Monday, November 30, 2009

AMY GOODMAN at Busboys and Poets, 30 November 2009, Washington DC

30 November 2009

First, allow me to disclose my bias: after living abroad for two+ years and having my primary media outlets be the BBC, the GuardianUK, alJazeera, the English version of French news sources, etc, I was sorely disappointed with my media options back here in the States.

I found DemocracyNow! and will tell you that it is the only US news source that I trust completely. They covered Hurricane Katrina with incredible grace, explore deeply the stories they choose to cover, and, as Amy herself says, they are one of the sole sources to cover the remarkable achievements of so many ordinary Americans who we never hear about in the “mainstream” media.

With that warning and aside, please find below my (incomplete and likely biased) notes from the talk Amy Goodman—host of the DemocracyNow! news program—gave this evening.

  • Amy’s Family History =
    • Some of her family members were killed in the Holocaust and that reality has created the backdrop/ credo for her entire family: never again for anyone, anywhere.
    • She also lost her mother this fall, and after spending several weeks in the hospital with her mother and three brothers has some very strong feelings on the importance of a complete sea change in American health care.
    • The two things patients need, according to her mother’s doctor, Dr. Meyer, are 1) enough time with your doctor and 2) good pain management.
    • And a very cool thing that she and her bros did for their momma: they had their mother’s friends write her goodbye letters, including the moments and things they most remembered and appreciated about her. I love that.
    • She described her mother as “transcendent” and “radiant” in her process of dying, “as she was her whole life.”
  • This Book Tour = Her new book, Breaking the Sound Barrier, consists of her essays over the past three years on the role of the media in America.
    • She says, “so many people are doing remarkable things that we never hear about in the media.”
    • DemocracyNow! is now on over 800 stations nationally, “supporting a forum for free speech.”
    • She likes the idea of promoting “trickleUP” journalism and claims the DemocracyNow! motto is: Steal This Story, Please!
  • Health Care =
    • She gave lots of props to Congressperson John Conyers for advocating for the “silenced majority” of Americans who want single-payer health care.
    • Tommy Douglas was voted the Greatest Canadian in 2004, primarily for his leadership as the 7th Premier of Saskatchewan in bringing Universal Health Care to Canada.
    • Apparently, certain television and media personalities have suggested that if Jack Bauer, the main character of the television show 24 was running the US, we would be a safer, better nation. In a way, some conservatives have made Jack Bauer their poster boy for a “good American.”
    • Yeah, it seemed like a non sequitur to me, too.
    • Turns out that Tommy Douglas is Keifer Sutherland’s grandfather. Kiefer has apparently advocated for and about improved health care in Canada and Amy calls upon him to do the same in the US because of his position as bada** Jack Bauer.
      • An interesting twist on using pop cultural icons to influence policy, but can it be effective? Is Jack Bauer really that big of a deal? What do you think?
  • Global WARRing =
    • “Isn’t it remarkable that Obama is receiving the Nobel Peace Prize one week after calling for an escalation of troops in Afghanistan? An escalation, by the way, that 59% of Americans are against, but only 12% of media articles and editorials are against.”
    • Harvard Medical School came out with a study citing that 2200 veterans died in 2008 due to a lack of health insurance.
    • Also, FYI, President Obama does not write letters of condolence to families of soldiers who have committed suicide, only families of soldiers who died in combat. Suck.
    • “With regard to American soldiers; the only way to stem the bleeding is to withdraw.”
    • “Soldiers cannot have debates [about the positives and negatives of escalation versus withdrawal] on their bases, so WE must keep the conversation going around the big kitchen table that is our media.”
  • Cool websites I just learned about tonight =
    • Media Bistro, which reports on … the media
    • Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)
  • And a word I heard for the 1st time = advertorial; that is, an advertisement taken out in newspapers and magazines which is made to look like an unbiased editorial. Dig it.
  • New Year’s Eve 2010 = apparently over a thousand people from all over the world are going to Gaza to celebrate New Year’s 2010, in a Freedom March. You can register online here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

24 November 2009

24 November 2009



Afghanistan = Check out the indie pop band, Kabul Dreams who have songs like “Sound of Peace and Love.” Nice.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Notes from the subcommittee hearing on I-VAWA

Hello folks,

This Wednesday I was able to attend a really encouraging advocacy hearing, and wanted to share my notes with you. The House Foreign Affairs Committee heard testimony regarding the passage of the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA).

Ms. Schakowsky, co-chair of the Women's Caucus, spoke about the humanitarian concerns of violence against women internationally. She highlighted the fact that I-VAWA establishes the prevention of violence against women as a foreign policy priority, citing its multi-year, comprehensive strategy.

Mr. Delahunt, chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee, stated unequivocally that "every person deserves to live a life free of violence." If I understood correctly, he is sponsoring this bill to promote women's human rights and capacity building internationally, in recognition of the September 29, 2009 15th anniversary of the United States' Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Ambassador at Large of Global Women's Issues, Melanne Verveer, called violence against women one of the most serious global challenges of our time, stressing that it cannot and must not be relegated to the margins of foreign policy.

Ms. Smith, Congressperson, spoke primarily about sex trafficking abroad and in the US.

Ms. Mallika Dutt discussed her organization BreakThrough's use of mass media as a prevention tool to end violence against women. Her ultimate message is that ending violence against women is everyone's responsibility, and therefore it makes sense to engage men and boys in anti-violence campaigns. She also stressed the importance of partnering with multiple stakeholders and making youth outreach and participation a vital component of any advocacy campaign.

Ms. Nicole Kidman, a UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador, spoke to the point that violence against women is the most widespread human rights violation on the planet. She called I-VAWA a "comprehensive approach that acknowledges that women's rights are human rights," and which "requires political will at the highest levels to have an impact." She also talked about the fact that UNIFEM is solutions-based, working within local cultures to develop sustainable local answers.

Mr. Burton, Congressperson, spoke about being at home when his father tried to kill his mother, stressing that violence against women effects not only the women themselves, but all who love and care about them as well.

All in all, it was a good forum for advocacy and I am looking forward to reading the written testimony that each witness submitted to garner a more substantive feel for what I-VAWA entails.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

5 July 2009


· Darfur, Sudan = Two foreign aid workers, Hilda Kawuki from Uganda and Sharon Commins from Ireland, were abducted Friday from their compound in Kutum, northern Darfur. Six armed men allegedly took them hostage. They have not been heard from since. (AJ, BBC)

o Almost as newsworthy as this clip, is the fact that Sudanese women are often abducted, kidnapped, held hostage … and it doesn’t make international news to nearly this effect … but maybe I’m just a cynic.

  • Gambia = YAY! Twenty-four districts in Gambia’s Upper River Region have signed a public declaration abandoning female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C). These communities are all from the Mandinka or Fula ethnic groups – because this region has the country’s highest FGM/C rates, with 90 percent of women and girls being cut. FGM/C poses many health risks, including birth complications, maternal death, infertility, and urinary incontinence, including fistula. (IRIN Africa, UNICEF, Tostan)

· Namibia = Two HIV-positive Namibian women allege that they were sterilized, without their knowing consent and against their will, in local public hospitals. The International Community for Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW) has been hearing accounts of this type of abuse through its regular forums for HIV-positive young women. The ICW has now partnered with the Legal Assistance Centre, to bring these two cases before a judge. (IRIN)

o Deciding to take legal action is an incredibly difficult step. Many victims are reluctant to come forward due to fears that both their HIV status and their inability to bear children will be made public, both of which are causes of shame. (IRIN)

· Zimbabwe = BOO! This is yet another reason why you should never buy a diamond. Children as young as 13 years old have provided testimony to Human Rights Watch regarding their forced labor in diamond mines. The report is entitled Diamonds in the Rough and also suggests that some of the money from these diamond operations has funded military actions. (HRW)


  • Iran = The head of the Majlis’ (Iranian parliament) judiciary commission has changed some legal penalties, deeming them unnecessary. So, hopefully, we can say goodbye to stoning and the cutting off of hands. (AWID)
    • The Guardian Council holds final approval for these changes. If you speak Persian, I encourage you to be an advocate on this issue.
  • Israel = BOO! When one makes a mistake … the best action is usually to correct said mistake. Israel seems not to agree. After forcibly boarding a ship on a humanitarian mission to Gaza, the Israeli Navy detained all of the passengers, and “illegally took them to Israel against their will.” Some of these activists are still imprisoned. (AJ, DN)
    • How do we know this was a mistake? That group of “suspicious” activists includes Irish Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Maguire and US Congressperson Cynthia McKinney. You can watch Mairead Maguire on video here. (AJ, DN)
      • It’s time to correct this mistake and let these activists advocate. I would imagine that Israel’s actions have significantly strengthened their desire to help Gaza, too. Nice.


  • Afghanistan = The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has acceded to Additional Protocols I and II to the Geneva Conventions of 1949. These Additional Protocols address the protection of victims of armed conflicts. Accession to these Protocols does not mean that they are legally binding in Afghanistan – first they must be incorporated into Afghan domestic law, a step which may or may not follow. Let’s keep our eye on that, noting that the US is notoriously bad about incorporating international human rights standards into our own domestic law. (ICRC)


  • United States = YAY! President Obama has created a new White House position: Advisor on Violence Against Women. Lynn Rosenthal has been appointed to this position which will focus on domestic violence and sexual assault issues. Vice President Biden, an author of the Violence Against Women Act, announced the appointment. (AWID)


  • Sweet! IPS News has launched a new gender-focused portal, online at The website “intends to provide a knowledge center (for those) working for gender equality.” (AWID)

Monday, June 8, 2009

8 June 2009


  • Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou = YAY! President Blaise Compaoré has launched a nationwide campaign to reduce female genital mutilation/cutting. The National Committee Against Female Circumcision (CNLPE) is supporting this plan and is calling for a “zero tolerance” plan by 2015. (IRIN)
    • From IRIN: “Some 260 young girls underwent FGM/C in Burkina Faso in 2008, 40 percent of whom required medical treatment following the procedure, according to the CNLPE.”




· Zimbabwe = Douglas Gwatidzo, MD, has won the The Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights. (PHR)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Hate Fuck = Rape = Human Rights Violation

Soooo ... Playboy magazine's website this week posted an article by Guy Cimbalo entitled "So Right It's Wrong."

He described in detail how he would like to "hate fuck" a handful of conservative pundits/ politicians.

The media response has been disappointing. Nothing that I have read has yet pointed out the basic human rights objection to this. Columnists have decried Guy Cimbalo's misogyny, true ... but so far I haven't seen anyone call this what it is: an incitement to violence (which is speech that is NOT protected by the First Amendment) and a violation of these women's basic human rights to safety and security of the person.

There is now a list out there, targeting potential victims of violence. Guy Cimbalo has essentially created an "I dare you to rape these people" list.

Playboy's response? There is nothing on their website referencing that this article ever existed. Guy Cimbalo is still employed. The editor(s) who gave his piece the green light are still employed.

If the object of his article had been black pundits/ politicians who he'd like to "hate noose" I can't imagine the response being the same.

Help me advocate for basic human rights: contact Playboy, online at , and tell them how disgusted you are that they published such a bigoted article that encourags violence against a sector of our community. We need to hold our media accountable for the role they play in our popular culture ... if any of Guy Cimbalo's targets DO become victims of violence, I hope we as a society will hold the Playboy organization partly accountable.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Longer Than Expected Hiatus

Hello folks, 

We're still on HRRU hiatus due to other pressing work ... but we will be back soon and hope thereafter to remain your constant human rights news source. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

24 March 2009 -- Short Hiatus

Hello folks, 

We here at the HRRU are getting slammed with work (yay!!) so we're taking a short hiatus from the blog. It'll be back up in April and just as fabulous as ever. 

On a related note, we're working on a rather timely issue, and would love to hear from you if you have any contacts with human rights activists in Israel or Palestine who are involved in the peace process .... especially women's human rights activists

Thanks so much & we'll be back sooooooon ------ 

Sunday, March 15, 2009

16 March 2009


  • Democratic Republic of the Congo = Mai Mai commander Gedeon Kyungu Mutanga was convicted for crimes against humanity by a military court in Katanga province on March 5th. Yay! (HRW)
    • This ground-breaking ruling also awarded damages to victims of militia violence and found the government liable for failure to disarm militias. (HRW)
  • Nigeria = The National Assembly is debating the “Same Gender Marriage Bill” which would punish same sex marriage by imprisonment. (HRW, Queerty)
  • Sierra Leone = is kicking kids out of school if they get pregnant, or get a partner pregnant. (IRIN)
    • Anyone else think this is a terrible idea? Yowza.
  • Somalia = is instituting Sharia (Islamic) law. (AJ)
  • Sudan = 4 staff members of Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) who were abducted in Darfur have been released. (AJ)
    • Following these abductions, DWB pulled out of Darfur almost entirely, like many other aid organizations (see last week’s HRRU posting). (AJ)
  • Tunisia = Political prisoner Sadok Chorou was rearrested this week for speaking his dissident views to the media, apparently. He spent almost 20 years in prison on questionable charges and was only released from that original arrest a few weeks ago. Not cool. (HRW)



  • Liberia = 10 girls share their stories in a new documentary film: “I Have Something to Tell You” (UNICEF)
  • Yay! Comic Relief 2009 raised £57m overnight. The money is for “disadvantaged people” in the UK and the African continent. Nice. (BBC)