the music and more than the music. Everyone who played with him talked about how spiritual the experience was. His playing was transcendent."

I recalled then how Green's spirituality carried into his life apart from music. 

Early in our friendship, in the middle of the 1990s, Green was occupied every day of the week with expanding the services of WRBH, New Orleans' radio station for the blind. Later I learned that Green refused to take a paycheck for one whole year so that the station could have more resources. "I was touring with Peter Gabriel, and could support myself with my music," he said. 

New Orleans City Council members Nadine Ramsey, James Gray and Jared Brossett join with friends of Tim Green’s to memorialize the beloved musician. (Photo: Don Paul)New Orleans City Council members Nadine Ramsey, James Gray and Jared Brossett join with friends of Tim Green’s to memorialize the beloved musician. (Photo: Don Paul)

On Saturday, my husband Don Paul and I shared the proclamation of Tim Green Day with musicians who had gathered for our Music and Arts Day at the Ashé Cultural Arts Center. Alfred Roberts, Professor Longhair's percussionist during the 1970s, smiled behind his congas. "Finally Tim is getting what should be coming to him." Johnny Vidacovich said, extolling Green's humility and his "complete openness to any kind of music." Johnny said, "It didn't matter what kind of music you were playing, Tim made it better."

And so, one week before the first-year anniversary of Hurricane's Katrina's landfall and the subsequent failure of Federal levees and canals that led to the flooding of New Orleans, we have a beacon of integrity and caring. We must thank Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey, Belle Moore (the former WWOZ show-host known as 'Brown Sugar' (Bob Dylan's favorite New Orleans' DJ), Lena Stewart, and Jonathan Freilich for circulating the poster of Tim Green signed by 42 musicians last year during a musical tribute to Tim at Cafe Istanbul. The poster is now a centerpiece of the Proclamation that August 24, today, is Tim Green Day in New Orleans.

During the City Council's ceremony for Tim, Don Paul used his brief time of tribute to suggest: "Maybe this can be the start of more monuments to musicians here." 

Thank you, Tim Green, for giving us so much as an artist and friend. We can work further now to make your legacies even larger. 

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SpeakOut Mon, 24 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Property Investors Buying, Evicting and Profiting: Banks Displacing People http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/32485-property-investors-buying-evicting-and-profiting-banks-displacing-people http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/32485-property-investors-buying-evicting-and-profiting-banks-displacing-people

OK, we all get it. Banks, corporations and Wall Street types in general, are out to make money. They're good at it. In fact, the Atlantic recently announced big banks could currently boast of a "golden age."

At the same time, the well-heeled insist, their vast accumulation of wealth is their own private, personal business.

OK, we all get it. Banks, corporations and Wall Street types in general, are out to make money. They're good at it. In fact, the Atlantic recently announced big banks could currently boast of a "golden age."

At the same time, the well-heeled insist, their vast accumulation of wealth is their own private, personal business.

But, we know making money often means subverting the general good as in displacing thousands of poor seniors and moderate-income families from their homes.

And that, we must insist, makes it our business.

So said several dozen San Francisco affordable housing activists descending on the doorsteps of one of the country's largest banks, First Republic Bank, on Tuesday, August 18. They came from a number of tenant rights' organizations, including some belonging to a statewide coalition of over 300 groups called the California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC).

There were signs, drum beats, bullhorns and speeches.

A favored chant led by an elderly Latina 50-year tenant, who successfully faced down her landlord's eviction threats, expressed growing resistance in San Francisco to banks funding property speculators – "Aqui Estamos; Y No Nos Vamos!"

Kevin Stein, associate director of the coalition, explained to me his group's purpose is not that difficult to understand, "we just want banks to invest to improve communities and to cease practices that are harmful."

"That's why we are standing today outside the headquarters of First Republic Bank," he made clear.

Specifically, First Republic is accused of knowingly funding unscrupulous real estate investors who purchase rent-controlled apartment buildings, evict long-time tenants and re-sell the buildings to higher-income people as "Tenants in Common" (TICs) properties, a type of condominium with dramatically increased market value above rent-control buildings.

A gaping loophole in the Ellis Act, California's state law regulating rent control, allows en masse evictions of tenants when an investor converts residences into either TICs or regular condos, thus earning the state's once highly regarded rent-control law the unpleasant distinction of having these vastly unpopular displacements termed "Ellis ActEvictions."

Here's how banks and investors make the system work so profitably.

Benefiting from large bank loans, investors purchase multi-unit buildings that have lower market-value and a lower selling price because of their current rent-control restrictions. The building is then converted for quick sale into much higher-market value TIC units that have no troublesome Ellis Act price ceilings for occupancy.

"This is bad," Stein told me, "for the evicted tenants, bad for first-time prospective homeowners who face extremely high condo purchase prices and bad for the community as a whole" because thousands of rent-control living spaces are being removed from the market at an accelerating rate.

This is cause for great alarm and concerns are not exaggerated.

Displacement of California Tenants

And, it won't stop in California specifically, as long as property speculators are flush with "displacement loan dollars" that fund the removal of rent-control buildings from the market.

Activists tell me the disparaging term "displacement loans" is deserved because it accurately reflects their nefarious role of subsidizing the assault on affordable housing.

In Los Angeles, for example, the problem goes back several years. In 2005, 5,425 rent-control units were taken off the market. In 2006, another 4,206 units dropped off. More recently, in 2014, there were more than double the number of evictions as in 2013, which was in turn a 40 percent increase over 2012.

Worse, the eviction numbers in the nation's second largest city are expected to keep rising in 2015 as shameless bankpractices continues unabated.

San Francisco offers another bad example.

According to data analyzed by San Francisco Tenants Together and the Anti Eviction Mapping Project,over 3,600 units have been removed from the rental market under the Ellis Act and, overall, 10,000 tenants have been displaced from 1997 through 2013.

Many of these evictions would not have happened without investors first obtaining loans from banks like First Republic.

What Can Be Done?

CRC specialize in researching banking practices and how it impacts working class communities. This is "our world," Stein told me.

Through examination of the vast public record and through innumerable horrific and very personal stories of evicted tenants, the CRC characterizes First Republic loans to speculative investors as shirking their obligations under the Community Relief Act (CRA), a federal law that requires banks to satisfy certain community standards.

This was very dramatically explained at the Aug. 18 rally by Maritza Osorio, the 50-year San Franciscotenant who faced Ellis Act eviction from a buildingwhose purchase was financed by First Republic.

"I have lived in my building and this community for 50 years," she said. "Banks who lend to speculators are not investing in our community or city, instead, they are helping remove people from it."

By contrast, according to federal law, CRA is "intended to encourage depository institutions to help meet the credit needs of the communities in which they operate, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods."

Disclosure of distressing business practices is not good for business and for First Republic in the "golden age," business has been really good. They reported last quarter that "core revenues were up 11.7% compared to last year's second quarter."

But, First Republic clearly understands its business plan must also include improving its current low community standing.

In a remarkable twist not often seen at protests, a bank representative actually spoke to the rally at the very end and issued a statement I will quote at length:

"First Republic understands the community's concerns about the implications of the Ellis Act on tenants. Sensitive tothese concerns, we have changed our lending policy to minimize the repurposing of units under this law. If we are aware that the owner intends to utilize the Ellis Act before a loan is made, we will not make the loan."

In addition, the bank agreed to clarify their new policy in a meeting with protest leaders.

There is no question, I would say, that activism was having an impact on First Republic Bank but organizers warned me about getting too excited.

"We still have many questions," they cautioned.

In direct response to a new policy announced by First Republic Bank, Paulina Gonzalez, executive director of the CRC immediately released this statement:

"The new policy announced earlier today by First Republic Bank to stop providing so-called "displacement mortgages"to investors has the potential to be good, but lacks details and leaves many unanswered questions.

"We look forward to learning more about the specifics and working out key details when we, our coalition partners, and affected tenants meet with the bank later this week."

When I again suggested somewhat enthusiastically that this all seemed to indicate some movement, Stein reacted with the calm demeanor and skeptical eye of an experienced advocate – "We can be hopeful but we shall see how much actual progress there is on Thursday," he told me.

In any case, "we are determined to stop the problem of tenant displacement at its source," he stated with renewed conviction, "and it all starts with the banks!"

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SpeakOut Mon, 24 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400