Communities of Color Cope with the Brunt of Petrochemical Waste
by Devon G. Peña
The East Side of Houston, Texas is known as el barrio de los pobres – the poor people’s neighborhood. Historically, the residents here have been predominantly African American but more recently many of the neighborhoods have been settled by Latina/o immigrants, most of them Mexicans who have joined some of the older Chicana/o families with roots in the area dating back 3-4 generations.
The East Side is also ground zero in any ‘toxic tour’ of Harris County. In fact, the area is the urban center for the region’s petrochemical industry. It is not unusual to see homes surrounded by tank farms; schoolyards, playgrounds, or athletic fields located next to fractionating towers and smokestacks belching black smoke or burning-off excess chemicals and gases. These are iconic fence-line communities. The East Side is currently home to four major petrochemical plant complexes: Valero Refinery, Texas Petro-Chemical, LyondellBasell, and Goodyear Tire and Rubber. Read the rest of this entry →
New Movie Spotlights History of Nonviolent Activism
by David Swanson
The CIA has been so busy consulting on Zero Dark Thirty, not to mention funding Hamid Karzai, bribing Russians, lying about weapons, and conducting humanitarian drone murders, that it didn’t have any time at all to help out with Hit and Stay, and yet arguably the latter turned out to be the better film despite such a severe handicap. You can check it out at http://hitandstay.com
This is a film about people taking risks to prevent killing rather than to engage in it. The focus is on the Catonsville Nine action on May 17, 1968, 45 years ago this Friday. That action, in which activists burned draft cards and apologized for burning papers rather than children, was preceded by the Baltimore Four action of October 27, 1967, in which four activists poured their blood on draft papers. It was followed by countless other actions, leading right up to the Transform Plowshares action in Tennessee for which three are currently awaiting sentencing. Read the rest of this entry →
Russell Shoatz Files Lawsuit Against Long-Term Solitary Confinement
by Angola 3 News
Last week, on Wednesday, May 8, lawyers for Russell ‘Maroon’ Shoatz filed a federal lawsuit regarding his placement in solitary confinement for over 22 consecutive years. The written complaint, directed at Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel and the Superintendents of SCI-Greene, where Shoatz was last held, and SCI-Mahanoy, where he was transferred to on March 28, 2013, states that this “is an action for injunctive, declaratory and monetary relief for violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.”
Last month, when a 30-day action campaign was launched calling for Russell ‘Maroon’ Shoatz’s immediate release from solitary confinement, the campaign promised to file this litigation if Maroon had not been transferred into general population by the morning of May 8. On Thursday, May 9 the lawsuit was announced at a press conference was held in Pittsburgh, outside the City-County Building. Read the rest of this entry →
Playing Hardball with the Fossil Fuel Industry
by Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez
Bittersweet sadness filled me as I read an excerpt at Women’s E-News from Eve Ensler’s new memoir, In the Body of the World, about her long, determined, agonizing battle with uterine cancer.
Her TED talk, “Suddenly, My Body” is one that I have returned to watch several times over, and have recommended to many friends as a pulsating, powerful performance that makes perfectly clear what many of us are coming to realize: that there is no separation between our bodies and the world around us.
Not only is it true, as Joanna Macy and Brian Swimme tell us, that we are the most recent emanations of the stardust that created the life on our planet eons ago, it is also true that our fragile bodies are porous and open, made of the air, earth and water that we move through each day.
If we poison our environment, we poison ourselves. Read the rest of this entry →
Looking at the Humanity of Others
by Robert C. Koehler
You’re strapped to a metal table, unable to move. They stick a two-foot plastic tube up your nose, then down the back of your throat into your stomach. They squirt in the liquid protein. You gag, bleed, vomit. It’s unbearably painful.
The practice of involuntary force-feeding is condemned by most medical organizations, including the AMA. It’s banned by most governments. It’s torture.
When I read about the process by which authorities are breaking the hunger strike at the Guantanamo Bay detention center — a process that’s also used regularly in U.S. federal prisons, by the way — I was struck by the utter efficiency of it. The “food” is transmitted directly from bureaucracy to digestive system, bypassing the consciousness of the individual hunger striker. The human being inhabiting this body is completely irrelevant; he only dies when we say so.
Just think about how powerful we are. Just think about how secure we are.
In the overall context of the war on terror and the harm it has unleashed on the world, the Guantanamo hunger strike, involving 100 of the 166 detainees still being held at the facility — about two dozen of whom are now being force-fed — is a fairly small matter, perhaps. But the symbolic significance of it is beyond description, not only because of the hatred it foments against the United States and the combatants it recruits, but also because of the obvious common decency and common sense it flouts. Read the rest of this entry →
Teachers in Oaxaca Resist the Standardization of Education
by David Bacon
Recently an American Federation of Teachers resolution declared that U.S. public schools are held hostage to a “testing fixation rooted in the No Child Left Behind Act,” and condemned its “extreme misuse as a result of ideologically and politically driven education policy.” AFT President Randi Weingarten proposed instead that “public education should be obsessed with high-quality teaching and learning, not high-stakes testing.” In Seattle teachers at Garfield High have refused to give them.
Many Mexican teachers would find these sentiments familiar. The testing regime in Mexico is as entrenched as it is in the United States, and its political use is very similar — undermining the rights of teachers, and attacking unions that oppose it. Read the rest of this entry →
Old-Fashioned Activism to Confront the Food Monopoly
by Evaggelos Vallianatos
In the twentieth century, American agriculture abandoned its traditions of family farming. This was no small change. Like the centuries-long enclosure movement in England whereby the landlords used the law and violence to privatize the commons and throw out of the land uncounted number of peasants, American large farmers have been using the power of the state to bring about a civilization shift in rural America.
They transformed a way of life for raising food and sustaining democratic society to a massive factory industrializing both farming and food and farmers, making rural America a colony for the extraction of profit.
This tragedy left behind millions of broken family farms, contaminated water and land, and a wounded rural America.
According to the 1884 “Transactions of the California State Agricultural Society,” “there will be too few farms and these too large. A republic cannot long survive when the lands are concentrated in the hands of a few men. Any man will fight for his home, but it takes a very brave man to fight for the privilege of working for half wages.” Read the rest of this entry →