The cable news channels wasted no time before crowing over the landslide re-election victory of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. According to exit polls, Christie won a majority of both women and Latino voters, traditional Democratic voting blocs. The political chattering class is abuzz with Christie as the GOP's great hope to retake the White House in 2016. But they miss a vital and growing undercurrent in U.S. politics: grassroots movements at the local and state level that are challenging the establishment, and winning.
"I wasn't scared of drones before, but now when they fly overhead I wonder, 'Will I be next?'" That is the question asked by 8-year-old Nabila Rehman, from northwest Pakistan. She was injured in a drone attack a year ago, in her small village of Ghundi Kala. She saw her grandmother, Mamana Bibi, blown to pieces in the strike. Her brother Zubair also was injured. Their case has become the latest to draw attention to the controversial targeted killing program that has become central to President Barack Obama's foreign policy and global war-making.
Elsa Cruz filed a federal lawsuit in New York this week, months after police shot her husband dead. Last May, Cruz called 911 asking for help with her husband, Samuel. She feared he hadn't taken his medication while she was on vacation in her native country, the Philippines. Eight months, almost to the day, before Cruz was killed, not far away in Harlem, Hawa Bah called 911 to ask for medical help for her son, Mohamed. Rather than getting medical help, Mohamed Bah was confronted by the New York City Police Department. Within hours, he, too, was shot dead by police, hit eight times, once in the head. Mohamed's sister, Oumou Bah, is suing the City of New York and unnamed police officers.
Oil is the source of so much pain in the world. Around the globe, wherever oil is extracted, people suffer a constellation of injuries, from coups and dictatorship to pollution, displacement and death. Pipelines leak, refineries explode, tankers break up and deep-sea drill rigs explode. The thirst for oil disrupts democracies and the climate. Not far from the burgeoning fracking fields of Colorado, Frederic "Rick" Bourke sits in a minimum-security federal prison. His crime: blowing the whistle on corruption and bribery in the oil-rich region of the Caspian Sea.
"We apologize for the inconvenience. The Marketplace is currently undergoing regularly scheduled maintenance and will be back up Monday 10/7/3013." You read it right, 3013. That was the message on the homepage of the New York state health insurance exchange website this past weekend.
Yes, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly known as Obamacare, is going through difficult birth pains, as the marketplace websites went live only to crash. The government is not giving out numbers, but informed observers speculate that very few people have succeeded in signing up for any of the plans so far.
After close to 42 years in solitary confinement, Herman Wallace is free. Wallace is dying of liver cancer, with days if not hours to live at the time of this writing. In a stunning legal ruling, Judge Brian A. Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana ordered Wallace's release by overturning his 1974 murder conviction. As he lies dying, Herman Wallace knows that after a lifetime of enduring the torture of solitary confinement for a crime he did not commit, he is now a free man.
Last week, far out in the Arctic Ocean, the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise approached a Russian oil-drilling platform and launched a nonviolent protest, with several protesters scaling the side of the platform. They wanted to draw attention to a dangerous precedent being set. The platform, the Prirazlomnaya, owned by Russian gas giant Gazprom, is the first to begin oil production in the dangerous, ice-filled waters of the Arctic. The Russian government responded swiftly and with force, deploying special-forces soldiers, their faces masked by balaclavas, threatening the peaceful Greenpeace activists with automatic weapons, destroying their inflatable boats by slashing them, arresting 30 and towing the Greenpeace ship to the northern Russian port of Murmansk.
The likelihood of peace in Syria remains distant, as the civil war there rages on. But the grim prospect of a U.S. strike has been forestalled, if only temporarily, preventing a catastrophic deepening of the crisis there. The American people stood up for peace, and for once, the politicians listened. Across the political spectrum, citizens in the U.S. weighed in against the planned military strike. Members of Congress, Democrat and Republican, were inundated with calls and emails demanding they vote "no" on any military authorization.
As President Barack Obama's attack on Syria appears to have been delayed for the moment, it is remarkable that Secretary of State John Kerry was meeting, on Sept. 11, with one of his predecessors, Henry Kissinger, reportedly to discuss strategy on forthcoming negotiations on Syria with Russian officials. The Kerry-Kissinger meeting, and the public outcry against the proposed attack on Syria to which both men are publicly committed, should be viewed through the lens of another Sept. 11 ... 1973.
"Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence." So said Pope Francis, addressing the crowd on Sunday in the Vatican City's St. Peter's Square. He was speaking about the crisis in Syria, as President Barack Obama ramped up a planned military strike there. "I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people," the pope said.