Fast-food workers are walking off the job in about 100 cities today in what organizers call their largest action to date. Today’s strikes and protests continue a campaign that began last year to call for a living wage of $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation.
Jeffrey Bartholet looks at the human and political dimensions of the burnings—their meaning, their possible impact, and the battle over who controls the narrative. He also explores the peculiar history of self-immolation, and the related debate among some Tibetan Buddhists about whether they constitute acceptable or unacceptable violence.
This audio-slideshow is part of the Pulitzer Center sponsored project “Tibet Burning: Behind the Wave of Self-Immolations” by Jeffrey Bartholet.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 13, 2011
Public Information: 202-712-4810
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Unilever-Lifebuoy announced a new public-private partnership that leverages their collective resources to improve handwashing practices among birth attendants and family members as a key evidence-based strategy to reduce newborn infections. The partnership was developed in collaboration with USAID’s flagship Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP).
Up to two-thirds of the 3.6 million newborn infants who die within the first four weeks after birth can be prevented. About 85 percent of these deaths are due to a combination of infections, prematurity and complications during labor. Simple, low-cost health interventions could reduce this figure by up to 70 percent. One such intervention is handwashing with soap.
Approximately one-third of the 3.6 million neonatal deaths that occur each year can be attributed to infections that develop into life-threatening conditions. USAID-supported research is strengthening the evidence base on infection management in young infants, especially in community-based settings.
A recent community study in Nepal concluded that handwashing with soap can reduce newborn deaths by up to 44%. For countries where newborn mortality is high, adopting handwashing with soap as a standard practice before delivery and while handling newborns is not only important, but it saves lives.
“USAID is introducing and scaling up the delivery of very simple, low-cost approaches to prevent death and treat severe illness to reach women and children in very poor communities who do not have access to quality health care,” said Richard Greene, Director Office of Health, Infectious Diseases and Nutrition, USAID. “And good hygiene is essential to good health.”
Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps one can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Studies show that washing hands with soap is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diseases: it can cut deaths from diarrhea by almost half and from acute respiratory infections by a quarter.
Global Development Alliances (GDA) like this link U.S. foreign assistance with the resources, expertise, innovation, and creativity of private sector partners and NGOs. Such alliances are vital to the achievement of transformational development goals, and alliances that have the greatest impact are the ones connected to the core business mission of the private company.
“At Lifebuoy, we understand the impact that handwashing with soap can make and have made a bold commitment to change the handwashing behavior of one billion people by 2015,” said Myriam Sidibe, Social Mission Director, Lifebuoy. “Persuading people to change their behaviour for long term health benefits is difficult, and requires a sound understanding of people’s habits, lifestyles and environment. We are proud to be working as a partner of this Global Development Alliance for newborn survival, which will implement effective behavior change interventions based on our collective understanding preventing infections and saving lives.”
Under the President’s Global Health Initiative, USAID is targeting investments where we can most effectively achieve dramatic, meaningful results for the American people and the developing world. Expanding these programs will mean providing easier access at a single location for a broader set of medical and health interventions. It means focusing more clearly and getting the full package of basic health services out to those people who are most vulnerable because they lack access to any protective care at all.
Key to success is motivating birth attendants, new mothers, health providers, and caretakers to adopt handwashing with soap as an ingrained habit to significantly reduce newborn deaths due to infection.
“We look forward to being an implementing partner in this Public-Private alliance,” said Koki Agarwal, Director, Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP). “We are committed to saving the lives of newborns and this is one simple, low-cost intervention that can do just that.”
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID): USAID is an independent federal government agency of the United States of America. U.S. foreign assistance has always had the twofold purpose of furthering America’s foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while improving the lives of the citizens of the developing world. USAID has a long history of promoting handwashing to reduce diarrhea among children under five and has catalyzed global public-private partnerships to promote handwashing. USAID has now expanded the communications message to promote handwashing for newborn survival through this partnership with Unilever. Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP): MCHIP is the USAID global flagship program on maternal, newborn and child health. MCHIP is implemented by Jhpiego, Save the Children., John Snow, Inc (JSI); Macro International, Inc., Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH);Johns Hopkins University Institute for International Programs, Population Services International (PSI) and Broad Branch Associates. Unilever, Lifebuoy: Unilever works with its partners to achieve long-term solutions to the many key global challenges facing consumers around the world. Lifebuoy one of Unilever’s oldest brands, creates products that provide accessible hygiene, and as the world’s leading health soap, we know there is more that we can do. For this reason, the Lifebuoy brand aims to make a difference in people’s day-to-day lives by helping to promote health and hygiene, and in particular encourage people to wash their hands with soap. By 2015, Lifebuoy aims to change the behavior of a billion people by promoting the “Lifebuoy Way” of handwashing with soap at 5 key occasions and hence making a difference and helping save lives.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID): USAID is an independent federal government agency of the United States of America. U.S. foreign assistance has always had the twofold purpose of furthering America’s foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while improving the lives of the citizens of the developing world. USAID has a long history of promoting handwashing to reduce diarrhea among children under five and has catalyzed global public-private partnerships to promote handwashing. USAID has now expanded the communications message to promote handwashing for newborn survival through this partnership with Unilever.
Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP): MCHIP is the USAID global flagship program on maternal, newborn and child health. MCHIP is implemented by Jhpiego, Save the Children., John Snow, Inc (JSI); Macro International, Inc., Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH);Johns Hopkins University Institute for International Programs, Population Services International (PSI) and Broad Branch Associates.
Unilever, Lifebuoy: Unilever works with its partners to achieve long-term solutions to the many key global challenges facing consumers around the world. Lifebuoy one of Unilever’s oldest brands, creates products that provide accessible hygiene, and as the world’s leading health soap, we know there is more that we can do. For this reason, the Lifebuoy brand aims to make a difference in people’s day-to-day lives by helping to promote health and hygiene, and in particular encourage people to wash their hands with soap. By 2015, Lifebuoy aims to change the behavior of a billion people by promoting the “Lifebuoy Way” of handwashing with soap at 5 key occasions and hence making a difference and helping save lives.
Excerpt from “Government Shutdown Hit Federal Workers, Poor Americans” by Zoë Carpenter from The Nation:
Low-income women and children…may not be able to access food and health care. That’s because federal funds will not be available for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides food benefits and clinical services. States may have enough cash to continue operations for a few days, but even federal contingency funds “would not fully mitigate a shortfall for the entire month of October,” according to the US Department of Agriculture, which administers the program. Food stamp recipients would still receive their benefits through the SNAP program, but other nutritional programs would shut down.
Low-income women and children, on the other hand, may not be able to access food and health care. That’s because federal funds will not be available for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides food benefits and clinical services. States may have enough cash to continue operations for a few days, but even federal contingency funds “would not fully mitigate a shortfall for the entire month of October,” according to the US Department of Agriculture, which administers the program. Food stamp recipients would still receive their benefits through the SNAP program, but other nutritional programs would shut down.
Several Head Start programs, which have already experienced crippling budget cuts under sequestration, would feel immediate effects and may be unable to offer educational services to children. By late October, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs will run out of funds to pay compensation and pension to more than 3.6 million veterans.
- See more at: http://www.thenation.com/blog/176427/government-shutdown-will-hit-federal-workers-poor-americans#sthash.5QXUuSR8.dpuf
A surge of attacks on journalists since a new president took office in Yemen may overwhelm the recent progress toward freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. While the government of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi has eased controls on the media as part of broader human rights reforms, it has neither denounced nor prosecuted harassment, threats and assaults by government and private actors against journalists, bloggers, and other critics.
The 45-page report, “‘A Life-Threatening Career’: Attacks on Journalists under Yemen’s New Government,” finds that while Yemenis generally enjoy greater freedom of expression since Hadi replaced Ali Abdullah Saleh as president in February 2012 after three decades of rule, this newfound freedom has been tempered by a rising incidence of threats and violence against the media. In the past, Yemeni journalists faced harassment from government security forces, but they now face threats from other quarters too, including supporters of the former government, Huthi rebels, southern secessionists and religious conservatives.
“President Hadi’s failure to address the attacks on Yemeni journalists not only denies them justice, but makes the media as a whole afraid of further and more serious attacks,” said Joe Stork, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.“If the advances in free speech are to have a real and lasting impact on Yemeni society, the government should condemn and rigorously investigate all attacks on journalists and ensure those responsible are brought to justice.”
During visits to Yemen between February and April 2013, Human Rights Watch researchers documented 20 attacks on journalists. In one case, an outspoken journalist, Wagdy al-Shabi, 28, was murdered in his home in Aden in February, along with a friend. Al-Shabi’s wife heard gunshots in the room where her husband and his friend were talking.
“I saw two men wearing civilian dress and military vests with guns,” she said. “They saw me and started shooting in my direction, but I was able to escape to the bedroom and hid with my children.” No arrests have been made in the case.
In other cases, journalists alleged that members of the security forces or of groups they may have criticized assaulted them or issued death threats. The editor of a journal, Ahmed Said Nasser, 35, said that he received many threats after his publication implicated former president Saleh in a 1977 political killing.
“If you do not stop investigating this file,” he was warned over the phone, “you will be assassinated.”
Another journalist, Hamdi Radman, 33, said that when he photographed army troops dispersing protesters in December 2012, three soldiers approached and began hitting him with batons.
“They kept hitting me,” he told Human Rights Watch. One soldier then “cocked his gun and fired in the air in my direction.”
In all 20 cases Human Rights Watch examined, the journalists or the Journalists’ Syndicate had lodged complaints with the relevant Yemeni authorities. Yet, the authorities either did not conduct a serious investigation or, at best, responded slowly and ineffectually. No one has been successfully prosecuted in any of the cases. Yemeni journalists told Human Rights Watch that the lack of accountability is having a chilling effect on the media as a whole, causing anxiety and self-censorship.
Statistics compiled by the Freedom Foundation, a local group that monitors press freedom in Yemen, indicate the scale of the threat facing journalists. In 2012, thefoundation documented 260 separate incidents involving acts against journalists and the media ranging from threats and harassment to enforced disappearance and attempted murder. The government also prosecuted 19 journalists in 2012 for their writings, including some on criminal defamation charges, which can result in prison terms. In the first half of 2013, the Freedom Foundation recorded 144 attacks and other hostile acts against journalists, newspapers and other media outlets. During the same period, the government accused 74 journalists in 55 separate cases of violating the 1990 Press and Publications Law or other provisions, including criminal defamation charges.
Khaled al-Hammadi, a prominent journalist, told Human Rights Watch that a January attempt by the Defense Ministry to vilify him had caused consternation among other journalists, who feared that if someone of his standing could be so publicly targeted they too could be vulnerable.
“They feel that since the government [verbally] assaulted me, a well-known journalist in Yemen and in the international community, maybe they will be too,” he said. “Especially young journalists who are not wealthy or well-connected, now they avoid sensitive cases.”
Journalists face particular risks when reporting on corruption, which is a widespread and entrenched problem in Yemen. Human Rights Watch is aware of two cases in which journalists were prosecuted for defamation for reporting on officials implicated in corruption schemes.
Senior Yemeni officials told Human Rights Watch in meetings in the capital, Sanaa, in February that Yemen’s political insecurity and instability remained the greatest challenge for the new Hadi administration. They said this hampered their efforts to investigate attacks, not only on journalists, but also against their own security officers and government ministers. A few officials accused the Yemeni media of lacking professionalism and harming the country’s political transition, as if to justify the attacks against them.
The Yemeni government should condemn all attacks on journalists. Carry out prompt, transparent and impartial investigations into the attacks, and bring those responsible to justice, Human Rights Watch said. The Yemeni parliament should amend or revoke laws that restrict the right to freedom of expression and the media, and abolish the Specialized Press and Publications Court, which has unfairly prosecuted and imprisoned journalists on criminal charges.
In early September Human Rights Watch was informed that the prime minister issued a decree to establish a committee to respond to a list of questions sent by Human Rights Watch in June 2013 based on its findings. The committee is headed by a deputy within the Ministry of Human Rights and includes representatives from the Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs and Legal Affairs. The committee held its first meeting on September 4. Human Rights Watch said that the creation of the committee is an important step to cooperating in investigating its findings, and it should have the institutional support not only to respond to the questions, but also to investigate the situation more broadly and to recommend and implement real and lasting changes to improve media freedom in Yemen.
“Merely removing legal restrictions on free speech is not enough to ensure that Yemeni journalists can do their job,” Stork said. “Yemen’s government needs to be much more active in ensuring that journalists don’t have to constantly look over their shoulder to protect themselves.”
19 August 2013 – The United Nations in Haiti today called on key political, religious and community leaders to inspire respect for rights and encourage restraint from expressions of hatred and contempt amid increase in homophobic violence in the country.
“The UN Mission and United Nations agencies and programmes in Haiti are deeply concerned by the recent increase in homophobic violence in the country,” the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) said in a statement.
“The UN urges all Haitians to continue working together towards the construction of a state based on the respect for the rule of law; respect for others, tolerance, individual dignity and human rights,” MINUSTAH added.
The statement follows a weekend attack on the engagement party of a gay couple, with people reportedly throwing stones and setting cars on fires.
“The UN appreciates the intervention of the national authorities to rescue victims of violence and urges increased efforts to prevent further incidents and to prosecute and hold accountable those responsible for the violence,” according to the statement released by MINUSTAH.
Echoing a 21 July statement by la Ministre Déléguée auprès du Premier Ministre Chargée des Droits Humains et de la Lutte Contre la Pauvreté Extrême, the UN community in Haiti reiterated that “tolerance, love, solidarity, serenity, and the respect for others, as well as fraternity, and justice for all remain the foundations of a growing democratic society”.
The statement also noted that Article 19 of the Haitian Constitution stipulates the right “to life, health, and respect of the human person for all citizens without distinction, in conformity with the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights”.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and partners launched in June in Cape Town, South Africa, a year-long effort called ‘Free & Equal’ to raise awareness and respect for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality.
Calling it an “unprecedented” initiative, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended the campaign’s core messages: human rights are universal and we can change attitudes for the better.
“The Secretary-General has consistently called on world leaders to address violence against LGBT members of our human family,” his spokesperson said in a statement, adding that Mr. Ban is personally committed to championing this cause.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 24, 2013, 4:20 PM
Phone: +44 (0) 207 553 8140
WASHINGTON - July 24 - Family members of men detained in Guantanamo Bay have submitted letters to a US Senate Hearing on closing the prison, describing the nightmare of living without their loved ones.
Today the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights – Chaired by Senator Dick Durbin – is holding a hearing on closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay. This is the first hearing of its kind since 2009. Relatives of seven Reprieve clients cleared for release - Younous Chekkouri, Ahmed Belbacha, Shaker Aamer, Abu Wa’el Dhiab, Nabil Hadjarab, Adel al Hakimi and Hisham Sliti - and former detainee Sami Al Hajj, have written letters to be submitted at the hearing.
Younous Chekkouri's German Uncle wrote: "I know this limbo is causing him a lot of pain, and I am suffering too because I know he has been very depressed lately. I worry about his health, and I spend sleepless nights thinking that he may do something to put an end to his anguish."
Cleared Tunisian Adel Al-Hakimi’s brother, Emad, wrote: “Adel has a daughter whom he has never met…the first time they ever spoke together was over an ICRC Skype call…after eleven years, how do you even begin to have a relationship with your child from Guantanamo?”
The son of journalist Sami Al Hajj, who was released in 2008, wrote of growing up without his father: “It is not something I would wish on anyone, ever…I wanted to understand why he was there. There were never any real answers…”
Ahmed Belbacha – an Algerian national who spent two years living in England and has been cleared for release – has an elder brother, Mohammed, who wrote: “my image of him is as an athletic youngster whose passion for soccer seemed a strange match with his love for math and serious study…His indefinite detention and deteriorating health put the family under a lot of stress.”
The Senate Hearing comes amid an escalating crisis at the prison for President Obama – who re-iterated his 2009 promise to close the prison in a major defence policy speech earlier this year. The military says that 46 detainees are being force fed out of 70 on hunger strike, though lawyers for the men estimate the figure to be higher.
Cori Crider, Strategic Director for the human rights charity Reprieve, said: “The words of these families speak powerfully of the damage to America’s reputation that Guantánamo still causes, to say nothing of the pain. They’re also a stark reminder that the government’s response to the current hunger strike won’t just determine President Obama’s legacy; it will shape America’s image in the Muslim world for years to come. It is time to send a cleared man home to his family, be it Shaker Aamer to Britain or Nabil Hadjarab to France. This will end the strike without strife, or further anguish to these families.”
Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.
2,500 California Prisoners Remain on Hunger Strike Over Long-term Solitary Confinement — Without Even a Window
The Los Angeles Times reports: “2,500 inmates still on hunger strike, Lancaster on lockdown.” Reuters reported Monday: “More than 2,500 prisoners in 17 prisons in California remained on hunger strike on Monday, more than a week after refusing food to demand an end to a policy of housing prisoners believed to be associated with gangs in near-isolation for years on end.”
JULES LOBEL, lobel at law.pitt.edu
President of the Center for Constitutional Rights and professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Lobel is the lead attorney representing prisoners at Pelican Bay in CCR’s lawsuit challenging long-term solitary confinement in California prisons. He said today on “Democracy Now!“:
“My clients have spent in some case over two decades in a cell with no windows. They’re not allowed any phone calls — the only way I can get a phone call is through court order. Otherwise they’re allowed no legal phone calls, no family phone calls, no friend phone calls. This is a more draconian situation than most situations of solitary in the United States — and about 80,000 people in the United States are put in solitary. It’s an inhumane practice, but in California they go to an extreme, placing people without any windows, without any phone calls, trying to isolate them.”
MUTOPE DUGUMA aka JAMES CRAWFORD, via Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity at gmail.com
Duguma is a prisoner at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, California, which organized the state-wide hunger strike. He authored “The Call” that initiated the first round of hunger strikes in 2011. He was participating in the current strike as of July 8. Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity can also connect media to former prisoners and family of current prisoners. The program “Making Contact” recently had an edition titled “Survivors of Solitary Confinement.”
Duguma wrote a letter to Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity on Thursday, July 11, and the organization received that letter on Monday, July 15. Wrote Duguma:
“We are in our fourth day and our keepers have remained true to form, because on [Thursday, July 11] they came and kidnapped my [cellmate] and took him to hell row. Hell row is an even more oppressive number of cells used as further sensory deprivation and torture for those already in prolonged isolation. They, for some reason, did not take me. You know that we remain under the usual oppressive conditions, but hell row is about breaking one’s spirits and tearing them down in hopes that they break down, but I don’t think the CDCR [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] realize it, but each and everyone they took to hell row are strong men. They will take their torture head on which is what worries me, and I know that PBSP [Pelican Bay State Prison] officials know this. We all understand what we got to do in order to expose what we [have] been suffering for years without any just cause. Therefore we have no choice but to peacefully protest. Well, I want you all to know [that] despite our circumstances we are strong.”
SARAH SHOURD, sarah at sarahshourd.com, sarahshourd.com
Shourd spent 410 days in solitary confinement while held as a political hostage by the Iranian Government in 2009-2010. She is an author, prisoner rights advocate and contributing editor at Solitary Watch currently based in Oakland, California. Her memoir, co-authored by her husband Shane Bauer and friend Josh Fattal, who were held hostage with her, will be published in Spring 2014.
Shourd wrote an op-ed for the Huffington Post in April. In it she wrote:
“In prolonged isolation, the human psyche slowly self-destructs. On my worst days, I screamed and beat at the walls. I experienced hallucinations — bright flashing lights and phantom footsteps — nightmares, insomnia, heart palpitations, lethargy, clinical depression, and passive suicidal thoughts. I would pace my cell incessantly, or crouch like an animal by the food slot at the bottom of my cell door, listening for any sound to distract me. When I finally got books and television, I found it difficult to concentrate. I would sometimes spend an entire afternoon trying to read the same page, until I got fed up and threw my book against the wall. ...
“When I began to research the use of solitary confinement in the United States, I was shocked to learn that tens of thousands of people are subject to no-touch torture or prolonged isolation on any given day. I learned that immigrants and people deemed a ‘national security risk’ are held in indefinite detention without legal representation or the right to due process, just like I had been. How could I fail to draw a connection between their treatment and my own?”
Shane Bauer recently wrote the piece “Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America’s Prisons:” “When, after five weeks, my knees buckled and I fell to the ground utterly broken, sobbing and rocking to the beat of my heart, it was the patch of sunlight that brought me back.” Bauer notes that in solitary confinement units in California he recently witnessed: “there are no windows.”
ED MEAD, mead at prisonart.org
Mead is director of the Prison Art Project and a former prisoner. He recently wrote the piece “The Problem with U.S. Prisons,” which states:
“The United States has 4 percent of the world’s population, yet holds 25 percent of the global prisoners. In 1970 there were roughly 350,000 people in our jails and prisons. Today there are 2.3 million people behind bars in America. Another 7.3 million under some form of judicial supervision (parole, probation, etc.), and there are 14 million ex‐convicts out on the streets. That’s nearly 25 million people! Add in the family members and loved ones of people impacted by the criminal justice system in the United States and you can see the potential for building a movement for progressive change. ...
“There are men who have served over 40 years in an isolation cell in Pelican Bay Prison’s infamous Security Housing Unit, subjected to sensory deprivation, 23 hours a day in an area half the size of your bathroom. They are not being held for any infraction of prison rules, but rather because prison officials believe these men might be gang members. Others have done 30, 25, 20, etc. years in these torture chambers — and long-term isolation is a form of torture.”
According to a recent study, the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer is not unique. In "Operation Ghetto Storm," the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) found at least 136 unarmed African Americans were killed by police, security guards and self-appointed vigilantes in 2012. Overall, one black person was killed in an extrajudicial shooting every 28 hours. Interview with Kali Akuno, a longtime MXGM organizer and author of "Let Your Motto Be Resistance: A Handbook on Organizing New Afrikan and Oppressed Communities."
"This speaks to the mindset of criminalizing blackness," Akuno says. "We see it systematically throughout this country and really we have to get at the heart of it and have a much deeper conversation. I think the mass movement which is taking place in response [to the Trayvon Martin case] is an opening shot to have that conversation."