Category Archives: News

The World Health Organization Wants to Legalize Sex Work and Drugs

via io9

The World Health Organization Wants to Legalize Sex Work and Drugs

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) released guidelines for helping to prevent the spread of HIV in key populations. The group, which also monitors the globe for pandemic outbreaks, says we have to decriminalize sex work and drugs if we want to stop HIV.

Read more…

What Does The Apollo 11 Moon Landing Site Look Like Today?

from Universe Today Forty-five years ago yesterday, the Sea of Tranquility saw a brief flurry of activity when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin dared to disturb the ancient lunar dust. Now the site has lain quiet, untouched, for almost half a century. Are any traces of the astronauts still visible? The answer is yes! Look at the picture […]

Appeals Court Ruling Challenges Legitimacy of Military Commissions For Guantánamo Prisoners

from News – AllGov

The Obama administration’s use of military tribunals to convict terrorism suspects held at Guantánamo Bay has been challenged by a Washington federal court.


The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals this week threw out two of the three convictions for Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al-Bahlul, the former media secretary to Osama bin Laden. Al-Bahlul, a native of Yemen, claimed that he wanted to participate in the September 11, 2001, hijackings, but that bin Laden wouldn’t let him because his public relations skills were too valuable.


A military commission had found al-Bahlul guilty of supporting terrorism, solicitation and conspiracy. But the appellate court, in a unanimous decision, invalidated the first two convictions, saying they weren’t considered war crimes prior to the Military Commissions Act of 2006. and the court majority questioned the third. There is “little domestic precedent to support the notion that material support or a sufficiently analogous offense has historically been triable by military commission,” the opinion said. The en banc ruling affirmed an earlier decision by a three-judge panel of the court.


The ruling could mean that other detainees’ convictions could come into question.


“The al-Bahlul decision shows why creating a substandard system of justice, with new rules and charges never before contemplated by a U.S. court, was always a bad idea,” Laura Pitter, senior national security counsel at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said in a press release. “Continuing with the military commissions at Guantanamo is not worth the very real risk that verdicts may get overturned on appeal.”


HRW has long opposed the commissions, claiming they provide inadequate protections for attorney-client privilege, allow coerced evidence to be used at trial, and employ rules that prevent defense counsel from accessing important information related to the case.


Eight detainees have been convicted using the tribunals, including al-Bahlul. HRW says all but one of the eight were convicted of at least one of the three charges at issue in al-Bahlul.


 “It is unclear how the al-Bahlul decision will affect many of those prior verdicts, though in one of the cases, that against Salim Ahmed Hamdan, the decision appears to entirely invalidate his conviction in 2008 for the sole charge of material support for terrorism,” the group said.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

US: Court Undercuts Military Commissions’ Legitimacy (Human Rights Watch)

D.C. Circuit Snarls Law on Military Tribunals (by Jack Bouboushian, Courthouse News Service)

Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman Al Bahlul v. United States (U.S. District Court, District of Columbia) (pdf)

Bin Laden Media Aide Wins Reversal of Terror Convictions (by Sophia Pearson, Bloomberg)

Guantánamo Military Board, for First Time, Orders Continued Imprisonment without Trial for Detainee (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Idaho Nurse’s Lawsuit against Bulk Collection of Phone Records Gains Supporters

from News – AllGov

The National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection of Americans’ personal telephone data is still being challenged by a nurse from Idaho, and now she’s getting help from some heavyweight civil liberties groups.


Anna Smith took on the NSA shortly after President Barack Obama confirmed the agency’s controversial surveillance work involving domestic communications. But her lawsuit contending the spying violates her First and Fourteenth amendment rights hit a roadblock in June when federal district Judge Lynn Winmill dismissed her case.


Winmill ruled that a 1979 Supreme Court case, Smith v. Maryland, prevented him from siding with Anna Smith, even though he shared her concerns about the privacy implications of the NSA’s work.


Smith, a customer of Verizon, which had turned over customers’ data to the government, filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit court.


It was then that two major organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), decided to help Smith with her fight.


She will continue to be represented by her husband, Peter J. Smith IV, and Idaho state Representative Luke Malek (R). ACLU and EFF attorneys will act as co-counsels.


“When I found out that the NSA was collecting records of my phone calls, I was shocked,” Smith said in a prepared statement. “I have heard of other governments spying indiscriminately on their own citizens, but I naively thought it did not happen in America. I believe who I call, when I call them, and how long we talk is not something the government should be able to get without a warrant. I sued because I believe the Constitution protects my calls from government searches. I am thrilled that the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation agreed to assist us in this case. What Americans can reasonably expect to remain private is an issue of monumental importance.”


One stumbling block Smith might face is that published information shows that Verizon Business Systems was ordered to turn over phone records. Smith is a customer of Verizon Wireless and she is assuming in her suit that that unit of Verizon was likewise required to give call information to the government. If she can’t prove her information was turned over to the NSA however, the suit could be dismissed on those grounds.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

EFF, ACLU Join Idaho Mom’s Legal Challenge to NSA Surveillance (Electronic Frontier Foundation)

Nurse’s NSA Lawsuit Gains Firepower (by Steven Nelson, U.S. News & World Report)

Northern Idaho Mom Sues President over Government Surveillance Program (by Jerry Markon, Washington Post)

Appeal to 9th of NSA Spying Joined by EFF (by Nick Divito, Courthouse News Service)

Meet the Online Tracking Device That is Virtually Impossible to Block

from ProPublica: Articles and Investigations

by Julia Angwin

This story was co-published with Mashable.

A new, extremely persistent type of online tracking is shadowing visitors to thousands of top websites, from to

First documented in a forthcoming paper by researchers at Princeton University and KU Leuven University in Belgium, this type of tracking, called canvas fingerprinting, works by instructing the visitor’s Web browser to draw a hidden image. Because each computer draws the image slightly differently, the images can be used to assign each user’s device a number that uniquely identifies it.

Canvas fingerprinting in action

Watch your browser generate a unique fingerprint image. This is for informational purposes only and no fingerprint information is sent to ProPublica. (Mike Tigas, ProPublica)

See your browser’s fingerprint

Click the button above and your computer and web browser will draw a ProPublica-designed canvas fingerprint.

Like other tracking tools, canvas fingerprints are used to build profiles of users based on the websites they visit — profiles that shape which ads, news articles, or other types of content are displayed to them.

But fingerprints are unusually hard to block: They can’t be prevented by using standard Web browser privacy settings or using anti-tracking tools such as AdBlock Plus.

The researchers found canvas fingerprinting computer code, primarily written by a company called AddThis, on 5 percent of the top 100,000 websites. Most of the code was on websites that use AddThis’ social media sharing tools. Other fingerprinters include the German digital marketer Ligatus and the Canadian dating site Plentyoffish. (A list of all the websites on which researchers found the code is here).

Rich Harris, chief executive of AddThis, said that the company began testing canvas fingerprinting earlier this year as a possible way to replace “cookies,” the traditional way that users are tracked, via text files installed on their computers.

“We’re looking for a cookie alternative,” Harris said in an interview.

Harris said the company considered the privacy implications of canvas fingerprinting before launching the test, but decided “this is well within the rules and regulations and laws and policies that we have.”

He added that the company has only used the data collected from canvas fingerprints for internal research and development. The company won’t use the data for ad targeting or personalization if users install the AddThis opt-out cookie on their computers, he said.

Arvind Narayanan, the computer science professor who led the Princeton research team, countered that forcing users to take AddThis at its word about how their data will be used, is “not the best privacy assurance.”

Device fingerprints rely on the fact that every computer is slightly different: Each contains different fonts, different software, different clock settings and other distinctive features. Computers automatically broadcast some of their attributes when they connect to another computer over the Internet.

Tracking companies have long sought to use those differences to uniquely identify devices for online advertising purposes, particularly as Web users are increasingly using ad-blocking software and deleting cookies.

In May 2012, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, noticed that a Web programming feature called “canvas” could allow for a new type of fingerprint — by pulling in different attributes than a typical device fingerprint.

In June, the Tor Project added a feature to its privacy-protecting Web browser to notify users when a website attempts to use the canvas feature and sends a blank canvas image. But other Web browsers did not add notifications for canvas fingerprinting.

A year later, Russian programmer Valentin Vasilyev noticed the study and added a canvas feature to freely available fingerprint code that he had posted on the Internet. The code was immediately popular.

But Vasilyev said that the company he was working for at the time decided against using the fingerprint technology. “We collected several million fingerprints but we decided against using them because accuracy was 90 percent,” he said, “and many of our customers were on mobile and the fingerprinting doesn’t work well on mobile.”

Vasilyev added that he wasn’t worried about the privacy concerns of fingerprinting. “The fingerprint itself is a number which in no way is related to a personality,” he said.

AddThis improved upon Vasilyev’s code by adding new tests and using the canvas to draw a pangram “Cwm fjordbank glyphs vext quiz” — a sentence that uses every letter of the alphabet at least once. This allows the company to capture slight variations in how each letter is displayed.

AddThis said it rolled out the feature to a small portion of the 13 million websites on which its technology appears, but is considering ending its test soon. “It’s not uniquely identifying enough,” Harris said.

AddThis did not notify the websites on which the code was placed because “we conduct R&D projects in live environments to get the best results from testing,” according to a spokeswoman.

She added that the company does not use any of the data it collects — whether from canvas fingerprints or traditional cookie-based tracking — from government websites including for ad targeting or personalization.

The company offered no such assurances about data it routinely collects from visitors to other sites, such as did not respond to inquiries from ProPublica about whether it was aware of AddThis’ test of canvas fingerprinting on its website.

Editorial Position of the New York Times: Thumbs Up for Gaza Slaughter

from disinformation

By Abba Solomon and Norman Solomon

Over the weekend, the New York Times sent out a clear signal: the mass slaughter of civilians is acceptable when the Israeli military is doing the killing.

Under the headline “Israel’s War in Gaza,” the most powerful newspaper in the United States editorialized that such carnage is necessary. The lead editorial in the July 19 edition flashed a bright green light — reassuring the U.S. and Israeli governments that the horrors being inflicted in Gaza were not too horrible.

New York Times building in NYC. Photo: Haxorjoe (CC)

New York Times building in NYC. Photo: Haxorjoe (CC)

From its first words, the editorial methodically set out to justify what Israel was doing.

After 10 days of aerial bombardment,” the editorial began, “Israel sent tanks and ground troops into Gaza to keep Hamas from pummeling Israeli cities with rockets and carrying out terrorist attacks via underground tunnels.”

The choice of when to date the start of the crisis was part of the methodical detour around inconvenient facts.… Read the rest

The post Editorial Position of the New York Times: Thumbs Up for Gaza Slaughter appeared first on disinformation.

Pro-Palestinian Protesters Rally Across France, Defying Ban on Demonstrations

from Alternet

Tens of thousands march for Gaza in London, while clashes spark in Paris.

London (AFP) – Parts of central London were brought to a standstill on Saturday as thousands of pro-Palestinians marched in protest against Israel’s offensive in Gaza, while in Paris a banned demonstration descended into violence.

Organisers of the London rally claimed that "tens of thousands" of people joined the march from Prime Minister David Cameron’s office to the Israeli embassy, many of them chanting "Israel is a terror state".

Police refused to give an estimate for the number present but several roads through the centre of the capital were closed during the three-mile (4.8-kilometre) march, which passed off peacefully.

In Paris, by contrast, clashes broke out after hundreds gathered in defiance of a ban on their demonstration, with crowds throwing stones and bottles at riot police, who responded with tear gas.

Some 33 people were arrested by early evening, a police source said, while three police officers were injured in the disorder near Montmartre in the north of the French capital.

Protests were permitted in other French cities, where thousands turned out including in Lyon, Marseille and Strasbourg, while several thousand also rallied in solidarity with the Palestinians in Brussels.

Protesters take part in demonstration against Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, through the streets of cen …

Twelve days of violence between Israeli forces and Hamas has seen more than 340 Palestinians killed in Gaza, the majority of them civilians, as well as five Israelis.

- ‘Biggest rally in years’ -

In London, demonstrators held up placards pleading for Israel to end its attacks on Gaza, and reading "Stop the bombing, free Palestine" and "End Israeli apartheid".

Opposition Labour lawmaker Diane Abbott said it was the "biggest London Palestinian rally in years".

The left-wing Stop the War Coalition, one of the organisers of the march, condemned British and US support for Israel as "nothing less than collusion with war crimes killing women, children and disabled people".

A woman holds placards as she takes part in demonstration against Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, during …

Sarah Colborne, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said the five-hour demonstration was a "chance to say enough is enough: Israel’s siege of Gaza and its occupation of Palestinian land has to end now".

In Paris, police had banned Saturday’s demonstration following violence after similar marches — a move that was widely criticised by those taking part in London.

Hundreds of people, including many women and children, took to the streets regardless, and there were cheers as two Israeli flags were burned in front of the crowd.

"We are all Palestinians," chanted the protesters. Some threw stones at the cordons of riot police before running off, starting a game of cat and mouse with police.

In the resulting running clashes, two small vans were set on fire, as well as numerous bins, while the streets were littered with broken glass and debris.

A protester standing on a scaffolding holds a placard depicting the Palestinian flag as protestors g …

A protest against Israel’s offensive in Gaza last Sunday in Paris also descended into unrest and a small group of people tried to break into two synagogues.

Speaking on Friday about the ban on this weekend’s march, President Francois Hollande said: "We cannot allow the conflict to be imported into France.

"We cannot have demonstrators facing each other down, with a risk to public order."

The US embassy had issued a statement "strongly encouraging" its citizens to steer clear of the Paris protests, warning of the risk of clashes.

Authorities said organisers who defied the ban will face a six-month prison term and 7,500-euro fine.

Laws Targeting Homelessness Have Increased Dramatically Across the Country

from Alternet

A new report finds these laws are being passed with wide voter approval.
While homelessness is worse than ever in many places across the country, more and more cities are addressing the crisis by making it illegal to sleep, sit or simply be in public.
This decades-old trend is spreading even as the social safety net keeps shrinking and housing is at its most expensive. People with nowhere else to go are cited, arrested and jailed for begging, lying on park benches or curling up on stoops—even though criminalizing activities that homeless people do to survive does nothing to end homelessness and costs more than it would to house them.
So finds a study of 187 cities by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP), an advocacy group that has tracked the way cities address homelessness since 1991. The new report, the first in three years, found a 43 percent increase since 2011 in laws designed to curb the presence of homeless people on the streets (so-called sit-lie laws) and a 60 percent increase in city-wide bans as opposed to more narrow bans focused on downtowns or public parks.
Moreover, in three years, laws that ban sleeping in cars and other private vehicles, the last refuge for many families that have lost their homes, have jumped by 116 percent.
The increase and broadening of these laws means that more cities are handling their homelessness crisis by essentially pushing society’s most marginalized, reviled population out of sight. While the U.N. Committee on Human Rights has found that such laws violate international human rights treaties and the 9th Circuit Court has found that people who have lost their homes should not be penalized for sleeping in their cars, the bans and penalties for violating them keep growing.
The bleak findings, which come as income inequality, wage stagnation and outright poverty have become endemic, suggest a compassion fatigue with no sign of abating. The laws are being passed with wide voter approval, in cities that offer few or no alternatives for those living on the streets.
Palo Alto, Calif., for example, at the center of the high-tech boom, has only 15 shelter beds, serving 10 percent of its homeless population, but it has made sleeping in one’s own private vehicle a crime punishable by a $1,000 fine or six months in jail. Santa Cruz, Calif., where 83 percent of homeless people have no shelter options, has imposed bans on camping,  sitting, or lying down in public or sleeping in vehicles. Orlando, Fla., where 34 percent of homeless people are without shelter beds, prohibits camping, sleeping  and begging in public as well as “food sharing.”
Bans on “food sharing,” or feeding homeless people, are the latest trend in criminalization laws. Of the cities surveyed, 17 have made it illegal to feed people in public.
Homeless people surveyed reported warrants and outstanding tickets for sleeping outside or in their cars, constant harassment from police, and a hopelessness as to how to change their situation. Many surveyed have had their possessions confiscated for “storing them” in public and jailed for living outside. The Western Regional Advocacy Project (W.R.A.P.), an umbrella group for homeless advocacy organization in several Western states, conducted a national survey of 1,600 homeless people and found that 80 percent have been harassed for sleeping in public and 74 percent have no idea where to go to find safe shelter.
For those who are employed and homeless—44 percent of the nation’s homeless population, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless—these penalties endanger their best chance —their jobs—for mitigating their living situation.
Cities grappling with growing homeless populations and less affordable housing (more than 12 percent of the nation’s supply of low-income housing has been permanently lost since 2001) are stymied as to how to provide solutions, said Jeremy Rosen, a spokesman for the NLCHP, so they adopt criminalization ordinances.
“We are really trying to wave our hands at this point,” Rosen said, “And point out to communities that the approach is generally unsuccessful. They return to the streets again and it becomes more difficult to help them as they have a criminal record and fines and court costs they can’t pay.”
There are a few bright spots in the report. Cities that have adopted a “housing first” approach to homelessness—providing housing with supportive services—have reduced the costs associated with enforcing anti-homeless laws while providing safe shelter for their most vulnerable population. In Utah, a government study found that the annual cost of emergency room visits and jail stays for an average homeless person was $16,670, while providing an apartment and a social worker cost $11,000. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, by providing housing, the city reduced spending on homelessness-related jail costs by 64 percent.

Drug Testing and Racial Profiling Go Hand in Hand

from Alternet

Whites trump blacks in most drug use. So why do many employers assume black applicants are drug users?

The following first appeared in The Fix. Also on  Sober as a U.S. Drug CzarSweet Necessity: The Extent and Perils of Sugar AddictionHow’s Your Mental Health? Take a Quiz and Find Out

“We believe that all men are entitled to the blessings of liberty. But millions are being deprived of those blessings, not because of their own failures but because of the color of their skin… But it cannot continue. Our Constitution, the foundation of our Republic, forbids it. The principles of our freedom forbid it. Morality forbids it. And the law I will sign tonight forbids it.”

With that bold statement, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964. That milestone legislation took a sledge hammer to the legal pillars of segregation by banning discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin and gender. But, as we have seen in the half century since, it takes more than Congressional votes and the stroke of a President’s pen to scratch out the racist attitudes which have been part of our American culture since colonial times.  

While enormous progress has been made in the area of racial justice, old stereotypes endure. Assumptions of intellectual inferiority, laziness, moral laxity, and criminality continue to haunt African-Americans, especially African-American men. The stubborn resilience of such perceptions shores up the disparities in opportunity and quality of life that remain between black and white Americans.  

So, it isn’t surprising that employers who require drug screening for potential hires often assume that black job applicants are drug users. Is this fact insulting? Yes. Infuriating? Yes. Surprising? No. It is just another example of the bias that black Americans have struggled against throughout our nation’s history, and which still hobbles our progress in the post-Civil Rights era.  One major example: Although African America make up only 14% of the drug using population, 37% of Americans incarcerated for drugs are African American, put there by a law enforcement and criminal justice system that is clearly biased in its targeting of blacks and in its conviction rate.  Overall, one in three African American males end up in jail at some point in their lives.

As The Fix reported in May, research out of Notre Dame University reveals that African-American job seekers are also hampered by drug-related stereotypes. In her report, “Discrimination and The Effects of Drug Testing on Black Employment,” Notre Dame associate economics professor Abigail K. Wozniak states, “In a survey of hiring managers, there is a belief that Blacks are more likely to fail a drug test…They also cite a 1989 survey in which 95% of [hiring survey] respondents described the typical drug user as Black.”

The assumption that black job seekers are more likely than their white counterparts to be drug abusers mirrors a broader societal impression reinforced by the fact that young blacks are arrested for drug crimes at higher rates than whites. But multiple studies have shown that drug use and dependency are actually less prevalent among African-Americans than among whites.

According to a 2011 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more whites have used various drugs—including marijuana, cocaine, stimulants (such as methamphetamine), prescription painkillers and alcohol—than blacks. Crack is the only drug that is used by more African-Americans than whites. The percentages of blacks and whites who have used drugs break down this way:

Substance African/American White
Marijuana 40.4 56.3
Cocaine 9.9 17.7
Stimulants 2.1 9.1
Painkillers 10.6 15.2
Alcohol 75.0 87.1
Crack 5.0 3.4

Statistics on drug abuse and dependency also tilt toward whites. In 2011, researchers at Duke University analyzed data on youth drug use contained in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.They concluded that 9% of young whites who took drugs were abusers or addicts. For young blacks the number was 5%—almost half of the white number. Dr. Dan Blazer, who led the Duke research team, told TIME magazine, “There’s a perception among many individuals that African Americans as a group—regardless of socioeconomic status—tend to abuse or use drugs at higher rates and this (does not support) that.”  

Ironically, drug testing actually benefits black job applicants by revealing that most are not drug users. Wozniak writes that in states where drug screening is required for certain jobs, “Adoption of pro-testing legislation increases black employment in the testing sector by seven to 30% and relative wages by 1.4 to 13%, with the largest shifts among low skilled black men." However, in states where testing is not done, black applicants lose out to white women. “Results further suggest that employers substitute white women for blacks in the absence of testing.” Wozniak concludes.  

Hearing that, one may be tempted to say that a solution to employment discrimination is to mandate more drug testing. That way, black job applicants could prove that they aren’t drug users and thereby increase their chances of being hired. Everybody wins, right? Wrong. African-Americans would lose in the long run because such an approach would validate the racist perceptions that force us to justify ourselves when we haven’t done anything that could reasonably spark suspicion. Such perceptions are dangerous because they don’t merely make it difficult for blacks to get jobs, they can literally put our lives at risk.  

Before the altercation that left 17-year-old Trayvon Martin dead, George Zimmerman made up his mind that the black high-schooler was dangerous. That’s why he called 911 and said, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something.” But Zimmerman’s own description of Martin’s actions reveals that the teen hadn’t done anything threatening. “It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about,” Zimmerman told the emergency dispatcher. Later he said that Martin “was just staring” and “looking at all the houses.”  

Since when does walking around and looking at houses constitute drug-induced, potentially criminal behavior that requires an urgent call to the cops?  It doesn’t.  

Unless the guy doing all that walking and looking is a black male—especially a young black male—who has the temerity to wear a hooded sweatshirt on a rainy night. All of that adds up to probable cause to someone whose mind is polluted by racist stereotypes. 

Another reason that expanding drug testing is a poor response to job discrimination is the fact that perceived drug use is only one stereotype held against African-American would-be employees. The mere fact of our blackness is the basis for some of the strongest (but most difficult to prove) objections by some hiring managers.  

In 2003, the National Bureau of Economic Research (the same group that published the Wozniak report) concluded that job applicants with African-American-sounding names had a much harder time landing job interviews than applicants whose names sounded white. The report, which was titled “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?” found that “Job applicants with white names needed to send about 10 resumes to get one callback; those with African-American names needed to send around 15 resumes to get one callback.” The rejections were even higher for resumes that combined ethnic-skewing names with ZIP codes of low income neighborhoods.  

Black Americans have neither the means nor the responsibility to eradicate racism in the U.S. And we certainly don’t need to prove that we are worthy of equality by showing that we are respectable, law abiding, productive and patriotic citizens who have always made substantial and important contributions to the nation. These facts are obvious to anyone who views history and current events with unbiased eyes.  

Uprooting the racism which has brought misery to black and other Americans of color is a white responsibility. Happily, there have been (and continue to be) countless white men and women who have labored, suffered and died in pursuit of racial justice. And our nation has made breathtaking strides since the bad old days when segregation and discrimination were maintained by custom and enforced by law. But far too many American whites continue to respond with indifference, impatience or hostility toward the pleas by blacks and other minorities for fairness and equality. This influential segment of white American society accuses us of whining, even as they ignore evidence of continued racial stereotyping, profiling and discriminatory treatment.  

Remember when black Harvard professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates was arrested in 2009 by a white police officer for supposedly disturbing the peace on the porch of his own house? Law enforcement professionals across the country publicly criticized the cop for a bad arrest and the local district attorney refused to file charges. But when President Obama said that the officer acted “stupidly” he was pilloried by right wing opinion leaders. Rush Limbaugh called it a case of “a black president trying to destroy a white policeman." Glenn Beck said Mr. Obama had “a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.” Even after he tried to make peace by inviting Dr. Gates and the arresting officer to the White House for the informal “beer summit,” the President was still blasted as a supposedly divisive figure. The attacks were false, but they were indicative of the lengths to which some angry white Americans will go to deny that members their race might still be mistreating people of color because of color. 

Moments before he affixed his signature to the Voting Rights Act of 1964, President Johnson exhorted Americans to put racial animosity aside and unite to “bring justice and hope to all our people.” Johnson urged the nation: “Let us close the springs of racial poison. Let us pray for wise and understanding hearts. Let us lay aside irrelevant differences and make our Nation whole.”  

Although the America of 2014 is dramatically, and beautifully, different from the America of 1964, LBJ’s admonition still challenges our nation and the hearts of its people.

“I Am Living in A Horror Movie”: What It’s Like to Raise A Family in Gaza

from Alternet

My voice is only one of millions suffering through the nightmare in Gaza. Is anyone out there listening?

I can hear explosions as I write this. They are so close, the furniture rattles and the lamps shake. There’s talk of a ceasefire, but it doesn’t feel like it here. I am living in a horror movie.

I keep thinking about the fact that Gaza was already in a terrible state before these bombings. Unemployment was high, food aid was common, people were living in poverty. So you can imagine how much worse it is now.

My daughter Joudi is only 5 and already has been through three of these bombardments – first in my womb in 2008-09, then in 2012 and now in 2014. I can see the question marks in her eyes. What do I tell her? Is there an adequate word to describe this situation?

At least we’re alive. The park behind our apartment building was bombed and the explosion rocked the whole area. The noise was deafening. There isn’t a single street in Gaza that’s safe.

The other morning we saw we were really low on milk. My husband ventured out to a nearby store. While he was away my heart pounded with worry and I watched for him every second he was gone. Turns out that the errand was all for nothing. The store was out of milk. Now we have to find other options for feeding our baby.

It feels like there is no end in sight. In the meantime the crossings and borders into Gaza are only sporadically open. Very little food or fuel is coming in. The damage is really extensive – to farmland, buildings and a lot of other infrastructure. Gaza’s water supply is at risk because it is too dangerous to attempt any emergency repairs to parts of the network damaged in the bombings. So far, the U.N. estimates more than 600,000 people have lost access to water and half the sewage network is out of service. It will only get worse.

We’ve been getting about six hours of electricity a day, but on Tuesday ours went off after two hours because a bomb apparently hit some infrastructure that delivered it to our place. We started camping out in the center of our apartment, as far away from the windows as possible. Flying glass causes the most injuries.

We’ve had very little sleep for more than a week. It has been really intense: There were bombings from the sea and air and I also heard the sounds of rockets launching. A house on my brother’s block was bombed yesterday. We fled our apartment at midnight on Wednesday, because the bombs were falling so close. Hopefully we’ll return in a day or two. We’re not alone. Thousands have had to flee their homes with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.

I have insufficient words to describe what is happening here. My voice is only one in more than a million who are suffering through this never-ending nightmare. Is anyone listening out there?

Now we live in more fear in this ground assault. We are making plans, ready to flee in a second. Our bags packed with passports, money and valuables. We never change into pajamas – ready to go outdoors or to meet God. We call around to check on our friends and family and my colleagues from work but what can we say to each other? The number of deaths and injuries keeps rising.

The brave staff with the American humanitarian organization I work for, ANERA, is managing against all odds to get vital medicines and medical supplies delivered to local hospitals, whose supplies are severely depleted. We are trying to help as much as we can but even getting relief supplies to those in need is a dangerous, life-threatening activity.

Everyone is exhausted, distraught by this latest violence and worn out from years of misery. I feel hopeless and helpless as I sit here wondering what will happen to my life and my children.

If we survive all this yet again, then it will be time to pick ourselves up, assess the damage and, if the building materials are allowed into Gaza, start rebuilding our homes and our lives. Yet again.