Speakout http://www.truth-out.org Fri, 01 Jul 2016 09:33:34 -0400 en-gb Up Against the Wall: How to Avoid Nuclear Catastrophe http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36659-up-against-the-wall-how-to-avoid-nuclear-catastrophe http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36659-up-against-the-wall-how-to-avoid-nuclear-catastrophe

Everything on our small planet affects everything else. This interdependence is more a harsh reality than a New Age bromide. A diminishing few may still deny human agency in climate instability, but they can hardly pretend that diseases or wind-driven pollution are stoppable by national borders. Even Donald Trump would not be able to build a wall that stopped the Zika virus, or micro-particulates wafting from the coal plants in China, or the cross-Pacific drift of radioactive water from Fukushima.

Everything on our small planet affects everything else. This interdependence is more a harsh reality than a New Age bromide. A diminishing few may still deny human agency in climate instability, but they can hardly pretend that diseases or wind-driven pollution are stoppable by national borders. Even Donald Trump would not be able to build a wall that stopped the Zika virus, or micro-particulates wafting from the coal plants in China, or the cross-Pacific drift of radioactive water from Fukushima.

It is especially urgent that we understand the bizarre interdependence that arises from the reality that nine nations possess nuclear weapons. It no longer matters how many nuclear weapons a given country has, because detonation of such weapons by any nation, even a relatively small portion of the world's arsenals, could result in a "nuclear winter" that would have planet-wide disastrous effects.

We have reached a wall, not a physical Trump-style wall, but an absolute limit of destructive power that changes everything. The implications even reverberate back down into supposedly smaller, non-nuclear conflicts. The late Admiral Eugene Carroll, who was once in charge of all US nuclear weapons in the European theater, said it straight out: "To prevent nuclear war, we must prevent all war." Any war involving any nuclear power, including such regional conflicts as the ongoing border dispute in Kashmir between India and Pakistan, could rapidly escalate to the nuclear level.

Apparently, this notion, understandable enough to a layperson like me, has not sunk in at the highest levels of foreign policy expertise in our own and other countries. If it had, the United States would not be committing itself to a trillion-dollar upgrade of its nuclear arsenal. Nor would Russia be spending more on such weapons, nor India, nor Pakistan.

The analogy with the United States' gun obsession is inescapable. Many politicians and the lobbyists who contribute to their campaigns, defying common sense, advocate for an expansion of rights and permits to carry guns into classrooms and churches and even bars, arguing that if everyone had a gun, we would all be more secure. Would the world be safer if more countries -- or God forbid, all countries -- possessed nuclear weapons? Or would we be safer if none did?

When it comes to how we think about these weapons, the concept of "enemy" itself needs to be mindfully reexamined. The weapons themselves have become everyone's enemy, an enemy much fiercer than the evilest human adversary imaginable. Because we share the reality that my security depends upon yours and yours upon mine, the concept of an enemy that can be effectively annihilated by superior nuclear firepower has become obsolete. Meanwhile, our thousands of weapons remain poised and ready for someone to make a fatal mistake and annihilate everything we cherish.

The most implacable adversaries are precisely the parties who should be reaching out and talking to each other with the most urgency: India and Pakistan, Russia and the US, South and North Korea. The difficult achievement of the treaty slowing and limiting the ability of Iran to make nuclear weapons is beyond laudable, but we need to augment its strength by building webs of friendship between US and Iranian citizens. Instead, the status quo of mistrust is maintained by obsolete stereotypes reinforced by elected officials and pundits.

Important as are treaties of non-proliferation and war prevention, networks of genuine human relationship are even more crucial. As the peace activist David Hartsough has written about his recent trip to Russia: "Instead of sending military troops to the borders of Russia, let's send lots more citizen diplomacy delegations like ours to Russia to get to know the Russian people and learn that we are all one human family. We can build peace and understanding between our peoples." Far from the easy dismissal as naïve, it is actually the best realistic way our species can get past the wall of absolute destruction that contains no way out on the level of military superiority.

Reagan and Gorbachev came very close to agreeing to abolish their two nations' nukes in their conference in Reykjavik in 1986. It could have happened. It should have happened. We need leaders with the vision and daring to push all-out for abolition. As a citizen with no special expertise, I cannot understand how a person as smart as President Obama could go to Hiroshima and hedge his statements about the abolition of nuclear weapons with mealy phrases like, "We may not realize this goal in my lifetime." I hope Mr. Obama makes as great an ex-president as has Jimmy Carter. Set free from the political constraints of his office, perhaps he will join Mr. Carter in robust peace initiatives that use his relationships with world leaders to seek real change.

His voice will be crucial, but it is only one voice. NGOs like Rotary International, with 1.2 million members in thousands of clubs in virtually all countries, are our safest, quickest way to real security. However, for organizations like Rotary to really take on war prevention as it took on the worldwide eradication of polio, rank-and-file Rotarians, like all citizens, must awaken to the degree to which everything has changed, and reach across walls of alienation to supposed enemies. The horrific possibility of nuclear winter is in an odd way positive because it represents the self-defeating absolute limit of military force up against which the whole planet has come. We all find ourselves up against a wall of impending doom -- and potential hope.

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Speakout Thu, 30 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Just Stand: A Video Interview With Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3 http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36657-just-stand-a-video-interview-with-albert-woodfox-of-the-angola-3 http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36657-just-stand-a-video-interview-with-albert-woodfox-of-the-angola-3

Since Albert's release on his birthday, February 19th, a few short months ago, he’s been really busy… After nearly a month of visiting with family and friends in New Orleans sharing more birthday cake than he’s been able to consume in over forty years, Albert has been catching up with his dreams. This trio of video-interviews with Albert recorded recently, during a visit to Sacramento, will give you a glimpse of just how well Albert is doing.

Albert enjoys a canoe ride in Austin, TX.Albert enjoys a canoe ride in Austin, TX.

Since Albert's release on his birthday, February 19th, a few short months ago, he's been really busy… After nearly a month of visiting with family and friends in New Orleans sharing more birthday cake than he's been able to consume in over forty years, Albert has been catching up with his dreams. This trio of video--interviews with Albert recorded recently, during a visit to Sacramento, will give you a glimpse of just how well Albert is doing.

This first release, entitled "Just Stand" is in three parts: (1) A Message to Supporters, (2) Visiting Yosemite National Park and (3) Spending Quality TimeWith Family.

Albert Woodfox stands strong during a recent visit to Sacramento, California.Albert Woodfox stands strong during a recent visit to Sacramento, California.

A MESSAGE TO SUPPORTERS -- After thanking the many supporters around the world that never gave up in fighting for his release, Albert sent them this message: "What they should take from my freedom is that you stand. You don't back away. You don't make unnecessary compromises. You stand, and no matter how painful, you stand." Watch the full interview here.

VISITING YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK -- Just a few days before this interview was conducted, Albert visited Yosemite National Park, where he endured a challenging uphill climb. Albert reflects: "As you get older, you always wonder what you lose, and I think it felt very, very great to know that my will and determination have not changed, even though I've grown older. I know I have changed somewhat physically, [but] mentally, emotionally, and spiritually I'm as strong as I ever was." Watch the full interview here.

SPENDING QUALITY TIME WITH FAMILY -- In this segment, Albert discusses his relationship with his family, with whom he tries to spend as much time as he can: "I'm a Dad, a Grandpa, and a Great Grandpa. I'm so grateful that my family accepted me back." Watch the full interview here.

Albert has been spending time in Houston with his brother Michael and his family as well as time in New Orleans with his daughter, grandson and grandchildren. His first speaking engagement was a trip to Pittsburgh for the International Conference on Solitary Confinement at University of Pittsburgh with King. When that was over, he spent a week in Austin with King and Austin supporters before heading off to California to fulfill one of his long held dreams, a trip to Yosemite. On the way he stopped in Los Angeles to attend the Death Penalty Focus Gala, where he was joined by an old friend from Angola, recently released Gary Tyler and about twenty exonerees attending on behalf of the Innocence Project. He also had a chance to drop in on long--time supporter and artist, Rigo 23 and family before heading north. After Yosemite, Albert attended the Malcolm X Festival in Oakland. On his return to New Orleans, Albert and King's cousin, Noonie, cooked up a "surprise" birthday party for King and celebrated with many local supporters.

The next few months are equally as busy. In August King and Albert will be in New York at the National Lawyers Guild Convention where Albert will accept the Arthur Kinoy award. After the NLG conference, Albert and King will spend time with BPP comrades in New York. In September they will be in Oakland for the Political Prisoner's Conference and later in the month they will be speaking at a number of venues in Chicago. They'll return to Oakland in October for the 50th Anniversary gathering of the Black Panther Party. Then in late October, they visit the UK and France to meet with Amnesty supporters, along with special events in the UK including London, Liverpool and Cambridge As you'll be able to see from the short interviews and attached photos, Albert deals with all the activity like a champ -- it's hard to believe that he's spent four decades in a box, as he handles himself with grace and humor regardless of the situation presented.

Freedom for our comrade, elder, and political prisoner Leonard Peltier is long overdue. Please sign Amnesty International USA's new online petition calling on President Obama to release him. Please also consider supporting the Leonard Peltier Statue Project. Free all political prisoners!

Albert and Rigo 23, with the latest artwork from Rigo 23 illustrating that all of the Angola 3 are Free.Albert and Rigo 23, with the latest artwork from Rigo 23 illustrating that all of the Angola 3 are Free.

King and Albert in Austin- reunited in freedom!King and Albert in Austin -- reunited in freedom!

Comrades from Houston and Austin join King and Albert for a welcome home party for Albert.Comrades from Houston and Austin join King and Albert for a welcome home party for Albert.

Albert with Louisiana exonerees John Thompson and Gary Tyler at Death Penalty Focus event.Albert with Louisiana exonerees John Thompson and Gary Tyler at Death Penalty Focus event.

Albert and King’s cousin, Elnora put together a sizzling surprise birthday party for King at the Craig Center in Algiers on June 11th.  The theme was “white linen.” This photo of Albert dancing with longtime supporter Shana Griffin, was taken by the esteemed Ted Quant to memorialize the evening. View more photos from the party here.Albert and King's cousin, Elnora put together a sizzling surprise birthday party for King at the Craig Center in Algiers on June 11. The theme was "white linen." This photo of Albert dancing with longtime supporter Shana Griffin, was taken by the esteemed Ted Quant to memorialize the evening. View more photos from the party here.

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Speakout Thu, 30 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0400
It's Time to Wake Up About the Democratic Party http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36645-it-s-time-to-wake-up-about-the-democratic-party http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36645-it-s-time-to-wake-up-about-the-democratic-party

When I was in third grade, I remember my teacher telling us she was a Republican because her son was in the military and Republicans cared about soldiers. When I got home, I asked my mother what we were, to which she responded, "We're Democrats, because Democrats represent issues that are important to you and me." I grew up believing in progressive politics. I wanted to learn how to play saxophone because Bill Clinton and Lisa Simpson did. Other times I would stay up late watching "Politically Incorrect."

When I was in third grade, I remember my teacher telling us she was a Republican because her son was in the military and Republicans cared about soldiers. When I got home, I asked my mother what we were, to which she responded, "We're Democrats, because Democrats represent issues that are important to you and me."

I grew up believing in progressive politics. I wanted to learn how to play saxophone because Bill Clinton and Lisa Simpson did. Other times I would stay up late watching "Politically Incorrect." I bled blue. And when the time came at 18 to finally vote, I voted for a Democrat that I did not believe in, but anything would be better than the Terminator as our governor in California. I was the person that would bug my friends to vote, and would explain to them the importance of taking it seriously, and that although they might have thought that it was cool to see the Total Recall star in politics, Arnold Schwarzenegger's love of Milton Friedman made his campaign no joke. I remember thinking to myself that the Democrats running with Cruz Bustamante was such a mistake; the former attorney general did nothing to energize voters policy-wise, and he lacked the charisma to compete with a Hollywood celeb. They practically handed over the state capitol to the Republicans.

The second time I voted was for John Kerry. I didn't care for him too much, but, you know, anyone but Bush. I saw a video of the young antiwar John Kerry and was wondering during his debates against George W. Bush why he didn't go harder, where was that antiwar veteran that we had seen before? Why wasn't he taking a stand against Bush's "anti-terrorism" policies?

When it was time for me to vote for the next president, the primaries left me with little excitement. I was for the more favorable Dennis Kucinich, but knew no one would take him seriously as a candidate. I had just learned about what the Clintons and their foundation were doing to the developing world, and the long-term effects of Bill Clinton's presidential policies, so voting for another Clinton in office was definitely not something I considered. As for Barack Obama, I was distrusting at first; I felt that it was too soon into his political career. As I continued to watch the debates, listen to his speeches, I too, bought the hope. When he won, I remember my professor saying to me, "He's going to be like the rest; he's going to let you down," as I was wearing my "Barack Obama for yo mama" T-shirt. I thought my professor was just a jaded old radical -- What did he know? This time could be different.

As Obama began to announce his presidential cabinet, then began the diminishing of all that I had hoped. By the end of his term, I was over the Democratic Party. They were weak and lacked the courage to stand up to the Republicans and the establishment. At least, that's the convenient narrative of the Democrats. As my beliefs in US democracy began to unravel, I clearly began to see what was really happening. We had two parties who were in need of each other. The Republicans, whose role is to scare and fear monger, advocated honestly for what the government and the oligarchs want and will do, while throwing in some social issues. Issues that they themselves don't really practice, but that will keep their poor, racist, white, god-fearing, gun-holding base happy. And then you have the Democrats, whose role is to deceive, to plead for the rights of the needy, defend what little freedom we do have against the world, keep us from war and be the white voice for people of color, while they pretend to fight against the big bad Republican Party. And it works out perfectly, and we continue to believe that the Democratic Party is one of moral character. But victims of a system that is rigged against them, they are not. They are a part of the system and their role in it is quite important -- they uphold the myth that social change and justice can still be found within the means of the electoral process.

Take, for instance, the Bernie Sanders campaign. His campaign was run as the outsider of the party, challenging the establishment and offering a candidate who was not a member of the 1%. His bid to run wasn't a campaign, but a "political revolution." In doing so, he energize white millennials to be involved and interested in a campaign that they most likely would have sat out of. I attended one of his rallies in Los Angeles, and when the rally was over, there was a large group of supporters who couldn't get in who were cheering, "I believe that we will win." The energy of the rally reminded me of a protest action -- there were so many people, so much hope. What would happen to this energy if Sanders were to lose? I wondered.

By the time of the California primary, it seemed possible that Bernie might win, that was at least until Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and media decided to undermine the elections by announcing a Clinton win of the nomination. Clearly, this was undemocratic; this should have offered more fuel to the fire to ignite a third-party candidate out of Sanders, but instead, after his loss in the California primary (which, in fact, we still don't know the full results of), Bernie Sanders fell in line rather quickly within the Democratic Party and the establishment. Even after emails were leaked about the DNC and its cooperation with Clinton and the media to ensure a Clinton nomination.

In my opinion, Sanders is a fool for not running as an independent, especially as Donald Trump's campaign continues to unravel. But, as I've learned over the years, Democrats are not fools, they are highly skilled manipulators. They are so good at that, that even though they continue to vote for policies that actually hurt communities of color and the poor, they have a strong hold on votes in those constituencies.

They have mastered marketing so well that when we hear that they're doing a sit-in for a horrible bill on gun control, their base gets excited and rallies behind them in hopes that this act of staged theater is a promise of new days ahead. It was a beautifully staged event: civil rights veteran John Lewis sitting in the middle, surrounded by other Democrats, singing "We Shall Overcome" -- it was quite a spectacle. It almost made you forget about those pesky email leaks. Hashtags like #NoBillNoBreak trended on Twitter. For once, the Democratic Party had mustered the courage to stand up and fight against the Republican National Committee. But behind the readings of "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" was a bill that betrayed the people that the Democrats are supposed to protect. A bill that would increase police presence in our communities, grow their already too large arsenal and create a terrorist watch list and ban all of those people who just happen to fall under that list from purchasing firearms.

Right at the tail of the 24-hour sit-in, Bernie Sanders headed to New York and gave one of his "revolutionary" speeches, in which he said to supporters that, "We might as well change the whole Democratic Party." He also wrote an op-ed for The New York Times, titled, "Democrats Need to Wake Up." In it, he reinstates his campaign policies regarding income inequality, the environment, war and immigration. He begins the piece with empathizing with Brexit supporters, and ends with a warning to Democrats that they, too, could lose the white working-class completely to Trump. In what felt like a subtweet, he closed the essay with a call for the next Democratic president -- and the Democratic Party as a whole -- to work towards more progressive issues. Not too shortly after the piece was published, the title of his op-ed was a trendy hashtag on Twitter. Tweets of support for the op-ed with hope that this could be fire that the Democratic Party so desperately needed to be put under them.

And that's what they'd like you think -- that this is the beginning of a new DNC. But this is the Democratic Party's attempt to co-opt whatever leftist energy existed within Bernie Sanders' campaign. This is Sanders funneling his supporters towards Hillary Clinton with hopes that he can push her to the left of the political spectrum. As if a masterful political manipulator like Hillary Clinton cares what Sanders or his supporters think. The only thing she cares about is that they show up and vote for her on Election Day. Which she knows they will, because hey, anything but Trump.

And while we fear what a Trump presidency could mean for this country, we are mistaken to think that a Hillary presidency would be any safer.

As Hillary Clinton represents the same party as Trump, the oligarchs, the military, the capitalists, imperialists, colonizers, white supremacists, patriarchs and fascists. She promotes Islamophobia and fear of "the other" -- just look at her 2008 campaign election and her treatment towards then-Sen. Barack Obama. Whether it was circulating rumors that he was Muslim in an effort to play into the country's anti-muslim sentiment, or having her campaign floating around an image of Obama in traditional Muslim garb when he visited Somalia in an overseas trip. Furthermore, Clinton is the preferred candidate of Wall Street and the global financial elite. She is the Democrat that will guarantee that the Palestinian genocide will continue with the help of the United States. And with the leaked emails from her time in the US State Department, we can thank her for her help in destabilizing Syria and empowering ISIS. Clinton represents more war, more imperialism, more deregulation, more of the status-quo. Like the Clinton before her, she hides her conservatism while implementing neoliberalist policies.

Just look at all the different donors for the Clinton foundation. Millions of dollars donated from corporations, oil companies, telecommunication networks, hedge funds and Monsanto. International Business Times reported: "Under Clinton's leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation."

The Democrats and Republicans are a singular party of career politicians who want to keep their jobs and access to power. The Democrats are not your friends; they are "frenemies" at best. They are as complacent in the acts of violence committed by the US government as the Republicans. They exploit social movements and language of resistance to maintain dominance over the tactics of change.

The Democratic Party is going to attempt to hijack the energy of dissent, coerce the left back into the party line through fear of a rising fascist right. But this is not the time to let fear continue to dictate our politics. If we are always voting for who we believe is the "lesser evil," then we are always submitting to evil. Now is the time to acknowledge that our political system is a failure and that we must destructure the state and relearn what democracy really means.

People power is more than just rhetoric; it is the most radical form of democracy.

Politicians are always saying change comes from the bottom up, not the top down. Maybe it's time we start taking them by their word.

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Speakout Thu, 30 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0400
"The War Against All Puerto Ricans" -- One Year Later http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36628-the-war-against-all-puerto-ricans-one-year-later http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36628-the-war-against-all-puerto-ricans-one-year-later

When published in April 2015, War Against All Puerto Ricans ignited debate throughout the US and Puerto Rico. I was called a "liar" by several history professors … yet the book became a #1 Amazon Bestseller for 13 months, and the top-selling book in Puerto Rico. It even outsold Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Why was this book so successful? A factual narrative with over 700 footnotes, the book is a history of US-Puerto Rico relations. But it also reads like a police blotter.

Pedro Albizu Campos was the president of Puerto Rico's Nationalist Party. (Photo: Public Domain)Pedro Albizu Campos was the president of Puerto Rico's Nationalist Party. (Photo: Public Domain)

When published in April 2015, War Against All Puerto Ricans ignited debate throughout the US and Puerto Rico. I was called a "liar" by several history professors … yet the book became a #1 Amazon Bestseller for 13 months, and the top-selling book in Puerto Rico. It even outsold Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Why was this book so successful?

A factual narrative with over 700 footnotes, the book is a history of US-Puerto Rico relations. But it also reads like a police blotter.

One reviewer wrote: "It provides detailed accounts of government corruption, police abuse, Wall Street greed, scientific experimentation, politicking, graft, racism, wholesale slaughter, surveillance, assassinations, eugenics, propaganda, espionage, forgery and falsification -- all within the span of half a century, on an island no bigger than Connecticut."

The book was covered in the The New York Times, New York Daily News, Mother Jones, VIBE Magazine,VIVA Magazine,WABC TV, MSNBC, C-SPAN, New York 1, Al Jazeera TV, WNYC, WBAI, WNPR and dozens more TV, radio and print outlets.

The largest newspaper in Puerto Rico, El Nuevo Día, ran four articles about it, including a Sunday front page feature.

On the island, the Puerto Rico Independence Party (PIP) created an eight-city book tour attended by PIP President Ruben Berríos, PIP gubernatorial candidate María de Lourdes Santiago, PIP party leaders and thousands of PIP delegates and members.

On the internet, the book's website received over 2.8 million views in 14 months. The Facebook page received more than double this number, close to 6 million.

In New York and 10 other cities, I presented the book to unions; youth groups, local radio stations, bookstores; civic groups; church and evangelical, community and arts groups; high school, college, and graduate students; bar associations; political clubs; radical left organizations; Independentistas; women's groups; senior centers; book and library clubs; salsa concerts; night clubs; university history, criminal justice, and Latin American studies departments; a boxing gym, Costco book signings, Puerto Rico book signings, a maximum security prison; and a séance in the Bronx.

Oscar López Rivera read it in his prison cell in Terre Haute, Indiana. He recommended it to other prisoners, and wrote a blurb which appears on the front cover of the Spanish-language book, Guerra Contra Todos Los Puertorriqueños.

Was It the Story?

In a publishing industry where seven of 10 books don't earn out their advance, I reflected on my book's success. The central story was gripping … for decades, the FBI shot Puerto Ricans in the street and kept secret police files (carpetas) on more than 100,000 of them. Owning a Puerto Rican flag, singing La Borinqueña or shouting "¡Que viva Puerto Rico libre!" were all felonies, punishable by 10 years in jail.

On October 30, 1950, a violent revolution finally exploded: Nationalists tried to kill President Harry S. Truman; gunfights roared in eight towns; patriots burned police stations, post offices and selective service centers.

To suppress this revolution, the US Army deployed 5,000 troops and bombarded the towns of Jayuya and Utuado -- the only time in history that the US government has bombed its own citizens.

They also arrested 3,000 Puerto Ricans and imprisoned Pedro Albizu Campos.

While Don Pedro was in prison, evidence strongly indicates, the US subjected him to TBI (Total Body Irradiation) until it killed him.

As Arthur Miller once wrote, attention must be paid to such a man. The life and death of Don Pedro, the drama of his revolution, the depravity of the FBI, are largely unknown to the US public. It is a shocking story that had to be told.

Was It the Market?

At 55 million and growing, there are more Latinos in the US than there are senior citizens. As of 2014, the Theatrical Markets Report of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA, pp.12-14) shows that Latinos are buying twice as many movie tickets as African-Americans.

The island of Puerto Rico, where my book outsold Harry Potter, has its own marketing surprise. Until their chain folded in 2011, Borders operated 642 stores in the US and Puerto Rico. Of all these outlets, the Borders store in Plaza Las Americas (San Juan, Puerto Rico) sold the most books, and was the most profitable by far, with annual sales of $17 million.

Both in the US and Puerto Rico, Latinos are a hugely underserved market. They are hungry for stories. Starving for role models. But they're not getting them.

I wrote a book by and about US Latinos: specifically Puerto Ricans. That is why it struck an immediate and resonant chord. That is why it sold out repeatedly, and required emergency print runs.

Yet currently, the major publishers service the US Latino market with mostly foreign literature (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Isabel Allende, Javier Sierra, Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Julio Cortázar, et al). These foreign imports with pre-packaged P&L numbers produce an easier sale at the weekly marketing meetings, and lackluster sales in the bookstores.

A tectonic shift -- a tipping point -- will inexorably occur. There are too many US Latinos, with our own heritage and experience and stories. Junot Díaz is the merest tip of that iceberg, and he didn't scratch it very far.

Sooner or later, one media gatekeeper will realize this, make a fortune, and all the others will stampede to be second.

Was It the Economic Crisis?

War Against All Puerto Ricans arrived at a critical time. Puerto Rico is on the verge of defaulting on a $72 billion debt -- the largest municipal bond default in US history.

The US response -- to impose a Financial Control Board as a Wall Street collection agent, and recommend a minimum wage of $4.25 – may trigger a humanitarian crisis on the island.

The economic malaise is already extreme: with an 11.5 percent sales tax, a 60 percent water rate increase, multiple gasoline tax hikes, electrical rates and energy costs 250 percent higher than in the US, 30,000 government workers laid off, pension rollbacks, an increase in the retirement age and the closure of 150 schools.

One report found that, in the years 2013-14 alone, 105 different taxes had been raised in Puerto Rico.

After 96 years, the Jones Act (Merchant Marine Act of 1920, § 27) continues to strangle every corner of the insular economy.

Working class and middle-income Puerto Ricans are being squeezed off their own homeland. Over 80,000 of them are fleeing the island annually, leaving only 3.6 million to shoulder the rising tax burden.

In June 2015, Gov. Garcia-Padilla announced the obvious: that Puerto Rico is in a death spiral. But the governor failed to provide any solutions. And so, one year later, Puerto Rico faces a Financial Control Board, a humanitarian crisis and a growing outcry for independence from the United States.

What does this have to do with War Against All Puerto Ricans?

Everything.

The history of the US - Puerto Rico relationship, the evolution of fatally inept US policies toward an island it never understood, has led to the insolvency of Puerto Rico and the plutocracy of a Financial Control Board.

This history is dissected and deeply documented in the book. In the end, every page of War Against All Puerto Ricans is an indictment of 118 years of US abuse, of its "territorial possession" in the Caribbean.

All over Puerto Rico, and in every city that asked me to present the book -- in New York, Orlando, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Newark, Buffalo, Hartford, Holyoke -- the same question that confounded Albizu Campos, is now being asked: "If owning one man (slavery) makes you a scoundrel, then how does owning a nation (Puerto Rico) make you a colonial benefactor?"

That question can no longer be ignored.

In 1971, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee re-calibrated our nation's moral compass with regard to Native Americans and their tragic history.

That same recalibration is long overdue for nine million Puerto Ricans, and the island that they call home.

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Speakout Wed, 29 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Save Bear Butte http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36627-save-bear-butte http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36627-save-bear-butte

Bear Butte is one of these ancient holy places. My people, the Oceti Sakowin (The Great Sioux Nation), call it Paha Sapa. Bear Butte is crucial to our traditional way of life. It is where the Lakota received star knowledge and divine instruction. Our greatest leaders, like Tatanka Iyotanka (Sitting Bull) and TaSunka Witko (Crazy Horse) prayed there. Even today, I know many Lakota who go there for Hanbleceya, to cry for a vision. Westerners call it Vision Quest. This ceremony takes place on the side of the mountain, over the course of four days and nights. Individuals remain in quiet solitude to fast, pray and commune with Tunkasila and the spirits while supporters keep the fire below.

Turtle Island and the Indigenous groups who have continuously occupied these lands are older than America. Our spiritual beliefs are tied to Ina Maka (Mother Earth). As such, Indian Country holds sacred sites of reverence that pre-date European invasion.

Bear Butte is one of these ancient holy places. My people, the Oceti Sakowin (The Great Sioux Nation), call it Paha Sapa. Bear Butte is crucial to our traditional way of life. It is where the Lakota received star knowledge and divine instruction. Our greatest leaders, like Tatanka Iyotanka (Sitting Bull) and TaSunka Witko (Crazy Horse) prayed there. Even today, I know many Lakota who go there for Hanbleceya, to cry for a vision. Westerners call it Vision Quest. This ceremony takes place on the side of the mountain, over the course of four days and nights. Individuals remain in quiet solitude to fast, pray and commune with Tunkasila and the spirits while supporters keep the fire below.

The Cheyenne refer to it as Noavose. Bear Butte is central to their traditional lifeways as well. Sweet Medicine, a Cheyenne prophet, received four sacred arrows and the covenants of the bundle from BearButte. These teachings provide life guidance.

Along with the Oceti Sakowin and Cheyenne, many Native Nations of the plains recognize the sacred nature of Bear Butte. We continue to perform annual ceremonies and rituals there as they have been for time immemorial. If you’ve ever hiked Bear Butte, you will see evidence of this. Lovingly crafted prayer ties made by Native hands adorn the trees all along its base.

Bear Butte is our Mecca; our Mount Sinai. Bear Butte has been used as our place of worship for thousands of years longer than the Vatican.

Now Bear Butte and the sacred rituals and ceremonies that must be conducted there are threatened.

Last Fall, the popular Sturgis attraction, Full Throttle Saloon, known as “the world’s largest biker bar,” burned to the ground in an epic blaze. The owner, Michael Ballard, is seeking to rebuild it- but not in its original location. He is planning to construct his new establishment at the Broken Spoke Campground, which is only a mile from Bear Butte.

According to reports, the new site will be 600 acres with 300 cabins and 450 RV sites. Sturgis, South Dakota typically has a population of around 6,600 residents, but during its Bike Rally every August, it often sees over 500,000 visitors. Our ceremonies take place all summer, until the end of August.

As you can imagine, its difficult to safeguard the protocol of sacred ceremonies we are responsible for protecting and pray for a vision in peaceful isolation while hundreds of thousands of noisy, raucous non-Natives are getting naked and drunk on your doorstep. Our ancestors did not have to contend with loud concerts, flashing lights, helicopters, revving engines, and gawking tourists, nor should we.

While I hope that Mr. Ballard will reconsider his decision to move his new saloon so close to our holy church simplyout of basic decency and respect, I also remind him that there are possible legal violations that will take place if his plans move forward. Under the Native American Religious Freedom Act, our inherent right to partake in ceremonies without interruption, violation, and destruction, is protected. The construction of this mega-saloon next to Bear Buttewill effectively end rituals and ceremonies at the sacred site as we know it. Our ancestors were beaten, jailed, committed to asylums, and killed for keeping these ancient traditions alive.

Some Tribes hold a vested interest in Bear Butte. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, and Northern Cheyenne all own land there, and pay property taxes. They help keep the land undeveloped and pristine, and suitable for ceremonial use. The Northern Cheyenne and other Tribes also have a land use agreement with the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs).

We cannot allow Bear Butte to be destroyed on our watch. It is our turn to protect the sacred. We are the new ancestors. No one else is coming. It is up to us to insure that our cultures, languages, stories, and sacred lands are preserved for the next seven generations. Strong hearts to the front.

Join me in asking Mr. Ballard not to build his new establishment next to Bear Butte. He may be reached here.

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Speakout Wed, 29 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0400
The Case for Legalizing Marijuana in Puerto Rico http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36616-the-case-for-legalizing-marijuana-in-puerto-rico http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36616-the-case-for-legalizing-marijuana-in-puerto-rico

Through no fault of their own, the Puerto Rican people have suffered through decades of heartache, disappointment and having the wool pulled over their eyes. Some may believe exploitation is too strong a term to describe what has happened, but what else can you call it when millions of honest, hard-working American citizens are relegated to a permanent second-class status, suspended somewhere in the netherworld between statehood and independence?

2016.6.28.PR.main(Image courtesy of Sarah Ratliff)Through no fault of their own, the Puerto Rican people have suffered through decades of heartache, disappointment and having the wool pulled over their eyes. Some may believe exploitation is too strong a term to describe what has happened, but what else can you call it when millions of honest, hard-working American citizens are relegated to a permanent second-class status, suspended somewhere in the netherworld between statehood and independence?

Bankruptcy, default, missed bond payments, credit rating downgrades … these are the legacy not of Puerto Ricans, but of offshore financiers and feckless political "leaders" who've spent decades lining their pockets at the people's expense. Perhaps Congress and the last few presidential administrations could have done more to prevent economic catastrophe, but that is water under the bridge and now the question becomes: What must be done next to halt Puerto Rico's financial freefall?

What has been done to Puerto Rico's indigenous economy is a crime against all of us -- those born on the island, those who've been forced to leave in search of a better financial future and people like my husband and me.

My husband and I are not Puerto Rican, but we came here and call this island home. This fertile land is capable of feeding, clothing and sheltering its own (and has done so in the past), but as Nelson Dennis has reported, Puerto Ricans are the largest per capita importers of US goods in the world, a monopoly made enforceable by Puerto Rico's peculiar status as a colonial possession in an allegedly post-colonial era.

The development of our island's political economy has been stunted, strangled, stonewalled and straightjacketed by outside forces with an agenda that is as transparent as it is self-interested. Even our animals are suffering. It's estimated there are 300,000 stray dogs and a staggering 1 million stray cats on the island. These innocent creatures are made to pay the price for the artificially manufactured poverty and deprivation that have become Puerto Rico's calling card.

These outrages (and the dozens documented elsewhere) are deserving of exposure, and if there were truly justice in this world, many would result in the payment of reparations to the families of the abused and to everyone else whose lives were forever affected by these shameful episodes. Collectively, they tell the tragic tale of a people whose basic freedoms and rights of self-determination have been spat upon and trampled in the dust in order to serve political, corporate, military and financial interests in the mainland US.

Meet the New Boss … Same as the Old Boss

The current situation shows that nothing has changed in the last 100-plus years. The only difference now is that financial manipulation, thievery and blackmail have become the tools of choice for the modern-day robber barons. Explicitly violent police-state-style repression has gone somewhat out of style, but chains of debt have proven to be a far more reliable method for imposing the will of the 1% on every hill, hamlet and landscape where even an ounce of independence still exists; in Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Argentina and especially Puerto Rico, where the debt scam has been taken to a whole new level.

The latest insult to this island's dignity, H.R. 4900 bill -- dubbed the so-called Promesa ("promise" in Spanish) -- would put the island's fate under the control of a financial management board of outsiders whose primary purpose would be to see that bondholders get paid first and that no meaningful debt restructuring occurs. Of course, the sponsors' real, deeper purpose would be to impose an austerity program on Puerto Rico designed to bring it into line with the neoliberal vision of a completely privatized, deregulated world.

This model of "development" hasn't worked anywhere. And yet it's the only alternative being offered to the people of our beleaguered island, who are seeing our world crash all around us, thanks to the tactics of the financiers and their foolish collaborators in the Puerto Rican government.

Never mind that this thoroughly discredited model for a political economy has brought massive un-payable debt, the destruction of the middle class and a loss of economic security everywhere it is tried. No, as long as the ownership class benefits, this is the type of economy we are forced to accept, come hell or high water (and we have plenty of both).

Big banks and hedge funds matter more than ordinary people, and what they want must come first, in an absurd global economy where people get obscenely rich through usury and speculation and not by producing actual goods and services.

Austerity will chain us to the mistakes and greedy predations of the past and leave us helpless to overcome our present situation. As an alternative to this counterproductive nonsense, along with some measure of sensible debt relief, we need a way to generate our own income, expand our tax base organically and put Puerto Ricans back to work in sustainable jobs that pay respectable wages.

The Argument for Marijuana Legalization

Legalizing marijuana would have been seen as far too radical and speculative in the past, but the legalization experiments in Washington State and Colorado have, by any objective measure, been a success and have set a great example that aspiring entrepreneurs here in Puerto Rico could follow.

As of now, each of these two states is bringing in somewhere around $70 million respectively annually in expanded tax revenue as a result of their forward-thinking about marijuana. If we adjust for population size, this could mean a $40-$50 million yearly revenue increase for Puerto Rico, should it be allowed to pursue the legalization option.

But this number is deceptive, because it doesn't include all the money saved after legalization through reduced costs for policing, prosecution, probation and imprisonment. It is safe to say the failed "war on drugs" has largely and primarily been a war against marijuana and people of color, and ending that hopeless campaign could save taxpayers in Puerto Rico tens of millions of dollars annually.

It is nearly impossible to cite hard numbers as they relate to arrests and imprisonment of marijuana-related crimes in Puerto Rico (both possession and selling) for two reasons:

1. They are lumped in with US statistics

2. The drug busts that most often make the news are seizures by the Drug Enforcement Administration either at the airport or using the US Postal Service as an entry point from South America to the US.

However, this infographic should give you an idea of the number of people serving prison sentences for nonviolent crimes.

To quote Robert Weisberg, faculty co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, "We have the highest incarceration rate in the world; over forty percent of our state inmates and a full half of our federal inmates are incarcerated for nonviolent drug crimes, drug arrests have tripled in the last three decades, with over eighty percent essentially for mere possession."

If legalization were done right, locally owned enterprises would control every aspect of the marijuana trade on the island, from production and processing to distribution and retail sales. The new taxes collected could be used to fund vital social services and help pay off the debt. Marijuana legalization could set Puerto Rico on the road to at least partial self-sufficiency, reducing poverty and unemployment while encouraging the spirit of entrepreneurship.

Enhanced revenue from legalization wouldn't get the banks and the hedge funds paid off completely; not in the short term anyway. But it could stabilize the situation just enough to give the Puerto Rican government the breathing room it needs to negotiate a new debt repayment agreement on terms it could actually almost maybe possibly afford -- as opposed to now, when paying the debt in full would mean the end of everything.

People Build, Neoliberalism Destroys

It is easy to see why some might dismiss marijuana legalization as a gimmick and not a real alternative to the plunder, pillage and profit extraction that currently reign supreme. But while legalization is not a be-all and end-all, it could represent a significant step in the right direction. Authentic, sustainable grassroots development could finally become a reality on an island that desperately needs to start building something of its own.

And what is the alternative, anyway? A $4.25 minimum wage for young workers, as H.R. 4900 Promesa bill sponsors propose? The selling-off of public assets to private interests at pennies on the dollar?

Even the people responsible for these ideas don't believe they're going to do the people of Puerto Rico any good -- they see an opportunity to ramp up the exploitation and they don't intend to let it pass by. Moreover, they don't have to live with their proposals -- we do.

Poverty rates on the island are above 40 percent, and no one in their right mind could believe adding a new lower tier to the minimum wage is going to make that number better.

Puerto Rico's population has begun to decline again, as young adults in particular leave the island for the mainland in search of better opportunities. As an example, the island has only one pediatric cardiologist. Ultimately, all of these men and women are going to need quality jobs, if they're to add to the GNP, pay taxes and support their families. Wouldn't it be better if they could stay right where they are to find those jobs, instead of leaving for supposedly greener pastures that these days no longer even exist?

Let the People Decide

The best way to address the issue of marijuana legalization is through a ballot initiative. The citizens of several US states have been allowed to have them and we who live in Puerto Rico and who are most affected by any measure taken should have that same right.

Allow us to speak, hear what we have to say and let our collective preference guide your policy decisions going forward. Congress might not agree, but that shouldn't stop us from having the final say -- for once and for the first time ever.

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Speakout Tue, 28 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0400
What's at Stake http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36615-what-s-at-stake http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36615-what-s-at-stake

In the historic port city of Yalta, located on the Crimean Peninsula, we visited the site where Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, in February of 1945, concluded negotiations ending World War II. These leaders and their top advisors were also present at the creation of the United Nations and other instruments of international negotiation and non-military cooperation. Tragically, the creation of the "Cold War" was underway soon after.  Reviving tensions between the United States and Russia make it seem as though the Cold War might not have ended.

In the historic port city of Yalta, located on the Crimean Peninsula, we visited the site where Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, in February of 1945, concluded negotiations ending World War II.

These leaders and their top advisors were also present at the creation of the United Nations and other instruments of international negotiation and non-military cooperation. Tragically, the creation of the "Cold War" was underway soon after. Reviving tensions between the United States and Russia make it seem as though the Cold War might not have ended.

We also met with groups of young adults, teachers, and veterans of foreign wars. At each meeting, participants readily agreed that new peace agreements are needed.

Olga, a tour guide, told me that she was fairly sure most young people here in Yalta would know what NATO is, what the acronym stands for, and they would know about recent NATO developments. Our delegation has been wondering how to cope with a quite different reality in the US, where many people may be poorly informed about NATO and would know even less about the Anti -Ballistic Missile treaty that the US more or less tore up in 2001.

The Federation of American Scientists, in its 2016 inventory of nuclear forces, states that approximately 93 percent of all nuclear warheads are owned by Russia and the United States who each have roughly 4,500-4,700 warheads in their military stockpiles.

Konstatin, a veteran from the USSR war in Afghanistan, now a grandfather, spoke to us about Yalta's history during World War II. "Many people perished here," he said. "More than a million perished during WWII. This tourist resort was founded from the bones of people killed in the war." Some 22 million Russians overall died during World War II, most of them civilians. Konstatin urged all of us to find ways for avoiding further war, and he spoke about how funds spent on weapons are crucially needed to help heal children afflicted by disease or hunger. Julia, a university student who wants to become an interpreter working with diplomats, said that she is glad and grateful never to have lived through a war." I always want to choose words instead of weapons," Julia said.

We asked university students what they thought of prospects for abolition of nuclear weapons. Anton, who studies engineering, told us that he believes "the youth of different countries would like to bridge the gap and work out ways to unite people." His words are extremely important now, as Russia and the US, possessing such huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons, engage in intensifying conflict. "All of us should soften the geopolitical relations between our countries," Anton continued, "and try to get together on the same level, on the same ground. The idea of this future should be attractive to everyone and enable us to solve ecological problems. And if we all put efforts into reaching this idea of development and creativity, in the future, then the nuclear abolition will be something we can accomplish."

In 1954 the Soviet government transferred this largely Russian-speaking area from Russia to the Ukraine. In 2014, after Ukraine's elected president was ousted and its new government formed in part by avowed neo-Nazis, Russia occupied the Crimea and after overwhelmingly winning an uncomfortably hasty vote, annexed it or "reunited" the Crimean peninsula with Russia, depending on who describes the history. The Ukraine ouster, it is widely believed here and in much of the world outside the United States, is considered to have been engineered by the United States and NATO. What plays in the US as Russian aggression is seen by many here as a response to antidemocratic NATO interference along the Russian border. It can be credibly argued that at its creation NATO's mission was essentially defensive. Stalin was a terrifying dictator, suffering from increasing psychosis, with a long history of betraying even those who seemed to be his closest allies. Yet, as one Russian World War II veteran noted, the Russians had not tried to take over other countries far from their borders. They actually had been very cautious and conservative about extending the boundaries or reach of the Soviet empire by military force, and after World War II Russia needed to focus on rebuilding the internal Soviet economy and society.

The continuously assertive military posturing of NATO undermines and conflicts with the mission and development of instruments for international negotiation and constructive cooperation. Among the most striking examples in recent years are:

i) the decision to expand NATO into eastern and southern Europe by accepting the membership or candidacy of countries as far south as Georgia;

ii) the 2001 decision by George Bush to abrogate the US-Russian Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems treaty and to build a so-called ballistic missile shield system in East European countries, allegedly intended to protect against prospective Iranian missile launches directed toward Europe;

iii) the 2001 to the present decisions by the US and NATO to invade Afghanistan and to establish long term military bases there, anchoring a military presence in the center of Central Asia.

New conflicts around the Ukraine are still brewing.

Milan Rai, writing for Peace News, helps put this conflict in context:

 "Since Vladimir Putin's first ascendancy to the Russian presidency in 2000, the Russian state has used its armed forces against other countries twice: against Georgia, in 2008; and now against Ukraine…

In the same time period, the US has used its armed forces in a criminal fashion against a number of countries, including: Afghanistan (2001-present); Yemen (drone attacks, 2002-present); Iraq (2003-present); Pakistan (drone attacks, 2004-present); Libya (2011); Somalia (2011-present)….

The western powers are in no position to lecture Putin, whose actions in Crimea look like a Gandhian direct action when compared to the normal US-UK mode of operation. From 28 February to 18 March, Russian forces captured over a dozen Ukrainian bases or military posts without the loss of a single life. Compare this to the US use of tank-mounted ploughs to bury alive perhaps thousands of Iraqi conscripts in desert trenches during the opening moves of the 1991 invasion of Iraq. (US colonel Lon Maggart, in charge of one of the brigades involved, estimated that between 80 and 250 Iraqis had been buried alive.)

When one thinks of the number of deaths caused by US-UK aggression since 2000, including the grim ongoing tragedy of the Iraqi civil war, it is difficult to listen to the wave of western outrage."

"This is not to deny that Putin has presided over a repressive administration," Mil continues, noting that Putin has also carried out atrocities, particularly the indiscriminate bombing of civilians in the southern Russian republic of Chechnya, which followed massacres and the enforced disappearance of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Chechens."

I believe that the greatest threat to the long range peace and security of Europe and the United States is the reality that the military sectors of western governments and the military spending sectors of western economies are so huge and bloated, like incurable cancers, that they cannot give up on inventing military threats and advocating military solutions which powerfully undermine diplomatic efforts to secure peace.

I hope Anton's ideas will echo in the US and help steer his generation toward pursuit of new acutely needed agreements.

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Speakout Tue, 28 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Exploiting the Nightmare of Orlando http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36597-exploiting-the-nightmare-of-orlando http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36597-exploiting-the-nightmare-of-orlando

We woke up last Sunday morning to news ofthe senseless slaughter of 49 innocents at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Because many of the victims were gay, it appeared that this had been a hate crime. It wasn't long before the killer was identified as Omar Mateen, the US-born son of an Afghan immigrant to the United States. Law enforcement officials cautioned against any rush to judgment insisting that they were still investigating "troubling aspects" of the crime. Nevertheless, as soon as politicians, pundits and the mainstream media heard the news ofthe faith ofthe perpetrator, they were off to the races.

We woke up last Sunday morning to news ofthe senseless slaughter of 49 innocents at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Because many of the victims were gay, it appeared that this had been a hate crime.

It wasn't long before the killer was identified as Omar Mateen, the US-born son of an Afghan immigrant to the United States. Law enforcement officials cautioned against any rush to judgment insisting that they were still investigating "troubling aspects" of the crime. Nevertheless, as soon as politicians, pundits and the mainstream media heard the news ofthe faith ofthe perpetrator, they were off to the races.

Donald Trump immediately congratulated himself for "being right on "radical Islamic terrorism" and reiterated his call for a ban on Muslims coming to the US. He went further suggesting that "something was going on" with President Obama, implying that the president either knew more about the murders than he was admitting or had been derelict in his duty to stop this terrorist threat. While many Republicans expressed outrage at Trump's "hints" of presidential culpability, it was almost universally accepted that this had been an act of "Muslim terror." New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for example, struck out against "radical Muslims" saying "these people hate us because of who we are, and they're going to try and kill us, and that's what this is all about.... we've got to hit back."

For their part, the networks also accepted this as "fact," devoting endless hours to nonsense chatter from "terrorism experts" who despite knowing very little about the crime in question were not going to pass up an opportunity to appear on TV. And then there were columns and commentaries galore about ISIS, violence and homophobia in Islam, what should be done to stop the "radicalization" of Muslim youth, and praise for or criticism of what the Obama administration was or was not doing to stop the next "terrorist attack" from, as Trump and his GOP colleagues would have it, "radical Islam."

The problem with this narrative version of the Orlando massacre is that it doesn't hold up when we look at it more closely. Another explanation is possible.

Consider the following: Omar Mateen was a deeply disturbed man with a long record of violent and disruptive behavior and spousal abuse. He also seems to have had conflicted feelings about his sexual orientation. Mateen had frequented gay nightclubs and gay dating sites. The report that he recently became enraged expressing disgust when he saw two men kissing in public puts the finishing touches on what appears to be the classic portrait of a very troubled individual living a lie and tormented by his own confused sexuality. Unable to resolve his inner conflict, he exploded striking out at gays because he feared that he, himself, was gay. He was destroying them because he wanted to destroy that part of himself.

Seen in this light, the despicable senseless mass murder in Orlando would have little or nothing to do with Islam or "radicalization." ISIS, it appears, was only used by the murderer in an effort to "cover his tracks" -- that is to say, to mask his true motivation. ISIS didn't lead him to this act of mass homicide. They didn't train him or inspire him. In some of his communications, Mateen conflated ISIS with Hezbollah demonstrating that he either didn't understand or didn't care to understand that group's demented ideology. His final message, pledging loyalty to ISIS, would be his final act of denial. He was lying to himself and the world about who he was and why he did what he did. Being the despicable group that they are, ISIS proudly embraced the murderer's claimof allegiance.

A conversation about a man driven to a violent act of mass murder because he was unable to reconcile himself to his sexual inclination might not have served the perverse purposes of Donald Trump or our political/media culture. Such a discussion might not have been good for ratings and wouldn't have played on the public's fear of Muslims or create rage against President Obama.

It should be noted that there were many stories that needed to be told after Orlando -- all of which were ignored or given short shrift. In the first place, despite the outpouring of support for the victims ofthe massacre, gays remain vulnerable to hate crimes and the disgraceful intolerance demonstrated by traditionalists of all stripes (MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, for example, played videotapes of two Baptist preachers expressing the delight that 49 were killed). It is likely that it was this fear of being rejected and stigmatized that may have festered inside of Mateen finally exploding in his deranged act.

And then there is the issue of assault weapons. It should be clear that it is the very availability of these instruments of death that is responsible for theepidemic of devastating mass killings in the US. These weapons are not for hunters; they are for murderers. They should be banned.

And finally, we need to carefully examine our terminology. If Mateen had been a Christian, like the Charleston slayer, would we have termed the killings "terrorism"? Would the media have indulged itself in an examination about "what's wrong with Christianity"? Would we have called for surveillance ofeveryone with a Confederate flag license plate? The assumption that a murder by a Muslim is fundamentally different is not only wrong-headed; it keeps us from more closely examining the deeper problem of mass killings and their causes.

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Speakout Mon, 27 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Palestine's "Prayer for Rain": How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36596-palestine-s-prayer-for-rain-how-israel-uses-water-as-a-weapon-of-war http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36596-palestine-s-prayer-for-rain-how-israel-uses-water-as-a-weapon-of-war

Entire communities in the West Bank either have no access to water or have had their water supply reduced almost by half. Israel has been "waging a water war" against Palestinians, according to Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah. The irony is that the water provided by Mekorot is actually Palestinian water, usurped from West Bank aquifers. While Israelis, including illegal West Bank settlements, use the vast majority of it, Palestinians are sold their own water back at high prices.

Entire communities in the West Bank either have no access to water or have had their water supply reduced almost by half.

This alarming development has been taking place for weeks, since Israel's national water company, "Mekorot," decided to cut off -- or significantly reduce -- its water supply to Jenin, Salfit and many villages around Nablus, among other regions.

Israel has been "waging a water war" against Palestinians, according to Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah. The irony is that the water provided by Mekorot is actually Palestinian water, usurped from West Bank aquifers. While Israelis, including illegal West Bank settlements, use the vast majority of it, Palestinians are sold their own water back at high prices.

By shutting down the water supply at a time that Israeli officials are planning to export essentially Palestinian water, Israel is once more utilizing water as a form of collective punishment.

This is hardly new. I still remember the trepidation in my parents' voices whenever they feared that the water supply was reaching adangerously low level. It was almost a daily discussion at home.

Whenever clashes erupted between stone-throwing children and Israeli occupation forces on the outskirts of the refugee camp, we always, instinctively, rushed to fill up the few water buckets and bottles we had scattered around the house.

This was the case during the First Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, which erupted in 1987 throughout the occupied Palestinian territories.

Whenever clashes erupted, one of the initial actions carried out by the Israeli Civil Administration -- a less ominous title for the offices ofthe Israeli occupation army -- was to collectively punish the whole population of whichever refugee camp rose up in rebellion.

The steps the Israeli army took became redundant, although grew more vengeful with time: a strict military curfew (meaning the shutting down of the entire area and the confinement of all residents to their homes under the threat of death), cutting off electricity and shutting off the water supply.

Of course, these steps were taken only in the first stage of the collective punishment, which lasted for days or weeks, sometimes even months, pushing some refugee camps to the point of starvation.

Since there was little the refugees could do to challenge the authority of a well-equipped army, they invested whatever meager resources or time they had to plot their survival.

Thus, the obsession over water -- because once the water supply ran out, there was nothing to be done; except, of course, that of Salat Al-Istisqa or the "Prayer for Rain" that devout Muslims invoke during times of drought. The elders in the camp insist that it actually works, and reference miraculous stories from the past where this special prayer even yielded results during summer time, when rain was least expected.

In fact, more Palestinians have been conducting their prayer for rain since 1967 than at any other time. In that year, almost exactly 49 years ago, Israel occupied the two remaining regions of historic Palestine: the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. And throughout those years, Israel has resorted to a protracted policy of collective punishment: limiting all kinds of freedom, and using the denial of water as a weapon.

Indeed, water was used as a weapon to subdue rebelling Palestinians during many stages of their struggle. In fact, this history goes back to the war of 1948, when Zionist militias cut off the water supply to scores of Palestinian villages around Jerusalem to facilitate the ethnic cleansing of that region.

During the Nakba (or Catastrophe) of 1948, whenever a village or a town was conquered, the militias would immediately demolish its wells to prevent the inhabitants from returning. Illegal Jewish settlers still utilize this tactic to this day.

The Israeli military, too, continued to use this strategy, most notably in the first and second uprisings. In the Second Intifada, Israeli airplanes shelled the water supply of whichever village or refugee camp they planned to invade and subdue. During the Jenin Refugee Camp invasion and massacre of April 2002, the water supply for the camp was blown up before the soldiers moved into the camp from all directions, killing and wounding hundreds.

Gaza remains the most extreme example of water-related collective punishment, to date. Not only the water supply is targeted duringwar, but electric generators, which are used to purify the water, are often blown up from the sky. And until the decade-long siege is over, there is little hope to permanently repair either of these.

It is now common knowledge that the Oslo Accord was a political disaster for Palestinians; less known, however, is how Oslo facilitated the ongoing inequality under way in the West Bank.

The so-called Oslo II, or the Israel-Palestinian Interim Agreement of 1995, made Gaza a separate water sector from the West Bank, thus leaving the Strip to develop its own water sources located within its boundaries. With the siege and recurring wars, Gaza's aquifers produce anywhere between 5-10 percent of "drinking-quality water." According to ANERA, 90 percent of Gaza water (is) unfit forhuman consumption.

Therefore, most Gazans subsist on sewage-polluted or untreated water. But the West Bank should -- at least theoretically -- enjoy greater access to water than Gaza. Yet, this is hardly the case.

The West Bank's largest water source is the Mountain Aquifer, which includes several basins: Northern, Western and Eastern. West Bankers' access to these basins is restricted by Israel, which also denies them access to water from the Jordan River and to the Coastal Aquifer. Oslo II, which was meant to be a temporary arrangement until a final status negotiations are concluded, enshrined the existing inequality by giving Palestinians less than a fifth of the amount of water enjoyed by Israel.

But even that prejudicial agreement has not been respected, partly because a joint committee to resolve water issues gives Israel veto power over Palestinian demands. Practically, this translates to 100 percent of all Israeli water projects receiving the go-ahead, including those in the illegal settlements, while nearly half of Palestinian needs are rejected.

Presently, according to Oxfam, Israel controls 80 percent of Palestinian water resources. "The 520,000 Israeli settlers use approximately six times the amount of water more than that used by the 2.6 million Palestinians in the West Bank."

The reasoning behind this is quite straightforward, according to Stephanie Westbrook, writing in Israel's +972 Magazine. "The company pumping the water out is 'Mekorot', Israel's national water company. 'Mekorot' not only operates more than 40 wells in the West Bank, appropriating Palestinian water resources, Israel also effectively controls the valves, deciding who gets water and who does not."

"It should be no surprise that priority is given to Israeli settlements while service to Palestinian towns is routinely reduced or cut off," asis the case at the moment.

The unfairness of it all is inescapable. Yet, for nearly five decades, Israel has been employing the same policies against Palestinians without much censure or meaningful action from the international community.

With current summer temperature in the West Bank reaching 38 degrees Celsius, entire families are reportedly living on as little as 2-3 liters per capita, per day. The problem is reaching catastrophic proportions. This time, the tragedy cannot be brushed aside, for the lives and well-being of entire communities are at stake.

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Speakout Mon, 27 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Family of Slain Chilean Folk Singer Victor Jara Finally Get Their Date in US Court http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36579-family-of-slain-chilean-folk-singer-victor-jara-finally-get-their-date-in-us-court http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36579-family-of-slain-chilean-folk-singer-victor-jara-finally-get-their-date-in-us-court

New details about the brutal murder of Victor Jara in the days following the September 11, 1973, military coup in Chile are finally emerging in a court of law. Pedro Barrientos Nuñez, a former army lieutenant under Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, stands accused of torturing and killings the legendary communist folk singer at Estadio Chile on September 16, 1973. The civil trial began on June 13 and is taking place in Orlando, Florida, not Santiago, Chile. But the proceedings mark an important first step in bringing the Chilean army official to account for Jara's murder.

New details about the brutal murder of Victor Jara in the days following the September 11, 1973, military coup in Chile are finally emerging in a court of law. Pedro Barrientos Nuñez, a former army lieutenant under Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, stands accused of torturing and killings the legendary communist folk singer at Estadio Chile on September 16, 1973. The civil trial began on June 13 and is taking place in Orlando, Florida, not Santiago, Chile. But the proceedings mark an important first step in bringing the Chilean army official to account for Jara's murder.

The effort is being led by Joan Jara, Victor's 88-year-old widow, and her daughters Manuela Bunster and Amanda Jara Turner. The San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) helped the Jara family file the civil suit under Alien Tort Statute and Torture Victim Protection Act. "The pursuit for justice and accountability for the torture and murder of Victor Jara has been 43 years in the making," CJA Executive Director Dixson Osburn tells Truthout. "Joan Jara and her children have been relentless in trying to identify those responsible for his murder."

A folk singer of the people, Jara's music became instrumental to the presidential election Salvador Allende, a socialist, in 1970. For his outspokenness, Jara became targeted for torture and murder in the U.S.-backed coup that toppled Allende's democratically elected government. An investigative report by Chilevisión asked "Quien Mató a Víctor Jara? (Who Killed Víctor Jara?)" decades later in May 2012. It featured an interview with a former conscript who accused Barrientos of being the trigger man. Later that year, a Chilean court indicted Barrientos alongside seven other ex-military officials wanted in connection with Jara's torture and murder.

The ex-lieutenant has made his home in Deltona, Florida, since the 1989 and is now a US citizen. Chile formally asked the United States for the extradition of Barrientos, but the request hasn't been acted on. In the meantime, the civil trial started on June 13 when the plaintiffs presented their case against Barrientos. "One of the reasons this case is so important beyond having justice for the family is that the murder of Victor Jara was one of the most emblematic murders under the Pinochet regime because Victor was such a revered icon in Chile," says Osburn. "Trying to piece some kind of truth of what happened to him in the first few days of the coup at Chile Stadium is vitally important."

Jose Santiago Navarette Barra, a former conscript, stated in a taped testimony that he overheard his superior bragging about killing Jara with his Luger pistol numerous times while working at a mess hall in Arica, Chile. The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported on Navarette's testimony, as it painted a portrait of Barrientos with a deep hatred of Jara and the political ideals he held. On one occasion, a soldier solely named "Rojas" hummed the tune of Jara's "El Cigarrito," a poetic song not political in nature. Barrientos is said to have become so enraged that he beat and tortured "Rojas" to death. Other testimonies by former conscripts place Barrientos at Estadio Chile during the time of Jara's death, noting that he played a key role in operations.

Dennis Navia Perez testified about what he saw happen to Jara at Estadio Chile. He worked at the same university that Jara did on the day of the coup when both got hauled away by the military. The famed folk singer rid himself of his identity card but was recognized. That's when the beatings began. The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that an officer taunted Jara, standing on the guitarist's hand with one foot while stomping his wrists with the other.

Navia, now an attorney, also testified that he gave Jara a pencil and notebook on the morning of September 15, 1973. The singer penned a poem before officers came to beat him again. Jara tossed the notebook in the air and Navia retrieved it. Two hours later, Navia was being transferred to another site when he saw Jara again, only atop a pile of other dead bodies. Soldiers found the poem Jara penned in Navia's possession and tortured him because of it. A version survived and became known as "Somos Cinco Mil," Jara's dramatic last testament.

The defense took its turn in presenting its case last week for Barrientos. Before that, a deposition Barrientos gave was presented to the six-person jury by the plaintiffs. In it, Barrientos claims that he hadn't heard of Victor Jara until 2009, and was similarly unaware of any torture happening at Estadio Chile. Barrientos took the stand in his own defense.

The law firm representing Barrientos didn't return Truthout's request for comment on the trial.

The legacy of Victor Jara spans the globe influencing generations. Arlo Guthrie, the folk singer son of Woody Guthrie, shared a statement of support with CJA. "Victor Jara was the friend and brother I never had the chance to meet," Guthrie states. "He was and remains an inspiration to continue the fight against injustice wherever and whoever profits from the politics of fear." Musicians are paying close attention to the trial of his accused killer and are helping to raise awareness. "I grew up with parents that played Chilean folkloric music. I've been hearing that music all my life," Maria del Pilar, a Chilean-born, California-based musician, tells Truthout. She's inspired by Joan Jara and her fight for justice. "Look at the endurance of this woman; she hasn't given up!"

It's unclear how the verdict could impact the US honoring the extradition request Chile has for Barrientos. But lawyers in the civil case are trying to establish that he was, indeed, the gunman or at the very least aided and abetted Jara's torture and murder. "This is the first trial that is looking at evidence of responsibility for the murder of Victor Jara," Osburn says. "We think we are presenting very compelling evidence that Barrientos was responsible for the torture and murder of Victor Jara." With the trial now in the hands of a deliberating jury, a verdict is expected early this week.

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Speakout Fri, 24 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0400