Afro-Colombians Denounce Police Repression in Buenaventura

A Colombian marine patrols a neighborhood in Buenaventura.

Around 320 people in Buenaventura have been wounded by Colombian riot police.

Human rights organizations raised alarms on Thursday over the treatment of protesters in Buenaventura at the hands of ESMAD, Colombia’s riot police.

The predominantly Afro-Colombian city has been engaged in a civil strike for almost 20 days to demand the government improve living conditions and declare a state of social and economic emergency.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos responded to the protest by sending in armed anti-riot units in an attempt to control protesters.

“Some 320 people were injured, of these 167 were gravely injured and 10 with fire arms, a situation that deeply concerns us,” said human rights spokesperson Berenice Celeida at a press conference Thursday.

Shayo Mina, a fellow human rights defender, also expressed concern about the impact of the violence on the Colombian peace process.

“It is contradictory for the peace process of the country for President Santos to use violence against the community of Buenaventura, Black, Afro-descendants who have an ethnic chapter in the peace agreement.”

Buenaventura is Colombia’s biggest port and helps bring in millions in tax revenue. Little of this, however, has reached the people who continue to struggle with poor health care, nutrition and the threat of gang violence.

Source: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Afro-Colombians-Denounce-Police-Repression-in-Buenaventura-20170602-0021.html

Edited for mb3-org.com

 

82 Chibok schoolgirls released by Boko Haram reunited with families

By Allen Cone

The 82 Nigerian Chibok schoolgirls captured by Boko Haram more than three years ago were reunited with their families Saturday.

Bahir Ahmad, the personal assistant to the president, announced the news on Twitter, writing it was an “emotional” welcome at the capital, Abuja.

“I am really happy today, I am Christmas and New year, I am very happy and I thank God,” said Godiya Joshua, whose daughter Esther was among those freed, in a report by The Telegraph.

The girls were released two weeks ago. The remaining 113 are supposedly still captured.

In 2014, 276 girls were kidnapped. Boko Haram released 21 girls in October and another 50 or so escaped on their own since being abducted.

“We have trust in this government, definitely they will rescue the rest safely and back to us alive,” said community leader Yakubu Nkeki.

Five commanders from the extremist group were exchanged for the girls’ freedom. Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross helped negotiate their release.

Some refused to return after becoming radicalized.

The two groups of girls — earlier this month and October — were reunited with family members Saturday. Nigeria’s Channel TV showed the young women laughing and embracing.

Families in the remote Chibok community had been waiting word on whether their daughters were freed.

Officials told the parents that the girls would remain in government custody until they complete psychosocial and medical therapies.

“The children are being rehabilitated and we believe that in due course they will be properly aligned with their families,” Abidemi Aremo, an official in the Women Affairs Ministry, told the parents at a facility of the secret police in Abuja.

Source: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2017/05/20/82-Chibok-schoolgirls-released-by-Boko-Haram-reunited-with-families/4371495305326/

Edited for mb3-org.com

Planned Parenthood to close four Iowa clinics after cuts

By Chris Kenning

Planned Parenthood said on Thursday it would shutter four of its 12 clinics in Iowa as a result of a measure backed by Republican Governor Terry Branstad that blocks public money for family planning services to abortion providers.

Health centers in Burlington, Keokuk and Sioux City will close on June 30 and one in Quad Cities soon after as a result of losing $2 million in funds under the new measure, said Susan Allen, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. The four clinics served 14,676 patients in the last three years, she said, including many rural and poor women.

“It will be devastating,” Allen said.

The closures marked the latest fallout from a continuing push by Republicans, including President Donald Trump, to yank funding from Planned Parenthood. Many have long opposed the organization, some on religious grounds, because its healthcare services include abortions, although it receives no federal funding for abortions, as stipulated by federal law.

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives included such a defunding measure as part of the American Health Care Act, the bill aimed at replacing Obamacare.

Iowa’s Republican-led legislature agreed in its recent budget to discontinue a federal Medicaid family planning program and replace it with a state program that bars funding to organizations that provide abortions or maintain facilities where abortions are carried out. The move cost the state about $3 million.

Texas in 2011 made a similar move that has reduced funding. A state report in 2015 found that nearly 30,000 fewer women received birth control, cancer screenings and other care as a result.

A coalition of 35 Iowa groups that oppose abortion have previously argued that funding for family planning indirectly subsidizes abortions.

“The pro-life movement is making tremendous strides in changing the hearts and minds, to return to a culture that once again respects human life,” said Ben Hammes, a spokesman for Branstad, who said there were 2,400 doctors, nurses and clinics around the state for family planning that do not provide abortions.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland said it will continue to operate eight clinics in Iowa. They provide services including cancer screenings, birth control, STD testing and annual checkups.

The group said in a tweet on Thursday that politicians driven more by personal beliefs than facts were hurting access to women’s health care.

“The devastation in Iowa is a sign of what could be next for the rest of the nation,” Danielle Wells, an official at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in an email.

Edited for mb3-org.com

Arrests on civil immigration charges are up 38% in 100 days since Trump’s executive order

By Nigel Duara

Federal immigration agents have arrested more than 40,000 people since President Trump signed executive orders expanding the scope of deportation priorities in January, a 38% increase over the same period last year.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting Director Thomas Homan said Wednesday that Trump has “opened the aperture” of charges that immigration agents are permitted to prosecute, a departure fromObama administration priorities which targeted immigrants in the country illegally who have serious criminal convictions.

“There is no category of aliens off the table,” Homan said.

In late January, Trump stripped away most restrictions on who should be deported. A Los Angeles Times analysis revealed that more than 8 million people who crossed the border illegally could now be considered priorities for deportation.

Trump’s orders instruct federal agents to deport not only those convicted of crimes, but also those who aren’t charged but are believed to have committed “acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.”

The new numbers, released in a press call with reporters, suggest that Trump’s pledge to step up deportations is bearing fruit, at least in some parts of the country.

Although the president’s plan to build an expanded new wall on the Mexican border has been stymied – Congress refused to include funding for it in a recent budget deal – his new border security priorities appear to be having a significant impact on immigration enforcement.

According to calculations by Los Angeles Times, as many as 8 million people living in the country illegally could be considered priorities for deportation under Trump’s new policy. Under the Obama administration, about 1.4 million people were considered priorities for removal.

The stepped-up immigration arrests have not been reflected in Southern California, where the detention rate has remained relatively flat, and agents say they have done little to change their enforcement strategy.

Homan said that, in his estimation, federal agents are happier with Trump’s directives than they were under Obama’s more cautious approach.

“When officers are allowed to do their jobs, morale increases,” said Homan, who also served under Obama. “I think morale is up.”

Homan said the paucity of people trying to enter the country illegally, a number which has reached a record low, means agents have more time to spend on removals from the nation’s interior.

According to the new ICE data, nearly 75 percent of those arrested in the 100 days since Trump signed his new executive orders on immigration are convicted criminals, with offenses ranging from homicide and assault to sexual abuse and drug-related charges.

But there has also been a significant increase in the number of non-criminals arrested. A total of 10,800 people were arrested whose only offense was entering the country illegally, more than twice the 4,200 such immigrants taken into custody in the first four months of 2016.

“While these data clearly reflect the fact that convicted criminals are an immigration enforcement priority, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly has made it clear that ICE will no longer exempt any class of individuals from removal proceedings if they are found to be in the country illegally,” the agency said in its report.

Migrant advocates were quick to condemn the administration’s priorities.

Addressing claims by John F. Kelly, Trump’s secretary of Homeland Security, that the administration is only focusing on criminals, and Wednesday’s numbers, Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice Education Fund, said the majority of people targeted cannot be considered “serious criminals.”

“These guys spin, distort, exaggerate, and dissemble almost as much as the president they work for,” Sharry said. “The false claims are aimed at providing cover for an agenda that calls for the deportation of millions. Instead of targeting serious criminals, they are targeting every immigrant they can get their hands on and calling all of them criminals.”

While deportations of migrants caught near the border are generally a quick matter, Homan said, the removal processes for so-called “interior deportations” take longer. He expects the overall pace of removal proceedings to slow down as fewer border crossers are removed and interior deportations make up a larger share of all removals.

Without providing specific numbers, Homan said assaults on federal agents conducting arrests are up 150% over the same period last year. Homan attributes the increase to “noncompliance” — meaning actively resisting arrest.

Federal agents must also contend with jails that refuse to allow ICE agents inside. Such jails contend that immigration enforcement is outside the scope of their duties, and some also say the presence of immigration enforcement agents adversely affects relations with local migrant communities.

Homan said jails that do not allow ICE agents inside to make arrests force the agents to capture migrants on the street, a far more dangerous and expensive proposition.

“If the jail lets them go, we have to send a team of officers,” Homan said. “One officer can make a safe arrest inside a facility. If the jail doesn’t cooperate, we have to go get them.”

Edited For mb3-org.com

Rent Strike in Toronto

Rent Strike in Toronto

Two hundred tenants are on rent strike in Toronto against increases they say are meant to price them out of their homes.

Posted By

Parkdale Organize

Two hundred renters are entering week two of their rent strike in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood. The rent strikers are demanding their landlord, MetCap Living, withdraw its applications for rent increases above the provincial guideline (totalling 15% over three years), and do the necessary repairs in their homes. The rent strikers are organized in committees based in six participating mid-rise apartment buildings.

The increases sought by MetCap are allowed under Ontario law, once approved by the Landlord Tenant Tribunal. The rent strikers oppose the increases on the basis that the landlord is trying to price residents out of their homes. The law allows landlords to raise rents as much as they like once the rental unit is vacant. This provides a financial incentive for landlords to evict longer term tenants.

Residents called their rent strike amid soaring rental prices and the rapid gentrification of their neighbourhood. A full 90% of Parkdale residents are renters. In all of Toronto, Parkdale is where residents spend the greatest proportion of their household incomes on rent, at nearly 50%. The rent strike is being taken up in defense of one of the last remaining working class neigbourhoods around downtown Toronto.

The emergence of this combative, neighbourhood-wide, multi-building organizing initiative is gaining widespread support in Toronto and across Canada. Supporters can help by participating on Tuesday’s phone zap action against MetCap and its multi-billion dollar investor, the Alberta Investment Managment Corporation (AIMCo). Financial contributions can also be made to the rent strikers defense fund.

Source: https://libcom.org/news/rent-strike-toronto-08052017

The ACLU Issued a Warning for People Traveling to Texas

The American Civil Liberties Union issued a “travel alert” on Tuesday for anyone planning to go to Texas. The recommendation comes as a response to ta new law Gov. Gregg Abbott signed on Sunday, SB4, which bans sanctuary cities and allows police to question a person’s immigration status during any kind of detention, including during…

via The ACLU Issued a Warning for People Traveling to Texas — TIME

The US’s Health Is in the Hands of GOP Frat Boys

President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House after House Republicans passed their health care bill that threatens the healthcare affordability of millions, in Washington, DC, May 4, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

By Michael Winship, Moyers & Company | Op-Ed

This just in: Health care is not a game. It’s a matter life or death for millions and millions of Americans. But you sure wouldn’t know it from watching Donald Trump and House Republicans celebrate their narrow victory on Thursday.

The House managed to pass a bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), aimed at altering or eradicating provisions of Obamacare, a somewhat muted version of the “repeal and replace” battle cry screamed throughout the election campaign but one that nevertheless will still devastate all but the richest of society with exorbitant medical costs that many cannot afford. Medicaid would be slashed by hundreds of billions. Twenty-four million fewer would be left without health insurance.

But the Republicans celebrated this impending tragedy with cheers on Capitol Hill and then got on buses to the White House for some further revelry in the Rose Garden.

“Trump basked in adulation as lawmakers heaped praise on him,” Ashley Parker reported in The Washington Post:

“… Including Trump and [vice president Mike] Pence, a dozen lawmakers and officials spoke, a snaking queue — nearly all white men — who took turns stepping to the lectern to claim their reward: cable news coverage, orchestrated by a president who values it above almost all else.”

Trump shouted, “How am I doing? I’m president. Hey, I’m president. Can you believe it?” Not if I don’t want to. It all felt like a chintzy version of the victory party after a high school football championship, except no one dared douse Coach Trump or assistant coaches Pence and Paul Ryan with Gatorade. Which was unfortunate.

Democrats got into the act, too, singing, “Hey hey hey, goodbye!” at the Republicans in the House chamber, reminding the GOP that they had just cast a vote that may cost many of them their seats in the 2018 midterms.

The whole thing was very classy, as if the Founders high-fived, fist-bumped and burst into “We Are the Champions” after signing the Declaration of Independence.

The fact is, few Republicans have even read the bill. They did not wait for a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office before ramming it through. No hearings were held; no group was given the opportunity to raise its objections in such a public forum: no American Cancer Society, AARP, the March of Dimes, the American Hospital Association — all of which, along with many other professional and advocacy organizations, have made their opposition known. No American Medical Association, which announced, “millions of Americans will lose their health insurance as a direct result of this proposal…”

“Not only would the AHCA eliminate health insurance coverage for millions of Americans, the legislation would, in many cases, eliminate the ban against charging those with underlying medical conditions vastly more for their coverage.”

But if you’re looking for the real reasons Republicans were throwing themselves a frat party on Thursday, heed first the words of Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association of the United States:

“It is critically important to look at this bill for what it is. It is not in any way a health care bill. Rather, it is legislation whose aim is to take significant funding allocated by Congress for health care for very low-income people and use that money for tax cuts for some of our wealthiest citizens. This is contrary to the spirit of who we are as a nation, a giant step backward that should be resisted.”

Then remember, as Paul Kane noted in The Post, that the GOP “viewed the measure as a necessary step to demonstrate some sense of momentum and some ability to govern in GOP-controlled Washington… inside the White House, President Trumps advisers became increasingly concerned about how little they had to show in terms of early victories.”

And so they were willing to vote for a lousy, misbegotten piece of legislation just so they could get the first round of tax cuts for the rich and to make it look as if they had accomplished something. Not exactly the Age of Pericles.

I remembered that old poem, After Blenheim, in which Robert Southey recounts the 1704 battle in which Britain’s Duke of Marlborough (ancestor of Winston Churchill) defeated the forces of France’s Louis XIV.

The poem concludes:

“And everybody praised the Duke

Who this great fight did win.

‘But what good came of it at last?’

Quoth little Peterkin.

‘Why that I cannot tell,’ said he,

‘But ’twas a famous victory.'”

Never confuse motion for action, Republicans. And your “famous” victory may be Pyrrhic. Fortunately, this horrible health care legislation has a long way to go through the Senate before Donald Trump gets the chance to affix his EKG-like signature. As South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted yesterday, “A bill — finalized yesterday, has not been scored, amendments not allowed, and 3 hours final debate — should be viewed with caution.”

Perhaps the most relevant — if unintentional — comment came from Trump himself Thursday night when he told Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, “You have better health care than we do.” The Land Down Under has universal health care with a private insurance option. They call it Medicare.

If the Democrats don’t immediately start playing Trump’s statement on a constant video loop between now and November 2018, they’ve lost the will to live. The White House said Trump didn’t mean anything by it (although he then doubled down on his words with a tweet) but if you’re in the mood to have a celebration of your own, lift a glass to what he told the Australian PM and make a toast to blowing up this bogus health care reform bill and giving us what Americans truly need — Medicare for all.