Tyranny’s False Comfort: Why Rights Aren’t Wrong in Tough Times

 Displaced people from the Yezidi sect, fleeing violence from forces linked to the extremist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS) in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, walk towards the Syrian border in August 2014. © 2014 Reuters

Displaced people from the Yezidi sect, fleeing violence from forces linked to the extremist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS) in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, walk towards the Syrian border in August 2014. © 2014 Reuters

By Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch

The world has not seen this much tumult for a generation. The once-heralded Arab Spring has given way almost everywhere to conflict and repression. Islamist extremists commit mass atrocities and threaten civilians throughout the Middle East and parts of Asia and Africa. Cold War-type tensions have revived over Ukraine, with even a civilian jetliner shot out of the sky. Sometimes it can seem as if the world is unraveling.

Many governments have responded to the turmoil by downplaying or abandoning human rights. Governments directly affected by the ferment are often eager for an excuse to suppress popular pressure for democratic change. Other influential governments are frequently more comfortable falling back on familiar relationships with autocrats than contending with the uncertainty of popular rule. Some of these governments continue to raise human rights concerns, but many appear to have concluded that today’s serious security threats must take precedence over human rights. In this difficult moment, they seem to argue, human rights must be put on the back burner, a luxury for less trying times.

That subordination of human rights is not only wrong, but also shortsighted and counterproductive. Human rights violations played a major role in spawning or aggravating most of today’s crises. Protecting human rights and enabling people to have a say in how their governments address the crises will be key to their resolution. Particularly in periods of challenges and difficult choices, human rights are an essential compass for political action.

Read the entire Keynote Address of the Human Rights Watch World Report 2015

Keystone Vote Fails in Senate

Ranking member Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and committee chairman Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) listen during a session of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Capitol Hill January 8, 2015 in Washington, DC. The committee met for a markup of legislation to arrive the Keystone XL pipeline project. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Ranking member Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and committee chairman Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) listen during a session of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Capitol Hill January 8, 2015 in Washington, DC. The committee met for a markup of legislation to arrive the Keystone XL pipeline project. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

January 26, 2015 A key vote to advance legislation green-lighting the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline failed 53-39 in the Senate on Monday.

The vote aimed at cutting off debate on legislation to approve the controversial project fell short of 60 votes after Democrats, angry at Republicans for blocking debate on a slate of Democratic amendments last week, blocked the measure.

“Last Thursday night the majority decided that they would not allow for debate,” Democratic Sen. Ed Markey said on the floor ahead of the vote, echoing a complaint that a number of Democrats expressed on Monday after the Senate reconvened to debate the bill.

Senate Republicans have instigated a “gag-a-thon,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware said he voted against ending debate because of the “failure of the majority to follow through on the open amendment process,” taking aim at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Read more at the National Journal

RNC Turns Deaf Ear To Questions About Trip Funded by Hate Group

Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus photo attribution: Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) faxed and sent letters to every member of the Republican National Committee (RNC) regarding an upcoming trip to Jerusalem being organized by RNC Chair Reince Priebus.

The letters expressed concern about the organization paying for the trip, the American Family Association (AFA), which the SPLC has listed as an anti-LGBT hate group since 2010.

In particular, the letters asked RNC members not to lend their good offices to an organization with a long track record of making anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim and other hateful statements. An email to Priebus’ director of communications about this matter was not responded to.

In early December, Time reported that 60 members, or about a third, of the RNC had decided to travel to Israel. But you wouldn’t know that from the calls we made. We left dozens of voicemails and sent many, many emails, none of which were replied to.

In Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Oklahoma and Tennessee, communications directors were unaware of the trip and promised to speak with RNC members and get back to us. They did not. Other state communications directors, like those in Maryland and Louisiana, said they knew nothing of the trip and could not answer questions. In Idaho, a communications staffer told us she had no idea what we were talking about, but that she would have known about a trip if there was one.

Read more at the Southern Poverty Law Center

Well, well. It seems that the fascists have been planning a nice little putsch. Speak of strange bedfellows.

Second crude pipeline spill in Montana wreaks havoc on Yellowstone River

World News Forum

 Second crude pipeline spill in Montana wreaks havoc on Yellowstone River
Second crude pipeline spill in Montana wreaks havoc on Yellowstone River

By Nate Schweber

Environmental damage from recent oil leak ranges from contaminated water supply to polluted farmland

GLENDIVE, Montana — When an oil pipeline burst in July 2011 and poured 63,000 gallons of crude into the Yellowstone River 200 miles upstream from Dena Hoff’s farm of wheat, beans and corn on the Great Plains in Glendive, she felt disgusted.

When it happened again Saturday, she felt terror. This pipeline breach was underneath the Yellowstone River, just a few feet from her sheep pasture. The new spill poured out some 50,000 gallons of crude oil. Leaders of this small riverside farming and ranching community in northeastern Montana warned residents not to drink their tap water, because benzene, a carcinogen, was found in the municipal water system. Oil slicked the river for dozens of miles, almost to the border with North…

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Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty

The advocacy of quality public education has long been a core progressive cause. For progressives, the relationship of education, of social and economic opportunity, to the sustained viability of a democracy have always seemed clear and obvious.

This newly released study by the Southern Education Foundation underscores the significance of these relationships. The growth of economic inequality in the United States now threatens the very foundations of our society by destroying and diminishing the prospects for the future success of our youngest citizens–and of our nation.

World News Forum

Three-year-old Saria Amaya waits with her mother after receiving shoes and school supplies during a charity event in October to help more than 4,000 underprivileged children at the Fred Jordan Mission in the Skid Row area of Los Angeles. Children from low-income families now make up a majority of public school students in the nation, according to a new report. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

By Lyndsey Layton

For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of public school students across the country are considered “low-income”, according to a new study by the Southern Education Foundation. While poor children are spread across the country, concentrations are highest in the South and in the West.

For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications…

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