Slum arsons continue in Parañaque city, Manila for purposes of gentrification

Paranaque city, Philippines (Francis R Malasig:EPA) Oct 29 2015

This young man is fleeing from a slum fire on Wednesday in Parañaque city, a suburb of metro Manila, Philippines. Fifty shanties burned down & 150 families were made homeless. There have been several fires in Parañaque city over the past few years, including several just this year; there have been at least four in the past 6 months. Hundreds of families have been left homeless & with no public housing most simply move back to the site & rebuild.

There are hundreds of slum fires every year in dozens of countries since one billion people now live in sprawling urban squatter colonies of makeshift housing. Fire forensics are seldom reported but fire officials routinely cite a list of causes including faulty & pirated power lines, inflammable building materials, gas tank explosions. Residents usually claim arson & criminal negligence by municipal authorities & the locations of slums in areas targeted for gentrification & development renders the claims of arson not just credible but likely.

Every year, 240,000 rural residents, displaced by the IMF model of agribusiness plantations, move to Manila–making it the fastest growing city in the world. The World Bank reports squatters now comprise 40% of 12 million Manila residents. They are mostly unemployed or part of the informal economy & live on USD$1.00 a day or less. They live along waterways (including Manila Bay), railroads, around garbage dumps.

Parañaque city fronts Manila Bay where squatters build on public domain lands. Under the IMF urban investment strategy, public domain lands now inhabited by squatters must be privatized for commercial & industrial development, including expansion of harbor facilities for international shipping, a casino & resort complex, mega-shopping malls, special economic zones.

There are many Philippine laws, including the 1987 Constitution & historic heritage laws, which prevent the sale of public lands for commercial or industrial purposes. USAID is consulting with the Philippine agency tasked with privatizing public lands to overturn or dodge these restrictions to gentrification. Clearing public lands of slums is preparation for private developers to move in.

In 2008, the Philippine Supreme Court authorized the Manila Development Authority to demolish all “illegal structures & dwellings” along all waterways connected to Manila Bay & ordered it over & done with by December 2015. The court ordered authorities to clear out the shanty residents with no relocation guidelines established. President Aquino & other government minions have made it clear they intend aggressive action to clear tens of thousands of squatters & to relocate them to the rural areas they originally fled from to find work. One government official said he had received orders from Aquino that “If push comes to shove, we will have to blast those houses.” Or burn them down.

Slum residents, fishers, health, church & environmental groups are organizing themselves against privatization of public lands & government aggression, including taking to the courts to fight the encroachments & violations of human rights & Philippine law. Their efforts make clear resident concerns about arson are not misplaced or paranoid. The rate of arsons is certainly accelerating to meet the December 2015 deadline set by the Supreme Court.

These arsons for purposes of gentrification must be exposed & opposed in Brazil, the US, Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, Nepal. & elsewhere. Housing is a human right.

(Photo by Francis R Malasig/EPA)

The stone-thrower in resistance to military occupation in Kashmir & Palestine

Faris Oden & Kashmiri boy

Kashmiri photojournalist, Showkat Nanda, took the photo (on left) of a small Kashmiri boy facing off with stones against an Indian army tank in 2009. In a very moving account, Nanda tells how Indian paramilitary forces were shooting at unarmed protesters in the town of Baramulla. Young boys carried the body of an injured boy shot in the chest away from the scene & handed him to Nanda as he died.

As gunfire cleared the scene of protesters, this small boy came running “as if from nowhere” toward the paramilitaries to stand defiant & fearless against an Indian armored vehicle. When Nanda took the photo, he remembered the iconic image of 15-year-old Palestinian, Faris Odeh, defying an Israeli tank with just a rock in his hand. The photo (on right) of Odeh was taken October 29th, 2000. Ten days later (on Nov 8th), young Odeh was shot dead by Israeli soldiers in another stone throwing incident.

Stone-throwers in both Kashmir & Palestine standing unarmed against brutal military occupation is no longer iconic but the routine of opposition.

We should take a moment to honor Faris Odeh, this Kashmiri boy, & all those who have lost so much & stand so fearlessly against military barbarism–particularly those enduring the Israeli pogrom right now.

Our fullest respect & solidarity.

(Photo on left of Kashmiri boy by Showkat Nanda; photo on right of Faris Odeh from AP)

Why does the U.S. invest so much in Israel?

Abu Dis WB  (REUTERS:Ammar Awad) Oct 29 2015

Many ask why the US invests so much in Israel; others ask the same about India in Kashmir–as if Palestine & Kashmir were just a piece of real estate. We may live in the postcolonial era but colonialism is by no means decisively defeated. Its legacy remains profound & destructive. The colonial powers made sure of that. Under neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism, attempts are underway to restore outright international relations of dominance & catastrophe where racism is the prevailing ideology.

To maintain economic & political hegemony & prevent democracy in the Middle East, the US & European powers use many strategies: they arm & fortify military juntas, medieval monarchies, autocratic regimes (Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan), create & arm military fortresses like Israel, & bomb to smithereens what they think cannot be controlled (Libya). They even create monstrosities like ISIS to create chaos & justify military intervention. The Middle East is all of a piece in US policy.

At no time has Israel ever been a project for liberating Jews from pogroms & persecution. The US turned away boatloads of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany & there is considerable evidence Zionist organizations collaborated in that. Israel isn’t freedom for Jews nor is it simply real estate. It’s a lynchpin of US policy which is turning the Middle East into a killing field.

These Palestinian protesters at Abu Dis in the West Bank hold up the flag of defiance while one young man tries to hammer a hole in the apartheid wall–with heavily-armed Israeli soldiers all around.

Palestinians cannot be for us merely a symbol of intransigent struggle. They are human beings with just demands, not icons–& they are human beings on the front line of struggle against the monstrous depredations of modern colonialism & military terrorism. We cannot allow them to stand unarmed & alone while Israel–armed by the US, alibied by the UN, & justified by media lies–escalates the pogrom against them. Because in every way they are fighting for all of suffering humanity. We are truly all Palestinians. A victory by Palestinians against Israeli apartheid & US military might would open the floodgates of democracy throughout the Middle East & the entire world.

We must continue public protests in their defense demanding Israel end the pogrom & end the occupation. And we must continue to build the hell out of the BDS, the economic, cultural, & academic boycott of Israel which has been so effective for a decade.

(Photo by Ammar Awad/Reuters)

The original sin: teaching kids to grovel; teaching kids inequality

The original sin is teaching children to be obsequious to some rather than respectful to all because it indoctrinates them to accept inequality in human relations. The battalions of social transformation will be formed of those who refuse to be made small & worthless or let others be treated that way.

There is nothing more powerful to witness (or be part of) than those who have been beaten down or vilified come into their own power–from antiracist & anti-colonial struggles to women’s rights to disability rights.

They who will not cower but stand in their own dignity will forge the political power that will make this world suitable for children to come of age in, for all to live & love in.

Saudi-led, U.S.-backed coalition bombs Doctors Without Borders hospital in Yemen

Yemen hospital (Adam Bailes) Oct 28 2015

The Saudi-led, US-backed coalition of military juntas & feudal monarchies bombed a Doctors Without Borders/MSF hospital in Yemen on Tuesday. MSF says the building was clearly marked on the roof & that they provided GPS coordinates to the coalition two weeks ago.

According to MSF, about 200 war-wounded patients were admitted to the emergency room every month. The maternity ward, lab, & emergency room were all destroyed. 25,000 Yemenis have been injured so far in this barbarous war & 5,000 killed. Thousands of buildings, including homes, have been destroyed & 1.5 million people displaced. UNICEF reports this is the 39th health facility bombed in Yemen since March.

This hospital bombing comes only a few weeks after the US bombing of an MSF hospital in Afghanistan & there have likely been many more health facilities bombed there by US-NATO forces in the 14 years of the war. This one made news because it was run by MSF who are screaming bloody murder, as they should. Israel directly targeted hospitals & clinics (not to mention ambulances, homes, schools, refugee centers) in its murderous 2014 carpet bombing siege of Gaza.

It’s very clear that those with the bombers think might makes right & they are exempt from international law. International law is more an ideal anyway than a reality because it is legally acknowledged to be unenforceable–especially when the UN most often brokers for the war-makers. There is no humanitarian way to bomb people, no matter how much establishment human rights groups try to make it so.

The only effective response to all these military assaults making the Middle East a killing field is to rebuild the international antiwar movement demanding an end to the monstrous wars. That is the historic mission of our generations–& one we cannot fail to fulfill.

Photo is young girl with third-degree burns being treated at Al-Jumhori Hospital in Sana’a which has the only burn ward in the country. It’s not certain if the hospital still stands.

Our fullest solidarity with the people of Yemen.

(Photo by Adam Bailes)

Teaching children to grovel

Bill Gates worship in India (Reuters) Oct 28 2015

Schoolchildren in Chennai, India are here celebrating the 60th birthday of Bill Gates. This is so disturbing for so many reasons–beginning with worshipping false idols. The original sin is teaching small children to fawn & do hero worship.

It is particularly grotesque in India to teach children to grovel before an image of Bill Gates, not because of the banal slogan “Grow Rich-Help Others”–although that is bad enough. But primarily because the Gates Foundation is proud of its collaboration with the Indian government & USAID in population control/eugenics programs. These are not family planning centers with prenatal care, maternal & infant nutrition programs, birth control, & abortion services but forced sterilization camps with squalid, unhygienic conditions where women are sent home post-surgery contrary to sound medical practice or dumped in nearby fields to recover, & where there have been several deaths. Sterilization, including forced sterilization, is the cornerstone of India’s corrupt family planning system.

We don’t know who these kids are or why their parents would allow such indoctrination. Like in most countries, schools are places to fill children’s heads full of rubbish to make them subservient & politically stupid. It’s not unlike holding up Christopher Columbus as a hero in American schools or Junipero Serra as a saint in the Catholic church.

(Photo from Reuters)

Palestinian protesters shot at for demanding return of those executed by Israelis

IDF chasing Pal in Hebron (Mussa Qawasma:Reuters) Oct 28 2015

Just so we have the relationship of forces in the occupied West Bank clear in a picture worth a thousand lies:

Israeli soldiers with assault weapons & live ammo are chasing Palestinian protesters in Hebron to break up a protest demanding Israel return the bodies of Palestinians who allegedly stabbed Israelis (heavy emphasis on “allegedly” since no forensic evidence is provided) & were executed without due process by Israeli paramilitary police.

Israel, in violation of numerous international agreements, is now dumping the bodies of executed Palestinians in secret & refusing to return them to loved ones for respectful burial & honors. Once again, we could cite chapter & verse of international law, beginning with the Geneva Conventions, which govern the treatment of the dead, but Israel believes it is exempt from their mandates. That’s called barbarism. It is the legacy of racism, colonialism, apartheid, & ethnic cleansing.

Not to be daunted. Continue to build BDS, the economic, cultural, & academic boycott of Israel (barcode beginning 729) & protest demanding no aid of any kind to apartheid Israel; stop the violence; end the occupation.

(Photo by Mussa Qawasma/Reuters)

The trauma of refugees with children

Syrian refugee mother and child (Giorgos Moutafis:Reuters) Oct 28 2015

This is a Syrian mother & child after arriving on a raft to the Greek island of Lesbos where the number of refugees is increasing in an attempt to beat the onset of blistering winter.

Are any words necessary? None. Except that if regard for human rights were any part of the refugee crisis wrought by war, they would be moved in passenger ships, trains, & buses & not subjected to the vagaries of inclement weather or barbaric refugee & immigration policies.

Immigration is a human right! Open the damn borders!

(Photo by Giorgos Moutafis/Reuters)

The debasement of U.S. electoral lesser evil politics

You know what’s a lot more disturbing than the politically unhinged Ben Carson now being the Republican frontrunner in the polls? That Bernie Sanders is still the leading candidate of the left. But it’s all of a piece in US electoral politics which are stripped of international content & where rhetoric reigns.

The hallmark of leftists who hail Sanders as the savior of US politics is elitism & indifference to international issues like war & ethnic cleansing–at heart an indifference to the lives of working people everywhere.

If you call yourself a leftist & don’t have a broader political vision than the two-party shell game, you might be the left’s version of a redneck & you’re way behind in the learning curve. The overwhelming majority of working people in this country haven’t voted in years because they know there is no difference between the two parties. Will the so-called left ever catch up to the people they claim to lead?

Documentation of Israeli war crimes in handling of injured Palestinians in occupied West Bank

Injured Pal & IDF (AP Photo:Nasser Shiyoukhi) Oct 27 2015

What we have here is documentation of Israeli war crimes against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. This photo should be submitted to an international tribunal holding Israel to account for its monstrous crimes against unarmed & injured Palestinians.

Let the caption testify to the crime: “Israeli soldiers lift a wounded Palestinian man in Hebron, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015.”

The Palestinian man who appears to weigh at least 170 lbs/77kgs & is bleeding & unconscious, is lifted by his limbs with no stretcher in sight. Are they trying to tear him limb from limb? What will they do when his body is lifted off the pavement? Throw him in an armored vehicle for arrest? Dump him somewhere? Drop him?

It is observable that while this injured & unconscious unarmed man is being manhandled, an Israeli soldier (standing over him on the left) is pointing a loaded assault rifle at him? We have a right to ask if they shot him & executed him in cold blood? Israel has some questions to answer. And an accounting to make to justice.

Is Israel unaware of the body of international law dealing with humane treatment of the injured? Do they think they’re exempt from its mandates? Picking up an injured man by his limbs isn’t just an outrage to his personal dignity & humiliating & degrading treatment as outlawed in international agreements; it endangers his life. Roughing up a seriously injured man could kill him. We could cite chapter & verse of international law but Israel would continue to flout it & the UN continue to play stupid in the face of evidence like this photo.

Defend Palestinians against the pogrom of apartheid Israel. Build BDS, the economic, cultural, & academic boycott of Israel (barcode beginning 729) & demand no aid of any kind to Israel. Stop the violence! End the occupation!

(Photo by Nasser Shiyoukhi/AP)