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PARK CITY, Utah -- On March 21, 1915, a motion picture was screened for the first time inside the White House. President Woodrow Wilson sat down to watch D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation. The film, considered one of the most nakedly racist of all time, falsifies the history of Reconstruction, depicting African-Americans, freed from slavery, as dominant, violent and oppressive toward Southern whites. Wilson said of the film, "It is like writing history with lightning, and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true." The film would serve as a powerful recruiting tool for the Ku Klux Klan.
"Imagine if we did something different."
Those were just seven words out of close to 7,000 that President Barack Obama spoke during his State of the Union address. He was addressing both houses of Congress, which are controlled by his bitter foes. Most importantly, though, he was addressing the country. Obama employed characteristically soaring rhetoric to deliver his message of bipartisanship. "The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong," he assured us.
From whose lives has the shadow of crisis passed? And for whom is this Union strong?
The massacre at Charlie Hebdo, and the subsequent killing of a policewoman and mass murder at the Hyper Cachet kosher market, shocked the world. Young fanatics with automatic weapons unleashed a torrent of violence and death, fuelled by zealous intolerance. At the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, the satiric newsmagazine, 12 were murdered and 11 wounded. The victims were guilty of nothing more than expressing ideas. Certainly, true to the point of satire, many of the ideas were very offensive to many people -- in this case, caricatures of the prophet Muhammad.
This week marks the 13th anniversary of the arrival of the first post-9/11 prisoners to Guantanamo Bay, the most notorious prison on the planet. This grim anniversary, and the beginning of normalization of diplomatic relations between the U.S and Cuba, serves as a reminder that we need to permanently close the prison and return the land to its rightful owners, the Cuban people. It is time to put an end to this dark chapter of United States history.
It has been just over 50 years since U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry released the groundbreaking report, “Smoking and Health.” The report concluded, “Cigarette smoking is a health hazard of sufficient importance in the United States to warrant appropriate remedial action.” The tobacco industry intensified its campaign to defend smoking, funding bogus groups and junk science. Now, a similar war on the truth is being waged by the fossil-fuel industry to deny the science of climate change.
The failed United States policy against Cuba, which has for more than half a century stifled relations between these neighbouring countries and inflicted generations of harm upon the Cuban people, may finally be collapsing. On Wednesday morning, we learned that Alan Gross, a U.S. government contractor convicted in Cuba for spying, had been released after five years in prison. Another person, an unnamed Cuban imprisoned in Cuba for 20 years for spying for the U.S., was also released. This has made global headlines. Less well explained in the U.S. media are the three Cubans released from U.S. prisons. They are the three remaining jailed members of the Cuban Five. The Cuban Five were arrested in the late 1990s on espionage charges. But they were not spying on the United States government.