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As the media world prepares to head to Boston for the Democratic National Convention next week, one of the most interesting related events is likely to receive little coverage outside of the invaluable IndyMedia sites and alternative radio and TV outfits like Democracy Now! and Free Speech TV.
Planned for this coming weekend, July 23rd to 25th, the Boston Social Forum will feature workshops, break-out sessions, presentations, panels and parties, all designed to hash out a helpful vision of how progressives can better work together to promote our common goals and interests. (Click here to register and for more info and click here if you're interesting in volunteering.)
Taking place on the campus of the University of Massachusetts at Boston, the BSF has hundreds of events and exhibits planned for the three-day confab. Confirmed speakers include Jim Hightower, Angela Davis, Sonia Sanchez, Manning Marable, Maude Barlow, Walden Bello, Harry Belafonte, Frances Moore Lappe, Michael Lerner and many others. Other special BSF events include a Saturday afternoon screening of John Sayle's new film, followed by a discussion with the director; an Alternative Media Summit being organized by Take Back the Media and a benefit concert on Saturday night in Cambridge featuring Billy Bragg, the Reagan Babies, the Foundation and Juliana Hatfield.
The BSF--co-sponsored by The Nation along with scores of other good outfits, organizations and publications--promises a good start to what will hopefully a fruitful period of collaboration between progressive groups. So check it out if you'll be in Beantown this weekend.
The Sudanese government is directly responsible for crimes against humanity in its strife-torn western region of Darfur, including the widespread rape of women, Amnesty International charged yesterday in a stinging report.
Refugees from Darfur described a pattern of "systematic and unlawful attacks" against civilians by both a government-sponsored Arab militia and the Sudanese military forces, the international London-based human-rights group said.
Ten years ago, the international community stood by as the Rwandan genocide claimed 800,000 lives. Today, as world leaders remember that human catastrophe with empty expressions of "Never Again," the people of Sudan face a similar fate. In concert with groups like Africa Action as well as the Congressional Black Caucus, The Nation is sponsoring a petition drive calling on Colin Powell as secretary of state to immediately recognize the genocide occurring in Darfur and organize internationally to bring it to an end. Click here to add your name.
Amnesty is calling for an end to the conflict, better protection of civilians, disarmament of the paramilitaries, trials for those carrying out the attacks, and the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to examine war crimes in Darfur. Click here to find out more about AI's work on this issue, click here to read Salih Booker and Ann Louise Colgan's recent Nation editorial for background on Darfur and click here to read Sudan expert Eric Reeves' Nation magazine article, Rapacious Instincts in Sudan, from the magazine's June 4, 2001 issue, for a broader look at the country's political troubles.
Seeking to bolster support for his USA Patriot Act against Congressional attempts to weaken it, Attorney General John Ashcroft recently called the Act "al-Qaeda's worst nightmare." and delivered a 29-page report to Congress citing ways in which the Act has, according to Ashcroft, been instrumental in helping to combat terrorism.
The Patriot Act, passed overwhelmingly by Congress in the weeks after the 2001 terrorist attacks, gave the government significant new powers to conduct searches and surveillance in terrorism investigations and allowed more information sharing among law enforcement agencies.
The release of Ashcroft's report is part of an effort by the Bush Administration to shore up support for the law in the wake of numerous reports and critics's suggestions that many of the Act's provisions are both ineffective and unconstitutional.
One of the most effective (and creative) critiques of the abuses of the Ashcroft Justice Department was recently released by the DC-based group Alliance for Justice, a national association of environmental, civil rights, mental health, women's, children's and consumer advocacy organizations. AFJ has created an online animated movie, Spy-der-man, which uses humor to convey the grave danger of Ashcroft's intrusions on free speech, privacy, due process and religious pluralism.
Have you heard about the recent arson at the WomanCare clinic in Lake Fort Worth, FL? A vicious fire attack destroyed the facility on July 2nd. This is the kind of home-grown American terrorism that doesn't get a whole lot of attention. The Concord Feminist Health Center in New Hampshire--which suffered an arson attack itself in 2000--is organizing a campaign asking people to send donations to help the clinic get back on its feet. It's critical to let those on the frontlines of care know that they have support and that the pro-choice movement won't let the anti-choicers win a war of attrition through violence.
To contribute, please make out a check of whatever amount is affordable to "WCWP Women's Relief Fund" and mail it to: WomanCare of West Palm, 1622 North Federal Highway, West Palm Beach FL 33460. And click here and here to keep up with the latest developments in the fight for reproductive freedom in the US.
Thanks to the Bush Administration, tens of thousands of women serving abroad in the US military are being denied their freedoms, even as they are asked to fight to defend ours.
As NARAL points out on its very useful website, American servicewomen and female military dependents are currently banned from accessing abortion services--even when using their own money--at US military medical facilities overseas. They don't even have the same right Medicaid recipients do to public support in cases of rape or incest.
Senators Barbara Boxer and Olympia Snowe have proposed a provision in the Defense Authorization Act that seeks to rectify at least part of these deplorable, and probably unconstitutional, conditions by allowing servicewomen who are victims of rape to receive abortion care. Given recent reports that sexual-assault cases are on the rise in the military, this is a particularly important time to demand that all women in the military be granted the same reproductive rights as their civilian counterparts.
This July Fourth, the pioneering Adbusters magazine is launching a blast of symbolic disobedience by highlighting the dramatic degree to which American democracy has been undermined and taken over by and for the interests of US corporations. Click here for five ways you can get involved.
With the legitimacy of the US occupation of Iraq falling further in doubt, the Bush Administration has turned to the UN for help. However, Tuesday's Security Council resolution approving a new interim government does nothing to alter the fact that Iraq is still an occupied country. Indeed, the US government announced today that it is increasing the number of US soldiers stationed in Iraq from 140, 000 to 145, 000, despite earlier projections of a troop reduction.
As long as Iraq remains under occupation the violence will not end. With neither of this year's major-party presidential candidates offering a clear plan for the prompt return of US troops from Iraq, United for Peace and Justice has issued an urgent appeal to get our troops home. It aims to get tens of thousands of signatures on two letters, one to President Bush, the other to John Kerry, calling for an end to the occupation of Iraq. The campaign will culminate in a weekend of nationwide protests on June 26 and 27, jointly organized with Win Without War.
Click here to add your name to the letters--and be sure to pass this alert on to others.
Arizona's pioneering system of full public financing of political candidates, called the Clean Elections Act, is under fierce attack by wealthy special interests with deep pockets and national conservative ties that run all the way from Tom DeLay to Bush's fundraising machine. They've raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to put a constitutional referendum on the November ballot that could crush America's best hope for people-powered democracy.
As the lead editorial in the new issue of The Nation argues, progressives now need to rally like-minded citizens to defend Arizona's exemplary model of civic empowerment.
Thousands of small contributions can help beat back this big-donor funded attack on democracy. The Public Campaign Action Fund is asking people to contribute the manageable sum of five dollars (or more) to help keep Arizona "clean" and, if you have the time, to ask your friends to pitch in too.
Why five dollars? Under the Clean Elections Act, five dollars is the most a voter can give a candidate. Small donors mean as much to candidates as big donors because candidates take no big money from special interests whatsoever. Talk about the great equalizer. The bank president can't give more than the teller in his bank. Now you can understand why well-heeled developers, insurance companies, Bush "Pioneers" and corporate lobbyists are so hellbent on overturning the Act.
Please help thwart their efforts to undo a terrific democratic reform in Arizona. And check out The Action Fund's homepage for a range of ways you can help decrease Big Money's choke-hold on politics in the US today.
Last night, in another of a series of speeches sponsored by MoveOn.org, Al Gore spoke to 900 people at New York University in a talk that was interrupted by applause more than a dozen times. Gore accused President Bush of "utter incompetence" on Iraq, adding that the president had "made the world a far more dangerous place and dramatically increased the threat of terrorism against the United States."
As Maureen Dowd noted in her New York Times column today, Gore's remarks represented "one of the most virulent attacks on a sitting president ever made by such a high-ranking former official."
Click here to read and circulate the text of this speech, click here to watch a webcast of the talk and click here for more info on Move.On, which is providing widespread support to the efforts to unseat Bush in November.