Amnesty International condemns ‘inhumane’ treatment of Bradley Manning

From Raw Story:

By Eric W. Dolan
Monday, January 24th, 2011

The international human rights group Amnesty International has sent a letter to US Defence Secretary Robert Gates calling for the “inhumane” conditions of US army private Bradley Manning to be reviewed.

Twenty-three year old Manning, who is accused of leaking information to WikiLeaks, has been held in a solitary cell for 23 hours a day and deprived of a pillow, sheets, and personal possessions since July 2010. He has been classified as a “maximum custody” detainee, which requires him to be shackled at the hands and legs during all visits, despite having no history of violence.

“We are concerned that the conditions inflicted on Bradley Manning are unnecessarily severe and amount to inhumane treatment by the US authorities,” Susan Lee, Amnesty International’s Programme Director for the Americas, said in a media advisory.

Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) has also sent a letter to the defense secretary, asking him to “rectify the inhumane, harmful, and counterproductive treatment” of the Army private.

Solitary confinement has been used in US prisons since the 19th century, but has become more prevalent with the rise of for-profit supermax prisons in recent years. Studies have found that, depending on the prison, anywhere from 0.5 percent of US prisoners to 20 percent of prisoners are kept in 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement.

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Driving Straight Into Catastrophe

From Common Dreams:

by Julio Godoy

January 24, 2011

PARIS – Despite repeated warnings by environmental and climate experts that reduction of fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions is fundamental to forestalling global warming, disaster appears imminent. According to the latest statistics, unprecedented climate change has Earth hurtling down a path of catastrophic proportions.

The Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that the global consumption of primary energy in 2010 reached some 500 exajoules (EJ), a number just under the worst-case scenario formulated ten years ago by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC’s Special Report on Emissions Scenarios, published in 2000, calculated the worst-case scenario as 525 EJ consumed in one calendar year.

The IEA found that coal was one of the largest sources of energy consumed in 2010, comprising approximately 27 percent of the total energy consumption. Coal, one of the cheapest sources of energy, is considered the filthiest of all, as far as greenhouse gases emissions (GHGE) are concerned.

Correspondingly, the global GHGE, measured as equivalent to carbon dioxide, reached at least 32 billion tonnes last year, only one step below the most pessimistic scenario imagined by the IPCC in 2000: 33 billion tonnes of CO2.

The results for 2010 were conditioned by the present global economic crisis – meaning that under normal economic circumstances, the numbers would have been higher. In other words, total consumption of energy in 2010 would have been worse than the most pessimistic scenario the IPCC formulated ten years ago had the global economy been in better shape.

These findings have prompted leading environmental experts to warn that humankind is racing towards destruction.

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Additional Comment by Leslie Feinberg

I have transferred this from the comments to a post as I felt Leslie Feinberg merits being read rather than be buried in the comments section of a post from days ago.

“Free to narrate novels, but not to
counter-narrate my actual life in publicity tours”

I thank Women Born Transsexual. A hostile biological relative—Catherine Ryan Hyde—has had a whole paid publicity book tour, funded by Knopf, in which she has counter-narrated my early identity to audiences in a way that contradicted my own self-definition, then and now. And she claimed me as “family.”

I thank Women Born Transsexual for posting my single message in response. And I thank the many hundreds of people who have formed a kind of protective cordon around me and my loving chosen family, at a time when my health is so frail, by reposting my message about who is, and who is not, my family:

But by all means please do read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s responses to my statement. The blogs try to divert the issue from the question of who is and is not my family. Instead, Hyde tries to focus the attention on her young adult novel. (See links below)

Hyde claims that I am attacking her right to write fiction, or to write about characters whose oppression she has never experienced. Hyde specifically asserts that I must be erroneously confusing her “transgender” character as being based on my own life. However, the issue is not her novel.

As both a novelist, fiction and non-fiction writer, and political journalist, I have developed a powerful lifelong ethic in support of other peoples’ rights to express themselves in fiction. As an editor, over many decades I also honed my ethics about my relation of how best to support other peoples’ writing—fictional and non-fictional.

So I offer this vignette to stress how important my ethic of supporting other peoples’ rights to express themselves in fiction is to me.

Years ago, Hyde asked if she could stay with Minnie Bruce and I in our home for two days, despite the fact that I was very ill. When Hyde arrived, she brought an early manuscript of one of her novels that she asked me to read during her visit.

It was an uncomfortable situation in which for me to sort out my role as a reader of the novel. In the manuscript, a young woman’s sister commits suicide, and she journeys to save her lost brother who has become as unsocialized as a non-human animal. I certainly had many observations about her imagination, but it was her fiction—it wasn’t necessary or my place to voice them.

I did report that I was shocked when the “animalistic” brother carried out an act of sudden bloody violence. I said I didn’t think that violence flowed from the character development. Hyde responded furiously in our home, saying angry things about me as a writer and editor. She claimed I had no right to comment on her manuscript. Later, she let drop one line in a message, that her editor had said the same thing to her and she had revised the ending.

Years later, when Hyde again asked to visit, she brought her manuscript of a young adult novel with a transgender character. She asked me to read it and comment on it.

I refused to read the book in any stage. I truthfully explained to her that my decision was, in part, a defense of her right to her own fictional imagination on this subject.

However, when Hyde told me she was writing a young adult novel with a “transgender” theme, I asked her this one question: Could she put forward her young adult novel as her own work of fiction, without bringing in my life and identity—named or unnamed–or claiming me as her family?

If she did, I explained, it would put me in the position of having to enter the battle of ideas, and to explain the bigotry I have experienced from her and her parents. Hyde assured me she would never bring my life—named or unnamed—into the book publicity.

Hyde states that in that last visit with me, I also attacked her freedom to write young adult fiction about the conflict in Rwanda. It is true that I would not agree with her repeated assertions that the “story” of Rwanda was “hers to tell.”

But the issue was not freedom to write fiction, it was the virulent racism and pro-imperialist arguments she was articulating. As I told Hyde then, her assertions about the character of the Hutu and other African peoples in the course of her arguments were strongly reminiscent of white-supremacist apologists for the antebellum slavocracy.

I explained at that time, and later in response to her follow-up email arguments, that the barricades of class wars, and other civil wars, often run between biological relatives, demanding of each of them: Which side are you on?

Even on Hyde’s blog posts, where she tries to redirect the argument towards her right to pen a “transgender” themed young adult novel, activist individuals challenge Hyde’s assertion that I am her “family.”

I express deep gratitude for the many, many hundreds of individuals who read my message and are circulating it into the public record. Thank you for supporting my large, loving, extended chosen family at a time when I’m struggling for health at a time of serious setback.

Thank you, each and all!

Solidarity in struggle,
Leslie Feinberg


Catherine Ryan Hyde’s blog posts:

‘In response to a recent issue,’

‘Nowhere to be seen’

‘Both sides of a specific’

Kansas forced birthers at it again

From Daily Kos:

by Kaili Joy Gray

Mon Jan 24, 2011 at 07:36:03 AM PST

A new year, a new governor, a new war on women and their doctors in Kansas:

Filling a request from Gov. Sam Brownback, a coalition of Kansas House conservatives filed legislation on Wednesday to tighten state regulations on abortion.

The bill would change Kansas law to require parental consent for teenagers to get abortions and increase reporting requirements by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. It also would give the attorney general and county prosecutors’ access to state health reports on abortions performed in the state.

Rep. Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican, said that the bill also contained late-term abortion provisions vetoed over the past three years by Democratic Govs. Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson.

It’s not as if Kansas is currently a safe haven for women seeking to exercise their right to obtain a legal medical procedure. Kansas already requires parental notice for minors. It already requires a 24-hour waiting period. It already requires that doctors encourage their patients to undergo completely unnecessary ultrasounds. It already requires that doctors lie to their patients about the so-called link between breast cancer and abortion. (Hint: there is none.) It already protects medical providers who refuse to provide abortion services or information to patients.

But that’s not enough for the virulent forced birthers in Kansas, like Gov. Brownback and State Rep. Kinzer.

[Kinzer] said the legislation was aimed at preventing another doctor from coming to Kansas to begin providing late-term abortions following the May 2009 killing of Wichita’s Dr. George Tiller. Kinzer also said the law would bring Kansas in line with the federal ban on a procedure opponents call partial-birth abortion.

“Certainly, I think legislative inaction, at this point in time, really opens up that opportunity,” Kinzer said. “We think it’s important to act proactively to make sure that the same loopholes and lack of enforcement that allowed Kansas to become a late-term abortion destination spot don’t exist in our laws going forward.”

Of course, the reason that Kansas became a “late-term abortion destination spot” is that Dr. George Tiller was one of only three doctors in the entire country who performed the extremely rare procedure. Until he was gunned down in his church, that is.

And of course all of this legislation is completely pointless because:

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Mortgage Giants Leave Legal Bills to the Taxpayers

Talk about adding Corporate insult to the injury of working people.  If people who actually work for a living screw up they are forced to pay for their mistakes.  If the worthless rich elites that earn vast fortunes shuffling paper screw up working people are forced to pay.

From The New York Times:

Published: January 24, 2011

Since the government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, taxpayers have spent more than $160 million defending the mortgage finance companies and their former top executives in civil lawsuits accusing them of fraud. The cost was a closely guarded secret until last week, when the companies and their regulator produced an accounting at the request of Congress.

The bulk of those expenditures — $132 million — went to defend Fannie Mae and its officials in various securities suits and government investigations into accounting irregularities that occurred years before the subprime lending crisis erupted. The legal payments show no sign of abating.

Documents reviewed by The New York Times indicate that taxpayers have paid $24.2 million to law firms defending three of Fannie’s former top executives: Franklin D. Raines, its former chief executive; Timothy Howard, its former chief financial officer; and Leanne Spencer, the former controller.

Late last year, Randy Neugebauer, Republican of Texas and now chairman of the oversight subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee, requested the figures from the Federal Housing Finance Agency. It is the regulator charged with overseeing the mortgage finance companies and acts as their conservator, trying to preserve the company’s assets on behalf of taxpayers.

“One of the things I feel very strongly about is we need to be doing everything we can to minimize any further exposure to the taxpayers associated with these companies,” Mr. Neugebauer said in an interview last week.

It is typical for corporations to cover such fees unless an executive is found to be at fault. In this case, if the former executives are found liable, the government can try to recoup the costs, but that could prove challenging.

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Gee I’d be willing to bet sending Dog, the Bounty Hunter after them then subjecting them to rendition and the same intensive interrogation we used on the poor schlubs in Gitmo and Abu Garib would cause these thieves to at least give us the keys to the private jets, mansions and other expensive toys as well as access to the secret bank accounts.

How come there is one set of laws for the ultra rich and another set for the working people.  Why should we forgive the theft of billions when we won’t forgive the loans people were tricked into?

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Food speculation: ‘People die from hunger while banks make a killing on food’

From The Guardian UK:

It’s not just bad harvests and climate change – it’s also speculators that are behind record prices. And it’s the planet’s poorest who pay

John Vidal
The Observer
January 23, 2011

Just under three years ago, people in the village of Gumbi in western Malawi went unexpectedly hungry. Not like Europeans do if they miss a meal or two, but that deep, gnawing hunger that prevents sleep and dulls the senses when there has been no food for weeks.

Oddly, there had been no drought, the usual cause of malnutrition and hunger in southern Africa, and there was plenty of food in the markets. For no obvious reason the price of staple foods such as maize and rice nearly doubled in a few months. Unusually, too, there was no evidence that the local merchants were hoarding food. It was the same story in 100 other developing countries. There were food riots in more than 20 countries and governments had to ban food exports and subsidise staples heavily.

The explanation offered by the UN and food experts was that a “perfect storm” of natural and human factors had combined to hyper-inflate prices. US farmers, UN agencies said, had taken millions of acres of land out of production to grow biofuels for vehicles, oil and fertiliser prices had risen steeply, the Chinese were shifting to meat-eating from a vegetarian diet, and climate-change linked droughts were affecting major crop-growing areas. The UN said that an extra 75m people became malnourished because of the price rises.

But a new theory is emerging among traders and economists. The same banks, hedge funds and financiers whose speculation on the global money markets caused the sub-prime mortgage crisis are thought to be causing food prices to yo-yo and inflate. The charge against them is that by taking advantage of the deregulation of global commodity markets they are making billions from speculating on food and causing misery around the world.

As food prices soar again to beyond 2008 levels, it becomes clear that everyone is now being affected. Food prices are now rising by up to 10% a year in Britain and Europe. What is more, says the UN, prices can be expected to rise at least 40% in the next decade.

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Republicans’ 2010 election triumph will fuel civilization’s demise, Chomsky says

From Raw Story:

By Nathan Diebenow
Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

The Republican Party’s triumph in the 2010 congressional elections, coupled with the rapid depletion of the earth’s natural resources, signaled the impending collapse of human civilization, according to a world-renowned scholar known for his left-wing politics.

“You could almost interpret [the election] as a kind of a death knell for the species,” Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a recent interview.

But he’s not the only one worried; the US business press is, too.

Chomsky continued, “There was an article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, you know – not a radical rag exactly. They’re running through the new Republicans coming to Congress, and they’re worried about them.”

The cause for concern is that these newly-elected conservative members that now comprise the majority in Congress believe that global climate change is not the result of human industrial activities.

“One of the reasons is because they’re global warming deniers,” he told the Nation magazine. “Almost all – that means the powerful House committees, like science and technology and so on, are in hands of people who think there’s nothing to it – or at least claim that they think that, but what they actually think is another story.”

Chomsky is one of a number of professionals who have spoken about peak oil and climate change for a video series by the leftist magazine and On The Earth Productions.

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Dagmar Wilson, Anti-Nuclear Leader, Dies at 94

Before there was Code Pink and World Can’t Wait even before SDS was an Anti-war Movement, there Was Women’s Strike for Peace

From The New York Times:

Published: January 23, 2011

Dagmar Wilson, the founder of Women Strike for Peace, a cold war movement that helped organize demonstrations around the world calling for nuclear disarmament, died Jan. 6 in Washington. She was 94 and lived in Leesburg, Va.

Her daughter, Sally Ballin, confirmed the death.

On Nov. 1, 1961, about 50,000 women brought together by Women Strike for Peace marched in 60 cities in the United States and abroad demanding an end to atomic testing. As about 1,500 women led by Ms. Wilson gathered at the foot of the Washington Monument, President John F. Kennedy watched from a window at the White House.

That day, the first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Nina Khrushchev, the wife of Nikita S. Khrushchev, the Soviet prime minister, sent supportive letters to Ms. Wilson. “As mothers, we cannot help but be concerned about the health and welfare of our husbands and children,” Mrs. Kennedy wrote.

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Is Pink Necessary?

Since the 1980s there has been this explosion of “Gender”, as though a social construct has something to do with reality and not with a backlash against second wave feminism and equality of the sexes.

After World War II, in the US there was a concerted effort made to get women out of the industrial jobs they had taken up during the war.  This was meant to free up those jobs for the returning veterans.  Rosie the Riveter was propagandized into turning into Sally Homemaker, consumer and baby producer to add yet more consumers.

Second wave feminism offered incisive analysis of how sex role stereotyping oppressed women by making them into passive, subservient objects. Opposite sexes, never the twain shall meet, man the master woman the servant.

If the 1960s were the years of the Black Civil Rights Movement, Student Movements and the Anti-War Movement, then the 1970s belonged to Women’s Liberation as well as Gay and Lesbian Liberation.

The path to liberation was a fight against sex role stereotyping (gender roles) that ordained subservience and second class citizenship to be based on innateness.  Women who stepped beyond these barriers were considered  in violation of some sort of natural order and suffered a good deal of verbal and other forms of abuse for fighting those stereotypes.

Of all the problems I have with the social construct of Transgender, the largest is their reification of gender making one a man or a woman.  I get called an essentialist for saying women are adult females and men are adult males.

Oh the wailing, the gnashing of teeth, the rending of clothing at the injustice of my saying being a man or woman goes beyond the embracing of gender roles.

You see I’m old enough to remember when parents resisted the advertising propaganda programs aimed at gender propagandizing their kids.

I am also aware of how big a role the reification of gender plays in the misogynistic ideology of the religious right.

I get so tired of the gender babble that reinforces misogyny.  I don’t care if that gender babble comes from right Wing religion Inc or Transgender Inc.

From The New York Times Book Review:

Published: January 21, 2011

The “princess phase.” So inevitable is this period in the maturation of girls today that it should qualify as an official developmental stage, worthy of an entry in Leach or Brazelton: first crawling, then walking, then the urgent desire to wear something pink and spark­ly. Whether we smile indulgently or roll our eyes at the drifts of tulle and chiffon that begin accumulating in our daughters’ rooms around age 4, participation in these royal rituals has come to seem necessary, even natural.

Yet the princess phase, at least in its current hyper-feminine and highly commercial form, is anything but natural, or so Peggy Orenstein argues in “Cinderella Ate My Daughter.” As she tells the story, in 2000 a Disney executive named Andy Mooney went to check out a “Disney on Ice” show and found himself “surrounded by little girls in princess costumes. Princess costumes that were — horrors! — homemade. How had such a massive branding opportunity been overlooked? The very next day he called together his team and they began working on what would become known in-house as ‘Princess.’ ” Mooney’s revelation yielded a bonanza for the company. There are now more than 26,000 Disney Princess items on the market; in 2009, Princess products generated sales of $4 billion.

Disney didn’t have the tiara market to itself for long. Orenstein takes us on a tour of the princess industrial complex, its practices as coolly calculating as its products are soft and fluffy. She describes a toy fair, held at the Javits Center in New York, at which the merchandise for girls seems to come in only one color: pink jewelry boxes, pink vanity mirrors, pink telephones, pink hair dryers, pink fur stoles. “Is all this pink really necessary?” Orenstein finally asks a sales rep.

“Only if you want to make money,” he replies.


Orenstein finds one such enlightening explanation in developmental psychology research showing that until as late as age 7, children are convinced that external signs — clothing, hairstyle, favorite color, choice of toys — determine one’s sex. “It makes sense, then, that to ensure you will stay the sex you were born you’d adhere rigidly to the rules as you see them and hope for the best,” she writes. “That’s why 4-year-olds, who are in what is called ‘the inflexible stage,’ become the self-­appointed chiefs of the gender police.

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