Friday, December 12, 2014

Bill of Rights Day

The Durham City Council will issue its annual Human Rights and Bill of Rights Proclamation at its regular Monday meeting, which happens to fall on Bill of Rights Day (December 15th) this year.  This proclamation was a campaign by the Durham Bill of Rights Defense Committee and other groups several years ago, when the Bill of Rights was being undermined on a national level by Bush-Cheney and immigrant rights were more a major issue in North Carolina.  Obama was supposedly going to bring in hope and change, but the attacks on the Bill of Rights and human rights continue, most recently demonstrated by the CIA torture revelations ( http://www.bordc.org/blog/december-week-action-challenges-cia-and-nsa-crimes ).

Human Rights Day was December 10th and marks the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights in 1948 ( http://www.un.org/en/events/humanrightsday/ ).    

This item from an activist calendar lists some other Bill of Rights Day commemorations in the Triangle:

Annual Commemorations on Bill of Rights Day, December 15: Reading of Universal Declaration of Human Rights by Montessori School of Raleigh Students, followed by remarks of Dan Figgins on provisions of UDHR and Bill of Rights, 10 AM, State Capitol Building, 1 E Edenton St, Raleigh. Sponsored by Human Rights Coalition of NC (919-834-4478).  Proclamations from Chair of Orange County Commissioners, Chapel Hill Mayor, and Carrboro Mayor, followed by reading of first 10 Amendments of US Constitution, 12 Noon, Peace and Justice Plaza (corner of East Franklin and Henderson Sts), Chapel Hill. Sponsored by Orange County Bill of Rights Defense Committee and Orange County Peace Coalition (919-942-2535; 919-918-3432).

The Durham City Council will also issue a Safe Drinking Water Act Proclamation Monday.  

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

STN statement - NC's connections to CIA torture

North Carolina Stop Torture Now
Media Advisory
Senate Intelligence Releases Portions of Landmark Torture Report; Will North Carolina’s Role in Torture Be Addressed?
December 9, 2014

North Carolina Stop Torture Now welcomes today’s release of the historic report on CIA torture by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. The report validates what human rights investigators and journalists have demonstrated for a decade: the CIA conducted a years-long, illegal, and immoral program of torture that has cost our nation terribly in lost credibility, the enmity of millions around the world, and the undermining of our democracy.

The report has special significance in the Tar Heel state for two reasons. First, Senator Richard Burr is poised to become Chair of the committee in January. Sen. Burr voted to release the report, but at the same time signaled his intention to attack its conclusions. Second, North Carolina is deeply involved in the human rights abuses described in the report (details below).

It is not only the obligation of the federal government to commit to transparency and accountability for torture, but our state and its political subdivisions are also required to provide facts and details about torture and to accept responsibility for human rights violations,” said Prof. Deborah Weissman, UNC School of Law. “The Convention Against Torture and other treaties oblige us to uncover and take responsibility for our state’s role in the systematic torture of human beings, now confirmed by the Senate report.”

In addition to grassroots activists, prominent North Carolinians have been calling for torture transparency. More than 190 faith leaders wrote to Sen. Richard Burr in 2013, calling on him to support release of the Senate torture report. In addition, over 1,200 North Carolinians have called for an inquiry on North Carolina’s role in torture.

North Carolina and CIA-Directed Torture

Although the report’s executive summary is coming out, North Carolina’s connections to torture may be buried in the body of the report itself. A large volume of evidence has been compiled by journalists and human rights investigators:

North Carolina has been extensively involved in torture in contravention to state, federal, and international law, particularly by sustaining key aviation infrastructure for extraordinary rendition at our public airports. The Johnston County Airport has hosted Aero Contractors since 1979, and Aero remains the airport’s largest tenant. In 2005, the New York Times exposed Aero as “a major domestic hub of the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret air service.” Aero-operated craft secretly flew detainees to torture chambers in Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan, Morocco, and Libya. They also repeatedly visited the CIA black sites in Poland and Romania where torture was performed directly by U.S. officials. Documentation was supplied to public officials and the media in this 2012 report.

NC-based planes and crews played key roles in the CIA rendition program. One of the planes operated by Aero (N379P) was a Gulfstream V jet nicknamed the “Guantanamo Express.” For a critical period during the height of the rendition program, Aero also operated a Boeing business jet (N313P) from a hangar it built at the Global TransPark in Kinston. Together, these two aircraft conducted dozens of missions in which incapacitated detainees were taken secretly to prisons where they were held indefinitely and without access to lawyers, family, or the Red Cross. There, they were interrogated using torture. Highly skilled pilots and crews operated and maintained these aircraft, likely with full knowledge they were working for the CIA. The names of several of the pilots have been in the public record for many years.

Many of the detainees transported to torture by Aero were clearly innocent, were never given due process, and were profoundly damaged. Those who survived still suffer deeply. This includes Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent; Abou ElKassim Britel, an Italian citizen of Moroccan descent; Binyam Mohamed, a UK legal resident of Ethiopian descent; Khaled al-Maqtari, a Saudi national detained in Iraq; and many more. These men were subjected to brutal treatment. They were strung up in painful stress positions for long periods and endured vicious beatings including to their genitals and torso. They suffered prolonged detention in complete darkness, or were bombarded with blasting sounds. So far, human rights investigators have documented that over 135 persons were subjected to extraordinary rendition. Over 30 of these people – and probably many more – were rendered on flights originating at Smithfield or Kinston, NC, as documented by flight logs and other data here.


Since 2005, concerned citizens have repeatedly contacted North Carolina’s elected officials with information about the state’s role in torture. With the release of the Senate Intelligence report on torture, there can be no excuse for public officials to refuse to address responsibility and accountability for North Carolina’s role in such serious human rights violations.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Stop Torture Now vigil Saturday

NC Stop Torture Now ( www.ncstoptorturenow.org ) will hold a short vigil at the Johnston County Airport, home base for torture taxi and CIA front company Aero Contractors, Ltd, this Saturday (the 27th) at 9:30am.  They are pushing for the release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's report on the treatment of CIA detainees before Congress recesses.  Aero Contractors is allegedly mentioned by name in the report.  Participants should wear orange and bring signs to the new terminal, at 3149 Swift Creek Road in Smithfield.

STN adopted Swift Creek Road through the NC Adopt-a-Highway program and will pick up trash after the event.  Anyone age 12 or over is welcome to participate (but kids age 12-17 have to be supervised by an adult).        

Monday, September 22, 2014

Report back from the people's climate vigil in Chapel Hill

I saw about 80-100 people at the vigil at Peace and Freedom Plaza in Chapel Hill. It was just across Franklin Street from UNC, but it looked like the crowd was mostly from the community (though it was almost all white), with a range of ages.  Solarize Chapel Hill (solarizechapelhill.org) had a table offering a free residential or business solar assessment (but only for Orange County locations) and information about financing and how fast solar would pay for itself.  There will be a NC Conference on Religion and Climate Change Monday, October 13, 10am-3pm at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Raleigh, on "the moral duty to take care of creation" (RSVP www.eventjoy.com/e/creationcare , contact info is northcarolinacreationcare at gmail). I might have missed some other flyers.  The founder of UNC Freedom Club (uncfc.web.unc.edu , also on Facebook and Twitter) spoke and gave out some literature.  When things are looking bleak, I often wonder if human civilization and nature in general are fundamentally incompatible (also emerging technologies versus human life), and major changes are definitely needed, but this seems to be anti-industrial anarchism I can't agree with, being more optimistic about technology and a Marxist.  

Trekking around the UNC campus afterward I found flyers for a Spartacist League "Meet the Marxists" event September 18th.  They probably do this every fall, but I doubt there is a club at UNC.  FRSO (the one that publishes Fight Back!) seems to be gone, leaving anarchists as the only trend left of liberals organized at UNC.  I don't think there is even a Green group.  An SDS zine came out in the spring, promising activity this semester, and advocacy groups like Student Action with Workers and SEAC are still around, but not many political groups.              

Saturday, September 20, 2014

More local people's climate actions

You can find other People's Climate Mobilisation demonstrations at:  http://events.peoplesclimate.org/event/peoples_climate/search/

Around here, it does not list the event in Raleigh, but I didn't know about the march at 2pm tomorrow on Duke's West Campus.   

Besides tomorrow's day of action around climate change, there has also been a lot of talk about resisting the new war in Iraq and Syria, but so far it is mainly about lobbying Congress. If the Administration knows what it is doing, I see this war against the Islamic State as a pretext to control Iraq and topple the secular government of Syria, and there will be "boots on the ground."  And all of this relates to oil and the climate change resulting from powering civilization with oil.        

Friday, September 19, 2014

Vigils for climate justice this Sunday in NC

For people not taking the Greenway Transit bus from Durham to NYC for the People's Climate March this Sunday, there will be vigils for climate justice Sunday (the 21st) in Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Asheville:

Vigil 2-3pm at Peace and Justice Plaza in Chapel Hill (in front of the Post Office on Franklin Street, opposite UNC).  It is being organized by the United Church of Chapel Hill's United Earth Ministries.

There will be a prayer vigil at 4pm at the Community United Church of Christ in Raleigh (814 Dixie Trail), organized by the Triangle Interfaith Alliance, but with other sponsors, such as the Wake County Audubon Society.

There will be a vigil and voter registration 1-3pm at the Vance Monument in downtown Asheville.

This seems to be a religious initiative (see NC Interfaith Power & Light for more information: http://www.ncipl.org/event/local-vigils-and-rallies/ ), but people of all faiths and none should demand that action be taken to deal with climate change.  This year should be a wake up call for our area.  It is probably impossible to say if our greenhouse gas emissions caused the unusual weather patterns this year, but the impacts have been obvious and may be long-lasting.  After the repeated and late cold snaps and ice last winter, there have been very few butterflies around this summer, in numbers of individuals and diversity of species.  That was followed by an unusually cool and wet summer, which helped my corn, but I wonder if this strange weather heralds another bitterly cold winter.  Note that our winters could get worse for a while even though the Earth as a whole is warming up; snow isn't evidence that human-caused climate change isn't happening.      


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Forum on human rights abuses on NC tobacco farms this Sunday

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee, the National Farm Worker Ministry, the NC AFL-CIO, and Triangle Friends of Farmworkers are hosting a panel discussion on abuses of farmworkers in the local tobacco industry, Sunday, July 27th, 4-6pm at the Pullen Memorial Baptist Church's Fellowship Hall (1801 Hillsborough Street in Raleigh).  Two British members of Parliament have been on a fact finding mission here for two days in relation to the company British American Tobacco and will speak about what they have seen and heard, as will farmworkers and advocates, including a representative from OXFAM.  FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez will lead a discussion of what can be done to improve conditions in the fields. Representatives Price and Butterfield were invited, but it isn't certain if they will show solidarity.