Sunday, February 25, 2018

Protecting our communities means keeping our unions strong

The rights of working people to join together in strong unions have strengthened their voice for higher wages, better benefits, and safer workplaces and communities. Unfortunately, over the last few decades, big corporations and CEOs have conducted well-funded attacks, and the newest attempt is before the Supreme Court.
Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is a case designed to dramatically reduce union dues and starve the very entities that are representing workers at the bargaining table. If the lower court ruling against Mark Janus, a public-sector workerwho doesn’t want to pay fees to the labor union that represents him, were overturned, this would effectively mean all public employees have the so-called “right to work.”
This is a big problem, and here’s why.
Right now, the gap between rich and poor is larger than ever. Those pushing Janus are doing so because the freedom to form and join a union is one of the few tools workers have at their disposal to level the playing field with big corporations. As union membership has declined, the income gap has risen dramatically,with those at the top getting richer, while leaving the rest of us behind. Dramatically weakening labor unions will only make things worse.
The efforts to weaken and destroy unions ensure everyone loses. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that wages in those so-called “right-to-work” states are 3.1 percent lower than in states that don’t put those limitations on collective bargaining. EPI also found that, on average, a worker covered by a union contract earns 13.2 percent more in wages than a peer with similar education, occupation, and experience in a nonunionized workplace in the same sector.
Unions are also part of a broader movement to build a strong economy that works for all of us. Unions have allied themselves with other progressive organizations to protect Americans’ basic rights and to address the threat of climate change and other environmental challenges. Unions invest in training workers. Union workers can and do collectively bargain to make their workplaces, communities, and the environment safer and healthier. They have the ability to blow the whistle when they see dangers to themselves, their co-workers, the community around their workplace, and the environment because they know their union is in their corner to help protect them.
Finally, under this scenario, labor unions would represent workers even if they don’t pay dues into the union, which is unfair to the people that do pay union dues because workers are not just bargaining for their own wages — they are raising wages, improving benefits, and making workplaces safer and healthier for all workers in the marketplace. Collective bargaining by teachers in Philadelphia, for instance, ensured that school water systems are getting tested for lead, stopped class size increases for students, and ensured that each school has at least one nurse and counselor.
More people are realizing the danger we face and are speaking out against it. Working people and their allies will be joining together in 10 cities across the country Saturday, February 24, for Working People’s Day of Action to fight for the right to form strong unions, equal pay, affordable health care, quality schools, and a secure future for us all. Then, on Monday, February 26, union members from around the country will rally on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court and at 300 cities across the country as the court prepares to hear the case.
To protect our economy, environment, and communities, we need to keep unions strong. Together, we can help ensure workers have a voice on the job and an opportunity to make all of our lives better, as well.
Kim Glas is the executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance, which unites labor unions and environmental organizations to solve today’s environmental challenges in ways that build a stronger, fairer economy. Glas previously held senior leadership positions in the Obama administration — as the deputy assistant secretary for Textiles, Consumer Goods, and Materials at the U.S. Department of Commerce — and the U.S. House of Representatives. Follow Glas and the BlueGreen Alliance on Twitter @BGAlliance.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Black lung disease on the rise: 5 questions answered

February 16, 2018 6.41am EST

Editor’s note: An article published Feb. 6, 2018 in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health had identified 416 cases of advanced black lung disease among coal miners in central Appalachia. New cases of black lung had been rare until recently, but this study suggests that the incidence is rising. Anna Allen and Carl Werntz, professors of occupational medicine at West Virginia University who treat miners with black lung, explain what causes this disabling disease.
What is black lung disease, and what causes it?
Underground mining is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. Risks include inhaling toxic gases, such as methane, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide; being crushed by roof falls or mining equipment; drowning when tunnels fill with water; and injury in fires and explosions. Even if miners survive the workplace, they may suffocate to death years later.
Surface and underground mining is associated with two pneumoconioses, or dust diseases of the lung. Black lung disease, also known as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, comes from inhaling coal mine dust. The other disease, silicosis, is caused by inhaling silica dust from crushed rocks. Black lung and silicosis often appear together because coal seams are found between rock layers that contain silica.
When miners inhale dust, it deposits along their airways. Their bodies try to remove the dust by sending in special white blood cells called macrophages to engulf and chemically digest it. But the cells are unable to break down the dust, so they die and release enzymes that damage lung tissue. This causes problems that include chronic bronchitis, emphysema and fibrosis (scarring). In progressive massive fibrosis, the most severe version of black lung, scarring causes lung volume to shrink, further damaging adjacent lung tissue and making air exchange even worse.
Miners typically work 10 to 12 hours a day and up to seven days a week. This increases their exposure time and decreases the recovery time their bodies need to heal damage from silica and coal dust particles. Traditionally, black lung was associated with miners who had been working for at least 20 years, with symptoms often appearing after retirement. The recent trend is that black lung, including progressive massive fibrosis, is occurring after a shorter time in mining – as little as five years mining underground.
Are you surprised by the large case cluster described in the JAMA article?
The “hot spot” described in the JAMA study is in parts of western Virginia, southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. This area includes three of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administrationenforcement districts – areas where the agency inspects coal mines and investigates accidents and complaints from miners.
We see patients in Morgantown in north-central West Virginia and Cabin Creek in south-central West Virginia. We have noticed increased severity of disease in patients in the southern part of the state. During our first year, from June 2016 to May 2017, working in Cabin Creek providing federally authorized black lung exams, the incidence was 16 percent for black lung and about 6 percent for progressive massive fibrosis. In contrast, the same exams in our Morgantown clinic found black lung in less than 3 percent of cases, and only a few progressive massive fibrosis cases in four years.
What do you think could be causing more cases of black lung disease?
The increase is likely the result of several factors. Much of the coal in the area of the JAMA study is so-called “low coal,” with seams that are only 20 to 36 inches high. This “low coal” is hard to mine but profitable because it is metallurgical coal, which has high value for steel production.
Manufacturers stopped producing shorter machines designed for mining “low coal” in about 1990 due to quality control problems. Now mines use taller machines designed for seams that are 32 to 36 inches high. As these machines cut coal from the seam, they must remove at least 12 to 16 inches of sandstone adjacent to the coal.
Cutting that much sandstone significantly increases miners’ exposure to silica dust from the crushed rock. Newer machines also cut through coal and rock much more quickly than older models, generating more dust. Generally, what we call black lung is primarily silicosis in a coal miner, so silica exposure is significant to the development and progression of disease.
Working in “low coal” also involves more physical effort than mining “high coal.” Crawling and stooping while carrying mining gear and operating equipment requires more physical effort. Miners breathe more heavily and frequently, which can increase dust exposure. And it is hard to keep air flowing smoothly through these smaller mines, so dust concentrations may be higher in some spots.
What does the coal industry do to prevent black lung?
Screening is available to current miners through the federal government’s Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program, which uses x-rays to detect early changes in the lungs. This information is shared with miners so they can decide whether to continue working in coal mining, but is kept private from their employers.
The main way to prevent black lung is to keep miners from inhaling dust. After 20 years of debate, recent changes in federal law decreased the allowed exposure from 2.0 milligrams per cubic meter of air to 1.5 milligrams. Continuous personal dust sampling has also been implemented so that miners can have real-time data on their exposures. This information is then used to determine whether a mine requires more frequent inspections.
To decrease dust exposure, mine operators can spray water to knock dust out of the air, increase air flow in tunnels to move dust out more quickly, or require miners to wear respirators.
What resources are available for miners who may have black lung?
Black lung diagnosis can be complicated. Some of the most common symptoms include shortness of breath, decreased exercise tolerance, chronic cough, coughing up phlegm and inability to breathe lying flat. Other diseases can cause similar symptoms, so it is important for miners to talk to their primary care doctors.
Some states have workers compensation programs that offer benefits to workers diagnosed with black lung. The Federal Black Lung Program provides medical coverage for eligible miners with lung diseases related to pneumoconiosis, along with benefits for those who are totally disabled by it, and for families of miners who die of black lung disease.
There is no cure for black lung disease – we can only treat symptoms. Medications, such as inhaled steroids, can help patients breathe more easily. More severe cases can require oxygen and possibly lung transplants. One step patients can take is to stop smoking, which also destroys lung tissue. Smoking does not cause black lung, but it can make the symptoms more severe.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Billy Graham and the Gospel of Fear

Photo by Richard Bromley | CC BY 2.0

FEBRUARY 21, 2018

“We are selling the greatest product on earth. Why shouldn’t we promote it as effectively as we promote a bar of soap?”
— Billy Graham, Saturday Evening Post, 1963
Billy Graham was a preacher man equally intent on saving souls and soliciting financial support for his ministry. His success at the former is not subject to proof and his success at the latter is unrivaled. He preached to millions on every ice-free continent and led many to his chosen messiah.
When Graham succumbed to various ailments this week at the age of 99 he left behind an organization that is said to have touched more people than any other Christian ministry in history, with property, assets and a name-brand worth hundreds of millions. The address lists of contributors alone comprise a mother lode for the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, now headed by his son and namesake, William Franklin Graham, III.
Graham also left behind a United States government in which religion plays a far greater role than before he intruded into politics in the 1950s. The shift from secular governance to “In God We Trust” can be laid squarely at this minister’s feet.
Graham’s message was principally one of fear: fear of a wrathful god; fear of temptation; fear of communists and socialists; fear of unions; fear of Catholics; fear of homosexuals; fear of racial integration and above all, fear of death. But as a balm for such fears, he promised listeners eternal life, which he said was readily claimed through acceptance of Jesus Christ as one’s savior.
Furthermore, he assured listeners that God loved us so much that He created governments, the most blessed form being  Western capitalist democracy. To make this point, he frequently quoted Romans 13, particularly the first two verses. In the New American Standard Version of the Bible, they read, “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.”
The question of whether this was actually the recorded word of God or a rider inserted into the bill by Roman senators with rather more worldly aims never dimmed Graham’s insistence that all governments are the work of the Almighty. Almost perversely, he even endorsed the arrest of a woman who lofted a Christian banner during his Reagan-era visit to Moscow, opting for the crack-down of “divine” authority over the civil disobedience of a believer.
Governments, he reminded his Moscow listeners, do God’s work.
Based on that Biblical mandate for all governments, Graham stood in solid opposition to the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, all but addressed to Graham, King noted, “We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.’ … If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws. ”
Fear is the stock in trade of most evangelists, of course, comprising the necessary setup before the pitch. As historian William Martin explained in his 1991 account of Graham’s early sermons, “… even those whose personal lives seemed rich and fulfilling must live in a world filled with terror and threat. As a direct result of sinful humanity’s rebellion against God, our streets have become jungles of terror, mugging, rape, and death. Confusion reigns on campuses as never before. Political leaders live in constant fear of the assassin’s bullet. Racial tension seems certain to unleash titanic forces of hatred and violence. Communism threatens to eradicate freedom from the face of the earth. Small nations are getting the bomb, so that global war seems inevitable. High-speed objects, apparently guided by an unknown intelligence, are coming into our atmosphere for reasons no one understands. Clearly, all signs point to the end of the present world order.
“… Graham’s basic mode of preaching in these early years was assault. … Then, when he had his listeners mentally crouching in terror, aware that all the attractively labeled escape routes—alcohol, sexual indulgence, riches, psychiatry, education, social-welfare programs, increased military might, the United Nations—led ultimately to dead ends, he held out the only compass that pointed reliably to the straight and narrow path that leads to personal happiness and lasting peace.”
Columnist and former priest James Carroll had much the same take, noting that “Graham had his finger on the pulse of American fear, and in subsequent years, anti communism occupied the nation’s soul as an avowedly religious obsession. The Red scare at home, unabashed moves toward empire abroad, the phrase ‘under God’ inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance, the scapegoating of homosexuals as ‘security risks,’ an insane accumulation of nuclear weapons, suicidal wars against postcolonial insurgencies in Asia—a set of desperate choices indeed. Through it all, Billy Graham was the high priest of the American crusade, which is why U.S. presidents uniformly sought his blessing.”
While Carroll had most of that right, the record suggests that, over and over again, it was Graham who sought presidential blessing, rather than the other way around. Letters enshrined in the presidential and Graham libraries reveal a preacher endlessly seeking official audience. As Truman said, years after his presidency, “Well, I hadn’t ought to say this, but he’s one of those counterfeits I was telling you about. He claims he’s a friend of all the presidents, but he was never a friend of mine when I was president.”
Of course, politicians have often brandished fear as well, and the twin streams of fear-based politics and fear-based religion couldn’t have been more confluent. Communist infiltrators, missile gaps and the domino effect each took their turn, as did the Evil Empire and, more recently, Saddam, Osama bin Laden and an amorphous threat of global terrorism.
In light of the Biblical endorsement of rulers, Graham supported police repression of Vietnam war protesters and civil rights marchers, opposed Martin Luther King’s tactic of civil disobedience, supported South American despots, and publicly supported every war or intervention waged by the United States from Korea forward.
Born on a prosperous dairy farm and educated at Wheaton College, Graham first gained national attention in 1949 when the publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, searching for a spiritual icon to spread his anti-communist sentiments, discovered the young preacher holding forth at a Los Angeles tent meeting. Hearst wired his editors across the nation, “puff Graham,” and he was an instant sensation.
Hearst next contacted his friend and fellow publisher Henry Luce. Their Wall Street ally, Bernard Baruch, arranged a meeting between Luce and Graham while the preacher was staying with the segregationist Governor Strom Thurmond in the official mansion in Columbia, S.Car. Luce concurred with Hearst about Graham’s marketability and Time and Life were enlisted in the job of selling the soap of salvation to the world. Time, alone, has run more than 600 stories about Graham.
The man who would become known as “the minister to presidents” offered his first military advice in 1950. On June 25, North Korean troops invaded South Korea and Graham sent Truman a telegram. “MILLIONS OF CHRISTIANS PRAYING GOD GIVE YOU WISDOM IN THIS CRISIS. STRONGLY URGE SHOWDOWN WITH COMMUNISM NOW. MORE CHRISTIANS IN SOUTHERN KOREA PER CAPITA THAN ANY PART OF WORLD. WE CANNOT LET THEM DOWN.”
It was the first time Graham encouraged a president to go to war, and with characteristic hyperbole: Korea has never topped the list of Christian-leaning nations. Subsequently, Graham gave his blessing to every conflict under every president from Truman to the second Bush, and most of the presidents, pleased to enjoy public assurance of God’s approval, made him welcome in the White House. Graham excoriated Truman for firing General Douglas MacArthur and supported the general’s plan to invade China. He went so far as to urge Nixon to bomb dikes in Vietnam—knowing that it would kill upward of a million civilians—and he claimed to have sat on the sofa next to G.H.W. Bush as the bombs began falling in the first Gulf War (though Bush’s diary version of the evening somehow excludes Graham, as does a White House video of Bush during the attack).
According to Bush’s account, in a phone call the preceding week, Graham quoted poetry that compared the President to a messiah destined to save the world, and in the next breath called Saddam the Antichrist. Bush wrote that Graham suggested it was his historical mission to destroy Saddam.
Through the years, Graham’s politics earned him some strange bedfellows. He praised Senator Joseph McCarthy and supported his assault on Constitutional rights, then scolded the Senate for censuring McCarthy for his excesses. He befriended oil men and arms manufacturers. He defended Nixon after Watergate, right up to the disgraced president’s resignation, and faced public scorn when tapes were aired that exposed the foul-mouthed President as a schemer and plotter. Nixon’s chief of staff, Bob Haldeman, reported on Graham’s denigration of Jews in his posthumously published diary—a claim Graham vehemently denied until released tapes undid him in 2002. Caught with his prejudicial pants down, Graham claimed ignorance of the hour-and-a-half long conversation in which he led the antisemite attack.
As reported by the Associated Press on March 2, 2002:
“Although I have no memory of the occasion, I deeply regret comments I apparently made in an Oval Office conversation with President Nixon . . . some 30 years ago,” Graham said in a statement released by his Texas public relations firm. “They do not reflect my views, and I sincerely apologize for any offense caused by the remarks.”
Whether or not the comments reflect Graham’s views at the time or thirty years later, it is his defense that bears much closer scrutiny. What were we to make of a preacher who insisted that his words didn’t reflect his beliefs? Were we to believe him then or later, on other matters?
Graham was a political operative, reporting to Kennedy on purported communist insurgencies in Latin America, turning over lists of activist Christians to the Republican party, conferring regularly with J. Edgar Hoover and networking with the CIA in South America and Vietnam. He was even assigned by Nixon’s operatives to talk George Wallace out of a second run for the White House.
To accomplish the latter, he phoned Wallace as he was coming out of an anesthetic stupor after one of his numerous post-assassination-attempt surgeries. While the long suffering gunshot victim asked the minister to pray for him, the minister asked him not to make a third-party bid for the presidency. “I won’t do anything to help McGovern,” Wallace replied.
There are many who would argue that the good that Graham did outweighs whatever political intrigue he embraced, and even the several wars he enthusiastically endorsed. To the extent that bringing people to Christ is of benefit to them, an untestable hypothesis, he was successful with his calls to come forward. He accrued hundreds of millions of dollars which were used to extend his ministry and thereby bring more people to “be saved,” which is self-justifying but fails as evidence of goodness.
If Christian beliefs about the hereafter prove correct, we will all presumably discover what good he accomplished, or what chance for salvation we missed, in the sweet by and by.
In talking to one of his biographers, Graham recalled his mood during his fire and brimstone declamations, “I would feel as though I had a sword, a rapier, in my hand, and I would be slashing deeper and deeper into the consciences of the people before me, cutting away straight to their very souls.”
In that regard, Graham’s largest and most lasting monument is a highway cut through Beaucatcher Mountain, blasted through a majestic land form that once bisected Asheville, N.Car. He helped convince recalcitrant landowners to permit the excavation and construction through the cut of the short stretch of Interstate highway subsequently named the Billy Graham Freeway.
Downwind residents report that the weather has permanently shifted due to the gaping mountain maw and the future of the highway that transects the city continues to be one of the most divisive issues in that southern metropolis.
“Straight to their very souls,” indeed.
In every way, Graham was the spiritual father of today’s right-wing religious leaders who so inhabit the national conversation. If he cloaked his suasion in public neutrality it was the hallmark of an era in which such intrusion was deemed unseemly. If today’s practitioners are less abashed, it is in many ways reflective of the secure foundation Graham built within Republican and conservative circles.
Graham endorsed and courted Eisenhower and compared a militaristic State of the Union speech to the Sermon on the Mount, fanned anti-Catholic flames in the Nixon-Kennedy contest, backed Johnson and then Nixon in Vietnam, lobbied for arms sales to Saudi Arabia during the Reagan years, conveyed foreign threats and entreaties for Clinton and lent his imprimateur to G.W. Bush as he declared war on terrorism from the pulpit of the National Cathedral.
Billy Graham approved of warriors and war, weapons of mass destruction (in white, Christian hands) and covert operations. He publicly declaimed the righteousness of battle with enemies of American capitalism, abetted genocide in oil-rich Ecuador and surrounds and endorsed castration as punishment for rapists. A terrible swift sword for certain, and effective no doubt, but not much there in the way of turning the other cheek.
Graham will be cordially remembered by those who found solace in his golden promises and happy homilies, but the worldly blowback from his ministry is playing out in Iraq and Afghanistan, Chechnya and Korea, the Phillipines and Colombia—everywhere governments threaten human rights and pie in the sky is offered in lieu of daily bread.
In the words of  Graham’s ministerial and secular adversary, Dr. King, “I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.”
Farewell Reverend Graham. Let justice roll.
Cecil Bothwell is author of The Prince of War: Billy Graham’s Crusade for a Wholly Chrisitan Empire, (Brave Ulysses Books, 2007) and Whale Falls: An exploration of belief and its consequences (Brave Ulysses Books, 2010).

Monday, February 19, 2018

100 years after the Swiss General Strike of 1918

In the occasion of the anniversary of the event that had established workers protagonism in our national history, the Communist Party (Switzerland) decided to dedicate its 2018 member card to the General Strike which happened 100 years ago.

In November 1918 modern Switzerland, born on the Federal Constitution of 1848, has been shocked by the biggest political and social crisis of its history: the tensions which divided the bourgeois class from the working class exploded in the General Strike (Landesstreik) summoned by the «Olten Committee» - in the representation of trade unions and left-wing associations and parties - which mobilized for a week 250’000 workers.

Originally there were the sufferings the Great War also caused in Switzerland: terrible labor conditions, unsustainable work schedule, lack of democracy, and food inflation are only some of the problems that loaded the majority of the Swiss population, which is in the same time forced to observe the park of profit coming from the business world, weighted up by the war economy. In the "arm wrestling" swiss bourgeois didn’t hesitate to use violence to repress the strikers. In Grenchen three of them died by the swiss (leverage) army, which was lined up to defend the established order, and other three thousands people - in which there were the movement leaders - were subjected to the martial court judgement. 

The Swiss General Strike of 1918 reaches this year his hundredth anniversary in a Country that still struggle to recognize the importance of this event in the national history. On the side of the strong repression and communist which-hunt that caused the strike, many reform processes were born because of this event, which brang Switzerland to conquer lots of right still useful today, as a major involvement of the worker world in the decision process, a relevant reduction of the working time, the introduction of the "AVS" (retirement insurance) and "AI" (invalidity insurance), the sign of collective labor agreements and the adoption of the proportional system in the parliament elections.

The emblematic photography chosen for the Communist Party's Member Card 2018 was taken in novembre 1918 in Zurich: in the Paradeplatz (the swiss "Wall Street") the strikers faced the swiss army (composed by made up of leveraged recruits) and cavalry, which were lined up with the employers in order to defend their interests, symbolized by Swiss Bank Society building forerunner of the actual UBS.

If 2017 had been the year that permitted the communists of all the world to elaborate the fundamental role of the leninist-type Party able to accomplish a revolution, 2018 will be for us a moment to reflect on the hostile role of the swiss army to the social conflict, and also the system integration process of the social democratic forces, but above them all, on the need to renew our trade union praxis to give back the Unions to the workers and not to the corporate leaders.

Friday, February 16, 2018

NGO Action News- 16 February 2018

This week's NGO Action News has just been published. The newsletter summarizes activities undertaken or planned by civil society organisations across the globe as well as UN action on the question of Palestine over the week. Please feel free to inform us about your activities and publications by emailing us at and to forward this newsletter to your supporters. We welcome your organization's contributions, questions or comments.
Best wishes,

Division for Palestinian Rights
Department of Political Affairs
United Nations

Like us on Facebook: @UN.palestinianrights
Follow us on Twitter: @UNISPAL
UNISPAL website:

·         On 13 February, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International (AI), Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)-Israel and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights released a joint press release, expressing great concern about negative trends regarding access to vital medical services for patients from Gaza.

·         On 12 February, the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), a coalition of over 70 international NGOs working in the OPT, published its new report “50 Years of Occupation: Dispossession, Deprivation and De-Development”.

·         On 12 February, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor drew attention to the humanitarian situation of Palestinian travellers stranded on both sides of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

·         Citing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which provides that children shall only be detained as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate time, Human Rights Watch expressed on 12 February concern at the pre-trial detention of 17-year-old Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi.

Middle East
·         On 15 February, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights released a briefing paper highlighting the impact of aerial spraying by Israeli forces on farmlands and livelihoods in the Gaza Strip.

·         On 14 February, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) reported on Israeli plans to build a new religious settlement in East Jerusalem and called on the international community to ensure respect for the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention in the OPT including East Jerusalem.

·         On 13 February, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association informed that in the context of campaigns to defend their human rights, Palestinian administrative detainees had decided to boycott proceedings in Israeli military courts.

·         On 12 February, Peace Now criticized plans approved the same day by the Higher Planning Committee of the Israeli Civil Administration in the occupied West Bank as effectively leading to the establishment of new Israeli settlements, further undermining prospects for peace through a two-State solution.

·         On 11 February, the Geneva Initiative published its annual report, featuring educational activities implemented in 2017 by its two offices: the Palestinian Peace Coalition in Palestine and H.L. Education for Peace in Israel.

North America
·         On 10 March, the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights is hosting in Cambridge, MA, Ilan Pappe, Professor of History and Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at Exeter University, for a talk on his 2017 book “The Biggest Prison on Earth: A History of the Occupied Territories”.

·         On 1 March, American Friends of the Parents Circle – Families Forum is organizing a webinar on “Radicalization in Israel; Anti-normalization in Palestine – What’s a Peacemaker to Do?” Online registration is open.

·         On 23 February, the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at New York University (NYU) is hosting a screening of the film “Take my Pictures for Me”, directed by Mohammed Al-Azza and Amahl Bishara. A discussion with Amahl Bishara and Zachary Lockman, Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at NYU, is planned after the screening.

·         On 21 February, the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C., in partnership with the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) and the OneVoice Movement, is inviting to a discussion with Maya Berry, Arab American Institute; Khaled Elgindy, the Brookings Institution; Abdallah Hamarsheh, Zimam; and Obada Shtaya, OneVoice Movement, on “Envisioning Palestine: Strategies for Palestinian Self-Determination”.

·         On 20 February, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University is hosting Palestinian researcher Toufic Haddad for a talk on his book “Palestine Ltd: Neoliberalism and Nationalism in the Occupied Territory”.

·         Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) has launched the campaign “Lent 2018: Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem”, calling for a shared city for two peoples and the three Abrahamic faith traditions. The campaign has already featured several webinars with Jerusalem expert Danny Seidemann, legal expert Moien Odeh and Lara Friedman, President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP).

·         On 12 February, Dream Defenders released a statement in support of Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi, signed by actors, athletes, artists and activists.

·         On 7 February, CMEP welcomed reports that over one hundred Members of the US Congress had added their names to a letter urging President Trump to reinstate funding to UNRWA.

·         On 21 February, the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at Essex University is hosting Akanksha Mehta, lecturer in International Relations and Gender at the University of Sussex, for a talk on “Negotiating Space on the Right: Everyday Politics of Israeli Zionist Settler Women in the Southern West Bank”.

·         On 2 February, Norwegian Member of Parliament Bjørnar Moxnes officially nominated the Palestinian-led global BDS movement for a Nobel Peace Prize. The UK-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) have launched a petition seeking signatures to urge the Nobel Committee to grant the prize to the BDS movement.

United Nations
·         On 22 February, the Permanent Missions of Bolivia, France, Kuwait and Sweden to the United Nations are hosting at UNHQ in New York (CR 1, 10 a.m.) an Arria-formula meeting of the UN Security Council on “Prospects for the Two-State Solution for Peace”. Statements by former US President Jimmy Carter, former UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry, former UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen Koning AbuZayd, and the Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Jan Egeland will be delivered at the meeting.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

February 16: Day of the Shining Star

Pyongyang, Febuaary 14, 2018

TOAll National and International Trade Unions Organizations

Dear comrades and friends,
February 16 is the Day of Shining Star, birthday(February 16, 1942) of our great leader Comrade Kim Jong Il. On this occasion we look back with warm hearts to his sacred revolutionary life and immortal achievements for powerful prosperity of the country and happiness of people.
Great leader Comrade Kim Jong Il is outstanding ideotheoretician who has created the guiding idea of the era of independence and made it glorious. With his ideological activities, he has systemized the Juche Idea comprehensively, developed and enriched the Juche idea, the Songun (Army-First) idea and thus, made it shine brightly as perfect guiding idea of the era of independence.
Great leader Comrade Kim Jong Il is a prominent politician, a genius of creation and construction, who, with his enormous revolutionary practice, has made ever-lasting achievements for the country, the revolution, the era and the history.
In the end of the 20th century where was the grimmest struggle the human history has ever recorded, Comrade Kim Jong Il clarified the scientific accuracy and truth of socialism and the inevitability of its victory through his energetic ideological and theoretical activities, dealing a resolute counterattack to the imperialists manoeuvres against socialism. He published a series of works including The Historical Lesson in Building Socialism and the General Line of Our Party, Abuses of Socialism Are Intolerable and Socialism Is a Science so as to lay bare the absurdity of the slanders and abuses of the imperialists.
Comrade Kim Jong Il has wisely led the Workers Party of Korea of a long time to develop it into a powerful, invincible political party.
Comrade Kim Jong Il has turned our country into a strong socialist state where the leader, the party and the masses of people are united single-mindedly and which boasts of its unrivaled defence capabilities with the nuclear forces as their core and of its solid national economy.
Great leader Comrade Kim Jong Il is a brilliant military strategist and an iron-willed commander who has led the Korean revolution along an ever-victorious course.
Comrade Kim Jong Il is the salvation star for national reunification and an outstanding leader of the world revolution who has devoted all his life for the cause of national reunification and independence of mankind.
Great leader Comrade Kim Jong Il is alive in the hearts of our people and the world progressive people as a peerless patriot, a great revolutionary and a benevolent father of people who has devoted his all just for the country, the revolution and the people.
The revolutionary cause of great leader Comrade Kim Jong Il has been inherited and pushed forward by Comrade Kim Jong Un, respected Supreme Leader of our party, state and army. On the occasion of the Day of Shining Star, a lot of political and cultural events are on stage worldwide, which include organizing of preparation committee for celebrating the day, loading of praises on the internet homepages, congratulatory meetings, symposiums, film shows, etc.
We hope that your trade unions will join our people and Korean workers in celebrating the Day of Shining Star by arranging various political and cultural events in your country.
With greetings of solidarity,

Central Committee
General Federation of Trade Unions of Korea

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

NGO Action News 9 Feb 2018

This week's NGO Action News has just been published. The newsletter summarizes activities undertaken or planned by civil society organisations across the globe as well as UN action on the question of Palestine over the week. Please feel free to inform us about your activities and publications by emailing us at and to forward this newsletter to your supporters. We welcome your organization's contributions, questions or comments. 
Best wishes,

Division for Palestinian Rights
Department of Political Affairs
United Nations

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NGO Action News
9 February 2018
Middle East
·         Al Mezan Center for Human Rights published on 8 February a paper on the effects of unemployment on human rights in the Gaza Strip by examining samples of unemployed university graduates. The paper warns of continued de-development with serious socioeconomic consequences as well as repercussions on the surrounding political sphere.
·         On 8 February, Adalah reported that the Israeli government approved the construction of a new settlement in the occupied West Bank. The organization wrote an urgent letter to the Israeli Government as well as to the Legislative Committee and the Attorney-General concerning the illegality of the decision.
·         On 6 February, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights concluded its project on “Promoting Media Freedom” funded by the Canadian Government. The closing ceremony took place in Gaza and was attended by representatives of Canada to the Palestinian Authority as well as civil society organizations, journalists, activists and lawyers.
·         On 5 February, Addameer launched a campaign to release French-Palestinian activist Salah Hamouri, who has been held for almost six months in Israeli detention.
·         On 4 February, Physicians for Human Rights published a report on the situation of the Gaza Health System. Despite the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas in October the situation has not improved. Low medical supply and medicines, poor infrastructure, power supply, human resources and non-paid wages are among the key issues.
·         On 1 February, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights presented its 2017 documentation in a new report that looks at the impact of Israel’s complex movement restrictions on medical patients in the Gaza Strip.
·         On 31 January, Al-Haq organized an event and presented its two latest reports on Israel’s policies in the Jordan Valley, on the legal mechanisms used to establish settlements in the area and the gender dimension of human rights violations.
·         On 5 February, UK-based international humanitarian aid organization Islamic Relief launched the Children of Palestine campaign. The appeal aims at supporting 500 Palestinian orphans in addition to the 8,000 orphans in the West Bank and Gaza the organization already assists.
North America
·         On 13 February, the Columbia University Center for Palestine Studies is organizing a talk on “Israeli law after 70 years of the Nakba”. The speakers include Hassan Jabareen, founder of Adalah, and Katherine Franke, Professor of Law at Columbia.
United Nations
·         UNRWA launched a USD 800 million emergency appeal for Syria, Gaza and the West Bank; approximately USD 400 million each for Syria and the OPT. The appeal also covers some 50,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria who have fled to Lebanon and Jordan. UNRWA Commissioner-General stressed that supporting the emergency appeals is not a substitute for an urgently needed political solution to the underlying conflict.
·         On 5 February, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People held its 388th meeting and the first meeting for the current. In a session presided over by the Secretary-General, the Committee conducted the annual election to its Bureau and approved its 2018 Program of Work.