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09.07.2021 – Still I Rise

This post is also available in: Italian

North-west Syria: humanitarian catastrophe  without the renewal of UN resolution
(Image by Still I Rise)

The UN resolution for humanitarian aid through the Bab Al-Hawa crossing expires on 10 July 2021: if it is not renewed, the lives of 3.4 million people will be in thrall to Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. The appeal of Still I Rise.

A real humanitarian catastrophe: this is the prospect for North-West Syria if the UN Security Council resolution that allows cross-border humanitarian aid through the Bab Al-Hawa crossing is not renewed on 10 July.

The renewal is put at serious risk by Russia, which supports Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. The Country has already made it clear that they wish for this border point to be closed, and for humanitarian aid to North West Syria to come directly from Damascus and the regime-held areas. If this position were to pass, this would be a disaster for 3.4 million civilians, who are already at the end of their strength and under constant attack.

In June alone, the regime – backed by Russia – killed at least 46 people in the region, according to an estimate by White Helmets – Syria Civil Defence. Among the places bombed, a cemetery was hit during a funeral and a house whilst the family was having breakfast.

«When the news broke that the UN security council resolution might not be extended, and aid completely cut, prices skyrocketed. Most people are barely managing to survive, and if humanitarian aid gets cut they will have no other choice but to either die or move again and, as borders stay shut, the only option would be to move to regime held areas – where they risk torture, death or having to fight», says Abdulkafi Alhamdo, Syria Program Manager of Still I Rise. «Assad’s regime knows this, and we are afraid they are going to use food as a weapon: “starvation or submissiveness”, as the informal motto in many parts of Syria goes. Are food and medicine really a privilege that world leaders have to vote on? Is keeping people alive a matter that needs being negotiated over?».

About a thousand trucks a month pass through the Bab Al-Hawa crossing with food, medical and educational supplies, life-saving aid and even what few Covid-19 vaccines North-West Syria has been able to secure for the population.

More than 2.7 million Syrians from other parts of the country are displaced in this area: if they returned to the regime-controlled areas, they would risk their lives. More than 1.7 million live in camps with very limited access to running water or electricity, of which 80% are women and children. Furthermore, most people have great difficulty finding food, and severe acute malnutrition in children increased 55% in the month of April 2021 only.

Life in these camps is getting tougher and tougher, as witnessed every day by the students of Ma’an, the Still I Rise education centre in the city of Ad Dana. Through photographs taken for the “Through Our Eyes” project, they describe an alienating and exhausting reality they have been forced to live with all their lives.

Like Tammam, 15, who accompanies three of his photographs with this thought: “I had a home, and the tent is now my shelter. I had a city but now this camp is my city. Kids like life, but these kids are chained to the life of these little tents. Some people are trying to rebuild. My worst nightmare is that my tent could become my forever home.”

In this already highly dramatic context, the closure of the Bab Al-Hawa crossing would mean condemning civilians to an incalculable catastrophe. «We are incredibly anxious and worried that the resolution might not be renewed and look in horror at the scale of devastation millions of people would have to go through. Syrians have suffered more than enough», says Giulia Cicoli, Advocacy Director of Still I Rise. «We are hoping that, at least for once, politicians and world leaders will put people before their political agenda, and that the Bab Al-Hawa border will stay

09.07.2021 – Pressenza Athens

This post is also available in: Greek

Open letter from ΜέΡΑ25 and SYRIZA to Biden on Assange
Immagine: johnpilger.com

(Similar letters to the US President have been sent by members of the British and Australian Parliaments (including members of the conservative governing parties).) In this context, ΜέΡΑ25 formally addressed the Parliamentary Groups of the New Democracy, SYRIZA, Kinal and KKE asking them to sign. New Democracy and KINAL did not respond, while KKE refused to endorse the letter – which, in the end, was signed by MPs from ΜέΡΑ25 and SYRIZA.)

President Joe Biden

White House 1600
Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington DC 20500 USA

2nd July 2021

Dear Mr President,

We are addressing you as Members of Greece’s Parliament to congratulate you for your recent comments in defense of media freedom.

As President Obama’s Vice President, you played an important role in the decision not to prosecute Julian Assange over publications relating to the Afghan and Iraq wars and conditions in Guantanamo Bay. You, like us, must have been disappointed when your predecessor launched a prosecution carrying a 175-year sentence against a globally renowned publisher and free press campaigner for his 2010 award-winning publishing work, which was carried out in the United Kingdom.

Civil liberties groups and top newsrooms alike view the government’s prosecution against this publisher with alarm. The Washington Post’s Executive Editor writes that the indictment is “criminalizing common practices in journalism that have long served the public interest”. The New York Times Editorial Board considers it to be “aimed straight at the heart of the First Amendment”, and for Amnesty International, “the charges against him should never have been brought in the first place” because it is “putting media freedom and freedom of expression on trial”.

Earlier this year Westminster Magistrates Court, in the United Kingdom, refused the US application to extradite Julian Assange to the US. The Guardian Editorial Board noted that your incoming administration “can, and should, let Mr. Assange walk free”. We had hoped that this might be the occasion to draw a line under this prosecution. Unfortunately, the US Department of Justice is still pursuing this case, leaving Julian Assange facing a third year of incarceration in Belmarsh High-Security prison.

Mr. Assange, an Australian member of the press who had been invited to this country by The Guardian in 2010 to work on these publications in concert with the UK’s free press traditions, is the subject of a US criminal case. The effect of your predecessor’s decision to take a criminal case against a member of the press working in our country is to restrict the scope of permissible press activities anywhere around the world, and set a precedent that others will no doubt exploit.

The case against Mr. Assange weakens the right to publish important information that a government finds uncomfortable. Indeed, this value is central to a free and open society. The case against Mr. Assange also undermines public confidence in our legal systems. Our countries are also increasingly confronted with the contradiction of advocating for press freedom abroad while holding Mr. Assange for years in the UK’s most notorious prison at the request of the US government.

We appeal to you to drop this prosecution, an act that would be a clarion call for freedom that would echo around the globe.

Sincerely

The Members of the Parliamentary Groups of MeRA25 and SYRIZA in Greece’s Parliamenthttps://www.facebook.com/v3.0/plugins/like.php?action=like&app_id=&channel=https%3A%2F%2Fstaticxx.facebook.com%2Fx%2Fconnect%2Fxd_arbiter%2F%3Fversion%3D46%23cb%3Df14f1b3e04afaf%26domain%3Dwww.pressenza.com%26origin%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.pressenza.com%252Ffab100b4a12d58%26relation%3Dparent.parent&container_width=0&href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pressenza.com%2F2021%2F07%2Fopen-letter-from-%25ce%25bc%25ce%25ad%25cf%2581%25ce%25b125-and-syriza-to-biden-on-assange%2F&layout=button_count&locale=en_US&sdk=joey&share=false&show_faces=truehttps://www.facebook.com/v3.0/plugins/share_button.php?app_id=&channel=https%3A%2F%2Fstaticxx.facebook.com%2Fx%2Fconnect%2Fxd_arbiter%2F%3Fversion%3D46%23cb%3Df71c1472e046b8%26domain%3Dwww.pressenza.com%26origin%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.pressenza.com%252Ffab100b4a12d58%26relation%3Dparent.parent&container_width=0&href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pressenza.com%2F2021%2F07%2Fopen-letter-from-%25ce%25bc%25ce%25ad%25cf%2581%25ce%25b125-and-syriza-to-biden-on-assange%2F&layout=button_count&locale=en_US&sdk=joey

09.07.2021 – US, United States – David Swanson

Biden Defends Ending a War He’s Not Fully Ending
(Image by Sohaib Ghyasi on Unsplash)

It’s been a dream of peace-loving people everywhere for over 20 years now for a U.S. government to end a war and to speak in support of having done so. Sadly, Biden is only partially ending one of the endless wars, none of the others having yet been fully ended either, and his remarks on Thursday were too glorifying of war to be of much use in the cause of abolishing it.

That said, one would not wish for Biden to bow before the belligerent demands of the U.S. media and escalate every possible war until all life on earth is ended on a day of record ratings and advertising revenue. It’s helpful that there is some limit to how far he’ll go.

Biden pretends that the United States attacked Afghanistan legally, justly, righteously, for noble motives. This is harmful false history. It seems helpful at first because it feeds into his “We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build” schtick which becomes a basis for withdrawing troops. However, bombing and shooting people doesn’t actually build anything no matter how long or how heavily you do it, and actual assistance to Afghanistan — reparations in fact — would be a very appropriate third choice beyond the false dichotomy of shoot them or abandon them.

Biden pretends not only that the war was launched for good reason, but that it succeeded, that it “degraded the terrorist threat.” This is an example of going so big with a lie that people will miss it. The claim is ludicrous. The war on terrorism has taken a couple of hundred cave-dwellers and expanded them into thousands spread across continents. This crime is a horrendous failure on its own terms.

It’s nice to hear from Biden that “it’s the right and the responsibility of the Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country.” But he doesn’t mean it, not with a commitment to keeping mercenaries and lawless agencies in Afghanistan, and missiles ready to do further damage from outside its borders. This has long been largely an air war, and you can’t end an air war by removing ground troops. Nor is it especially helpful to wreck a place and then declare it the responsibility of those left alive to run it now.

Not to worry, however, because Biden proceeded to make clear that the U.S. government would continue funding, training, and arming the Afghan military (clearly at a reduced level). He then recounted how he had recently instructed that government as to what it needed to do. Oh, and he plans to get other nations to control an airport in Afghanistan — in support of course of Afghanistan’s rights and responsibilities.

(He added as a side note that the U.S. would “continue to provide civilian and humanitarian assistance, including speaking out for the rights of women and girls.” This effort compares with what’s needed as Biden’s domestic health, wealth, environment, infrastructure, education, retirement, and labor efforts compare with what’s needed.)

All is well, Biden explains, and the reason the U.S. is helping people who collaborated in its evil occupation flee for their lives is simply that they don’t have jobs. Of course there isn’t anybody else anywhere in the world who doesn’t have a job.

If you make it this far into Biden’s firehose of BS, he starts sounding quite sensible:

“But for those who have argued that we should stay just six more months or just one more year, I ask them to consider the lessons of recent history. In 2011, the NATO Allies and partners agreed that we would end our combat mission in 2014.  In 2014, some argued, ‘One more year.’  So we kept fighting, and we kept taking [and primarily causing] casualties.  In 2015, the same.  And on and on. Nearly 20 years of experience has shown us that the current security situation only confirms that ‘just one more year’ of fighting in Afghanistan is not a solution but a recipe for being there indefinitely.”

Can’t argue with that. Nor can one argue with the admissions of failure that follow (albeit in conflict with the earlier claim of success):

“But that ignores the reality and the facts that already presented on the ground in Afghanistan when I took office: The Taliban was at its strongest mil- — is at its strongest militarily since 2001. The number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan had been reduced to a bare minimum.  And the United States, in the last administration, made an agreement that the — with the Taliban to remove all our forces by May 1 of this past — of this year.  That’s what I inherited.  That agreement was the reason the Taliban had ceased major attacks against U.S. forces. If, in April, I had instead announced that the United States was going to back — going back on that agreement made by the last administration — [that] the United States and allied forces would remain in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future — the Taliban would have again begun to target our forces. The status quo was not an option.  Staying would have meant U.S. troops taking casualties; American men and women back in the middle of a civil war.  And we would have run the risk of having to send more troops back into Afghanistan to defend our remaining troops.”

If you can overlook the total indifference to the vast majority of the lives at stake, the obsession with U.S. lives (but avoidance of fact that most U.S. military deaths are suicides, often after withdrawal from a war), and the pretense of innocently stumbling into a civil war, this is basically right. It also gives Trump a good deal of credit for locking Biden into partially getting out of Afghanistan, just as Bush forced Obama to partially get out of Iraq.

Biden then moves on to admitting that the war on terrorism has been the opposite of the success he claimed:

“Today, the terrorist threat has metastasized beyond Afghanistan.  So, we are repositioning our resources and adapting our counterterrorism posture to meet the threats where they are now significantly higher: in South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.”

In the same breath he makes clear that the withdrawal from Afghanistan is only partial:

“But make no mistake: Our military and intelligence leaders are confident they have the capabilities to protect the homeland and our interests from any resurgent terrorist challenge emerging or emanating from Afghanistan. We are developing a counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States in the region, and act quickly and decisively if needed.”

Here we have the pretense that the wars follow the spontaneous generation of terrorism, rather than stimulating it. This is followed quickly by an expression of eagerness for other wars elsewhere despite the absence of any terrorism:

“And we also need to focus on shoring up America’s core strengths to meet the strategic competition with China and other nations that is really going to determine — determine our future.”

Biden closes by repeately thanking the troops for the “service” of wrecking Afghanistan, pretending Native Americans are not people and the wars on them not real and the war on Afghanistan the United States’ longest, and asking God to bless and protect and so on.

What could make such a presidential speech look good? The revolting reporters who ask questions aftrwards, of course! Here are some of their questions:

“Do you trust the Taliban, Mr. President?  Do you trust the Taliban, sir?”

“Your own intelligence community has assessed that the Afghan government will likely collapse.”

“But we have talked to your own top general in Afghanistan, General Scott Miller.  He told ABC News the conditions are so concerning at this point that it could result in a civil war.  So, if Kabul falls to the Taliban, what will the United States do about it?”

“And what do you make — and what do you make, sir, of the Taliban being in Russia today?”

In addition the U.S. media is now, after 20 years, interested in the lives of Afghans killed in the war!

“Mr. President, will the United States be responsible for the loss of Afghan civilian lives that could happen after a military exit?”

Better late than never, I guess.

 

10.07.2021 – Pressenza Athens

This post is also available in: Greek

French pharmacy student the first winner of basic income raffle
(Image by UBI4ALL online event)

On June 16, 2021, the first one-year basic income of 800 euros by the UBI4ALL initiative was raffled.

The live online event was attended by 6,100 viewers from almost all European countries, such as Greece, Malta, Finland, the United Kingdom, Cyprus and even Canada. Throughout the event, viewers were commenting about the event, shared their enthusiasm for Unconditional Basic Income and finally congratulated the winner.

The live raffle used an app and the number 19077 was the lucky number. The winner was among the viewers, Lucie, a pharmacy student from France, who appeared at the event and said she was very excited and emotional at the same time. She told us that she has just finished her studies and that a Basic Income of 800 euros for one year will help her choose a career with less stress and less financial insecurity. You will learn more about her and the time she will spend having a Basic Income in the coming weeks and months. Stay tuned!

The organizers urge us to re-experience this soon and with the help of all of us to raffle a second basic income before the end of 2021, as the amount for the raffle is collected through crowdfunding.

Watch the event here.

Read more on the UBI4ALL blog.

Related articles:

UBI4ALL: a self-funded pilot project

What would you change in your life if your income was secured?

How can we influence European policies as citizens?

September 25: The collection of signatures for the European Citizens’ Initiative for an unconditional basic income begins.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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