Posts tagged United States
Posts tagged United States
Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
In reference to the polio vaccine trials made possible with the use of HeLa cells.
HeLa cells did more than provide us with the Polio Vaccine. It revolutionalized medicine and created a multi-billion dollar industry of vaccines, pills and medical advancements.
But no one knows who Henrietta Lacks was and she wound up dying a painful death of the Cancer that the original clinic that HARVESTED these cells only made worse
With the hunger strike continuing to spread from Pelican Bay and Calipatria State Prisons to at least 6 other prisons, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has threatened to crack down on the at least 6,000 participants, including sending prisoners to solitary confinement. The CDCR also faxed expulsion orders to two mediation team lawyers, notifying them that they had been banned from all prisons pending an investigation into whether or not they had “jeopardized the safety and security of CDCR” institutions. Meanwhile, the prisoner-selected mediation team that has been trying to negotiate with the CDCR since the strike was initiated in July sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown, demanding a meeting and lodging their vehement objections to the actions of CDCR officials.
“This is very worrisome to say the least,” says Carol Strickman, one of the mediation team lawyers banned from CDCR facilities. “We have been receiving steady reports from prisoners of CDCR intimidation and retaliation leading up to the strike. Now, we have the CDCR threatening prisoners and cutting off contact with our legal team. We obviously don’t want to imagine the worst, but we are legitimately concerned about violence on the part of the prison administration.”
In a letter sent to Gov. Brown this morning, mediators laid out the prisoners’ demands and said that prison officials’ inaction at the negotiation table and threats to prisoners “clearly demonstrate the unwillingness of CDCR officials to address the prisoners’ demands adequately.” Mediators are asking for a meeting with Brown, saying, “We are ready to bring forth specific proposals that will make the current proposed reforms complete and bring California in line with best practices nationwide. We can and must end torture in California’s prisons now.”
Support for the hunger strike continues to grow nationally and internationally. “The strike is growing throughout the California for Security Housing Units, from Administrative Segregation Units, throughout the general population. Prisoners are becoming more and more united in their opposition to the horrendous conditions they are forced to endure at all levels of the prison system,” said Manuel La Fontaine, of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition. “And as their strike grows, so does the support coming from outside the prison walls. People see this as a human rights issue, and so no level of repression on the part of the CDCR will stop people all over the world from fighting to help these prisoners win their demands.”
Prisoners Five Core Demands for Human Rights:
1. End Administration Abuse & Group Punishment
2. Abolish the Debriefing Policy & Modify Gang Status Criteria
3. End Long Term Solitary Confinement
4. Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food
5. Expand and Provide Constructive Programming & Privileges
Take Action Now!
We’re asking ALL supporters to pressure Governor Brown to ensure the CDCR implement the changes set forth in the prisoners’ five core demands and that the CDCR cease ALL retaliation on hunger strikers.
Write & Call Governor Jerry Brown and urge him to pressure the CDCR to negotiate with the prisoners and honor their demands!:
Governor Jerry Brown
State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 445-2841
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Committee
WEB: prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com • EMAIL: prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity [at] gmail.com
18 Signs That Life In U.S. Public Schools Is Now Essentially Equivalent To Life In U.S. Prisons
#1 Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has announced that school officials can search the cell phones and laptops of public school students if there are “reasonable grounds for suspecting that the search will turn up evidence that the student has violated or is violating either the law or the rules of the school.”
#2 It came out in court that one school district in Pennsylvania secretly recorded more than 66,000 images of students using webcams that were embedded in school-issued laptops that the students were using at home.
#3 If you can believe it, a “certified TSA official” was recently brought in to oversee student searches at the Santa Fe High School prom.
#4 A few years ago a class of 3rd grade students at one Kentucky elementary school were searched by a group of teachers after 5 dollars went missing. During the search the students were actually required to remove their shoes and their socks.
#5 At one public school in the Chicago area, children have been banned from bringing their lunches from home. Yes, you read that correctly. Students at that particular school are absolutely prohibited from bringing lunches from home. Instead, it is mandatory that they eat the food that the school cafeteria serves.
#6 The U.S. Department of Agriculture is spending huge amounts of money to install surveillance cameras in the cafeterias of public schools so that government control freaks can closely monitor what our children are eating.
#7 A teenager in suburban Dallas was recently forced to take on a part-time job after being ticketed for using bad language in one high school classroom. The original ticket was for $340, but additional fees have raised the total bill to $637.
#8 It is not just high school kids that are being ticketed by police. In Texas the crackdown extends all the way down to elementary school students. In fact, it has been reported that Texas police gave “1,000 tickets” to elementary school kids over a recent six year period.
#9 A few months ago, a 17 year-old honor student in North Carolina named Ashley Smithwick accidentally took her father’s lunch with her to school. It contained a small paring knife which he would use to slice up apples. So what happened to this standout student when the school discovered this? The school suspended her for the rest of the year and the police charged her with a misdemeanor.
#10 A little over a year ago, a 6 year old girl in Florida was handcuffed and sent to a mental facility after throwing temper tantrums at her elementary school.
#11 In early 2010, a 12 year old girl in New York was arrested by police and marched out of her school in handcuffs just because she doodled on her desk. “I love my friends Abby and Faith” was what she reportedly wrote on her desk.
#12 There are actually some public schools in the United States that are so paranoid that they have actually installed cameras in student bathrooms.
#13 Down in Florida, students have actually been arrested by police for bringing a plastic butter knife to school, for throwing an eraser, and for drawing a picture of a gun.
#14 The Florida State Department of Juvenile Justice has announced that it will begin using analysis software to predict crime by young delinquents and will place “potential offenders” in specific prevention and education programs.
#15 A group of high school students made national headlines a while back when they revealed that they were ordered by a security guard to stop singing the national anthem during a visit to the Lincoln Memorial.
#16 In some U.S. schools, armed cops accompanied by police dogs actually conduct surprise raids with their guns drawn. In this video, you can actually see police officers aiming their guns at school children as the students are lined up facing the wall.
#17 Back in 2009, one 8 year old boy in Massachusetts was sent home from school and was forced to undergo a psychological evaluation because he drew a picture of Jesus on the cross.
#18 This year, 13 parents in Duncan, South Carolina were actually ticketed for cheering during a high school graduation.
Let’s also make this clear. While this happens in some suburban, nice middle class schools, it’s not as likely. Let me guess how many of those school districts are mostly black and brown, low-income. And even the ones that aren’t, let me guess how many of those individual incidents involved black and brown students. This gross white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal society has led us to criminalize and suspect and monitor children, attempting to herd them into a class of robots who cannot think for themselves or fear the consequences when they do. This is really fucking disturbing.
I think it’s important to point out the issues with talking about “Americans” vs. “Europeans” when discussing statistics from the USA and the Netherlands. I get a little frustrated with American articles lumping “Europe” into one country, with one culture and one set of laws. Let’s be clear that this is a comparison between the Americans and the Dutch, whereas the situation across Europe as a whole is far more varied. In the UK (where we have the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe) one of my biggest concerns about sex education is that it is not as liberal, informative, matter of fact or comprehensive as elsewhere in Europe, nor does it start at as young an age. This week Conservative MP Nadine Dorries put forward a bill to introduce abstinence education for girls only. Whilst it is unlikely to ever become law, 67 MPs voted in favour of it. It’s a puritanical, moralistic proposal towards a system which has been shown time and time again not to work in the USA and which shames girls and places the onus on them to be gatekeepers of sex, rather than teaching them to understand the complexities of consent and desire. I would passionately love for the UK to look to other European countries, such as Holland and Sweden, in order to start having proper conversations about how we too can improve the information our own children and young people are receiving.
For over two centuries, Haiti has been effectively controlled from outside. The French enslaved the entire island in the eighteenth century and worked most of the population to death turning it into the sugar and coffee plantation for the world. By this century, Western governments were arming, funding and fuelling the psychopathic dictatorship of the Duvalier family, who slaughtered 50,000 people, supposedly because they were “our friends” in the fight against communism.
All this left Haiti the most unequal country in the world. A tiny elite lives in vast villas in the hills, while below and all around them, the overwhelming majority of the population live in tiny tin shacks with no water or electricity, crammed six-to-a-room. Just 1 percent own 50 percent of the wealth and 75 percent of the arable land. Once the Haitian people were finally able to rise up in 1986 and demand democracy, they obviously wanted the country’s wealth to be shared more fairly. They began to organize into a political movement called Lavalas – the flood – to demand higher wages and higher taxes on the rich to build schools and hospitals and subsidies for the half-starved poor. This panicked the elite.
And nobody panicked them more than a thin, softly-spoken, intellectual slum-priest named Aristide who found himself at the crest of this wave. He was born into a bitterly poor family. He became a brilliant student and studied to be a priest in his cluster of tin shacks. He soon became one of the leading exponents of Liberation Theology, the left-wing Catholicism that says people shouldn’t wait passively for the Kingdom of Heaven to seek justice for the poor, but must demand it here and now. (The current Pope tried bitterly to stamp out this ‘heresy’.) Aristide explained: “The rich of my country, a tiny percentage, sit at a vast table overflowing with good food, while the rest of my countrymen are crowded under that table, hunched in the dirt and starving. One day the people under the table will rise up in righteousness. It is our mission to help them stand up and live as human beings.”
On this platform, he was elected in 1990 in a landslide in the country’s first free and fair election, taking 64 percent of the vote, and was compared across the world to Nelson Mandela. He kept his promise to the Haitian people. He increased the minimum wage from 38 cents a day to $1, demanding the multinational corporations that employed the island’s population pay a less insulting wage. He trebled the number of free secondary schools. He disbanded the murderous US-armed national army that has terrorized the population. Brian Concannon, head of the Institute for Democracy and Justice in Haiti, says: “It is impossible to overestimate the impact of this accomplishment on the lives of average Haitians. It has been called the greatest human rights development in Haiti since emancipation, and it is wildly popular.”
Even the International Monetary Fund had to admit that over the period he was in charge and just after, Haiti’s Human Poverty Indicator – a measure of how likely your kids are to die, starve or go uneducated – dropped dramatically from 46.2 percent to 31.8 percent.
The wealthy elite and corporations were horrified. As one Haitian businessman put it: “Everyone who is anyone is against Aristide, except the people.” But why would foreign governments care about a small, bitterly poor island with only ten million inhabitants? Ira Kurzban, an American lawyer based in Haiti, explains: “Aristide represented a threat to [foreign powers] because he spoke for the 85 percent of his population who had never been heard. If that can happen in Haiti, it can happen anywhere, including in countries where the [US and Europe] have huge economic interests and extract natural resources. They don’t want real popular democracies to spread because they know it will confront US economic interests.” Oxfam called it “the threat of a good example.”
So after Haiti had experienced seven months of democracy, the US toppled Aristide by force. Horrified ordinary Haitians surrounded his home calling for his return – and they were fired on so indiscriminately they ran out of ammo and more had to be sent from Guatanomo Bay on Cuba. The bodies were left in the streets to be eaten by dogs.
In 1994, the Clinton administration agreed to return Aristide to power – provided he castrate his own political program and ignore the demands of his people. They made him agree to privatize almost everything, freeze wages, and sack half the civil service. Through gritted teeth, he agreed, and for the remainder of his time in office tried to smuggle through what little progress he could, given this straight-jacket. He was re-elected in an even bigger landslide in 2000 – but even his tiny shuffles towards redistribution were too much, and the Bush administration imposed what former US Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck called “a tightening economic noose around Haiti,” blocking all external help. Professor Jeffrey Sachs notes: “The economy collapsed, and that was the deliberate result of the strangulation.”
Even despite this, the Haitian people stood behind Aristide – not because he was any kind of Messiah, but because he was doing what they told him to. The last Gallup poll showed that 60 percent supported him, compared to just 3 percent who preferred his main US-backed opponent. So when all other attempts at sabotage had failed, the US government kidnapped Aristide at gunpoint and dumped him in the Central African Republic. They falsely claimed, of course, that he had become “a maniac” and “a dictator” – unlike, say, their murderous shariah-law enforcing ally, the King of Saudi Arabia. There’s a Haitian proverb that says: “When people want to kill a dog, they say it’s rabid.” Aristide was not toppled because of any bad things he had done, but because of the good things he did.
After Aristide was forced out, the human rights situation dramatically deteriorated, with a massive campaign of terror and repression crushing the democratic resistance. A US Army Psychological Operations official explained the mission was to ensure Haitians “don’t get the idea they can do whatever they want.” The Lavalas party, by far he most popular, has been banned at every subsequent election. The next President, Rene Preval, learned his lesson: he has done everything he was told to by corporations and governments, privatizing the last remaining scraps owned by the state, and using tear gas to break up strikes for higher wages. The Haitian people rejected the whole rigged electoral process, with turn-out falling to just 11 percent. Today, Aristide is a broken man, living in exile in South Africa, studying for a PhD in linguistics. He is not allowed to return to his homeland, and it seems future Presidential candidates have been terrorized out of following that path any time soon.
It’s this long political earthquake – of denying Haiti any ability to democratize and develop – that made the geological earthquake so deadly. Bigger earthquakes in countries that have been allowed to develop has claimed almost no casualties. This thwarting not a freak event. It is part of a plain pattern. When poor countries get uppity and tried to ask for basic justice, our governments have toppled them, from Iran wanting to control its own oil in 1953 to Honduras wanting its workers to be treated decently in 2009.