Attack intensifies against Detroit retirees

first_imgRetirees protest cuts, April 1.WW photo: Kris HamelApril 26 — The attack on retired city of Detroit workers’ pensions intensifies. Ever since the filing for bankruptcy by Detroit’s emergency manager last summer, it has been clear that the real plan was to use the large pension funds to pay off the banks that hold the largest part of the city debt.In an October ruling, federal Bankruptcy Court Judge Steven Rhodes decided that pension funds were fair game, even though the Michigan state Constitution clearly protects public pensions. Rhodes held that federal bankruptcy law superseded the state constitution.Last November, representatives of the emergency manager testified that they wanted to slash pensions by 84 percent. A “Plan of Adjustment” filed with the court in March detailed cuts to pensions of 34 percent across the board for nonuniformed retirees and 14 percent for police and firefighter pensioners. Cuts had already been made to all medical coverage for those not receiving Medicare; dental and vision protection plans were ended. Cost of living increases to pensions were stopped. These had added 2.25 percent per year.Outside the federal courthouse, retirees and their supporters have marched and rallied month after month. In one of the biggest actions, hundreds blocked the street on April 1, marching and blasting speeches over loudspeakers for several hours, demanding “Hands off our pensions!” and “Make the banks pay!”A brief glimmer of hope for retirees appeared as the media spread a new proposal to limit cuts to only 4.5 percent. But retirees soon learned that the city intends to go after $239 million of their nest eggs through additional reductions taken from thousands of retirees who put money each week into an annuity fund run by the pension boards.The media, continuing to serve the interests of the Wall Street bankers, have tried to make it seem that something shady or illegal had been done — claiming that “excess interest” was paid to those investing into the annuity fund. The fund was considered generous, paying a minimum of 7.9 percent interest per year — and more if the pension fund did well during boom years — but it operated openly and along well-established accounting principles. Not being a profit-making enterprise, the pension boards paid out extra funds when they could, in good years. Yet the pension funds remained some of the best run and well funded in the U.S.Anger great among activist retireesIf workers had not invested in the city-run annuity program, it is likely that they would have chosen some other annuity plan among the many that cater to workers. Now, the emergency manager wants to take back hundreds of millions of dollars paid out to workers from 2003 to 2013.In a serious setback, the pension boards and the official Committee of Retirees (nine members appointed by the bankruptcy court) have apparently agreed to this new plan. First reports were that some retirees would lose their entire pensions in this “claw back.” Later reports state that the maximum cut will be capped at 20 percent (4.5 percent across the board and 15.5 percent maximum annuity recovery). It is hard to believe that officials sworn to protect pensioners, many of them seasoned unionists, would announce an agreement without having every “i” dotted and “t” crossed, as in any contract negotiation. Retirees currently have no idea how much this will cost them.Anger is great among activist retirees who have been protesting these past months. Some have gathered funds and are airing “Vote No!” radio ads prior to the distribution of ballots to all retirees and survivors of retirees. Many are especially upset over the requirement in the agreement that all appeals on the constitutional issues be dropped.Organizing by the “Stop Theft of Our Pensions Committee,” a rank-and-file group, along with other organizations, is in high gear for a series of May 1 rallies and marches to denounce the cuts and other attacks on the working class of ­Detroit.Crisis manufactured to go after pensionsWhile the emergency manager is eager to go after annuity funds that he has labelled excessive, he refuses to consider going after $300 million paid out to Bank of America and the United Bank of Switzerland. These bankers were responsible for illegal “bond swap” practices that contributed to the financial crisis in Detroit. Instead, with Judge Rhodes’ approval, Detroiters will now pay an additional $85 million to these two criminal banks.Another $500 million was paid out by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department two years ago to settle another crooked bond swap deal, yet no officials even mention making an attempt to recover those funds. Nor is there any discussion in the court of going after hundreds of millions of dollars owed by the state of Michigan to Detroit in revenue-sharing funds never paid to the city. Tens of millions owed by banks on foreclosed properties have also never been pursued.Many retirees have asked how it was possible to go from threatening to take 84 percent, to 34 percent, and now 4.5 percent. If that is the case, then perhaps they don’t need to take any money from retirees at all!Part of the reduction is reported to have come from a “recalculation” of the expected return from pension fund investments over the next decades. While no one can accurately predict that figure, the emergency manager based his initial calculations on a figure of 6.25 percent. Now he is using a figure of 6.75 percent. This small change wipes out much of the deficit. But the same firm that advised Detroit’s emergency manager also estimated that Florida’s state pension fund could safely assume an 8 percent rate of return. The conclusion is inescapable that the entire Detroit bankruptcy was manufactured, probably for the goal of looting the pension funds.By getting the retiree associations to drop their lawsuits, the Wall Street sharks hope to set a precedent for the whole country that pension funds are up for grabs.Detroit workers continue to fight under the slogan “Hands off my pension,” demanding that it should be the banks that pay for their own crisis. Plans have been announced for a July 24 national demonstration in Detroit at the start of the final trial on the bankruptcy.Sole is a retired city of Detroit employee and past president of ­SCATA-United Auto Workers Local 2334 at the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. He is a founder of the “Stop Theft of Our Pensions Committee” and a legal party of interest in the Detroit municipal bankruptcy.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

The DNC and big money

first_imgFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare this July 26 — The Democratic National Convention has barely begun, and it is already quite clear that a large number of people who had hoped that the Sanders campaign would push the Democratic Party to the left and give people a chance to vote in November for real change are not just disillusioned, they are hopping mad.They should be.The familiar stench of capitalist politics drifts over the convention. The commands of big money are being carried out behind the scenes through an opaque alchemy brewed by a tightly controlled political machine.The Democratic Party, especially since the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt, has posed as the party of the people, in contrast to the Republicans. A skeptic might point out that Roosevelt himself was the scion of a rich and powerful political family, and only did what he thought was necessary to placate the masses and save the system in a time of capitalist breakdown and rising class struggle. Yet the popular image of the party remains.And so it is that the convention, which has so many working-class delegates, a good number of them union activists, people of color and immigrants, and caucuses of LGBTQ people as well as artists and writers with a progressive outlook on social themes, has already, for the most part, been whipped into line to support Hillary Clinton as the party’s nominee. But not without the biggest struggle in many, many years, with those in the Sanders camp feeling the nomination was stolen from him.Clinton is the first woman to be nominated for president by either of the two big U.S. capitalist parties. That’s how backward this country is politically and socially. Since 1918, many women have actually served as heads of state in other countries around the world — lists 175 of them! Finally, it could happen here. But Clinton is a woman who is trusted by the big money men not to depart from the rules they have imposed on Washington.Rule number one: She must accept the dictates of the warmongers and send U.S. troops around the world whenever the U.S. transnational corporations and banks demand it to advance their far-flung profit interests. She as well as all the preceding Democratic Party presidents, including Barack Obama, have understood this and have never used their powers to refuse the generals, even making war without getting a declaration of war from Congress — a clear violation of the Constitution.The flap over Clinton’s emails and Benghazi just underscores the fact that, as secretary of state, she was in the middle of that completely illegal assault on the sovereign state of Libya, which has since been ripped apart by mercenaries serving competing oil cliques.Rule number two: She must maintain the status quo of rule by the super-rich while trying to placate the masses with minor reforms. This has been standard operating procedure for Democratic administrations, like those of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.Bill Clinton especially promised improvements for the masses of Black people and cultivated an image to go with his promises. But in reality he consciously destroyed welfare, the last resort for poor women of color with children, and supported legislation that led to the highest level of mass incarceration in the world — with a disproportionately high percentage of Black people behind bars. Meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor is greater than it has ever been.One thing the elections have shown, even at this early stage, is that a large section of the population is fed up with the status quo and looking to change things. The Sanders movement appealed to workers and low-income youths based on their class interests.The Trump campaign is stirring up fear and anger to reinforce racism and xenophobia. Trump and his ilk want to turn them against anyone but the super-rich, who really run the show and are the cause of rising economic insecurity.The capitalist system is in a growing crisis, as technology displaces workers and thereby undercuts the very market they need to realize their profits. And the bosses always try to solve their problems on the backs of the workers.The argument is already being made strenuously by the Democrats to support Clinton because the alternative, Trump, would be unthinkable. But it is a false argument. Yes, Trump is an openly racist agitator in comparison with Clinton, but voting for the Democrats will neither stop the racist police violence nor advance the struggle for urgently needed social change. That has to happen in the streets, in the workplaces, everywhere that the masses of people can be engaged to fight in their own defense against the exploiters and the masters of war.The best outcome at the present time is that the Sanders movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, the low-wage worker movement, the LGBTQ movement, the reproductive justice movement, the movements against deportations and mass incarceration — all retain their independence from both capitalist parties, stay in the streets and collaborate to unite and fight this racist, oppressive, exploitive and dangerously unstable system.last_img read more

Student occupation says ‘all walls must go!’

first_imgStudents all over New York City walked out in protest Feb. 7.New York – Demanding “This place is sanctuary!” three students were lead organizers of the Jan. 30 occupation at the New School. One of their many chants was “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have to go!” With 100 other students and supportive faculty, a “mic check” was called.Sage demanded that New School President David Van Zandt declare the college a sanctuary for undocumented students, and that the school offer these students legal and financial aid. She asserted that “Trump’s executive orders are not the final word! No human is illegal!”A Palestinian student spoke of her family’s persecution and the denial of their rights. Other speakers mentioned the increased attacks on students since Trump’s inauguration. A speaker affirmed that students are refusing the registration of immigrants “by any means necessary!”After the militant rally, these New School leaders continued their protest with an unpermitted march to a nearby park. There they met with students from at least four other campuses for an outdoor rally, where the crowd chanted, “No hate! No fear! Immigrants are welcome here!”FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

In Chicago, ‘Healthcare = Life’

first_imgChicago, June 27 — “Don’t Kill Us: Healthcare = Life!” Chicagoans, including dozens of differently abled people, participated in a vigil this evening to demand an end to the assault on health care being crafted by Congress. Speakers bore witness to the vast suffering already being inflicted by the current system, explained that pending proposals to cut back Medicaid would result in thousands of unnecessary deaths and demanded Medicare for all.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img

Hondurans fill streets, resist electoral fraud

first_imgDec. 4 — Amid substantial allegations of mass electoral fraud, the Honduran government is moving to impose the dictatorship of Juan Orlando Hernández on the people for another four years, using its U.S.-backed Honduran military forces.Tens of thousands of people defied the army-police takeover of the capital of Tegucigalpa in a mass march and rally. People around the country are erecting roadblocks and flaming barricades, blocking toll booths and occupying strategic bridges in the port city of La Ceiba.Salvador Nasralla Salum, candidate of the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship (the Alianza), called for a general strike on Dec. 5 and called on “all members of the armed forces to revolt against your bosses. You all over there, you shouldn’t be there, you should be part of the people.” (CBC News, Dec. 4)Washington and Honduras’ wealthy oligarchs back the current president and right-wing National Party candidate Hernández, referred to as JOH. Washington, under President Barack Obama and now under Donald Trump, has given tens of millions of dollars to the heavily militarized Honduran state.Soon after the Nov. 26 election, Nasralla appeared to be the clear winner.Nasralla led by 5 pointsThe Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) announced that, with 57 percent of the ballots counted, Nasralla had 45.7 percent of the vote, with 40.2 percent to Hernández and the rest to other candidates. Records of the Alianza, which had its own poll workers at every polling place, also show Nasralla winning by 5 percentage points.Yet, after some suspicious technical problems lasting as long as 10 hours, only after four days did the TSE claim that, as the rural votes were tallied, JOH retook a tiny lead. JOH had appointed all TSE members. The Alianza refuses to accept the TSE’s offer to recount only around 1,000 ballot boxes.In 2013, the TSE declared Hernández the victor over Xiomara Castro Zelaya, candidate of the LIBRE (Liberty and Refoundation) Party.International human rights observers, including this writer, witnessed and heard firsthand testimony of widespread fraud, voter obstruction, bribery of the extremely poor and intimidation that included physical assaults and assassinations of LIBRE candidates and campaign workers.Xiomara Castro Zelaya is the spouse of former President Mel Zelaya, who was ousted in a 2009 U.S.-backed coup. The people resisted the 2009 coup and took to the streets en masse after the 2013 stolen election.Under JOH’s rule, the Honduran police and army increased their repression over that of the illegitimate coup regime of 2009-13. Rights activists, Indigenous communities, Afro-Hondurans, women, teachers, journalists, LGBT people, children and youth, and trade unionists have been terrorized and murdered by police, military and right-wing paramilitaries. Murders included those of environmental activist Berta Cáceres and human-rights leader Margarita Murillo.This year, the people again challenged the dictatorship. Formed earlier this year, the Alianza consists of three opposition parties: LIBRE, the Anti-Corruption Party and the Party of Innovation and Unity.Nasralla was the presidential candidate of the Anti-Corruption Party in 2013. Xiomara Zelaya was his running mate this time. The Alianza is essentially a center-left bloc against the dictatorship.‘¡Fuera JOH!’Protests demanding “¡Fuera JOH!” (JOH out!) have rocked the country since this repeat of the 2013 stolen election.JOH’s regime responded by suspending the Constitution for 10 days, imposing a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and threatening to enforce an “anti-terrorism” law that could impose a 6- to 12-year prison sentence for protesting. It allows prosecutors to charge journalists for incitement to “psychological terrorism.”Police and the military have fired on protesters with water cannons and paint guns — using the paint to later identify demonstrators. Scores have been wounded and detained. Government forces have reportedly killed at least eight people.Told that the TSE forwarded its records on the election to the U.S. Embassy, Juan Barahona, coordinator of the National Front of Popular Resistance, said: “Yes, I do understand why. … It’s because we are a country dependent on the [U.S.] American Empire.”Barahona said the U.S. interest in Honduras involved its central location in the Americas. Over decades, the Pentagon has launched military interventions against Cuba, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. With the Pentagon’s sights trained on Venezuela, Palmerola Air Base in Honduras is the military facility with the longest airplane runway in Central America.The Dole and Chiquita agribusiness monopolies have huge plantations in Honduras. Honduran company Dinant, whose shareholders include major world finance capitalists, is a big producer of African palm oil.Since the 2009 coup, the reactionary regimes have handed over large tracts of land and waterways to foreign mining interests, areas formerly held communally by Afrodescendente and Indigenous communities.On Nov. 29, the Platform of Social and Popular Movements of Honduras (PMSPH) issued a five-point communique declaring its “absolute and categorical rejection of the fraudulent electoral process that legitimizes the continuity of the model of repression and death, directed by Juan Orlando Hernández.”The platform called for “a permanent mobilization” of the people, exhorted communities to organize their own protection from the military, held the JOH government responsible for human rights violations and charged the U.S. government and its servants such as the Organization of American States with complicity. The communique concluded with a call for international solidarity.Solidarity is growing. The Venezuelan government has unequivocally condemned the electoral coup. Within the U.S., organizations around the country have signed a letter of protest circulated by the Honduras Solidarity Network and held protest demonstrations. Parties of the revolutionary left in the Dominican Republic came together to issue a joint statement demanding “sovereignty, democracy and justice for Honduras.”Grevatt was a member of the International Action Center observer delegation to Honduras during the 2013 stolen election.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Conference strategizes tearing down statues, walls

first_imgDurham, N.C. — Energized by the fall of the Silent Sam statue in neighboring Chapel Hill, N.C., just days before, activists and community members representing a wide spectrum of progressive interests gathered on Aug. 25 at the historic Hayti Heritage Center in Durham, N.C., for “How to Topple a Statue, How to Tear Down a Wall,” a conference and celebration marking one year since one of Durham’s own Confederate monuments was brought to the ground.Planned by the group Defend Durham, the conference brought together anti-racist organizers, religious leaders, student activists and anti-capitalist advocates from groups like Stop Killing Us, Comité de Acción Popular, Fight for Im/migrants and Refugees Everywhere (FIRE), Charlottesville Standing Up For Racial Justice, Duke University’s Graduate Student Union, Workers World Party, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the Green Party and others to assess the state of the movement one year after horrific right-wing violence in Charlottesville, Va., prompted freedom fighters locally and nationally to intensify the struggle against racism — both symbolically and materially.“I’m glad that our action has made people open their eyes and interrogate the seemingly natural order of everyday life,” said Takiyah Thompson, a Workers World member who became a national symbol of resistance when she climbed a ladder and tied the rope that brought down Durham’s statue. “When we see these monuments to white supremacy, we have to understand that they exist as an attempt to humiliate and dehumanize all who are nonwhite. But if you want a truly humanizing experience, there’s nothing quite like physically destroying an altar of your oppressor.”Panels covered a multitude of topics, including im/migrant rights, capitalism’s inextricable links to racism, the state of University of North Carolina student activism and the need to build political power outside the traditional U.S. two-party system. But in light of the churning controversy over Silent Sam — a small pro-Confederate rally and much larger counterdemonstration were taking place simultaneously over in Chapel Hill — the monument issue was never far from the microphone.“My heart cries out to all of our oppressed ancestry who had to endure the racism, the rape, the murder, the nonstop killings,” said the Rev. Curtis Gatewood of Stop Killing Us, a Durham advocacy group seeking police accountability, calling the continued presence of Confederate monuments a “slap in the face.” In a breakout session, Gatewood stressed the importance of pushing for immediate reforms, such as stronger measures ensuring that police do not violate the constitutional rights of Black and Latinx people, while simultaneously combating underlying structural issues.“The solution is not just having better police,” he said. “Everything we do has to be based upon our desire to fight institutional racism. … I don’t care how much diversity training you get, if you’re a racist white supremacist with a badge you’re going to murder Black people.”While speakers addressed several topics of national importance, some discussions were more locally focused. The Rev. John Gumbo of Durham’s Shepherd’s House United Methodist Church, which serves a largely im/migrant population, discussed the difficulties his church is experiencing in a rapidly gentrifying city. After being gifted use of his building 10 years ago by another Methodist church, the predominantly white North Carolina Council of Churches is attempting to purchase the property, leaving Gumbo to fear that Shepherd’s House’s future is in danger. “Come and join us into the ministry, but don’t overtake everything [and] leave us with no place we can call home,” he said.Other speakers raised issues of im/migrant exploitation and argued for a deeper analysis of their issues. Teresa Gutierrez, WWP member and deputy secretary general of the International Migrant Alliance, noted that many in the U.S. who hadn’t been conditioned to see im/migrant issues as any of their concern had recently been horrified by the actions of the Trump administration at the Mexican border. “To see children in cages, to see children torn away from their parents, to have parents deported and their children remaining here in the United States just shocked the senses of broad layers of the population,” she said.While praising the many individual acts of resistance that have garnered attention in this period — from a mother hearing about Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s abuses and driving to the border in protest, to others collecting frequent flier miles to donate in the service of reuniting families — Gutierrez noted that these acts weren’t enough on their own. It is “the task of the left,” she said, “the task of the working-class movement to take this moment in history, this consciousness in support of im/migrants, and take it further. … You can’t be passionate for that Honduran mother or father and still support U.S. policies that create the most violent destabilizations [in those countries]. You just can’t do that.”Most panelists echoed something of a universal theme: that all of these struggles were connected, and that any successes in realizing a more just world come from the people themselves.“The hashtag that started going out after [Aug.] 14 [when the Durham statue came down] was #doitlikedurham,” said Workers World Party’s Elena Everett. “I don’t think any of the activists came up with that. It really was Durham that took that statue down. Each of us are actors on a larger historical stage, but we wouldn’t have been able to do it, we wouldn’t be able to sit here before you if it wasn’t the will of the people.” The question now, she said, was how to raise consciousness that “this movement, this community is tearing down white supremacy from Durham to Charlottesville to the White House to South Africa to all over the world; that we’re interconnected.”Thompson, who reminded the audience that the conference was taking place during Black August and a nationwide prisoners strike, reiterated that point: “We have to tear down the wall in a physical sense, but also in an ideological sense.”FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Philly judge challenges “liberal” DA over Mumia’s appeal rights

first_imgIn December, prison abolitionists and supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal hailed Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker’s ruling that granted new appellate rights to the internationally celebrated activist and author. Due to various suspicions about bias on the part of former State Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille, Tucker ruled that Mumia should have the right to appeal his fraudulent conviction for the killing of police officer Daniel Faulkner.Major march to Free Mumia set to take place in Philadelphia on April 27After first revealing that staff had “discovered” several new boxes of evidence that had previously been concealed from both the courts and Mumia’s legal team, Philadelphia District Attorney Krasner’s office then challenged Tucker’s historic ruling. Krasner, elected in 2017, was hailed at the time as a reformer. But his adamant attempts to cover up the frameup of the former Black Panther have now alienated him from some of his most progressive supporters. And he has also drawn the ire of Leon Tucker, a twice-elected Black judge.Because the DA’s office appealed Tucker’s December decision, it is required to file a form 1925 with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court providing more detail to back up its appeal. Judge Tucker is then allowed to file his own form 1925 in response. Those most recent court filings in late March reveal an increasingly public rift between Tucker and Krasner about Abu-Jamal’s case.Letters from Castille surfaced during the appeal and showed he was seeking aggressive sentencing for those convicted of police killings. They display “an unconstitutional appearance of bias and would lead a significant minority of the lay community to reasonably question Justice Castille’s impartiality,” Tucker wrote in his response to Krasner’s form 1925 filing. “Justice is being conformable, human, divine, fair, impartial, honest … no matter what.  Not sometimes or most of the time, but at all times, be it at trial or on appeal. [Mumia’s] appeal has established by a preponderance of the evidence that … there was an unconstitutional potential for bias. [His] claims should be reviewed in the interest of justice.”Krasner maintains the same position that the DA’s office has proffered for decades about Abu-Jamal’s case. His reasoning, in short: If we acknowledge any prosecutorial and judicial misconduct in Mumia’s case, many other wrongful convictions of lesser known cases will be challenged, too.Abu-Jamal, who turns 65 this month, has been in prison since 1981.Noelle Hanrahan, who broadcasts Mumia’s words worldwide through Prison Radio, recently wrote, “While Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner might not feel a sense of urgency, we need to. Mumia Abu-Jamal will be 65 years old in a few weeks. His eyesight has been severely compromised, making it hard for him to read, because he is suffering from as yet untreated cataracts and serious glaucoma.  He is recovering from life-threatening complications of hepatitis C and diabetic shock caused by a reaction to treatment for debilitating skin rash conditions.” ( Abu-Jamal’s supporters held an event in Berkeley, Calif., April 6. Speakers included poet Alice Walker; activist, academic and author Angela Davis; and MOVE Minister of Confrontation Pam Africa, who also represented the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal.Mumia supporters will march through Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood on April 27. A forum and book release at Uncle Bobbie’s community center will follow the march, marking the publication of the next volume of Mumia’s book, “Murder, Inc.,” about the long history of U.S. imperialism and colonial oppression. (For more information, see United States, which Mumia has long referred to as the “prison nation,” is in dire need of a robust prison abolitionist movement. The fight for Mumia’s freedom is a fight to free all political prisoners. Brick-by-brick, wall-by-wall, we will free Mumia — and free them all.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

No war on Iran! U.S. out of Iraq!

first_imgThe gangsters in the White House and the Pentagon are responsible for the targeted assassination of a top representative of a sovereign government. The target, Qassem Soleimani of Iran, was on a peace mission that the U.S. president was aware of and had encouraged.Trump has now followed up this political murder with a tweeted threat to destroy Iran’s heritage by striking 52 sites in Iran, some of them cultural. Under international law, such destruction is a war crime. Most people would also see it as an act of terrorism.POTUS applied his usual way of operating, this time to actions that might lead to a world war. He once infamously said he could murder someone on New York’s Fifth Avenue in daylight and get away with it. Has he deceived himself about getting away with this murder?After the Iraqi Parliament voted on Jan. 5 to expel U.S. troops — about 6,000 are still there, plus some thousands of mercenaries — Trump threatened Iraq with sanctions harsher than those applied from 1990 to 2003, during the administrations of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Since those sanctions killed more than a million Iraqis, including a half-million children under five, it means he is threatening Iraq with genocide.Take note that nearly the entire Republican Party has given thumbs up to this murder. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Vice President Mike Pence, Senator Lindsey Graham — those for whom the word “warmonger” would be a gentle term — praise Trump and tell outrageous lies to defend murdering the Iranian leader. All Republicans and nearly all Democrats supported both the hostility toward Iran and the wars and sanctions against Iraq. So did nearly all the corporate media. These crimes are the responsibility of the U.S. ruling class as a whole.Regarding the murder of Soleimani, the Democratic Party leadership – Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Chuck Schumer – has limited its criticism to Trump’s failure to notify and consult with Congress and his administration’s incoherent strategy. The two parties differed on one major issue: Democratic President Barack Obama promoted the 2015 treaty limiting Iran’s nuclear development in return for ending the punitive economic sanctions. On May 8, 2018, the Trump administration broke this treaty and reimposed economic sanctions. U.S. role as oppressorA quick look at the reality of the last 66 years of U.S.-Iran-Iraq relations shows which one is the oppressor state and the war criminal, contrary to U.S. imperialism’s version.A U.S.-coordinated coup in Iran in 1953, led by the CIA, deposed an Iranian elected government and replaced it with 26 years of dictatorial rule by Shah Reza Pahlevi. (See CNN documentary on the CIA’s role in the coup at 1979, a massive popular revolution expelled the shah and replaced him with what has become the current Iranian Islamic Republic. From 1980 to 1988, Washington encouraged the Iraqi regime under Saddam Hussein and Iran to fight each other, arming and killing millions of people on both sides. In 1990, the U.S. targeted Iraq, bombing its cities and its army. It followed that with 12 years of genocidal sanctions against Iraq. Then, on March 19, 2003, U.S. imperialism invaded Iraq under the pretext — later proven to be absolutely false — that it had “weapons of mass destruction.” To defeat Iraqi resistance to U.S. occupation, Washington then provoked and exacerbated sectarian and regional differences among the Iraqi population. The occupation and sectarian war killed and displaced millions, tearing apart Iraqi society. U.S. imperialism remains in Iraq only to plunder its resources. Washington threatens Iran in order to plunder the whole region.So far the Iranian government and its allies have said they will hit back on their own timing and will aim at U.S. military targets, not civilians. If Trump carries out another escalation, it would threaten a conflagration in Southwest Asia, raise the danger of a world war and put people in the United States at risk.From the people of the U.S. — especially from the working class and all oppressed sectors of U.S. society — there can be only one reaction: “Get the U.S. out of Iraq! No war against Iran!”FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

‘Fracking’: La ‘gran mentira’ sobre desechos tóxicos

first_imgFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare this FiladelfiaLa fracturación hidráulica, conocida como “fracking”, es el proceso de forzar el agua cargada de productos químicos en formaciones de lutitas subterráneas para extraer gas natural y petróleo. Esta práctica se intensificó a principios de la década de 2000.Un camión volcado que transportaba salmuera cerca de Coolville, Ohio, 2017.Cuando las comunidades afectadas negativamente por el fracking protestaron, la industria energética lanzó campañas publicitarias masivas para promover el gas natural obtenido por este proceso como la “energía más limpia” y promocionó su seguridad. Los ejecutivos de la industria ridículamente lo etiquetaron como tecnología “verde”.Las compañías de energía basaron sus argumentos en comparaciones con el carbón y la energía nuclear. Desestimaron las preocupaciones de los científicos de que el gas metano liberado por el fracking era un gas de efecto invernadero más dañino que el dióxido de carbono relacionado con el calentamiento global. Los perforadores afirmaron que la contaminación del agua del pozo era “natural”.A pesar de las voces que advirtieron que este era otro esquema fraudulento, pero lucrativo, el desarrollo global de la perforación de combustibles fósiles “no convencionales” provocó un frenesí en Wall Street en 2014. En ese momento, la prohibición de Washington de exportar gas y petróleo de los EE. UU. causó que muchos analistas de la industria se preguntan si las ventas nacionales de petróleo y gas fracturado generaron ganancias suficientes para compensar el costo de asegurar los arrendamientos de tierras y pagar el fracking.El gobierno de Obama salvó a la industria al revertir algunas prohibiciones contra la exportación de gas y petróleo de Estados Unidos. De repente, se apresuró a crear oleoductos e instalaciones para acomodar la exportación al exterior, lo que genera mayores ganancias que las ganancias nacionales.Para 2016, el fracking se usó en dos tercios de todos los pozos nuevos, informó la Administración de Información Energética. Había 1 millón de pozos activos de petróleo o gas natural en 33 estados.La administración Trump permitió a la industria energética expandir el uso del fracking al levantar las restricciones a la exportación. El resultado fue un aumento del 300 por ciento en los permisos de perforación. La reversión de las protecciones ambientales por parte de Trump benefició directamente a esta industria, que ya estaba muy poco regulada.Para 2017, la producción de petróleo de EE.UU. a partir del fracking creció a alrededor de 9,6 millones de barriles por día, casi el doble que la década anterior. La fracturación hidráulica permitió a EE.UU. convertirse en el mayor productor de petróleo y gas del mundo, con una producción de gas natural que aumentó en un 70 por ciento entre 2005 y 2018. Sin embargo, las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero también aumentaron en un 13 por ciento en solo dos años, de 2016 a 2018.Un billón de galones de aguas residuales al añoEl proceso de fracking implica el uso de 2 millones a 8 millones de galones de agua por pozo, dependiendo de la formación de roca. El agua se mezcla con productos químicos que a menudo son tóxicos, incluso cancerígenos. Las empresas con frecuencia se niegan a revelar el contenido de estos productos químicos, alegando que son “secretos comerciales”.A medida que el gas natural fluye hacia la superficie, trae aguas residuales, que contienen sales y productos químicos, y también materiales radiactivos que ocurren naturalmente en formaciones subterráneas. Etiquetada como “salmuera” por la industria, estas aguas residuales a menudo contienen altos niveles del elemento químico Radio.El fracking produce casi 1 billón (millón de millones) de galones de aguas residuales tóxicas cada año. En enero, la revista Rolling Stone informó sobre una investigación que muestra que este líquido tóxico está enfermando a los trabajadores y está propagando la contaminación en los Estados Unidos.Entre los trabajadores más afectados se encuentran los camioneros a quienes se les paga para que retiren la salmuera. A menudo, sin saberlo, estos conductores de camiones cisterna transportan “cargas calientes” que promedian alrededor de 9.300 picocuries de radio por litro y pueden alcanzar hasta 28.500 picocuries.El radio, que es abundante en salmuera, es tan peligroso que está sujeto a restricciones estrictas, incluso en sitios de desechos peligrosos. Debido a que el radio contiene los carcinógenos radio-226 y radio-228, la Comisión Reguladora Nuclear requiere que la descarga industrial permanezca por debajo de 60 picocuries por litro de cada uno.La película documental “Gaslands”, dirigida por el ambientalista Josh Fox y lanzada en 2010, se centra en el impacto del fracking en varios estados. Explica que una inyección de fracking producirá de 200 a 300 camiones cisterna de desechos tóxicos y radiactivos. Cada sitio de pozo industrial contiene docenas de almohadillas de superficie que contienen cada uno 20 o más pozos. La fracturación hidráulica en un solo sitio de pozo puede requerir de 38.400 a 172.800 viajes de camiones cisterna durante su vida útil.Los conductores rara vez reciben ropa protectora, y los derrames de petroleros son comunes. El Departamento de Transporte exige que los camiones que transportan materiales radiactivos estén claramente designados con carteles que contengan un símbolo de radiactividad. Sin embargo, la industria ignora esta regulación, ya que las señales de advertencia rara vez se muestran en los camiones que transportan salmuera.La industria energética califica la salmuera tóxica como ‘segura’Al afirmar que la salmuera es “completamente segura”, las compañías de energía han inventado muchos métodos para deshacerse de esta mezcla peligrosa y mortal.Una práctica común en Pensilvania era verter la salmuera directamente en los ríos cercanos hasta que quedara expuesta cuando los centros de filtración de aguas residuales cerca de Filadelfia y Pittsburgh informaron una corrosión extensa en las tuberías de sus sistemas. Luego fue prohibido.Otro método de eliminación cada vez más común es bombear millones de galones de salmuera a los pozos de inyección. Se ha demostrado que esta práctica puede provocar terremotos dañinos en áreas cercanas a los pozos.Quizás la práctica industrial más insidiosa ha sido ofrecer salmuera gratuita a los estados y municipios rurales para su uso a lo largo de las carreteras como deshielo invernal y para el control del polvo en carreteras sin pavimentar. Esta forma de “eliminar” depósitos de salmuera de alta radiactividad en el suelo donde permanecerá para siempre, poniendo en peligro las comunidades cercanas. ¡Sin embargo, esta práctica es legal en 13 estados!Los consumidores que compran una jarra turquesa de deshielo líquido AquaSalina en su ferretería local pueden esparcir salmuera con niveles de radio de aproximadamente 2.500 picocuries por litro en su patio, acera o camino de entrada. La industria ha designado a sabiendas esta eliminación comercial de salmuera cancerígena como “uso beneficioso”. ¡Este desecho radiactivo embotellado está incluso etiquetado como “seguro para el medio ambiente y las mascotas”!last_img read more

WW Commentary: People with disabilities fight to be counted in the battle vs. COVID-19 and depression

first_imgFebruary 2000 protest at the State Capitol building in Sacramento by Calif. Network for Mental Health Clients to protest proposed legislation Assembly Bill 1800 to expand the criteria, lengthen involuntary inpatient commitment. During pandemic, involuntary psychiatric commitment is a death sentence! [Credit:]“When the able-bodied community gets the sniffles, we get pneumonia. … The difficulties are multiplied tenfold,” said Damien Gregory, an African-American wheelchair user with cerebral palsy. (“Coronavirus Strains Safety Net for People with Disabilities,” Wall Street Journal, April 19)When asked about the numbers and statistics on how the COVID-19 coronavirus has affected people with disabilities, Susan Dooha, executive director of the Center for the Independence of the Disabled New York  (CIDNY), told the interviewer: “People with disabilities are not being counted!” (Metrofocus, PBS, April 16)Dooha warned that people with disabilities are at higher risk for this pandemic due to the chronic conditions they face, the disparately more overcrowded facilities in which they live, their ages and the prevalence of living in poverty — all of which are dramatically increased for disabled people of color. Miscounting people with disabilities is nothing new in U.S. history! 2020, the year of the pandemic, is also a U.S. census year. However, racist, ableist and sexist methods of miscounting have also been used as weapons against the oppressed. The original Constitution of the U.S. counted enslaved African Americans as three-fifths of a person. In the U.S. censuses from 1840 through 1890, people considered “mentally ill” or “mentally re****ed” were counted in those categories. These data were used to facilitate forced institutionalization of people with emotional, mental, psychological and neurodivergent disabilities in prisons and asylums, as well as to perpetuate racist stereotypes with falsified statistics regarding African Americans and Indigenous peoples. (“A Disability History of the United States” by Kim E. Nielsen) It is significant that many of the people at the greatest risk for COVID-19 today in the U.S. are housed in nursing homes, so-called mental institutions and prisons.The U.S. Immigration Act of 1882 also “miscounted” disabled people by prohibiting people from entering the U.S. if they were “unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge.” These restrictions on the right of a disabled person to immigrate to the U.S. were made even more restrictive in 1891, 1903, 1907 and 1924. All these draconian laws were also racist in excluding Asian Americans, especially Chinese people.At Ellis Island in New York harbor during the peak years of U.S. immigration from 1870 to 1924,  when potential immigrants were screened, interviewed and examined, U.S. officials marked those with any form of disability with a chalked letter on their backs containing a different code for each disability, so it would be easier to exclude them. “X” was the mark given to people with “possible mental illness” and “X” with a circle for “definite mental illness.” (“More than Passenger Lists: The Other Records at Ellis Island” by Rhonda McClure,, March 2006) This reporter’s mother, aunts and uncles entered the U.S. after going through Ellis Island.COVID-19 pandemic unleashes perfect storm of depression risksEmotional, mental, psychological and neurodivergent disabilities is a category of disability profoundly impacted by this pandemic.In an article titled “COVID-19 could lead to an epidemic of clinical depression, and the health care system isn’t ready for that, either,” clinical psychology scientists Jonathan Kanter and Katherine Manbeck at the University of Washington’s Center for the Science of Social Connection sounded the alarm: “Isolation, social distancing and extreme changes in daily life are hard now, but the United States also needs to be prepared for what may be an epidemic of clinical depression because of COVID-19. … We do not wish to be the bearers of bad news. But this crisis, and our response to it, will have psychological consequences.” (, April 1)They elaborated on what they called a perfect storm of depression risks. They classified stress, loss, grief and catastrophic financial difficulties as robust predictors of depression, warning that loneliness breeds depression.  Kanter and Manbeck’s practice is in the state of Washington, the first U.S. COVID-19 epicenter.This reporter has experience with depression. I was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia in 1975 and was improperly medicated for five years. Finally, a psychiatrist corrected the diagnosis, after first encouraging me to visit the library and study for myself what was then called manic depressive disorder (now called bipolar). My psychiatrist and I collaborated to match my symptoms more closely to manic depression in order to prove the first diagnosis wrong. This psychiatrist gradually weaned me off extremely addictive psychotropic medications which had caused serious side effects, including drowsiness, disorientation, uncontrollable shaking, inability to sleep and unusual and dangerous sensitivity to heat.In 1993, my 83-year-old mother was medicated against her will with some of these same antipsychotic drugs. After she refused to take her meds, a relative and a psychiatrist signed her into Hillside Psychiatric Hospital Strauss Cottage, where she was held for three weeks until she would agree to take her meds and comply with an Elder Care plan of seven days a week home care, for which my father would have to pay. My mother was forced to wear an ankle bracelet so she wouldn’t run away. When I visited her, a Jewish friend of hers, a Nazi Holocaust survivor, was being given electric shock treatment for her nightmares about the Nazi concentration camps. My mother died two years later.In 1990, the Supreme Court ruled that prisoners, who are disproportionately people of color, do not have the same rights as nonprisoners to refuse antipsychotic medications. Many now fear that they will be involuntarily forced to take unproven medications for COVID-19, which can be a death sentence — especially for those with cardiovascular and respiratory afflictions.This reporter recognizes that people with and without disabilities have been helped by the treatment of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals. But the capitalist system, which puts profits before people, encourages and promotes abuse of patients and discourages nurturing, scientifically sound patient care.In 1981, when I first identified myself as a person with an emotional disability, I joined with comrade Betsy Gimbel in Workers World Party’s People with Disabilities Caucus at the All Peoples Congress in Detroit. The APC was the grandparent of today’s Peoples Power Assemblies. Betsy had been secretary of the great civil rights group Disabled in Action and helped lead the fight for wheelchair lifts on New York City buses. Betsy stressed that the most important thing about people with disabilities is our abilities.  I have traveled with scooter-user Mary Kaessinger in her struggles to navigate the 80 percent inaccessible New York subway system, when several people had to lift her and her scooter into a subway car because it is not at the same level as the platform. Sometimes she had to change her route and travel long distances to find a station with an elevator. She often enlightened me with the remark: “Welcome to my world.”COVID-19 has now “welcomed” the entire world to what disabled people have endured and known in our bones for centuries.All disabilities can be considered to constitute a rainbow in which the independent struggle of each disabled person for equal access, justice and health care enhances the overall struggles of all peoples with disabilities and of all the world’s workers and oppressed. Just as a pebble at the top of a snowcapped mountain can grow to be a huge boulder, we can create a world where everyone is counted and can contribute according to their abilities and receive according to their needs.Edward Yudelovich, a Workers World Party People with Disabilities Caucus organizer with emotional and hearing loss disabilities, dedicates this article to the memory of Rosemary Neidenberg, whose encouragement helped fuel his activism for the past half century.         FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more