Remembering Fidel Castro: “This Was a Life That Got Things Done”

The recent passing of Fidel Castro has sparked widespread conversation of his life and legacy.

“So many people just don’t know about him, but it’s very evident to people around the world, particularly people of oppressed countries, the giant that Fidel Castro was.  This was a life that got things done.” IPS’ Netfa Freeman told Jared Ball on I Mix What I Like.

Freeman shared that despite the various opinions of Castro that will be spread during this time, he should be known as one of the greatest ideologues of our time.  The host agreed with Freeman that in Castro’s case, his image as an ideologue meant that he was able to approach issues with integrity and steer and inform people on pressing issues.

“This is someone who talked about the climate change disaster and what it means for the third world before anyone was talking about it,” Freeman said.

The panelists said they hope that Castro’s impeccable leadership is not lost in remembrance of him.  “One of the things that made Fidel a giant is that he knew it wasn’t just about him. He was able to lead a revolution that prepared the people to be in charge and go on in his absence,” Netfa explained.

Freeman recognized that while many are deeply saddened by his passing, some will not join the mourning of the fallen leader, and he addressed some of the burden of Cuba that Castro was made to carry.

“We should separate the shortcomings of a country from the shortcomings of an individual leader of that country,” Freeman told Ball.

With the miscellany of perspectives on the life and impact of Castro, Freeman charges those that are more informed to defend his legacy. “When a leader passes, they get more attention and not all of it is correct,” Freeman said. “For those of us that know more about him, it gives us an opportunity to correct that stuff.”

Listen to the full article below.

The post Remembering Fidel Castro: “This Was a Life That Got Things Done” appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Netfa Freeman is the events coordinator at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Refugee life at Greece’s Hara Hotel – Aljazeera.com


Aljazeera.com
Refugee life at Greece's Hara Hotel
Aljazeera.com
Evzoni, Greece – Tents dot the parking lot and field around the Hara Hotel at a weigh station in this Greek-Macedonian border town. The number of refugees and migrants at this makeshift camp increased after Greek police evicted residents of the
Hope lost in Greece, some Syrians pay smugglers to get homeFox News
Makeshift refugee camps in northern Greece evacuatedDeutsche Welle
Grace in Greece: Oklahoma mother and daughter extend hand of friendship, hospitality to refugeesNewsOK.com
Wall Street Journal
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Wall Street as a Matter of Life and Death

(Photo: Flickr / Trygve Utstumo)

(Photo: Flickr / Trygve Utstumo)

Bobby Tolbert is a New York City-based activist who draws from his own experience as an HIV positive and formerly homeless man to educate his peers and build a movement for better health care policies. He also serves on the boards of VOCAL New York and the recently formed People’s Action — two of more than 40 organizations that have endorsed a new Take On Wall Street campaign. Inequality.org co-editor Sarah Anderson spoke to Tolbert on May 24 after he delivered a statement in support of the campaign at a Capitol Hill press conference.

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bobby-tolbert-wall-streetInequality.org: Help me understand why an AIDS activist would care about reforming Wall Street.

Tolbert: For me, it’s personal. On top of being HIV-positive, four years ago I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. Then they told me there was a drug that was 99 percent effective, but I couldn’t have it because Medicare didn’t cover it and it cost $ 1,000 per pill.

They were just telling me to die.

And a big reason why people like me can’t afford life-saving medication is because some hedge fund manager has come in and demanded that the price for the drug be jacked up beyond our means. This is a direct violation of our values as Americans.

Inequality.org: Can you say a bit more about the role of the private investment funds in drug pricing?

Tolbert: These guys are investors in Big Pharma. All they want is a quick profit – and they can get away with it, especially if the drug company has a monopoly. Fortunately, with the drug I needed, the company—Gilead—eventually lost the monopoly and it became more affordable. But not without a big fight and a lot of suffering.

Inequality.org: What do you think should be done about this?

Tolbert: VOCAL New York and many other groups got the governor to agree to a plan to end AIDS in our state by 2020. And there’s a good blueprint for doing this. But it will take money. And now the governor has reneged on his commitments to pay for it.

So we need to go where the money is.

Inequality.org: Let me guess, Wall Street?

Tolbert: Yes. People can’t even believe that the same guys who’ve been jacking up drug prices are also getting away with paying lower tax rates than ordinary Americans. We’ve been supporting a campaign to eliminate the “carried interest” loophole, which lets the hedge fund managers pay a lower capital gains tax rate on most of their income. If they won’t do it in Congress, we’ll get them to do it in New York, which is ground zero. And we could use revenue for that to help end AIDS.

Inequality.org: At the press conference both you and Rep. Keith Ellison talked about taxing Wall Street speculation, which is another one of the five priorities of the Take On Wall Street campaign.

Tolbert: Yes, that would raise even more money than carried interest. And we have a lot of needs in this country – crumbling infrastructure, no real social safety net. But some of this money could also go for ending AIDS. These people have gotten filthy rich off the backs of ordinary families who can’t stay in their homes. And it’s just fundamentally unsound to have an economy that only works for the 1 percent.

Inequality.org: You mentioned that People’s Action has a 40-year vision for the economy. What do you want to see 40 years from now?

Tolbert: Well, we should’ve ended AIDS by 2020, so I don’t need to talk about that. I see viable communities where city colleges are free, local banks have replaced the Wall Street banks, small businesses are thriving, and we have racial harmony. Basically, an economy that works for everybody.

The post Wall Street as a Matter of Life and Death appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Rare Wins for Tax Fairness Spark New Life Into the Movement

tax-dodgers-loop-holes

(Photo: Flickr / Michael Fleshman)

How do you generate tens of billions of dollars in new revenue without raising taxes or passing a law through Congress? Block a corporate inversion, that’s how.

This week President Obama announced new rules from the Treasury Department designed to close what he called, one of the “insidious tax loopholes out there.” The rule targets corporate inversions, a maneuver in which an American firm merges with a foreign firm without actually moving their operations overseas in order to avoid paying taxes in the United States.

As Obama put it, describing companies that invert: “They declare that they’re based somewhere else, thereby getting all the rewards of being an American company without fulfilling the responsibilities to pay their taxes the way everyone else is supposed to pay them.”

The planned merger between American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, maker of Viagra, and the Irish pharmaceutical company Allergan, maker of Botox, was the most high profile inversion to hit the news recently. Pfizer’s blatant tax dodging motives sparked serious backlash from tax fairness activists and organizations, 55 of which sent a letter on March 22 organized by Americans for Tax Fairness to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew demanding he take action. Less than a month later, he did.

Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness, called the move great news for American taxpayers. He said, “Treasury has taken an important step to improve the overall corporate tax system. These rules move in the right direction to level the playing field for domestic companies competing with multinationals.”

The ruling from Treasury has already had an impact. Pfizer announced on April 6 it was cancelling its $ 160 billion merger along with their $ 35 billion in estimated tax avoidance.

As is often the case, legislation from Congress is required to ensure that all of the nefarious loopholes that enable corporations tax dodging are closed. Some motivation for Congress to act also came this week in the form of 11 million documents called the Panama Papers.

The Panama Papers have dominated the global news cycle for the past week and it appears they’re just getting started. As my colleague, Chuck Collins outlined in a recent write-up in The Nation, the Panama Papers provide an inside view into the inner workings of the ultra wealthy’s finances.

Panama has long been a favored tax haven for the global elite given its low taxes, lax oversight, and hush-hush approach to coordinating with foreign authorities. While we’ve always known that the wealthy were using the country to hide their assets and shady financial dealings from public scrutiny and tax liability, this is really the first insight into just how extensive the practice is.

Thousands of people have been implicated including 12 current and former world leaders, and that’s just the first of what is expected to be many releases. Already, the Prime Minister of Iceland has stepped down due to revelations made from the Panama Papers.

One can assume that more American names will be included soon as the German newspaper responsible for the leak Süddeutsche Zeitung, has indicated.

There is only so long Congress can ignore the blatantly dishonest practice of offshore tax evasion. While many assume tax evasion on such a massive scale is criminal, current US law protects many of these activities. This hurts working families who suffer from the resulting major reduction in federal revenue and public services.

This week’s news should inspire those wishing to see a tax system that promotes fairness and prevents corporations and the ultra wealthy from gaming the system in their favor.

The post Rare Wins for Tax Fairness Spark New Life Into the Movement appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Josh Hoxie directs the Project on Opportunity and Taxation at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Life in the Gray Zone

(Image: Flickr / Alessandra Kocman)

(Image: Flickr / Alessandra Kocman)

In the 13th century, the Italian town of Lucera was a Muslim island in a sea of Christendom. Here Frederick II, the head of the Holy Roman Empire, established his own shadow cabinet of scholars and advisors from among the Arabs that he invited to live in this walled city near the eastern coast of Italy.

It was a bold, unconventional move during a precarious time in Christian-Muslim relations. The Fifth Crusade had failed to retake Jerusalem. In Iberia, however, Christians had nearly taken back all of al-Andalus from the Muslims by mid-century. And in Sicily, Christians were persecuting the Muslims who remained from what had once been a thriving emirate before Norman mercenaries destroyed it in 1071.

Lucera was thus both refuge and reservation. Writes religion scholar Karen Armstrong inHoly War:

Yet though Frederick certainly enjoyed Lucera and his Arab friends there, this was a policy not of toleration but of exploitation. Lucera was certainly a city where Islam was tolerated and protected: Frederick would not allow papal missionaries there to harass the Muslims. But Lucera was also a refugee camp and a reservation. The Muslims had to live there and had no choice but to be loyal to Frederick because he was their only protector.

Lucera, in other words, was the very definition of a gray zone. It was an enclave of Muslims in Europe who were more or less prospering. It had official support from the authorities in the person of Frederick II. But many Christians considered the city an outpost of the enemy.

A gray zone, according to the Islamic State (ISIS or IS), is a place where Muslims have rejected an “us-versus-them” world of belief and unbelief that puts the caliphate in the right and the “crusader coalition” in the wrong. From the perspective of ISIS, the Muslims who live in predominantly Christian realms have to make a choice: They can drop everything, travel to Raqqa, and take up arms on behalf of ISIS. Or they can stay in the enemy camp. ISIS intends its bombings to make it more and more difficult for Muslims to choose the second option, because they’ll find their stay in “crusader countries” increasingly inhospitable.

A year ago, before the coordinated attacks in Paris, an article called “The Extinction of the Gray Zone” appeared in the English-language newsletter of ISIS. It lays out the stark choice available to Muslims in Europe:

Muslims in the crusader countries will find themselves driven to abandon their homes for a place to live in the Khil?fah, as the crusaders increase persecution against Muslims living in Western lands so as to force them into a tolerable sect of apostasy in the name of “Islam” before forcing them into blatant Christianity and democracy.

ISIS, in other words, views all forms of Islam that don’t correspond to its own peculiar Salafist interpretation as not only apostasy, but as way stations on the road toward the ultimate abandonment of the religion.

The nationalist backlash against Muslims in Europe — represented by Pegida in Germany, the National Front in France, or the UK Independence Party in England — has a similarly suspicious view of Islam in Europe. These Islamophobes view European Muslims not in transition toward Christianity and democracy, but on their way to becoming sleeper cells for the Islamic State.

For both ISIS and the Islamophobes, the gray zone represents an intolerable state of ambiguity, engagement, and political debate where people freely adopt multiple identities. To be simultaneously Muslim, French, European, a doctor, a woman, a parent, a voter: This is anathema to the extremist. They care about one identity only: Are you on our side or not?

As much as anyone could in the 13th century, Frederick II was a man of the gray zone. He was, to be sure, a leader of the “crusader coalition.” But he also spoke Arabic. He consulted closely with the scholars of Lucera. He even included Muslims in his armies. Perhaps most importantly, he managed to retake Jerusalem not by force of arms, but by successfully negotiating a treaty of peaceful coexistence with Meledin (Sultan Al-Kamil) that turned over several lands to Christian control. The deal on Jerusalem preserved access to religious sites for both Christians and Muslims.

For his efforts to work with Muslims, among other subversive activities, Frederick II was deemed the “anti-Christ” by Pope Gregory IX and excommunicated four times. Then, as today, collaboration with Muslims was a tricky business. As for Lucera, French armies under King Charles of Anjou wiped out the Muslim enclave in 1301, killing the Muslim inhabitants and turning the mosque into a church. Christian Europe wouldn’t see another such gray zone for many centuries.

In Gaza

From the perspective of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and most of the U.S. political establishment, Gaza’s not a gray zone. It’s a green zone — that is, an area controlled by Hamas, and therefore a hotbed of radical Islam.

Although Hamas came to power through the ballot box in 2006 — solidifying its control by ousting its rival Fatah in 2007 — it’s endured political isolation courtesy of the international community and an economic blockade courtesy of Israel (and Egypt). The green flags of Hamas have become a symbol, for the countries that would prefer that the Palestinian party didn’t exist, of violence, intolerance, and non-compromise.

It might come as a shock, then, to discover that the Islamic State views Hamas very differently. ISIS disparages Hamas as too pacific, tolerant, and willing to compromise. It’s called for Palestinians to overthrow Hamas because it prioritizes secular goals (national liberation) over religious ones (expanding the caliphate). A video posted on June 30, 2015 featured three ISIS fighters lecturing the authorities in Gaza: “The point of jihad is not to liberate land, but to fight for and implement the law of God.”

Hamas, in other words, doesn’t rally around the black flag of ISIS. Its green flag isn’t a symbol of uncompromising extremism. Rather, Hamas is firmly in the gray zone.

As Sarah Helm writes in a fascinating article in The New York Review of Books, Hamas reacted immediately to the video by cracking down on ISIS, arresting supporters, picking up bearded guys at checkpoints, and shutting down suspicious social media sites. ISIS responded by bombing Hamas and initiating attacks against Israel.

Here’s the kicker: The less likely a two-state solution becomes — thanks to Netanyahu and his right-wing minions In Israel — the more attractive the caliphate grows. This logic applies all the more to Palestinians who’ve returned to Gaza after fighting in Syria. “Some of the returnees openly switched allegiance to the ISIS caliphate,” Helm writes, “calculating that viewed from the rubble of postwar Gaza, the prospect of a caliphate might seem more realistic than a Palestinian state.”

For Israelis who don’t want a two-state solution, Hamas was a godsend. Look, they could say, it’s clearly impossible to work with such a ruthless and uncompromising partner. Hamas was a deal-killer — for a deal that Israeli extremists considered deeply flawed.

When confronted with the possibility of the Islamic State ousting Hamas in Gaza, a realist would immediately open up negotiations with the latter in order to prevent the former from seizing power. But Netanyahu and company aren’t realists.

If ISIS took over in Gaza, it would set back Palestinian aspirations for yet another generation — and that would be music to Bibi’s ears. He could then launch military operations in Gaza against ISIS, and a grateful international community would applaud. Such Machiavellian calculations prompted Israel several decades ago to secretly support Islamists in Gaza — who would eventually create Hamas — in an effort to counterbalance Yasser Arafat and his secular Fatah movement.

As in the Middle Ages, extremists on both sides are cooperating to eliminate the gray zone.

Countering Violent Extremism

Counter-terrorism is out; “countering violent extremism” is in.

CVE has become the strategy of choice inside the Beltway. The White House convened a three-day summit on the topic in February last year. The Department of Homeland Security hasadopted a new CVE approach, thanks to authorizing legislation from Congress. There was even a global youth summit devoted to CVE in September to coincide with the meeting of the UN General Assembly.

The idea behind CVE is to prevent people from becoming terrorists in the first place by nipping radicalization in the bud. But given the veritable explosion of violent extremism over the last year — with ISIS-linked attacks on virtually every continent — it would seem that CVE is no more effective than its predecessor. Perhaps it has nothing to do with the validity of the CVE techniques themselves.

Scholar Rami Khouri hones in on the fatal flaw of the approach:

These efforts, which typically emanate from U.S. or other Western political institutions, see political violence as only a reflection of extremist values or behavior that are anchored in Arab-Islamic societies. They refuse to see the causal influence of Western policies in this grim cycle of global violence. Violent extremism, it turns out, is the consequence of policies of Western and Middle Eastern states, and radical changes by both are required to stem the problem.

It turns out, then, that extremists on both sides are not the only ones responsible for extinguishing the gray zone. In addition to their ISIS targets, U.S. bombs destroy towns, political institutions, and civilians. In the midst of all this destruction, the only thing left to do is pick up a gun and fight — with us or against us.

CVE is failing for the same reason that Obama’s speech in Cairo in 2009 — on pushing the reset button on relations between Islam and the West — didn’t ultimately rescue the reputation of the United States in the Muslim world. Bombs, alas, speak louder than words.

And bombs, whether they come from above or below, are the enemy of the gray zone.

The post Life in the Gray Zone appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies.

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In Pakistan, Afghan Female Refugees Describe Life in Sector I-12 – Women’s eNews


Women’s eNews
In Pakistan, Afghan Female Refugees Describe Life in Sector I-12
Women’s eNews
… find low-wage work. Her oldest son–Hayat Khan–earns between $ 3 and $ 4 a day selling vegetables and fruits from a donkey cart. … Many mothers and children, Jan said, die in labor or from complications shortly afterwards. … The first wave of

and more »

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Bright, Young, In Limbo: Film Sees Migrant Farm Life Through A Child’s Eyes – NPR


89.3 KPCC
Bright, Young, In Limbo: Film Sees Migrant Farm Life Through A Child's Eyes
NPR
José Anzaldo is a bright, cheerful third-grader in Salinas, Calif. He loves school, he's a whiz at math, and, like lots of little boys his age, he wants to be a firefighter when he grows up. He also entered the country illegally, and his parents are
Film sees migrant farm life through a child's eyes89.3 KPCC
Bright, Young, Undocumented: Migrant Farm Life, Through A Child's EyesKUNC
East of Salinas | Documentary about Migrant Farm Workers | Independent Lens | PBSPBS
IMDb -Facebook -PBS
all 54 news articles »

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10 amazing ways video games can change your life – The Week Magazine


The Week Magazine
10 amazing ways video games can change your life
The Week Magazine
In China, where 80 to 85 percent of gold farmers reside, companies pay gamers low wages to work 10-hour shifts in sweatshop-like conditions. The firms even have call centers set up to handle international clients, with individual operators fielding as

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10 amazing ways video games can change your life – The Week Magazine


The Week Magazine
10 amazing ways video games can change your life
The Week Magazine
In China, where 80 to 85 percent of gold farmers reside, companies pay gamers low wages to work 10-hour shifts in sweatshop-like conditions. The firms even have call centers set up to handle international clients, with individual operators fielding as

|||||||http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&fd=R&ct2=us&usg=AFQjCNH3z790Oj1CTGLsPHaw4nYcVxyaWw&clid=c3a7d30bb8a4878e06b80cf16b898331&ei=bJoZVpDCBMSXhAHvuIvoDg&url=http://theweek.com/articles/578249/10-amazing-ways-video-games-change-life

10 amazing ways video games can change your life – The Week Magazine


The Week Magazine
10 amazing ways video games can change your life
The Week Magazine
In China, where 80 to 85 percent of gold farmers reside, companies pay gamers low wages to work 10-hour shifts in sweatshop-like conditions. The firms even have call centers set up to handle international clients, with individual operators fielding as

|||||||http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&fd=R&ct2=us&usg=AFQjCNH3z790Oj1CTGLsPHaw4nYcVxyaWw&clid=c3a7d30bb8a4878e06b80cf16b898331&ei=jGIQVrjbE-WswQHLt76wDg&url=http://theweek.com/articles/578249/10-amazing-ways-video-games-change-life