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Obama Silent As US Murders Troy Davis | Common Dreams

Obama Silent As US Murders Troy Davis

Obama deflected calls for him to get involved

by Greg Bluestein

JACKSON, Ga. — Georgia executed Troy Davis on Wednesday night for the murder of an off-duty police officer, a crime he denied committing right to the end as supporters around the world mourned and declared that an innocent man was put to death.

A woman holds a protest sign outside President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters in Chicago, on September 16, 2011, calling for action to stop the execution of Troy Davis. Defiant to the end, he told relatives of Mark MacPhail that his 1989 slaying was not his fault. “I did not have a gun,” he insisted.

“For those about to take my life,” he told prison officials, “may God have mercy on your souls. May God bless your souls.”

Davis was declared dead at 11:08. The lethal injection began about 15 minutes earlier, after the Supreme Court rejected an 11th-hour request for a stay.

The court did not comment on its order, which came about four hours after it received the request and more than three hours after the planned execution time.

Though Davis’ attorneys said seven of nine key witnesses against him disputed all or parts of their testimony, state and federal judges repeatedly ruled against granting him a new trial. As the court losses piled up Wednesday, his offer to take a polygraph test was rejected and the pardons board refused to give him one more hearing.

Davis’ supporters staged vigils in the U.S. and Europe, declaring “I am Troy Davis” on signs, T-shirts and the Internet. Some tried increasingly frenzied measures, urging prison workers to stay home and even posting a judge’s phone number online, hoping people will press him to put a stop to the lethal injection. President Barack Obama deflected calls for him to get involved.

“They say death row; we say hell no!” protesters shouted outside the Jackson prison where Davis was to be executed. In Washington, a crowd outside the Supreme Court yelled the same chant.

As many as 700 demonstrators gathered outside the prison as a few dozen riot police stood watch, but the crowd thinned as the night wore on and the outcome became clear. The scene turned eerily quiet as word of the high court’s decision spread, with demonstrators hugging, crying, praying, holding candles and gathering around Davis’ family.

Laura Moye of Amnesty International said the execution would be “the best argument for abolishing the death penalty.”

“The state of Georgia is about to demonstrate why government can’t be trusted with the power over life and death,” she said.

About 10 counterdemonstrators also were outside the prison, showing support for the death penalty and the family of Mark MacPhail, the man Davis was convicted of killing in 1989. MacPhail’s son and brother attended the execution.

“He had all the chances in the world,” his mother, Anneliese MacPhail, said of Davis in a telephone interview. “It has got to come to an end.”

At a Paris rally, many of the roughly 150 demonstrators carried signs emblazoned with Davis’ face. “Everyone who looks a little bit at the case knows that there is too much doubt to execute him,” Nicolas Krameyer of Amnesty International said at the protest.

Davis’ execution has been stopped three times since 2007, but on Wednesday the 42-year-old ran out of legal options.

As his last hours ticked away, an upbeat and prayerful Davis turned down an offer for a special last meal as he met with friends, family and supporters.

“Troy Davis has impacted the world,” his sister Martina Correia said at a news conference. “They say, `I am Troy Davis,’ in languages he can’t speak.”

His attorney Stephen Marsh said Davis would have spent part of Wednesday taking a polygraph test if pardons officials had taken his offer seriously.

“He doesn’t want to spend three hours away from his family on what could be the last day of his life if it won’t make any difference,” Marsh said.

Amnesty International says nearly 1 million people have signed a petition on Davis’ behalf. His supporters include former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, a former FBI director, the NAACP, several conservative figures and many celebrities, including hip-hop star Sean “P. Diddy” Combs.

“I’m trying to bring the word to the young people: There is too much doubt,” rapper Big Boi, of the Atlanta-based group Outkast, said at a church near the prison.

The U.S. Supreme Court gave Davis an unusual opportunity to prove his innocence in a lower court last year, though the high court itself did not hear the merits of the case.

He was convicted in 1991 of killing MacPhail, who was working as a security guard at the time. MacPhail rushed to the aid of a homeless man who prosecutors said Davis was bashing with a handgun after asking him for a beer. Prosecutors said Davis had a smirk on his face as he shot the officer to death in a Burger King parking lot in Savannah.

No gun was ever found, but prosecutors say shell casings were linked to an earlier shooting for which Davis was convicted.

Witnesses placed Davis at the crime scene and identified him as the shooter, but several of them have recanted their accounts and some jurors have said they’ve changed their minds about his guilt. Others have claimed a man who was with Davis that night has told people he actually shot the officer.

“Such incredibly flawed eyewitness testimony should never be the basis for an execution,” Marsh said. “To execute someone under these circumstances would be unconscionable.”

State and federal courts, however, have repeatedly upheld Davis’ conviction. One federal judge dismissed the evidence advanced by Davis’ lawyers as “largely smoke and mirrors.”

“He has had ample time to prove his innocence,” said MacPhail’s widow, Joan MacPhail-Harris. “And he is not innocent.”

The last motion filed by Davis’ attorneys in Butts County Court challenged testimony from two witnesses and disputed testimony from the expert who linked the shell casings to the earlier shooting involving Davis. Superior Court Judge Thomas Wilson and the Georgia Supreme Court rejected the appeal, and prosecutors said the filing was just a delay tactic.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which helped lead the charge to stop the execution, said it considered asking Obama to intervene, even though he cannot grant Davis clemency for a state conviction.

Press secretary Jay Carney issued a statement saying that although Obama “has worked to ensure accuracy and fairness in the criminal justice system,” it was not appropriate for him “to weigh in on specific cases like this one, which is a state prosecution.”

Dozens of protesters outside the White House called on the president to step in, and about 12 were arrested for disobeying police orders.

Davis was not the only U.S. inmate put to death Wednesday evening. In Texas, white supremacist gang member Lawrence Russell Brewer was put to death for the 1998 dragging death of a black man, James Byrd Jr., one of the most notorious hate crime murders in recent U.S. history.

Davis’ best chance may have come last year, in a hearing ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court. It was the first time in 50 years that justices had considered a request to grant a new trial for a death row inmate.

The high court set a tough standard for Davis to exonerate himself, ruling that his attorneys must “clearly establish” Davis’ innocence – a higher bar to meet than prosecutors having to prove guilt. After the hearing judge ruled in prosecutors’ favor, the justices didn’t take up the case.

The execution drew widespread criticism in Europe, where politicians and activists made last-minute pleas for a stay.

Spencer Lawton, the district attorney who secured Davis’ conviction in 1991, said he was embarrassed for the judicial system – not because of the execution, but because it took so long to carry out.

“What we have had is a manufactured appearance of doubt which has taken on the quality of legitimate doubt itself. And all of it is exquisitely unfair,” said Lawton, who retired as Chatham County’s head prosecutor in 2008. “The good news is we live in a civilized society where questions like this are decided based on fact in open and transparent courts of law, and not on street corners.”

Associated Press reporters Russ Bynum in Savannah, Kate Brumback and Marina Hutchinson in Jackson, Eric Tucker and Erica Werner in Washington and Sohrab Monemi in Paris contributed to this report.

Iranian security forces quash more protests in Tabriz, Oroumiyeh

Iranian security forces quash more protests in Tabriz, Oroumiyeh
Source: Radio Zamaneh

Iranian security forces descended on demonstrations against the drying of Lake Oroumiyeh in Tabriz and Oroumiyeh in northwestern Iran on Saturday, making numerous arrests.


Lake Urmia (Orumieh) is a salt lake in northwestern Iran near Turkey. The lake is between the provinces of East Azarbaijan and West Azarbaijan, west of the southern portion of the similarly shaped Caspian Sea. It is the largest lake inside Iran, and the third salt water lake on earth, with a surface area of approximately 5,200 km square (2,000 mile square).

News outlets linked to ethnic and human rights activists as well as eyewitness reports indicate that security forces were on alert in various Azerbaijan cities in Iran and confronted the crowds with tear gas and batons.

According to HRANA (the Human Rights Activists News Agency), dozens of people were arrested. Some reports indicate that police used plastic bullets, which led to several injuries among protesters.

The Fars semi-official news agency confirmed the unrest but wrote that the demonstrators were rallied by “ethnic” groups, adding that the demonstrators numbered only about 50 people.


Photos: Lake Orumieh Grappling with Death

The Islamic Republic does not let independent and international media cover social and political protests; therefore, it is not possible to confirm details of the published reports.

Protesters maintain that government policies and mismanagement at the local level are the main causes of the rapid decline in the water levels of Lake Oroumiyeh.

Parliament recently voted down a plan to redirect water from the Aras River to Lake Oroumiyeh, which has led to a new wave of protests by environmental and Azerbaijani activists.

Protests in OrumiehAftermath of protests in the northwestern city of Orumieh (Urmia) on August 27.

I do not share the optimism of the designer for being able to make this house for $300, in reality it will cost more than $500 or even closer to $900 but still it is a very good value for a house of this quality.

There are a few issues that the designer of this house did not think of, the first is that CEB is not water proof, if the house is not elevated, then the first 50cm of the walls needs to be sealed very well, either by using an alternative type of block or by using cement blocks.

But overal, this is an excellent idea, good starter to promote the awareness of possibilities using CEB in low cost housing in developing countries.

The CEB used in this design can be made using our open source CEB press machine:

https://www.engineeringforchange.org/discussion/view/91/1

 

via Geopolymer CEB House – $300 Challenge – Rebuild Haiti Better.

Final CEB House with Split Bamboo Screening – credits: Owen Geiger

 All Rights Reserved

















French giant Veolia cut down to size for abusing Palestinian rights

French giant Veolia cut down to size for abusing Palestinian rights

26 August 2011

France is refusing to address corporate complicity in the occupation of Palestine.

The French corporation Veolia once appeared unassailable; today it is ailing. It is faced not only with the global economic crisis but also the growing impact of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against its involvement with Israeli apartheid infrastructure and transport projects. A recent merger between Veolia’s transport division and a subsidiary of the main French state investment fund indicates French industry and government have united to find a simple solution to Veolia’s problems: let the taxpayers finance Veolia’s income losses — and its complicity with Israeli war crimes and human rights abuses against the Palestinian people.

On 4 August, Veolia management held a conference call with major financial analysts to defend the company’s latest figures. It wasn’t an easy task. Veolia’s management was forced to gloss over the terrible financial situation of the group that has forced it to draw up sharp cost reduction plans, initiate a complete restructuring of management, plan the pullout from more than forty countries and search for more investors to cover a high debt.

Veolia has lost more than 50 percent of its share value since March 2011, according to tear sheet data from The Financial Times (“Marketdata: Veolia Environnement Ve SA,” accessed 25 August 2011).

However, among the underlying financial data discussed — €67 million ($96 million) in net loss during the first half of this year; €15 billion ($21.6 billion) net debts; €250 million ($360 million) yearly cost reduction — one number did not come up: the massive financial damage the company has faced at the hands of the BDS movement. Since the beginning of the Palestinian-led campaign in 2005, Veolia has lost contracts worth more than €10 billion ($14 billion) following high profile campaigns.

Veolia’s chief financial officer Pierre-Antoine Riolacci had to admit that its municipal services are suffering a downturn in some countries “in particular with pressure on the downside, namely in the UK where things are rather difficult.”

Ignoring London loss

Surely the CFO had heard the news from across the English Channel the day before the conference call, where Veolia had failed to be selected for a £300 million ($493 million) contract by Ealing Council in London following a determined campaign by the local branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

The worldwide campaign against Veolia was initiated in response to the company’s five percent stake in the consortium that is constructing the light rail project that links West Jerusalem with illegal Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the surrounding West Bank, thereby cementing Israeli colonization and creating the necessary infrastructure for its further expansion. Moreover, Veolia holds a thirty-year contract for the operation of its first line, due to open later this month. Veolia and its subsidiaries also operate bus services, waste management and a landfill all deep within the occupied West Bank, and all for the use of Israeli settlers. All of these projects contribute to war crimes, as defined by the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Refusal to withdraw from Israel

Despite its apparent desperation to reduce costs, Veolia has yet to implement the most effective cost reduction strategy it could: including Israel in the list of countries it plans to withdraw from. Rather than divesting from Israeli colonization of Palestinian land, Veolia is turning to the French state for financial assistance, involving public money in operations abetting Israeli war crimes.

This spring Veolia Transport merged with Transdev into a newly created company Veolia Transdev (“Veolia Transdev: Creation of the world’s leading private-sector company in sustainable mobility,” press statement, 3 March 2011).

Transdev was a subsidiary of the French Caisse des Dépôts (CDC), a public investment authority that manages public funds and is overseen by the French parliament. The CDC is now a 50 percent partner in the newly created Veolia Transdev transport company. According to Veolia’s Pierre-Antoine Riolacci, the entrance of Transdev intp the group has allowed Veolia to “cut back our debt by €159 million [$229 million].” The degree to which Veolia Transdev has come under the protection of the French state is evident in the fact that during the conference call, Veolia Transdev issues were directly dealt with by the CDC’s chief executive Jerome Gallot.

On its website, CDC boasts that it exists to “serve the general interest and the economic development” of France. But pumping French tax money into Veolia to make up for its financial troubles, thus allowing it to push forward projects that serve illegal Israeli population transfers into occupied Palestinian territory, is unlikely to help attain either goal. Moreover, the Jerusalem light rail project contradicts French government policy that East Jerusalem should be the capital of a future Palestinian state. Promoting the project in 2005, then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stated, “This [light rail] should be done … to strengthen Jerusalem, construct it, expand it and sustain it for eternity as the capital of the Jewish people and the united capital of the state of Israel.”

Even before its partial ownership of Veolia Transdev, CDC was involved in the light rail project through its subsidiary Egis Rail, which won a contract in 2008 to assist with managing the project. The current role of Egis Rail is unclear.

Private companies have long been heavily involved in Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, such as building and maintaining the illegal settlement infrastructure, and the wall built on Israeli-occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank. But by investing in Veolia, the French government is bucking a recent European trend of governments to start ensuring public enterprises and institutions are not complicit with Israeli violations of international law.

The German government recently responded to public pressure by taking steps to end the state-owned company Deutsche Bahn’s involvement in the construction of a train line from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv passing through the occupied West Bank. Explaining its intervention, the German transport ministry pointed to the “potentially illegal” nature of the project and the fact that it is inconsistent with government policy toward Israel and the Palestinians (“Letter from German government to Die Linke parliamentarian concerning A1 train project,” 10 May 2011). The German foreign ministry has admirably published an alert on its website warning German companies about the potential legal consequences of Israeli projects in the occupied West Bank (“West Bank, Economy”).

Precedents set by other European capitals

The Norwegian government took a precedent-setting step when it excluded Elbit Systems from its investment portfolio. Elbit is an Israeli arms company involved in the construction of Israel’s illegal wall in the West Bank. It subsequently also excluded Africa Israel and Danya Cebus, two companies which build illegal Israeli-only settlements in the West Bank (“Norwegian government pension fund excludes more Israeli companies,” 23 August 2010).

The British government also took a stand on the issue when, in 2009, the foreign ministry pulled out of a deal to rent office space for its embassy in a building owned by Lev Leviev, the Israeli diamond tycoon who owns Africa Israel and finances development of illegal settlements in the West Bank. The British government also withdrew export licenses to Israel from UK arms companies that provided the Israeli military with weapons or components that have been used during the winter 2008-09 attacks on the Gaza Strip (“Israel arms licenses revoked by Britain,” The Huffington Post, 13 July 2009).

In September 2009, the Spanish government excluded Ariel university from a state-sponsored architecture competition after having become aware that it was located in an illegal settlement.

The French government, however, has so far failed to take action to end such complicity. By doing so, France is not only undermining important precedents set by its allies. It also violates its obligations under international law and the voluntary commitments it has made regarding good governance and corporate social responsibility.

France must honor obligations

When the International Court of Justice ruled on the illegality of Israel’s apartheid wall and related infrastructure in the occupied West Bank, it also ruled that third party states are obliged not to aid or assist the maintenance of the unlawful situation created by Israel or infringements of the right to Palestinian self-determination. Two companies owned by the French state fund CDC — Veolia and Egis Rail — are involved with and profit from such unlawful acts. This calls France’s commitment to international law into question.

In June, the United Nations Human Rights Council approved its new Guiding Principles for the implementation of the Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework, designed to help states and businesses understand their duty to prevent corporate abuse of human rights and their obligations under international law (“Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework,” 21 March 2011).

According to these principles, “states should take additional steps to protect against human rights abuses by business enterprises that are owned or controlled by the state … [including by] denying access to public support and services for a business enterprise that is involved with gross human rights abuses and refuses to cooperate in addressing the situation.”

Involvement in the light rail project also violates the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s guidelines on multinational companies. Considering that Paris is the seat of the OECD, this is particularly ironic (“OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises,” 2008 [PDF]).

The OECD guidelines call for companies to “respect the human rights of those affected by their activities consistent with the host government’s international obligations and commitments.” Israel’s settlements and associated infrastructure violate several key international law treaties, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, all of which have been ratified by Israel and France.

The French government has become a shareholder in Veolia in full knowledge of that company’s role in supporting Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian land. The principal victims of this French policy are the Palestinian people. However, this development should also be of concern to all those who believe in the importance of a functioning system of international law and the implementation of human rights standards. The French people, whose taxes have financed the Veolia Transdev merger, should be especially concerned.

It will be up to campaigners in France and all around the globe to stop governmental buy-ins to illegal operations of private or state enterprises. It will be their task to ensure that the Transdev deal will not be enough to shield Veolia from the impact of the BDS movement’s demand for accountability. The group is in financial trouble and its CFO has admitted that Veoila is losing municipal service contracts in cities and regions that have seen meticulous grassroots campaigning. In December, Veolia will present the full list of countries which it is leaving (“Veolia to leave 37 countries as loss spurs quicker revamp,” Bloomberg, 4 August 2011).

This might be another chance for the company to show that it has learned that failure to respect human rights and the Palestinians’ right to self-determination comes with a price.

Maren Mantovani is coordinator for international relations with Stop the Wall, the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign.

Michael Deas is Europe coordinator for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC).