A blog by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration about justice and peace issues

Posts tagged ‘Truthout’

Anointed to proclaim freedom: human trafficking

This weekend is a “Weekend of Prayer” focused on Human Trafficking.  This is an important issue that touches on issues of  crumbling labor rights, gender, the environment,  and poverty to name a few. A “Weekend of Prayer” is an invitation to spend time with this issue and hopefully become part of the solution.

To get us started I provided a link below to a site that can lead you through the prayer guide for the weekend and article from Truthout that presents a story of human trafficking. Happy journey!

Weekend of Prayer


America’s Shame: The US Government’s Human Trafficking Dilemma

Tuesday, 08 May 2012 09:46 By Joe Newman, Project on Government Oversight | Report

For Vinnie Tuivaga, the offer was the answer to a prayer: A job in a luxury hotel in Dubai–the so-called Las Vegas of the Persian Gulf–making five times what she was earning as a hair stylist in her native Fiji.

She jumped at the chance, even if it meant paying an upfront commission to the recruiter.

You probably know how this story is going to end. There was no high-paying job, luxury location or easy work.

Tuivaga and other Fijians ended up in Iraq where they lived in shipping containers and existed in what amounted to indentured servitude.

Journalist Sarah Stillman told Tuivaga’s story and that of tens of thousands of other foreign workers in acute detail almost a year ago in her New Yorker piece, “The Invisible Army.”

In some cases, Stillman found more severe abuses and more squalid living conditions than what Tuivaga and her fellow Fijians experienced.

But like Tuivaga, thousands of foreign nationals in the U.S. government’s invisible army ended up in Iraq and Afghanistan war zones because they fell victim to human traffickers.

human trafficking spscc 076.1

Let that sink in.

This human trafficking pipeline wasn’t benefitting some shadowy war lord or oppressive regime. No, these are workers who were feeding, cleaning up after, and providing logistical support for U.S. troops—the standard-bearers of the free and democratic world.

In its final report to Congress last year, the Commission on Wartime Contracting said it had uncovered evidence of human trafficking in Iraq and Afghanistan by labor brokers and subcontractors. Commissioner Dov Zakheim later told a Senate panel that the Commission had only scratched the surface of the problem. He called it the “tip of the iceberg.”

In essence, despite a 2002 presidential directive that set a “zero tolerance” on human trafficking, modern-day slavers have been operating with impunity under the aegis of the U.S. government.

Nick Schwellenbach, who until last month was the director of investigations at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), and author David Isenberg also wrote about the conditions some of these foreign workers endured in Iraq.

Nick and David uncovered documents that showed how one U.S. contractor—in this case KBR—was well aware that one of its subcontractors, Najlaa International Catering Services, was allegedly involved in trafficking abuses. From their story:

The freshly unearthed documents show that for several months, KBR employees expressed exasperation at Najlaa’s apparent abuse of the laborers and said the subcontractor was embarrassing KBR in front of its main client in Iraq: the U.S. military. But despite its own employees’ strongly worded communications to Najlaa, to this day, KBR continues to award subcontracts to the company.

Nick later testified before a House subcommittee, outlining reforms that Congress should pass to hold contractors and subcontractors accountable.

Well, it appears that some of the attention focused on human trafficking (including the movie The Whistleblower, the story of  U.N. peacekeeper Kathryn Bolkovac, who blew the whistle on sex trafficking in post-war Bosnia) in the last year may finally be paying off.

Some Members of Congress have introduced measures aimed at preventing human trafficking by government contractors and subcontractors.

The bipartisan proposals (End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act of 2012, H.R. 4259 and S. 2234), which include some of the reforms that POGO has recommended, are sponsored by Rep. Lankford (R-OK) and Sen. Blumenthal (D-CT). Rep. Lankford will likely offer the legislation as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (FY13 NDAA) this month. The legislation would bolster the current laws and regulations governing trafficking by requiring contractors to create plans to prevent trafficking and requiring companies to closely monitor and report the activities of their subcontractors.

The measures also call for penalties, including suspending or debarring or criminally prosecuting violators.

Sen. Blumenthal said current law was insufficient and ineffective and failed to prevent abuses.

“Modern-day slavery by government contractors—unknowingly funded by American taxpayers—is unconscionable and intolerable,” Blumenthal said.

And, really, all of us should feel pangs of guilt for the human rights violations perpetrated by those profiting in the name of the American people. POGO launched a campaign this week urging people to tell their Members of Congress to support the anti-trafficking legislation.

It comes too late to help those workers who were abused during our decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But our presence in Iraq, Afghanistan and in military bases all over the world continues. And the invisible army we rely upon to keep those bases running needs this protection now as much as it ever has.

“It is time to stand with the millions who have lost….” Sen. Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders took to the floor and gave a 10,000 word historic speech about the absolute necessity of not solving the budget crisis on the backs of the poor and vulnerable. Below is a snippet from the speech & the video.  If you are interested in reading his speech, click the Truthout link pasted below.

On the heels of Governor Walker’s “austerity” budget stripping funds from BadgerCare, public schools, and Medicaid –  Senator Sanders’ speech serves as a great antidote or for Harry Potter fans…it is the chocolate after a Dementor attack….read, watch and feel inspired!

Senator Bernie Sanders

“At a time when the richest people and the largest corporations in our country are doing phenomenally well, and, in many cases, have never had it so good, while the middle class is disappearing and poverty is increasing, it is absolutely imperative that a deficit reduction package not include the disastrous cuts in programs for working families, the elderly, the sick, the children and the poor that the Republicans in Congress, dominated by the extreme right-wing, are demanding…”

Read his speech: http://www.truth-out.org/sen-bernie-sanders-we-will-not-balance-budget-backs-working-families/1309280399

From Cairo to Madison?

Wisconsinites unite!

No one, after watching democracy take beautiful, radical hold in Egypt, would have announced the next stop on the Democracy Express as Madison, Wisconsin. But as they say “never say never!” 

The United States is long overdue for some grass-roots edgy change and what better place than the state that collectively owns its pro football team?

Feed your soul with an article from Truthout, a clip from the Rachel Maddow show and watch democracy unfold!



Tunisia and Egypt: A New Storm

In the past few weeks we have seen an eruption of protests in two countries, Tunisia and Egypt. According to most mainstream press releases the hovering threat in both cases is Islamic extremists when the lived threat is actually oppressive governments failing utterly at leadership.

These demonstrations are vastly important and should not be described in simple terms of riots and unrest. They are two situations of the people working hard to take back their governance and transform power structures into something that serves all the people and not just the few.

The fact that both are happening in countries that may have a high number of people who practice Islam should not lead us to narrow conclusions of “radicalism” that is threatening to our own safety. Rather it should lead us to examine what democracy really means and how it is lived out both at home and in our foreign policy.

Below are two lengthy articles (perfect for a snow day!). Settle in, read and let the people of Tunisia and Egypt tell their own story…



New Orleans: Five years Later

It has been five years since Katrina hit New Orleans. What does the city look like now? Who has come home? What will the future be?

Below is a link to a Truthout article that serves as a “video essay.” It includes five different short videos that highlight different aspects of what has developed (or not developed) for the people of New Orleans.

But it also shows a hint of the future, if the response to Katrina becomes our norm as a country what will that mean for future survivors of natural disasters inside the United States and around the world?

Check out this video and the four others and let me know what you think…


The Afghan War meets Wikileaks

This week an incredible amount of information on the war in Afghanistan has been “released” through a site known as “Wikileaks.” Wikileaks is a sister to Wikipedia, an online resource that “democratizes” information sharing by making it accessible to anyone willing to put information up on the Internet.

The information is vetted before becoming public, so people cannot post info that is blatantly fictional. For example to claim that Barack Obama is actually from Kenya would not be permitted, too bad FOX news does not have the same ethical approach.

These sites are a grassroots way of getting information out to the public without having to rely on the mainstream media machines to tell the story. The importance of this is evident as soon as you begin to read the leaked documents. These documents provide the fullest picture of the war on the ground that we have ever been provided. A picture that looks into the frustration and concerns of the soldiers, the human rights violations of the people of Afghanistan, and the clear troubles of our relationship with Pakistan.

This is the information we need to be able to understand and collectively support or dissent on this war.  How can we continue to put human lives at risk when we are not permitted to know the fullness of what is happening, what is working and what has become a dangerous and miserable failure.

Check out the story in the link below and take a look at Wikileaks, Truthout, Leftturn, or any alternative news source you prefer. The truth may set us free, but first we need access to it.


Soldier's gun at a lookout point, Afghanistan.

“We all know there’s something wrong…”

I do not usually share full articles, however this one below from Truthout was so excellent I could not bear to quote just one part. I invite you to read and send add your comments about a place you may see in your community to make sparks, sustain hope and create change.

A Place to Make Sparks

By Babara Andreassen and William Astore – Truthout Op-Ed

We’re all tired of the suffocating parameters of “left versus right,” of “blue America versus red America,” of manufactured conflict – the evil twin of manufactured consent. We’re tired of the haters, the snake oil salesmen, the hypocrites, the phonies. We’re tired of toxic politics, of baseless accusations, of cowardly efforts to wound with code words like “socialism” … all played out in our illiberal media.

We’ve had enough of the greed of dangerous people who are willing to get a little blood on their hands to get what they want, or at least to dance heavily on the heads of the little guys in an attempt to maximize profits. We’ve had enough of the excesses of the well-connected, tapping the power of our government to advance their own self-interests, pulling the strings, crafting shady deals behind closed doors, rewriting our policies and our laws in their favor.

We all know there’s something wrong. We all sense the dark underbelly of our politics. Yet so many of us are misdirected to some extent or another. The naked exploitation of the many by the few is so obvious, yet so many refuse to see it. Our political discourse, as interpreted for us by our media, is nothing less than surreal.

What we need is a forum for education, reconciliation and reform: a detoxification center. What we need is the resurrection of journalistic integrity and credibility that fosters intelligent and civil debate. What we need is a movement that maintains its focus and sustains the discipline necessary to reach attainable goals and that builds morale through the success of achieving those goals. A movement that isn’t tied to a political label or party. A movement made up of a combination of movements. A meeting place. The catalysts’ hub. A place to make sparks.

Let’s rekindle the spark of hope; let’s revive our pursuit of a better America. Not an America of expansionist militarism; not an America of universal soldiers but no universal health care. Not an America of unlimited bailouts for the overpaid but draconian firings of the underpaid. We’ve had our fill of that America. We’ve had enough of celebrating the game-fixing of the victors while blaming the victims for losing a game they never had a chance of winning.

There’s no room for mockery of the “hopey changey stuff.” The message of hope and change, as yet so imperfectly achieved, was delivered with purpose from one of the most powerful platforms in our political universe, to every corner of our planet. It still resonates. And there’s still time.

Obstructionism and cynicism are so easy; it’s funny how self-styled tough guys get off on striking poses, and saying “no.” Inspiration, imagination and idealism are so much tougher; opening yourself to hope and change requires courage – the courage to say “yes,” to dare to dream.

It’s time for zero tolerance of brayers and naysayers, the betrayers of hope and its promise. It’s time to stop trimming our sails to safeguard a status quo that favors the already powerful over the powerless.

It’s time to come together to spark some new ideas – it’s time to rekindle our courtship of a better, freer, more caring America.

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