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Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Bossone

Who is Daniel Ellsberg? Predecessor of the whistle-blowers…

Submitted by ellsbergd Plantiff

“Hi Reddit,

I am Daniel Ellsberg, the former State and Defense Department official who leaked 7,000 pages of Top Secret documents on the Vietnam War to the New York Times and 19 other papers in 1971.

Recently, I co-founded the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

Yesterday, we announced Edward Snowden, NSA whistleblower, will be joining our board of directors!

Here’s our website: https://pressfreedomfoundation.org

I believe that Edward Snowden has done more to support and defend the Constitution—in particular, the First and Fourth Amendments—than any member of Congress or any other employee or official of the Executive branch, up to the president: every one of whom took that same oath, which many of them have violated.

Ask me anything.

Here’s proof it’s me: https://twitter.com/DanielEllsberg/status/423520429676826624

Andrew Bossone posted on FB:
Reddit conversation with “Daniel Ellsberg, the former State and Defense Department official who leaked 7,000 pages of Top Secret documents on the Vietnam War to the New York Times and 19 other papers in 1971.”
On recent events: “About the public’s reaction to the Pentagon Papers today. I think it would be about the same, generally favorable, because people are about as disillusioned with Iraq and Afghanistan (and Libya) as they were about Vietnam in 1971.
We still await the Pentagon Papers of these recent wars, and I hope someone will leak them. I think they would be welcomed, and I hope used, by the public.
But I think Obama’s reaction to me today would also be the same as Nixon’s to me in 1971: Lock Ellsberg up for life.
Obama wouldn’t have to do what Nixon ordered done to me in May, 1972, when I was exposing and attacking his policies while out on bail during my prosecution: order a team of ex-CIA “assets” under direction of “former” CIA and FBI agents “to incapacitate Ellsberg totally.
Obama wouldn’t have to do that because I wouldn’t be out on bail; I’d be in isolation, incommunicado, like Manning was and Snowden would be….
I don’t believe [Snowden] be out on bail or bond while awaiting trial.
Like Chelsea Manning, he’d be in an isolation cell, incommunicado (Manning hasn’t been spoken to by a journalist for the more than three years since she was arrested in Kuwait), probably for the rest of his life.
The Constitution hasn’t changed–the laws he is charged under, and I faced in 1971-73, would at that time very likely have been held to be unconstitutional in that application (to leakers: I was the first to be prosecuted for a leak, under the Espionage Act or any law).
But with the new courts, that’s much less likely. I don’t think anything or anyone would be served by his suffering that fate.”
http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1vahsi/i_am_pentagon_papers_leaker_daniel_ellsberg/

Polio vaccination: Teams in Syria under threat?

Health workers are trying to contain a polio epidemic in Syria, but a mass immunization programme is being undermined by the danger of the conflict.

Health organizations are responding to a resurgence of polio in war-torn Syria which broke out in October after many years of a polio-free status.

Andrew Bossone published in Nature Middle East this Dec. 15, 2013

© BrazilPhotos.com / Alamy

The immunization programme – coordinated between UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and others – is the largest ever to be attempted in the Middle East and aims to immunize 23 million children across seven countries by April 2014 at a cost of $39 million.

UNICEF’s head of health and nutrition in Lebanon, Zeroual Azzeddine, says immunization rounds have been successful in Lebanon, reaching more than 580,000 children, about 98% of those targeted.

UNICEF worked with the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, to immunize children at refugee registration centres at four border entry points and through mobile teams going door-to-door.

While this may be repeated in neighboring countries, health workers in Syria face grave threats from warring government forces and armed rebel groups.

“Patients have difficulty accessing health centres and hospitals because the roads aren’t safe. There are snipers on the roofs,” said Elizabeth Hoff, WHO representative in Syria. Cars being used to transport vaccination teams of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have reportedly been shot at.

Azzeddine says health organizations need to change their strategies. The WHO has shelved rebuilding hospitals and health centres in Syria, Hoff says, and is focusing on mobile units and training local health workers.

Targets may only be achieved, however, by exerting more pressure on both sides. Azzeddine says the WHO recently sent a high-level delegation to Syria to discuss the situation with government officials. And according to Hoff, the WHO has lobbied the Syrian ministry of foreign affairs as well as UN director general Ban Ki Moon.

Health workers also face danger from rebel groups.

Gunmen kidnapped 7 people from the International Committee of the Red Cross in October. Four of them were released the following day, but three are still missing.

Azzeddine, who has previously worked in Darfur, attributed a successful vaccination campaign there to negotiating with people from all sides of the conflict.

The only way to respond to the outbreak of measles and polio was to train people from the area to do the work because they did not accept anyone from the government side. We had people trained from both sides, and it worked.”

Note: Before this calamity that turned into a civil-war, Syria promoted public education and health insurance for all its citizens. It manufactured over 90% of the necessary medication and exported them to Lebanon at very affordable prices.

Imagining Gender in Cairo Graffiti: Intimidation and Resistance

The issue of women’s empowerment continues to be of paramount significance in determining the future of the incomplete Arab revolutions.

Numerous scholars, activists, and feminists have commented with concern about the precarious position of women after the contagious revolutions, which started in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

Many have expressed anxiety that the controversial gender issue in the Middle East will dominate the coming years, as even Christian leaders transmit Islamists’ pressure on women to dress “more modestly” to their communities.

Others have remarked that misogynist attitudes are observable today across the post-revolutionary Arab States, because the Islamists in power have revealed themselves to be agents of an “Islamic neo-liberal” ideology that works hand in hand with constraining measures regarding women.

Observers have pointed to various shocking acts that all converge in one direction: the targeting of women’s bodies.

Mona Abaza posted on Jadaliyya this June 30, 2013: “Intimidation and Resistance: Imagining Gender in Cairene Graffiti”

Listen to this page using ReadSpeaker

[Caption: “Don’t categorize me”. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 13 September 2012)]
[Caption: “Don’t categorize me”. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 13 September 2012)]

The aged President Hosni Mubarak had long embodied the oppressive and institutionalized patriarchy in Egypt. After Mubarak’s ouster in February 2011, an ageing military junta replaced him, and continued to use violence to subdue protest.

It was as if a targeted vengeance were being directed against Egypt’s youth, and as if the generational conflict between the old generals and the young protesters had to be played out through the mutilation of young bodies.

Today, almost a year since the election of Muslim Brotherhood figure President Mohamed Morsi, there is a general feeling that nothing has really changed in terms of citizens’ rights. None of the security officials responsible for the series of killings of protesters since January 2011 have been convicted. As this in turn sparks new demonstrations, the Brotherhood regime continues the use of thuggery and public violence, together with sexual harassment, to terrorize citizens and deter them from protest in Tahrir Square.

These policies, and the statements legitimizing them by military officials and Islamist politicians alike, have become the butt of jokes and biting comments in oppositional media. Among the most striking examples of this has been the graffiti art of young Egyptian activists across the country. The impertinence in their depictions of the authorities has become one of the most powerful ways of unmaking the system.

Indeed, many believe that the military junta had been defeated morally well before Morsi replaced it, thanks to the public ridicule of its violence in popular jokes and graffiti.

 

[“I want to kiss you”, graffiti outside the al-Ahly Club in Zamalek, Cairo. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 12 September 2012)]

Public Violence against Women’s Bodies: Egypt under SCAF Rule

Once the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) took power in February 2011, sexual harassment became an obvious means of intimidating and publicly humiliating protesting and dissenting women. Sexual assault was used to deter foreign female journalists, as well as to tarnish the morally pristine image of Tahrir Square, which had been a famously harassment-free zone throughout its occupation in January and February 2011.

In March 2011, so-called “virginity tests” were undertaken on female protesters by military personnel. The army spokesmen justified this act by stating that it prevented them from being blamed for having “deflowered” young women protesters. One of the victims, Samira Ibrahim, filed a case against the army medic responsible. He was acquitted, like the majority of police officers implicated in the killings and injuries of thousands of protesters in January and February 2011.

 

[Samira Ibrahim, image on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, off Tahrir Square, Cairo. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 11 September 2012)]

 

[Caption: “Girls and Boys are Equal”, Figuring Iconic actress Suad Hosny graffiti on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, off Tahrir Square, Cairo. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 9 March 2012)]

The discourse of the former regime, which continued after February 2011, sought to equate protesting women with prostitutes, for having left their place in the home and headed out to demonstrations. By this logic, they deserved to be raped. Similar reasoning led some Salafist preachers and a pro-Mubarak television presenter to call a female protester – and victim of police violence – a prostitute, because she appeared scantily clad after her ordeal. When she went to join anti-SCAF demonstrations near the Egyptian cabinet building on 17 December 2011, the unknown female protester had been wearing her veil, and was dressed in jeans and a black cloak (abaya).

The previous day, security forces had begun attacking protesters viciously, killing twelve, wounding hundreds, and dragging one body into a rubbish heap. That afternoon in Tahrir Square, several military policemen in riot gear violently dragged and beat up the veiled protester, leaving her blue bra exposed.

 

[Caption: “Blue Bra” graffiti, Mohamed Mahmoud Street, off Tahrir Square, Cairo. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 16 March 2013)]

Ironically, the blue bra turned into a symbol of national contestation against both the SCAF and the Salafists. On 20 December 2011, activists organized one of the most significant women’s demonstrations against SCAF policies, marching from Tahrir to Talaat Harb Squares, and attracting thousands. As such women’s protests and marches against the military multiplied, the “blue bra” remained an iconic symbol.

The protesters chanted for the end of military rule, and the slogan “Egyptian women are a red line” gained tremendous momentum. Soon, the city’s murals, and the cement walls, which the SCAF had erected after November’s protests in Mohamed Mahmoud Street, were filled with hundreds of blue bras.

 

[Caption: “Blue bra” assault, graffiti on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, off Tahrir Square, Cairo. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 28 September 2012)]

Just after the incident of the blue bra, painter Mohamed Abla produced a remarkable series of paintings, entitled Wolves, in which he drew the female protester being dragged by police forces with wolves’ heads. He exhibited the paintings in Abdin Square and marched, carrying them, through Tahrir Square with a group of artists.

Abla’s act was disseminated via his FB account, and protesters displayed photographs of his painting, similar to other graffiti on the blue bra, in public as a reminder that the incident would never be forgotten.

 

[Caption: SCAF erected wall in Mohamed Mahmoud Street, off Tahrir Square, Cairo. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 21 February 2012)]

 

[Caption: 6 October Bridge, Zamalek, Cairo. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 30 June 2012)]

 

[Caption: Graffiti painted during the Mohamed Mahmoud Street incidents of November 2012. The text conveys the message: “W for Women, We’ll Put Red Dresses on All of You”. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 23 November 2012)]

Protesting Women: Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood

Today, under Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, violent attacks have continued to be a regime tactic for frightening female demonstrators. One victim was a female who had been reporting clashes between Muslim Brotherhood members and opposition activists whom they prevented from entering Tahrir Square in October 2012. Late that night, a large horde of men attacked her.

Sexual assault escalated to peak in December 2012.

After Morsi’s unpopular constitutional declaration the previous month, young activists had set up a peaceful protest camp outside the presidential palace in Cairo. The Muslim Brotherhood sent armed supporters to attack the protesters on 5 December. The men set up their own torture chambers in collaboration with police, establishing a qualitatively new level of public violence.

There followed what appeared to be the systematic gang raping of women protesters in Tahrir Square, by large numbers of thugs who moved in organized groups to isolate and encircle their targets. Such gang rapes have recurred with regularity since, as if sexual molestation were becoming a repertoire designed to smear the Square.

Armed men had reportedly assaulted some twenty women in separate incidents over ten days in November 2012 alone – a tactic being used repeatedly by the regime to deter women demonstrators.

By February 2013, some members of the Islamist-dominated Shura Council were arguing that women who are victims of gang rape should be held accountable, as that they should not be demonstrating in Tahrir in the first place. This can only mean one thing: the regime is now legalizing crime.

 

[Caption: Graffiti by Mira Shehadeh, on SCAF wall in Mohamed Mahmoud Street, off Tahrir Square, Cairo. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 1 March 2013)]

[Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 1 March 2013)]

The tactic of humiliation through sexual molestation of women, young and old alike has precedence in Egypt. The most common explanations are that such behavior is the indirect outcome of sexual frustration, or of taboos and inhibitions born of religious sanctions and segregation. Another reason often cited is the unbearable economic hardship associated with the increasingly consumerist and unaffordable institution of marriage, in a society with some eight million unmarried men and women above the age of thirty-five, while premarital sex is taboo.

To my mind, these clichéd explanations remain simplistic. When the omnipotent authoritarian state that claims to be the spokesperson for Islamic morality, and constitutional defender of Islamic sharia, turns out to be the main perpetrator of sexual violence in the public sphere, then why would the “citizens” not follow the same violent path?

[Caption: “No to Sexual Assault”, Mohamed Mahmoud Street, off Tahrir Square, Cairo. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 11 September 2011)]

[Caption: “Whatever is or is not revealed, my body is free, it is not to be humiliated”, graffiti on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, off Tahrir Square, Cairo. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 11 September 2012)]

[Caption: Feminist graffiti on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, off Tahrir Square, Cairo. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 11September 2012)]

Black Wednesday, 25 May 2005, marks the date when protesting women were sexually harassed in public for the first time in Egypt’s modern history. These women had been demonstrating in front of the Journalists and Lawyers Syndicates against a constitutional amendment that would have guaranteed the succession of Mubarak’s son to the presidency. They suffered attacks by the paid thugs of the then ruling National Democratic Party. This incident was followed by a series of gang rapes all over the city of Cairo that targeted young women during the season of the religious festival in 2006, whether they were veiled or not.

[Caption: Mohamed Mahmoud Street, off Tahrir Square, Cairo. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 2 November 2012)]

All the attacks on women since February 2011 have been nothing but a remake, a déjà vu, in which paid thugs of the previous regime reappear, while the army and police forces stand around as voyeurs, if not facilitators, responsible for this sexual harassment and countless other attacks on citizens.

[Caption: “Treat Me Like a Human Being”, graffiti on SCAF wall, Mohamed Mahmoud Street, off Tahrir Square, Cairo. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 12 March 2013)]

Women in the Electoral Process and the Brotherhood in Parliament

The mesmerizing public visibility of women in Tahrir in January 2011 clashes powerfully with the near total invisibility of women in the parliament elected that November, and recently dissolved. Compared with Morocco and Tunisia, Egypt scores the lowest in women’s parliamentary representation, with only eight women having won in the elections, and two others appointed.[1] Among the reasons for this defeat, Hania Sholkamy cites a “state sponsored feminism” that imposed “an unpopular quota for women within corrupt electoral practices”.

[Caption: Painting by Alaa Awad. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 26 March 2012)]

[Caption: Painting by Hanna al-Degham. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 9 March 2012)]

 

[Caption: Na’ehat, mourning women, painting by Alaa Awad. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 21 February 2012)]

 

[Caption: Wassifat, ladies-in-waiting confronting the military, painting by Alaa Awad on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, off Tahrir Square, Cairo. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 12 March 2012)]

The theme of Egypt’s short-lived post-revolutionary parliament’s sessions, from January to June 2012, was the Islamists’ alarming obsession with exercising control over women’s bodies, through their reactionary draft laws on gender. These included bills encouraging female circumcision, demanding the marriage age for women to be lowered to nine years old, and rejecting the khul‘ law that allows women to file for divorce.

[Caption: “Don’t categorize me”. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 13 September 2012)]

One of the most vocal proponents of these measures was a woman herself: Freedom and Justice Party Member of Parliament Azza al-Garf, who has advocated the annulment of the anti-harassment law, citing her belief that it is women who are to be held responsible for such incidents, as their light dressing provokes such lustful acts from men. Garf alarmed Egyptian feminist groups by also calling for the abolition of the khul‘ divorce law, as well as the non-recognition of the offspring of illicit relationships, and the annulment of the recent law granting Egyptian nationality to the children of foreign fathers.

Furthermore, Garf wanted to acknowledge the right of the husband to have sexual intercourse with his wife by force if she refused him, and to forbid women from traveling without their husbands (in order to enforce a requirement that they obtain their husbands’ permission to travel). She also wished to cancel the law stipulating that the first wife be informed about her husband’s second marriage, and to cancel the law that guarantees the divorced wife access to any housing which she acquired as private property.

Garf publicly supports “female circumcision”, or rather female genital mutilation – a practice that was banned in 2007 after years of feminist campaigning in Egypt. She calls it a form of “beautifying plastic surgery”. How then does she differ from the Salafists, who feel threatened by women in the public sphere, and advocate the banning of women from political life (which would expel Garf from parliament)? The Salafists’ demands include removing the age limit on marriage, legalizing marriage from puberty, and the stoning of the adulterers – all constituting a direct attack on women’s freedoms.

 

[Caption: figuring iconic actresses Nadia Lutfi and Suad Hosny “There is no such thing as ‘exclusively for men’” (Referring to the famous film Lil rigal faqat, For Men Only). Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 12 March 2012)]

 

[Caption: SCAF wall, Mohamed Mahmoud Street, off Tahrir Square, Cairo. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 16 March 2013)]

How can women fail to be alarmed when the Muslim Brotherhood, as part of its community work for the marginalized and poor, as Mariz Tadros observed, sends “mobile health clinics” to Upper Egypt to offer the “service” of female circumcision? Even though the Brotherhood has denied this, researchers and activists  confirm that a flyer distributed by the Brotherhood in the village of Abu Aziz in Minya did indeed advertise the service. These mobile clinics are making their rounds while the health system is in a state of collapse.

Unfinished Revolution

This article remains unfinished, much like the Egyptian revolution. It is unfinished because many in Egypt feel that Islamists hijacked their revolution with the help of the army. There is therefore no conclusion to speak of yet, while the pace at which the graffiti multiplies is exhilarating, far exceeding attempts to erase it. Since Morsi became president, the Islamists have tried to conquer the walls and produce their own graffiti, covering that of their opponents, but theirs is devoid of humor, and without effect.

Meanwhile, Egyptians nationwide have been preparing for mass protests against Mohamed Morsi on 30 June, having declared their lack of confidence in his presidency through the Tamarod (“Rebellion”) petition campaign. Egypt’s streets remain vibrant through protests and public performances, and street art is a barometer of this contestation and resistance, its visual narratives having revealed a powerful assertion of gender claims. This innovative, humorous, and thought-provoking iconography teaches us that there is no turning back. Egypt’s youth subcultures will continue to protest, and to wage their war on an ageing patriarchal regime through the lightness of being of art and laughter.

 

[Caption: Graffiti by Kaizer, outside the al-Ahly Club in Zamalek, Cairo. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 12 September 2012)]

 

[Caption: Graffiti by Kaizer, outside the al-Ahly Club in Zamalek, Cairo. Photo by Mona Abaza (Captured 8 June 2012)]

NoteAndrew Bossone had this comment:
Some people wonder how any reasonable Egyptian could support the military after all it’s done. I saw an answer yesterday morning.
An old lady with a cane wanted to pass through a roadblock of barbed wire. A soldier descended from the tank and placed two wooden planks on top of a section of barbed wire. The soldier got down on one knee and held the planks in place as the old lady walked across them while holding the hand of her son (I didn’t take a picture).
In Egypt military conscription is mandatory, which means that just about every family has a member who has served in the military (with exceptions such as those in privileged class and those who have only one son).
In other words, many people don’t see the military as some abstract entity, but an organization with which they have personal ties or into which they were indoctrinated. It is quite difficult–particularly when talking about a total institution such as the military–to separate the soldiers as individuals from the military as a whole.
I’ve seen the same phenomena in the States, where people don’t accept criticism of the military. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s understandable.

[1] According to Hania Sholkamy, women represent 17%  in the Moroccan parliament, even after the electoral success of the religious parties, while women reached 28% of seats in Tunisia. By contrast, Egypt scored only 2 percent.

Diesel generator of electricity? Compounding health risk

Lebanon is accustomed to a chronic energy problem. Public power outage is a daily occurrence across the entire tiny country. In urban centers, the hum of diesel generators is the background noise for residents who rely on them to sustain a precarious continuity in electricity.

In the 20’s, Lebanon exported electricity to Syria and Jordan. In the 21st century, Lebanon relies on private providers firing up Diesel generators to supply the need in electricity, at high added cost and high health risk.

We joke in Lebanon that this private system is meant as a war strategy so that Israel will be impotent to reduce Lebanon in total darkness, since the public power is on for about 4 hours a day.

Andrew Bossone published in Nature Middle East

Diesel generators are widespread across the country to cover periods of electricity downtime.© Andrew Bossone

“A study by researchers at the American University of Beirut (AUB) has found that the concentration of potent atmospheric pollutants spiked in urban areas of Lebanon at peak times for diesel generator use.

The pollutants, a class of gases called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) that result from burning fossil fuels, are known carcinogens and teratogens. Beirut’s air pollution is nearly twice the safe limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of 12 micrograms per cubic metre.

The study monitored 184 buildings and 109 generators in the Hamra area of Beirut minute by minute for about two weeks at each site over the course of a year.

The team used PAH monitors to record air quality and analyzed the data by constructing a 3D model simulating air flow and pollutant distribution. It determined that about 40% of the PAH in the atmosphere in Hamra came from generators.

Alan Shihadeh, lead author of the study, said: “I expect that in other areas with dense urban morphologies, we will see even higher PAH levels in the air resulting from diesel generators.” He warned that the country’s continued reliance on diesel generators would lead to higher rates of cancer and respiratory and heart diseases.

Expensive alternative

“The last thing we need is to place diesel generators outside our bedrooms and offices.”

Lebanon’s decrepit power generation, transmission and distribution system has failed to keep pace with a huge increase in electricity consumption over the last two decades. The country’s power insecurity is also a legacy of the 15-year civil war that decimated its infrastructure. The problem was exacerbated by Israeli attacks in 2006 that targeted power stations.

The state electricity company, Electricite du Liban, can only produce about half the power required. In Beirut, electricity is suspended on a daily schedule of three hours between 6am-6pm. Outside the capital the cuts may be for the entire 12 hours. Residents currently have no option but to fill the gap with generators.

Habib Battah, a journalist and the author of the blog beirutreport.com says a better solution would be the production of public power, rather than individuals finding ad-hoc solutions. Battah adds that the high prices charged for privately generated electricity is creating social divides where the poor cannot afford it.

A study published in 2011 by AUB chemist Najat Saliba, who co-authored the study, found that 93% of Beirut’s inhabitants were exposed to dangerous air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, at levels 50% higher than the limits recommended as safe by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The 2011 study – which also found airborne particulate matter was double that recommended by WHO – measured the impact of vehicle emissions. This study is the first to examine how diesel generators contribute to pollution.

“Beirut already suffers from high levels of air pollution,” says Shihadeh. “The last thing we need is to place diesel generators outside our bedrooms and offices.”

Zapatistas on women’s rights: Comandanta Ramona

Comandanta Ramona was an officer of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), an indigenous rights movement in Mexico.

“Ramona was said to be the most belligerent, aggressive and intransigent of all the Zapatistas. It was Comandante Ramona on horseback who led the military charge on San Cristobal during the EZLN’s uprising in January 1994.”

The sight of this brave and frail woman defiantly shouting ‘Ya Basta!’ (Enough is Enough!) catapulted her onto the world state.
The media dubbed her “The Petite Warrior” and the Mexican government grew so fearful of her emblematic power that in 1997 they cynically spread false information that she had died.”
After consulting with indigenous communities on the status of women, the EZLN came up with the “Revolutionary Women’s Law,” in commemoration of  the international women’s day. The Zapatistas on women’s rights  states:

First, Women, regardless of their race, creed, color or political affiliation, have the right to participate in the revolutionary struggle in any way that their desire and capacity determine.
Second, Women have the right to work and receive a just salary.
Third, Women have the right to decide the number of children they have and care for.
Fourth, Women have the right to participate in the matters of the community and have charge if they are free and democratically elected.
Fifth, Women and their children have the right to Primary Attention in their health and nutrition.
Sixth, Women have the right to education.
Seventh, Women have the right to choose their partner and are not obliged to enter into marriage.
Eighth, Women have the right to be free of violence from both relatives and strangers. Rape and attempted rape will be severely punished.
Ninth, Women will be able to occupy positions of leadership in the organization and hold military ranks in the revolutionary armed forces.
Tenth, Women will have all the rights and obligations which the revolutionary laws and regulations give.

For international women's day, the Zapatistas on women's rights:<br /><br /><br />
Comandanta Ramona was an officer of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), an indigenous rights movement in Mexico.<br /><br /><br />
“She was said to be the most belligerent, aggressive and intransigent of all the Zapatistas, it was Comandante Ramona who—on horseback—led the military charge on San Cristobal during the EZLN’s uprising in January 1994.”<br /><br /><br />
Later, “the sight of this brave and frail woman defiantly shouting ‘Ya Basta!’ (Enough is Enough!) catapulted her onto the world state. The media dubbed her “The Petite Warrior” and the Mexican government grew so fearful of her emblematic power that in 1997 they cynically spread false information that she had died.”<br /><br /><br />
After consulting with indigenous communities on the status of women, the EZLN came up with the “Revolutionary Women’s Law,” which stated:</p><br /><br />
<p>First--Women, regardless of their race, creed, color or political affiliation, have the right to participate in the revolutionary struggle in any way that their desire and capacity determine.<br /><br /><br />
Second--Women have the right to work and receive a just salary.<br /><br /><br />
Third--Women have the right to decide the number of children they have and care for.<br /><br /><br />
Fourth--Women have the right to participate in the matters of the community and have charge if they are free and democratically elected.<br /><br /><br />
Fifth--Women and their children have the right to Primary Attention in their health and nutrition.<br /><br /><br />
Sixth--Women have the right to education.<br /><br /><br />
Seventh--Women have the right to choose their partner and are not obliged to enter into marriage.<br /><br /><br />
Eighth--Women have the right to be free of violence from both relatives and strangers. Rape and attempted rape will be severely punished.<br /><br /><br />
Ninth--Women will be able to occupy positions of leadership in the organization and hold military ranks in the revolutionary armed forces.<br /><br /><br />
Tenth--Women will have all the rights and obligations which the revolutionary laws and regulations give.
Note: Posted by Andrew Bossone on FB

Palestinian refugees struggle to survive

Precarious conditions define the lives of refugees around the world, and a few camps are worse off than others.

Recent surveys of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon show that they live in poor surroundings, and that their environment has a negative impact on their physical and mental well-being.

Scientific surveys raise concerns about the living conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip and their access to healthcare and food.

Andrew Bossone published in NatureMiddle East on Jan. 20, 2013:

Unhealthy living conditions among Palestinian refugees put them at greater risk to illnesses.© Andrew Bossone

Two teams of researchers lead by professors of public health from the American University of Beirut recently conducted surveys in refugee camps in Lebanon to assess how living conditions are affecting physical and mental well-being of the 450,000 Palestinians living there.

They found a strong link between chronic illnesses and inferior housing, as well as high levels of poverty, food insecurity and poor health in general. “There was a positive association between chronic illness and water leakage [in the refugees’ homes], while poorer mental health in particular was associated with crowded housing, water leakage, and [poverty],” says Rima Habib, an environmental health expert and co-author of one of several studies published in The Lancet.

The first study focused on the environmental conditions of 356 Palestinian refugees.

More than 40% of the houses surveyed had water leaking from the roof or walls. Nearly a third of them reported chronic illness and 24% reported an acute illness in the previous six months, with women fairing worse.

The report highlights the strong correlation between water leakage and chronic illness, supporting the link between poverty and health in these communities.

The second study assessed food security among 11,092 Palestinian refugees, where nearly two thirds of households reported food insecurity, lacking access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food all the time.

Of the 59% of households below the poverty line, 15% reported suffering severe food insecurity. Those households were also more likely to have at least one member with a chronic disease, a disability or a mental illness, compared to the rest of the community.

Dangerous camps

Life under occupation doesn’t make it easy to maintain good health systems.”

Refugee camps in Lebanon are packed with narrow, over-crowded alleyways and chaotic bundles of electrical wires strewn across buildings.

The refugees have few economic opportunities and are paid less than Lebanese doing the same work. The national laws of Lebanon forbid refugees from more than 30 occupations and they are not permitted to own land.

“They have more concerns than fixing the electricity system or removing electricity wires from water,” says Salah Hamzeh, a Palestinian who used to live and volunteer in a refugee camp in Beirut. “They need to go out and work and bring back bread for their families. They don’t plan or save. They live day by day.”

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has registered more than five million refugees living in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza.

“Palestinian refugees do not have access to the services covered by the Ministry of Public Health for Lebanese citizens,” says Hoda Samra, UNRWA’s public information officer in Lebanon. “[Only] UNRWA is responsible for the provision of health services to Palestine refugees in Lebanon.”

Challenges in Gaza

The 1.1 million Palestinian refugees living in the narrow Gaza Strip face similar problems.

© Andrew Bossone

According to the Initial Health Assessment Report: Gaza Strip, released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in December 2012, nearly 10% of children under five suffer from stunting. The rate of acute malnutrition in this age group has more than doubled since 2000. Additionally, a quarter of them were found to be anemic.

“There are quite severe shortages of drugs and consumables particularly in the past six months [arising] from financial problems faced by the Palestinian Authority, which supplies drugs to Gaza and the West Bank,” says Anthony Laurance, WHO representative in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Gaza has been under an economic blockade since 2007.

While Israel promised to ease restrictions in 2010, hospitals continue to report shortages of medicines and cannot get needed equipment. According to the WHO report, hospitals in Gaza face shortages of more than 40% of essential drugs and more than 50% of common medical supplies.

Additionally, anyone who travels out of Gaza needs to apply for a travel permit from Israel.

About 10% of travel permits from Gaza to Israel or the West Bank for medical reasons are denied by Israeli authorities, and others face delays that force them to miss appointments, according to the WHO and Gisha, an Israeli organization promoting the right of freedom of movement in Gaza.

“Life under occupation doesn’t make it easy to maintain good health systems and health infrastructure,” says Sari Bashi, executive director of Gisha.

“There are resources available, but the biggest concern is the restrictions on movement and access,” Bashi says. “Some of the Israeli restrictions make it difficult to get equipment. For example, it’s difficult to properly run magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other equipment because there are restrictions on [parts] and it’s difficult to get the machinery out of Gaza for servicing.”

There is only one working MRI machine in Gaza. Of the five CT machines there, three are out-of-order until spare parts arrive, states the WHO report.

The Gaza in 2020 report, released in August 2012 by the UN, details how Gazans are worse off than they were in the 1990s, and will have continued shortfalls in housing, electricity, water and sanitation, health, education and economic opportunities, particularly if the current political status quo continues.

In both Gaza and Lebanon, economic development is seen as an important factor in improving their lives.

Habib says: “Economic marginalization must end, their access to adequate health services must improve, and the poor conditions that they live in must be remedied. Giving Palestinians unconditional universal rights that are their basic entitlement as human beings would certainly have a positive influence on their health.” The Lancet-Palestinian Health Alliance . Health in the Occupied Palestinian Territory 2012. The Lancet (2012).

References:

Any predictions on “Arab Awakening”? Saudi Arabia be next? And Robert Fisk

Can anybody predict which way the ‘Arab Awakening’ (the title of George Antonius’ seminal work of 1938) will turn this yea?.

Apparently, everyone is predicting, and going strong in their convictions.

Is it better never make predictions in the Middle East?  Then where’s the fun otherwise?

Andrew Bossone wrote: yeah, yeah, you don’t like Fisk… I was in Syria in March 2011 (before the upheaval started) and I was talking with some friends and I insisted that Saudi Arabia would be the last country in the region to fall.

The Syrian guys said no way, Syria would be the last country to go.

Well the next week the uprising started. I still hold to my position about Saudi, in contrast with Fisk.

But Robert Fisk has ventured a very tentative punt or two…

Robert Fisk published in The Independence on Dec. 31, 2012 under: “Could Saudi Arabia be next?”

“My crystal ball broke long ago. But predicting the region has an honourable pedigree.

“An Arab movement, newly-risen, is looming in the distance,” a French traveller to the Gulf and Baghdad wrote in 1883 (not 1983), “and a race hitherto downtrodden will presently claim its due place in the destinies of Islam.”

A year earlier, a British diplomat in Jeddah confided that “it is within my knowledge… that the idea of freedom does at present agitate some minds even in Mecca…”

So let’s say this for 2013:

1. The “Arab Awakening” will continue, the demand for dignity and freedom – let us not get tramelled up here with “democracy” – will go on  ravaging the pseudo-stability of the Middle East, causing as much fear in Washington as it does in the palaces of the Arab Gulf.

2. On the epic scale of history, that much is certain.

3. At the incendiary core of this discontent will be the claims of a Palestinian State that does not exist and may never exist and the actions of an Israeli state which – through its constant building of colonies for Jews and Jews only on Arab land – ensures that “Palestine” will remain only an Arab dream.

If 2012 is anything to go by, the Palestinians themselves face the coming year with the knowledge that:

1) neither the Americans nor the Europeans have the guts to help them, because

2) Israel will continue to act with impunity, and

3) neither the Obamas nor the Camerons nor the Hollandes have the slightest interest in taking on the Likudist lobby, which will scream “anti-semitism” the moment the minutest criticism is made against Israel.

4) Add to this the fact that Mahmoud Abbas and his utterly discredited regime in Ramallah will go on making concessions to the Israelis.  If you do not believe me, read Clayton Swisher’s The Palestine Papers – even when there are no more concessions to make.

Hamas and Khaled Meshaal will go on denying Israel’s right to exist, allowing Israel to falsely claim that it has “no one to talk to”. And preparing for the next Gaza war and the subsequent cowardly request from the West which will “urge restraint on both sides”, as if the Palestinians possess Merkava tanks, F-18s and drones.

A third Intifada (mass disobedience movement)? Maybe.

An approach to the International Court to condemn Israel for war crimes in building Jewish colonies on other people’s land? Perhaps. But so what?

The Palestinians won an international court case which condemned the building of Israel’s apartheid/security wall – and absolutely nothing happened.

That’s the fate of the Palestinians.

They’re told by the likes of Tom Friedman to abandon violence and adopt the tactics of Gandhi. And when they do, they still lose, and Friedman remains silent.

It was, after all, Gandhi who said that Western civilisation “would be a good idea”.

So bad news for Palestine in 2013.

How about Iran?

The Iranians understand the West much better than we understand the Iranians – a lot of them, remember, were educated in the United States.

And they’ve an intriguing way of coming out on top whatever they do. George Bush (and Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara) invaded Afghanistan and rid the Shia Iranians of their Sunni enemy, whom they always called the “Black Taliban”.

And Bush-Blair invaded Iraq and got rid of the Islamic Republic’s most loathsome enemy, Saddam Hussein. Thus did Iran win both the Afghan and the Iraqi war – without firing a shot.

There’s no doubt that Iran would fire a shot or two if Israel/America – the two are interchangeable in Iran as in many other Middle East countries – were to attack its nuclear facilities.

However, Israel has no stomach for an all-out war against Iran – it would lose – and the US, having lost two Middle East wars, has no enthusiasm for losing a third.

Sanctions – and here is Iran’s real potential nemesis – are causing far more misery than Israel’s F-18s. And why is America threatening Iran in the first place? It didn’t threaten India when it went nuclear.

And when that most unstable and extremist state called Pakistan was developing nuclear weapons, no US threat was made to bomb its facilities.

True, we’ve heard that more recently – in case the nukes “fell into the wrong hands”, as in gas which might “fall into the wrong hands” in Syria; or in Gaza, for that matter, where democracy “fell into the wrong hands” the moment Hamas won elections there in 2006.

Now that Obama has entered his drone-happy second presidency, we’re going to hear more about those wonderful unpiloted bombers which have been ripping up bad guys and civilians for more than four years.

One day, one of these machines – though they fly in packs of seven or eight – will hit too many civilians or, even worse, will contrive to kill westerners or NGOs.

Then Obama will be apologising – though without the tears he expended over Newtown, Connecticut. (As Israel apologized to the UN for killing Lebanese refugees in a UN compound in Qana)

And here’s a thought for this year.

The gun lobby in the States tells us that “it’s not guns that kill – it’s people”.

But apply that to drone attacks on Pakistan or Israeli bombardments of Gaza and the rubric changes.

It’s the guns/bombs/rockets that kill because the Americans don’t mean to kill civilians and the Israelis don’t wish to kill civilians.

It’s just “collateral damage” again, though that’s not an excuse you can provide for Hamas rockets.

So what’s left for 2013?

Bashar Assad, of course. He’s already trying to win back some rebel forces to his own ruthless side – an intelligent though dangerous tactic – and the West is getting up to its knees in rebel cruelty. Yes, Assad will go. One day. He says as much.

But don’t expect it to happen in the immediate future. Or Gaddafi-style. The old mantra still applies.

Egypt was not Tunisia and Yemen was not Egypt and Libya was not Yemen and Syria is not Libya.

And Iraq?

Its own latent civil war will go on grinding up the bones of civil societ,y while we largely ignore its agony. There are days now when more Iraqis are killed than Syrians, though you wouldn’t know it from the nightly news.

And the Gulf and Saudi Arabia, where the first Arab awakening began?

Where, indeed, the first Arab revolution – the advent of Islam – burst forth upon the world.

There are those who say that the Gulf kingdoms and Emirates will remain secure for years to come. Don’t count on it.

Watch Saudi Arabia. Remember what that British diplomat wrote 130 years ago. “Even in Mecca…”

In summary:

Syria

‘Yes, Assad will go. One day. He says as much. But don’t expect it to happen in the immediate future.  Or Gaddafi-style.’Israel and the  Palestinian territories

Israel and the Palestinian territories

‘Hamas and Khaled Meshaal will go on denying Israel’s right to exist – thus allowing Israel to falsely claim that it has “no one to talk to” – until the next Gaza war.’

Iran

‘Israel has no stomach for an all-out war against Iran – it would lose – and the United States, having lost two Middle East wars, has no enthusiasm for losing a third.’

Saudi Arabia

‘There are those who say that the Gulf  kingdoms will remain secure for years to come. Don’t count on it. Watch Saudi Arabia.’

Iraq

‘Its own civil war will go on grinding up the bones of  civil society while we largely ignore its agony.’

US

‘Now that Obama has entered his drone-happy second  presidency, we’re going to hear more about those wonderful  unpiloted bombers

Andrew Bossone disagrees that Saudi Arabia absolute monarchy will be next to be swept by the Arab Awakening…Why?

The Saudi governments (absolute monarchy) have suppressed previous uprisings (with American support) starting in the 1930’s. It also suppressed the revolts in Yemen and Bahrain most recently, and had a hand elsewhere.

So I just don’t see Saudi going anywhere for a long time.

My position is Saudi Arabia has built-in a tight-proof military uprising system: The “saudi citizens” don’t have to join the army  or encouraged to get military trained for the “defense” of the Kingsdom. The western nations are supposed to do this job, and paid handsomely for cracking down on any serious militaty activities.

Remenber how the French were asked to directly chase out the uprisers in Mecca a decade ago, a liberate the” haramein”.

Saudi Arabia refrain from directly engaging its own “army”, even for defending its borders, such as in Yemen…

The officers are from this extended Saudi clan family, about 5,000 cousins, and most of the soldiers are foreigners.

Iraq is a goner: Iran, the USA, and Saudi Arabia are not interested for the central government to reconstitute a viable army. De facto autonomous partition to four provinces.

This killing field: Any resurgence of terrorist activities in Lebanon?

There is no doubt that Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Nigeria are the current dominant killing fields of car bombing mass assassination…There are other region that media have no direct access or fake not to know much of what’s going around there, like north Mali, Mauritania, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia…

It is the way Lebanon was from 1975 to 1989 and after the withdrawal of the Syrian troops in 2005… Is Lebanon being re-immersed in the same kinds of killing fields?

Andrew Bossone published in the Ahram weekly underLebanese killing fields”

“Lebanon could be closing a dark chapter of assassinations, or the latest victim could be the start of a protracted conflict…

Click to view caption
Lebanese mourners light candles during a vigil for Wissam
Al-Hassan and at least five others who were killed in a Friday bomb attack in Beirut


Since a car bomb in East Beirut killed a top state investigator, Wissam Al-Hassan, and at least five other people, gangs took control of streets and highways across the country. The police and army did little to stop young, armed men taking over for days.

“There’s a group of militant men who are speeding up the process of sectarian war between Sunni and Shia,” said journalist Moe Ali Nayel, who witnessed unaffiliated groups of men armed with Kalashnikovs roaming the streets of the Tarik Al-Jadida area on Monday after Al-Hassan’s death.

“Who were these guys shooting at?” Nayel asked. “There was no other side of the confrontation. It was just one angry mob shooting in the direction of Shia areas.”

The day after the explosion, roads shut down with teenagers burning tires and trash dumpsters. Highways and streets emptied as streams of thick black smoke billowed along the coast. Even military personnel had to ask the teenagers controlling a roadblock going south to let them pass.

It was only after Al-Hassan’s funeral, when some of the attendees tried to storm the parliament building, that government security forces finally interfered against mob rule on the streets. Gunshots rang throughout the night of the funeral, however, and continued the next afternoon.

“Militants were in the street, they were visible,” Nayel said. “This hinted to me that this conflict could drag on, and the side that is provoking at the moment is willing to take it to the end.”

Most Lebanese stayed inside for days, glued to national channels playing non-stop coverage of the events, afraid that violence could spread at any moment. They remain haunted by the civil war and by the death of prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri, which lead to Syria’s withdrawal from the country, and also the seven assassinations of Al-Hariri’s allies before Al-Hassan.

Investigators have days of surveillance tapes of the scene to trawl. They also found parts of the car fitted with two bombs, hoping to identify the killer, though the vehicle was likely stolen: Lebanon also has tens of thousands of fake license plates, so tracing the owner of the car could be impossible. If the assassination had been someone other than himself, Al-Hassan would have been the lead detective on the scene.

Ashraf Rifi, Al-Hassan’s former boss as general director of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, said that 100 people like Wissam Al-Hassan will fill his shoes, but everyone knows Al-Hassan is practically irreplaceable. He was expected to take Rifi’s post and there was some speculation that he could have been on the verge of uncovering another plot.

Hassan security should have been stricter. On the day he was killed, he drove down a small street in Ashrafieh with only one guard.

As the top investigator in the Internal Security Forces Information Branch created in the wake of the killing of Rafic Al-Hariri PM, Al-Hassan worked out of the spotlight but may have also made his share of enemies.

In addition to charging Hizbollah members with Al-Hariri’s death as the lead investigator on the International Tribunal for Lebanon, Al-Hassan has been credited with uncovering at least one Mossad network.

But for some, Al-Hassan’s recent discovery of a bomb plot by Michel Samaha ordered from Damascus is enough to know the killer. Even President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati — who are not aligned with 14 March — said it was hard not to see the connection between the death of Al-Hassan and the capture of former minister and deputy Michel Samaha.

“This [security] institution is being punished with the assassination of its leader, Major General Wissam Al-Hassan, because the Information Branch has achieved so much, including uncovering bomb plots where they confiscated explosives and arrested the transporter,” said Suleiman, quoted in The Daily Star newspaper, referring to the Samaha case.

All this is happening as Syria’s capital is in the throes of war with roadblocks spread across it. The Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was bombed the day before Al-Hassan’s death, while dozens died in the Damascus countryside over the following days.

One can’t help but feel that the uprising in Syria has finally reached Lebanon. In the last two months the number of Syrian refugees more than doubled to nearly 100,000. They need help for the winter and life has become unsafe after two attacks on Syrian workers at construction sites.

History and conflict have bound the two countries together and both are divided internally. It’s now up to the Lebanese to determine if Al-Hassan’s death ends a string of assassinations and divisive politics or brings back the sectarian specter of civil war.

Circumventing censors in the Arab States and everywhere? Is free expression the baseline of all rights?

Lebanon is a place where everyone has the freedom to shout and gather… But what

is the use if no one in the public institutions is listening?

Protests are frequent, and roads and highways blocked by burning tires…Bu twhy change and reforms are so rare, mangled, shortsighed, unfulfilling?

In its political and social system that divides the population into 18 different publicly recognized sects, every party has means to express itself, but security and religious authorities can stop anyone who challenges the system or those who are powerful in it…

Three weeks ago, news updates proclaimed that a bomb dropped by a fighter jet killed the 11 Lebanese civilians who were hijacked by Syrian insurgents over 3 months ago.

One Lebanese TV channel dispatched reporters to visit with the bereaved families and get Hot coverage.  . The immediate reaction of Lebanese tribes was to kidnap 40 Syrians and a Turkish citizen.

The news concerning the death of the Lebanese turned out to be false. Even if the news were accurate, is this sudden confronting the bereaved families publicly part of free expressions?

Censorship played a crucial role in Lebanon following the civil war… Civil rights groups are challenging censorship and claim that free expression is the baseline of all rights…

Andrew Bossone published an article in the Egyptian Weekly Al Ahram:

“Lebanese artists and organisations discussing matters of free expression say State security has considerable power, but this institution does not use a clear legal framework to support its decisions.

The Censorship Bureau of the Directorate for General Security reviews scripts for films or plays before, during and after production, and the law is vague enough to allow censorship on whim rather than on legal reason. Free speech advocates say censorship is holding back society from being unified and healing divisions from the civil war.

Ayman Mhanna, executive director of the Samir Kassir Foundation, says: “Censorship regulation in Lebanon is out-dated. It deprives artists of the ability to express their ideas as they want. Censorship prevents people from looking at other opinions and other perspectives. Ultimately, it leads to extremism, because you would only have one set of ideas that can be voiced.

After the civil war, we chose the path of amnesia and amnesty, looking back at our years of conflict. If we didn’t have that censorship, artists would have had more ideas to dig deeper into the wounds of Lebanese society.

Free opinions wouldn’t have healed them directly, but it would have contributed to a positive process that we’ve been denied so far in Lebanon.”

Beirut is generally considered a place of creative expression: Lebanon proceeded after the civil war without addressing the sectarian tensions that actually created the war. These divisions are clearly in the forefront of disputes in the country that at times bring arms to the street.

Lea Baroudi, general coordinator for the March Lebanon organisation that addresses censorship, says: “Since the war, we have lived in a taboo environment where we cannot talk about the war, we cannot talk about our differences, because the leaders thought that this was a solution to our problems…

“Freedom of expression is the right that accompanies all other rights. If you don’t have freedom of expression and you don’t have the freedom to say or advocate for what you believe in, what are we left with?”

Advocates of free expression admit that allowing any form of speech is not necessarily going to resolve all the country’s problems, but it is a starting point.

Art is often a vehicle for tackling sensitive issues.

Picasso’s “Guernica” explores the tragedies of the Spanish Civil War, and Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat confronts the authority of religious clergy, for example.

Expression may also be a means of unity by allowing open debate that allows a diversity of opinions.

Many issues have been deemed too sensitive, and expression that approaches specific red lines is often prevented from being produced, or in legal terms, the government exercises prior restraint.

According to Mhanna, these lines include talking about the president (both as an individual and an institution), the armed forces, Syria and Hizbullah, friendly nations (in particular Arab countries), enemy countries (specifically Israel), homosexuality, and incest.

Religion is also deemed a sensitive topic, and the Censorship Bureau typically sends content related to it to institutions such as Dar Al-Iftaa and the Catholic Media Centre.

Both Baroudi and Mhanna are advocating for the Censorship Bureau to be replaced with a board that would give ratings according to a system, as for films. This would head off the prior restraint moves of the government.

Regardless of censors, many artists in Lebanon are confronting sensitive issues. This is no more widespread than in music, such as hip-hop. Many Lebanese rappers talk about political matters, even if they do so using metaphors and language that avoids directly naming names.

Jackson Allers, a music promoter in Lebanon and editor of the World Hip Hop Market online magazine, says rappers have thus far avoided censors because their music has yet to reach mass appeal.

Allers says: “They feel empowered to say what they want to say and without having to worry, but I don’t think they realise they’re in a honeymoon period where they haven’t been tested and I feel like that’s coming and it’s approaching more quickly then they thought because of the proximity of Syria, because of the revolutions that are playing out elsewhere…”

Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) on strike? Since 1987… 

Andrew Bossone wrote (on Facebook) via Kate Goodin:

“This will be the first time since 1987. The union normally has to get 75% approval from members in order to strike, they got 90%, including those who didn’t vote and were counted as “NO for striking”. That’s 23,780 out of 26,502 CTU teachers.

Teachers say they’re being asked to:

1. Work 20% more hours without salary raise,

2. that they’ve had to face major cuts to arts, music and sports as well as school closures,

3. they are rejecting the new teacher evaluations, which are to be based on standardized testing: we all know how well-designed, fair, representative and effective standardized tests are…

I don’t think that teacher’s demands and viewpoint have been represented adequately in a lot of coverage of this issue. NYT coverage for example was very vague on what the demands were and what was at stake in the contract, and essentially boiled down to ‘this is going to very inconvenient for students and parents.’

Lara Lindh, Preschool for All teacher in the Chicago Public Schools, explained on June 22 why she and thousands of her fellow teachers voted “yes” to authorizing a strike on AlterNet: “Why I Voted to Authorize the Chicago Teachers’ Strike
 
“Earlier this month, members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) voted and among CTU members who voted, 98 percent said “yes” to strike authorization. We considered those who refrained from voting as against the strike, which is still a nearly 90% majority to give the union authorization to call a strike.

Actually, around 8.5 percent of the union membership didn’t vote, so they were counted as “no” votes: That’s 23,780 yes to 482 no.

The overwhelming support for strike authorization seemed to confuse the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, who likes to assure us that he loves and respects teachers as he destroys our schools and degrades our union. But the vote didn’t come as a surprise to me.

Here’s why I voted, along with the vast majority my brothers and sisters in the CTU, an enthusiastic “yes” to strike authorization.

Reason No. 1: As has happened to me every spring since 2008, I was warned by my boss in March that my preschool teaching position was threatened for the following school year due to budget cuts. As I have done every spring since 2008, I spent countless hours readying my resume and my teaching portfolio, combing the want ads, and annoying my colleagues looking for another job for this coming fall.

With a son, a mortgage, very little savings and a job that I love and would grieve to lose, I tried to muster the enthusiasm necessary to hunt for another job while simultaneously remaining the kind of “super-teacher” that we’re expected to be in order to maintain an evaluation rating that would allow us to be hired by another principal.

In May, I was informed my job was safe, but my assistant teacher’s wasn’t. Due to budget cuts, she’s being replaced with a cheaper, part-time version.

Reason No. 2: The month of May is supposed to be a wonderful month for preschool teachers: We ready our student’s yearlong work portfolios and bask in the glow of their progress and reminisce about how far we’ve come.

We go on field trips and have culminating projects that we enjoy sharing with our students and families. We look forward to summer break.

We begin to say goodbye to the little people we’ve nurtured and loved and taught for the proceeding nine months.

This May, I spent the entire month, as I have for the past three years, conducting a standardized test on my 4 and 5-year-old students to determine their “kindergarten readiness.”

It used to be that by virtue of turning 5 years old, you were deemed “kindergarten ready.” Those days are over. In the name of accountability (which always seems to mean accountability for those with the least say-so), we have turned our schools into test-taking factories, with no child too young to be tested.

Reason No. 3: The day before the strike vote, my school clerk stopped me in the hallway. He had an emergency letter from Jean-Claude Brizard that we had to distribute to parents informing them of why the strike vote was wrong for teachers to do and insulting our collective intelligence by claiming that our leadership hadn’t informed us of what was at stake in our contract negotiations.

The attempt by Brizard to turn parents against teachers was expected, his condescending tone familiar, but what was unheard of was that the letter was translated into Spanish, Mandarin, Polish and Arabic.

As a teacher of English Language Learners, I was dumbfounded. We can NEVER get materials or information translated into our students’ home languages without doing it ourselves.

Was this the proverbial final straw? No, I had already made up my mind to vote “yes” because I want dignity, respect and resources for what I do and for the students I teach.

But it did underline to me that if they can so easily find the resources to drag us down, then they can be forced to find the resources to build up public education.

Reason No. 4: The $5.2 million in TIF money the city council just handed to billionaires CPS board member and infamous union buster Penny Pritzker to build another Hyatt Hotel for her empire. Resources not there? Yeah, right.

I voted “yes” because I have self-respect, and I was always taught (and teach) that when you stand up for yourself against bullies and liars, others will stand up with you. Well, the teachers are standing up. Will you join us?

 

adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

September 2021
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