McDonald’s Workers Strike Over Widespread Sexual Harassment

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Naomi LaChance.

McDonald’s workers in 10 U.S. cities plan to strike Tuesday at lunchtime over sexual harassment and subsequent retaliation at the fast-food company.

“Whatever [anti-harassment] policy they have is not effective,” Mary Joyce Carlson, an attorney with Fight for $15, a fair pay organization, told The Associated Press. Carlson has been working with 10 McDonald’s workers who filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about predatory workplace behavior including groping and propositions for sex.

“I couldn’t deal with it physically, just going into the workplace,” Tanya Harrel said. Harrel, who claims to have experienced sexual harassment twice from two different coworkers over the course of a month at a New Orleans McDonald’s, filed a complaint with the EEOC backed by the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund. She also took some days and weeks off from work.

“I couldn’t afford to pay my phone bill, couldn’t afford my grandmom’s medicine. I had to really ask people for money because I was so scared to go back to work,” Harrel said.

“All the men feel like they have all the power, so they’ll cut your hours. Or if they can’t, they’ll just make your day a living hell,” Adriana Alvarez, a Chicago-based strike organizer and McDonald’s employee, told The New Republic. “They make you feel like you are nothing, just because you tried to stand up against them.”

Workers in Chicago, Durham, N.C., Kansas City, Mo., Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Orlando, Fla., San Francisco and St Louis are planning to take part in the strike.

“Most companies have a policy saying no sexual harassment, but how do you make that work? Right now, because of the huge power disparities, it’s easy to just wait out the complaints and nothing really changes,” National Women’s Law Center CEO Fatima Goss Graves told The Associated Press. Graves’ organization runs the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund.

McDonald’s, in an email to The Associated Press, defended itself: “McDonald’s Corporation takes allegations of sexual harassment very seriously and are confident our independent franchisees who own and operate approximately 90 percent of our 14,000 U.S. restaurants will do the same,” the company said.

In 2016, 15 restaurant cashiers and cooks teamed up with Fight for $15 to file complaints about sexual harassment at McDonald’s with the EEOC as well. Reuters reported that McDonald’s “did not immediately comment on the company’s sexual harassment policy or what, if any actions, were taken after the 2016 accusations.”

But in the time of #MeToo, the workers going on strike Tuesday maintain hope that their demands will be heard.

“I am a person; I am a woman. I matter,” Harrel said.

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American History for Truthdiggers: The Slow, Perilous Shift to Emancipation

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Maj. Danny Sjursen.

Editor’s note: The past is prologue. The stories we tell about ourselves and our forebears inform the sort of country we think we are and help determine public policy. As our current president promises to “make America great again,” this moment is an appropriate time to reconsider our past, look back at various eras of United States history and re-evaluate America’s origins. When, exactly, were we “great”?

Below is the 17th installment of the “American History for Truthdiggers” series, a pull-no-punches appraisal of our shared, if flawed, past. The author of the series, Danny Sjursen, an active-duty major in the U.S. Army, served military tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and taught the nation’s checkered, often inspiring past when he was an assistant professor of history at West Point. His war experiences, his scholarship, his skill as a writer and his patriotism illuminate these Truthdig posts.

Part 17 of “American History for Truthdiggers.”

See: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11; Part 12; Part 13; Part 14; Part 15; Part 16.

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“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union.” —President Abraham Lincoln, in a letter to the abolitionist Horace Greeley (Aug. 22, 1862)

It is nearly impossible to illustrate the magnitude of the American ordeal of civil war. It is not just the hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians killed, but the fact that this war—perhaps more than any other—utterly transformed the United States. The bookshelves simply overflow with fascinating military histories of the conflict, and I’ll leave that part of the story to their distinguished authors. Rather, let us here examine how, in the course of just four years, the war moved from being dedicated solely to the preservation of the Union to becoming a war of liberation to emancipate slaves.

How, in other words, did President Lincoln move from his above quote—declaring he would do nearly anything with the slaves (including leaving them in bondage) in order to preserve the Union—to the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and, eventually, the 13th Amendment constitutionally abolishing slavery (1865)? What’s certain is that Lincoln himself may have transformed—for both tactical and moral reasons—as a brutal war moved him squarely into the abolitionist camp. This is perhaps the most profound tale of this horrific war: the one with the most transformative impacts.

The Myth of Union Invincibility

It’s often said that the North held all the strong economic, political and military cards at the start of this war. And, indeed, it did—on paper. The Union states had the vast majority of the (white) population, nine-tenths of the manufactured goods, seven-tenths of the miles of railroad tracks, nine-tenths of the merchant ships and seven-tenths of the grain production. The North also received most of the country’s annual immigration and had eight-tenths of the nation’s banking flow. By these measures, it seemed the South didn’t stand a chance.

But a closer look narrows the gap between the two belligerents. The North had essentially no army—its paltry regiments were mostly spread across the vast western interior fighting Indians. Furthermore, some of the most able U.S. Army officers—one thinks of Robert E. Lee, T.J. “Stonewall” Jackson and James Longstreet—quickly resigned their commissions and joined the new Confederate army. That army, of course, was mobilized rather quickly because it had a head start. After John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859, spooked Southerners from Virginia to Texas formed militias to stave off perceived threats of slave rebellion. Many of these local militiamen would form the core of the future Confederate armies.

Perhaps the biggest equalizer, however, was the matter of opposing war aims. The Union could win only if it conquered and occupied much of the South. A win for the South, on the other hand, meant simply not losing. This is a much easier, and defensive, task. The Union could count on long supply lines (which had to be guarded) and frequent guerrilla attacks by the Confederates at its rear. The South fought on familiar turf and with much shorter supply lines. And the population numbers were themselves deceptive. Though the North counted seven-tenths of the white population, the South counted nearly 4 million slaves. These laborers kept the Southern agrarian economy churning and freed up millions of potential soldiers for the Confederacy. Conversely, Northerners, out of fear of crippling their economy, couldn’t mobilize nearly so high a percentage of the workforce.

Many Southerners also argued that its rural population was more martial and effective than the supposedly effete Yankees. Some even claimed that just a single Southerner could “whoop 10 Yankees!” Though the South met early battlefield success and was generally better led during the war’s early campaigns, such conceited proclamations would be proved wrong. It turned out that there was enough (often foolhardy) valor on both sides, as men killed and died with a discipline that is shocking to the modern reader. In the end, nothing was inevitable, neither Union victory nor Southern defeat, but by 1862 one thing seemed certain: It was to be a long, hard war.

For Union!: Lincoln Walks the High Wire (1861-62)

President Lincoln was obsessed with Kentucky. Well, he had been born there. But there was far more to it. After all, not every slave state had seceded. Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware stayed in the Union—in some cases only just. Lincoln knew he needed to keep the so-called border states on the Union side, or at least neutral. Many lateral (east/west) railroad lines ran through the western border states and would be vital to shifting troops from theater to theater. Maryland and Delaware, along with already seceded Virginia, surrounded the Union capital, Washington, D.C. The president’s very safety was at stake.

So it was that Lincoln’s desire to keep the border states in the Union informed the president’s strategic thinking in the war’s first year. Lincoln had to downplay the abolitionist sentiments of his Republican Party and reassure Northern Americans—most of them wildly racist—that this war was for union, not a crusade against slavery. In keeping with this strategy, in the war’s early months most Union commanders were ordered to return runaway slaves and enforce the Southerners’ rights to their “property.”

Lincoln didn’t want and, he thought, couldn’t afford a crusade. What was needed was a quick victory, and a limited war that didn’t too badly damage Southern property or increase border state sympathy for the Confederacy. Initially, Lincoln called for only 75,000 three-month volunteers, and this is telling. One grand victory and the seizure of the Confederate capital in nearby Richmond, Va., might just end the war in one fell swoop. Of course, it was not to be. The green Union Army was out-led and, ultimately, outfought at the July 1861 Battle of Bull Run, near Manassas Junction, Va., and fled back to the District of Columbia in disarray.

In Tennessee and Mississippi, an unknown, disheveled general named Ulysses S. Grant—who had failed in most of life’s endeavors and been cashiered from the regular Army years before for drunkenness—met with more success (he would eventually lead all Union armies). Still, the rebels had generally acquitted themselves well in the war’s early years. It was to be a long war. Union strategy would have to change. As Lincoln wrote, “We must change tactics or lose the game.” It was time to strike the economic and cultural heart of the Confederacy: the institution of slavery.

‘As He Died to Make Men Holy, Let Us Die to Set Men Free’: Emancipation Comes at Last

Lincoln was stuck between political forces. The opposition Democrats in the North were decidedly against emancipation of the slaves, as was much of the Northern population (especially Irish immigrants). His own Republicans—especially the “radical wing”—on the other hand, were becoming frustrated with Union military defeats and Lincoln’s unwillingness to attack slavery. But Lincoln was personally edging ever closer to the “radical” position, for reasons of “military necessity.” Congress, in July of that year, had passed the Confiscation Act of 1862, which held that Union military officers were no longer obliged to return runaways to Southern slaveholders. Congress knew, as did Lincoln and his commanders, that slavery was the core of the Southern war machine. Slaves dug trenches, built forts, raised crops and enabled millions of white men to head to the battle front. Something had to be done to strike a blow to the South’s war-making capacity. An attack on slavery seemed to be just the thing.

Unfortunately, Lincoln felt he first needed a battlefield victory before issuing an Emancipation Proclamation. And, for a year, his armies in the vital Eastern theater had known nothing but defeat: at Bull Run (1861), the Peninsula Campaign (1862), the Shenandoah Valley (1862) and Second Bull Run (1862). Then, in September 1862, the effective, victorious Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee took his Army of Northern Virginia northward and invaded Maryland. He hoped to turn Maryland into a rebel state, gain international recognition for the Confederacy and, perhaps, end the war. On Sept. 17, 1862, at Antietam Creek, Lee was (just barely) defeated and forced back into Virginia. Though the ever-cautious Union Gen. George B. McClellan had failed to trap and destroy or at least meaningfully pursue Lee’s army (despite having found a misplaced copy of the Confederate battle plan!), Lincoln had the “victory” he needed.

Soon afterward, he issued probably one of the most profound, questionably legal and consequential executive edicts of all time: the Emancipation Proclamation. It declared that on Jan. 1, 1863, all slaves held in the rebellious states were “then, thenceforward, and forever free!” So, how many slaves did Lincoln free in January 1863? Zero. The edict didn’t touch the slaves in border states (Lincoln still needed to keep these states in the Union) and applied only to slaves in regions actively in rebellion. Of course, the Confederates reigned in these areas and weren’t about to free their slaves. In the end, the proclamation was a war measure, not a humanitarian decree. But it did change one thing. The Union Army would transform overnight into an army of liberation wherever it marched.

This much, too, is certain: There would have been no Emancipation Proclamation had the war not lasted so long and turned so bloody. It was the death of whites by the tens of thousands that convinced the Union to free the blacks. The irony, of course, was that if the Union had won at Bull Run, or if the Union’s commander during 1862, Gen. McClellan, would have seized Richmond in July 1862 (as he nearly did), then the war might have ended with slavery intact. After all, emancipation was not yet a stated war aim, and it is likely that a coalition of Southerners, border staters and Northern Democrats would have negotiated reunion without emancipation. Who knows how long slavery might then have persevered in the American South.

Who (Really) Freed the Slaves?

“The Emancipation of Negroes” (1863), by the influential artist and cartoonist Thomas Nast, offers an aspirational depiction of a prospering black family, at center. The drawing, published in Harper’s Weekly, commemorates President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which took effect on the first day of January in 1863.

Ask an American on the street today “Who freed the slaves?” and nine times out of 10 the answer will be “Abe Lincoln, of course.” But that’s not strictly true. Lincoln did, it must be said, generally abhor the institution of slavery, but he was extraordinarily cautious in its abolition. His Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free a single slave on the day it took effect, Jan. 1, 1863. And it wasn’t just “military necessity” that had provoked the decision. From the earliest days of the war, the slaves, if not the Northern whites, were totally sure this was a war for abolition. By the tens of thousands they risked their lives to escape to Union lines. They placed the question of emancipation—of what exactly was to be done with these “contrabands” of war, as the slaves were termed—on the agenda of the Union Army and, by extension, the U.S. government.

“Near Andersonville” (1866) by Winslow Homer, one of the foremost painters of 19th-century America. It shows a slave watching as Union troops are led into captivity by Confederates. More than 10,000 Northerners died at the Andersonville Prison in Georgia during the Civil War.

How this process worked can be made clear with a simple vignette, undoubtedly repeated thousands of times during the war. A family of runaway slaves—man, woman and child—escapes a plantation and enters Union-held territory. They meet a lowly private on guard duty. The soldier is no abolitionist; heck, he has probably never met many black people. He certainly doesn’t see them as his equal. Still, he catches the look in the poor child’s eyes and doesn’t want to be responsible for turning these slaves away. So he asks his lieutenant what to do, who asks the captain, who asks the colonel, who asks the general, who … eventually asks President Lincoln. What exactly is the policy of the U.S. government toward these human “contrabands”? The question becomes public, is debated in Congress, on the streets, in countless taverns.

Most standard histories ignore this facet of the war and deny agency to the millions of black slaves, most of whom are portrayed as victims and then grateful benefactors. Only they were so much more. Seen in this light, it was the slaves, through their many thousands of dangerous escapes, who freed themselves, by flooding the Union Army lines both before and after the famed Emancipation Proclamation.

Whither Civil Liberties?

The Civil War probably did more to expand federal and presidential power than any other war in American history. Although both the Union and Confederacy were republics and ostensible democracies, each soon found that exigencies of war would force them to curtail civil liberties and centralize governance. The latter was particularly ironic in the “states rights”-obsessed South. Lincoln, in response to anti-conscription and anti-war riots, called out the Army in more than a few cities, suspended habeas corpus and imprisoned many anti-war figures. He even banished one Ohio politician to the South! Some of these measures have been, rightfully, criticized by later scholars.

But context matters. Lincoln had a war to win, political enemies at his rear and an Army that had known mostly defeat for two full years. Furthermore, the draft riots were a genuine threat and a reflection of Northern racism (and unhappiness about fighting for black freedom), especially among the Irish. For example, in the New York riots of July 1863, angry mobs attacked blacks throughout the city, killing over 100 and prompting Lincoln to call in federal troops fresh from the Battle of Gettysburg to suppress the five-day melee. Lincoln’s critics, who took to calling him “King Abraham,” “a caesar” and a tyrant remained angry throughout the war. They resented the implementation of a military draft (the first of its type), his transformation of the war into one of emancipation, declarations of martial law and his suspension of civil liberties. However, the American people, by and large, stood by Lincoln and gave him (a surprising) victory in his bid for re-election in 1864.

“The Miscegenation Ball,” an 1864 political attack on Lincoln, attempted to inflame racist passions by portraying white men cavorting with black women.

The actions of Confederate President Jefferson Davis were even more ironic. His was a republic supposedly founded on states’ rights and in opposition to centralized control. And yet it was the Confederacy that first passed a conscription law and drafted its white population into military service.

Interestingly, a “Twenty-Negro Law” exempted substantial slaveholders from conscription, resulting in opposition by some to what was called a “rich man’s war and poor man’s fight.” The government in Richmond could temporarily commandeer slaves for war labor. Furthermore, high taxation (which the Southern Democrats supposedly abhorred) combined with food shortages to cause notorious “bread riots” in Richmond and mass desertions from the South’s armies. In some regions, deserters and draft dodgers formed armed militias that essentially ruled certain counties as independent nations.

The story was the same, North and South, as it often is: “Military necessity” and a long, bloody war curtailed individual freedom.

Carnage: Waging the Civil War

It was a bloodbath. From start to finish, thousands upon thousands of Americans—clad in blue or gray—fell dead or maimed on the field of battle. Few had predicted such a massive bloodletting; after all, this was to be a 90-day war. Instead it lasted more than four years. The American Civil War was by far the costliest in American history. Some 600,000 died, if not more—equivalent to more than the American fatalities of the two world wars taken together. On a single day at the Battle of Antietam (Sept. 17, 1862), more men were killed and wounded on both sides than in all previous American wars. More Union men became casualties that day than the number that would fall on D-Day in 1944.

The primary cause of all this death and destruction (besides the devotion of both sides) was the rifled musket. In previous wars, the United States and other belligerents generally used smoothbore muskets, which were far less accurate. Rifling a musket increased its range and accuracy fourfold and made the defense the far stronger tactical position. The rifle also decreased the offensive value of artillery, as gunners could now be picked off when the cannons were brought forward. Furthermore, traditional cavalry charges became a thing of the past, since bullets took down horses and riders long before they could reach the infantrymen’s lines.

Still, there was more to it than mere technology. The tactics of this war had not yet caught up with the technological advances. Most officers on both sides, trained in Napoleonic tactics at West Point, preferred the offensive to the defensive. They were taught to be aggressive and to seek out and destroy the enemy’s main force. Few recognized the transformational power of the rifle soon enough to stray from the “close-order column” tactics of the Napoleonic Wars, and they marched their men straight into the deadly maelstrom of enemy fire. Though often misguided, these officers were brave; there is no question. Colonels and generals led from the front, and in the Civil War a general was more likely to be killed than a private. The inverse has tended to be true ever since. By war’s end, after years of failure to recognize the tactical revolution that had been unleashed, both sides had shifted to entrenchments and defensive fortifications. Unfortunately, by then hundreds of thousands had fallen in foolish close-order charges.

We Are Men: Black Soldiers in the Civil War

“Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters US, let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on earth or under the earth which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship in the United States.” —A speech by abolitionist and former runaway slave Frederick Douglass at National Hall in Philadelphia (July 6, 1863)

Few could have imagined it. Most Southerners and plenty of Northerners couldn’t have foreseen the mass arming of blacks and their service in the armies of the federal republic! But this is exactly what occurred, as early as 1862, when Congress gave its approval. The decision was driven by two main forces: one, military necessity, and, two, the clamoring of blacks and runaway slaves themselves to serve the Union. And enlist they did, in record numbers. Though just 1 percent of the prewar Northern population, blacks eventually constituted 10 percent of Union Army volunteers. Furthermore, 85 percent of the North’s of-age black population enlisted.

All told, by war’s end, 180,000 blacks would serve the Union. They were paid less than white soldiers, treated poorly by many white troopers, served under white officers and were initially kept behind the lines for humiliating menial labor. Still, the valor of the black troops cannot be overestimated. By 1865, 20 percent of the 180,000 black soldiers had died, a casualty rate much higher than among their white brothers in arms. Many black soldiers came from the border states, for enlisting in the Army was the only sure way to freedom in regions where slavery remained legal after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. Tens of thousands of others were runaways, only recently held in bondage.

“And Not This Man?” (August 1865) by Thomas Nast shows the nation in the guise of Columbia appealing for civil rights for a soldier who lost a leg in the recently ended Civil War. Nearly 200,000 blacks fought for the Union.

These men knew exactly what they were fighting for. The war was no abstraction for a runaway slave. In the Army they could contribute to a victory they hoped would bring their permanent salvation. They also found many other things in the Army: the dignity of service; a transformation of their self-image; and, among some at least, a new respect in the collective national opinion. Still, serving in a black regiment was dangerous for soldier and officer alike. The Confederates were appalled by the sight of blacks armed and in uniform. Some Confederate units refused to take black prisoners and had a policy of shooting captured black soldiers and their hated white officers. Besides, with much to prove on the field of battle, combat could be extraordinarily perilous.

One of the first and most famous black regiments formed was the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. Its colonel was the 26-year-old Robert Gould Shaw, the son of prominent abolitionist parents in Boston. As a Massachusetts regiment, raised partly at the behest of Frederick Douglass and other famous local abolitionists, the 54th was the North’s “showcase black regiment.” In July 1863, the regiment volunteered to lead the assault on the formidable Fort Wagner in South Carolina. In the heroic, and ultimately unsuccessful, attack, nearly half the regiment became casualties and Shaw was killed charging the fort’s parapet. Though the attack failed, the exploits of the 54th resonated across the North. The Atlantic Monthly declared, “Through the cannon smoke of that dark night [at Fort Wagner], the manhood of the colored race shines before many eyes that would not see.”

The Confederates threw the body of Col. Shaw into the pit of a mass grave along with hundreds of his enlisted men. When a Confederate officer supposedly replied to a request for Shaw’s body with the taunt “We have buried him with his niggers,” Shaw’s proud father replied, “We hold that a soldier’s most appropriate burial-place is on the field where he has fallen.” Col. Shaw still lies with his men in that pit on a South Carolina island.

Lincoln’s Final Act: The 13th Amendment

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” —Section I, 13th Amendment to the Constitution (1865)

By January 1865, the war was finally nearing its end. More than half a million soldiers were dead, and nearly 200,000 blacks wore the uniform of the Union. Still, President Lincoln felt there remained work to be done aside from achieving victory in the war. During a lame-duck session of Congress, he fought hard and pushed the 13th Amendment through the House of Representatives on its way to ratification. He was advised not to do so. Some thought it would motivate the South to fight on; others, that it would alienate Lincoln’s supporters in the slave-laden border states; plenty just plain disagreed with the final abolition of slavery.

Nevertheless, Lincoln proceeded. He did so, mainly, because he feared the war would end before slavery was on its way to abolishment. His Emancipation Proclamation, after all, was an executive war measure, sanctioned not by Congress but by presidential fiat. Though the proclamation declared the slaves were “forever free,” might not the courts determine after the war that the edict was unconstitutional or no longer in effect? Might then, as Lincoln feared most, the runaway slaves that donned the Union blue be rendered slaves once again at war’s end? Here Lincoln demonstrated his true mettle. He and his supporters lobbied for the necessary votes, probably bribed their way to some, and eventually won passage of the amendment. Thus ended slavery everywhere. And, ironically, it was in loyal border states such as Delaware that it ended last—long after the Union Army had liberated the slaves of Alabama.

Emancipation and the 13th Amendment that followed constituted, by some economic measurements, the largest and quickest forced confiscation of property in world history and were, by their very nature, a major and complex undertaking. The achievement was profound, if unexpected. A war undertaken, by Lincoln’s own declaration, for preservation of the Union—regardless of the outcome for the slaves—had within four short years morphed into a conflict that abolished slavery once and for all. It was now the law of the land: “Neither slavery, nor indentured servitude … shall exist within the United States.” It was a long, hard road, but after half a century of effort, the once mocked abolitionists had achieved freedom for the slaves.

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On April 14, 1865, just days after Robert E. Lee surrendered his army, Lincoln was assassinated in Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., by the actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. In a tragedy truer than fiction, Lincoln would not see the Union to final victory. Nonetheless, by April 1865, Lincoln knew that victory was near—though it was not the sort of victory he had initially envisioned. He had hoped to quickly re-establish and preserve the Union without resorting to total war.

Instead, the carnage of Bull Run, the Peninsula campaign, Shiloh and other battles led him to see the bitter truth. Victory demanded that the old Union and the old South be destroyed and a new union reconstructed on its ashes. This would be the task at hand when the Confederacy surrendered. The nation had changed by 1865. The role and scope of federal power had forever increased; notions of race and citizenship had been reformulated. And, lastly, a new nationalism formed as Americans started to think of the federal Union as the paramount law of the land. Before the war, most Americans referred to these United States. After the conflict, almost all labeled this country the United States!

The war appeared to solve many things: the question of union, the legality of secession, even the existence of slavery. Yet so much more, so many unanswered questions, lay before Lincoln’s untested successor and the nation as a whole. How shall the Union be pieced together, and how would (or should) 4 million souls—recently held in bondage—be integrated into American society? The nation would have to be reconstructed, to be sure, but few knew quite what to do with the freed slaves. In the aftermath of civil war there existed an opportunity, a first chance, to legislate and enforce racial equality once and for all. Americans had only to seize the chance. Tragically, they would not.

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To learn more about this topic, consider the following scholarly works:

• James West Davidson, Brian DeLay, Christine Leigh Heyrman, Mark H. Lytle, and Michael B. Stoff, “Experience History: Interpreting America’s Past,” Chapter 16: “Total War and the Republic, 1861-1865” (2011).
• James M. McPherson, “The Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era” (1998).

Maj. Danny Sjursen, a regular contributor to Truthdig, is a U.S. Army officer and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, “Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge.” He lives with his wife and four sons in Lawrence, Kan. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet and check out his new podcast, “Fortress on a Hill,” co-hosted with fellow vet Chris “Henri” Henrikson.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

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Conjuring Up the Next Depression

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Chris Hedges.

During the financial crisis of 2008, the world’s central banks, including the Federal Reserve, injected trillions of dollars of fabricated money into the global financial system. This fabricated money has created a worldwide debt of $325 trillion, more than three times global GDP. The fabricated money was hoarded by banks and corporations, loaned by banks at predatory interest rates, used to service interest on unpayable debt or spent buying back stock, providing millions in compensation for elites. The fabricated money was not invested in the real economy. Products were not manufactured and sold. Workers were not reinstated into the middle class with sustainable incomes, benefits and pensions. Infrastructure projects were not undertaken. The fabricated money reinflated massive financial bubbles built on debt and papered over a fatally diseased financial system destined for collapse.

What will trigger the next crash? The $13.2 trillion in unsustainable U.S. household debt? The $1.5 trillion in unsustainable student debt? The billions Wall Street has invested in a fracking industry that has spent $280 billion more than it generated from its operations? Who knows. What is certain is that a global financial crash, one that will dwarf the meltdown of 2008, is inevitable. And this time, with interest rates near zero, the elites have no escape plan. The financial structure will disintegrate. The global economy will go into a death spiral. The rage of a betrayed and impoverished population will, I fear, further empower right-wing demagogues who promise vengeance on the global elites, moral renewal, a nativist revival heralding a return to a mythical golden age when immigrants, women and people of color knew their place, and a Christianized fascism.

The 2008 financial crisis, as the economist Nomi Prins points out, “converted central banks into a new class of power brokers.” They looted national treasuries and amassed trillions in wealth to become politically and economically omnipotent. In her book “Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World,” she writes that central bankers and the world’s largest financial institutions fraudulently manipulate global markets and use fabricated, or as she writes, “fake money,” to inflate asset bubbles for short-term profit as they drive us toward “a dangerous financial precipice.”

“Before the crisis, they were just asleep at the wheel, in particular, the Federal Reserve of the United States, which is supposed to be the main regulator of the major banks in the United States,” Prins said when we met in New York. “It did a horrible job of doing that, which is why we had the financial crisis. It became a deregulator instead of a regulator. In the wake of the financial crisis, the solution to fixing the crisis and saving the economy from a great depression or recession, whatever the terminology that was used at any given time, was to fabricate trillions and trillions of dollars out of an electronic ether.”

The Federal Reserve handed over an estimated $29 trillion of this fabricated money to American banks, according to researchers at the University of Missouri. Twenty-nine trillion dollars! We could have provided free college tuition to every student or universal health care, repaired our crumbling infrastructure, transitioned to clean energy, forgiven student debt, raised wages, bailed out underwater homeowners, formed public banks to invest at low interest rates in our communities, provided a guaranteed minimum income for everyone and organized a massive jobs program for the unemployed and underemployed. Sixteen million children would not go to bed hungry. The mentally ill and the homeless—an estimated 553,742 Americans are homeless every night—would not be left on the streets or locked away in our prisons. The economy would revive. Instead, $29 trillion in fabricated money was handed to financial gangsters who are about to make most of it evaporate and plunge us into a depression that will rival that of the global crash of 1929.

Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers write on the website Popular Resistance, “One-sixth of this could provide a $12,000 annual basic income, which would cost $3.8 trillion annually, doubling Social Security payments to $22,000 annually, which would cost $662 billion, a $10,000 bonus for all U.S. public school teachers, which would cost $11 billion, free college for all high school graduates, which would cost $318 billion, and universal preschool, which would cost $38 billion. National improved Medicare for all would actually save the nation trillions of dollars over a decade.”

An emergency clause in the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 allows the Fed to provide liquidity to a distressed banking system. But the Federal Reserve did not stop with the creation of a few hundred billion dollars. It flooded the financial markets with absurd levels of fabricated money. This had the effect of making the economy appear as if it had revived. And for the oligarchs, who had access to this fabricated money while we did not, it did.

The Fed cut interest rates to near zero. Some central banks in Europe instituted negative interest rates, meaning they would pay borrowers to take loans. The Fed, in a clever bit of accounting, even permitted distressed banks to use these no-interest loans to buy U.S. Treasury bonds. The banks gave the bonds back to the Fed and received a quarter of a percent of interest from the Fed. In short, the banks were loaned money at virtually no interest by the Fed and then were paid interest by the Fed on the money they borrowed. The Fed also bought up worthless mortgage assets and other toxic assets from the banks. Since Fed authorities could fabricate as much money as they wanted, it did not matter how they spent it.

“It’s like going to someone’s old garage sale and saying, ‘I want that bicycle with no wheels. I’ll pay you 100 grand for it. Why? Because it’s not my money,’ ” Prins said.

“These people have rigged the system,” she said of the bankers. “There is money fabricated at the top. It is used to pump up financial assets, including stock. It has to come from somewhere. Because money is cheap there’s more borrowing at the corporate level. There’s more money borrowed at the government level.”

“Where do you go to repay it?” she asked. “You go into the nation. You go into the economy. You extract money from the foundational economy, from social programs. You impose austerity.”

Given the staggering amount of fabricated money that has to be repaid, the banks need to build greater and greater pools of debt. This is why when you are late in paying your credit card the interest rate jumps to 28 percent. This is why if you declare bankruptcy you are still responsible for paying off your student loan, even as 1 million people a year default on student loans, with 40 percent of all borrowers expected to default on student loans by 2023. This is why wages are stagnant or have declined while costs, from health care and pharmaceutical products to bank fees and basic utilities, are skyrocketing. The enforced debt peonage grows to feed the beast until, as with the subprime mortgage crisis, the predatory system fails because of massive defaults. There will come a day, for example, as with all financial bubbles, when the wildly optimistic projected profits of industries such as fracking will no longer be an effective excuse to keep pumping money into failing businesses burdened by debt they cannot repay.

“The 60 biggest exploration and production firms are not generating enough cash from their operations to cover their operating and capital expenses,” Bethany McLean writes of the fracking industry in an article titled “The Next Financial Crisis Lurks Underground” that appeared in The New York Times. “In aggregate, from mid-2012 to mid-2017, they had negative free cash flow of $9 billion per quarter.”

The global financial system is a ticking time bomb. The question is not if it will explode but when it will explode. And once it does, the inability of the global speculators to use fabricated money with zero interest to paper over the debacle will trigger massive unemployment, high prices for imports and basic services, and a devaluation in which the dollar will become nearly worthless as it is abandoned as the world’s reserve currency. This manufactured financial tsunami will transform the United States, already a failed democracy, into an authoritarian police state. Life will become very cheap, especially for the vulnerable—undocumented workers, Muslims, poor people of color, girls and women, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist critics branded as agents of  foreign powers—who will be demonized and persecuted for the collapse. The elites, in a desperate bid to cling to their unchecked power and obscene wealth, will disembowel what is left of the United States.

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Despite Trump’s Tweet, Ford Won’t Build Hatchback in U.S.

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by PAUL WISEMAN / The Associated Press.

WASHINGTON — Ford won’t be moving production of a hatchback wagon to the United States from China — despite President Donald Trump’s claim Sunday that his taxes on Chinese imports mean the Focus Active can be built in America.

Citing Trump’s new tariffs, Ford on Aug. 31 said it was dropping plans to ship the Focus Active from China to America.

Trump took to Twitter Sunday to declare victory and write: “This is just the beginning. This car can now be BUILT IN THE U.S.A. and Ford will pay no tariffs!”

But in a statement Sunday, Ford said “it would not be profitable to build the Focus Active in the U.S.” given forecast yearly sales below 50,000.

For now, that means Ford simply won’t sell the vehicle in the United States. Kristin Dziczek of the Center for Automotive Research said that Ford can make Focuses “in many other plants around the world, so if they decided to continue to sell a Focus variant in the U.S. market, there are several options other than building it in the United States.”

In April, Ford announced plans to stop making cars in the United States — except for the iconic Mustang — and to focus on more profitable SUVs. It stopped making Focus sedans at a Wayne, Michigan, plant in May. The plan, said industry analyst Ed Kim of AutoPacific, was to pare down the Focus lineup to Active wagons and import them from China. “Without the tariffs, the business case was pretty solid for that model in the U.S. market,” Kim said.

The tariffs changed everything. The United States on July 6 began imposing a 25 percent tax on $34 billion in Chinese imports, including motor vehicles. Last month, it added tariffs to another $16 billion in Chinese goods and is readying taxes on another $200 billion worth. China is retaliating with its own tariffs on U.S. products.

The world’s two biggest economies are clashing over U.S. allegations that China deploys predatory tactics — including outright cybertheft — to acquire technology from U.S. companies and challenge American technological dominance.

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Giuliani: Trump Won’t Answer Questions on Obstruction of Justice

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by JONATHAN LEMIRE / The Associated Press.

NEW YORK — President Donald Trump will not answer federal investigators’ questions, in writing or in person, about whether he tried to block the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, one of the president’s attorneys told The Associated Press.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Thursday that questions about obstruction of justice were a “no-go.”

Giuliani’s statement was the most definitive rejection yet of special counsel Robert Mueller’s efforts to interview the president about any efforts to obstruct the investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and Russians. It signals the Trump’s lawyers are committed to protecting the president from answering questions about actions the president took in office.

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Giuliani: Trump Won’t Answer Questions on Obstruction of Justice

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by JONATHAN LEMIRE / The Associated Press.

NEW YORK — President Donald Trump will not answer federal investigators’ questions, in writing or in person, about whether he tried to block the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, one of the president’s attorneys told The Associated Press.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Thursday that questions about obstruction of justice were a “no-go.”

Giuliani’s statement was the most definitive rejection yet of special counsel Robert Mueller’s efforts to interview the president about any efforts to obstruct the investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and Russians. It signals the Trump’s lawyers are committed to protecting the president from answering questions about actions the president took in office.

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U.K. Charges 2 Alleged Russian Spies in Nerve Agent Attack

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by JILL LAWLESS / The Associated Press.

LONDON — Britain deepened its diplomatic feud with Moscow on Wednesday, charging two men it says are Russian military intelligence officers with the nerve-agent poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a double agent who betrayed the service by spying for the West.

But U.K. authorities acknowledged there was little chance Russia would hand over the suspects, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, to face justice in Britain.

Prime Minister Theresa May said the use of a chemical weapon in the city of Salisbury, which left a British woman dead and four people, including Skripal and his daughter, seriously ill, was carried out by officers of the GRU intelligence service and almost certainly approved “at a senior level of the Russian state.”

“This was not a rogue operation,” she told lawmakers after police released photos of the suspects as they traveled through London and Salisbury before flying back to Moscow from Heathrow Airport on the evening of March 4, hours after the Skripals were poisoned.

Moscow strongly denies involvement in the attack, and Russian officials said they did not recognize the suspects.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the names and images of Petrov and Boshirov “say nothing to us.”

British prosecutors said the two were being charged in absentia with conspiracy to murder, attempted murder and use of the nerve agent Novichok.

Sue Hemming of the Crown Prosecution Service said the U.K. wouldn’t ask Moscow to hand the men over because Russian law forbids extradition of its citizens. Britain has obtained domestic and European arrest warrants for the suspects, meaning they can be detained if they leave Russia for another European country.

Neil Basu, Britain’s top police counterterrorism officer, conceded it was “very, very unlikely” police would be in a position to arrest them any time soon.

But, he said, “we will never give up.”

Sergei Skripal, 67, is a former colonel in the GRU who was convicted in 2006 of spying for Britain and imprisoned. He was freed in a 2010 spy swap and settled in the U.K.

Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, 90 miles (145 kilometers) southwest of London, on March 4. They spent weeks hospitalized in critical condition and are now recovering in a secret location for their own protection. A police officer, Nick Bailey, was also hospitalized.

British authorities and the international chemical weapons watchdog say the victims were exposed to Novichok, a type of military-grade nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The poisoning ignited a diplomatic confrontation in which hundreds of envoys were expelled by both Russia and Western nations.

Six months after the chemical weapons attack rocked the quiet cathedral city, police released new details about what Basu called “one of the most complex investigations” the force had ever seen.

Police say Petrov and Boshirov, both about 40, flew from Moscow to London on Russian passports two days before the Skripals were poisoned. Basu said the passports were genuine but the names were probably aliases, and appealed to the public to help identify the men.

Police revealed that traces of Novichok were found at a hotel in London’s east end where the men spent two nights.

Police didn’t test the budget City Stay Hotel for Novichok until two months after the attack, but Basu said the tiny quantity of nerve agent found there did not pose a risk to other guests.

Police believe the nerve agent was smuggled to Britain in a counterfeit Nina Ricci perfume bottle and sprayed on the front door of Sergei Skripal’s house.

More than three months later, the bottle was found by a local man, 48-year-old Charlie Rowley. He was hospitalized and his girlfriend Dawn Sturgess, 44, died after being exposed to the contents.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed Tuesday that Rowley and Sturgess were also exposed to Novichok.

Police are still trying to determine where the bottle was between the Skripal poisoning in March and its discovery by Rowley on June 27. As a result, Basu said, police weren’t yet ready to lay charges in the second poisoning, though the two Russians are the prime suspects.

The case, with its chilling cloak-and-dagger details, echoes the 2006 murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian agent who died after drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium-210 at a London hotel. Britain spent years trying in vain to prosecute the prime suspects, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun.

A British inquiry concluded that Litvinenko had been killed at the behest of the Russian state, probably with the knowledge of President Vladimir Putin.

Russian defense and security analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said authorization to attack the Skripals had also likely come “from the very top.”

“This is a message to the Russian intelligence community and spy community that you do not sell out Putin to the West or there are going to be serious consequences,” he said.

Western officials say Russia’s intelligence services have grown increasingly aggressive in their overseas activities. Members of the GRU have been indicted in the U.S. for hacking the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

May said Britain and its allies would “step up our collective efforts” against the agency, though she did not name any specific measures.

“There can be no place in any civilized international order for the kind of barbaric activity which we saw in Salisbury in March,” she said.

“The Russian state needs to explain what happened in Salisbury,” May added. “All we’ve had is obfuscation and lies.”

___

Associated Press writers Kate de Pury and Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed.

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The Slaves Rebel

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Chris Hedges.

The only way to end slavery is to stop being a slave. Hundreds of men and women in prisons in some 17 states are refusing to carry out prison labor, conducting hunger strikes or boycotting for-profit commissaries in an effort to abolish the last redoubt of legalized slavery in America. The strikers are demanding to be paid the minimum wage, the right to vote, decent living conditions, educational and vocational training and an end to the death penalty and life imprisonment.

These men and women know that the courts will not help them. They know the politicians, bought by the corporations that make billions in profits from the prison system, will not help them. And they know that the mainstream press, unwilling to offend major advertisers, will ignore them.

But they also know that no prison can function without the forced labor of many among America’s 2.3 million prisoners. Prisoners do nearly all the jobs in the prisons, including laundry, maintenance, cleaning and food preparation. Some prisoners earn as little as a dollar for a full day of work; in states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas, the figure drops to zero.

Corporations, at the same time, exploit a million prisoners who work in prison sweatshops where they staff call centers or make office furniture, shoes or clothing or who run slaughterhouses or fish farms.

If prisoners earned the minimum wage set by federal, state or local laws, the costs of the world’s largest prison system would be unsustainable. The prison population would have to be dramatically reduced. Work stoppages are the only prison reform method that has any chance of success. Demonstrations of public support, especially near prisons where strikes are underway, along with supporting the prisoners who have formed Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, which began the nationwide protest, are vital. Prison authorities seek to mute the voices of these incarcerated protesters. They seek to hide the horrific conditions inside prisons from public view. We must amplify these voices and build a popular movement to end mass incarceration.

The strike began Aug. 21, the 47th anniversary of the 1971 killing of the Black Panther prison writer and organizer George Jackson in California’s San Quentin. It will end Sept. 9, the 47th anniversary of the 1971 Attica prison uprising. It is an immensely courageous act of civil disobedience. Prison authorities have innumerable ways to exact retribution, including placing strikers in solitary confinement and severing communication with the outside world. They can take away the few privileges and freedoms, including the limited freedom of movement, yard time, phone privileges and educational programs, that prisoners have. This makes the defiance all the more heroic. These men and women cannot go elsewhere. They cannot remain anonymous. Retribution is certain. Yet they have risen up anyway.

In addition to making demands about wages, the prisoners are calling for an end to the endemic violence that plagues many prisons. During a riot in April at Lee Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison in South Carolina, seven prisoners were killed and 17 were injured as prison guards waited four hours to intervene.

Prisons in America are a huge and lucrative business. The private prison contractors Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group have annual revenues of $1.6 billion and more than $2 billion, respectively. They spent a combined $8.7 million on lobbying from 2010 through 2015, according to OpenSecrets.org. Global Tel Link, which runs the privatized phone services in many prisons, is valued at $1.2 billion. The food service corporation Aramark, a $8.65 billion company, has contracts in 500 prisons across the country although it has been accused of serving contaminated and spoiled food that has led to food poisoning. The money transfer corporation JPay Inc. is a subsidiary of the telecommunications firm Securus Technologies, which is owned by the private equity firm Abry Partners. JPay made $53 million in 2014 on transfers of $525 million, through an average charge of 10 percent to those sending money to prisoners. Corizon Health has a contract to provide health care to more than 300,000 prisoners nationwide. It earns about $1.4 billion a year. And there are many other corporations with equally large revenues and profit margins within the prisons.

Private corporations exploit prison labor in at least 40 states. In some cases these workers are paid next to nothing. They have no benefits, including Social Security participation, and cannot form unions or organize. They are not paid for sick days. And if they complain or are seen as troublesome they are placed in solitary confinement, often for months.

Some of the country’s biggest corporations have moved into prisons to take advantage of this bonded labor force. They include Abbott Laboratories, AT&T, AutoZone, Bank of America, Bayer, Berkshire Hathaway, Cargill, Caterpillar, Chevron, the former Chrysler Group, Costco Wholesale, John Deere, Eddie Bauer, Eli Lilly, ExxonMobil, Fruit of the Loom, GEICO, GlaxoSmithKline, Glaxo Wellcome, Hoffmann-La Roche, International Paper, JanSport, Johnson & Johnson, Kmart, Koch Industries, Mary Kay, McDonald’s, Merck, Microsoft, Motorola, Nintendo, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Quaker Oats, Sarah Lee, Sears, Shell, Sprint, Starbucks, State Farm Insurance, United Airlines, UPS, Verizon, Victoria’s Secret, Walmart and Wendy’s.

Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote that “the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” Prisons expose how far a state will go to exploit and abuse its most vulnerable. Life in the American prison system is a window into the corporate tyranny that will be inflicted on all of us once we are stripped of the power to resist. The poorest families in the country are forced to pay an array of predatory fees to sustain incarcerated relatives. This is especially cruel to those children whose only contact with an incarcerated parent is through phone service that costs four or five times what it does on the outside. Prison life is one of daily humiliation and abuse. It entails beatings, torture, rape—especially for female prisoners who are preyed upon by prison staff—prolonged isolation, rancid food, inadequate heating and ventilation, substandard or nonexistent health care and being locked in a cage for days at a time, especially in supermax prisons.

Slavery within the prison system is permitted by the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, passed in 1865 at the end of the Civil War to create a new form of slave labor. It reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States. …” Plantations in the South and industries such as Florida’s vast turpentine farm operations, which survived into the early 20th century, used the 13th Amendment to force black convicts to do the same uncompensated work that many had done as slaves.

“Imprisoned in stockades or cells, chained together at night or held under armed guards on horseback, the turpentine farms were bleak outposts miles from any chance of comfort or contact with the outside world,” Douglas A. Blackmon writes in “Slavery by Another Name,” a description of convict life for tens of thousands of African-Americans that is eerily similar to today’s prison conditions. “Workers were forced to buy their own food and clothes from a camp commissary and charged usurious interest rates on the salary advances used to pay for the goods—typically at least 100 percent.”

Prisons, which contain mostly poor people of color, over half of whom have never physically harmed anyone, are part of the continuum of slavery, Black Codes, Jim and Jane Crow, convict leasing, lynching and the lethal, indiscriminate force used by police on city streets. Prisons are not primarily about crime. They are about social control. They are about profiting off black and brown bodies, bodies that in blighted, deindustrialized neighborhoods do not produce money for corporations but once locked away generate some $60,000 a year per prisoner for prison contractors, police, parole agencies, corrections officers, phone companies, private prisons, money transfer companies, medical companies, food venders, commissaries and the industries that manufacture body armor, pepper spray and the gruesome array of restraints and implements—four- and five-point restraints, restraint hoods, restraint belts, restraint beds, stun grenades, stun guns, stun belts, spit hoods, body orifice security scanners (BOSS chairs), tethers, and waist and leg chains—that look like a collection amassed by the Marquis de Sade. Prisons are also where we warehouse the poor who are mentally ill. It is estimated that 25 percent of the prison population has severe mental illness. Those with crippling mental disorders are given not therapy but cocktails of powerful psychotropic drugs that turn them into zombies sleeping 20 hours a day.

Once corporations moved manufacturing overseas and denied those in poor communities the possibility of a job that could sustain them and their families, they began to extract billions in profit by putting bodies in cages. Since 1970 our prison population has grown by about 700 percent. We have invested $300 billion in prisons since 1980. The prison-industrial complex mirrors the military-industrial complex. The money is public; the profits are private. Those who enrich themselves off the incarcerated are morally no different from those who enriched themselves from the slave trade.

Prisoners, once released, often after decades, commonly suffer from severe mental and physical trauma and other health problems including diabetes (which is an epidemic in prisons because of the poor diet), hepatitis C, tuberculosis, heart disease and HIV. They do not have money or insurance to get treatment for their illnesses when they are released. They have often become alienated from their families and are homeless. Stripped of the right to public assistance, unable to vote, banned from living in public housing, without skills or education and stigmatized by employers, they become members of the vast criminal caste system. Many are burdened with debts because of monetary charges in the criminal justice structure and a predatory system of prison loans. Over 60 percent end up back in prison within five years. This is by design. The lobbyists for the prison-industrial complex make sure the laws and legislation keep the prisons full and recidivism high. This is good for profit. And it is profit, not justice, that is the primary force behind mass incarceration. This system will end only when those profits are wrested from the hands of our modern slaveholders. The only people who can do that are the slaves and the abolitionists who fight alongside them.

The full list of national demands from “the men and women in federal, immigration, and state prisons” reads:

1. Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.

2. An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.

3. The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.

4. The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human shall be sentenced to death by incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.

5. An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.

6. An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting black and brown humans.

7. No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.

8. State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.

9. Pell grants must be reinstated in all U.S. states and territories.

10. The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count!

Read more

The Slaves Rebel

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Chris Hedges.

The only way to end slavery is to stop being a slave. Hundreds of men and women in prisons in some 17 states are refusing to carry out prison labor, conducting hunger strikes or boycotting for-profit commissaries in an effort to abolish the last redoubt of legalized slavery in America. The strikers are demanding to be paid the minimum wage, the right to vote, decent living conditions, educational and vocational training and an end to the death penalty and life imprisonment.

These men and women know that the courts will not help them. They know the politicians, bought by the corporations that make billions in profits from the prison system, will not help them. And they know that the mainstream press, unwilling to offend major advertisers, will ignore them.

But they also know that no prison can function without the forced labor of many among America’s 2.3 million prisoners. Prisoners do nearly all the jobs in the prisons, including laundry, maintenance, cleaning and food preparation. Some prisoners earn as little as a dollar for a full day of work; in states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas, the figure drops to zero.

Corporations, at the same time, exploit a million prisoners who work in prison sweatshops where they staff call centers or make office furniture, shoes or clothing or who run slaughterhouses or fish farms.

If prisoners earned the minimum wage set by federal, state or local laws, the costs of the world’s largest prison system would be unsustainable. The prison population would have to be dramatically reduced. Work stoppages are the only prison reform method that has any chance of success. Demonstrations of public support, especially near prisons where strikes are underway, along with supporting the prisoners who have formed Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, which began the nationwide protest, are vital. Prison authorities seek to mute the voices of these incarcerated protesters. They seek to hide the horrific conditions inside prisons from public view. We must amplify these voices and build a popular movement to end mass incarceration.

The strike began Aug. 21, the 47th anniversary of the 1971 killing of the Black Panther prison writer and organizer George Jackson in California’s San Quentin. It will end Sept. 9, the 47th anniversary of the 1971 Attica prison uprising. It is an immensely courageous act of civil disobedience. Prison authorities have innumerable ways to exact retribution, including placing strikers in solitary confinement and severing communication with the outside world. They can take away the few privileges and freedoms, including the limited freedom of movement, yard time, phone privileges and educational programs, that prisoners have. This makes the defiance all the more heroic. These men and women cannot go elsewhere. They cannot remain anonymous. Retribution is certain. Yet they have risen up anyway.

In addition to making demands about wages, the prisoners are calling for an end to the endemic violence that plagues many prisons. During a riot in April at Lee Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison in South Carolina, seven prisoners were killed and 17 were injured as prison guards waited four hours to intervene.

Prisons in America are a huge and lucrative business. The private prison contractors Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group have annual revenues of $1.6 billion and more than $2 billion, respectively. They spent a combined $8.7 million on lobbying from 2010 through 2015, according to OpenSecrets.org. Global Tel Link, which runs the privatized phone services in many prisons, is valued at $1.2 billion. The food service corporation Aramark, a $8.65 billion company, has contracts in 500 prisons across the country although it has been accused of serving contaminated and spoiled food that has led to food poisoning. The money transfer corporation JPay Inc. is a subsidiary of the telecommunications firm Securus Technologies, which is owned by the private equity firm Abry Partners. JPay made $53 million in 2014 on transfers of $525 million, through an average charge of 10 percent to those sending money to prisoners. Corizon Health has a contract to provide health care to more than 300,000 prisoners nationwide. It earns about $1.4 billion a year. And there are many other corporations with equally large revenues and profit margins within the prisons.

Private corporations exploit prison labor in at least 40 states. In some cases these workers are paid next to nothing. They have no benefits, including Social Security participation, and cannot form unions or organize. They are not paid for sick days. And if they complain or are seen as troublesome they are placed in solitary confinement, often for months.

Some of the country’s biggest corporations have moved into prisons to take advantage of this bonded labor force. They include Abbott Laboratories, AT&T, AutoZone, Bank of America, Bayer, Berkshire Hathaway, Cargill, Caterpillar, Chevron, the former Chrysler Group, Costco Wholesale, John Deere, Eddie Bauer, Eli Lilly, ExxonMobil, Fruit of the Loom, GEICO, GlaxoSmithKline, Glaxo Wellcome, Hoffmann-La Roche, International Paper, JanSport, Johnson & Johnson, Kmart, Koch Industries, Mary Kay, McDonald’s, Merck, Microsoft, Motorola, Nintendo, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Quaker Oats, Sarah Lee, Sears, Shell, Sprint, Starbucks, State Farm Insurance, United Airlines, UPS, Verizon, Victoria’s Secret, Walmart and Wendy’s.

Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote that “the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” Prisons expose how far a state will go to exploit and abuse its most vulnerable. Life in the American prison system is a window into the corporate tyranny that will be inflicted on all of us once we are stripped of the power to resist. The poorest families in the country are forced to pay an array of predatory fees to sustain incarcerated relatives. This is especially cruel to those children whose only contact with an incarcerated parent is through phone service that costs four or five times what it does on the outside. Prison life is one of daily humiliation and abuse. It entails beatings, torture, rape—especially for female prisoners who are preyed upon by prison staff—prolonged isolation, rancid food, inadequate heating and ventilation, substandard or nonexistent health care and being locked in a cage for days at a time, especially in supermax prisons.

Slavery within the prison system is permitted by the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, passed in 1865 at the end of the Civil War to create a new form of slave labor. It reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States. …” Plantations in the South and industries such as Florida’s vast turpentine farm operations, which survived into the early 20th century, used the 13th Amendment to force black convicts to do the same uncompensated work that many had done as slaves.

“Imprisoned in stockades or cells, chained together at night or held under armed guards on horseback, the turpentine farms were bleak outposts miles from any chance of comfort or contact with the outside world,” Douglas A. Blackmon writes in “Slavery by Another Name,” a description of convict life for tens of thousands of African-Americans that is eerily similar to today’s prison conditions. “Workers were forced to buy their own food and clothes from a camp commissary and charged usurious interest rates on the salary advances used to pay for the goods—typically at least 100 percent.”

Prisons, which contain mostly poor people of color, over half of whom have never physically harmed anyone, are part of the continuum of slavery, Black Codes, Jim and Jane Crow, convict leasing, lynching and the lethal, indiscriminate force used by police on city streets. Prisons are not primarily about crime. They are about social control. They are about profiting off black and brown bodies, bodies that in blighted, deindustrialized neighborhoods do not produce money for corporations but once locked away generate some $60,000 a year per prisoner for prison contractors, police, parole agencies, corrections officers, phone companies, private prisons, money transfer companies, medical companies, food venders, commissaries and the industries that manufacture body armor, pepper spray and the gruesome array of restraints and implements—four- and five-point restraints, restraint hoods, restraint belts, restraint beds, stun grenades, stun guns, stun belts, spit hoods, body orifice security scanners (BOSS chairs), tethers, and waist and leg chains—that look like a collection amassed by the Marquis de Sade. Prisons are also where we warehouse the poor who are mentally ill. It is estimated that 25 percent of the prison population has severe mental illness. Those with crippling mental disorders are given not therapy but cocktails of powerful psychotropic drugs that turn them into zombies sleeping 20 hours a day.

Once corporations moved manufacturing overseas and denied those in poor communities the possibility of a job that could sustain them and their families, they began to extract billions in profit by putting bodies in cages. Since 1970 our prison population has grown by about 700 percent. We have invested $300 billion in prisons since 1980. The prison-industrial complex mirrors the military-industrial complex. The money is public; the profits are private. Those who enrich themselves off the incarcerated are morally no different from those who enriched themselves from the slave trade.

Prisoners, once released, often after decades, commonly suffer from severe mental and physical trauma and other health problems including diabetes (which is an epidemic in prisons because of the poor diet), hepatitis C, tuberculosis, heart disease and HIV. They do not have money or insurance to get treatment for their illnesses when they are released. They have often become alienated from their families and are homeless. Stripped of the right to public assistance, unable to vote, banned from living in public housing, without skills or education and stigmatized by employers, they become members of the vast criminal caste system. Many are burdened with debts because of monetary charges in the criminal justice structure and a predatory system of prison loans. Over 60 percent end up back in prison within five years. This is by design. The lobbyists for the prison-industrial complex make sure the laws and legislation keep the prisons full and recidivism high. This is good for profit. And it is profit, not justice, that is the primary force behind mass incarceration. This system will end only when those profits are wrested from the hands of our modern slaveholders. The only people who can do that are the slaves and the abolitionists who fight alongside them.

The full list of national demands from “the men and women in federal, immigration, and state prisons” reads:

1. Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.

2. An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.

3. The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.

4. The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human shall be sentenced to death by incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.

5. An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.

6. An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting black and brown humans.

7. No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.

8. State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.

9. Pell grants must be reinstated in all U.S. states and territories.

10. The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count!

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Fire Engulfs National Museum in Rio; ‘Sad Day’ for Brazil, Says President Temer

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by PETER PRENGAMAN / The Associated Press.

RIO DE JANEIRO — A huge fire engulfed Brazil’s 200-year-old National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, lighting up the night sky with towering flames as firefighters and museum workers raced to save historical relics from the blaze.

The esteemed museum, which houses artifacts from Egypt, Greco-Roman art and some of the first fossils found in Brazil, was closed to the public at the time of the fire, which broke out at 7:30 p.m. Sunday local time, it said in a statement.

There were no reports of injuries, the museum said, and it wasn’t immediately clear how the fire began.

Roberto Robadey, a spokesman for the fire department, said 80 firefighters were battling the blaze and that by midnight local time it was “just about under control” and should be out within a few hours.

President Michel Temer called it “a sad day for all Brazilians.”

“Two hundred years of work, investigation and knowledge have been lost,” Temer said in a statement.

According to its website, the museum has a vast collection related to the history of Brazil and other countries, and that many of its collections came from members of Brazil’s royal family.

Robadey said firefighters got off to a slow start fighting the blaze because the two fire hydrants closest to the museum were not functioning. Instead, trucks had to be sent to get water from a nearby lake.

But he added that some of the museum’s pieces had been spared.

“We were able to remove a lot of things from inside with the help of workers of the museum,” Robadey told Globo News.

Connected to the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, the museum has expositions that include anthropology, archaeology and paleontology, among others.

The vice director of the museum, Luiz Fernando Dias Duarte, told Globo news the museum suffered chronic underfunding.

“Everybody wants to be supportive now. We never had adequate support,” he said.

Latin America’s largest nation has struggled to emerge from its worst recession in decades. The state of Rio de Janeiro has been particularly hard hit in recent years thanks to a combination of falling world prices of oil, one of its major revenue sources, mismanagement and massive corruption.

Just over a month before national elections, even before the flames were put out, the fire was leading to recriminations about dilapidated infrastructure and budget deficits in the city that hosted the 2016 Summer Olympics.

“Unfortunately, given the financial straits of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and all the other public universities the last three years, this was a tragedy that could be seen coming,” Marina Silva, one of the leading presidential candidates, tweeted.

On Instagram, Rio Mayor Marcelo Crivella called on the country to rebuild.

“It’s a national obligation to reconstruct it from the ashes, recompose every eternal detail of the paintings and photos. Even if they are not original, they continue to be a reminder of the royal family that gave us independence, the (Portuguese) empire and the first constitution and national unity,” he said.

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Associated Press video journalist Yesica Fisch contributed to this report from Rio. AP reporter Mauricio Savarese contributed from Recife, Brazil.

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National Museum website: http://www.museunacional.ufrj.br/

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