Friday, June 28, 2013

Stand By Me

Trayvon Martin is back in the news with the fifth day of the George Zimmerman trial including testimony by Trayvon's childhood friend, 19 year old high school student Raychel Jeantel who described speaking with Trayvon on the phone moments before he was killed by Zimmerman.  Right after the phone was apparently dropped, and immediately before the line disconnected, Ms. Jeantel - who had stayed with her friend on the phone as he was pursued by Zimmerman - heard Trayvon saying, "Get off! Get off!"

Democracy Now! reports below on the 5th day, discussing the prosecution's efforts to discredit the high school student's testimony.

Reuters reports that another witness today, Jonathan Goode, undermined a key component of Zimmerman's defense by stating that he never saw Trayvon slam Zimmerman's head into the concrete. 

At the link here, the attorney for the Martin family, Daryl Parks, speaks to the press alongside Trayvon's parents, Tracy Martin and Sabrina Fulton.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Snowden Rap

From Rap News,

Yesterday, Reuters reported Edward Snowden still in hiding at a Moscow airport.  President Vladimir Putin called any U.S. accusations that Russia was aiding him as "ravings and rubbish,"  stating that Russia will not extradite Mr. Snowden.

In the meantime, Ecuador considers Edward Snowden's asylum request, asking Washington D.C. to make any argument it has for extradition.  President Rafael Correa has said, in order for Mr. Snowden's asylum application to be processed, he must be inside Ecuador or an Ecuadorian Embassy - so at present the Ecuadorian government has issued a "letter of safe passage for Edward Snowden" asking other countries to permit him to transit their territory.  

President Obama has downplayed the Snowden matter, describing it as "routine law enforcement," and stating, "in terms of U.S. interests, the damage was done with the initial leaks," and, "I'm not going to be scrambling jets to get a twenty-nine year old hacker." 

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Wednesday shows most Americans more likely to view Snowden as "a patriot" rather than "a traitor."  Also, Just Foreign Policy is gathering signatures for a petition to President Correa urging him to grant Edward Snowden's asylum request.  The petition presently carries over 17,000 signatures, including Oliver Stone, Noam Chomsky, Tom Hayden, and whistle blower Daniel Ellsberg.  

Below, Edward Snowden discusses his motivation behind the NSA leak in a Washington Post video courtesy of Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, Hong Kong, June 2013.

From wikipedia,
Working primarily with Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian (London), which published a series of exposés based on Snowden's disclosures in June 2013, Snowden revealed information about a variety of classified intelligence programs, including the interception of US and European telephone metadata and the PRISM and Tempora Internet surveillance programs. Snowden said the leaks were an effort "to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them."[4][6][7]
On June 14, 2013, US federal prosecutors filed a sealed complaint, made public on June 21,[8][9] charging Snowden with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorized person; the latter two allegations are under the Espionage Act.[10]
Snowden's leaks are said to rank among the most significant breaches in the history of the NSA.[11] Matthew M. Aid, an intelligence historian in Washington, said disclosures linked to Snowden have "confirmed longstanding suspicions that NSA's surveillance in this country is far more intrusive than we knew."[11]

Monday, June 24, 2013

Pet Coke

Detroit protesters camped out on the banks of the Detroit River Sunday night in preparation for demonstrations held today against petroleum coke (a.k.a "pet coke" or "petcoke") being piled by the water where families fish, live, and breathe.  Protesters would like state and city officials to require companies storing petcoke to obtain permits subjecting them to appropriate environmental regulations.

The Detroit Free Press reports that petcoke at the area in question - northeast of the Ambassador Bridge - is piled up on property owned by the family of billionaire Manuel (Matty) Moroun and leased to Norfolk Southern railroad. Pet coke storage recently ceased at a second site, on Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority property, southwest of the Ambassador Bridge, along the river.

Petcoke is a byproduct of tar sands oil refining.  It can be used as a cheap fuel source when combined with coal.  The E.P.A. has claimed that it is not carcinogenic, but it contains a variety of toxic metals, and residents have reported respiratory problems due to the thick black dust in the air that also settles in their homes, on their cars, and in the water where they fish.  The piles themselves, of course, are also eyesores (see photostream below).

From Occupy Detroit:


Detroit Legal News has an interview here with Nick Schroeck of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center.  He discusses some of the health hazards and legal issues, as well as problems with how the E.P.A. reached its determinations.  Mr. Schroeck points out that some states have required storage in a covered location or screening to "block the movement of fugitive dust."  Also, greater regulatory controls over trucking, handling, and pile maintenance have been imposed upon other Michigan petcoke storage sites, but not for those along the Detroit River.

Via CBS:
The piles have been built up over the past couple months with the pet coke being brought by trucks loaded with material from the Marathon Petroleum Refinery in southwest Detroit.
The group spent the morning blocking the entrance way to the dock at the port near West Jefferson Avenue and Rosa Parks.  For about three hour, two trucks waited to get through as protesters locked arm-in-arm to prevent it.
Police were the scene but took no action to remove the protesters and made no arrests.
Via Fox photostream:

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Zehra in Migration, a spoken word poem, at the 2012 Hullabaloo Indies Finals at Rio Theatre.  "Make friends with the stars so that you're never lonely," and, "always write 'humanity.'"

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Immigration Bill

What would just immigration reform look like?  Professor Alfonso Gonzales of Lehman College in New York discusses the pros and cons of legislation under consideration in Congress, along with prior bills and the immigrant rights movement.  Professor Lehman describes the deportation of 4 million people as "a monumental feat in state violence," asserting, "If any other country in the world deported 4 million people - expelled 4 million people from its country - I think we would begin to question the democratic credentials of that country."  

The Washington Post reported yesterday that the Senate recently expanded the legislation to over 1,100 pages plus another 50 billion dollars in costs, and that the bill comes up for a vote next week.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hunger Strike

As the Guantánamo hunger strike enters its 133rd day, U.S. physicians and public health specialists "call upon their colleagues in the military" to boycott the mass force feeding of prisoners.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sorry Ain't Enough No More

A song originally written about the Gulf Oil spill, but seems appropriate in other contexts.  Can we afford any more "mistakes?"  Sorry Ain't Enough No More from Shamarr Allen, Dee-1, Paul Sanchez, and Bennie Pete of Hot 8 Brass Band. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Love Stories 
Can economic and social crisis be turned into a love story?  Or should activists in the U.S. be more deeply concerned with "taking power," for example, as activists in Europe and Latin America (among other places) have traditionally effected change? And versus, say, "processing feelings?"   

In the video below, Paul Jay talks with Brooklyn-based director Velcrow Ripper about this important subject, along with his now traveling film on the Occupy movement, Occupy Love.  (Find a copy or host a showing in your community by going here.)

*Photo credit/Vancouver Film Festival/Anonymous protester at Occupy demonstration with sign reading "Always Know You Are Loved - The Universe."

Monday, June 3, 2013

Dangerous Precedent

Bradley Manning's historic trial started today after three long years of waiting -- but mainstream media was more interested in grumpy cat.  In the video below, Andrew Blake reports on the scene in the courtroom, notable persons attending, and the dangerous legal precedent that could be set if Bradley Manning is convicted;  i.e. he is being charged with "aiding the enemy," essentially, by posting information on the internet that could be read by anyone.  He faces the possibility of life in prison.