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Punk Band Pussy Riot Jailed In Russia For Engaging In Freedom Of Expression—The Work Of Freedom Is Up To Each Of Us

The Russian punk band Pussy Riot has been sentenced to two years in a Russian prison for exercising free speech and engaging in political protest.

This past February, Pussy Riot staged a performance inside of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. This performance was directed at the linked repressive power of the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Here is an overview of current politics and demographics in Russia from the BBC.

Pussy Riot has made a practice of staging political concerts in unusual places around Moscow. Above is a Pussy Riot demonstration earlier this year in Red Square. (Photo by Denis Bochkarev.)

After the appearance in the church was posted online, band members were arrested and charged with hooliganism and inciting religious hatred.

The Russian Orthodox Church had the option here to forgive those that trespass, but instead made the call to continue to ally itself with the corrupt and undemocratic power of Vladimir Putin.

Why is so often the case that powerful religious officials cannot get past a sense  of perpetual victimhood and so often choose to make common cause with the most retrograde political forces?

Top clerics of the Russian Orthodox Church said that they forgave the band, but still supported the prosecution.

Sure.

Amnesty International has written about this case and has called for Pussy Riot band members to be released.

The excellent website Global Voices has written on this issue.

It may seem there is no point to addressing an issue in Russia from where I am in Houston, Texas.

Yet the universal values of free speech and democracy merit our concern no matter where in the world they are under assault.

This case is also a reminder that free speech and freedom from unjust incarceration are hardly matters only for people outside the United States.

Here in our torture-industrial-prison state, no freedom is safe from the forces of big money, a bought government, and millions of mean-spirited and intellectually lazy fellow citizens.

The good news is that we all have the ability to fight back and that very many people all around the world care about these concerns.

As Pussy Riot well understood, the work of freedom is up to each of us.

(Below–Pussy Riot on trial.)

August 18, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Call For Amnesty International To Come To Texas In Response To State-Mandated Rape Of Forced Sonogram Law

As regular readers of this blog will know, I’ve been writing often in recent weeks about the fact that the Texas forced sonogram law is state-mandated rape.

In addition to my postings here, I’ve co-written a letter to Amnesty International asking that this organization come to Texas to investigate this matter, and to take any steps they find appropriate to bring this concern to greater national and international attention. This letter was sent to Amnesty on March 26, 2012.

My co-authors on this letter were fellow Texans Amy Price and Sarah Slamen.

Here is an Amnesty mission statement from their website—

We work to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. Currently the world’s largest grassroots human rights organization, we investigate and expose abuses, educate and mobilize the public, and help transform societies to create a safer, more just world. We received the Nobel Peace Prize for our life-saving work.

Amy, Sarah and myself believe that addressing the state-mandated rape of the Texas forced sonogram law is consistent with the purpose of Amnesty International.

It is up to everyday citizens to do the work of freedom and justice. If you’d like to be involved with fighting  this cruel law, please leave a comment  on the blog or e-mail me at naa six-one-eight@att.net.

Here is the letter—

To Amnesty International and Amnesty International USA,

In its 2011 legislative session, the state of Texas enacted the “Women’s Right to Know Act”, which states that any woman seeking a constitutionally- protected abortion must undergo an ultrasound prior to the abortion. According to a study done by the Centers for Disease Control, 88% of all abortions in the United States are conducted in the first trimester. Realistically, this bill amounts to a de facto mandate of trans-vaginal ultrasounds for Texas women seeking abortions.

A trans-vaginal ultrasound requires that a hand-held device be inserted directly into the vagina. Unless the abortion is being performed for medical reasons, Texas women can not opt-out of this procedure.

This physically coerced medical procedure qualifies as sexual assault under section 22.011 of the Texas Penal Code, which reads as follows:

A person commits an offense if the person: intentionally or knowingly causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of another person by any means, without that person’s consent.

It qualifies as rape under federal definition, revised this year:

Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object…without the consent of the victim.

It qualifies as rape as defined by the Word Health Organization:

Physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration – even if slight – of the vulva or anus, using a penis, other body parts or an object.

By these definitions, the State of Texas has mandated rape. To date the United States government has not intervened. The women of Texas deserve protection from this rape. The citizens of Texas should not have rape committed in their name. We, as citizens of Texas, are asking Amnesty International to investigate this human rights abuse.

Sincerely,

Neil Aquino Amy Price Sarah Slamen

March 27, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 10 Comments

Facts And Context About Ongoing Egyptian Protests

Blogger’s Note– This post is updated through 12 noon on 2/6.

This post seeks to offer history and context for what is taking place in Egypt. It is good to get the facts on what is taking place right now. It also has value to go back and better understand the underlying circumstances. This post attempts to offer a mix of current events and larger context.

There are significant protests taking place in Egypt against the longtime and undemocratic rule of President Hosni Mubarak. Mr. Mubarak has ruled Egypt since 1981. A leading opposition figure, Mohamed ElBaradei, has returned to Egypt. This is a strong challenge to the Mubarak government. Various oppostion forces in Egypt exist, but none of these groups can be said to be leading the demonstrations.

Europe and the United States are pushing for some type of transition of government. But at the bottom line, the Egyptian government does not appear to be yielding power. President Mubarak won’t give up power. But Mr. Mubarak’s departure is all that will meet the demands of the demonstraters. Given that the powerful army will not back a harsh crackdown, how can Mr. Mubarak hang on?

It is good to see people fighting for freedom and for a better life. People have to take charge of their lives. While circumstance does not always allow that, we see in Egypt that people can move ahead even in tough circumstances.

Let’s hope that something better does come to Egypt.

Here is a profile of Mohamed ElBaradei.

(Update 2/6–The Muslim Brotherhood has taken part in talks for the first time.)

(Update 2/6–Here is an Aljazeera profile of the Muslim Brotherhood.)

(Update 2/6—Opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei says he is being excluded from talks. Mr. ElBaradei also says that the issue should long-standing change instead of an immediate  demand that Mr. Mubarak leave power.)

(Update 2/4–There are protests and conflict taking place in Cairo away from the cameras of Tahrir Square.)

(Update 2/4—This is a blog post I wrote with links to a number of liberal American media sources reporting on Egypt.)

(Update 2/4–Some Egyptians are praying for Mubarak to leave.)

(Update 2/2—Journalists were attacked by pro-government  protestors today.)

(Update 2/2–Hopefully, the protests will enhance the status of women in Egypt.)

(Update 2/2--The leading liberal magazine The Nation has a number of blogs and articles about events in Egypt.)

(Update 2/1—National Public Radio reports on the wide range of demands the protestors have.)

(Update 2/1—The U.S. says Hosni Mubrak should go.)

(Update 1/31—The respected U.S. online newspaper The Christian Science Monitor reports that it is not clear what opposition group or groups have the upper hand if President Mubarak is forced from office.)

(Update 1/31-Some wealthy areas of Cairo are being attacked by mobs.)

(Update 1/31—Here is how things are seen by India’s great newspaper The Hindu.)

(Update 1/30— Israel, a great nation that has every right to exist despite the thuggish right-wing leaders they keep electing, is watching events in Egypt with concern.)

(Update 1/30–With looting taking place, some Egyptians are guarding their own homes and business places.)

(Update 1/30-Here is the AlJazeera blog on Egypt.)

(Update 1/30—2000 people in Chicago marched for democracy in Egypt.)

(Update 1/29-This report from the Times of India suggests that members of the Mubarak family have fled to London.)

(Update 1/29–The excellent monthly news and features magazine The Atlantic is liveblogging from Egypt.)

(Update 1/28–-Live updates of events on the BBC.)

(Update 1/28-The British newspsper The Guardian is updating reports on the protests by the minute.)

(Update 1/28–Today’s protests are the largest yet.)

(Update 1/27–Reuters Africa reports many disruptions in internet service in Egypt. The government does not want people to organize.)

(Update 1/27– Mohamed ElBaradei is back in Egypt.)

(Update 1/27–As the BBC reports, the protests are now on day 3.)

(Update 1/27—The liberal magazine The Nation says that Barack Obama did little to support the people of Egypt and Tunisia in his State of the Union address.)

(Update 1/26—Some are defying a goverment order to stop the protests.)

(Update 1/26—Twitter and Facebook are blocked in Egypt.)

(Update 1/26– The latest videos and reports from Al-Jazeera.)

This 1/29 Los Angeles Times article connects events in Tunsia to the wider protests now going on in Egypt and elsewhere in that region.

From the L.A. Times—

“The most obvious effect is the empowerment of the citizen. The individual who felt helpless before the all-powerful state has now discovered that ultimate political power really does lie in his or her hands — that in spontaneous and collective action, a repressive regime, enjoying widespread regional and international support, can be brought down in a few weeks.”

Here are facts about Mr. Mubarak and his time in office from About.com.

(Below–Hosni Mubarak with former President George W. Bush.)

Amnesty International reports that civil rights abuses and repression are prevalent in Egypt.

From the 2010 Amnesty report on Egypt—

“The government continued to use state of emergency powers to detain peaceful critics and opponents as well as people suspected of security offences or involvement in terrorism. Some were held under administrative detention orders; others were sentenced to prison terms after unfair trials before military courts. Torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread in police cells, security police detention centres and prisons, and in most cases were committed with impunity. The rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly were curtailed; journalists and bloggers were among those detained or prosecuted. Hundreds of families residing in Cairo’s “unsafe areas” were forcibly evicted”


(Above–Mr. Mubarak getting a symbolic shoe tossed his way in the ongoing protests. Photo by Muhammad Ghafari.)

After protests in Tunisia that began this month, the government in that nearby North African nation was toppled. Yet it remains unclear if what will replace the old corrupt regime in Tunisia will be any better than what came before.

The population of Tunisia is as a general matter more educated and more connected online than is the population of Egypt. This is said in no way to disparage the Egyptian people. It is simply to say that when people have not been free for many years, it can be tough to establish a functioning democracy.

The great liberal magazine Mother Jones is writing ongoing updates on the protests.

From Mother Jones—

“Inspired by the recent protests that led to the fall of the Tunisian government and the ousting of longtime Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Egyptians have joined other protesters across the Arab world (in Algeria, notably) in protesting their autocratic governments, high levels of corruption, and grinding poverty. In Egypt, tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets.”

Bloomberg Businessweek has an article on the possible econmic impact of the protests for Egypt.


(Above–The Nile River in Cairo. Here are facts about the Nile River. Here are various travel blogs that describe visiting Cairo.)

Global Voices is an excellent resource for citizen bloggers and citizen reporters from across the world. Here is the Global Voices Egypt page.

Here is the blog The Arabist with reports about both Egypt and Tunisia.

Here is an extensive  series of articles on Egypt published last July by The Economist. This link is to the first of the eight articles. Links to the others are on the right side of the first article.

From The Economist–

“Political talk in Egypt has always been acidly cynical, but now a new bitterness has crept in. This has not been prompted by any change from above, since little has really changed in Egyptian politics since President Hosni Mubarak came to office 29 years ago. The sour mood is informed instead by the contrast between rising aspirations and enduring hardships; by a growing sense of alienation from the state; and by the unease of anticipation as the end of an era inevitably looms ever closer.”

(Above–Map of Egypt.)

Here are some basic facts about Egypt from the BBC.

84 million people live in Egypt.

Here are some basic facts about Tunisia from the BBC.

10 million people live in Tunisia.

At the bottom of both the BBC links are links to Egyptian and Tunisian media outlets.

Let’s hope that both Egypt and Tunisia find a path to better governments and towards a society that allows people to best use the talents they have in life. Let’s hope that these folks don’t end up with a right-wing religious government.

Let’s also use this North African unrest as a chance to learn more about this part of the world. We all have the abilty to learn more.  Accessible and affordable technology, as well the old- fashioned daily newspaper and public library, are always available to help us learn more about the world.

(Below–The Suez Canal Bridge. Also known as the Mubarak Peace Bridge. People in Egypt seem ready to pass on over to something new.)

January 26, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Senator Reid Says That Chinese Dictator Is A Dictator

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Chinese dictator Hu Jintao a dictator in a recent interview.

(Above–Senator Reid.)

Mr. Hu, who is President of China as well as a dictator, is in Washington this week.

Senator Reid will be among members of Congress meeting with Mr. Hu later this week.

China is indeed a dictatorship. You and I help the Chinese dictators remain in power by purchasing so much stuff made in China.

Here is the most recent Amnesty International report on China.

From that report—

“The authorities continued to tighten restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and association due partly to sensitivities surrounding a series of landmark anniversaries, including the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic on 1 October. Human rights defenders were detained, prosecuted, held under house arrest and subjected to enforced disappearance. Pervasive internet and media controls remained. “Strike hard” campaigns resulted in sweeping arrests in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), particularly following violence and unrest in July. Independent human rights monitoring was prevented in Tibetan-populated regions. The authorities continued to strictly control the parameters of religious practice, with Catholic and Protestant groups practising outside official bounds being harassed, detained and sometimes imprisoned. The severe and systematic 10-year campaign against the Falun Gong continued.”

Here are some basic facts on China from the BBC.

Here is my post marking the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989.

January 20, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Argentina Vs. Nigeria World Cup Preview—Both Nations Have The Chance For Advancement

This is second installment of Texas Liberal World Cup previews. This post will look at the game to be played in Johannesburg on June 12 between Argentina and Nigeria. This game will be played at 9:30 AM Eastern U.S. time.

(Here is my preview of the Mexico-South Africa match.)

(Above–Old and new building styles in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Here is information about visiting Buenos Aires.)

Let’s check out the basic facts about the two teams.

For Argentina

Nationality: Noun and adjective–Argentine(s).
Population (July 2007 est.): 40.3 million.
Annual population growth rate (2001): 1.05%.
Ethnic groups: European 97%, mostly of Spanish and Italian descent; mestizo, Amerindian, or other nonwhite groups 3%.
Religions: Roman Catholic 70%, Protestant 9%, Muslim 1.5%, Jewish 0.8%, other 2.5%.
Language: Spanish.
Education: Compulsory until age 18. Adult literacy (2001)–97%.
Health: Infant mortality rate–16.16/1,000. Life expectancy (2000 est.)–75.48 yrs.
Work force: Industry and commerce–35.8%; agriculture–9.5%; services–54.7%.

(Above–Lagos, Nigeria at sunrise. Here are some facts about Lagos.)

For Nigeria

Nationality: Noun and adjective–Nigerian(s).
Population (2008): 148 million.
Population growth rate (2007): 2.2%.
Total fertility rate (avg. number of children per woman in 2006): 5.4.
Ethnic groups (250): Hausa-Fulani, Igbo, Yoruba, and Kanuri are the largest.
Religions: Muslim, Christian, indigenous African.
Languages: English (official), Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Fulani, Kanuri, others.
Education: Attendance (secondary)–male 32%, female 27%. Literacy–39%-51%.
Health: Life expectancy (2006)–47 years.

(These links are from U.S. State Department fact sheets. There is a lot of information about these two nations and about the world at this site.)

(Above–The Cerro de los siete colores or seven-colored hill in Jujuy, Argentina. This is a picture taken by Augusto Sarita. Here is information on visiting  the region in Argentina where this hill can be found.)

Now that we’ve reviewed some of the basic demographics, let’s see what Amnesty International has to say about human rights in these important nations.

For Argentina—

“Amnesty International has welcomed the prison sentence handed to a former Argentine president responsible for crimes against humanity in the 1970s. Reynaldo Bignone, a former military general, was found guilty of torture, murder and several kidnappings that occurred while he was commander of the notorious Campo de Mayo detention centre between 1976 and 1978. The 82-year-old, who was appointed de facto president of Argentina by the military junta in 1982, has been sentenced to 25 years in jail. Five other military officers were also given long jail sentences by a court in Buenos Aires province…”

That is some good news— A Goal for Argentina.

Here is the full Amnesty report for Argentina.

(Below—The Gurara Falls in the Gurara River in Nigeria. Here are pictures of the falls and area around the falls.)

For Nigeria—

“The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is responsible for hundreds of extrajudicial executions, other unlawful killings and enforced disappearances every year. The majority of cases go uninvestigated and unpunished. The families of the victims usually have no recourse to justice or redress. Many do not even get to find out what exactly happened to their loved ones. Amnesty International’s 2009 report, “Killing At Will: Extrajudicial Executions and Other Unlawful Killings By The Police in Nigeria,” investigates the actions and human rights abuses perpetrated by the NPF. Amnesty International documented 29 cases of victims of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions who had never appeared before a judge.”

Well…not much good we can say about this.

Here is the full Amnesty report for Nigeria.

Summary—Nigeria needs to step up on human rights. Hopefully the new President, Goodluck Jonathan, will lead the way. Nigeria’s life expectancy  of 47 is also terrible. Argentina is a nation still recovering from years of dictatorship, but that has established itself as a democracy. Let’s all cheer on both nations as they progress towards  a better life for their people.

(Below–A 1930 coup in Argentina. Here is a history of Argentina.)

Here is the BBC profile of Argentina.

Here is the BBC profile of Nigeria.

Here is the web home of the government of Argentina.

Here is a link to a number of web addresses for agencies of government in Nigeria.

(Below—A horse and rider from the Nok people. These folks are first known culture of Nigeria and may go back as far as 3000 years ago. Here is a history of Nigeria.)

June 7, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Preview Of Mexico-South Africa World Cup Match—Who Has The Edge In Human Rights?

The first match of the World Cup will be played at 9: 30 AM U.S. Eastern Time on Friday June 11. This match will be between Mexico and host team South Africa.

(Above–Toltec warrior columns in the city of Tula in the Mexican state of Hidalgo.  Here is a good history of Mexico.)

This post is the first of a series of previews I’ll be writing of World Cup matches.

Let’s begin with the some basic facts.

(Below—Mexico City. Looks like a smoggy day. Here is information about visiting Mexico City.)

For Mexico-

Nationality: Noun and adjective–Mexican(s).
Population (July 2009 est.): 111,211,789.
Annual growth rate (2009 est.): 1.13%.
Ethnic groups: Indian-Spanish (mestizo) 60%, Indian 30%, Caucasian 9%, other 1%.
Religions (2000 census): Roman Catholic 76.5%, Protestant 6%, other 0.3%, unspecified 13.8%, none 3.1%.
Language: Spanish.
Education:
Years compulsory–11 (note: preschool education was made mandatory in Dec. 2001). Literacy–91.4%.
Health (2009):
Infant mortality rate–18.42/1,000. Life expectancy–male 73.25 years; female 79 years.
Work force (2008 est., 45.5 million):
Agriculture, forestry, hunting, fishing–21.0%;services–32.2%; commerce–16.9%; manufacturing–18.7%; construction–5.6%;transportation and communication–4.5%; mining and quarrying–1.0%.

(Below–Cape Town. I hope black folks can find good paying work on those docks in the new South Africa. Here is information on visiting Cape Town.)

For South Africa

Nationality: Noun and adjective–South African(s).
Annual growth rate (2006 World Bank Group): 1.1%.
Population (2007, 47.9 million): Composition–black 79.7%; white 9.1%; colored 8.8%; Asian (Indian) 2.2%. Official figures from 2007 South African Census at
http://www.statssa.gov.za.
Languages: Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, and Xitsonga (all official languages).
Religions: Predominantly Christian; traditional African, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish.
Education: Years compulsory–7-15 years of age for all children. The South African Schools Act, Act 84 of 1996, passed by Parliament in 1996, aims to achieve greater educational opportunities for black children, mandating a single syllabus and more equitable funding for schools.
Health: Infant mortality rate (2007)–58 per 1,000 live births. Life expectancy–52 yrs. women; 49 yrs. men. Health data from 2007 Census Report:
http://www.statssa.gov.za.

(The links here are from U.S. Department of State fact sheets. There is a lot of information to be found at these links.)

You’ve got to give the advantage to Mexico based on life expectancy.  There is a roughly 25 year edge here for our friends south of the U.S. border. That’s what you get when your leaders go on for years insisting there is no relationship between HIV and AIDS.

(Below–A picture of a Yucca forest in Mexico taken by Tomas Castelazo. Here are facts about Yucca trees.)

How does Amnesty International see the two nations? Who has the human rights advantage?

From Amnesty on Mexico—

“Human rights concerns persist, particularly at the state level where violence surrounds local elections and misuse of the judicial system is common. Federal efforts to combat violence against women in the border town of Ciudad Juárez have continued with limited success. A number of human rights defenders have been threatened and at least three journalists have been killed despite proposed legislation to strengthen human rights protection in the Constitution.”

Here is the full Amnesty report on Mexico.

(Below—The Drakensberg Mountains are the highest mountain chain in South Africa. Photo taken by pzfun. Here is information about visiting these mountains.)

Here is Amnesty on South Africa—

“A significant number of foreign nationals living in South Africa continue to report facing prejudice, discrimination and abuse on a daily basis. Both the International Organization on Migration and Human Rights Watch completed extensive research on the issue of migrants since xenophobic violence exploded in 2008. Many people were killed and more than 100,000 displace during the violence. Local South Africans complain foreign workers are taking away valuable jobs. Although unemployment numbers demonstrate a decline since 2001, the Labor Force Survey approximates 23% of South Africans are unemployed. The construction fueled by the 2010 World Cup is said to have increased the employment outlook over the next several months.”

Here is the full Amnesty report on South Africa.

Here is a profile of Mexico from the BBC.

Here is a profile of South Africa from the BBC.

Summary—This is a close call. Two great and flawed nations are in this match. South Africa has undergone a historic transformation form apartheid to a wider democracy while Mexico is a land that has contributed a great deal to North American history and culture. On the other hand, South Africa has let down the world in its response to AIDS and dominance of the ruling African National Congress threatens to diminish the quality of South African democracy, while Mexico sometimes looks like a failed state in its inability to stop drug-related violence. Let us cheer on both nations as they work towards a more complete realization of their potential.

Here is the official web site of the government of Mexico.

Here is the official web site of the government of South Africa.

(Below—Zulu warriors in 19th century South Africa. Here is a very useful history of South Africa.)

June 6, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Brutal Chinese Dictatorship Marks 60 Years In Power

The brutal Chinese dictatorship is marking 60 years in power.

(Above–Man stopping tanks during Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Please click here for a Texas Liberal post with facts and links about Tiananmen Square.)

More than one billion people in China lack basic freedoms.

People such as myself support the dictatorship by routinely buying products made in China because it is cheap and easy to do so.

China may well be interesting place to visit and learn about. But please recall that China is ruled by people who kill to stay in power and who will do anything at all to hold power.

Here is the latest Amnesty International report about human rights in China.  

Here are some basic facts about China from the BBC. 

October 1, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 4 Comments

Ongoing Protests In Iran—Links To Learn More

Hundreds of thousands of supporters of opposition presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi turn out to protest the result of the election at a rally in Azadi (Freedom) Square in Tehran, June 15, 2009

Protests, such the one seen above, are continuing in Iran over the disputed outcome of the Presidential Election.

It seems that the vote was rigged.

People in Iran want more freedom. 

Here are some links to learn more about this subject. It is up to you learn about the world.   

Global Voices Online is a good resource to read about Iranian bloggers and people using Twitter in Iran to talk about what is taking place.

Here is a Los Angeles Times story about the use of technology in the Iran crisis.

Here is the most recent Amnesty International report on Iran.

Here is the BBC on the situation in Iran. There is plenty of information here about what is going on right now and background information about the situation.  

Here is Al Jazeera on the conflict in Iran.

Here is Reporters Without Borders discussing censorship in Iran since the election.

June 16, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Tiananmen Square Massacre Of June 4, 1989—The Ongoing Supression Of Freedom In China

In Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, the Chinese government massacred a large number of their own people who were protesting for greater political freedom.

Here is how the BBC reported events in Tiananmen Square in June of 1989.

The Chinese people do not yet have political freedom. Human rights abuses go in China each day. The current government of China contains many of the same officials who held positions of power in 1989. Today’s Chinese government is the continuation of the government that ordered the Tiananmen attack.

File:Tianasquare.jpg

Here is the Amnesty International 2008 report on human rights in China.

From the report—

Growing numbers of human rights activists were imprisoned, put under house arrest or surveillance, or harassed. Repression of minority groups, including Tibetans, Uighursand Mongolians, continued. FalunGongpractitioners were at particularly high risk of torture and other ill-treatment in detention. Christians were persecuted for practising their religion outside state-sanctioned channels. Despite the reinstatement of Supreme People’s Court review of deathpenaltycases, the death penalty remained shrouded in secrecy and continued to be used extensively. Torture of detainees and prisoners remained prevalent. Millions of people had no access to justice and were forced to seek redress through an ineffective extra-legal petition system. Women and girls continued to suffer violence and discrimination. Preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing were marked by repression of human rights activists. Censorship of the internet and other media intensified.”

(Above–Chinese characters meaning freedom.)

Here is an eyewitness account of the Tiananmen massacre with some history of the Tiananmen movement from the Huffington Post.

President Barack Obama does not seem view China’s human rights record as an important concern in U.S.-China relations.

The following is from a column in the New York Times written about Tiananmen by a Chinese writer named Yu Hua who was there in 1989—

THIS is the first time I am writing about Tiananmen Square. I am telling my story now because 20 years later — the anniversary is June 4 — two facts have become more apparent. The first is that the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests amounted to a one-time release of the Chinese people’s political passions, later replaced by a zeal for making money. The second is that after the summer of 1989 the incident vanished from the Chinese news media. As a result, few young Chinese know anything about it.But most important of all, I realize now that the spring of 1989 was the only time I fully understood the words “the people.” Those words have little meaning in China today. “The people,” or renmin, is one of the first phrases I learned to read and write. I knew our country was called “the People’s Republic of China.” Chairman Mao told us to “serve the people.” The most important paper was People’s Daily. “Since 1949, the people are the masters,” we learned to say…. In China today, it seems only officials have “the people” on their lips. New vocabulary has sprouted up — netizens, stock traders, fund holders, celebrity fans, migrant laborers and so on — slicing into smaller pieces the already faded concept of “the people… But in 1989, my 30th year, those words were not just an empty phrase. Protests were spreading across the country, and in Beijing, where I was studying, the police suddenly disappeared from the streets. You could take the subway or a bus without paying, and everyone was smiling at one another. Hard-nosed street vendors handed out free refreshments to protesters. Retirees donated their meager savings to the hunger strikers in the square. As a show of support for the students, pickpockets called a moratorium….”

 Here are four views on Tiananmen published by the N.Y. Times. 

( Below—Bodies of people killed by Chinese government at Tiananmen Square.)

Here is an overview of China today from the BBC.

China is a nation where over a billion people don’t have basic political freedom and human rights. This denial of basic rights was maintained by the murder of Chinese citizens by the Chinese government.

These facts are the defining facts of modern China.

June 2, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Facts, Views & Bloggers On The Trouble In Kenya

Family flees violence in Kenya

Folks in Kenya are slaughtering each other.

Straight out the Nazi playbook of burning synagogues, a church full of people was burned in the Kenyan city of Eldoret.  30 people were burned to death.

The pretense is the disputed outcome of the recent Presidential election.

Closer to the heart of the matter may be long standing ethnic and tribal divisions.

From The BBC—

Ethnic tension, which has dogged Kenyan politics since independence in 1963, is widely believed to be behind the violence.

With patronage and corruption still common, many Kenyans believe that if one of their relatives is in power, they will benefit directly, for example through a relative getting a civil service job.

The current tensions can be traced back to the 1990s, when the then President Daniel arap Moi was forced to introduce multi-party politics.

Below is a picture of the President of Kenya—Mwai Kibaki. When Mr Kibaki took office in 2002, he was supposed to bring fresh life to Kenyan democracy after the long and corrupt rule of Daniel arap Moi. 

That has not worked out so well.

Here is profile of opposition candidate Raila Odinga. Mr. Odinga does not fully seem like a committed democrat either.

Here is the blog Kenyan Pundit written by Harvard law student Ory Okolloh.

Insight Kenya is a blog written from an oppostion view. It has a number of pictures of the current conflict.

What An African Woman Thinks is done quite well I feel. African Woman is a blogger who does not know what way to turn in the ongoing violence.

Here is the Kenyan Newspaper The Standard.

Here is the beginning of the Amnesty International assessment of Kenya.

The government intensified its intimidation and harassment of journalists and human rights defenders. Impunity for abuses by police was reinforced as the authorities failed to investigate allegations of police brutality. Violence against women and girls, including rape and domestic violence, remained a serious concern, although a new law was passed outlawing sexual offences.

Here is the more comprehensive report from Amnesty.

Here is the beginning of the editorial on the election from The Economist—

THE decision to return Kenya’s 76-year-old incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki, to office was not made by the Kenyan people but by a group of hardline Kikuyu leaders. They made up their minds before the result was announced, perhaps even before the opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, had opened up a lead in early returns from the December 27th election. It was a civil coup.

The planning was meticulous. All that was needed were the extra votes to squeak past Mr Odinga in what had been a closely and decently contested election. That was why returns from Central Province, Mr Kibaki’s fiercely loyal Kikuyu heartland, were inexplicably held back. And why, in some constituencies, a large number of voters mysteriously decided just to vote in the presidential race, ignoring the parliamentary ballot. Real damage was done in Nairobi, the capital, by inflating the number of votes for Mr Kibaki, even after results were publicly announced. Election monitors were turned away in Nairobi while the tallying went on. But European Union (EU) monitors verified tens of thousands of votes pinched in this way. Mr Odinga’s supporters were not innocent either. There were serious irregularities in his home province of Nyanza and probably ballot stuffing on his behalf elsewhere.

Here is the full editorial.

Here are some basic facts about Kenya from the BBC

  • Full name: The Republic of Kenya
  • Population: 34.3 million (UN, 2005)
  • Capital: Nairobi
  • Area: 582,646 sq km (224,961 sq miles)
  • Major languages: Swahili, English
  • Major religion: Christianity
  • Life expectancy: 48 years (men), 46 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 Kenya shilling = 100 cents
  • Main exports: Tea, coffee, horticultural products, petroleum products
  • GNI per capita: US $540 (World Bank, 2005)

Below is a map of ethnic and language groups in Kenya. Look at all those colors. You don’t have to know what any of it means—I don’t—to figure out that these folks have to make the call to get along with each other or else terrible things will happen—Such as is happening right now.

These folks have a life-expectancy of 40-something  and still some of them can’t kill each other fast enough. You really wonder about people sometimes.

 

January 3, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, Elections, History, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment