Tag Archives: North America

Biden’s Announcement That Trump Got Military Spending Just Right Is Dead Wrong

DISARMAMENT & SECURITY .

An article by David Swanson

President Joe Biden is proposing a level of Pentagon spending so close to that of Trump’s last year in office that Bloomberg  calls it a 0.4% reduction adjusting for inflation while Politico  calls it a 1.5% increase and “effectively an inflation-adjusted budget boost.” I call it a disgusting violation of the will of the public spent in the hypocritical name of a grand battle against autocracies by so-called democracies, driven in reality by the influence of war profiteers and contempt for the fate of the planet and the people on it.


The U.S. public, according to polling, would reduce military spending if it had something resembling a democracy.

Just five weapons dealers poured  $60 million into U.S. election campaign bribery in 2020. These companies now sell more weapons abroad than to the U.S. government, with the U.S. State Department acting as a marketing firm, and with U.S. weapons and/or U.S. military training and/or U.S. government funding going to the militaries of 96%  of the most oppressive governments on earth.

U.S. military spending is $1.25 trillion  per year across numerous departments. Even just taking the $700 billion and change that goes to the Pentagon and stands in for the full amount in media coverage, U.S. military spending has been climbing for years, including during the Trump years, and is the equivalent  of many of the world’s top military spenders combined, most of which are U.S. allies, NATO members, and U.S. weapons customers.

Still using that artificially reduced figure, China is at 37% of it, Russia at 8.9%, and Iran is spending 1.3%. These are, of course, comparisons of absolute amounts.  Per capita  comparisons are extreme as well. The United States, every year, takes $2,170 from every man, woman, and child for wars and war preparations, while Russia takes $439, China $189, and Iran $114.

“Takes” is the right word. President Eisenhower once admitted it out loud, saying, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

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Question for this article:

Does military spending lead to economic decline and collapse?

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When a mere $30 billion could end  starvation on earth, there is no question that militarism kills first and foremost through the diversion of funds from where they are needed, while of course risking  nuclear apocalypse and driving  environmental collapse,  justifying  secrecy,  fueling  bigotry, and degrading  culture.

The madness of militarism is not new, but it is always newly happening in an environmentally riskier world in more desperate need of a redirection of resources, and is happening now in the midst of a pandemic. Meanwhile President Biden proposes to pay for things he wants to spend money on with slight corporate taxes over 15 years, as if no other expenses will come up between now and 2036.

A bill in both houses of Congress called the ICBM Act would move funding from intercontinental ballistic missiles to vaccines. Dozens of Congress Members say they favor moving funding from militarism to human and environmental needs. Yet, not a single one has made a public commitment to voting against any bill that fails to reduce military spending, and not a single one has introduced a war powers resolution to end a single war, now that Trump’s veto cannot be relied on to render such an action harmless.

It is a real shame that President Biden is not a member of the Democratic Party whose 2020 Platform reads: “Democrats believe the measure of our security is not how much we spend on defense, but how we spend our defense dollars and in what proportion to other tools in our foreign policy toolbox and other urgent domestic investments. We believe we can and must ensure our security while restoring stability, predictability, and fiscal discipline in defense spending. We spend 13 times more on the military than we do on diplomacy. We spend five times more in Afghanistan each year than we do on global public health and preventing the next pandemic. We can maintain a strong defense and protect our safety and security for less.”

It’s just bad luck that President Biden does not subscribe to the religion professed by the Pope who remarked  last Sunday: “The pandemic is still spreading, while the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for the poor. Nonetheless – and this is scandalous – armed conflicts have not ended and military arsenals are being strengthened.”

According to Bloomberg, the U.S. military arsenal is being strengthened in a proper progressive manner: “The $715 billion Pentagon ‘topline’ is likely to be presented as a compromise to Democrats pressing for cuts in defense spending, as some of the money would be slated for the Pentagon’s environmental initiatives.”

With friends like the Pentagon, the environment has no need of enemies, real or imagined.

According to Politico, wildly out-of-control military spending that Biden believes Donald Trump got just about exactly right is actually a demonstration of restraint because “Pentagon budgeteers” have been hoping for more. Let us weep for them in our own private ways.

Yellen pledges U.S. international cooperation, calls for global minimum tax

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article by David Lawder from Reuters (Reprinted by permission)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Monday that she is working with G20 countries to agree on a global corporate minimum tax rate and pledged that restoring U.S. multilateral leadership would strengthen the global economy and advance U.S. interests.


Reuters File Photo : U.S. Treasury Secretary-designate Janet Yellen in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., December 1, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

In a speech ahead of her first International Monetary Fund and World Bank Spring Meetings as Treasury chief, Yellen signaled stronger U.S. engagement on issues from climate change to human rights to tax base erosion.

A global minimum tax proposed by the Biden administration could help to end a “thirty-year race to the bottom on corporate tax rates,” Yellen told an online event hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

The proposal is a key pillar of President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure spending plan, which calls for an increase in the U.S. corporate tax rate to 28% while eliminating some deductions associated with overseas profits.

Without a global minimum, the United States would again have higher rates than a number of other major economies, tax experts say, while the U.S. proposal could help jump-start negotiations for a tax deal among major economies.

World Bank President David Malpass said finance leaders from the Group of 20 major economies on Wednesday would discuss global tax issues, including for digital services, adding that international attitudes were shifting away from continual tax reductions.

“Taxes matter to development, and it’s important that the world get it right,” Malpass told CNBC television.

Separately, a group of Democratic senators unveiled a legislative proposal to roll back parts of former President Donald Trump’s 2017 U.S. tax cuts.

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Question for this article:

Opposing tax havens and global exploitation: part of the culture of peace?

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NEW ATTITUDE

Yellen also said she would use the IMF and World Bank meetings this week to advance discussions on climate change, improve vaccine access for poor countries and push countries to do more to support a strong global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We will fare better if we work together and support each other,” Yellen said.

Her more cooperative approach marks a sharp contrast to the ‘America First’ approach of her Trump administration predecessor, Steven Mnuchin. She has backed a $650 billion increase in IMF monetary reserves that Mnuchin opposed last year, and said she will work with international institutions and partners on carbon emission reduction targets.

Mnuchin had routinely opposed any climate change references in G20 and other communiques issued from large multilateral gatherings.

Yellen also has dropped here a key Mnuchin demand from international tax negotiations – a provision that would allow large U.S. technology companies to opt out of any new rules on taxation of digital services.

PRESSURE ON TAX HAVENS

The new Treasury chief said it was important to “end the pressures of tax competition” and make sure governments “have stable tax systems that raise sufficient revenues in essential public goods and respond to crises, and that all citizens fairly share the burden of financing government.”

Separately, a U.S. Treasury official told reporters that it was important to have the world’s major economies on board with a global minimum tax to make it effective, but did not say how many countries were needed for this.

The official said the United States would use its own tax legislation to prevent companies from shifting profits or residency to tax haven countries and would encourage other major economies to do the same.

The Biden plan proposes a 21% minimum corporate tax rate, coupled with eliminating exemptions on income from countries that do not enact a minimum tax. The administration says the plan will discourage the shifting of jobs and profits overseas.

Yellen said in her remarks that while advanced economies had successfully supported their economies through the COVID-19 pandemic, it was too early to declare victory, and more support was needed for low income countries to gain access to vaccines.

Activists Block Rail Route for General Dynamics Armoured Vehicles Bound for Saudi Arabia, Demand Canada Stop Fueling War in Yemen

DISARMAMENT & SECURITY .

An article from World Beyond War

Members of anti-war organizations World BEYOND War, Labour Against the Arms Trade, and People for Peace London are blocking railway tracks near General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada, a London-area company manufacturing light armoured vehicles (LAVs) for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


The activists are calling on General Dynamics to end its complicity in the brutal Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen and calling on the Canadian government to end arms exports to Saudi Arabia and expand humanitarian assistance for the people of Yemen.

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the Saudi-led, Western-backed coalition’s intervention in Yemen’s civil war, leading to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

It is estimated that 24 million Yemenis need humanitarian assistance – some 80% of the population – which is being thwarted by the Saudi-led coalition’s land, air, and naval blockade of the country. Since 2015, this blockade has prevented food, fuel, commercial goods and aid from entering Yemen. According to the World Food Program, nearly 50,000 people in Yemen are already living in famine-like conditions with 5 million just a step away. To add to the already dire situation, Yemen has one of the worst COVID-19 death rates in the world, killing 1 in 4 people who test positive.

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Question related to this article:

How can the peace movement become stronger and more effective?

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Despite the global COVID-19 pandemic and calls from the United Nations for a global ceasefire, Canada has continued to export arms to Saudi Arabia. In 2019, Canada exported arms valued at $2.8 billion to the Kingdom—more than 77 times the dollar value of Canadian aid to Yemen in the same year.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Canada has exported over $1.2 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, the bulk of which are light armoured vehicles manufactured by General Dynamics, part of a $15 billion arms deal brokered by the Government of Canada. Canadian weapons continue to fuel a war that has led to the world’s largest humanitarian crisis in Yemen and heavy civilian casualties.

The light armoured vehicles manufactured by General Dynamics in London, Ontario are being transported by rail and truck to port where they are loaded onto Saudi ships.

“Since the multi-billion-dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia was first signed, Canadian civil society has published reports, presented petitions, protested at government offices and weapons manufacturers across the country, and delivered several letters to Trudeau in which dozens of groups representing millions have repeatedly demanded Canada stop arming Saudi Arabia” said Rachel Small of World BEYOND War. “We’ve been left with no choice but to block the Canadian tanks headed to Saudi Arabia ourselves.”

“Workers want green, peaceful jobs, not jobs manufacturing weapons of war. We will continue to put pressure on the Liberal government to end arms exports to Saudi Arabia and work with unions to secure alternatives for arms industry workers,” said Simon Black of Labour Against the Arms Trade, a coalition of peace and labour activists working to end Canada’s participation in the international arms trade.

“What our community needs is government funding for rapid conversion from military exports back to production for human needs, as these plants used to do,” says David Heap of People for Peace London. “We call for immediate public investment in much-needed green transport industries that will ensure good jobs for Londoners while protecting peace and human rights in the world.”

Follow twitter.com/wbwCanada and twitter.com/LAATCanada for photos, videos, and updates during the rail blockade.

Danny Glover on Amazon Union Drive in USA, the Power of Organized Labor & Centuries of Resistance in Haiti

TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY .

A transcript from Democracy Now

As workers in Bessemer, Alabama, continue to vote on whether to establish the first unionized Amazon warehouse in the United States, we speak with actor and activist Danny Glover, who recently joined organizers on the ground to push for a yes vote. “This election is a statement,” says Glover, one of the most high-profile supporters of the closely watched union drive. Nearly 6,000 workers, most of them Black, have until March 29 to return their ballots. If workers successfully unionize, it could be a watershed moment for the U.S. labor movement, setting off a wave of union drives at Amazon facilities across the country. “Once unions are there, once workers have representation on all levels, once they have a seat at the bargaining table, it’s another kind of expression and a new relationship,” says Glover. 


video of show

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman.
Senator Bernie Sanders is heading to Bessemer, Alabama, today to show support for Amazon workers who are in the final days of voting on whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and become the first unionized Amazon warehouse in the United States. It’s one of the most closely watched union elections in decades. Voting ends Monday, March 29th. Ballots have been sent to nearly 6,000 workers, most of whom are Black.
Amazon, which has 1.3 million employees, has fought unionization for years. Meanwhile, the company’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, has become one of the world’s two richest men. His personal wealth has increased by $65 billion during the pandemic alone.
Senator Sanders joins other lawmakers who have traveled to Bessemer to support the unionization drive. New York Congressmember Jamaal Bowman visited last month and called on Amazon executives to come out and talk to their critics.

REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN: And you came out here, as well. So, come out here, meet us, say hello, explain your situation, and we can take it from there. Treat your workers with dignity and respect. And if they want to organize and unionize, let them do that, because this is America. This is a democracy. It’s rooted in labor. Labor built this country. You would not have a company if labor was not working, doing the work for you. So, come out here and show yourself and be a real person, and let’s have a real, direct conversation.

AMY GOODMAN: One of the most high-profile supporters of the Amazon unionization drive is the world-renowned actor, director, activist, longtime labor supporter, Danny Glover. He’s heading back to Bessemer, Alabama, today.

Danny, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. Can you talk about why you’re taking this long journey, as you are shooting in Canada, but you’re going south?

DANNY GLOVER: Well, first of all, I was just thinking about Georgia. This is where we need Nina Simone. Her Mississippi song was galvanizing [inaudible], and words for Georgia would be galvanizing, as well. My family, my mother, my roots are in Georgia. My great-grandmother, Mae Hunley, was freed by the emancipation in the Civil War, so I have a long history with Georgia.

And I commend all those who struggle. I mean this new generation of activists, of political politicians, that are there right now and fighting, and also citizens, as well, because this is going to take the work of citizens and citizens to act at this particular moment.

We talk about labor. I’ve been a strong supporter of labor my entire life. I grew up in the system of organized labor and organizing citizens with the postal employees, which my parents were proud members of the union there, the national council — the national postal employee union. So, I know about that. That has been the circumference of my life.

And this election, we can talk about importance all we want, but this election is a statement right here. Remember, you know, this election at Amazon is a statement. We are in a crisis, you know? We’re dealing with a narrative that will not allow us to move beyond and go somewhere else and to be something else and to transform this country.

So, we’re living in this particular moment at this time, and certainly unions are going to play an extraordinary role. We know the role that unions have played throughout the 20th century, particularly the mid-20th century and through the end of World War II. But we understand that the role that labor has to play is essential.

We have a pandemic, the reality of the pandemic. The pandemic is going to change the whole nature in how — nature in which we deal with each other, we relate to each other. All the things that we take for granted as common in our behavior is changing. So the face of employment is going to change, as well. So, there are things that we — there are so many unknowns, but what’s steadfast is that once unions are there, once workers have representation on all levels, once they have a seat at the bargaining table, there’s another kind of expression and a new relationship. That relationship is going to be essential across the new ways in which we deal with commerce, the new ways in which we deal with business. That relationship is going to be essential.

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Question for this article

Is it possible for workers to gain solidarity through unionisation?

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So, here we are right now at this particular moment. And it’s going to be tough. We know that. It’s always been tough. But at the same time, I think the political will is there in ways that I think are necessary and still will translate into other struggles, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Danny, you’ve been to Bessemer before, and you went down, and you talked to the workers. What did they tell you about the conditions in the factory? And also, in light of what we just said at the beginning of this segment, that Jeff Bezos, one of the two wealthiest men in the world, made $65 billion during the pandemic alone — that’s like $7.4 million every hour for the past year. Put those two together.

DANNY GLOVER: Well, what’s clear — juxtapose that. The richest man — one of the richest men, one of the richest persons in the world, juxtapose that relationship in which the workers exist in. I mean, as an artist, I’m listening to the stories. We’re often moved by stories. Eduardo Galeano talked about stories and how we’re defined by our stories.

The stories of the workers there that I met in Bessemer at that plant were horrific, you know, from the surveillance, the constant surveillance, the inability to meet whatever the demands are, the different ways of management that are desocializing, the whole process of working and desocializing them as human beings, all those, at every level, from using the bathroom. It was unbelievable for me, you know.

And I hate to draw different other conclusions about comparisons, but if this is an example of the kind of way we deal with human beings here in the 21st century, given the extraordinary information that we have, during supposedly the extraordinary evolution that we’ve had as human beings, then we’re in trouble. And if we talk about this right here, with one of the largest employers in the world, who deals with unions in other places, would not deal with unions in here, then we’re talking about something different. We’re talking about something dangerous, you know.

And I think this is something that has to happen. It’s something — it’s the work that has to happen. It’s not only in Bessemer, but everywhere around the country. All of us should be in outrage at what is happening in the workplace, that we know now exists in the workplace, and the attempts, ugly attempts, to decredit unions itself, to union bust, to pay enormous amount of money to bring specific companies in, in order to dissuade people and intimidate people from voting yes on this for union.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about one other issue, before we turn to a third one, that is deeply close to your heart, that you’ve been very active on, this unprecedented reparations law that has been passed in Evanston, Illinois. But I know how close to your heart Haiti is. I traveled with you. We were in South Africa and went on the plane with President Aristide when he returned to Haiti.

Well, President Biden has now deported more Haitians over the past two months than President Trump did in the previous year, even though the Biden administration admits Haitians may face harm after being deported. And you know Haiti is in the midst of a political and economic crisis. At least 1,300 Haitians, including hundreds of children and infants, have been deported since February 1st, the last deportation just on Wednesday alone. Your thoughts on — what the media tends not to do is talk about the conditions, over the years, that have led people from the Northern Triangle, from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and Haiti to come to the United States.

DANNY GLOVER: Oh boy. I mean, Haiti. I mean, most people, at some point, thought I was of Haitian descent. And I express, as Frederick Douglass did, I’m a Haitian at heart. And it’s a difficult situation. I remember Jonathan Demme and I writing letters when President Bill Clinton was in office, and just expressing our condemnation of what was happening, people who were fleeing Haiti at the political — the political murder and acts and violence that was happening at that particular point in time. And what did we do? We put them on Guantánamo Bay.

But the whole question with Haiti — and let me — I don’t want to be long-winded about it, because the whole question would be — Haiti begins at the beginning. The beginning was 1804. So, if you see — look at Haitian history, Haitian history from that particular point, whose hand was always there to impede any kind of progress for the Haitian people, whether it was impose artificial embargo over 60 years for Haiti, after his victory in 1864 — 1804, until after the emancipation, when the embargo, that so-called embargo, was lifted? From every point, from the point of time of coups d’états, from the earthquake, from the coup d’état of a freely elected president in 1989, Bertrand Aristide, from that on, for the continuous messing in Haitian politics, it is exactly that, from the denial of any kind of political expression within people.

And the Haitians are Haitians because they are, because they resist. They continue to resist. They continue to resist. This resistance comes in so many different forms. So, we applaud them for their resistance, but we don’t talk about the extraordinary pressure that is placed and undermining of Haitian democracy that has been enforced for over 200 years.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Danny, we’re going to have to leave it there for now. And, of course, from 1804, the founding of this republic in an uprising of enslaved people, the U.S. Congress wouldn’t recognize the republic for decades, because they were afraid it would inspire enslaved people in the United States to rise up. But we’re going to leave it there, because we want to keep you on, go to break and then talk about this historic moment in Evanston, Illinois. We’re talking to the actor and activist Danny Glover, who’s on his way to Bessemer, Alabama. Stay with us.

Emails Reveal: U.S. Officials Sided With Agrochemical Giant Bayer to Overturn Mexico’s Glyphosate Ban

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article by Kenny Stancilde from Ecowatch

While Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has given farmers in the country a 2024 deadline to stop using glyphosate, The Guardian reported  Tuesday that agrochemical company Bayer, industry lobbyist CropLife America, and U.S. officials have been pressuring Mexico’s government to drop its proposed ban on the carcinogenic pesticide.


The corporate and U.S.-backed attempt to coerce Mexico into maintaining its glyphosate imports past 2024 has unfolded, as journalist Carey Gillam detailed in the newspaper, “over the last 18 months, a period in which Bayer was negotiating an $11 billion settlement of legal claims brought by people in the U.S. who say they developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma due to exposure” to glyphosate-based products, such as Roundup.

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Question for this article:
 
Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

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Roundup, one of the world’s mostly widely-used herbicides, was created by Monsanto which was acquired by Bayer in 2018.

According to The Guardian, which obtained internal documents via a Freedom of Information Act request by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), “The pressure on
Mexico is similar to actions  Bayer and chemical industry lobbyists took to kill a glyphosate ban planned by Thailand in 2019. Thailand officials had also cited concerns for public health in seeking to ban the weed killer, but reversed course after U.S. threats about trade disruption.”

In addition to instructing Mexico’s farmers to stop using glyphosate by 2024, the López Obrador administration on Dec. 31, 2020 issued a “final decree” calling for “a phase-out  of the planting and consumption of genetically engineered corn, which farmers often spray with glyphosate, a practice that often leaves residues of the pesticide in finished food products,” the news outlet noted.

The Mexican government has characterized  the restrictions as an effort to improve the nation’s “food security and sovereignty” and to protect its wealth of biological as well as cultural diversity and farming communities.

Mexico’s promotion of human and environmental health, however, “has triggered fear in the United States for the health of agricultural exports, especially Bayer’s glyphosate products,” Gillam wrote.

United States: Who Is Clare Grady and Why Should We Care that She is in Federal Prison?

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION

An article by Jeremy Kuzmarov from CovertAction Magazine

On April 4, 2018—a date symbolically chosen because it is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination—Clare Grady and six other activists broke into the Kings Bay Submarine base in St. Mary’s, Georgia, the largest nuclear submarine base in the world. 

They carried hammers and baby bottles filled with their own blood. Their purpose? To symbolically “beat swords into plowshares,” as prophesied in Isaiah 2:4, by disarming one of the world’s deadliest swords—the Trident nuclear submarine. 


Plowshares 7 congregate outside courthouse during their trial for breaking into the Kings Bay Submarine Base in Georgia. Martha Hennessy, Kathleen Rumpf (co-defendent in another Plowshares case), Mark Colville, Clare Grady, Carmen Trotta, Patrick O’Neill, Liz McAlister. (July 12th, 2019)  [Source: beyondnuclearinternational.org]

It was no walk in the park

First, using a bolt cutter, this unlikely commando team of 60-, 70- and 80-year-old priests, grandmothers and grandfathers squeezed themselves through a remote gate on the base. Then they trekked, slopped, and splashed through two miles of notoriously inhospitable Southern Georgia swampland, swarming with ticks, fire ants, earwigs and mosquitoes—not to mention poisonous rattlesnakes—as well as venomous scorpions only an inch in length but whose sting can be fatal, and alligators, of which Georgia boasts a population of more than 200,000.

Finally, as reported by World Socialist Website, they reached a location “where they prayed, read from Scripture, splashed bottles of their own blood onto a wall, spray-painted messages against nuclear weapons onto a sidewalk, hammered on parts of a shrine to nuclear missiles and hung protest banners.”

As agreed in advance, all seven participants—Clare Grady, Father Stephen Kelly, Mark Colville, Martha Hennessy, Elizabeth McAlister, Patrick O’Neill, and Carmen Trotta—remained at the site, peacefully awaiting the police, so they could explain the reason for their actions. They were arrested, tried, and then convicted on October 24, 2019, in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Georgia for the crime of conspiracy, destruction of property on a naval installation, depredation of government property, and trespass.

Clare Grady was sentenced to a one-year prison term in Alderson Federal Prison in West Virginia, which began on February 10th, 2021. 

As for the other six activists: Carmen Trotta was sentenced to 14 months; Patrick O’Neill to 14 months followed by two years of supervised probation. (He has appealed the sentence.); Steve Kelly to 33-months less time served and three years of supervised probation; Martha Hennessy to 10 months; and Elizabeth McAlister to time served, which was the 17 months she had spent in prison awaiting trial. (She was also sentenced to three years of probation.). Mark Colville will be sentenced in April.

“Festival of Hope” in Celebration of Clare Grady and the Plowshares 7

Going to prison has not discouraged Clare Grady, nor will it deter her from continued opposition to the makers of war and mass death who control our national government. To celebrate Clare Grady’s resilience and determination, and that of her six companions, the antiwar group Code Pink  hosted a “Festival of Hope” webinar in honor of Clare and the Kings Bay Plowshares 7  on February 7, 2021, three days before the start of Clare’s prison term.

Try watching this video on www.youtube.com

Many who spoke at this virtual convocation are long-time activists who have spent their lives in the service of world peace and universal community. They include: 
* Agnes Williams, a Seneca leader working in western New York;
* Leona Morgan, a Diné leader from the Navajo Nation, working in New Mexico and Arizona to stop uranium production and dumping on their lands;
* Clare Daly, Irish Parliamentarian and a co-defendant in an Irish trial of civil resistance to U.S. warplanes refueling at Shannon Airport;
* Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima survivor who has worked tirelessly to end nuclear weapons and has been instrumental in the enactment of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that went into force last week;
* Professor Russell Rickford, Cornell University historian of the Black Freedom Struggle and the Black Radical Tradition and an organizer with the Democratic Socialists of America;
* Emma O’Grady, writer, and actor from County Galway, Ireland;
* Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellermann, Detroit theologian, author, nonviolent community activist and civil resister to water shut-offs, who offered a closing prayer.

Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima bomb survivor voiced her support for Grady and the Plowshares 7 in a pre-recorded statement that was played at the “Festival of Hope.”

In the statement, Setsuko described in vivid detail her experience in Hiroshima on the fateful day of August 6, 1945, when the atomic bomb was dropped.

At the time, Setsuko was on an excursion away from her school. Suddenly, she said, she was “blown into the air” and felt herself “floating” before she woke up to find herself in darkness under a collapsed building.

After hearing a male voice telling her “not to give up,” a soldier helped free Setsuko from the building, which was now on fire.

Outside, the air was filled with particles, and people moved on the streets as if they were ghosts, with their hair standing up to the sky, and their skin and flesh burned.

Some of the people had their intestines bulging out while others had their own eyeballs in their hands.

Setsuko escaped to a hill which was packed with dead bodies and people were begging for water.

Among the thousands of innocent people killed on that day were nine members of Setsuko’s family, including her aunt, uncle, sister and four-year-old nephew, whose small body became unrecognizable.

Setsuko stated that “this is what nuclear war does; it results in indescribable mass killing and suffering. Today, the weapons are even more destructive than in 1945, and could kill a million people in a quick moment.”

Standing up for Humanity

Setsuko’s warning was heeded by other speakers at the webinar who further emphasized the health hazards of nuclear energy and its contamination of the environment.

Clare Daly, a member of the European parliament who was jailed for protesting against U.S. military planes flying out of Shannon Airport in Ireland, stated that the “stance taken by Clare [Grady] was absolutely moral and courageous, she is a beacon to activists around the world. Clare joins people like Julian Assange in going to jail for standing up for humanity.”

Grady’s daughter, Leah, read a letter from Plowshares 7 activist Martha Hennessy, currently serving out her ten-month sentence at the Danbury Correctional Institution in Connecticut, who recalled how she and Clare had been imprisoned together for protest acts in the early 1980s and that Clare had taught her how to be a role model to other incarcerated women.

Patrick O’Neill, who is serving a 14-month sentence, sent a message from the Elkton Correctional Institution in Ohio that Clare will be a “light in the darkness” for women in her next stop, “a den of oppression and despair.”

At the trial, Plowshares 7 attorneys had tried to argue that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 protected the protest because the seven were motivated by their faith  and that nuclear weapons are illegal, as an indictment Hennessy taped to the door of the base alleged.

When Hennessy attempted to show the jury photos of bodies at Hiroshima, the judge objected.

At their sentencing, Plowshares activists invoked the Nuremberg principle, stating that it was their duty to try to stop another nuclear holocaust, and that those who “say nothing in the face of evil, are contributing to evil by their collective silence.”

Steve Kelley, who is a Jesuit priest said that he considered himself a “prisoner of conscience for Christ,” preaching against  “the sin that flourishes in weapons of mass destruction.”

Grady stated at her sentencing that the weapons she had tried to sabotage were “not private property, they belong to the people of the United States, they belong to me, to you, to us.”

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Question for this article:

How can we be sure to get news about peace demonstrations?

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These weapons kill and cause harm in our name, and with our money. This omnicidal weapon doesn’t just kill IF it is launched, it kills every day. Indigenous people are, and continue to be, some of the first victims of nuclear weapons—the mining, refining, testing, and dumping of radioactive material for nuclear weapons all happens on Native Land. The trillions of dollars spent on nuclear weapons are resources STOLEN from the planet and her people.”[1]

History

Most members of the Plowshares 7 are affiliated with the Catholic Worker movement which is committed to nonviolence, voluntary poverty, prayer, and hospitality for the homeless, exiled, hungry, and forsaken.

Art Laffin, co-editor of Swords into Plowshares—Nonviolent Direct Action for Disarmament explained  that “the main symbols used in plowshares actions are hammers and blood. Hammers are used to literally begin the process of disarmament that thousands of talks and numerous treaties have failed to accomplish. The hammer is used to take apart as well as create, and to point to the urgency for conversion of war and weapons production to products that enhance life.”

Liz McAlister has been an anti-war activist since she and her late husband, Philip Berrigan, destroyed draft cards during the Vietnam War, and Martha Hennessy is the granddaughter of Dorothy Day, the Catholic Worker Movement founder  who is on her way to being canonized as a saint by the Vatican.

The Plowshares group has carried out more than 100 civil disobedience acts to protest the U.S. warfare state since September 1980 when eight peace activists—including Daniel and Philip Berrigan, who had been known for their antiwar activism in the Vietnam era—entered the General Electric plant in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, where the nose cones for the Mark 12-A nuclear warheads were manufactured.

With hammers and blood, the eight enacted the biblical prophecies of Isaiah (2:4) and Micah (4:3) to “beat swords into plowshares” by hammering on two of the nose cones and pouring blood on documents

The Plowshares 8’s subsequent legal battle was recreated in Emile de Antonio’s 1982 film In the King of Prussia, which starred Martin Sheen  and featured appearances by the Plowshares 8 as themselves.


Since the Plowshares 8 action, others have entered military bases and weapons facilities and symbolically and actually disarmed components of U.S. first-strike nuclear weapons systems: the MX, Pershing II, Cruise, Minuteman ICBMs, Trident II missiles, Trident submarines, B-52 bombers, P-3 Orion anti-submarine aircraft, the Navstar system, the ELF communication system, the Milstar satellite system, a nuclear capable battleship and the Aegis destroyer.

Combat aircraft used for military intervention, such as the F-111 fighter bomber, the F-15A fighter, the F-18 bomber, the A-10 Warthog, the Hawk aircraft, as well as combat helicopters and other conventional weapons, including aircraft missile launchers, bazookas, grenade throwers, and AK-5 automatic rifles, have also been targeted.

One of the most successful actions took place at the Oak Ridge Y-12 nuclear facility in July 2012  when Mike Walli, Sr., Megan Rice, and Greg Boertje-Obed hammered on the cornerstone of the newly built Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, poured blood and spray-painted antiwar messages on it. Because of so-called security issues, this action prompted authorities to close what has been called the “Ft. Knox of Uranium,” for an unprecedented three weeks.

According to William Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, the limited mainstream media coverage of the Oak Ridge protest and Congressional reaction—as with the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 action—“were more about how to protect the weapons from protesters than to protect us from the weapons. This rhetoric about safety and security of the weapons complex, and protecting ‘special materials’—a euphemism for ingredients for bombs that can end life as we know it—distracts from the real issue: These are weapons of mass slaughter that must be eliminated before they eliminate us.”

Kings Bay Base

When the Plowshares 7 cut through a padlock and entered the 17,000 acre Kings Bay Base on April 4, 2018, they were equipped with crime-scene tape, banners reading “The Ultimate Logic of Trident is Omnicide” and “Nuclear Weapons: Illegal—Immoral,” and an indictment charging the U.S. government with crimes against peace, along with the hammers and blood.

One of their main challenges was to avoid detection from the guard towers as a loudspeaker overhead blared: “Deadly force is authorized!

After splitting up, the activists went to three sites on the base: the SWFLANT administration building, the D5 Missile monument installation, and the nuclear weapons storage bunkers.

Patrick O’Neill attached a poster of Martin Luther King, Jr., to a mock-up of a Trident II D5 ballistic missile at the welcome area, commenting afterwards: “I mean, my God, you’re gonna build a statue for something that if it’s used would blow up a whole city full of people. This is your idea of welcoming people? I mean, it’s sick.”

Home to more than 1,000 enlisted and civilian government workers and their families, Kings Bay houses at least six nuclear submarines, each armed with 20 Trident submarine-launched ballistic missiles of the multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) variety. Each missile contains numerous nuclear warheads, providing a thermonuclear force multiplier and overwhelming first-strike capability as part of the U.S. nuclear triad.

According to the Navy, the ballistic missile submarines serve as a launch platform for intercontinental missiles that are designed specifically for stealth and the precise delivery of nuclear warheads.

If the Trident were ever launched, it would cause 100 times more damage than the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima.

Patrick O’Neill called it “the most insidious and evil weapon of mass destruction ever constructed.”

The Kings Bay site was opened in 1979 during the presidency of Jimmy Carter, the former Governor of Georgia and a Navy veteran and submarine officer who promoted a naval buildup.

The decision to base the Trident submarines at Kings Bay started the largest peacetime construction program ever undertaken by the U.S. Navy. It took nine years to build at a cost of $1.3 billion.

In preparation for the arrival of new submarines mandated under a trillion dollar nuclear weapon modernization program, a major renovation is coming to the Kings Bay waterfront.

The project, estimated to cost more than $840 million, will include $500 million in upgrades to the dry dock and other infrastructure, as well as a $138.6 million nuclear regional maintenance facility, which makes the Plowshares work ever the more urgent.  

In the Shadow of the Berrigan Brothers and Oscar Romero

Reverend Bill Wylie-Kellerman situated Clare Grady and the Plowshares 7 at the “Festival of Hope” in the tradition of Daniel and Philip Berrigan, and Oscar Romero, El Salvador’s archbishop who was murdered by death squads in 1980 after he spoke out against the ruling oligarchy and for the poor and oppressed.

Cornell University historian Russell Rickford compared Grady to Mae Mallory, an antiwar and Black Power militant who was close with Malcolm X.

Flattered by such comparisons, Grady reiterated at the “Festival of Hope” that she had been motivated by “religious principle and the desire to oppose violence and the normalization of killing; the unrepentant killing that hardly raises eyebrows anymore.”

Grady noted that “the U.S. government plans to spend $100,000 per minute for the next ten years on nuclear weapons and has 800 military bases.

The cost to keep one soldier in Afghanistan for one year is one million dollars, and the cost to keep a prisoner in prison for one year is up to $70,000 while the cost to keep a student in college for a year is far less.”

While dreading going back to prison—or what she calls the belly of the beast—Grady said she has encountered some of her best teachers of resistance in prison, and was inspired by inmates in St. Louis who broke out of their cells and broke windows and threw furniture but did not engage in violence in pressing for more humane conditions.

Grady’s sister Mary Ann, as the last speaker at the webinar, compared the present moment to 1979 when the anti-nuclear movement was just getting off the ground. By the end of the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev had worked together to reduce the nuclear stockpiles of the U.S. and Russia, which is urgently needed today.

With the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock sitting at 100 seconds to midnight, Grady said that the peace movement should continue pushing for divestment from nuclear-weapons’ producing companies—which New York’s City Council has recently proposed—while supporting acts of civil disobedience along the model of the Plowshares 7 who will have left their mark on history.

Biden asks Congress to ban ‘weapons of war on our streets’ as he uses 3rd anniversary of Parkland shooting to demand gun control

DISARMAMENT & SECURITY .

An article from RT (see note below)

President Joe Biden has released a statement allowing a closer look at what his “commonsense” policy on gun laws will be, demanding, among other things, that Congress pass universal background checks and ban “assault weapons.” [CPNN readers will recall that students throughout the United States have rallied to demand such action.]


Photo © REUTERS / Brian Snyder

“Today, I am calling on Congress to enact commonsense gun law reforms,” Biden said in his Sunday statement. The timing matched the third anniversary of the Parkland shooting, which saw a gunman open fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 and wounding another 17.

Biden has long promised to put his weight behind stricter gun laws if he were elected president and his ideas run down the list of common demands gun-control advocates often push for. The president is calling for universal background checks on all gun sales, banning high-capacity magazines, an “assault weapons” ban, and “eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers who knowingly put weapons of war on our streets.”

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(Click here for an article on this subject in French.)

Question related to this article:

Do you think handguns should be banned?, Why or why not?

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“We owe it to all those we’ve lost and to all those left behind to grieve to make a change. The time to act is now,” Biden said.

Though he is calling on Congress to act, Biden promised his administration will “not wait for the next mass shooting” to take action.

With Democrats holding a majority in the House and an even split in the Senate leaving Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote, Democrats find themselves in a slightly favorable position when it comes to potential new gun laws.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last week that Biden is “personally committed” to pushing new “gun safety measures” while in office.

Leaders of gun-control advocacy groups also recently met with Susan Rice, who leads the White House Domestic Policy Council, and Cedric Richmond, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, and walked away confident new gun laws will be pushed through, not only via Congress but by executive action as well.

“President Biden is committed to taking executive action and working with Congress to put in place reforms that will keep this country’s kids and communities safe,” Peter Ambler, head of the gun-control group Giffords, said after the meeting.

(Editor’s note: Readers may note that we often use Russian news sources to obtain information about events in the West, although almost identical information is available in Western news sources. News sources in the West generally prohibit the reprinting of their reports, while websites like RT welcome the publicity they receive when their articles are reprinted. For example, RT says in its usage statement: “The information on the website is considered public (unless otherwise indicated) and may be distributed or copied for non-commercial purposes (for personal, educational, scientific, etc.), always referring to the link of actualidad.rt.com.” )

United States: Flathead Indian Reservation Expanded to Include National Bison Range

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article from Native News Online

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) of Montana’s Flathead Indian Reservation will include the National Bison Range when a transfer of property facilitated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) becomes complete.


National Bison Range – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service photograph

The transfer was announced by outgoing U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary David L. Bernhardt on Friday, Jan. 15. He signed Secretary’s Order 3390  that transfers the land to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The BIA will formally take the land into trust for the and restore the land to the Flathead Indian Reservation.

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Question for this article

Indigenous peoples, Are they the true guardians of nature?

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“The restoration of this land is a great historic event and we worked hard to reach this point. This comes after a century of being separated from the buffalo and the Bison Range, and after a quarter-century-long effort to co-manage the refuge with the FWS,” CSKT Chairwoman Shelly R. Fyant said. “And who better to do it than the original inhabitants of the land who depended on the buffalo for centuries?  That was our mainstay.”

The transfer was made possible through Public Law No. 116-260, signed into law December 27, 2020. In December 2020, Congress repealed the statute that created the National Bison Range, and Congress restored the land of the National Bison Range so it is once again held in trust by the United States for the benefit of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (Tribes).

The legislation also created a two-year transition period during which Congress directed the Interior Secretary, through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), to cooperate with the Tribes in transition activities as the tribes assume full management of the Bison Range.

Both the Service and the tribes will work toward a smooth transition for the bison, wildlife, staff, and the public.

Committee for a SANE U.S.-China Policy

. .DISARMAMENT & SECURITY. .

Excerpts from the website of the Sane U.S.-China Policy

The Committee for a SANE U.S.-China Policy will be formally launched on January 27 with the release of its signature statement, co-authored by Joseph Gerson and Michael Klare, “Averting a New Cold War Between the United States and China,” and a webinar on the challenges and opportunities in U.S.-China relations facing the incoming Biden administration.


The webinar, which is open to the public, will feature presentations by Committee co-founder Prof. Michael Klare, Rachel Esplin Odell of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, and Prof. of Bucknell University, and Prof. Zhiqun Zhu of Bucknell University. 

With information and advocacy, the Committee for a SANE U.S. China Policy works to prevent U.S.-Chinese military conflict, reduce the militarization of U.S.-Chinese tensions, and encourage mutually beneficial diplomacy. We intend to show how forces in both China and the United States are contributing to a dynamic of ever-increasing mutual suspicion and hostility; likewise, we will emphasize the need for cooperative efforts by both countries to overcome outstanding differences, such as over Taiwan and the South China Sea. We further aim to show that U.S.-China cooperation is essential to overcome such global challenges as climate change and lethal pandemics.

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Question for this article:

The peace movement in the United States, What are its strengths and weaknesses?

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Our initial goal is to circulate our Statement widely and solicit additional signatures to it, from as broad a cross-section of the population as possible. With funds collected from those who sign, we plan to place the Statement in major journals and newspapers. 

We also seek to inform debate and discussion on divisive issues in U.S.-China relations by commissioning position papers on mutually beneficial, non-military solutions to outstanding problems such as Taiwan, technology, arms control, and the South China Sea, and publicize these as widely as possible – including via webinars, public lectures and panels. In addition, we will urge members of Congress to hold public hearings on these issues and encourage them to include participation by those who advocate constructive, peaceful solutions. Wherever possible, we hope to join with organizations in pursuing these activities.

We will also encourage transnational dialogue on problem issues in U.S.-China relations involving non-governmental experts from China, the United States, and other nations in the Indo-Pacific region. In time, such “Track-2” diplomacy could be supplemented by “Track 1.5” diplomacy, involving retired government officials and others with links to those in power.

(Click here to add your name to the signatures on the Statement).

Nuclear deterrence gives ‘false sense of security,’ Vatican official says

DISARMAMENT & SECURITY .

An article from Catholic Philly

The goal of a nuclear-free world can only be achieved through a renewed sense of unity and solidarity among nations that breaks the dynamic of mistrust, said Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican foreign minister.

Addressing a webinar Dec. 16 on nuclear disarmament, Archbishop Gallagher highlighted the Vatican’s support of political dialogue that goes “beyond the theory of fear” and of the need to “emphasize how nuclear deterrence represents a false sense of security and of stability.”


A Russian Yars RS-24 intercontinental ballistic missile system drives during the Victory Day parade marking the 71st anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, at Red Square in Moscow May 9, 2016. (CNS photo/Grigory Dukor, Reuters)

“The Holy See reaffirms its unwavering commitment in this direction as demonstrated by its ratification of all the main nuclear treaties and its continuous efforts to promote a concrete culture of peace based on the dignity of the human person and on the primacy of law, fostering responsible honest and consistent cooperation with all members of the family of nations,” he said.

The webinar, titled “A world free from nuclear weapons,” was co-sponsored by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Georgetown University, Notre Dame University and the Catholic Peacebuilding Network.

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Question related to this article:
 
Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?

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The event coincided with the launch of a new book that features Pope Francis’ address in November 2017 in which he spoke out against nuclear weapons, as well as “testimony from Nobel Peace Prize laureates, religious leaders, diplomats, and civil society activists,” according to Georgetown University Press.

In a Dec. 14 statement, the dicastery said the goal of the event was to stress the link between peace, disarmament and health security during a time of pandemic.

In his talk, Archbishop Gallagher cited the pope’s video message to the U.N. General Assembly in late September. In his message, the pope said the current pandemic can lead to two paths: one that shifts toward a “renewed sense of global co-responsibility” or one of “self-sufficiency, nationalism, protectionism, individualism and isolation” that “excludes the poor, the vulnerable and those dwelling on the peripheries of life.”

The Vatican foreign minister said the pope’s perspective also applies to the issue of nuclear weapons as a means of deterrence.

He also expressed concern that “nuclear powers often seem to continue turning inward away from multilateralism,” such as the uncertainty regarding the renewal of the New START treaty, a bilateral agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation that seeks to reduce and limit the use of nuclear warheads, ballistic missiles and other strategic offensive arms.

However, he also cited the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which bans the possession and use of nuclear weapons, as a step toward a “nuclear weapons-free world.”

To achieve a lasting peace, Archbishop Gallagher said the international community must look beyond nuclear deterrence.

“International peace and security cannot be founded on the threat of mutual destruction or total annihilation or maintaining a balance of power or regulating relations by substituting the rights of the power to power of right,” the archbishop said.

“Peace and security must be built on justice, integral human development, respect for fundamental human rights, the protection of creation, the building of trust among peoples, the promotion of educational and health structures, dialogue and solidarity,” he said.