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"You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise"
wrote Maya Angelou, in her poem "Still I Rise." She died this week at 86 at her home in North Carolina. In remembering Maya Angelou, it is important to recall her commitment to the struggle for equality, not just for herself, or for women, or for African-Americans. She was committed to peace and justice for all.
The world lost two remarkable men in May, two African-Americans who helped shape modern history, yet whose names and achievements remain too little known. William Worthy, a journalist, died at the age of 92. Civil-rights activist Vincent Harding was 82. Each was a witness to some of the most pivotal events of the latter half of the 20th century. They led their lives speaking truth to power, working for a better world.
Michael Powell is the son of Gen. Colin Powell. The elder Powell knows a thing or two about war. He famously presented the case for invading Iraq to the United Nations, on Feb. 5, 2003, based on faulty evidence of weapons of mass destruction. He calls that speech a painful "blot" on his record. So it is especially surprising when his son threatens "World War III" on the Obama administration.
There has been much attention, and rightly so, on the CIA's extensive use of torture, which the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is said to have documented in its still-classified 6,000-page report. The use of torture is not limited to the CIA, however. It is all too common across the United States. Solitary confinement is torture, and it is used routinely in jails, prisons and immigration detention facilities here at home. Grassroots movements that have been pressuring for change are beginning to yield significant results. The coalitions include prisoners, their families, a broad swath of legal and social-justice groups and, increasingly, prison guards and officials themselves.
The state of Oklahoma tortured a man to death this week. On Tuesday, April 29, Clayton Lockett was strapped to a gurney in the state's execution chamber. At 6:23 p.m., before a room of witnesses that included 12 members of the media, the first of three drugs was injected into his veins. Ziva Branstetter, enterprise editor at Tulsa World, was among the reporters who watched. She later reported Lockett's ordeal, minute by minute:
"6:29 p.m. Lockett's eyes are closed and his mouth is open slightly.
"6:31 p.m. The doctor checks Lockett's pupils and places his hand on the inmate's chest, shaking him slightly. 'Mr. Lockett is not unconscious,' [Oklahoma State Penitentiary Warden Anita] Trammell states."
"I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." So proclaimed Alabama Gov. George Wallace more than a half-century ago. His proudly racist rhetoric was matched by heinous actions: Murders, lynchings and systemic violence, often endorsed or organized by state and local governments, were inflicted on African-Americans and their allies struggling for civil rights. Despite that, those fighting for equality prevailed. Among the successes were the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, affirmative action and court-ordered integration of schools. But with this week's U.S.
Another U.S. shooting spree has left bullet-riddled bodies in its wake, and refocused attention on violent, right-wing extremists. Frazier Glenn Miller, a former leader of a wing of the Ku Klux Klan, is accused of killing three people outside two Jewish community centers outside Kansas City, Kan. As he was hauled away in a police car, he shouted "Heil Hitler!" Unlike Islamic groups that U.S. agencies spend tens of billions of dollars targeting, domestic white supremacist groups enjoy relative freedom to spew their hatred and promote racist ideology. Too often, their murderous rampages are viewed as acts of deranged "lone wolf" attackers. These seemingly fringe groups are actually well-organized, interconnected and are enjoying renewed popularity.
Journalism is not a crime. This is the rallying cry in demanding the release of four Al-Jazeera journalists imprisoned in Egypt. Three of them -- Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed -- have just passed their hundredth day of incarceration. The fourth, Abdullah al-Shami, has been in jail for more than six months. They have been charged with "spreading lies harmful to state security and joining a terrorist organization." Of course, the only thing they were doing was their job.
The majority of the world is convinced that humans are changing the climate, for the worse. Now, evidence is mounting that paints just how grim a future we are making for ourselves and the planet. We will experience more extreme weather events, including hurricanes and droughts, mass extinctions and severe food shortages globally. The world's leading group of climate-change experts, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has issued its most recent report after a five-day meeting last week in Yokohama, Japan. The IPCC, over 1,800 scientists from around the world, collects, analyzes and synthesizes the best, solid science on climate and related fields. The prognosis is not good.