The First 9/11, a Half-Century On

It is early morning on a Tuesday, September 11, a day like any other day. Soon that feeling of ordinariness and calm will be shattered by two planes attacking iconic buildings. By the end of this day many people’s lives will be destroyed, a nation will be shaken to its core, a tainted page in history will be written and the world will be changed forever.

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Mr. B’s Great Adventure and the Power of Yes

...Entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte, it is reported through the static of the bus radio speakers, has just created a storm of controversy by criticizing Colin Powell, the secretary of state in the administration of U.S. president George W. Bush. In an interview with a radio station in San Diego, located on the opposite end of California from where I was living at the time, Belafonte had blasted Powell, a fellow Jamaican American, for kowtowing to the wishes of his white boss, Bush, instead of standing up on principle and condemning the dangerous direction the Bush administration was leading the USA post-911.

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Going Indigenous: A Choice for the Planet

Extreme climate change continues to wreak havoc across the Earth, from crumbling coastlines to deadly droughts to killer hurricanes to flash floods to out-of-control wildfires, and beyond. The signs of a planet in distress are there for all to see. But no one feels the effects of climate disasters more than the 370 million indigenous peoples from nearly a hundred countries in all regions of the world. They have literally been sounding the emergency alarm bells about climate disasters for decades now and have mostly been ignored by the rest of us.

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The Coat Hanger Diaries — America’s New Abortion Story

Anna Yocca was 31 years old when she tried to abort a fetus in her womb that she did not want to carry any longer. In an act of sheer desperation, she used a coat hanger rod in a bathtub full of water to try to end her pregnancy, which was 24 weeks along. When the bleeding wouldn’t stop, she called for medical help and was transported to a hospital, where she gave birth to a severely injured baby. She was soon arrested by police and charged with attempted murder of her child.

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When Tyrants of a Feather Flock Together

The world watches in horror as an act of genocidal war unfolds before our eyes, with Russian president/dictator Vladimir Putin unleashing his country’s full military might against the sovereign eastern European nation of Ukraine, located next door. The Ukrainian people are fighting back bravely for their lives, with no other choice but to confront this modern-day Hitler and his fascist fantasy of a new Russian empire.

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A Supreme Teacher Continues On...

...It is August 2002, nearly a year after 11 September 2001, and the Native brother is participating in a sangha, or community, of Vietnam war veterans organized by Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh at Stonehill College, a private Catholic school located in Easton, Massachusetts. Like me, Nhat Hanh was in the United States at the time of 9/11 and saw firsthand the dangerous wave of fear, ignorance and hate that quickly rose up throughout the land: A “war on terrorism” was officially declared, the nation of Afghanistan was soon invaded and now the U.S. government was preparing for a second invasion in Iraq.

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Free Peltier — This Time for Real

Six years ago, I joined with many around the world in appealing directly to Barack Obama, president of the United States, for executive clemency for Native American activist Leonard Peltier — the longest-serving political prisoner in the USA. Our appeal was for Obama to use his power of the presidency to set Peltier free. The legal case that the government of the USA constructed to put Peltier behind bars back in 1977 was marred through and through by incompetence and fraud, to put it mildly. It was time to let Peltier go and draw a close to that sad chapter of history.

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Accolades for the Archbishop

It is early morning somewhere in rural South Africa, the sun not yet rising over the horizon. In the dim morning light, through the slowly lifting fog — or is it smoke from the nearby shacks? — I am walking up some makeshift steps on the side of a steep ravine. I look over at the person walking up next to me and study the lines on his face: It is Desmond Tutu, the revered Anglican Church archbishop of South Africa. He is showing me around here, he explains, because he wants me to see how people in South Africa really live, the poverty they still have to face in the land of apartheid.

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The Great American War Hero Who Wasn’t

News media worldwide are awash now with stories about the recent death of Colin Powell, a towering figure in the world of American military matters and diplomacy, at the age of 84 due to coronavirus-related causes. Past presidents of the United States, not to mention right-wing media and the corporate press in general, are showering the late Powell with praise as a “great American,” a patriot and a war hero in the grand tradition of warmongering in the USA.

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America on Fire — A Moral Reckoning Arrives

In the countryside, mountain wildfires rage out of control, destroying all life in their path for hundreds of miles at a time. The daytime skies are covered with layers of ash and smoke, and in the evening are lit up by a luminescent orange-yellow glow. Meanwhile, in the cities, mostly peaceful public protests boil over, igniting some local buildings in ferocious flames. The orange-yellow-tinted nighttime skies, punctuated by police helicopter searchlights, radiate with rage and the heat of history.

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Butcher, Baker, Dictator, Liberator

Robert Gabriel Mugabe, the former president of Zimbabwe, has died at age 95 in Singapore, while receiving medical treatment there over the past few months. Just as he was in life, Mugabe in death is a highly controversial political figure, with a legacy that is as much celebrated as castigated, as much praiseworthy as unworthy.

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The Ghosts of Tiananmen, Thirty Years On

Like many around the world, I sat glued before the television set, transfixed by the scenes of thousands of people jamming a public square in the Chinese capital of Beijing for weeks on end as they demanded democracy and a more honest, open form of government from their political leaders. It was the spring of 1989, and I was living in a tiny one-room apartment in downtown Osaka, Japan and working as a journalist.

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A People’s Cry, a Heroine’s Silence

Rhino Records released in 2004 a compilation CD of various artists from around the world coming together for a good cause: “Dedicated to freeing Aung San Suu Kyi and the courageous people of Burma,” as the front cover of the CD boldly noted. This two-disc set, titled For the Lady, featured tracks by the usual fare of socially conscious liberal/leftish artists, plus a few more apolitical types — like former Beatle Paul McCartney and guitarist Eric Clapton — that you normally wouldn’t see on this kind of overtly political music release.

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A New Media Storyline for MLK (pt. 1)

Today, 16 January, the people of the United States of America will recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday. And just as they have for most of the 31 years that the birthday of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has been a nationally observed holiday, the American news media will basically get the story wrong.

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A New Media Storyline for MLK (pt. 2)

• 1968 — The new year of 1968 begins on a turbulent note with a severe routing of U.S. forces in South Vietnam as part of the successful “Tet offensive” of the North Vietnamese guerrilla fighters, exposing the lies of U.S. military commanders and President Johnson himself that the USA was winning the war in Vietnam. U.S. public opinion against the war rises steadily from this point onward. Rev. King, at this critical time, stands at the forefront of the nation’s anti-war movement. And, as the above editorial cartoon shows, King is being increasingly viewed by white America as a rabble-rouser and a "troublemaker" who needed to be dealt with; U.S. government agencies such as the FBI are treating King as public enemy No. 1.

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Castro’s Most Enduring Legacy: An African Story

Say the words “Cuito Cuanavale” to the average American citizen, liberal and conservative alike, and you’re likely to get a shrug and a blank stare in response. Add the name “Fidel Castro” to that phrase and you’ll instantly notice a nervous tick in their squinting eyes. Dare to throw the word “hero” into the mix and you’ll see a definite jerking motion in their knees and a reddening in the face.

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A Pardon for Peltier

Dear President Obama: You have many important domestic and international issues before you at the moment that require your time and attention, and the fate of a 71-year-old man in failing health who has been in prison on U.S. soil for more than 40 years for a crime that, by all credible accounts, he did not commit is probably not among your highest priorities.

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We are Sandra Bland

...In the case of Ms. Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old African-American citizen, the “crime” was a much simpler and thus more insidious one: a very minor traffic violation in Texas in July that led to her being arrested on a major felony charge. She was found to have killed herself by hanging in her jail cell three days later. Bland’s surviving family members do not believe the official ruling that she took her own life while behind bars, and neither do I. Looking closely at all the facts in the case, it's not hard to come to the conclusion that an official police cover-up of some kind was (and still is) in place.

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Apartheid, American-Style

I wondered aloud in a recent blog post how young people in the USA get their hands on high-caliber weapons, often with tragic consequences of innocent people getting killed. But I could just as well ask the same thing about police forces throughout the United States.

Ferguson, Missouri immediately comes to mind, of course, and the shooting death by police of 18-year-old Michael Brown. But contrary to what the apologists might say, we have seen this tragic scenario play out many times over the years in the United States of America, and it goes something like this:

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No Room for Hate Speech in Japan

In my first few years working as a journalist in Japan in the late 1980s, I immersed myself in covering issues pertaining to the Korean community. It was as good an education as any young, eager reporter in this country could get: One of the hottest issues I was covering at the time was the forced fingerprinting that tens of thousands of ethnic Koreans living in Japan had to go through from age 16, and the identification they had to carry on them at all times.

Never mind that many of these Koreans were born and raised in Japan, yet not allowed to vote under Japanese law or even to obtain Japanese citizenship. They were a kind of stateless minority in Japan, and were tired of being treated that way.

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Two Films, One Planet

I have come upon two new documentary films that tackle urgent problems facing humanity, though they do so from different angles. Both films reinforce, for me, the basic idea that we are all one family living on one planet — and that we need to work together even more closely to get these problems solved for the future.

Let me share a bit about the two films with you, and with an encouragement for you to look into them yourself and arrive at your own judgments.

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One Billion Women Rising...and Rising

If you’ve known women in your life, as I have in mine, who were victims of violent abuse sometime in their lives and are still dealing with the pain, then you know how important the “One Billion Rising” event held worldwide on 14 February was in demanding an immediate end to this violence against women.

One billion is the number of girls or women who are projected to suffer violent physical abuse at some point in their lives at the hands of men. That’s one out of every three girls or women worldwide. One Billion Rising was, first and foremost, a campaign for women to unify, stand up in great numbers and reclaim themselves — physically, mentally, spiritually — and to do it through dance.

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Standing Up to Betrayal

A handwritten placard held up by a First Nations protester in Canada warns: Get Ready 4 Indian Spring, referring to the “Arab Spring” citizen uprisings that have literally redrawn the political maps in several Middle Eastern countries in recent years. Something strong indeed seems to be stirring in indigenous communities in Canada and elsewhere, yet for the most part the story is still underreported (and unreported) by the big news companies of the world.

That may change in this coming spring season. In recent months the “Idle No More” social movement based in Canada has reignited sparks of Native pride, mass action and solidarity, both within and beyond Canadian borders, like few others have in recent times.

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