Peace & Justice News is a collection of news items collected by Bloomington Alternative contributor Linda Greene. Today's edition includes:
- 2012 likely to be journalists’ deadliest year so far
- Protestors charged with third-degree riot for defending house from foreclosure
- Aid for Haitian earthquake victims goes to build hotels
- Facts about inequality in the U.S.
- Community-labor alliance spurs unionization effort
- War Resister confined to sanctuary of Canadian church
- Military recruiting troops through motorsports marketing
- Texas Wal-Mart becomes nation’s largest single-story library
- Chinese Apple workers undergoing superexploitation
- Torture in CIA 'black site' secret prison in Poland
Read the Peace & Justice News archive on The Bloomington Alternative.
2012 likely to be journalists’ deadliest year so far
Seventy-two journalists have been killed this year as of June 29, making 2012 “on pace to be the deadliest on record” for journalists, according to a June 29 Columbia Journalism Review article.
“From Somalia to Syria, the Philippines to Mexico, and Iraq to Pakistan, reporters are being brutally targeted for death in unparalleled numbers,” said Alison Bethel McKenzie, IPI’s executive director, addressing attendees at the organization’s annual conference recently.
So far this year, 20 professional and citizen reporters, both local and foreign, have been killed in Syria.
Near the end of June, the Associated Press reported, gunmen attacked a pro-government TV station near Damascus, killing three journalists and four others.
“At the group’s conference this week, special envoys from the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Organization of American States, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights issued a joint declaration calling for international mechanisms to address crimes against freedom of expression,” the post says.
Protestors charged with third-degree riot for defending house from foreclosure
For months the home of Alejandra and David Cruz in Minneapolis has been facing foreclosure and has been the subject of a campaign of resistance led by Occupy Homes MN, according to a June 30 Fight Back! News article.
Of the dozens of protesters arrested while defending the house from foreclosure, three are now being charged retroactively with third-degree riot, obstructing the legal process, disorderly conduct and presence at an unlawful assembly, in addition to the original trespass charge.
The riot charge can carry a penalty of a year in jail and a $3,000 fine.
On May 30, police arrested protesters, including occupiers, and attempted to evict the Cruz family in the name of PNC Bank, which owns the home mortgage. Occupy Homes MN organized hundreds to occupy and defend the Cruz house and pressured PNC Bank nationally, demanding that it negotiate so the Cruz family could continue to live in the house.
Mass civil disobedience repeatedly prevented the police from evicting the occupiers, but law enforcement finally evicted them and locked down the house. More mass civil disobedience on June 21 saw 13 more demonstrators arrested, including hip-hop artist Brother Ali.
According to a statement from Occupy Homes MN, “These charges are a clear and disgraceful attempt to suppress the Occupy Homes movement and ‘make an example’ of anti-foreclosure organizers who were arrested while non-violently protesting an unjust eviction. City Attorney Susan Segal, appointed by Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, has also made it a point to aggressively prosecute other political defendants, including a group arrested while protesting US Bank’s foreclosure practices last fall. … This attempt to silence and stifle anti-foreclosure organizing will not deter us from fighting for our homes, our families, our neighbors and our futures.”
Aid for Haitian earthquake victims goes to build hotels
While some 500,000 Haitians still live in camps for the displaced after the January 2010 earthquake, five-star hotels are springing up in shanty towns, according to a June 28 Global Research article.
Though Haiti is supposedly under reconstruction after the earthquake, the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund recently invested $2 million to build the Royal Oasis Hotel, for “rich foreigners” and foreign NGO “aid workers,” in a poverty-stricken urban area. The funds were intended for the neediest Haitians.
“[P]eople in the US, Canada and the EU, who made donations to those humanitarian organisations and NGOs did not realize that their contribution to Haiti's reconstruction would be channeled toward the building of five star hotels to house foreign businessmen,” the post says. "Their expectation was that the money would be used to provide food and housing for the Haitian people."
Totaling more than $100 million, the Royal Oasis and similar hotel projects are “raising hopes that thousands of [foreign] investors will soon fill their air-conditioned rooms looking to build factories and tourist infrastructure,” according to an April 29 Associated Press article.
A 10-story building, the Royal Oasis will contain an art gallery, restaurants, banks and expensive shops and is slated for opening by the end of this year.
“The earthquake was therefore a blessing for the hotel promoter and contractors, bringing $2 million dollars originally raised” for the direct provision of food, water, shelter and first-aid supplies, says the post.
Of the companies constructing the Royal Oasis, two are Haitian, one is Canadian and one American, according to the post.
Facts about inequality in the U.S.
Five facts about inequality in the U.S. stand out from among the many, DePaul University professor Paul Buchheit wrote in a July 2 CounterPunch article:
- “U.S. companies in total pay a smaller percentage of taxes than the lowest-income 20 percent of Americans.” Total corporate profits in 2011 were $1.97 trillion, and corporations paid 11 percent of that amount in taxes. Meanwhile, the poorest 20 percent of Americans pay 17.4 percent in taxes.
- “The high-profit, tax-avoiding tech industry was built on publicly funded research. The technology sector has been more dependent on government research and development than any other industry. The U.S. government provided about half of the funding for basic research in technology and communications well into the 1980s. Even today, federal grants support about 60 percent of research performed at universities.”
- “The sales tax on a quadrillion dollars of financial sales is ZERO." In 2008, the Bank for International Settlements reported that total annual derivatives trades were $1.14 quadrillion. “A quadrillion dollars is the entire world economy, 12 times over. It’s enough to give 3 million dollars to every person in the United States."
- “Many Americans get just a penny on the dollar. For every dollar the richest .1 percent earned in 1980, they’ve added three more dollars. The poorest 90 percent have added one cent.”
- “Our society allows one man or one family to possess enough money to feed every hungry person on earth." According to a UN estimate, $30 billion can eradicate global hunger. The personal wealth of some people is greater than that.
Community-labor alliance spurs unionization effort
Workers at the Golden Farm grocery store in Brooklyn work more than 70 hours a week, earn only $400 for their efforts and receive no sick leave or other benefits, according to a June 29 Indypendent article.
The workers are attempting to form a union and are receiving support from the community, members of which have been handing out fliers saying that they want “quality jobs” in their neighborhood and “justice for all workers.”
April saw an increase in community support with a week of action co-organized with NY Communities for Change. That week ended with a 24-hour boycott of the store that cost it to lose 60-70 percent of its business.
“For many of us, workers and community members alike,” the post says, “this campaign has transcended the class boundaries that often divide us, and suggests a way of relating and working together that helps break down those boundaries. At a recent meeting one worker thanked supporters for simply saying hello to him as they walk by the store, noting that before this campaign he often felt invisible.”
War Resister confined to sanctuary of Canadian church
Since Sep. 18, 2009, war resister Rodney Watson has been living in the sanctuary of United Church in Vancouver, according to a July 8 email from Courage to Resist.
Watson has visits from his wife and 4-year-old son only on weekends. If he leaves the church, he risks deportation to the U.S. and to a military prison.
Watson joined the army in 2004 under a three-year contract. When his tour of duty in Iraq was finished, the Army informed him it was extending his tour of duty. Rather than remain in the Army and face redeployment to Iraq and participation in the war, which he judged to be illegal and immoral, Watson deserted and sought refuge in Canada.
Watson has had no change in his legal status for a long time. Soon his lawyer will resubmit an application for asylum on humanitarian and compassionate grounds so he can remain in Canada and be reunited permanently with his family.
The email quotes Watson as saying, “Any conscientious objector to the Iraq war should not be punished because our leader, George Bush, himself went AWOL. No Iraq war Veteran should be punished for waking up and going AWOL after George W. Bush went AWOL from the National Guard and then later led us into a war based on lies about weapons of mass destruction. He should be locked up and not any of us awakened veterans from that Iraq war. The war criminals are free while I’m sitting in sanctuary in a church not able to go out in public. Thousands more [war resisters] are underground in the states who had disagreement with that war. It doesn’t make any sense to be punished for your conscience. I’m not a pacifist but the Iraq war was an unnecessary aggression and it was for natural resources and based on lies.”
Watson needs help paying for his food and phone expenses. You can donate here.
Military recruiting troops through motorsports marketing
The Army claims that one-third of its recruits come from motorsports marketing, which includes recruiting stations at the racetracks, according to a July 10 RootsAction email.
Though a bipartisan committee has passed a measure that would halt the spending of $80 million for military sports sponsorships, mainly auto racing, House Armed Services Committee Chair Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) wants to restore the funding.
The email urges supporters to “tell Congress that the money aimed at associating the war machine with exciting sporting events is an excellent place to start cutting” the bloated military budget, according to a Roots Action article.
Recently, the Army announced that it won’t sponsor NASCAR next year, but the National Guard is a much larger funder than the Army. Congress, the email argues, should ban all military sports sponsorships.
The $80 million is a drop in the bucket as compared to the trillion per year of military spending, but the number of recruits it's used to attract is significant.
Texas Wal-Mart becomes nation’s largest single-story library
Once a Wal-Mart, the McAllen public library, McAllen, Texas, just won the International Interior Design Association’s 2012 Library Interior Design Competition, according to a July 5 Government Technology article. The 124,500-square-foot building was renovated after Wal-Mart abandoned the building.
“McAllen’s old main library opened in 1950 and only had a third of the floor space of the new location even though it had three floors. The extra room at the Wal-Mart location has allowed the city to more than double the number of computers available to the public. Other new amenities include: a teen area, cafe, auditorium, quiet reading room, self-checkout units, art gallery, electronic classrooms, meeting rooms with audiovisual services, an expanded children's area, used bookstore and an automated materials handling system.”
The library’s grand opening occurred in December, and within the first month, the number of new users grew 23 percent.
“This is an investment in the future,” the post quoted McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez. “Everyone knows that a society is empowered through knowledge and education. We’re hoping that the community, especially the children will take advantage and further their education.”
Chinese Apple workers undergoing superexploitation
In China, six days a week, 12-plus hours a day, young girls repetitively swipe tens of thousands of iPhones. They inhale chemicals that are never disclosed. For their labor, they make less than $17 a day, are forced to work unpaid overtime, and, when supervisors want to punish them, they are humiliated and forced to clean toilets, according to an email from demandprogress.org.
Last year, Apple paid its CEO, Tim Cook, $378 million. That’s more than $1 million a day, almost 60,000 times the salary of people in China making Apple products.
“Apple is under enormous, sustained pressure to reform its supply chain in the run-up to its new iPhone” the email says.
“It even hired the Fair Labor Association to inspect its factories, and publicly vowed to reform. But an independent investigation by Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior found that, for many workers things are actually getting worse.”
Apple is the world’s wealthiest company, with a 45.7 percent gross profit margin for the last quarter.
Click here to send a message to Apple to start treating its workers justly.
Torture in CIA 'black site' secret prison in Poland
Information is surfacing about a secret U.S. detention center in an obscure corner of Poland where Al Qaeda suspects were interrogated and probably tortured, according to a June 21 War Criminals Watch article.
A Polish prosecutors’ investigation “centers on a Polish military garrison that allegedly hosted a CIA ‘black site’ where foreign detainees were subjected to internationally condemned interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, during 2002 and 2003,” says the post. “The suspects — including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-professed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks — had either been arrested or snatched under the United States' ‘extraordinary rendition’ program and questioned abroad to avoid American legal standards for interrogations, prosecutors say.”
Poland isn’t the only country that granted tacit permission to the U.S. to operate black sites within its borders. Romania, Lithuania and countries in North Africa and Asia are also suspected of harboring such sites.
Poland is the only European country that’s launched an investigation into black sites within its borders.
"The reputation of Poland is at stake," Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski said in March, according to the post. "Certainly this is a sensitive and touchy issue, and possibly painful for the Polish state, but it is the task of the legal apparatus to clarify this."
Linda Greene can be reached at email@example.com.