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12,000 California prisoners on hunger strike

October 4, 2011

Strikers’ families denied visits, attorneys banned

by Jay Donahue

Oakland – As the renewed prisoner hunger strike enters its second week, the federal receiver’s office released information that at least 12,000 prisoners were participating during the first week. Prisoners are continuing a hunger strike that they temporarily suspended in July. Originating from Security Housing Units (SHUs) and Administrative Segregation Units (Ad-Seg and ASU) across California, prisoners held at Pelican Bay State Prison, Calipatria, Centinela, Corcoran, Ironwood, Kern Valley, North Kern, Salinas Valley, California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, Pleasant Valley State Prison, San Quentin as well as West Valley Detention Center in San Bernadino County are currently participating. Over 3,000 California prisoners held in out-of-state facilities in Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma have also refused food.

This corridor of the Pelican Bay SHU is the epicenter of the hunger strike. – Photo: Michael Montgomery, California Watch
“This is the largest prisoner strike of any kind in recent U.S. history,” says Ron Ahnen of California Prison Focus. “The fact that so many prisoners are participating highlights the extreme conditions in all of California’s prisons as well as the historic opportunity the state has been given to make substantial changes to SHU and Ad-Seg policies.”

Family members of striking SHU prisoners reported that their visits this weekend were denied by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) citing security concerns. “A number of family members received notice that they were not going to be allowed to see their loved ones as long as the strike continues,” says Dolores Canales who has a son in the Pelican Bay SHU. “Denying visits only heightens the isolation that the prisoners and family members experience, especially at this critical time.”

Advocates and lawyers have expressed concern that banning visits, along with other tactics including the possibility of violence on the part of CDCR are being used in attempt to break the strike. “Historically, prison officials have used extreme measures, including physical violence to break strikes,” says Dorsey Nunn, executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and a member of the mediation team working on behalf of the strikers.

“As this peaceful protest continues, it’s essential for lawmakers and the media to monitor the actions of CDCR. The department should not be allowed to use underhanded methods to resolve the strike.” Late last week two of the mediation team’s lawyers were banned from CDCR facilities with the prison administration citing unnamed “security threats.”

The prisoners resumed their hunger strike on Sept. 26 after the CDCR failed to address demands made when prisoners initially went on strike for almost the entire month of July. They have also reported heightened levels of intimidation and retaliation from prison officials since July. Prisoners are demanding changes to long-term solitary confinement, gang validation and debriefing processes and other conditions in the state’s Security Housing Units as well as in other parts of the prison system.

Representatives of the hunger strikers have indicated that this may be a rolling strike, with prisoners coming on and off strike periodically, allowing for the possibility of a protracted struggle. Activists and family members internationally are planning protests in support of the hunger strikers in the coming weeks. For continued updates and more information, visit www.prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com.

California Department of Corrections threatens prison hunger strikers, bans lawyers

by Jean Casella and James Ridgeway

In response to a renewed inmate hunger strike to protest conditions in the California prison system, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has taken a hard line, threatening participants with disciplinary action and banning two lawyers who represent the strikers. According to the Contra Costa Times:

“Prison officials are investigating the two lawyers for ‘alleged misconduct,’ said Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

“Letters faxed Friday to San Francisco lawyer Carol Strickman of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and Berkeley lawyer Marilyn McMahon of California Prison Focus said they were banned from inmate visits as the department investigated whether they had “jeopardized the safety and security” of the prisons.

“Both women have been active advocates for the rights of prisoners at Pelican State Bay Prison, the Crescent City supermax facility at the epicenter of the hunger strike this week and another one in July.

“’It’s under investigation. I really can’t comment any further on that,’ Thornton said.”

California Watch reports that the attorneys were banned under “temporary exclusion orders” that were signed by Corrections Undersecretary Scott Kernan on Sept. 29. The order states that an investigation is underway to determine whether the lawyers “violated the laws and policies governing the safe operations of institutions within the CDCR.”

“The document does not provide details about the allegations. It cites a section from the California Code of Regulations that reads:

“’Committing an act that jeopardizes the life of a person, violates the security of the facility, constitutes a misdemeanor or a felony, or is a reoccurrence of previous violations shall result in a one-year to lifetime exclusion depending on the severity of the offense in question.’

“Corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton confirmed the department had banned ‘some specific attorneys’ from one facility for alleged misconduct. She declined further comment, citing an ongoing investigation.”

Shortly after it banned the lawyers, the CDCR issued a memo to all striking prisoners, informing them that “the department will not condone organized inmate disturbances.” The memo indicated that disciplinary action could be taken against inmates participating in the hunger strike and that those identified as leaders could be placed in isolation in a Security Housing Unit. The memo did not state what might be done to those strike leaders already locked in solitary in the Pelican Bay SHU, where the strike originated.

The current hunger strike, according to inmate organizers, is not a new protest but rather a renewal of the three-week strike that began on July 1. That strike ended after prison officials agreed to some limited concessions, including a review of the policies by which prisoners are placed and held in indefinite solitary confinement in the state’s SHUs. The initial hunger strike also resulted in a hearing in the California Assembly on the treatment of inmates in the SHUs, where thousands of inmates languish in 22- to 23-hour-a-day in isolation in windowless cells, some for 10 years, 20 years or more.

According to a statement issued in mid-September, strike leaders in the Pelican Bay SHU saw little indication or promise of real change:

“As of September 2011, these SHU prisoners continue to be subjected to CDCR’s torturous human rights violations, in spite of the July 2011 peaceful protest via hunger strike, wherein thousands of prisoners of all races and groups united in their effort to bring mainstream exposure and force an end to such barbarous policies and practices. [CDCR has responded with more propaganda, lies and vague double talk promises of change in time].

“SHU prisoners are dissatisfied with CDCR’s response to their formal complaint and five core demands, and therefore will continue to resist via peaceful protest indefinitely, until actual changes are implemented.”

The state is clearly taking an even harder line on this round of the hunger strike. Scott Kernan told California Watch: “Unlike in the first instance where we certainly evaluated their concerns and thought there was some merit to it, this instance appears to be more manipulative, and it certainly has the possibility of being a real disruption to the Department of Corrections and the security of its staff and inmates.”

Last week, the CDCR stated that close to 3,400 inmates at six prisons were participating in the hunger strike, which the department defines as refusing state-issued meals for three consecutive days, according to the most recent data from the corrections department. On Saturday, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity reported that “numbers released by the federal receiver’s office” that monitors health care in California prisons “show that on Sept. 28, nearly 12,000 prisoners were on hunger strike, including California prisoners who are housed in out of state prisons in Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma … Prisoners are currently on strike in Pelican Bay State Prison, Calipatria, Centinela, Corcoran, Ironwood State Prison, Kern Valley State Prison, North Kern State Prison, and Salinas Valley State Prison. Throughout the last week prisoners at California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, Pleasant Valley State Prison, San Quentin as well as West Valley Detention Center in San Bernardino County were participating.”

James Ridgeway and Jean Casella are co-editors of Solitary Watch, an innovative public website aimed at bringing the widespread use of solitary confinement and other forms of torture in U.S. prisons out of the shadows and into the light of the public square. A unique collaboration between journalists and law students, Solitary Watch’s mission is to provide the public – as well as practicing attorneys, legal scholars, law enforcement and corrections officers, policymakers, educators, advocates and prisoners – with the first centralized, comprehensive source of information on solitary confinement in the United States. This story first appeared Solitary Watch.

Support the hunger strikers

1) Pressure Gov. Brown to ensure the CDCR implement the changes set forth in the prisoners’ five core demands and that the CDCR cease ALL retaliation on hunger strikers. Call Gov. Jerry Brown at (916) 445-2841.

2) Build and join a massive crowd in Sacramento for the Day of Action Oct. 5, 12-2 p.m. Protest outside CDCR Headquarters, at 1515 S St. in downtown Sacramento. For carpooling and transportation needs from the Bay Area, contact (415) 238-1801 or prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity@gmail.com.

 

Foreclosure victory as homeowners pack courtroom

October 4, 2011

by Dave Welsh

Lifelong Oakland resident Beverly A. Williams speaks to the crowd gathered outside a Chase branch on Sept. 28 protesting foreclosures, evictions and the mess the banks ignore when homes sit vacant. “The effort today is to expose the banks,” she said. – Photo: Sita Bhaumik
Pittsburg, Calif. – Homeowners from five counties packed the courtroom here Sept. 2 to support a Pittsburg family facing eviction in a foreclosure scam.

After a four-hour marathon session, the Superior Court judge cancelled the eviction. The decision means the Parra-Gullo family can stay in their home with a payment they can afford.

“I believe it was a victory for the family in this case,” said Delia Aguilar, an organizer with the Bay Area Moratorium (BAM), a homeowners group that is fighting wrongful foreclosures and evictions. “I believe the community had a lot of impact, that they came out here to support the family, often from long distances.”

BAM organized 44 people to back up the family in court, coming from Contra Costa, San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Sacramento and Solano counties – areas hard hit by an epidemic of foreclosure fraud and chicanery by the banks and real estate companies.

The company seeking to evict the family, Antrea Investments & Trading LLC, fraudulently claimed to have lawfully bought the property from Wachovia/Wells Fargo Bank after the homeowners failed to make mortgage payments. However, BAM pointed out: 1) the homeowner was not in default, having made regular payments which the bank accepted; 2) Antrea was not registered with the state to do business in California; 3) a bogus “robo-signing” document was used to try to evict the family; and 4) there was no “assignment of deed of trust” with the county recorder.

Antrea’s attorney Terry Brewer’s jaw dropped when she saw all the supporters filing into the courtroom, exclaiming: “They bring so many people!” Delia Aguilar concluded that “if all the homeowners will come out, like today, then these courts and sheriffs may be more careful in issuing orders that can result in an illegal eviction.”

Aguilar explained that it’s become standard procedure for real estate companies and their eviction attorneys to “move quickly to take the homes from these homeowners, harassing and scaring them, using guerrilla tactics like threatening to get the sheriff to remove them in four hours.

“Sometimes these real estate people will call in law enforcement even before filing an ‘unlawful detainer’ action – as if it was their own personal police force!”

“But if we all stay together,” she added, “we can defeat them and keep our homes.”

BAM is part of a network of groups working for a moratorium to stop foreclosures and evictions and allow people to stay in their homes. The Michigan-based Moratorium NOW! Coalition explains the situation:

“Today the federal government, through its takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac along with the Federal Housing Authority, owns at least 75 percent of all mortgage loans. However, rather than utilizing this federal takeover of the housing market to benefit homeowners and renters, the federal government is continuing to bail out the banks, paying the banks full value for the fraudulent and predatory loans which they created, and then throwing millions of homeowners into the streets.

“It’s time for the federal government to bail out the people and not the banks. President Obama should immediately declare a two-year moratorium on all foreclosures and evictions, during which time the loans could be renegotiated to their real value, with the banks eating the losses for the fraud they practiced. Rather than selling off government owned housing to investors and sharks, the government should train our youth to rebuild these homes and reoccupy them with the millions of homeless and unemployed.”

Dave Welsh can be reached at sub@sonic.net.

Foreclosures have cost Oakland over $12 billion, San Francisco almost $7 billion

The foreclosure crisis is costing Oakland over $12 billion and San Francisco nearly $7 billion according to a new report for Oakland and another for San Francisco released by a statewide coalition of homeowners, community leaders and students. This is the first report to bring to light the full impact of the costs of Wall Street foreclosures in the Bay Area, with detailed numbers for individual neighborhoods, including Havenscourt in East Oakland and Bayview Hunters Point in San Francisco, which have disproportionately suffered from the foreclosure crisis. The report shows:

Foreclosures harm all homeowners: Overall, homeowners are estimated to lose $12.3 billion in home values in Oakland and $6.9 billion in San Francisco as a direct result of the foreclosure crisis.

Foreclosures erode the property tax base and impact services for all: Property tax revenue losses are estimated to be $75.3 million Oakland and $42 million in San Francisco in the wake of the foreclosure crisis.

Foreclosures cost local governments: The typical foreclosure costs local governments more than $19,229 for increased costs of safety inspections, police and fire calls, and trash removal, and maintenance. In Oakland, these costs are estimated to be $224 million and in San Francisco, $73.4 million.

The full reports can be downloaded at http://tinyurl.com/wreckingballOakland and http://tinyurl.com/wreckingballSF.

“This report proves what people in California have been feeling for years – banks are financially devastating to our neighborhoods and cities,” said Curtis Warren, a Bayview resident at the brink of losing his home and a member of ACCE, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.

The report offers the latest evidence that fixing the housing crisis is central to fixing the economy. Data from the report shows:

• Fixing the underwater crisis by writing down mortgages would save California homeowners $810 every month and pump $20 billion annually into local economy.

• With the extra $810 per month, homeowners could start spending again, making purchases they have been putting off. The increase in consumer demand would in turn help spur 300,000 jobs in California.

• Oakland has 26,479 homeowners underwater by $2.4 billion, and San Francisco has 16,355 homeowners underwater by $1.5 billion. If banks wrote down those mortgages, it could pump $257 million in Oakland and $158 million in San Francisco into local economy and spur a total for both cities of 6,153 jobs.

Wall Street banks crashed the economy, are destroying local communities and are wrecking state budgets in California and across the country. Today, California homeowners are still overpaying for their mortgages, students are getting hit with a new fee hike, and families pay millions in overdraft fees because of the mess created by the banks, which are back to record profits and bonuses. The goals of the Refund and Reinvest in our Communities campaign are to:

1. Fix the economy by fixing the housing crisis through enacting a widespread mortgage principal reduction program, creating 300,000 California Jobs and injecting over $20 billion into the economy.

2. Restore needed state revenue by making Wall Street banks pay their fair share of taxes and closing tax loopholes exploited by rich corporations.

3. Rebuild California neighborhoods by helping homeowners and restoring revenue to local communities by penalizing banks for foreclosures and blight, renegotiating costly interest-rate swap deals and winning court-based mediation for homeowners.

California residents who want to join the campaign or get more information can call (877) 633-9251 or visit www.MakeBanksPayCalifornia.com.

 

Rwanda: Current President Kagame confessed ordering predecessor’s plane shot down

October 1, 2011

Kagame’s former ambassador to the U.S. makes startling announcement about event that triggered Rwandan Genocide

This interview of Theogene Rudasingwa by Minister of Information JR was broadcast Dec. 8 on KPFA’s Hard Knock Radio

by Theogene Rudasingwa

Now revealing in this article that Paul Kagame (above), who is credited with ending the Rwandan Genocide, confessed that he, in effect, started it is Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa, former secretary general of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), ambassador of Rwanda to the United States and chief of staff for President Kagame.
On Aug. 4, 1993, in Arusha, Tanzania, the government of Rwanda and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) signed the Arusha Peace Agreement. The provisions of the agreement included a commitment to principles of the rule of law, democracy, national unity, pluralism, the respect of fundamental freedoms and the rights of the individual. The agreement further had provisions on power-sharing, formation of a single National Army and a new National Gendarmerie from forces of the two warring parties and a definitive solution to the problem of Rwandan refugees.

On April 6, 1994, at 8:25 p.m., the Falcon 50 jet of the president of the Republic of Rwanda, registration number 9XR-NN, on its return from a summit meeting in Tanzania, as it was on approach from Dar-es-Salaam to Kanombe International Airport in Kigali, Rwanda, was shot down. All on board, including President Juvenal Habyarimana, President Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi, their entire entourage and flight crew, died.

The death of President Juvenal Habyarimana triggered the start of genocide that targeted Tutsi and Hutu moderates and the resumption of civil war between the RPF and the government of Rwanda. The RPF’s sad and false narrative from that time on has been that Hutu extremists within President Habyarimana’s camp shot down the plane to derail the implementation of the Arusha Peace Agreement and to find a pretext to start the genocide in which over 800,000 Rwandans died in just 100 days. This narrative has become a predominant one in some international circles, among scholars, and in some human rights organizations.

Outside Carnegie Mellon University while President Paul Kagame was speaking inside, Kambale Musavuli, student coordinator for Friends of the Congo, led a demonstration by Rwandan, Congolese and American students denouncing Kagame’s crimes against humanity. – Photo: Lindsay Dill
The truth must now be told. Paul Kagame, then overall commander of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), the armed wing of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, was personally responsible for the shooting down of the plane. In July 1994, Paul Kagame himself, with characteristic callousness and much glee, told me that he was responsible for shooting down the plane. Despite public denials, the fact of Kagame’s culpability in this crime is also a public “secret” within RPF and RDF (Rwandan Defense Force) circles. Like many others in the RPF leadership, I enthusiastically sold this deceptive story line, especially to foreigners who by and large came to believe it, even when I knew that Kagame was the culprit in this crime.

The political and social atmosphere during the period from the signing of the Arusha Accords in August 1993 was highly explosive, and the nation was on edge. By killing President Habyarimana, Paul Kagame introduced a wild card in an already fragile ceasefire and dangerous situation. This created a powerful trigger, escalating to a tipping point resumption of the civil war, genocide and the region-wide destabilization that has devastated the Great Lakes region since then.

Gen. Kagame uses his satellite phone from the field. The Rwandan Civil War, culminating in the 1994 genocide, had been raging since Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front invaded Rwanda from Uganda in 1990. By assassinating then Rwandan President Habyarimana, Kagame prevented the Arusha Peace Agreement the president had just signed from taking effect.
Paul Kagame has to be immediately brought to account for this crime and its consequences. First, there is absolutely nothing honorable or heroic in reaching an agreement for peace with a partner and then stabbing him in the back. Kagame and Habyarimana did not meet on the battlefield on April 6, 1994. If they had, and one of them or both had died, it would have been tragic, but understandable, as a product of the logic of war.

By killing President Habyarimana, Paul Kagame … created a powerful trigger, escalating to a tipping point resumption of the civil war, genocide and the region-wide destabilization that has devastated the Great Lakes region since then.

President Habyarimana was returning from a peace summit and, by killing him, Kagame demonstrated the highest form of treachery. Second, Kagame, a Tutsi himself, callously gambled away the lives of innocent Tutsi and moderate Hutu who perished in the genocide. While the killing of President Habyarimana, a Hutu, was not a direct cause of the genocide, it provided a powerful motivation and trigger to those who organized, mobilized and executed the genocide against Tutsi and Hutu moderates.

Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, assassinated by Gen. Paul Kagame – Photo: AP
Third, by killing President Habyarimana, Kagame permanently derailed the already fragile Arusha peace process in a dangerous pursuit of absolute power in Rwanda. Kagame feared the letter and spirit of the Arusha Peace Agreement. As the subsequent turn of events has now shown, Kagame does not believe in the unity of Rwandans, democracy, respect of human rights and other fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, power sharing, integrated and accountable security institutions with a national character, and resolving the problem of refugees once and for all. This is what the Arusha Peace Agreement was all about. That is what is lacking in Rwanda today.

Last, but not least, Kagame’s and RPF’s false narrative, denials and deceptions have led to partial justice in Rwanda and at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, thereby undermining prospects for justice for all Rwandan people, reconciliation and healing. The international community has, knowingly or unknowingly, become an accomplice in Kagame’s systematic and shameful game of deception.

By killing President Habyarimana, Kagame permanently derailed the already fragile Arusha peace process in a dangerous pursuit of absolute power in Rwanda, to which the international community has become an accomplice.

I was never party to the conspiracy to commit this heinous crime. In fact, I first heard about it on BBC around 1:00 a.m. on April 7, 1994, while I was in Kampala, where I had been attending the Pan African Movement conference.

I believe the majority of members of RPF and RPA civilians and combatants, like me, were not party to this murderous conspiracy that was hatched and organized by Paul Kagame and executed on his orders. Nevertheless, I was a secretary general of the RPF, and a major in the rebel army, RPA.

It is in this regard, within the context of collective responsibility and a spirit of truth-telling in search of forgiveness and healing, that I would like to say I am deeply sorry about this loss of life and to ask for forgiveness from the families of Juvenal Habyarimana, Cyprien Ntaryamira, Deogratias Nsabimana, Elie Sagatwa, Thaddee Bagaragaza, Emmanuel Akingeneye, Bernard Ciza, Cyriaque Simbizi, Jacky Heraud, Jean-Pierre Minaberry and Jean-Michel Perrine.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame and former U.S. President Bill Clinton tour Clinton Foundation projects in Rwanda. The two have become close friends, as have the governments of Rwanda and the U.S.
I also ask for forgiveness from all Rwandan people, in the hope that we must unanimously and categorically reject murder, treachery, lies and conspiracy as political weapons, eradicate impunity once and for all, and work together to build a culture of truth-telling, forgiveness, healing and the rule of law. I ask for forgiveness from the people of Burundi and France, whose leaders and citizens were killed in this crime. Above all, I ask for forgiveness from God for having lied and concealed evil for too long.

In freely telling the truth before God and the Rwandan people, I fully understand the risk I have undertaken, given Paul Kagame’s legendary vindictiveness and unquenchable thirst for spilling the blood of Rwandans. It is a shared risk that Rwandans bear daily in their quest for freedom and justice for all. Neither power and fame, nor gold and silver, are the motivation for me in these matters of death that have defined our nation for too long.

In freely telling the truth before God and the Rwandan people, I fully understand the risk I have undertaken, given Paul Kagame’s legendary vindictiveness and unquenchable thirst for spilling the blood of Rwandans. But Rwanda cannot rebuild and heal on lies.

Truth cannot wait for tomorrow, because the Rwandan nation is very sick and divided and cannot rebuild and heal on lies. All Rwandans urgently need truth today. Our individual and collective search for truth will set us free. When we are free, we can freely forgive each other and begin to live fully and heal at last.

Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa is a former secretary general of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), ambassador of Rwanda to the United States and chief of staff for President Paul Kagame.

 

Alice Walker fights anti-Palestinian bias

September 30, 2011

by Dennis Bernstein

The Palestinian children’s drawings capture the oppression and brutality of life under Israel’s economic blockade and military attacks. But under pressure from pro-Israel groups in the community, the Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA) canceled the exhibit, which had been months in preparation.
Alice Walker is Pulitzer Prize winning poet, author and activist. She participated recently in the U.S. Boat to Gaza, which was a part of the Freedom Flotilla, to break the Israeli embargo on the Gaza Strip.

Last year, a flotilla was attacked by Israeli commandos and a number of people were killed and wounded. Walker’s boat was stopped by Greek authorities before it could traverse the eastern Mediterranean to Gaza.

DB: I want to start with the recent attempt by the Children’s Museum of Oakland to prevent Palestinian kids from showing their art. You wrote a very moving piece on your website. It was very personal. Could you just briefly outline what you wrote and your response to this censorship?

AW: Well, I was basically saying that the children need to have exposure of their art because it will be a wonderful way to help them heal from the trauma of being bombed and watching their friends, and sometimes parents, die.

And it’s unconscionable that any adults, especially in this part of the world, and lo and behold in Oakland would want to deprive these children of a venue in which they could expose some of their grief and some of their pain and, of course, some of their art.

And so I just very strongly urge all of us to go to see this art. I’m not sure where it will be shown.

DB: There was an opening, I should tell you, around the corner at a beautiful gallery. There were about 500 people, there was a marching band, there was beautiful food out front, and a lot of people marveled at the extraordinary art that was shown around the corner from the Children’s Museum.

I think they had a better shot there. And now they are getting requests for it to be a traveling exhibition around the world. It is incredible. …

Can I ask you to share the personal part of what you wrote? Because I have seen as a teacher the impact of very troubled kids, oppressed kids, kids who have faced difficult times being able to get through it through self-expression.

And this, the part of this that bothered me the most is that the exhibit was advertised, the invitations were sent out, the workshops were set up, the kids were excited and they were told “No, it wasn’t going to happen.” Could you share the personal side of what you wrote?

AW: There are a couple of things. One is I was injured myself as a child. I was playing cowboy and Indians with my brothers and one of them accidentally shot me in the eye. And that led to a lot of suffering and a lot of grief and a lot of pain.

And I started writing poetry at that time when I was 8 or 9 years old. And my relatives encouraged me to share it, to show it to people. And that was a part of my healing. And so I could easily see that that could help these children.

The board of directors of the Museum of Children’s Art released a statement that defended rather than apologized for their censorship. Board Chair Hilmon Sorey called the drawings “graphically violent and sensitive works,” and he cited the museum’s lack of policy towards such content as the reason for the exhibit’s cancellation. But these concerns had not stopped the museum from displaying the art of Iraqi children a few years earlier.
That having the venue denied to them is a way of making them remain locked in their own private suffering. And this is something that adults with money, in this case, could do to these little kids.

And they are doing it, but it is at great risk to their own souls to do this to children, to force them to remain unexpressed or to try to force them to remain unexpressed in their suffering.

The other part that was so, that came to mind as I was writing this essay was how in 1939 Marian Anderson had been denied …

DB: The great singer …

AW: The great contralto. She had been denied a venue at the Constitution Hall, at Constitution Hall in D.C. by the Daughters of the American Revolution, who were just upset that the place was going to be integrated.

And so Anderson’s friends, including the president, [Franklin] Roosevelt, and Eleanor Roosevelt came to her defense and she was allowed to sing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

And she actually attracted 75,000 people of all colors and kinds and everything. And it was one of the biggest turnouts ever, up to that time, at the Lincoln Memorial.

And so I was just reminding us that these bannings and attempts to censor people, they often backfire. And that is something that we should remember.

It strengthens us as well, because we begin to see the forces that are against us. They are fleshed out; they come out of the walls and woodwork, wherever they’ve been hiding and pretending to be upstanding, kind and generous people.

They suddenly stand revealed as the really very narrow hearted people that they are, and so we don’t have to be fooled. And it’s a great thing not to be fooled by people – to have that little bit of consciousness about who is likely to try to trip you up as you start climbing towards your freedom. Yes.

DB: And just to take off on what you said, it is either you have a very frightening and difficult and terrifying, tragic experience happen to you and either you have a chance to express it to people who care and want to hear it or it gets forced down inside of you and manifests as an illness in various ways. So it can make all the difference in the world.

AW: It makes all the difference in the world. And in fact, one of the things that you learn from having some fairly dreadful things happen to you is that you can survive and you can still be happy.

And I like to tell very briefly a little story of a leper that I came across in Hawaii on the island of Molokai – a man whose face had just about been dissolved by his illness, and his expression of just absolute joy was shining through what was left of his face.

And he said, “You know one of the things I have learned from this hard life here is that you can have these terrible things that happen to you and you can still be happy.”

Now this is good news for anybody but especially for a child who feels just completely squashed by an imperial power that bombs its communities and its schools for 22 days, non-stop, a child that just has lost parts of its body.

To know that somewhere there is this teaching and that there are these people and that someone is waiting for them on the other side of the trauma to share with them what they have gained.

You know, you don’t just lose, you sometimes gain a lot from suffering. And they can stand with you and that’s why I love the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA).

The campaign to censor the exhibit had the support of major pro-Israeli organizations in the California Bay Area. The Jewish Federation of the East Bay publicly bragged about their success via Twitter.
I love the Middle East Children’s Alliance because their commitment to these children and to making it clear, not only to the children but to the adults in the world, what it is that we need to be doing together, which is bringing them along, helping them stand, and helping them to see that there is still a possibility of being joyful little kids.

DB: Why did you decide to join that flotilla?

AW: Well, I did it because I really believe that it is our responsibility. When the world is out of whack, as it is almost everywhere you look, what do you do? And where do you place yourself?

And how much do we believe what we say we believe about wanting to fight the good fight for the freedom of the people of the world and the happiness of the people of the world.

And I had been in Gaza, and I had been in the West Bank and I had met my tribe of poets and singers and musicians and philosophers and historians and children – and we’re just people.

And, you know, people everywhere deserve to be free of fear. They deserve to be free of people taking their land and bombing their schools and taking their water.

And so it felt like, given my own background in the South with the segregation – and I’m sitting here right now looking at pictures of both my parents – that I have an obligation given how much I deeply understand this kind of pain to try to be present even if we don’t get to where we were trying to get to.

We didn’t get to Gaza. But we did get 10 miles off the coast of Greece.

DB: And you were turned back.

AW: We were turned back by armed commandos from the Greek Coast Guard, and we never got to be in confrontation directly with the Israelis. But they were working against us the whole time. They had been sabotaging the other ships and making it really hard for us to move.

And yet there again, I can’t be discouraged. I feel so much that if you just get off your couch, if you just leave your house, if you just head out to stand with your neighbor, even if they are 10,000 miles away, if you head out, there is a way in which you are already there. Your intention is so important, and the movement forward is so important.

DB: You know, Alice, I’m usually very afraid about everything. Whatever I do, I tend to do it, but I’m frightened. Now you got on a boat knowing that the last round of the Freedom Flotilla faced extreme violence by Israeli commandos. A number of people died, were wounded. How do you deal with your fear? Were you afraid?

AW: Of course I was afraid; we’re all afraid. But there is this realization that an earthquake could just right this minute just cover us all up with rubble, we could be sucked out of our car by a hurricane, we could be drowned in these floods that are happening.

In other words, there’s a way in which you have to start to see now that danger is really everywhere and it’s in every moment, so it is better to, I think, to then approach those areas that are dangerous and difficult in that spirit, that well I could lose my life here too at home.

Alice Walker – Photo: Monica Morgan, WireImage
And also now the thing that I find really remarkable – and I felt this way in Mississippi 40 years ago – when you reach the other people who are as determined and as dedicated as you are, with the love that you have, it’s a kind of heaven.

And it’s not to be missed if you can possibly manage to get to this kind of circle of people who have evolved. I felt on the boat, in the presence of such goodness, such amazing spirit and heart – that it made it worth whatever the sacrifice might have been. I mean if I would go, I would go with these people, and how blissful really.

DB: Finally, and I guess this is the hardest thing for me to understand: We are seeing several recent reports surfacing out of Israel, really put together by the Israelis describing a program, an expanding program of midnight kidnappings and torture of children as young as 12 years old by Israeli soldiers.

Sometimes they are taken to the basements of the settlements, illegal settlements, and questioned and masked, but they are taken by hooded soldiers. And my question for you – and I don’t know if there is a real answer – but what drives a people to go to these lengths to silence children and to repress freedom?

AW: Well, I think that one of the things that probably should not have happened for so long is the constant reiteration of the Holocaust.

I think if we had a slavery industry so that so often you would hear horrible tales about the enslavement of Black people, like every time you turn around, we would have some incredibly crazed Black people who would be doing some much more violent things because of the anger.

I think that whatever happens, you are never permitted to evolve beyond your rage. So everything becomes an obstacle to your liberation from your own rage. So you turn into quite dangerous entities in society.

Alice Walker is the author of many books of poems and prose, including “The Color Purple,” “A Poem Traveled Down My Arm,” and “A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel.” For a list of Alice Walker’s work, go to http://alicewalkersgarden.com/. She spoke with Dennis Bernstein on Flashpoints, a news program at Pacifica Radio broadcast every weekday at 5 p.m. on KPFA 94.1 and kpfa.org. Host Dennis Bernstein can be reached at dbernstein@igc.org.

 

Do American taxpayers really want to pay Rwanda to keep Victoire Ingabire behind bars?

September 29, 2011

by Aimable Mugara

Victoire Ingabire, now on trial after nearly a year in maximum security prison, has the look of a Rwandan prisoner – shaved head and pink uniform – but the heart of a Rwandan freedom fighter. Ian Edwards, one of her attorneys, is at the far left, and her other attorney, Gatera Gashebana, stands behind them. – Photo: Alice Muhirwa
According to the ACLU, the inspector general of the U.S. Justice Department reported that the FBI Terrorist Watch List had over 700,000 names in its database as of April 2007 – and that the list was growing by an average of over 20,000 records per month. At that rate, the list would now contain over 1 million names. The ACLU thinks the list is bloated with the names of many people who are no threat to the U.S. government.

No one in the U.S., however, has gone on trial for terrorism because he or she announced an intention to run for president, though that is the situation of Mrs. Victoire Ingabire in Rwanda, a close ally and military partner of the U.S., which has also received over $1 billion in U.S. foreign aid over the past 10 years.

Ingabire left a very comfortable life, a good job and a loving family in the Netherlands to return to her native Rwanda to stand for the presidency in January 2010. She made every attempt to participate in the political process that Rwandan President Paul Kagame and those surrounding him insist is democratic, but instead she now stands in the dock in Rwanda’s capital Kigali, charged with

1) forming an armed group with the aim of destabilizing the country,

2) complicity in acts of terrorism,

3) conspiracy against the government by use of war and terrorism,

4) inciting the masses to revolt against the government,

5) genocide ideology and

6) divisionism.

Western mainstream media had been claiming that Rwanda had progressed past its dark history, the 1994 genocide. Had that been true and had the more than $1 billion in aid that the U.S. government has since given to Rwanda been used to build democratic institutions, Victoire Ingabire would have been a candidate in last year’s presidential election and would quite likely be Rwanda’s president now, not a maximum security prisoner.

Within weeks of returning to Rwanda, Mrs. Ingabire was summoned to the Criminal Investigation Department, then summoned again and again, until she was finally arrested on April 21, 2010. The arrest happened less than two weeks after Gen. Kagame publicly insulted her in a genocide memorial address, referring to her as a “hooligan” and one of these “useless people who comes out of nowhere,” whom he would “cast off.”

At the time of the arrest, the Rwandan chief prosecutor claimed that there was “overwhelming evidence” against her for “terrorism” and “divisionism,” evidence that they claimed had been obtained from foreign countries such as the United States and the Netherlands. This was back in April 2010. Shortly thereafter, she was released from jail and put under house arrest, forbidden to leave Kigali, to speak to the majority rural population, or to return home to visit her family in the Netherlands.

Thirteen hundred Rwandans and Congolese united to march through the streets of Paris in protest against the visit of Gen. Kagame on Sept. 14. Many held signs supporting Victoire Ingabire, their choice for president of Rwanda had she been allowed to run.
While she was under house arrest, the Rwandan government, which is not only heavily funded but also politically supported by the United States government, continued in its persecution of all its real political opponents. Opposition leaders and activists were jailed, Green Party Vice President Andre Rwisereka was beheaded, his body dumped by a river in Southern Rwanda, and another presidential candidate, Bernard Ntaganda, was imprisoned. Journalist Jean Leonard Rugembage was executed after writing that Kagame had ordered a political assassination attempt in South Africa, and other journalists fled the country.

On Aug. 9, 2010, Gen. Paul Kagame was then re-elected president with an implausible 93 percent of the vote.

Fast-forward to October 2010 and the United Nations’ release of an investigative report accusing Kagame’s army of having massacred Hutu refugees – “children, women, elderly people and the sick” – in Rwanda’s neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The report said that, if proven before a competent court, these massacres could be classified as crimes of genocide, the very crime that has blessed Gen. Kagame and his government with so much victim’s privilege, most of all in Congo.

Within two weeks of the U.N. release of the report, Kagame’s government moved Mrs. Ingabire from house arrest in her home, under surveillance, to Kigali’s 1930 maximum security prison. Five days earlier, she had told KPFA Radio that the U.N. should expand the mandate of the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda (ICTR) to include the Rwandan Army’s crimes in Congo, documented in the U.N. report. She had been told, upon her release to her home in April, that she was not to speak to the press, but she had continued to do so and no doubt would have been called for more interviews about the U.N. report.

Neither Gen. Kagame nor his army have been called to answer to the charges of genocide in Congo, but Mrs. Ingabire has now been languishing in jail, often denied visitors, held on suspicion of terrorism and “genocide ideology,” for nearly a year.

When Mrs. Ingabire’s trial got underway this September, the Rwandan prosecutor tried to delay the case by claiming that they are still waiting for the evidence to come in from abroad. This is the evidence that they claimed they already had back in April 2010. When the delay was not granted, the Rwandan prosecutor was forced to start producing “evidence” in the kangaroo court that would be laughable in any self-respecting democracy. An example was the video shown as evidence of her “terrorism” and “divisionism.”

In the video, all that Mrs. Ingabire says is as follows:

Victoire Ingabire, the Rwandan leader who might well have defeated Paul Kagame in last year’s presidential election, is instead on trial for suggesting that all Rwandans, not only Tutsis, were victims of genocide. She consults with her attorneys, Ian Edwards, left, and Gatera Gashebana, who are defending her against charges that could keep her in prison for decades. – Photo: Alice Muhirwa
“I would like to say that today, I came back to my country after 16 years, and there was a tragedy that took place in this country. We know very well that there was a genocide, extermination. Therefore, I could not have returned after 16 years to the same country after such actions took place. They took place when I was not in the country. I could not have fallen asleep without first passing by the place where those actions took place. I had to see the place. I had to visit the place.

“The flowers I brought with me are a sign of remembrance from the members of my party FDU and its executive committee. They gave me a message to pass by here and tell Rwandans that what we wish for is for us to work together, to make sure that such a tragedy will never take place again. That is one of the reasons why the FDU Party made a decision to return to the country peacefully, without resorting to violence. Some think that the solution to Rwanda’s problems is to resort to armed struggle. We do not believe that shedding blood resolves problems. When you shed blood, the blood comes back to haunt you.

“Therefore, we in FDU wish that all we Rwandans can work together, join our different ideas so that the tragedy that befell our nation will never happen again. It is clear that the path of reconciliation has a long way to go. It has a long way to go because if you look at the number of people who died in this country, it is not something that you can get over quickly. But then again, if you look around you realize that there is no real political policy to help Rwandans achieve reconciliation. For example, if we look at this memorial, it only stops at people who died during the Tutsi genocide. It does not look at the other side – at the Hutus who died during the genocide. Hutus who lost their people are also sad and they think about their lost ones and wonder, ‘When will our dead ones be remembered?’

“For us to reach reconciliation, we need to empathize with everyone’s sadness. It is necessary that for the Tutsis who were killed, those Hutus who killed them understand that they need to be punished for it. It is also necessary that for the Hutus who were killed, those people who killed them understand that they need to be punished for it too. Furthermore, it is important that all of us, Rwandans from different ethnic groups, understand that we need to unite, respect each other and build our country in peace.

“It is important that all of us, Rwandans from different ethnic groups, understand that we need to unite, respect each other and build our country in peace.” – Victoire Ingabire

“What brought us back to the country is for us to start that path of reconciliation together and find a way to stop injustices so that all of us Rwandans can live together with basic freedoms in our country.” – English translation by Aimable Mugara of the video of Victoire Ingabire speaking at the Gisosi Genocide Memorial Centre in Rwanda, Jan. 16, 2010. The video was presented as evidence in the Kigali courtroom where she is on trial for terrorism and “genocide ideology” during the second week of September 2011.

If the Rwandan chief prosecutor thinks that the above words make one a “terrorist” and a “divisionist,” then how many of us would be locked up in Rwanda, quite possibly for 30 years or life, as Ingabire is likely to be? Few of us can be as eloquent and inspiring as Victoire Ingabire, but who would not want peace, justice and the end of ethnic strife in Rwanda? Who would not want all Rwandans to be able to mourn those they lost in the Rwanda Genocide, at the genocide memorials and during each year’s genocide commemorations?

Do Americans, whose taxpayer dollars are contributing to the Rwandan chief prosecutor’s salary, really want to see Victoire Ingabire and all she stands for behind bars for 30 years to life?

A Rwandan now based in Toronto, Aimable Mugara said in a previous story in the Bay View that Rwandans, both Hutus and Tutsis, “want to live together in a democratic society where every single article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies to every Rwandan citizen.” Visit his website, www.rwandahumanrights.org, and contact him at amugara@trentu.ca.

 

Carnegie Mellon professors question university president over planned campus in Kagame’s Rwanda

September 29, 2011

Friends of the Congo Student Coordinator Kambale Musavuli leads chants at a Carnegie Mellon protest against the visit of Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Protesters say Kagame is responsible for the death, rape and the financial instability of millions of Rwandans and Congolese. Musavuli is a 1998 Congolese refugee, whose family was affected by the violence in the region. “Whenever there’s a genocide, just like the holocaust, we must say, ‘Never again,’” Musavuli said. “It’s my responsibility to be here and to speak up for those who can’t. It’s the value of free speech.”
Faculty members at Carnegie Mellon University’s Marianna Brown Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences have signed a petition questioning the university’s partnership with Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, as they plan to open a branch campus in Kigali in 2012. The petition cites charges that his government has committed gross human rights violations in Rwanda and in the Congo. It also cites increased repression of the press and political freedoms.

Below is the petition, dated Sept. 16, 2011.

President Jared L. Cohon
Carnegie Mellon University
Office of the President
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Dear President Cohon,

We the undersigned faculty members of the Marianna Brown Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences are writing to express our serious concerns over Carnegie Mellon University’s announced partnership with President Paul Kagame and the Rwandan government.

Also leading the protest against Kagame’s visit to CMU is law student Claude Gatebuke, a Rwandan who works with the African Great Lakes Coalition. – Photo: Emily Russell
Carnegie Mellon University has established itself as a global leader in the arts as well as the sciences in part because our university has extended its reach beyond Pittsburgh. We have established successful programs in countries like Japan, Australia, Portugal, Mexico, and opened a campus in Qatar.

Wherever we go, we bring our university’s vision of what a world-class institution of higher education should be. We rightfully pride ourselves with meeting “the changing needs of society by building on its traditions of innovation, problem solving and inter-disciplinarity.” With the announcement of Carnegie Mellon University’s partnership with the Rwandan government, our university has once again positioned itself on the cutting edge by being one of the first American universities to run degree-granting programs on the continent of Africa.

Given Rwanda’s attempts to rebuild after decades of civil war and murderous ethnic cleansing, Carnegie Mellon’s presence in the African nation indicates that your vision for our university includes not only meeting the changing needs of society but also helping Rwandan society change for the better. News articles in The Wall Street Journal, The Chronicle of Higher Education as well as our hometown Pittsburgh Post-Gazette have applauded our partnership with President Kagame and Rwanda.

Another thing we bring is Carnegie Mellon University’s mission. As a faculty we pledge:

“To create and disseminate knowledge and art through research and creative inquiry, teaching, and learning, and to transfer our intellectual and artistic product to enhance society in meaningful and sustainable ways.

“To serve our students by teaching them problem solving, leadership and teamwork skills, and the value of a commitment to quality, ethical behavior, and respect for others.

“To achieve these ends by pursuing the advantages of a diverse and relatively small university community, open to the exchange of ideas, where discovery, creativity, and personal and professional development can flourish.”

Kambale Musavuli, with students from the U.S., the Congo and Rwanda, protests outside CMU’s University Center during Kagame’s visit on Sept. 16. – Photo: Andrew Russell, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
As faculty, we also commend a vision that includes facilitating meaningful social change. Yet we see a risk that could interfere with this vision. Carnegie Mellon University’s mission is based upon the fundamental pillars of any free society: the freedom of inquiry, a commitment to an open exchange of ideas and a belief that freedom and openness are crucial to the cultivation of an ethically sound citizenry. Given our university’s mission we are concerned about how this mission can be achieved in a country run by a president who does not guarantee freedom or openness for his own people.

President Paul Kagame controls a country that, according to Reporters Without Borders’ “Press Freedom Index,” ranks 169 out of 178 countries – the third worst ranking amongst African nations. In a June 2011 article, Human Rights Watch expressed their “serious concern that freedom of expression is not respected in practice under Kagame’s regime,” especially as this repression was connected to Kagame’s 2010 presidential re-election.

They cite numerous instances, including the imprisonment and intimidation of journalists critical of the Kagame regime, as well as the jailing and continued detention of opposition party leaders for endangering national security and “divisionism.” Claims of fraud and intimidation were so widespread that in an Aug. 13, 2010, press statement President Obama expressed “concern” about “disturbing events” prior to Kagame’s latest election. He highlighted the suspension of two newspapers, the expulsion of human rights workers and the barring of two political parties from participating in the election.

Another June 2011 report, this one from Amnesty International, condemned Kagame’s government, saying, “The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), in power since the 1994 genocide, tightly controls political space, civil society and the media, contending that this is necessary to prevent renewed violence. Human rights defenders, journalists and political opponents cannot openly and publicly criticize the authorities. People who do speak out risk prosecution and imprisonment.”

In 2008, the Spanish National Court, the Audiencia National (who charged Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet), indicted 40 Rwandan military officers for terrorism, mass killings and several counts of genocide against Rwandans, Congolese and Spanish citizens, following the 1994 genocide. Spanish Judge Fernando Andreu stated he has evidence that implicates Kagame, who has immunity from prosecution as a head of state.

Carnegie Mellon University
Even our local Pittsburgh City Council adopted proclamation 1011-1897 on July 12, 2011, identifying the Rwandan government as a major destabilizing force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and scolding the federal government for continuing to fund the Rwandan government in the face of its many human rights abuses.

These actions are not those of a man interested in protecting his citizens, cultivating democratic society, or upholding human rights. Nor are these actions consistent with the ethical and moral principles at the heart of Carnegie Mellon University’s mission. If our mission as faculty is consistent with our university’s – to instill these principles in our students – we are seriously concerned that a partnership with President Kagame’s government compromises our institution’s ability to carry them out. President Cohon, we strongly urge you to consider the consequences that such a partnership will have on our local and global reputation.

Sincerely,

Concerned Faculty Members
Marianna Brown Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences

To learn more, contact the African Great Lakes Coalition via Kambale Musavuli, spokesperson and student coordinator for Friends of the Congo, at kambale@friendsofthecongo.org.

 

DA’s race: Stop overcrowding prisons

September 29, 2011

by Allen Jones

Allen Jones has dedicated his life to freeing prisoners.
The Supreme Court ordered California to release 33,000 prisoners due to unhealthy conditions and prison overcrowding in the Plata vs. Brown prisoner lawsuit. The high court showed it was serious by demanding the release of 10,000 of these prisoners by a December 2011 deadline.

In an attempt to comply, Gov. Jerry Brown will not just release prisoners to the street. He has shifted the burden of housing low level state prisoners back to California’s 58 counties by signing AB109. This new law eases the pressure on the state prison population but does nothing to solve the problem of prison overcrowding. It only increases the likelihood of county jail overcrowding.

San Francisco will begin receiving 700 of these low level felon offenders as early as October, according to published reports. However, instead of using our empty county beds, which coincidentally are estimated to be 700, to help the state cure its prison overcrowding problem, we should be showing the state how to continue having empty jail beds.

The San Francisco District Attorney’s office has had a history of only using the three strikes law when the third strike is a violent crime. In addition, according to FACTS – Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes – San Francisco sends the fewest three strikers to state prison.

What is troubling is that it appears as though politics has crept into the race for district attorney by using the celebrity Alex Trebek, the three strikes law and a heroin addict to help elect George Gascón to a full four year term as the city’s top law enforcer. This kind of overzealous prosecution is how California has overcrowded our 33 prisons with thousands of petty criminals and should be stopped.

We should be showing the state how to continue having empty jail beds.

“Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek and his wife were sleeping in their San Francisco hotel room when they became victims of a burglary recently. It was described by prosecutors as a “hot prowl,” which means the victims were in the building or residence when the burglary took place.

This is my office, bed and bath, explains Allen Jones.
A hot prowl can be serious, but when confronted outside the room by Trebek, Lucinda Moyers, the alleged 56-year-old woman burglar, did not pull out a weapon; she ran. To charge Moyers under three strikes tells me San Francisco prosecutors split hairs in using hot prowl because of the celebrity factor in this case, which could get a few thousand votes or backfire.

Candidate for district attorney and incumbent George Gascón promised during a panel discussion at the May 18, 2011, Justice Summit to instruct his prosecutors “not to overcharge cases.” Gascón also called three strikes “bad law,” which impressed some of those who attended the conference co-hosted by Public Defender Jeff Adachi.

Instead of playing politics by threatening a 56-year-old heroin addict with a 25-year-to-life sentence to get votes, the new DA should show that he or she is not against criminals but against crime.

We need to ask all the candidates for district attorney how will the next DA demonstrate that he or she does understand that we should not be sending nonviolent people to prison?

We could spend less than $5,000 a year to keep Moyers off heroin. Or we could spend $52,000 a year or $1,300,000 total to keep her off heroin for the next 25 years as she sits in prison.

San Francisco General Hospital helped keep a 40-year heroin addict off heroin by investing no more than $5,000 (not including medical costs) in his rehabilitation. Last I heard he was two years clean and is a volunteer. And he was violent.

As we come up on another election Nov. 8, 2011, those of us who are opposed to California’s three strikes law need to ask District Attorney George Gascón a simple question: What part of “release 33,000 prisoners” do you and your staff not understand? And we need to ask all the candidates for district attorney how will the next DA demonstrate that he or she does understand that we should not be sending nonviolent people to prison?

Finally, in upcoming debates for the office of district attorney of San Francisco, those who are opposed to three strikes in its current form should demand that the next DA make a commitment not to prosecute any case as a three strikes case until this state law is fixed, which includes a willingness to help change this law.

San Francisco writer Allen Jones, author of “Case Game: Activating the Activist,” can be reached at (415) 756-7733 or jones-allen@att.net. Visit his website, at http://casegame.squarespace.com. Last November, the Bay View published his story, “Wanted! Black leaders for California prisoner release court order,” which is followed by an autobiographical note. Jones recently wrote this update: “Still living in my truck happy and determined to get people to understand that the answer to all our prison problems is clemency. Clemency is the most powerful tool in criminal justice. We could use this tool to trigger prison reform safely and save billions in tax dollars at the same time. Though not planned, I am living in my truck until I get the attention of Sacramento lawmakers. No politician will take me seriously. After all, I’m just a Black, crippled, homosexual, prison reform activist and homeless.” He lost his home to foreclosure in 2009.

 

Oakland Freedom School encourages literacy in Black youth

September 29, 2011

by Reginald James

Huey P. Newton, portrayed by Elijah Payne, explains the conditions that lead to the founding of the Black Panther Party as Elaine Brown, portrayed by Delaney Mapp, stands in formation at Oakland Freedom School’s graduation on Aug. 5 in Oakland. – Photo: Reginald James
“Oakland Freedom School, how do you feel?”

“Fantastic! Terrific! Great! All. Day. Long. Ugh ugh ugh uggghh!”

So began the call-and-response at the graduation ceremony of Oakland Freedom School (OFS) held on Aug. 5 at the House of Music in downtown Oakland.

“It’s the reee-miiiix,” yells Adrianne Gillyard, program director of OFS. Students and teachers repeat the response, but this time enter into a sustained, Master P-type “uggh” as some dipped to the ground and others leaned back like Neo from “The Matrix.” Seconds later, they pop back up and the chorus ends with a grand Oakland punctuation mark: “You feel me?”

These chants, along with half a dozen others, were the bookends each day at the five-week-long literacy program that is organized each summer by Leadership Excellence. The program operated in two sites this summer: Ile Omode in East Oakland and Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in West Oakland.

Students learned many things about African and African American history, ranging from the classical African civilizations of Kemet (ancient Egypt), Songhai and Mali to the Black Arts Movement and the Harlem Renaissance. The African-centered curriculum is designed to encourage youth to read during the summer while building self-esteem and a strong cultural identity.

The graduation ceremony began with libation lead by OFS teacher Duane Deterville. Libation is a ritual honoring God and our ancestors by pouring water onto a plant while speaking the names of those ancestors. The names of freedom fighters like Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X were said. One person called Oscar Grant.

Each classroom then presented. Children showcased cute but militant formations, using “liberation” and “revolution” instead of the directions of left and right. One spirited group led by OFS teacher Randa Powell had time to “bust a move,” breaking out into dance, then immediately returning to the basic standing formation of “freedom one,” simultaneously showcasing creativity and discipline. The groups’ “strike a pose” was also a crowd favorite.

Next, the Black Panther class marched forward wearing all black, chanting: “The revolution has come! OK! Shine your light like the sun! OK!” The class educated the crowd about the Black Panther Party. Elijah Payne, son of Oakland educators Macheo and Kafi Payne, stood proudly in an OFS T-shirt and black beret, representing the late Dr. Huey P. Newton. OFS student Delaney Mapp, daughter of OutdoorAfro.com founder Rue Mapp, represented Elaine Brown, former chairwoman of the Party, while Kadar Howard portrayed exiled Panther Assata Shakur.

OFS teacher Tiara Phalon’s class was transformed into the “Anansi Players.” The class, named after the spider from West African folklore, performed a dramatic interpretation of trickster Anansi while Phalon read the tale.

Simone Ross portrays Gye Nyame, which is a Ghanaian Adinkra symbol for the supremacy of God, during a skit by the Anansi Players on graduation day at Oakland Freedom School. – Photo: Reginald James
“Freedom Schools” were developed in the early 1960s to organize African people in Southern states to achieve equality. It was in 1964 that the Mississippi Freedom Schools were organized to encourage mass Black voter registration. However, freedom schools’ origins also have roots in the tradition of reconstruction era schools for freedman. Freedom Schools reemerged in 1993 and first opened in Oakland that year, according to OFS teacher Adeilei Ngeno. Leadership Excellence began its Oakland Freedom School in 1999.

“It’s a beautiful thing to still be going strong,” Ngeno said. “It’s a beautiful thing for the babies to have a place to feel safe, to feel loved and to appreciate being African.”

Another favorite youth chant then began: “I am somebody! I won’t be stopped by nobody! I got my fist in the air and the movement in my feet. I got love for my people but it starts with me.”

After a dance performance by another group of students, Leadership Excellence founder and board chairman Dr. Shawn Ginwright provided an update on the organization.

“The organization is not doing well,” Ginwright said of the two-decades-old organization dedicated to the empowerment of African American youth. The economic crisis has threatened many of the organization’s programs. For the first time in over a decade, the organization postponed Camp Akili, a one-week summer camp that deals with root causes of violence, racism, sexism and encourages critical thinking, while still getting youth into the great outdoors.

Yet, the group remains as determined as the youth they serve. “We are in the process of seeing where we will be in the next 20 years.” Following Ginwright, Dereca Blackmon, former executive director, led a closing prayer and asked for financial support from community members present.

The program ended with a Harambee circle, similar to closing ceremonies at Kwanzaa celebrations. “Harambee” is Swahili for “pulling together.”

“It was a great graduation,” said OFS parent Jazz Hudson, whose son Nassor was one of the Anansi Players. “The program has definitely made my son more excited about reading.”

For more information about Leadership Excellence, or to donate to the organization, visit www.leadershipexcellence.org. To see more OFS photos from the summer, visit the Oakland Freedom School Facebook page (http://facebook.com/oakfreedom).

Journalist Reginald James is the host of The Black Hour radio show and edits The Black Hour blog, http://www.theblackhour.com. He can be reached at theblackhour@gmail.com.

 

Hunger strike Round 2, Day 3: 6,000 on strike, threats from CDCR

September 28, 2011

by Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

On Aug. 11, about three weeks after CDCR had promised to meet the prison hunger strikers’ demands, supporters held a vigil to remind Gov. Brown to speak out and tell CDCR to keep its promises. – Photo: United for Drug Policy Reform
Today, Sept. 28, lawyers and mediators with Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity’s mediation team confirm that at least 6,000 prisoners throughout California are resuming the hunger strike that began in July. The CDCR refuses to release the specifics: where prisoners are striking exactly and how many prisoners are striking at each prison.

We know that hundreds of prisoners in the general population at Calipatria are joining the hunger strike for one week in solidarity with 200 hunger strikers in Calipatria’s two Administrative Segregation Units (Ad-Seg and ASU), bringing Calipatria’s numbers up to 500-1,000 hunger strikers.

Family members have also reported prisoners are striking at CCI Tehachapi’s Security Housing Unit (SHU), demanding that the five core demands written by hunger strikers at Pelican Bay be implemented for all SHU-status prisoners in California. Prisoners at Corcoran, Centinela and Valley State Prison for Women have also joined the hunger strike again in solidarity with SHU-status prisoners across the state.

Prisoners at West Valley Detention Center in San Bernardino County are refusing state-issued food in solidarity with SHU-status hunger strikers across the state as well. West Valley prides itself as being one of the largest county jails in California. The majority of people locked up at West Valley are pre-trial prisoners.

Carol Strickman, staff attorney for Legal Services for Prisoners With Children reports today: “We just received word that CDCR is reporting that 6,000 prisoners throughout the system went on hunger strike on Monday. CDCR is sending memos to prisoners which threaten punishment for participation in a hunger strike.”
In a Sept. 27 memo signed by Deputy Director Scott Kernan, the CDCR has threatened disciplinary action against any prisoners taking part in the strike as well as placement in Ad-Seg and the removal of canteen items. The CDCR recently stated that it had sufficiently addressed the prisoners’ demands and that any future hunger strikes would not be treated in the same fashion as the July strike, which lasted for nearly four weeks.

The prisoners maintain that while some privileges have been approved, such as sweat pants, colored pencils and proctored exams, the CDCR has yet to move on the demands related to solitary confinement and gang validation. “Though promises were made at the end of the last hunger strike, and some progress has been made, it is painfully slow for people who have lived under conditions of torture for years and often decades in California’s prison system,” says Laura Magnani, a member of the prisoners’ mediation team and a representative of the American Friends Service Committee.

“While the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation tries to paint the prisoners as nothing more than ‘dangerous gang members,’ we see this strike as a courageous effort to work across all cultural and ethnic divisions through time honored non-violent actions.”

Many of the prisoners have stated that they intend to continue their hunger strike until all of their demands are met, despite the possibility that they might suffer serious health consequences or death. Reports from the July hunger strike indicated that many of the strikers lost 20-30 pounds and experienced dizziness, fainting and heart arrhythmia.

From security housing units to county jails, conditions of imprisonment in California are horrendous, ridden with medical neglect and overcrowding as condemned by the U.S. Supreme Court in the May ruling that found the CDCR to be in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The expansion of the strike demonstrates that CDCR’s atrocious practices and brutal conditions are in fact a system-wide issue and endemic of the CDCR.

Support the prisoners in winning their demands! Call Gov. Jerry Brown and urge him to make the CDCR comply with the prisoners’ demands!

Visit the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition at http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com and contact them at prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity@gmail.com.

 

Palestinian prison hunger strikers declare solidarity with California prison hunger strikers

September 28, 2011

by the Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat

Families of Palestinian prisoners in Gaza City demonstrate for their release. – Photo: Ismael Mohamad, UPI
Solidarity with Palestinian prisoners is more urgent than ever. Since the announcement of Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike against the isolation of Ahmad Sa’adat and all other prisoners held in solitary confinement, and against torture and humiliation for prisoners and their families and visitors, Israeli prison officials have stepped up their threats against Palestinian prisoners participating in the hunger strike.

The strike began Tuesday, Sept. 27. The Israeli minister of internal security, at a meeting in Ramon and Naqab Prisons, has threatened to escalate repression against prisoners, threatening to move all prisoners participating in the hunger strike into isolation and solitary confinement and to forcibly transfer those prisoners to other prisons in the occupation prison system. Prisoners are frequently transferred by occupation forces in an attempt to break up social bonds and disrupt organizing against prison repression.

Israeli prison guards put down a Palestinian prisoner uprising.
For decades, Palestinian prisoners have engaged in hunger strikes to demand – and win – their rights, putting their bodies on the line once more to demand the freedom and dignity of themselves, their people, their homeland and their nation. Palestinian prisoners have announced that they will not be moved from their course by the threats of the occupiers. Prisoners’ representatives have confirmed that Sa’adat and fellow isolated leader Jamal Abu al-Haija, in isolation with Sa’adat, will join in the strike themselves.

Furthermore, prisoners announced that they will reject all prison orders, refusing to wear uniforms, stand up for daily counts or accept food. The situation is more urgent than ever as prisoners begin their strike. The Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat calls upon all solidarity, international justice and human rights groups and organizations to join us to demand freedom, dignity and justice for Palestinian prisoners.

Solidarity with prison hunger strikers in California

The Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat expresses its deepest solidarity with the prisoners on hunger strike in Pelican Bay, California, in the United States. These prisoners, inside the racist and brutal U.S. prison system, have also stood together on hunger strike to demand an end to abuse and the use of isolation against prisoners, particularly long-term isolation, to demand proper food, and an end to torture and abuse.

World famous political cartoonist Carlos Latuff is a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause.
They ended their strike in July 2011 after receiving assurances that their demands would be met; however, this has not happened, and prisoners have in fact been punished and further repressed for participating in the strike. The prisoners in California resumed their hunger strike on Monday, Sept. 26, 2011.

Across the world, prisoners stand on hunger strike, demanding dignity and justice. The Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat salutes the California hunger strikers, expresses our deepest solidarity, and joins in their demands for dignity and justice. We also note the great leaders and great struggles that have emerged from the racist dungeons of U.S. prisons, from Attica to Soledad. The Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat salutes the political prisoners in U.S. jails and the Guantanamo torture camp – and all jails in the world – including Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, Ghassan Elashi and hundreds more, and demands their freedom.

Ahmad Sa’adat is the General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. One of nearly 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners, he has been sentenced to 30 years in Israeli prisons, mainly for a speech he made following the Israeli assassination of his predecessor, Abu Ali Mustafa, in August 2001. The systematic assassination, imprisonment and detention of Palestinian political leaders has long been a policy of the Israeli state, as reflected in the imprisonment of Sa’adat and over 20 other members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, targeted for their involvement in and commitment to the struggle for the liberation of their land and people. Learn how you can help him and all the Palestinian hunger strikers at the Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat at http://www.freeahmadsaadat.org/. Contact the campaign at info@freeahmadsaadat.org or http://twitter.com/freeahmadsaadat.

 

California prisons: Torture by any means necessary

September 28, 2011

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

Artist Tommy Silverstein, who calls this painting “Skull,” suggests the deprivation that comes with solitary confinement. He has been in solitary for more than 27 years, currently in the federal prison at Florence, Colo., known as the Guantanamo of the Rockies.
This is a glimpse into torture by any means necessary. Solitary confinement in the Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit (SHU) is a reflection of our inhumane treatment and clearly violates our constitutional rights under the First, Fifth, Eighth and 14th Amendments. Prisoners in all the solitary confinement units in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), whether SHU or Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg), are subjected to the same treatment: the application of human torture.

The triggering of deprivation

The objective of deprivation is not complicated: It’s to attack and impair the prisoner’s senses and perception. The weapons of deprivation cannot be effective without having in place the conditioning process to produce degeneration over a long period of time. The conditioning involves psychological, social, cultural, historical and natural phenomena that are observable.

Deprivation is cannibalistic, for even when the spirit is willing to stay the course, the flesh becomes weakened as men feed on themselves and others, eating away at human excellence. The feasting of deprivation will become more than flesh, blood or nature can endure.

Indeterminate SHU sentencing has forced individuals to choose between discontinuity or becoming inflicted with a cannibalistic nature. There are two aspects of deprivation, with psycho-physical causes and effects either way. But in order for deprivation to eat away at the targeted prisoner’s conscience, a conversion reaction must occur that breaks down the psychological defense mechanism.

Declaration on Protection from Torture

The Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in its Resolution 3452 in December 1975. The declaration contains 12 articles, the first of which defines the term “torture” as:

“Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted by or at the instigation of a public official on a person for such purpose as obtaining from him or a third person information or confession, punishing him for an act he has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating him or other persons.”

Types of torture

1. Medical: Honorable Judge Thelton Henderson ordered a receivership over health care in California prisons due to intentional medical neglect that leads to prisoners dying one a week in CDCR – largely after hearing horror stories from the PBSP SHU. Many of these deaths were and continue to be in solitary confinement – this is torture.

2. Solitary confinement: Long-term isolation 10-40 years for non-disciplinary infractions – this is torture.

3. Mail: Prisoners’ mail is being used to create physical and psychological torment when it is being denied and withheld – this is torture.

4. Food: Intentionally disproportional servings, poorly prepared and contaminated deliberately – this is torture.

5. No human contact: No family, friend or real meaningful social interaction with other human beings, sensory deprivation that deprives prisoners of their five senses: feeling, sight, smell, hearing and taste – this is torture.

6. Visiting: Constantly under the “Gestapo” type Office of Correctional Safety (OCS), Investigative Service Unit (ISU), Institution Gang Investigators (IGI), who deliberately intimidate visitors and prisoners – this is torture.

7. Cell searches: Trashing prisoners’ cells to intimidate and harass them, leaving the cells in disarray while taking political writings, pictures, manuscripts, books, pamphlets, magazines etc., causing psychological torment – this is torture.

8. Climate: Prisoners deliberately kept in freezing cold cells, a complaint which has been made for over 21 years, or burning hot cells, depending what time of the year it is – this is torture.

9. Pottie watch: A humiliating, dehumanizing and outright cruel and unusual punishment where prisoners are held in shackles and placed in the middle of a hall sitting on a real pottie as everyone walks by in transition to other places, or where you are placed in a cage with no toilet or running water and forced into a human diaper with a prison jumpsuit over the diaper while your hands are bound into a fist wrap and you’re forced to defecate three separate times during a three-day period and you can see the torment and suffering on the prisoner’s face; this is done to cause severe humiliating mental, physical and psychological torment – this is torture.

10. Family: Each validated prisoner family is deliberately harassed, intimidated and intentionally hoaxed into a false prosecution for a thoughtless crime by a Gestapo (i.e., OCS, ISU, SSU and IGI) with the intent to discourage any prisoner support and communication – this is torture.

11. Grievance: The 602 appeal process is deliberately set up at every level – 1, 2 and 3 – to not afford the prisoner any relief regardless of whether prison officials are dead wrong, clearly establishing there’s no accountability for what officials do to prisoners – this is torture.

No sane targeted prisoner can escape the deprivation that comes with long term internment in one of the many supermax solitary confinement control units across this nation. The science behind the use of deprivation has been perfected by the handlers to operate with devastating force. The wicked techniques of human torture by deprivation are used by U.S. military intelligence and their political police interrogators (PPI), from the prison OCS to the FBI or CIA.

They attempt to break down the will power of the targeted prisoners by conducting a war of attrition against the mind and body. We know there is no separation between physical torture and mental torture. Torture is two-edged and can be effective either way, towards exacting punishment or revenge. We prisoners of course know that breaking our will is the basis of long-term isolation and indeterminate solitary confinement.

The use of deprivation is to take away from the prisoners their human dimension and essence. Deprivation tampers with the senses by way of environment stimuli to the detriment of the targeted prisoners.

Sitawa represents New Afrikan prisoners on the hunger strike negotiating team. He came very close to death during the July hunger strike. Send our brother some love and light: Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (s/n R.N. Dewberry), C-35671, PBSP D1-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532-7500.

 

1966 Hunters Point Rebellion: Recollections of Harold Brooks and Thomas Fleming

September 27, 2011

In an effort to put down the Hunters Point Rebellion, which had been caused by the police murder of Matthew Johnson, 16, Mayor Jack Shelley sent SFPD sharpshooters, who shot into the Bayview Opera House, where children had sought sanctuary. – Photo courtesy Shaping San Francisco collection
The Hunters Point Rebellion, touched off Sept. 27, 1966, 45 years ago today, by the police murder of Matthew Johnson, 16, was put down after only 128 hours with massive force. Although the young “rioters” did little damage beyond breaking some windows and overturning a police car, Mayor Jack Shelley sent SFPD sharpshooters, who shot into the Bayview Opera House, where children had sought sanctuary. And Gov. Pat Brown, father of current Gov. Jerry Brown, declared martial law and called in the National Guard, who patrolled Third Street on foot and in tanks.

The repression left scars that make it hard for people who lived through the rebellion to talk about it 45 years later. The Bay View encourages those who remember to share your story so that what should be a proud chapter in Black history of defying injustice is never forgotten.

Those who remember the 1966 rebellion are encouraged to email their recollections to the Bay View at editor@sfbayview.com. To learn more about it and its effects today, watch the six videos by Dante Higgins at 1966 Hunters Point Uprising and other tales of ‘San Francisco’s Last Black Neighborhood’.

“Our Part of Town,” a play performed in 1994 at the Bayview Opera House, recalled the 1966 “riots” in Hunters Point. Clippings in a book compiled to accompany the play relate that “after the 1966 Hunters Point riot,” the federal government granted $150 million, which, under community control, built 3,000 new homes on Hunters Point Hill, many using local Black contractors and workers, and transformed Butchertown into the India Basin Industrial Park, creating 4,000 jobs. The description of the rebellion from the play’s script follows.

The play, including stories told by several Bayview Hunters Point elders and skits performed by youth, was presented on two nights. This segment by Harold Brooks was considered too provocative and was omitted from the second performance.

‘Tanks were rolling down Third Street’: Harold Brooks recalls the Hunters Point Rebellion in ‘Our Part of Town’

Narrator: Now let’s go back in time to 1966 when the men and women of Bayview Hunters Point pulled together. It was a struggle to get Bayview Hunters Point to be what it is today, and here to tell you the story, we are proud to introduce one of Bayview Hunters Point’s community activists, Mr. Harold Brooks.

Harold Brooks: I am here tonight to describe the Bayview Hunters Point riots and some of the other events that happened in our part of town.

Community leader Cati Hawkins-Okorie writes on Facebook: “This is me, late teens, around the time of the Hunters Point Uprising, Sept. 27, 1966. I was the mother of one, Darren, and mother-to-be of a second, Turia, and consider those who participated in that REBELLION our FREEDOM FIGHTERS and look up to them, just as the LGBT community looks up to those who took part in the Stonewall Rebellion!” Everyone who remembers the rebellion is encouraged to email your recollections to editor@sfbayview.com.
On Sept. 26, 1966, the police shot Matthew “Peanuts” Johnson on Griffith Street. The police thought the boy had stolen a car. Peanuts, seeing the police coming after him, became frightened and started running. The police shot him in the back as he fled. The unfortunate event began what is known as the Bayview riots.

The first night, Third Street from Palou to Fairfax was like a “war zone.” Community youth began throwing bricks, breaking out windows in the businesses and street lights along Third.

Mayor John Shelley and Chief of Police Cahill met with community spokesmen James Richards and Gene Maybrea to attempt to peacefully resolve the dispute. During this meeting, a call was received saying that National Guard tanks were rolling down Third Street and that police, in full riot gear, were lined up in flanks, some kneeling, others standing behind, with rifles trained on the Opera House from the west side of Third.

At that time, the Neighborhood Community Center was here in the Bayview Opera House. The Opera House at the time was loaded with young people and children, with only a few adults.

The police claimed that they had been fired upon, which caused them to shoot up the Opera House. It was a nightmare. Many of our youth were wounded, though no one was killed.

Harold Brooks
Youth leadership, including James Richards, Gene Maybrea and myself, negotiated an agreement to stop the riot to avoid further injury and property damage in the community. The compromise that was reached kept the police west of Third Street and the youth patrol working with community residents to monitor and maintain safe conditions east of Third. This began the organization known as Young Men for Action.

Young Men for Action went on to demand many other benefits which ripple through the community today as a result of this riot. These include job training, job opportunities and educational benefits.

Harold Brooks headed the Bayview Hunters Point Model Cities program. This segment from the play, “Our Part of Town,” first appeared in the Sept. 16, 1994, Bay View.

‘They’ll shoot’: Thomas Fleming recalls the Hunters Point Rebellion in a 1999 interview

During the 1960s there were riots in some cities. The carryover here was, they called it a riot out at Hunters Point. A policeman had shot a 17-year-old kid who had stolen a car. He was out joyriding like a lot of other 17-year-old teenagers do. They steal somebody’s car and cops were pursuing the car.

Gov. Pat Brown, father of current Gov. Jerry Brown, declared martial law and called in the National Guard – described by Sun Reporter editor Tom Fleming as “19-, 18-year old kids, and they’re scared” – who patrolled Third Street on foot and in tanks.
When the kid got out there in that part of Hunters Point where it happened, he jumped out of the car and ran across a vacant lot. The cops told him to halt and of course he didn’t pay any attention to that. That’s what started the shooting.

The teenagers started saying it wasn’t fair for that boy to be shot like that and they started gathering out there on the streets, and that’s when we first started hearing about it, because somebody out there was calling Nat, they were calling the NAACP to let them know what was going on.

There was more policemen on the street out there at that time. The kids would be away from the cops and they’d throw rocks at them. And as the day progressed, it got worse.

I remember when that thing occurred. It was coming over the news on the radio. We’d heard about it out here. Burbridge was still president of the NAACP. He came by the paper because we were right over here on Turk Street then and asked me if I would like to go out there with him. I said sure, I’d like to go.

So we went and there were a lot of angry young Black males out there. They were demanding to see the mayor. Jack Shelley was mayor then. So before we left them out there, Nat Burbridge called the Mayor’s Office and said he thought it would be good for the mayor to come out there and talk to those kids because most of them were teenagers. He refused.

We left there, and Nat said he thought we might have to come out there again that evening. He said, “I don’t know what these damn kids are going to do this evening.” So he called me about 6 o’clock and said, “I think we need to go out to Hunters Point again.”

We came to that police station on Third Street; it was called Potrero Station. We walked in there. Jack Shelley was in there. Tom Cahill, who was chief of police was in there. It looked like everybody was in there.

So we walked in, Nat and I. Nat said, “Don’t say anything to me.” He says, “I asked you to come out there this afternoon and speak to those kids and you didn’t come.”

“Forty-five years ago today, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 1966, these two brothers – Jerome Collins and James Hawkins (R.I.P.) – were a part of many out on Third Street expressing their anger at the killing of Matthew Johnson (R.I.P.). Little did we know these freedom fighters would change Bayview Hunters Point forever!” writes James Hawkins’ sister, community leader Cati Hawkins-Okorie.
Well, when we got to the police station we saw a car overturned, burning out there on Third Street. They smashed out a lot of windows out there along Third Street. And it looked like there was another fire further out, and they were still out there throwing rocks. Well, the police were trying to halt it, but it looked like they weren’t doing very well. So the mayor decided that he would go over there and address them.

They went over to that old Opera House out there on Third Street. That’s where the kids were all gathered over there. All of us who were in the police station went over there.

When we walked in, they started yelling, cursing the mayor. When he got up on the stage, they started throwing eggs at him and vegetables (chuckle), and he couldn’t make a speech, so the mayor ducked out.

Well, we knew it was going to be even rougher later on. So we came back over to the police station and we heard that Pat Brown – he was governor then – was going to come down from Sacramento and go meet with the mayor and everybody else at the Hall of Justice. We went over to the Hall of Justice and the governor came in and that’s when he decided to call out the National Guard.

I told Nat, “It looks like we’re going to be up all night.” Because most of these Guardsmen are 19-, 18-year-old kids, and they’re scared. I said, “They’ll shoot!” I said I think we ought to start patrolling the streets.

So we went further out on Third Street trying to tell them, “The National Guard are coming out here. If they tell you to get off the streets, get off the streets.” We went out to Sunnydale and did the same because they were all out there on the streets.

Then we came over to Haight Street. There were a lot of Black kids out there. Told ‘em, “Get off the streets if the Guard comes in.”

And we went along Fillmore Street and it wasn’t long after that we saw these jeeps patrolling around with a machine gun mounted on the back! We knew that they meant business. So we stayed up until about 4 o’clock in the morning before we went home. I don’t think he declared martial law, but he called out the National Guard to restore order.

I think the Guard was pulled out after three days.

Thomas Fleming, 91, editor of the Sun-Reporter in San Francisco 1944-1994, was interviewed on Jan. 9, 1999, at his home on Fillmore Street in San Francisco by Chris Carlsson, with assistance from Caitlin Manning, Joe Caffentzis and Max Millard. This interview has been posted at FoundSF, an excellent source of history.

 

Rev. Pinkney is coming to town with ‘Lessons from the Battle of Benton Harbor’

September 27, 2011

Meet Rev. Edward and Dorothy Pinkney on Friday, Sept. 30, 7 p.m., at ArtInternationale, 963 Pacific Ave. between Powell and Mason, San Francisco – Other stops on the Pinkneys’ Justice Tour are

  • Tuesday, Sept. 27, 11:30 a.m., Women’s Economic Agenda Project, 449 15th St., Oakland
  • Wednesday, Sept. 28, 6 p.m., New Light for New Life Church, 1106 Woodard, Fresno
  • Thursday, Sept. 29, 7 p.m., Silicon Valley Debug, 701 Lenzen Ave., San Jose
  • Saturday, Oct. 1, 6 p.m., Laney College, Room 255, 900 Fallon St., Oakland

Read the latest report by Rev. Pinkney below

Rev. Pinkney leads a march Aug. 10, 2010, protesting a golf course opening at Jean Klock Park, which had been dedicated to the children of Benton Harbor in perpetuity yet was appropriated for a corporate golf course. – Photo: Daymon Hartley
Rev. and Dorothy Pinkney have been leaders in the fight against the corporate (Whirlpool) and state government’s direct takeover of the poor, largely African-American Rust Belt town of Benton Harbor, Michigan, the first American city to be placed under Michigan’s draconian new Emergency Financial Manager law. Rev Pinkney has been jailed for leading the fight-back and for quoting the Bible at a hearing condemming this “economic martial law.”

The Pinkneys’ story is instructive for us here in San Francisco and California, where budgets are “balanced” on the backs of the most vulnerable workers and the poor, criminalizing, removing and driving us further into poverty. Join the Pinkneys and

  • devorah major, former San Francisco poet laureate, reading and speaking on racism, police brutality and removals in San Francisco, and
  • Matt Gonzalez,chief attorney of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and Green Party candidate for vice president of the U.S.

for poetry, music and hiphop on Friday, Sept. 30, at ArtInternationale, 963 Pacific Ave. between Powell and Mason, San Francisco, a benefit for The People’s Tribune co-sponsored by the Revolutionary Poets Brigade.

The Pinkneys are touring Northern California as national spokespersons against police brutality, courtroom injustice and corporate dictatorship. Rev. Pinkney is president of the Benton Harbor NAACP and has been singled out for political attack because of his years of outspoken criticism of the takeover of his local city government by Whirlpool Corp. In 2008-09 he spent a year in prison for the “crime” of quoting Deuteronomy Chapter 28 in an article condemning the behavior of a local judge.

“As far as I know he’s the first preacher in America to get put into prison for quoting the Bible,” said his attorney, Hugh “Buck” Davis.

California is now entering the same crisis that has afflicted the Rust Belt for over a decade. With unemployment at 12 percent and corporate profits at record highs, the state government is actively dismantling services, education and health care programs for working people it now considers disposable. In San Jose, the City Council is trying to declare a “fiscal and public safety state of emergency” in order to loot pensions, slash wages and benefits, and undermine collective bargaining for city employees.

The Benton Harbor situation is concrete evidence of what happens when corporations and government become fully merged. Michigan’s “fiscal martial law” has stripped all lawful authority from the elected Benton Harbor mayor and City Council, and replaced them with an “emergency financial manager” who has no accountability whatsoever to the residents. The people still have taxation but now have no political representation.

This tour could not be more timely. With their strength, cheerfulness and clear analysis, Rev. Pinkney and Dorothy offer the kind of leadership we need to emulate if we are to save our democracy and our standard of living here in California as well as all across America.

The Pinkneys and the Benton Harbor resistance provide concrete evidence of the extent to which the corporations and government have become entwined in America. Their leadership shows the necessity for confronting the entire political system that creates injustice.

Benton Harbor emergency financial manager goes wild

by Rev. Edward Pinkney

Benton Harbor Emergency Financial Manager Joseph Harris, the dictator, has cancelled Constitution Week in the city of Benton Harbor. This was to be a week meant to honor the signing of the Constitution. Joseph Harris and Whirlpool now have complete control over the city of Benton Harbor. They have decided there will be no Constitution Week for the city.

It is our constitutional duty as American citizens to hold our elected officials accountable for their wrongdoing, whether it is through words, action or inaction. We the people must draw the line and decide what to do if that line is crossed, and we must use our Constitution. Joseph Harris has crossed that line in the sand too many times. Joseph Harris has now cancelled Constitution Week. What is next?

In April of 2011, Joseph Harris authorized an “order prohibiting all action by all city boards, commissions and authorities, except as authorized by the emergency manager.” The order states:

“I, Joseph L. Harris, the duly appointed Emergency Manager for the City of Benton Harbor, Michigan (the ‘City’), pursuant to the power and authority granted by Act 4 of the Public Acts of Michigan of 2011, being MCL 141.1501 et seq (the ‘Act’), do hereby resolve and order as follows:

“WHEREAS, Section 19(ee) provides that the Emergency Manager may exercise any power or authority of any office, employee, department, board, commission or similar entity of the City, whether elected or appointed;

“WHEREAS, the power of the Emergency Manager as set forth in Section 19(ee) of the Act is superior to and supersedes any such officer or entity; and

“WHEREAS, now, no City Board, Commission or Authority has authority or power to act on behalf of the City as provided in the Act.

“NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED AS FOLLOWS:

“1. Absent prior express written authorization and approval by the Emergency Manager, no City Board, Commission or Authority shall take any action for or on behalf of the City whatsoever other than:

i) Call a meeting to order.
ii) Approve of meeting minutes.
iii) Adjourn a meeting.

“2. That all prior resolutions, or acts of any kind of the City in conflict herewith are and the same shall be, to the extent of such conflict, rescinded.

“3. This order shall be effective immediately.”

Harris has stolen your vote.

The dictator and CEO Cheryl Miller of New Products Corp. are sparring over the building of non-motorized zones on her company’s property. According to the Herald Paladium: “A bike path under construction on Klock Road has become a source of contention between the Benton Harbor Emergency Financial Manager and one of the oldest businesses. Cheryl Miller asserts that the path encroaches on her corporation’s property by about five feet for a length of 100 feet. Joseph Harris said, ‘Cheryl Miller has no grounds to be complaining about the permits the city issued for the bike path.’ He added, ‘For her to be complaining is the wrong thing to do because she’s going to get an answer from me that she is not going to like.’”

This and the canceling of Constitution Week is a clear case of an emergency financial manager going wild. This is a clear case of government and Whirlpool working together against the people – and even against their friends: other corporations! It is clear that the sole role of the emergency financial manager is to force Whirlpool’s agenda to redevelop Benton Harbor for the rich and to force the poor out of the city in the process.

Listen every Sunday at 5 p.m. Eastern Time (2 p.m. Pacific Time) on blogtalkradio.com to the Pinkney to Pinkney show or call in to listen: (347) 994-3644. Rev. Pinkney can be reached at banco9342@sbcglobal.net, and visit the BANCO blog for updates on the battle for Benton Harbor.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Rev. Pinkney gives a rousing speech to an overflow crowd at Central Methodist Church on Martin Luther King Day 2010 in Detroit

 

Call for prisoners in solitary nationwide to strike in solidarity with Pelican Bay

September 26, 2011

by Jeremy Pinson

Jeremy Pinson is a federal prisoner in the Florence, Colo., Ad-Max (Administrative Maximum), known as the Guantanamo of the Rockies, said to be even more restrictive than the Pelican Bay SHU.

Florence Ad-Max SWAT officers are depicted in this painting by Tommy Silverstein, who is reported to have been held in solitary confinement longer than any other federal prisoner.
I am serving 21 years in federal prison – in solitary confinement – because I protested the Iraq War. I was a congressional aide and my speaking out against a fraudulent war and senseless killing of Arabs earned me my spot here. I will not be intimidated and silenced.

I am with the men of Pelican Bay and am calling for a federal strike to support the men in PBSP as well as all those held in such housing in all U.S. prisons. I am lucky to be helped by a superb legal team and I intend to attack this system of injustice until I am no longer living.

I hope you will report on these facts and spread the word that I and the men in the federal system are behind those in California. We support them and we will do our part to bring justice to an unjust system.

I want to let you know, as it relates to the California hunger strike, that I have put together a coalition to sue the feds on behalf of the 400 inmates housed here at the supermax in indefinite solitary confinement.

For more information, Jeremy provides his address and the names and numbers of his three lawyers: Jeremy Pinson, 16267-064, ADX Florence, P.O. Box 8500, Florence CO 81226; his attorneys are Ed Aro (303) 863-2380, Deborah Golden (202) 775-0323 and Elisabeth Owen (720) 295-9389.

Petition: Restore Justice in America’s Prisons

This petition, which can be signed at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/endsmu2011/, is the work of Jeremy Pinson.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) houses 207,000 inmates, 2,000 of whom are housed in Special Management Units. These units were created in 2008 and are located at Talladega, Ala., Florence, Colo., Oakdale, La., Lewisburg, Pa., and Allenwood, Pa.

The “SMU Program” is the subject of over 150 federal lawsuits challenging the brutal, inhumane conditions of those units resulting in one murder, one suicide, and hundreds of assaults and suicide attempts occurring in the 25 months since the program’s inception.

Prisoners are routinely beaten, sprayed with mace, restrained in chains for days, and deprived of meals, legal and religious items by federal employees with virtually no oversight or investigations into rampant corruption, misconduct and brutality.

Jailhouse lawyer Jeremy Pinson has spearheaded the litigation effort to reform the BOP’s system and end the infamous lockdown programs. His advocacy has been met with violent reprisal, harassment and retaliation to no avail. Now, in the ultimate move to silence his dissent, the government seeks to house him in the most secure prison in the U.S., the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum (Ad-Max or ADX) in the mountains of Colorado where the government routinely suppresses free speech by cutting off mail, telephone and visitation access to the media and the public.

Sign the petition today, asking President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and BOP Director Harley Lappin to respect the rule of law, protect civil rights and end the oppressive SMU programs.

 

Black workers leading the charge

September 26, 2011

by Thandisizwe Chimurenga

Jabari Blount, unemployed apprentice electrician, signs a letter calling on Sen. Lowenthal to support SB 292. – Photo courtesy Los Angeles County Federation of Labor
A coalition of unemployed African American laborers, along with clergy, civic and community leaders sent a message on Sept. 8 to California state Sen. Allen Lowenthal, D-Long Beach. Literally.

Gathered in front of the senator’s Long Beach district office to demand his support for SB 292, the bill to fast track AEG’s Farmers Field project, the speakers all signed a foam board-mounted letter to the senator and then hand-delivered it to his office.

SB 292 would fast track AEG’s new NFL stadium to be built in downtown Los Angeles. According to a press statement by the L.A. County Federation of Labor, the project “would create tens of thousands of good jobs in the construction, hotel, tourism and entertainment industries.”

Speakers included Madelyn Broadus, a sheet metal journeywoman who has been out of work for 18 months. She worked on L.A. Live and the Nokia Theater. “I am still really proud of the work I did there. I waterproofed the buildings,” said Broadus.

“I have three kids – 7, 10 and 14 years old. I need a job that lasts so I can take care of my family, Broadus said. “I hope Sen. Lowenthal decides to support [this bill] and good jobs for our communities. We want to work, but we need projects to build.”

Madelyn Broadus, an unemployed journeywoman sheet metal worker and mother of three, urges support of SB 292 – her message backed up by Leray Williams, an unemployed apprentice iron worker at far right and other jobseekers. – Photo courtesy Los Angeles County Federation of Labor

Leray Williams, a 23-year-old iron worker apprentice, also spoke at the event. “I was recently married and I’m unemployed. Something is wrong with that,” said Williams. “Farmers Field would mean a whole lot to me and a lot of other young people who need this opportunity.”

Lowenthal was selected by the coalition because he has not taken a position in support of the project.

The bill, authored by state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, would not exempt AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group) from the requirement of the California Environmental Quality Act; it would still be subject to lawsuits if there were strong concerns or violations of any environmental standards but those lawsuits would be settled in a matter of months.

As unemployment rises to Depression level in Black communities across the nation, Lee Maxwell, construction worker and member of the Laborer's Union, speaks his mind with his sign at a rally for SB 292 that jobseekers hope will speed construction of a new football stadium in Los Angeles. – Photo courtesy Los Angeles County Federation of Labor
Representatives from the NAACP, Community Coalition and the Southern California Leadership Conference were also on hand at the rally. All of the speakers drove home the point that “20 percent African American unemployment in California should not be tolerated another day when a simple YES vote on SB 292 to expedite CEQA litigation for AEG’s Farmers Field project would result in thousands of jobs being created as early as 2012,” said Caroline O’Connor, a representative of the LA County Fed.

SB 292 had passed in California’s Assembly on the previous day, Sept. 7, and public pressure successfully moved the state Senate to pass it late Friday, Sept. 9. The pressure was so heavy, the San Diego Union-Tribune quipped that “football fans across Southern California seemed more focused on SB 292 than on SB [Super Bowl] XLVI.” Gov. Jerry Brown has until Oct. 9 to sign the bill into law.

Thandisizwe Chimurenga, conductor of the CyberGround Railroad, “Black Los Angeles’ News and Views Source,” is a community journalist and a founder and host of Some of Us Are Brave, a Black women’s public affairs show on KPFK-Pacifica Los Angeles. She has reported for the L.A. Watts Times newspaper, KPFK Evening News and Free Speech Radio News. She covered the trial of Johannes Mehserle, who murdered Oscar Grant, for the Bay View and several other Bay Area news organizations and is the author of a forthcoming book on the trial. She can be reached at tchimurenga@gmail.com.

 

California prisoners resume hunger strike today

September 26, 2011

by Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

This sign posted outside the San Quentin gate alerted visiting friends and family on July 2 that the hunger strike had begun at Pelican Bay. Within two weeks, more than 6,600 prisoners in at least 13 California prisons, including those in San Quentin Ad-Seg, were participating – the word spread primarily by visitors.
Today, prisoners at Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit (SHU) and Calipatria’s Administrative Segregation Unit (Ad-Seg or ASU) resume their hunger strike.

Community members and prisoners’ families are holding a press conference outside UC Hastings School of Law in San Francisco at 2 p.m. A panel discussion featuring legal experts, activists, advocates and prisoners’ family members will follow at UC Hastings, highlighting the prisoners’ conditions and reasons for their renewed strike.

The strike this past July exposed the conditions and practices of Pelican Bay’s SHU. Referring to the first round of the hunger strike, Mutope Duguma (s/n James Crawford), a strike representative in Pelican Bay’s SHU, writes, “This is far from over and once again, hopefully for the last time, we will be risking our lives via a peaceful hunger strike on Sept. 26, 2011, to force positive changes. For 21 1/2 years we have been quietly held in Pelican Bay State Prison solitary confinement under some of the most horrible conditions known to man. So we continue to struggle to be treated like decent human beings.”

“What other avenues do prisoners have? As with the first hunger strike, the demands of the strikers are reasonable and long overdue,” says Laura Magnani, a member of the prisoner’s mediation team and a representative of the American Friends Service Committee. “We call on the state of California to move quickly to address the problems of solitary confinement in the state’s prisons.”

Calipatria State Prison
The initial hunger strike started July 1 at Pelican Bay lasted nearly the entire month of July and swept across the state, with at least 6,660 prisoners in a third of California’s prisons participating. Despite claims to the contrary, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has yet to fully address what the prisoners feel are the most substantive changes outlined in their demands.

CDCR statistics show that of the 1,111 prisoners held in the Pelican Bay SHU, 513 have been in solitary confinement for 10 or more years and, of those, 78 have been held for 20 or more years. Meanwhile, an estimated 400 prisoners held in Calipatria’s ASU have been validated by the CDCR as gang members and are awaiting transfer to one of the state’s four SHUs.

“The CDCR’s gang validation process is a sham. They are using supposed gang membership as an excuse to torture people,” says Dolores Canales, the mother of one of the hunger strikers. “Holding people in tiny cells for years on end without any real possibility to get out, without natural sunlight or human contact, is a clear violation of human rights.” The only way to exit the SHU is to debrief, or disclose all knowledge of gang activity, potentially putting the prisoner and their families in danger because they are then viewed as “snitches.”

A prisoner’s view from inside a cell in the Pelican Bay SHU
Now over 100 hunger strikers at Calipatria State Prison, in solidarity with the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay, are risking their lives to expose the conditions of the ASU at Calipatria. According to Calipatria ASU prisoners, roughly 80 percent of the prisoners in the ASU have been given indefinite SHU terms. They are placed in this isolation unit to await transfer to one of California’s three other SHU’s for men. Most of the prisoners currently in Calipatria’s ASU have been awaiting transfer for three to four years.

ASU prisoners at Calipatria have also reported that prison officials have not been implementing the changes addressed by the five core demands written by the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay even though the demands refer to all SHU-status prisoners throughout California, not just at Pelican Bay. The prisoners at Calipatria are furthering the struggle to stop the torture and mistreatment of SHU prisoners by insisting the five core demands be effectively implemented for all SHU-status prisoners no matter what prison they are located in. Since many of the programs and privileges for prisoners varies from prison to prison, Calipatria hunger strikers have amended Demand No. 5 to include TV and radios as well as PIA soft shoes, privileges not already in place at Calipatria’s ASU.

In preparation for the hunger strike, Calipatria ASU prisoners have sent in medical requests for liquids while on strike, after having been denied liquids during the first round of the hunger strike in July. ASU prisoners have also prepared by sending Calipatria’s warden their five core demands with their amendment to the fifth demand. According to letters from Calipatria ASU hunger strike participants, who prefer to remain unnamed, the strike is “a peaceful protest against CDCR’s inhumane solitary confinement and their insufficient and abusive [gang] validation process.”

In preparation for the hunger strike, Calipatria ASU prisoners have sent in medical requests for liquids while on strike, after having been denied liquids during the first round of the hunger strike in July.

In recent interviews, CDCR Undersecretary for Operations Scott Kernan suggested that the department might expand SHU imprisonment to include some unnamed “security threat groups” – reportedly adding prisoners who were members of street gangs before their incarceration to “validated” prison gang members – and that the current realignment process the CDCR has undertaken to relieve extreme overcrowding, as ordered by the Supreme Court, might open up the possibility for more SHU cells.

“This is exactly the opposite of what the prisoners have asked for in their very reasonable demands,” says Manuel LaFontaine, an organizer with All of Us or None. “It is this kind of manipulative gerrymandering that has brought us to a crisis point in terms of conditions in California prisons.”

CDCR’s response to the July hunger strike was inadequate to say the least, giving prisoners and their families false hope of timely substantial change and an end to torture. For a detailed summary of the CDCR’s response to the strike and why Pelican Bay prisoners are resuming it, read “Tortured SHU prisoners speak out: The struggle continues, hunger strike resumes Sept. 26.”

CDCR officials seemed to be preemptively cracking down on prisoners in anticipation of resumption of the strike and have publicly said they were preparing to take harsh actions against strikers. Illustrating the CDCR’s hard-line stance, Undersecretary Scott Kernan said in a recent interview, “If there are other instances of hunger strikes, I don’t think the department will approach it the same way this time around.”

Lawyers who have recently visited Pelican Bay have taken testimony from SHU prisoners who have been retaliated against by prison officials for their participation in this summer’s strike. “Prisoners are receiving serious disciplinary write-ups, usually reserved for serious rules violations, for things like talking in the library or not walking fast enough,” says Carol Strickman, a lawyer with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. “It’s clear that prison officials are trying to intimidate these men and to make them ineligible for any privileges or changes that may be forced by the strike.”

It’s these sorts of responses and retaliation by the CDCR that show us prisoners are not recognized and treated as human beings, are constantly abused and tortured by the CDCR, and that the CDCR has no intention of stopping this. The prisoners clearly have no other recourse but to risk their lives again.

Broad international support for the strikers continues to grow as the hunger strike enters its next phase. For more information and updates, visit www.prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com.

This story combines information from four Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity releases, two of them written by Isaac Ontiveros, and contributions by Bay View staff. The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition can be reached at prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity@gmail.com and Isaac Ontiveros can be reached directly at isaac@criticalresistance.org.

 

Why it took 11 months instead of three weeks to show that Haiti’s cholera is Nepalese

September 25, 2011

A tale of noble and ignoble scientists, Harvard and the U.N.

Mis à jour avec traduction française

by Dady Chery

A Haitian resident holds his relative who is suffering from cholera at St-Catherine hospital in the slum of Cite-Soleil in Port-au-Prince Nov. 12, 2010. (Un résident d’Haïti tient son parent qui souffre de choléra à l’hôpital Sainte-Catherine dans le bidonville de Cité-Soleil, à Port-au-Prince Novembre 12, 2010.) - Photo: St-Felix Evens, Reuters
It took nearly a year since the start of Haiti’s cholera epidemic for scientists to get conclusive proof that the cholera bacteria in Haiti are identical to bacteria in Nepal. Drs. Frank Aarestrup from Denmark, Paul Keim from Arizona and Geeta Shakya from Kathmandu led a recent study that provided this evidence.

The DNA in cholera changes rapidly when these bacteria infect humans. This makes the cholera a moving target and very difficult to vaccinate against. On the other hand, when two cholera turn out to be identical, one can say with confidence that they originated from the same place or infected person(s).

By comparing the complete DNA sequences (also called “genomes”) from the cholera in Haiti to the complete DNA sequences from cholera in Nepal, the international group of scientists found that Haiti’s cholera exactly matches one of four Nepalese cholera. The resemblance between the Haitian and Nepalese cholera was so strong that, in a sequence of about 4,000,000 DNA bases, all agreed except for one or two. This is as good as comparing one complete volume of Shakespeare’s works to a new tome from a different publisher, discovering that there are no more than one or two single-letter differences between them, and concluding that both are indeed the complete Shakespeare. The techniques for this type of study are enormously expensive but very quick and not especially demanding.

DNA double helix sequence (Séquence de l’ADN en double hélice)
One could reasonably ask if it is necessary to compare every letter in two volumes of Shakespeare to decide that they are the same. Why not scan, for example, through the section headings for the same sequences of acts in the plays and the same succession of sonnets? Indeed there exist older and cheaper techniques for examining DNA that do something of the sort. This is how the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that the cholera strain in Haiti is Vibrio Cholerae O1 Ogawa Biotype El Tor. It is also how the CDC discovered that every Haitian who got cholera had the identical bacteria, which was taken to mean that the Haitian epidemic had a single source.

If expense was an issue for the CDC, it certainly was not for the groups that favor the current technology. According to the latter, two cholera-sized “books” can be scanned at “single-letter” resolution over 30 times in less than 24 hours.

So why did it take 11 months to nail the source of Haiti’s cholera? The only reason it took so long to discover that Haiti’s cholera came from Nepal is because scientists had until now not bothered to compare the cholera from Haiti to cholera from Nepal.

The only reason it took so long to discover that Haiti’s cholera came from Nepal is because scientists had until now not bothered to compare the cholera from Haiti to cholera from Nepal.

Back when a precise knowledge of the source of the epidemic would have saved lives and probably aborted the renewal of the U.N. (MINUSTAH) mandate in Haiti, John Mekalanos’ group at Harvard promised to carry out the study that was finally done by Aarestrup, Keim and Shakya. Mekalanos argued that the conclusive proof of the origin of any cholera could only come from studies using the most modern methods. Other scientists deferred to Harvard, first because, well, it was Harvard, and second, because they could not afford the new technology. Instead of doing a proper study, however, Mekalanos’ group compared the DNA of the cholera from Haiti to the DNA of three types of cholera from different epidemics. Not a single one was from Nepal.

In the end the Harvard group published an article in which the word “Nepal” did not appear even once. The cholera they used were from an epidemic in Peru and two different epidemics in Bangladesh. They merely concluded that the cholera in Haiti is Asian: a fact that was already known from the CDC studies.

Dr. Mekalanos had this to say during an interview with Science Watch in February 2011:

“My colleagues and I have been very clear in saying that the genomic evidence says that this strain in Haiti has its origin in South Asia. True, Nepal is part of South Asia so it clearly needs more investigation and a commission has been established by the U.N. to look into the possibility.”

The Vibrio Cholerae O1 Ogawa Biotype El Tor bacteria has been identified as the single source of cholera in Haiti. (Le Vibrio cholerae O1 Ogawa biotype El Tor bactérie identifié comme la source unique du choléra en Haïti.) – Photo: Dartmouth College
Without exaggerating, one might say, for example, that the cholera study by Harvard was analogous to using the most sensitive instruments and best-trained scientists to test for Fukushima radiation everywhere in the globe except Japan, reporting that the meltdowns had probably happened somewhere in Asia, and then proposing that a commission from the nuclear-power companies finish the investigation.

Unlike the Harvard group, the Denmark and Arizona scientists collaborated with Katmandhu researchers who gave them access to cholera samples collected from 24 patients in five Nepalese districts between July 30 and Nov. 1, 2010. Given that the Nepalese government has violently protested all mentions of any association with the epidemic, the Nepalese scientists who participated in this project did so at considerable personal risk. It made sense to look in Nepal for a possible source for Haiti’s cholera, because U.N. troops arrived fresh from the cholera epidemics in Nepal days before the first Haitian case of the disease was diagnosed.

The fact that the Harvard group discovered nothing much about Haiti’s cholera did not prevent them from admonishing Haitians to be immediately vaccinated. They did so although cholera vaccines are not recommended by the Word Health Organization (WHO) even to tourists entering areas with endemic cholera. Such vaccines are considered worse than useless because they give the illusion of protection and encourage reckless behavior. Since the cholera change rapidly, vaccination lasts for only about six months even against the cholera strains for which the vaccines are made. Moreover, the vaccines give zero protection against other cholera strains.

But here is what Mekalanos’ colleague Dr. Matthew Waldor said:

“It’s time to seriously consider vaccinating people who live in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, not only to save lives there, but to prevent the spread of this new strain to other countries in the region.”

Science, universities, corporations and profits

I was so impressed by this enthusiasm for vaccines that I decided to look into the list of disclosures that the Harvard scientists had to file for their publication. I discovered the following:

Several of the Harvard scientists own stock in Pacific Biosciences, a company that makes the machines and all the supplies for the expensive new method of DNA sequencing that they had been promoting. One person on the project was employed by Pacific Biosciences. One could say, in a way, that the Haiti cholera study was an advertisement for PB’s products.

Dr. John Mekalanos and his corporate interests

Dr. Mekalanos is involved in cholera-vaccine development. He and Harvard University receive royalties from Vaccines Technologies Inc., a company that entered an exclusive license and development agreement with Celldex Therapeutics Inc.(formerly AVANT Immunotherapeutics, Inc.) in January 2009. The agreement allows VTI to develop and commercialize Celldex’s CholeraGarde(R) vaccine program.

He is co-founder of three biotechnology firms, Virus Research Institute, PharmAthene and, most recently, Matrivax. Virus Research Institute later merged with another company and became Avant Immunotherapeutics, a firm that receives grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Harvard’s Haiti cholera study can be seen as an advertisement for Pacific Biosciences, where some of the researchers owned stock. The photo shows off Pacific Sciences’ $700 million DNA sequencing machine. According to Shareholder.com, their 2011 second quarter revenues totaled $10.6 million and gross profit, $7.9 million. Working on the machine is the company’s founder, Stephen Turner, in laser-resistant glasses. (L’étude du choléra d’Haïti à Harvard peut être considérée comme une publicité pour Pacific Biosciences, où certains des chercheurs tiennent du stock. Cette photo montre une machine de séquençage d’ADN de Pacific Biosciences qui coute 700 millions de dollars. Leurs affaires du 2ème trimestre 2011 s’élèvent à 10.6 millions de dollars et le bénéfice brut, 7.9 millions de dollars.) – Photo: Gregg Segal, Bloomberg Businessweek
Mekalanos’ PharmAthene is a biodefense company involved with the development and commercialization of medical countermeasures against biological and chemical weapons. Their customers included the U.S. Defense Department, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and the U.S. National Institutes of Health. For the second quarter of 2011 PharmAthene saw revenues of $6.4 million compared to $4.8 million the same period of 2010: an increase of $1.6 million. His company’s SparVax program totaled $5.3 million for the three months ending June 30, 2011, compared to $2.1 million for the same period in 2010.

Mekalanos’ third company, Matrivax Research & Development Corp. in Boston, is a small private corporation with only eight employees that received an annual revenue of $710,000 last year, shared by Mekalanos, his two partners and employees. He is director of Matrivax, which is privately funded, including grants from the Bill Gates Foundation.

Mekalanos is also the founder of Virus Research and Versicor. Versicor is at least a multi-million dollar corporation, gaining $22 million in investments in 1997 alone. That same year, they targeted “the substantial worldwide medical need for antibiotics as evidenced by the current market size, which currently exceeds $23 billion.” The company “gained access to proprietary technology for the identification of novel drug targets in bacteria from the laboratory of Professor John Mekalanos, chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics.”

According to his executive profile in Bloomsberg Businessweek, information on Mekalanos’ annual income, stock options and total compensation is not available.

Mekalanos has not let any conflict of interest stop him from flogging his vaccine:

“When I heard in January 2010 that an earthquake had hit Haiti, the first thing that crossed my mind was ‘how long?’ I knew cholera would happen sooner or later; the only question was when.

“Why wasn’t it stockpiled? You’ll never stockpile this vaccine without a few global health organizations saying it makes sense to do so. And the obvious organization, the one which stands right in the cross hairs, is the WHO. It takes courage to make that statement and stand by it.

“By way of full disclosure, I have been involved in developing cholera vaccines, so you might say I’m conflicted. However, others have made cholera vaccines too. The problem has not been as much making a safe and effective vaccine. It is getting agencies to say they are willing to use it as part of public policy. After that, I’m sure we can figure out how to get that global stockpile made.”

The idea that earthquakes cause cholera is patently absurd. Earthquakes cannot create cholera. Cholera may be released from sewage into drinking water during earthquakes, but this can only happen in places where the cholera already exists in the sewage.

There is no evidence that cholera has ever existed in Haiti before October 2010. The cholera first appeared explosively in the Artibonite region: a rural area that had suffered no damage from the earthquake. By contrast, in Port-au-Prince, where the earthquake damage was massive, the incidence of cholera was five times lower than in the Artibonite.

Interestingly, the most enthusiastic support for Harvard’s efforts to vaccinate Haitians has come from none other than U.N. Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) director Dr. John Andrus.

“I see a real opportunity to vaccinate vulnerable groups in countries that have yet to see the outbreak but we know would be very vulnerable if cholera was imported …. I worry about some of the poorer countries of the Caribbean. I worry about Central America.”

Andrus’ first action during the epidemic was to give a press conference. There he announced that one should expect many thousands of Haitians to die of cholera, and he pleaded for donations of $164 million to the U.N. and a group of 42 NGOs that he had quickly gathered under PAHO’s umbrella.

Several times former President Preval’s government came under strong pressure from the U.N. to vaccinate the Haitian population, and every time the Haitian Ministry of Public Health refused. If the ministry had acquiesced to the vaccination campaigns, the U.N., via PAHO, would have purchased massive doses of the Mekalanos vaccine. Harvard and corporate affiliates would have made tidy profits.

It is worthwhile to note that the source of Haiti’s cholera was identified, not by U.S. or European researchers many months after the epidemic but by Haitians at home and in the diaspora within days of the first cases of cholera. In an article in Axis of Logic, I argued that the epidemic had been introduced into Haiti by the U.N. Soon thereafter, Mirebalais’ mayor and other citizens brought to the press’ attention their observation that the epidemic had started downstream of the U.N. base of Nepalese soldiers in the nearby village of Meille in the Artibonite region.

A more formal epidemiological study led by Dr. Renaud Piarroux confirmed and strengthened this summer the initial observations. Two Haitians contributed to the study as authors, Dr. Robert Barrais, who is an epidemiologist in Haiti’s National Laboratory of Public Health, and Dr. Roc Magloire, who is the director of this institution. Other Haitian epidemiologists and medical authorities declined to be co-authors of the paper because of concerns about retaliation.

Importantly, Piarroux’s team in France and Haiti concluded that there must have been active cases of cholera among the Nepalese MINUSTAH troops last October for the dose of cholera in the Artibonite river water to have been lethal.

“To our knowledge, only infectious doses over 10,000 bacteria were shown to produce mild patent infection in healthy volunteers, and higher doses are required to provoke severe infections. Reaching such doses in the Meille River is hardly compatible with the amount of bacteria excreted by asymptomatic carriers, whereas if one or several arriving soldiers were incubating the disease, they would have subsequently excreted diarrheal stools containing 10 billion to 10 trillion bacteria per liter. We therefore believe that symptomatic cases occurred inside the MINUSTAH camp.”

This implies a coverup by the U.N., which continues to claim that none of its troops was ever ill with cholera.

At least six scientific studies have resulted from the Haitian cholera epidemic, though only two have yielded results of any consequence. Every one of these studies has dismissed the discoveries by Haitians as mere “rumor,” although it was these findings, together with Haitian and Cuban record keeping, that made possible the epidemiological study by the French. If Haitians had not identified the source of the cholera, it might never have been discovered; instead, the epidemic would have been blamed on the supposed bad hygiene of the poor, and the U.N. and NGOs would have exploited the epidemic as yet another occasion to enrich themselves from the misfortune of Haitians.

The U.N. continues to claim that none of its troops was ever ill with cholera. If Haitians had not identified the source of the cholera, it might never have been discovered; instead, the epidemic would have been blamed on the supposed bad hygiene of the poor, and the U.N. and NGOs would have exploited the epidemic as yet another occasion to enrich themselves from the misfortune of Haitians.

Surprisingly the French study provided no explanation for the fact that the cholera managed to reach the off-shore island of La Gonâve, and it accepted as fact the government explanation that the prisoners who died of cholera had been given river water to drink. Actually the cholera initially spread much too rapidly throughout the country to be explained by anything but a widespread distribution of the bacteria in infected bottled water.

After I pointed this out early in the epidemic, the Haitian government discontinued the “dlo nan sachèt” (water in plastic bags) that were being distributed as “purified water” throughout the country. Discontinuing this distribution of infected water probably saved lives.

Piarroux stopped short of suggesting that some means of distribution of highly infected water was involved in the epidemic. He did say, however, that he could not explain the mechanism by which people were lethally infected well downstream of the Meille tributary of the Artibonite, when the river water, moving at more than 100 cubic meters per second, should have rapidly diluted the cholera to non-lethal doses.

Certainly one of the most important lessons from the earthquake and cholera epidemic is that Haitians can be each other’s salvation. During the first days of the epidemic, when scientific investigations of its origin mattered most, there were no plans for a thorough epidemiological study nor a comparison of the DNA of the cholera in Haiti to those from Nepal. It took the international scientific community nearly a year to do its job, and at every step it had to be shamed into it by Haitians determined to help each other.

It took the international scientific community nearly a year to do its job, and at every step it had to be shamed into it by Haitians determined to help each other.

The proof that the U.N. brought the cholera epidemic into Haiti has come much too late, but perhaps some use can be derived from it apart from publications and accolades for Western researchers. When the U.N. Security Council next considers MINUSTAH’s mandate in mid-October of this year, Drs. Renaud Piarroux, Frank Aarestrup and Paul Keim should stand up and explain why MINUSTAH troops must be immediately removed from Haiti so as to prevent new epidemics. The scientists should additionally propose that MINUSTAH countries make reparations for polluting Haiti’s rivers and aquifers.

The scientists should additionally propose that MINUSTAH countries make reparations for polluting Haiti’s rivers and aquifers.

Instead of promoting useless vaccines to Haitians, the U.N. should compensate the families of cholera victims and finance the construction of sewage- and water-treatment plants throughout the country using Haitian labor for this enterprise at every level.

Dady Chery grew up at the heart of an extended working-class family in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She emigrated to New York when she was 14 and since then has traveled throughout the world, living in Europe and several North American cities. She writes in English, French and her native Créole and holds a doctorate. She can be reached at dc@dadychery.org. This story first appeared in Axis of Logic, where Chery is a columnist.

Onze Mois Au Lieu de Trois Semaines Pour Montrer Que le Choléra en Haïti Provient Du Népal

par Dady Chery

Traduit de l’anglais à français par Dady Chery

Il a fallu presqu’un an depuis le début de l’épidémie de choléra en Haïti pour que les scientifiques obtiennent une preuve concluante que la bactérie du choléra en Haïti est identique à une bactérie au Népal. Drs Frank Aarestrup du Danemark, Paul Keim de l’Arizona, et Geeta Shakya de Katmandou ont recemment mené une étude qui a fourni cette preuve.

Lorsque le choléra infecte l’homme, l’ADN de cette bacterie change rapidement. Cela rend le choléra une cible mouvante et très difficile pour combattre avec des vaccins. D’autre part, lorsque deux sources de choléra se révèlent être identiques, on peut dire avec confiance qu’elles proviennent du même endroit our personne infectée.

En comparant les séquences complètes de l’ADN (également appelées «génomes») provenant du choléra en Haïti aux séquences complètes de l’ADN provenant du choléra au Népal, le groupe international de scientifiques a constaté que le choléra en Haïti correspond exactement à l’un des quatre choléra Népalaises. La ressemblance entre les choléra haïtiens et népalaises a été si forte que, dans une séquence d’environ 4.000.000 de bases de l’ADN, tous furent d’accord sauf un ou deux. La resemblance est aussi bonne que de comparer un volume complet des œuvres de Shakespeare à un autre, découvrir seulement une ou deux lettres de différence, et conclure que les deux volumes sont en effet les mêmes oeuvres de Shakespeare. Les techniques pour ce type d’étude sont extrêmement chères, mais très rapides et pas particulièrement difficiles.

On pourrait raisonnablement se demander s’il est nécessaire de comparer chaque lettre entre deux volumes de Shakespeare pour décider qu’ils sont les mêmes. Pourquoi ne pas verifier, par exemple, les titres de section pour les mêmes séquences d’actes de théâtre et la même succession de poêmes? En effet, il existe des techniques plus anciennes et moins coûteux pour examiner l’ADN qui se fassent come cela. C’est ainsi que le Center for Disease Control (CDC) a constaté que la souche de choléra en Haïti est Vibrio cholerae O1 Ogawa biotype El Tor. C’est également comment le CDC a découvert que tous les haïtiens qui ont été atteints par le choléra portaient des bactéries identiques, ce qui a été interprétée comme signifiant que l’épidémie haïtienne avait une source unique.

Si le cout a été un problème pour le CDC, ce n’était certainement pas pour les groupes qui favorisaient la technologie la plus moderne. Selon ces derniers, deux “livres” du choléra peuvent être examinés à une résolution “d’une seule lettre” plus de 30 fois en moins de 24 heures.

Alors pourquoi at-il fallu 11 mois pour connaitre la source du choléra en Haïti? La seule raison pour laquelle il a fallu si longtemps pour découvrir que le choléra en Haïti provenait le Népal est parce que les scientifiques n’avaient jusqu’à présent pas pris la peine de comparer le choléra en Haïti aux choléra du Népal.

La seule raison pour laquelle il a fallu si longtemps pour découvrir que le choléra en Haïti provenait le Népal est parce que les scientifiques n’avaient jusqu’à présent pas pris la peine de comparer le choléra en Haïti aux choléra du Népal.

À l’époque où une connaissance précise de la source de l’épidémie aurait sauvé la vie a tant de personnes, et probablement causé la chute du rénouvellement de l’ONU (MINUSTAH) en Haïti, le groupe scientifique de John Mekalanos à Harvard a promis qu’il réaliserait l’étude qui a été finalement réalisé par Aarestrup, Keim et Shakya. Mekalanos a dit que la preuve concluante de l’origine du choléra ne pourrait provenir que des études utilisant les méthodes les plus modernes. D’autres scientifiques se sont excusés du project, parce que premièrement c’était Harvard, et deuxièmement, ils ne pouvaient pas acheter cette nouvelle technologie. Au lieu de faire une étude appropriée, cependant, le groupe Mekalanos a comparé l’ADN du choléra d’ Haïti à l’ADN de trois types de choléra provenant d’autres épidémies. Pas un seul d’elles a été du Népal.

En fin de compte le groupe de Harvard a publié un article dans lequel le mot “Népal” n’aparassait pas même pas une seule fois. Ils ont été utilisés les cholera d’une épidémie au Pérou et deux épidémies différentes au Bangladesh. Ils ont simplement conclu que le choléra en Haïti est asiatique: un fait qui était déjà connu des études du CDC.

Dr Mekalanos avait ceci à dire au cours d’un entretien avec Science Watch en Février 2011:

“Mes collègues et moi avons été très clair en disant que les preuves génomiques disent que cette souche en Haïti a son origine en Asie du Sud. Certes, le Népal fait partie de l’Asie du Sud. On a besoin de plus d’enquêtes pour savoir mieux, et une commission a été établie par l’ONU pour examiner la possibilité.”

Sans exagérer, on peut dire, par exemple, que l’étude du choléra par Harvard était comme ceci: obtenir des instruments les plus sensibles et les scientifiques les mieux formés pour tester pour le radiations de Fukushima, chercher partout dans le monde entier sauf au Japon, annoncer que les catastrophes nucléaires ont probablement eu lieu quelque part en Asie, et puis proposer que des sociétés de l’énergie nucléaire finissent l’enquête.

Contrairement au groupe de Harvard, les scientifiques du Danemark et de l’Arizona ont collaboré avec des chercheurs du Katmandhu qui leurs ont donné des échantillons du choléra recueillis dans 5 districts du Nepal et 24 népalaises entre 30 Juillet 1er Novembre 2010. Étant donné que le gouvernement népalais a violemment protesté toutes mentions d’une association avec l’épidémie, les scientifiques népalaises qui ont participé à ce projet l’ont fait à des risques personnels considérables. Il était logique de chercher au Népal pour une source possible du choléra en Haïti, parce que les soldats de l’ONU sont arrivés des épidémies de choléra au Népal juste avant le premier cas de la maladie en Haïti.

Le fait que les chercheurs de Harvard n’aient rien trouvé de nouveau sur le choléra d’Haïti ne les a pas empêché de recommander aux Haïtiens de se vacciner immédiatement. Ils l’ont dit malgré que les vaccins contre le choléra ne sont pas recommandés par l’Organisation de la Santé (OMS, aussi WHO) même pour les touristes entrant dans les zones ou le choléra est endémique. Ces vaccins sont considérés comme pire qu’inutile, car ils donnent l’illusion de protection et encouragent un comportement imprudent. Le cholera change rapidement, et alors la vaccination ne dure qu’à peu pres six mois, même contre les souches de choléra pour lesquelles les vaccins sont preparées. Par ailleurs, les vaccins donnent nulle protection
contre les autres souches de choléra.

Mais voici ce que le collègue de Mekalanos , le vaccins donnent nulle protection a déclaré:

“Il est temps d’envisager sérieusement la vaccination des personnes qui vivent en Haïti et la République dominicaine, non seulement pour sauver des vies, mais pour éviter la propagation de cette nouvelle souche dans d’autres pays de la région.”

Sciences, Universités, Compagnies, et Profits

J’ai été tellement impressionné par cet enthousiasme pour les vaccins que j’ai décidé de vérifier la liste de divulgation que les scientifiques de Harvard ont dû remplir pour leur publication. J’ai trouvé ce qui suit:

Plusieurs des scientifiques de Harvard tiennent le stock de Pacific Biosciences, une compagnie qui fabrique les machines et toutes les fournitures pour la méthode plus coûteuse de séquençage de l’ADN pour laquelle ils fasaient la promotion. Une personne sur le projet était un employé de Pacific Biosciences. On pourrait dire, en un sens, que l’étude du choléra en Haïti a été une publicité pour des produits de Pacific Biosciences.

Le Docteur John Mekalanos et ses Intérêts

Dr Mekalanos a participé dans la formulation d’un vaccin du choléra. Lui et l’Université de Harvard reçoivent des redevances de Vaccine Technologies Inc, une compagnie qui est entré en licence exclusive et accord de développement avec Celldex Therapeutics Inc (anciennement AVANT Immunotherapeutics Inc.) en Janvier 2009. L’accord permet à VTI de développer et commercialiser une programme de vaccination pour CholeraGarde Celldex (R).

Il est co-fondateur de trois entreprises de biotechnologie: Virus Research Institute, PharmAthene et plus récemment, Matrivax. Virus Research Institute s’est ensuite fusionné avec une autre compagnie et est devenu Avant Immunotherapeutics Inc., une entreprise qui reçoit aussi des bourses du NIH.

La PharmAthene de Mekalanos est une compagnie de biodéfense pour le développement et la commercialisation de contre-mesures médicales contre les armes biologiques et chimiques. Leurs clients inclusent le Département de la Défense des Etats-Unis, l’Institut National des Allergies et des Maladies Infectieuses, Biomedical Advanced Research Authority and Development, et les Instituts nationaux américains de la santé. Pour le 2e trimestre de 2011, PharmAthene a vu des revenus de 6.4 millions de dollars comparativement à 4.8 millions de dollars à la même epoque pour l’année 2010: une augmentation de 1.6 millions de dollars. Son programme d’entreprise SparVax, a totalisé 5.3 millions de dollars pour les trois mois se terminant en Juin 30, 2011, comparativement à 2.1 millions de dollars pour la même période en 2010.

La troisième compagnie de Mekalanos, Matrivax Research & Development Corporation à Boston est une petite compagnie privée, avec seulement 8 employés qui a reçu un revenu de 710.000 dollars l’an dernier, partagé par Mekalanos et ses deux partenaires et employés. Il est directeur du Matrivax qui reçoit des fonds privés, y compris les bourses de la Fondation Bill Gates.

Mekalanos est également le fondateur de Versicor qui fait des recherches sur les virus. Versicor est au moins une compagnie de plusieurs millions de dollars, gagnant 22 millions de dollars en investissements dans l’année 1997. Cette même année, ils ont ciblé “le besoin important médical dans tout le monde pour les antibiotiques [qui] se témoigne a la taille actuelle du marché, qui dépasse actuellement $ 23 milliards de dollars.” La société “a eu accès à une technologie exclusive pour l’identification de nouvelles cibles thérapeutiques dans les bactéries provenant du laboratoire du Professeur John Mekalanos, qui est le Chef du Département de Microbiologie et de Génétique Moléculaire.”

Selon son profil exécutif en Bloomsberg / Businessweek, des informations sur le revenu annuel de Mekalanos, ses stocks, et sa rémunération totale ne sont pas disponibles.

Mekalanos n’a laissé aucun conflit d’intérêt l’empêcher de promouvoir son vaccin:

“Quand j’ai entendu en Janvier 2010 qu’il y avait un tremblement de terre en Haïti, la première chose qui m’a traversé l’esprit était ‘combien de temps?’ Je savais que le choléra passerait là, tôt ou tard, la seule question était quand.

“Pourquoi le pays ne s’etait pas stocké avec le vaccin? Vous n’aurez jamais les stocks de ce vaccin si quelques organisations de la santé mondiale ne disent pas qu’il est logique de le faire. Et l’organisation évidente est l’OMS (WHO). Il faut du courage pour faire cette déclaration et de s’y tenir.

“En guise de divulgation complète, j’ai été impliqué dans le développement de vaccins contre le choléra, sorte que vous pourriez dire que je suis en conflit. Toutefois, d’autres ont aussi fait des vaccins contre le choléra. Le problème n’a pas été celle de bien faire un vaccin sûr et efficace. C’est aux agences de dire qu’ils sont prêts à l’utiliser dans le cadre de la politique publique. Après cela je suis sûr que nous pourrons savoir comment obtenir des stocks mondiaux”

L’idée que les tremblements de terre causent le choléra est absurde. Les tremblements de terre ne peuvent pas créer le choléra. Le choléra peut être libéré par la contamination de l’eau potable par des eaux usées lors des tremblements de terre, mais ceci ne peut pas arriver dans des endroits où le choléra n’existe pas déjà dans les eaux usées. Il n’existe aucune preuve que le choléra ait jamais existé en Haïti avant l’Octobre 2010. La première apparition du choléra fut explosive et dans la région de l’Artibonite: une zone rurale qui n’avait pas subi de dommages par le séisme. A Port-au-Prince, où les dégâts du tremblement de terre ont été massive, l’incidence du choléra a été cinq fois moins que celle de l’Artibonite.

Fait intéressant: le soutien le plus enthousiaste pour les efforts de Harvard pour vacciner les Haïtiens est venu de nul autre que l’ONU, du Directeur de l’Organisation panaméricaine de la santé (OPS, aussi PAHO), le Dr John Andrus.

“Je vois une réelle opportunité de vacciner les groupes vulnérables dans les pays qui n’ont pas encore vu l’épidémie, mais que nous savons seraient très vulnérable si le choléra est importé …. Je m’inquiète au sujet de certains des pays les plus pauvres des Caraïbes. Je m’inquiète de l’Amérique centrale. “

La première action d’Andrus pendant l’épidémie était de donner une conférence de presse. Là, il a annoncé que l’on doit s’attendre à plusieurs milliers de morts Haïtiens du choléra, et il a plaidé pour des dons de 164 millions de dollars à l’ONU et un groupe de 42 ONG qu’il avait rapidement réuni sous l’égide de l’OPS.

Plusieurs fois, l’ancien gouvernement du président Préval est venu sous une forte pression de l’ONU pour vacciner la population haïtienne, et chaque fois le ministère haïtien de la Santé Publique a refusé. Si le ministère avait acquiescé aux campagnes de vaccination, l’ONU, par l’intermédiaire de l’OPS, aurait acheté des doses massives du vaccin de Mekalanos. Harvard et ses affiliées d’affaires aurait réalisé de grandes bénéfices.

Il est intéressant de noter que la source de choléra en Haïti a été identifié, non pas par des chercheurs américains ou européens plusieurs mois après l’épidémie, mais par les Haïtiens chez eux et au diaspora dans les premiers jours du choléra. Dans un article paru dans Axis of Logic, j’ai ecrit que l’épidémie avait été introduite en Haïti par les Nations Unies. Peu après le Maire et citoyens de Mirebalais ont portés à l’attention de la presse leur observation que l’épidémie avait commencé en aval de la base de l’ONU des soldats népalais près du village de Meille dans la région de l’Artibonite.

“Une étude épidémiologique plus formelle dirigée par le Docteur Renaud Piarroux a confirmé et renforcé cet été les observations initiales. Deux haïtiens ont contribué à l’étude comme auteurs: le Dr. Robert Barrais, un épidémiologiste au Laboratoire National de la Santé Publique en Haïti, et le Dr. Roc Magloire qui est le directeur de cette institution. D’autres épidémiologistes et authorités medicales Haïtiens se sont ont excusés d’être co-auteurs du document, en raison de préoccupations au sujet de représailles.

Surtout, l’équipe Piarroux en France et en Haïti a conclu qu’il doit y avoir eu des cas actifs de choléra parmi les troupes de la MINUSTAH népalais en Octobre dernier pour que la dose de choléra dans l’eau du fleuve Artibonite ait été mortelle:”

“A notre connaissance, seules des doses infectieuses plus de 10.000 bactéries peuvent produire une infection bénigne sur des volontaires sains et des doses plus élevées sont nécessaires pour provoquer des infections graves. A atteindre de telles doses dans la rivière Meille n’est pas compatible avec la quantité de bactéries excrétées par des porteurs asymptomatiques, alors que si un ou plusieurs soldats ont été incubation de la maladie en arrivant, ils auraient ensuite excrétés des selles diarrhéiques contenant 10000 à 10000000 millions de bactéries par litre. Nous pensons donc que les cas symptomatiques ont survenus à l’intérieur du camp de la MINUSTAH.”

Cela implique un cover-up par l’ONU, qui continue à prétendre qu’aucun de ses troupes n’a jamais été malade et atteint du choléra.

Au moins six études scientifiques ont résulté de l’épidémie de choléra haïtienne, mais seulement deux ont abouti à des résultats de conséquence. Chacun de ces études a rejeté les découvertes par les Haïtiens comme une simple “rumeur”, bien qu’il ait été ces résultats, avec la tenue des dossiers par des haïtiens et cubains, qui ont rendu possible l’étude épidémiologique par les Français. Si les haïtiens n’avaient pas identifié la source du choléra, il ne pourrait jamais avoir été découvert, mais plutôt l’épidémie aurait été blâmé sur la supposée mauvaise hygiène des pauvres, et l’ONU et les ONG auraient exploité l’épidémie comme une autre occasion de s’enrichir du malheur des Haïtiens.

Étonnamment l’étude française n’a fourni aucune explication pour le fait que le choléra a réussi à atteindre l’île de la Gonâve, et a accepté l’explication du gouvernement que les prisonniers qui sont morts du choléra avaient reçu l’eau de la rivière pour boire. En fait, au debut le choléra s’est répandu beaucoup trop rapidement à travers le pays pour être expliqué par autre chose qu’une grande distribution de la bactérie dans l’eau infectée en bouteille. Après j’ai signalé cela au début de l’épidémie, le gouvernement haïtien a interrompu les distributions des “dlo nan sachèt” (l’eau dans des sacs en plastique) qui se distribuaint comme “l’eau purifiée” dans tout le pays. L’arrêt de cette distribution de l’eau infectée a probablement sauvé des vies.

Piarroux s’arrêta de suggérer que certains moyens de distribution d’eaux hautement infectées ont été impliqué dans l’épidémie. Il a dit, toutefois, qu’il ne pouvait pas expliquer le mécanisme par lequel les gens ont été mortellement infectés bien en aval de l’affluent Meille de l’Artibonite, où l’eau du fleuve, se déplaçant à plus de 100 mètres cubes par seconde, aurait rapidement dilué le choléra à des doses non létales.

Certainement l’un des enseignements les plus importants du tremblement de terre et de l’épidémie de choléra est que les Haïtiens peuvent se sauver les uns les autres. Pendant les premiers jours de l’épidémie, lorsque les enquêtes scientifiques de l’origine du choléra etaient plus d’importantes, il n’y avait pas de plan pour une étude épidémiologique approfondie ni pour une comparaison de l’ADN du choléra en Haïti à ceux du Népal. Il a fallu la communauté scientifique internationale près d’un an pour faire son travail, et à chaque étape, il furent obligés a le faire a cause de la honte de voir les Haïtiens s’aider les uns les autres.

La preuve que l’ONU a apporté l’épidémie de choléra en Haïti est venu beaucoup trop tard, mais peut-être quelque chose proviendrait de cela, a part des publications et distinctions pour les chercheurs occidentaux. Lorsque le Conseil de Sécurité des Nations Unis considèra la prochaine mandat de la MINUSTAH, en Octobre de cette année, les Docteurs Renaud Piarroux, Frank Aarestrup, et Paul Keim devront se lever et expliquer pourquoi les soldats de la MINUSTAH doivent être immédiatement retirés d’Haïti afin de prévenir des épidémies nouvelles. Les scientifiques devront en outre proposer que les pays de la MINUSTAH fassent des réparations pour leur pollution des rivières et aquifères d’Haïti.

Au lieu de promouvoir les vaccins inutiles aux Haïtiens, l’ONU devrait indemniser les familles des victimes du choléra et financer la construction d’égouts et stations d’épuration à travers le pays en utilisant des haïtiens pour cette entreprise à tous les niveaux.

 

Hail to the new queen of Bay Area hip hop: an interview wit’ rapper Queen Deelah

September 25, 2011

by Minister of Info JR

Oakland has never had a dominant rapper who’s a woman in its long rap history. For that matter, Northern Cali has only had one woman from the hood who was making noise in the ghetto and that was Marvaless from Sacramento in the ‘90s. Today in the Town, the Sobrante Park bred Silence the Violence activist and rapper Queen Deelah is the one who is turning heads from the Town all the way to Austin, Texas. Recently while I was in Austin, I ran into Deelah, the transplant who had taken over the sleepy Texas city in a matter of months. We sat down to do this interview …

M.O.I. JR: Can you tell people how you started rapping? When? Where?

Queen Deelah: I started rapping when I was 9 years old, growing up in Sobrante Park, Oakland. I used to listen to one of my big brothers, Demaurri, and my cousin Robert. They would record their raps on tape and my cousin Christa and I would take the tapes and learn all the words. It wasn’t soon after that that I knew I wanted to be a MC. My cousin Christa wrote my first rap that I would go around town spittin’ and by 12-13, I was writing my own raps!

M.O.I. JR: What made you commit yourself seriously to your hobby?

Queen Deelah: What made me commit to my calling – because this is not a hobby? Music is my life and purpose. It was in the early ‘90s. I remember being a lil girl and it was 11-5 day, which is Nov. 5, and we celebrate for all the fallen soldiers in our hood. I saw Plan B and his lil bra Bobby Blu Nose rippin’! Me and Bobby was close in age, and I was thinking how dope that was to see one of my peers up there rocking! Like I said along with the influence of my brother and cousins I knew that this is what I wanted to do!

M.O.I. JR: What is the name of this mixtape, and how does it differ from your past work?

Queen Deelah: The name of my mixtape is “Showin Out.” It dropped on June 30. This is my first mixtape. I have featured on countless mixtapes, from West to East, but what’s different about it is it’s all original. I have dropped two albums, “Rize for Da Queen” and “Longevity,” but this is the first free music that I am able to throw out to my fans.

Also coming out of the Bay, I have many studios I work out of. This is the first project all recorded out of one studio. The work on this mixtape talks about who I currently am and displays, I believe, the evolution of hip hop. It starts strong with a positive message, but as the songs flip through, you would notice it getting real grimmy, because that’s the times we live in! “Showin Out” is what I feel inside, that I can throw a music project out to the people and let them know what is real through my eyes.

M.O.I. JR: A few years back you moved to Austin, Texas. How is Oakland and Austin similar? How are they different?

Queen Deelah: I have relocated to the South in Austin, Texas. It was truly a transition, being someone who is on the frontline for peace in the Bay! I love Austin. It is a beautiful space where I get to see all the things we don’t have in the Bay, that help young people excel, and I take back these ideas.

Queen Deelah
Oakland and Austin is the same in a lot of ways because you have a strong presence of pillars for peace, who want to push LOVE in the universe. They are different because Oakland has this rebellion that a lot of places around the world don’t have – that go-getter just-do-it attitude. I see a lot of people in Austin that want to make stuff happen and just don’t make it happen. Where in the Bay, we don’t care; we just gone do it, and get it poppin! Austin is up and coming, but a real dope city to live in.

M.O.I. JR: How does the music scene in Austin compare to the Bay? Can you talk about winning rap awards in Austin?

Queen Deelah: The Austin scene compares to the Bay, because what I noticed is that folks here LOVE the West Coast hip hop scene! They kind of look at what we are doin’ and what we did, as a template to get Austin up to speed. I have been embraced here, as if I am from here.

It’s a beautiful thing to have a home away from home. I was here three months, and I was grindin’ hard, attending every showcase and open mic when I met some cats from the Above All Entertainment family, and the next thing I know, I was nominated in the Austin Hip Hop Awards ‘09 and won the performance of the year award! All I can say, God is great and I am honored to have the love and support.

M.O.I. JR: Are you ever coming back to live in the Bay?

Queen Deelah: I am most definitely moving back to the Bay. I am always there, every couple of months promoting and recording with my fam. I made a promise to myself that when I move back home, that I will have more resources for my people.

Right now, I am still grindin’ state to state, letting the people know Oakland is still here, and the issues that we are facing. It’s important that young people’s voices are heard, and we create things for them to do, to give them a chance. A lot of folks are afraid of the Bay, based off of stereotypes, and I am in a place to let them know the real, and get folks involved. So YES YES YES, I will be back home soon!

M.O.I. JR: Where do you see yourself as an artist in the next five years?

Queen Deelah: I see myself in the next five years as a worldwide artist known for spitting dope lyrics, investing into my community and always willing to connect with my people. I am the voice of the people and most def the woman. I will be someone known as a hands-on pillar for peace and coming up with solutions to better our world. I see myself in divine love and projecting that in the universe! I know and believe that GOD has called me to do amazing thing for his people. I’m just excited to do his work.

M.O.I. JR: Who were some of your lyrical inspirations?

Queen Deelah: Some of my lyrical inspirations growing up is Tupac of course, Queen Latifah, MC Lite, Digital Underground, Hammer, just to name a few. All these artists created real music that is still relevant to what’s happening today. When people categorize me like we do, I want to be in this box! Known for bringing that real heart felt music!

M.O.I. JR: Why is peace in the hood a big theme in your music?

Queen Deelah: Peace in the hood is the biggest theme in my music because it’s so needed! I have lost over 20 family, friends and associates in the past three years. It’s so hard to live in constant pain and someone needs to start the healing process, so I have volunteered myself to be that person.

We are known for living in the land of the pimps, hoes and hustlas now. BUT this is the home of the Panthers, knowledge and wisdom! The system came in and stripped the people and now we lack the knowledge of who we truly are! But since I know who we are, that’s what I am going to represent and keep people informed about their rights and how to make a difference.

M.O.I. JR: How can people get your mixtape? How could people stay on line with you?

Queen Deelah: You can get the mixtape on Tweet My Song, http://tweetmysong.com/2qv3xm, also available on Limelinx, http://limelinx.com/files/d923182b12dae894d588f750247697ef, all free download. I have a website, www.queendeelah.com, coming soon. Hit me on Facebook, www.facebook.com/queendeelah, or tweet me, www.twitter.com/queendeelah, and be looking out for my third solo album, “Supreme Being,” coming real soon.

Minister of Information JR is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe,” both available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com.

Troy Davis’ last letter: Never stop fighting for justice and we will win!

September 24, 2011

Watch four videos (below) from All Things Harlem of the Day of Outrage for Troy Davis Sept. 22 in New York City

by Troy Davis

To all:

I want to thank all of you for your efforts and dedication to human rights and human kindness. In the past year I have experienced such emotion – joy, sadness and never ending faith. It is because of all of you that I am alive today. As I look at my sister Martina I am marveled by the love she has for me and of course I worry about her and her health. But as she tells me, she is the eldest and she will not back down from this fight to save my life and prove to the world that I am innocent of this terrible crime.

As I look at my mail from across the globe, from places I have never ever dreamed I would know about and people speaking languages and expressing cultures and religions I could only hope to one day see firsthand, I am humbled by the emotion that fills my heart with overwhelming, overflowing joy. I can’t even explain the insurgence of emotion I feel when I try to express the strength I draw from you all. It compounds my faith and it shows me yet again that this is not a case about the death penalty, this is not a case about Troy Davis – this is a case about justice and the human spirit to see justice prevail.

I cannot answer all of your letters, but I do read them all. I cannot see you all, but I can imagine your faces. I cannot hear you speak, but your letters take me to the far reaches of the world. I cannot touch you physically, but I feel your warmth every day I exist.

Troy Davis’ family, who fought valiantly and tirelessly for his freedom from the time he was arrested 21 years ago until the state murdered him on Sept. 21, face multiple challenges. Troy quit school to help support and care for his younger sister Kim (left) when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, his older sister Martina (right) has led the fight for Troy while battling stage four breast cancer for the past decade and last year their mother (sitting beside Troy in front) died “of a broken heart,” the family said, when the U.S. Supreme Court turned down his last appeal. Troy's beloved nephew De'Jaun, who he helped raise, now 17, was the orator who electrified the crowd on execution day.
So thank you and remember I am in a place where execution can only destroy your physical form. But because of my faith in God, my family and all of you I have been spiritually free for some time. And no matter what happens in the days and weeks to come, this movement to end the death penalty, to seek true justice, to expose a system that fails to protect the innocent must be accelerated.

There are so many more Troy Davises. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this unjust system city by city, state by state and country by country.

I can’t wait to stand with you. No matter if that is in physical or spiritual form, I will one day be announcing, “I AM TROY DAVIS, and I AM FREE!”

Never stop fighting for justice and we will win!

Troy Davis was murdered by the state of Georgia at 11:08 p.m. Sept. 21 for the murder of a white off-duty police officer in 1989, when he was 19. During the 19-plus years he’s been on death row, seven of the nine eyewitnesses have contradicted or recanted their testimony, there never was any physical evidence tying Troy to the crime, and the doubt that he committed it is as deep and wide as the ocean. But although more than a million people signed petitions, made phone calls, sent emails and rallied all over the world to save and free Troy, everyone who could have prevented his patently wrongful execution – from the Georgia Board of Pardons to the U.S. Supreme Court – refused. To send his grieving family, who worked so hard for his freedom, your love and condolences, email troyanthonydavis@yahoo.com.

 

The Power of Choice: an interview wit’ musician Kev Choice

September 22, 2011

by Minister of Information JR

Kev Choice
Kev Choice, a product of the Young Musicians Program at U.C. Berkeley, has finally dropped his much anticipated album, “The Power of Choice.” Known today as one of the most exciting up and coming musicians, in the not so distant past he was known as the bandleader for none other than the lyrical songstress and legend of our time Lauryn Hill, who he travelled overseas with on tour.

Since before the loss of his friend, bassist Dewey Tucker, Kev has been on a roll from the Bay to the ATL and overseas, hittin’ those keys and rappin’. Kev Choice is a unique talent to the Bay that I believe we will be talking about for decades. Check him out in his own words …

M.O.I. JR: Tell us about your new album, “The Power of Choice.” What does it sound like?

Kev Choice: The album is a combination of all the musical styles that have influenced me and I have studied in my life from hip-hop to soul, jazz, classical, funk and beyond. It’s a combination of things, but I definitely tried to make it very melodic with chords, hooks and instrumentation. Content-wise I was very self-reflective and also just talking about things happening in my life, from the murder of Dewey Tucker, the bass player in my band and friend, to the Oscar Grant situation, and even just talking about day to day things like relationships with women and being the best at what I do.

M.O.I. JR: How does this album differ from your past work?

Kev Choice: I feel like I’m progressing as a producer and as a writer so it’s a better all around project. I touch on more subjects and styles, and I also made an effort to make more well rounded songs for wider audiences. As in the past, I really wasn’t making a concentrated effort to touch a certain audience, with this project I have songs specifically for women, or specifically for people who like classical music, or for people who like straight hip-hop, or people who like soul and conscious music. I also tried to step my bars up because I don’t feel enough people give me credit for being a dope lyricist, which I feel I am.

M.O.I. JR: What did you learn from being the bandleader of Lauryn Hill’s band?

Kev Choice: I learned many valuable lessons being with Lauryn Hill, probably more than any other artist I played with. I think one of the main things was that I was capable of doing things I wasn’t even aware of myself, until she pushed me to the limits. I gained a higher level of discipline and focus because I had to be on point at all times, literally 24 hours a day.

It also gave me an appreciation of a wider range of musical styles that she introduced me to, from Ethiopian music to alternative rock, to reggae. I had to research thousands of songs and artists and soak it up and interpret to the band and incorporate it in her set. I also learned that the music industry is a ruthless place and it’s not for the weak of heart and mind, and if you are weak, it can break you.

M.O.I. JR: How has Atlanta been treating you?

Kev Choice: Atlanta has been good. I’ve been connecting with a lot of dope musicians and artists and also with a new fanbase in Atlanta. They have a deep appreciation for live music and a lot of events going on that expose it, and also I think my style is so new and unique out there, it’s going to continue to build up and generate a buzz for me. Also a lot more studio and session work.

M.O.I. JR: Are you trying to get signed or do you love your independence? Why?

Kev Choice: I wouldn’t mind being signed to have more of a financial backing behind my projects that would open me up to a wider fanbase. At the same time, it has to be a situation that continues to allow me to be the type of artist that I am and always have been. Creative control is a must.

M.O.I. JR: How can people get the album? How can people stay up with you?

Kev Choice: People can get the album right now at www.bandcamp.com/kevchoice. It will be on iTunes soon. The best way to stay up with me is through facebook.com/kevchoicemusic or twitter.com/kevchoice and also kevchoice.com. Also my YouTube channel KevchoiceTV.

Minister of Information JR is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe,” both available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com.

 

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