Yesterday and this week, we honor our transgender sisters and brothers, recognize the power of the Occupy Movement as mayors and police organize against fellow citizens and rely on journalists to keep us informed on the deeply troubling news emitting from Penn State University’s child abuse scandal.
13th Transgender Day of Remembrance
Sunday marked the 13th International Transgender Day of Remembrance. As we take a moment to commemorate transgender persons’ efforts to achieve justice for the living and pay tribute to those from our community who have been so cruelly murdered because of their gender identity. The New Civil Rights Movement stands with trans people in America and across the world in their efforts to achieve justice and equality and call on all LGBTQ groups to redouble their efforts to advance trans rights–in jobs, housing, medical and identity documentation, to name just a few. We have all witnessed the unprecedented mass media cultural breakthrough by Chaz Bono since his sexual transition from woman to man. We believe that these media outreach efforts, if done properly can advance the public’s awareness about the lives and needs of trans people and provide a window into the challenges of leading a transgender life. Check this calendar for commemorative events.
Clinton to Visit Burma–First in 50 Years
During President Barack Obama’s trip to Asia last week he announced that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would travel to Burma (also known as “Myanmar,” the previous military regime’s given name) next month to meet with a new civilian government formed earlier this year, that has signaled openness to the West in word and deed. Its release of home detained Nobel Peace laureate Daw Aung San Sung Suu Kyi, the enduring leader of the democratic opposition in Burma and her positive conversations with President Obama and Secretary Clinton gave the green light for the visit, the first by a U.S. Secretary of State in 50 years. A photograph of Clinton side-by-side with Suu Kyi will be an historic one, worth more than a thousand words. Clinton laid out the policy foundation for the Obama Asia trip early in November by delivering a speech titled “America’s Pacific Century.”
Syrian Regime Escalates Violence, Egypt Protesters Challenge Military
Sectarian violence continues to plague Syria, where the city of Homs is ground zero for government orchestrated killings estimated at several hundred casualties a day now, that has been weeks in duration since Arab Spring hit Syria in February. President Bashar al-Assad’s actions, in wake of the Arab League’s suspension, indicates he has no intention of seeking a brokered mediation to end hostilities between the government and Syria’s opposition. Egypt on the other hand, whose opposition succeeded in removing dictator Hosni Mubarak earlier in 2011, has returned to Cairo’s streets in opposition the the military rulers who have slowed a turnover to elected civilian leadership. Demonstrators were violently removed from Tahrir Square in clashes on Friday when the military and police used tear gas on the opposition, that was estimated more than 1,000 persons were injured and 10 persons were killed. Demonstrators are demanding elections and a quick transition to civilian rule.
U.S. Mayors Coordinate Arrests of Occupy Activists, Capitol Hill Weighs In, UC-Davis Cops Overreact
From Oakland to New York City during the past week, the nation’s mayors and police forces engaged in an apparent coordinated effort to drive the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators out of park encampments coast-to-coast, resulting in arrests, violence and outrage by demonstrators, who vowed to continue the anti-Wall Street movement, who seem only limited by their imaginations and ability to adapt to harsh conditions.
The police effort in New York City began early Tuesday morning after an order by Mayor Michael Bloomberg who directed the police action that began at 1:00 a.m. when NYPD raided Zucotti Park in full anti-riot gear, accompanied by the New York City Department of Sanitation and the FDNY, who assisted in throwing away all personal items, including bedding, clothing, books and food.
Not only were demonstrators arrested, but so were journalists, even if they were clearly identified as media. The raid’s obvious timing was directed to avoid and severely limit media coverage, given the action took place during the early hours of the morning. David Badash, the New Civil Rights Movement publisher and editor in chief reported NYPD’s actions, posting blogs at 2:10 a.m. and 4:13 a.m., that were followed up throughout the week, including court judgements evicting movement participants from Zucotti Park and directing that no demonstrators could return to the park with tents or stay overnight.
Meanwhile, a news story reported by the San Francisco Bay Guardian on Friday said that The Police Executive Research Forum, an international non-governmental organization was intimately involved in facilitating a national coordinated effort to roll-up the Occupy Movement at the request of 40-city governments from Oakland to New York City. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan tipped off media that a coordinated effort had been underway during an interview reported by MSNBC on Tuesday. Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! confirmed the media reports on Thursday when she interviewed Chuck Wexler, director of the Police Executive Research Forum. Goodman, describing the interview, writes on her blog:
We host a discussion on policing and the Occupy Wall Street movement with Chuck Wexler, director of the Police Executive Research Forum, which helped organize calls among police chiefs on how to respond to the Occupy protests, and with Norm Stamper, the former police chief of Seattle, who recently wrote an article for The Nation magazine titled “Paramilitary Policing from Seattle to Occupy Wall Street.” “Trust me, the police do not want to be put in this position. And cities really need to ask themselves, is there another way to handle this kind of conflict?” Wexler says. Stamper notes, “There are many compassionate, decent, competent police officers who do a terrific job day in and day out. There are others who are, quote, ‘bad apples.’ What both of them have in common is that they ‘occupy,’ as it were, a system, a structure that itself is rotten. And I am talking about the paramilitary bureaucracy.”
By Saturday morning the Occupy Movement story moved from city parks to Capitol Hill when MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, host of Up with Chris Hayes reported he had obtained a copy of a memorandum prepared by the D.C. lobbying firm Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranfor, which reportedly has close ties with Speaker John Boehner, who wrote a memorandum to the American Bankers Association proposing an $850,000 strategy that would include monitoring and efforts to undermine the Occupy Wall Street movement in support of politicians who are opposed to the grassroots movement.
But the denouement of the week was video and photographs of the University of California-Davis police pepper spraying protesting students who were sitting on the ground, engaged in non-violent constitutional civil disobedience. This video and photographs give new meaning to the adage that “a photograph is worth a thousand words.” The two officers involved in the pepper spray incident are under investigation by a University task force and are currently on paid administrative leave. Faculty and students are calling for Chancellor Linda Katehi to step down. Katehi has dismissed such calls for the time being.
Failure Likely as Deadline Looms for Super Committee on Deficit Reduction
The Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction that calls for $1.2 trillion in the government debt over the next 10 years, says that a compromise with Republicans is not likely who face a looming deadline tomorrow and a Wednesday vote by committee members on negotiated cuts and revenues. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) said Sunday during a CNN television interview that “no-compromise with the Republican members of the committee is in sight” and that the main sticking point was concerning “shared sacrifice” by all Americans, a euphemism for raising taxes on those who earn more than $1 million a year, a Democratic policy that the Republicans have refused to agree to during the past 10 weeks of debate and negotiation.
If the Super Committee fails to reach a compromise on the cuts, a process known as “sequestration” will kick-in automatically cutting substantially large sums of money across the U.S. government budget. Both Democrats and Republicans admitted today that sequestration is probably the only way out of the shameful morass.
Prop 8 Ruling Allows Anti-Gay Marriage Proponents Standing
The California State Supreme Court issued an advisory ruling on Thursday that gives standing to Proposition 8 proponents to challenge the Court’s constitutional ruling on December 8. The full transcript of the Court’s decision is here. The American Foundation for Equal Rights seems unperturbed by the ruling and fully expects the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm the District Court constitutional ruling on behalf of marriage equality.
Penn State: Sandusky Claims Innocence, NCAA Opens Investigation of Penn State’s Athletics, Paterno Diagnosed with “Recoverable” Lung Cancer
The second week of the Penn State University sexual abuse scandal seems to only get worse, as more new stories emerged, including a Saturday announcement that former coach Joe Paterno has been diagnosed with “recoverable” lung cancer. Paterno is 84-years old. The painful reality that there are more terrible facts to emerge is something truly hard to fathom, with the media taking command in reporting each new fact that emerges to a stunned and captivated story that is simultaneously repulsive and deeply offensive.
Stunningly, Jerry Sandusky, former defense coordinator coach for the football team, who has been charged with 40 counts of sex abuse of children, gave a telephone interview to Bob Costas, the highly regarded NBC sports journalist, that was initially broadcast on MSNBC’s Hard Ball with Chris Matthews and later on NBC’s Hard Rock with Brian Williams on Monday evening that revealed a halting Sandusky, who delayed his denial that he was sexually aroused by young boys, in a direct question posed by Costas, but admitted that he “should not have showered with those kids.”
More investigations have ensued, including the NCAA who communicated by letter to Penn State on Thursday which informed the university, in a blow that it would not be limiting its investigation to the football program, but would include all athletics at Penn State University. Other agencies investigating the beleaguered university include the Attorney General of Pennsylvania State, the Board of Trustees of Penn State University, The Second Mile, the organization that Sandusky founded for at risk children, the U.S. Department of Education and potentially the FBI, who could be looking into Sandusky’s travel to out-of-state sporting events, which he took children with him who he allegedly sexually assaulted and raped during these trips.
Media reports indicate that The Second Mile is in the process of spinning off its programs to other agencies and may close its doors, due to the child sex abuse scandal.
Penn State University is required by the Jeanne Clery Act, a federal statute, to annually report all campus crimes to the Department of Education. Failure to report crimes, can result in a $27,500 penalty for each infraction and can expose the University to violations of Title X education requirements.
Given the magnitude of the Penn State scandal, the media has taken command of this story with Sports Illustrated magazine publishing a “special edition” cover story this week titled “Special Report: Scandal. Shame. A search for answers at Penn State.”
While the New York Times got credit for breaking this story, the reporter who initially reported that Sandusky had been summoned to a grand jury was scooped by Sara Ganim, a 24 year-old crime reporter at the Harrisburg Patriot-News on March 31st, who graduated from Penn State in 2008. Ganim has garnered national attention for her intrepid reporting, most recently for her published interviews on Nov. 7 of two mothers of children who were allegedly sexually assaulted by Sandusky. The Patriot-News published a story to readers by writing they broke the story when they had the facts.
Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.
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