Archive | May 10, 2011

Palestinians and Obama’s Foreign Aid Reform

Palestinians and Obama’s Foreign Aid Reform

It is the right of any country facing severe financial difficulties, to cut its cloth to fit accordingly. This is a lesson that the corridors of power within the U.S. in particular seems to have a struggle with facing that their desires have gone far beyond what they are capable of achieving in ‘their interest’. The It has been a battle that nearly brought about the foreclosure of the Obama Administration, with a $14.6 trillion deficit according to the Guardian’s Clair Provost, and an extravagant annual $50 bn. budget in military and foreign aid.

It is an burgeoning issue that an increasing number of U.S. activists have been struggling to confront the U.S. Administration with while the American people continue to struggle at home with severe cuts in health, education (30 – 50% drop-out rate, and illiteracy at 27 million for under 17s), and approaching 7 million suffering from hunger. The ordinary American on the street cannot go into such a deficit and live to tell the tale, but do in fact owe other countries by the very nature of which country holds U.S. debt. Long before the Great Recession, in 2005, Senator Kent Conrad was reported to have said:

“Well, increasingly we are going into debt with other countries around the world. We owe Japan over $680 billion. We owe China over $240 billion. We owe the United Kingdom over $140 billion. My favourite is the Caribbean banking centres.”

Countries such as China wait in the wings wondering whether the money owed to it will ever be repaid by a country that is not in a position to tell others what to do.

A Question of Ethics

However, the question always asked, and even more so now is the basis on which the U.S. decides foreign aid, and military intervention.  When the term ‘democracy’ used, it has been widely understood to mean interference in the favour of U.S. interests, and those interests apply not to the American people as a whole, but to those in position of power and influence inside and outside the government. Raised voices are few when it comes to Israel with anti-Obama, Dick Morris (former adviser to President Clinton) The Capitol Hill journal hardly getting specific about Israel in his list of complaints on foreign aid. In fact, the actual figure for Israel changes according to one’s source so one can safely assume that it is a figure that the U.S. is not predisposed to disclosing with any sincerity.

However, Egypt has been a ‘bad boy’ by not behaving according to the needs and self interests of the U.S., though the Mubarak regime can hardly be blamed for that! The resulting youth Revolution of January 25th 2011 developed beyond U.S. control, a resulting factor of which has been the reconciliation between Palestine’s Hamas and Fatah parties. Far from ethics, it is this unwanted reconciliation that brings the U.S. to re-evaluate foreign aid to the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

One can argue as in the beginning that the U.S. can ill afford to give foreign aid of any kind, but then the resulting action should be no aid, not how much-if-at-all-because-of-Hamas!

So far the U.S. pledge to Palestinian Occupied Territories stands at U.S.$300mn as 27 U.S. senators  led by senators. Robert Menendez (Senate Foreign Relations Committee), and Robert Casey (Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs subcommittee) demand suspension of aid as outlined in an open letter to President Obama. The conditions laid out include Hamas’ recognition of Israel as a state, and recognition of the Palestinian government, the latter not being too difficult given that there is now a unity government in place, technically speaking. In other words, ignore the wishes of the people as in the case of Ivory Coast and empower the government that supports the interests of the U.S., and friends, and not the interests of the people. As demonstrated by the domestic affairs of the U.S. the needs of the people are circumstantial, as are the poorest people’s of the earth, who get the least aid from the U.S.

One question though, if the U.S. is technically bankrupt, does the U.S. government have the right to decide how to spend its non-existent budget? Admittedly, this is a question from a simpleton, who observes how easily the reason for rocket food and fuel prices, the banks and investors, are ready to foreclose on homeowners and leave them to the streets. One wonders if in the real world of banking, if the countries who hold U.S. debt should not be the ones to decide.

Meanwhile, somehow, the E.U. which have had more than its fair share of the global economic crisis is able to compensate by increasing aid to the Palestinian Occupied Territories from €85 million ($121.6mn) to €100mn. An admirable step one could say, but is it not about maintaining the status quo, and thus the interests of the international elite? While puppet premiere Mahmoud Abbbas goes into fits at the possible loss of funding from the U.S., one can quite clearly see that it is only the people who are interested in the people, and not the representatives who will never end the human suffering of 50+ years of occupation by a people without a home while the average per capita income of an Israeli stands at 4 times the global average of $30,000 per annum.

The Other Side of Ethics

Then their is the situation of Palestinians living in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. They were never asked if they would welcome a people without a land – in fact their entire predicament has been enforced upon them. Hundreds of villages decimated, their means of survival continually destroyed by force, and the pollution and toxic waste of their slavemasters, their land pillaged, their homes if not destroyed, have been taken over by settlers, settlers with a specific agenda, and their route to education and employment a struggle whereby the mountain to climb seems to get steeper and steeper. Left to wallow by neighbouring countries through the politricks of the international elite, and Hilary Clinton continually whispering in the ear of Obama to make sure he does what he is told, it is completely unethical that either the U.S. or Europe should continually pay through foreign aid to maintain this neocolonialistic form of enslavement. There is a price to pay, but are the international elite including Israel willing to submit to the fact that they have committed a humongous wrong!


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Desecration of Glen Cove Burial Mounds a Blatant Disregard for Humanity

Desecration of Glen Cove Burial Mounds Reveal Blatant Disregard for Humanity

This was sent in by one our readers… a worthy and heartfelt read…

By Sean Jobst

May 8, 2011

We undertake our life journey holding on to certain inalienable rights, which are instinctively part of our humanity as natural laws. One of these is certainly the right to be buried upon one’s ancestral land. Yet this basic right is currently being violated in broad daylight in the northern California city of Vallejo, in the San Francisco Bay Area, U.S.

On April 13, 2011,  the Sacred Site Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes (SSPandRIT), an Indigenous rights organization based in Vallejo, filed an administrative civil rights complaint with the State of California under the state’s Government Code § 11135.

It accused the Greater Vallejo Recreation District (GVRD) and the City of Vallejo of harming the spiritual well-being of Indigenous peoples through its utter disregard of the sacred burial grounds at Glen Cove. It specifically pointed to desecration in the GVRD’s plans to build a 15-space parking lot and two-stall restroom atop the burial grounds.

“Our ancestors deserve a place where they can rest forever,” Corinna Gould, an Ohlone living in Oakland whose ancestors are buried at the site, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

“People everywhere understand that ancient cemeteries are sacred places. But in Vallejo, they want to put a bathroom on one.”

Known to the area’s indigenous people as Sogorea Te, the Glen Cove shell-mounds span 15 acres along the Carquinez Strait, in south Vallejo. It has been a sacred site and burial place for the indigenous Ohlone, Miwok and Pomo peoples since at least 1500 BC.

The site has not ceased in its spiritual importance to indigenous Californians. Tribal members gather there two or three times annually to bless the creek, oak trees and rocky beach, all of which they regard as being sacred.

“The history and cultural use of the site has never been disputed,” Mark Anquoe, Indigenous organizer with the Indian Treaty Council, told POOR Magazine Indigenous People’s Media Project.

“Native Americans continue to hold ceremonies at Sogorea Te just as they have for thousands of years.”

The area was inhabited by the Miwok, South Pomo, Wappo, Patwin-Wintun, North Yokut, and Ohlone nations. These nations were part of a vast network of trading cultures extending all along the Pacific coast down the length of the continent.

These cultures thrived through a conscious respect for the land, symbolized by more than 500 shell-mounds that were located and recorded throughout California by the late 18th century and most of which were determined to be thousands of years old.

The advent of colonization exterminated Indigenous Californians through physical genocide, while most of their sacred shell-mounds were permanently destroyed through accompanying cultural genocide. Over the past twenty years, commercialization has further destroyed the few remaining shell-mounds and burial sites.

One of the few sites to have remained is Sogorea Te, which historically offered fresh water and shelter from the howling winds of Carquinez Strait.  Registered CA-SOL 236, the site was first documented in University of California-Berkeley archaeological records in 1907. Intact skeletal remains and cremations have been documented at the site.

In September 1986, Indigenous human remains from the site were identified by the state Office of Historic Preservation and the Native American Heritage Commission as dating back to 1000 CE. According to a 1988 report by Novato Archaeological Resource Service, Sogorea Te is at least 3,500 to 4,000 years old.

Archaeologists have also found pottery, mortars, pestles, animal bones, eagle claws, bear teeth, bird-bone whistles, spear points, arrowheads, shell fragments, and many ceremonial feather or shell jewelry ornaments.

Rather than being preserved and left alone as a sacred burial ground, Sogorea Te has been archaeologized. Since 1907, the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California-Berkeley has illegally housed over 13,000 ancestral remains and over 200,000 sacred objects from the site.

“We are pleading with Vallejo not to desecrate this site,” Miwok elder Norman “Wounded Knee” DeOcampo, who leads ongoing efforts to stop its desecration since April 15th, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

“So many Ohlone remains are already in boxes at UC Berkeley. We want these ones here left alone.”

Archaeologists have a long dismal record of cultural misappropriation and utter disrespect when it comes to Indigenous sites. Despite their hallowed status as sacred burial grounds, mounds have been labeled “middens” by archaeologists, a derogatory usage of a term that actually means garbage dumps.

Such utter disregard for human remains is a recurring theme at Indigenous sites throughout the continent. At the least it’s racially insensitive, and at its worst represents a new effort of cultural genocide. To construct a new colonial narrative requires leveling over the Indigenous history, so that the narrative then becomes the earliest record of existence in a given area.

Bradley Angel of the San Francisco-based environmental group Greenaction, which has stood in solidarity with Indigenous groups against desecration, told the Vallejo Times-Herald how he’s “shocked at the injustice and disrespect that the City of Vallejo and the district have displayed toward native people that they would build a toilet and a parking lot on top of where people are buried.”

The GVRD’s unnecessary project would effectively desecrate the site and degrade the environment around it. A paved parking lot would diminish the land’s ability to absorb rainwater. Bulldozers would obviously harm the graves and at the same time disrupt the land around it. Their project calls for the spraying of a herbicide called Garlon 4, which would saturate the air around Sogorea Te with synthetic chemicals. This herbicide is known to potentially harm any woody or broadleaf plant in which it comes into direct contact.

In addition to archaeologists, the shell-mounds are also being desecrated through the permits given to “developers” to build over them in direct contravention of various laws dedicated to the preservation and protection of such sites. Even Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis told the San Francisco Chronicle: “It’s their burial ground and they don’t want to see it desecrated. I think we ought to be sensitive to that.”

To destroy or inhibit access to such sites, as the GVRD is doing right now in its “development” project at Sogorea Te, is in direct violation of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978. Spiritual ceremonies continue to be held there. It also violates the Archaeological Resource Protection Act of 1979, which states “archaeological resources on public lands and Indian lands are an accessible and irreplaceable part of the Nation’s heritage.”

The desecration of burial mounds such as Glen Cove and the theft of human remains, is a criminal act that seems to be tolerated when it comes to Indigenous remains. Yet this is in blatant disregard of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) of 1990, which mandates Indigenous human remains are to be afforded the same protection as other human remains, in recognition of the federal treaties that acknowledge sovereignty.

The willingness of city officials to violate their own stated objectives is brazen, such as with the mission statement on its website. “The City of Vallejo celebrates its cultural and ethnic diversity, preserves its history and maritime heritage, cares for its children and their future, and provides cost effective quality services second to none.”

The very meaning of life continues to be devalued, as reflected in the corresponding attitude towards death. To deny this one basic human right means that other human rights are being violated, since there can be no respect for the living without a respect for the dead. And the manner in which human remains are being desecrated indicate a certain lack of humanity on the part of those vicious enough to degrade themselves with such actions.

Vallejo is the most broke city in a state known for its disastrous financial situation. The GVRD is dedicated to a $1.5 million project. How is this even conceivable in a city which nearly filed bankruptcy? Vallejo has laid off public workers in efforts to cut back on its spending. Schools are being closed and homes are foreclosed. Violent crimes are also on the rise in Vallejo. Are there no homeless and poor people in Vallejo on which this money could be better spent, to improve their basic needs?

Even though the GVRD has consistently complained of lack of funds, it somehow has come up with the cash needed for its Glen Cove “development.” Why aren’t these funds being used to renovate defunct housing projects or to improve on existing parks? Even though there’s such a park only four blocks away from Glen Cove, the GVRD stubbornly insists on this project. To meet its costs there would have to be a continual source of taxes, a measure which citizens of Vallejo have overwhelmingly rejected election after election.

The only logical source for such cash can be found in the corporate backers who are obviously funneling money into this project. Profits trump any other concerns at such a site, especially since preservation would dampen their cash-flow. There isn’t as much money to be made in improving existing parks, compared to lucrative construction contracts. To first destroy and then build brings much more money than to simply build.

“Every society needs sacred places,” writes the late Lakota scholar  Vine Deloria, Jr., in his essay “Sacred Lands and Religious Freedom” which he wrote in efforts to amend the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.

 “A society that cannot remember its past, and honor it, is in peril of losing its soul.” And the conscience is not the only thing lost in the process.

If there can be no peace without justice, neither can there be true peace without first peace for the dead not to have their bodies desecrated and their graves disturbed. “The Great Law of Peace is our heritage,” Grandma Edna Gordon, Hawk Clan, Seneca Wisdom-Keeper from New York, who has expressed her support for the preservation efforts, told the Protect Glen Cove website.

“To others, it is a commodity. To bury your weapons, you lose a fighting spirit and become extinct. To struggle, you achieve survival. Listen to the crying souls. Let your prayers be heard above the spirit of the wind.”

Simple greed is not a factor that can adequately explain this blatant desecration of a sacred site. The central reason can only be found in the modern tendency to separate the spiritual from the material. It is true the illusionary quest for profits blind people and lead them to harm their fellow human beings. But in desecrating the dead can be found another illusion: that of separating the body from the soul.

You certainly would be outraged if the graves of your ancestors were being disturbed for the purposes of “development” that would harm burial grounds which are universally accepted as hallowed ground within every culture and faith-tradition. All that is expected is that you at least recognize the same sanctity and respect when it comes to all human remains.

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Unhappy Mother’s Day for 1,000s…

Unhappy Mother’s Day for Thousands Fired Due to Pregnancy

By Viji Sundaram

SAN FRANCISCO— Christina didn’t think that getting pregnant would cost her job. Three months into her pregnancy, in 2008, the 27-year-old Filipina told her boss at a San Francisco-based fruit and vegetable company about her condition. She asked for no special treatment, but was taken aback by his response.

“That’s not going to work,” he reportedly told her. “We’ll have to discuss this later.”

The next business day, Christina was called into a meeting and terminated from her job as a telephone operator with two weeks’ notice. She had worked for the small company for only eight weeks. Her boss told her, “We can’t afford to cover you when you go on leave.”

She recalled, “He didn’t know my due date and I never said that I needed any special leave.” At the suggestion of her husband, she filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Christina’s situation is not uncommon. A recent report by researchers at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, in San Francisco, found that low-wage workers face a disproportionately high rate of workplace discrimination when they become pregnant.

“We have 2,600 cases in our database,” said the report’s author, Stephanie Bornstein of the law school’s Center for WorkLife Law. The study is titled, “Poor, Pregnant and Fired: Caregiver Discrimination Against Low-Wage Workers.

Many pregnant women don’t understand their legal protections at work, the report found. Frequently women were never told of their right to take medical and family leave, or if they did try to exercise their rights, their employers interfered.

In some cases, supervisors gave mothers-to-be assignments that were nearly impossible to accomplish, in an attempt to force them to quit.

Some supervisors were so intrusive, Bornstein said, that they told their employees to get abortions. One woman was fired for breastfeeding her premature baby during her work breaks (her partner brought the infant to the workplace).

Joan C. Williams, the WorkLife Law Center’s founder, said low-wage parents of both sexes generally have much less job flexibility than middle- and higher-income earners, male or female.

Low-income parents often can’t afford daycare, so they must tag-team with spouses or grandparents to cover childcare, sometimes working multiple jobs to make ends meet.

Immigrant women are especially vulnerable to pregnancy discrimination, said Jamie Dolkas, an attorney with Equal Rights Advocates, a public interest law center in San Francisco.

“Employers know they need their jobs very badly.”

To make matters worse, low-wage workers frequently have trouble finding attorneys to defend their rights and fight discrimination because the cases are too hard to prove or result in relatively small settlements.

California’s Laws More Generous

Yet federal law—including the Family Medical Leave Act and Pregnancy Discrimination Act—offers employment protection to pregnant women or new parents. Both statutes require an employer to treat a pregnant worker in the same manner as an employee who, for example, was temporarily disabled by a broken arm, a back injury, or a heart attack.

Unlike most other states, California also has laws on the books to protect workers taking pregnancy or disability leave. Under the California Family Rights Act, an employee at a company with 50 or more workers can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave a year to care for a new baby or a seriously ill child, spouse or parent with a serious health condition. To qualify, however, the employee must have worked at least 1250 hours in the previous 12 months.

The state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) goes even further, said Sharon Terman, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Centre in San Francisco, because it applies to women who work in small companies with five or more employees. It provides up to four months of unpaid pregnancy and/or maternity leave, and there is no waiting period before a worker becomes eligible.

The FEHA also requires employers to make “reasonable accommodation” for pregnant workers—for example, frequent bathroom breaks or limits on lifting heavy objects.

“Some employers may not know about the law, and others may know about it but not educate those who supervise employees,” Bornstein said. “Employers need to educate their frontline supervisors on how to avoid caregiver discrimination.”

At age 17, Nikole, who like Christina did not want her last name used, became pregnant while working as a representative for a company that creates product displays for major retailers.

She worked at various locations, often at night, physically building the displays and lighting for the retailer.

Because the job involved some lifting, Nikole told her supervisor about her condition when she just two months pregnant, asking if she could be given other tasks. Her supervisor told her that was fine, since her job involved many other tasks.

For a few weeks things went smoothly. Then, after a medical checkup, Nikole’s doctor faxed her boss a note saying she couldn’t lift more than 20 pounds.

Soon after, Nikole was sent home and placed on unpaid leave. A few weeks later, she received an e-mail from her company stating that it couldn’t accommodate her doctor’s request because heavy lifting was an “essential function” of her job, and that she was to remain on unpaid leave for the rest of her pregnancy.

“We get a lot of calls from people like Nikole,” Dolkas said, who tried unsuccessfully to intervene on her behalf with the company before filing a complaint with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing

“Hers is a horrible situation to be in —single mom, no income and very young.”

The case is pending.

As for Christina, she was luckier, winning an undisclosed settlement from her former employer, thanks to Terman’s help. After three years of searching, she landed a job last month with a company in Hayward, Calif.

She said she advises her friends to familiarize themselves with company policies early on.

“They need to know what they are entitled to, otherwise they may go through what I did,” she said.

To reach the work and family project of the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, call 1-800-880-8047, 1-800-880-8047.

*Republished under “Content Exchange” the original can be found on New American Media

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