News for progressives

Syrian War Report – January 15, 2018: Syrian Army Liberates Dozens Villages In Southwestern Aleppo Russian forces eliminated a group of militants, which conducted the mortar attack on Hmeimim airbase on December 31, 2017, the Russian Defense Ministry announced on January 12. Russian forces
Categories: News for progressives

Syria - U.S. Traps Itself , Commits To Occupation, Helps To Sustain The Astana Agreement

The Trump administration policy in Syria is finally coming into daylight. It has decided to permanently separate north-east of Syria from the rest of Syria with the rather comical idea that this will keep Iranian influence out of Syria and...
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Honouring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by fighting poverty and racism

Rabble News - Mon, 2018-01-15 21:15
January 15, 2018Anti-RacismCoalition honours Martin Luther King Jr., renewing Poor People's CampaignA coalition has formed to organize poor people in the United States into what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called 'a new and unsettling force' to fight poverty.martin luther king daymartin luther kingAnti-povertyAmerican povertycivil rights
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Fighting for Space chronicles a hard-fought battle in the War on Drugs

Rabble News - Mon, 2018-01-15 16:38
Tyson Kelsall

Both Fighting for Space and Hundred Block Rock -- two books centered in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) -- begin in an unexpected place: Toledo, Ohio. On which, the latter’s author, Bud Osborn wrote, “where long ago happy kodak family/has long since been destroyed.”

Toledo is Osborn’s “unholy” hometown -- and another North American city feeling the brunt of the overdose crisis.

It has been 18 years since Osborn, famed poet of the DTES and activist behind many of Vancouver’s drug policies, released his book of poems. Vancouver has since legislated the Four Pillars drug strategy, and Insite has become a permanent fixture on Hastings Street.

In his new book, Fighting for Space: How a Group of Drug Users Transformed One City's Struggle with Addiction, Vancouver journalist Travis Lupick chronicles these changes.

Sometimes a telling of history acts as a call to action. Amidst the chaotic bureaucracy battles, run-ins with the state, and the busy streets of the DTES, Lupick manages to do exactly that.

And in the context of the overdose crisis, there could not be a better time.

Osborn is one of the many characters Fighting for Space tells its history through. Although Osborn passed away before the book was written, his fingerprints and influence are felt throughout. Lupick dives into the lives and humanity of many of the people who were behind Insite, North America’s first supervised injection site.

Some of the book’s greatest depth is not around protest and action, as the title would suggest, but in people’s life stories. In doing so, it examines complex questions: What influences people to wade into harm reduction? What type of person is drawn to these services that, for so long, were rejected and scorned by the state and its actors? Lupick shows, through diverse biography, what draws us -- workers and users -- together to these spaces. In this way, Fighting for Space is an important book not only for policymakers and historians; it also offers people on the frontlines of the housing and overdose crisis a sense of solidarity in a context beyond our own lives.

The story ranges from smaller acts, such as the first meeting of Portland Hotel Society founders Liz Evans and Mark Townsend, or Anne Livingston establishing the first illegal injection sites. It then moves into larger concepts, such as the B.C. Supreme Court case that recognized addiction as an illness. It even attaches this fight to the broader War on Drugs, told through a story of threats on sovereignty toward Liz Evans and her team from the U.S. consulate. 

Lupick lends a journalist’s hand to issues that have mostly been restricted to academic journals, making the story accessible and engaging.

And while a book this size or larger could have been written about addiction and drug use, this is where the book remains thinnest. At times it seems that the three addiction theorists that were heavily leaned on were picked to uphold a specific view. Right or wrong, they were left relatively unchallenged.

The book also covers the heartbreaking perils of academia itself. Lupick describes a fixed five-year research project that supplied people with prescription heroin. Although the results were considered successful, it was discontinued. He interviewed David Murray, a user of the program, who described this experience: “I was frantic after the program, I was back on the street doing a lot of heroin again. The heroin wasn’t working. I was doing a lot of pills -- anything to keep the edge off.”
Fighting for Space also made obvious that Lupick is not a reporter or researcher who has simply parachuted into the community then left. You do not have to search his archives to know that he has spent considerable time in the DTES and reporting on the crisis, it emanates from the pages.

One of the chapters, A Drug-Users Union, captures the nuance of the origins of the Vancouver Area Network for Drug Users (VANDU) with great detail. VANDU is 20 years old now and continues to organize, and hold meetings and educational sessions for people who use drugs. CBC reported in July that there is now a membership of 3,000. This chapter, like others, outlines important lessons for those who want to imitate what has worked in the DTES.

The book ends with where we are now -- in a crisis that has become highly normalized in the news cycle, and to which the state continues to react glacially to -- where some of the same activists, and new ones, are still fighting for space. 

The truth is, that although we live in a bleak time, by offering a celebratory look at past successes, Lupick offers a glimmer of hope. Not unlike the turn of narrative near the end of Osborn’s poem on Toledo: “circumstances of daily and my life and life itself hopelessly wrong/ this revelation contradicted experience.”

Tyson Kelsall is a former harm reduction worker who worked at an injection site in Victoria, British Columbia. He is currently working on a thesis about harm reduction and health at McGill University.  

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Categories: News for progressives

Saker’s Jan. 12th interview with Bonnie Faulkner – transcript

This is Guns and Butter. Andrei Raevsky, The Saker: I think it’s a person who is an Israel Firster, very, very strong Zionist ideological bent, definitely puts Israel above the
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Weekly Review And Open Thread 2018-02

What was behind the false missile attack alarm in Hawaii yesterday. Poynter has some context: One of the big stories in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Saturday morning was that military "brass" updated island officials on how the military would respond to...
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The Rise of China and Threats in Afghanistan

by Ihsanullah Omarkhail  for the Saker blog China’s development has attracted worldwide attention in recent years. The growing economy and advances in military buildup are heatedly debated around the world
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Syria - Volume of Al-Qaeda Propaganda Forecasts Syrian Army Success

The success of the current Syrian government operations against al-Qaeda in Idleb governorate can be measured by the volume of U.S. propaganda against it. A similar situation occurred when Aleppo was liberated from al-Qaeda's control. Certain U.S. media, (non-)government-organizations and...
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The US’ Kurd Project: Iranian intelligence has declassified data on 14 American bases in Syria

At the very end of last year on the 31st of December, the Pentagon once again acted out an intrigue around its military bases in Syria. US defence minister James
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President Putin meets heads of Russian print media and news agencies

Ahead of Russian Press Day marked on January 13, Vladimir Putin met with heads of Russian print media and news agencies in the editorial office of the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper. The discussion focused on current professional issues. The President congratulated media representatives
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Moveable Feast Cafe 2018/01/13 … Open Thread

2018/01/13 00:00:01Welcome to the ‘Moveable Feast Cafe’. The ‘Moveable Feast’ is an open thread where readers can post wide ranging observations, articles, rants, off topic and have animate discussions of
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Syrian War Report – January 12, 2018: Militants’ Counter-Attack In Southern Idlib Ends In Disaster On January 11, so-called “moderate opposition” groups operating in Idlib declared an official start of the operation to assist Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of
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3rd Saker interview with Bonnie Faulkner for her show “Guns and Butter” on Pacifica Radio

Dear friends, Here is my latest interview with Bonnie Faulkner for her show “Guns and Butter” on Pacifica Radio’s KPFK.  Bonnie had some connectivity problems, so the sound is not
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A view from 2018

Rabble News - Fri, 2018-01-12 15:40
January 12, 2018Politics in CanadaMoving forward by looking back, 1998When more help is on the way, time to get engaged!gruck
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Islamophobia continues to fester in wake of Quebec City mosque shooting

Rabble News - Fri, 2018-01-12 05:14
Anti-RacismPolitics in Canada

On January 29, 2018, Canada will commemorate the first anniversary of the horrible and shocking killing of six Muslim men, shot by Alexandre Bissonnette in a Quebec City mosque.

Beyond the unanimous condemnation last year (rightly so) of such a violent and terrorizing act by politicians from all level of governments, I believe that nothing was achieved in fighting Islamophobia and stopping the wave of hate sweeping across Canadian cities.

Even the recent symbolic proposal to declare January 29 an official day of remembrance, initiated by more than 70 Canadian organizations, was met with staunch opposition from political parties in Quebec's National Assembly -- the Parti Québécois and the Coalition Avenir Québec -- and tergiversation and non-committal replies from both Liberal parties in Quebec and Ottawa.

Like classic arguments used in France or by some conservative politicians during the debate around anti-Islamophobia motion M-103 last winter, each time the issue of hate against Muslims is evoked, it is turned into a semantic debate about the exact meaning of the word "Islamophobia" and about the imagined threats that such initiatives would pose to freedom of speech. As if the killing of six hard-working citizens in a place of worship came out of nowhere or the statistics revealed by Quebec City police last December were just another case of "crying wolf" by victimized Muslims interested in muzzling free minds.

Meanwhile, groups propagating hate, reinforcing stereotypes and ignorance, and inciting violence are left unbothered -- or worse, they are growing in intensity and virulence.

During the summer of 2017, a controversy was falsely created about an organized trip at the Parc Safari zoo near Montreal. A group of Muslim families prayed on the lawn, a practice that as a practising Muslim I have been seeing in North America since I first arrived in Canada in 1991. On Facebook, some individuals criticized and attacked the park management, accusing them of allowing Muslims holding prayers in a public space and spreading their religion. With the administration standing by their decision to accommodate visitors as long as they don't violate park policies, this manufactured crisis became another one added to the long list of incidents in which Muslims are portrayed as threats to the public order, and thus fuelling Islamophobic reactions and fear.

More recently, a Montreal mosque found itself in another fabricated controversy when a TVA journalist alleged that there was provision in the construction contract between the mosque and the builders working for them, barring women from the site on Fridays. Quebec politicians were quick to jump on the bandwagon and denounce the "misogynistic behaviour" of Muslims. There were no second thoughts, no calls to be cautious; every politician had a piece of wood to add to the fire. This time it was not the freedom of speech argument that was raised; instead the principle of gender equality came in handy for some.

Even when the news turned out to be plainly wrong, there were few calls for investigation, no serious reprimand and a very shallow apology by the media outlet.

The accumulation and repetition of these "stories" build on a suffocating atmosphere many Muslim communities breathe across Canada.

A recent media report showed that Toronto is another city where Islamophobia has been growing and left unchallenged by politicians. Anti-Muslim rallies have been held regularly in front of mosques, the Quran was torn in a Peel District School Board meeting about religious accommodation and a Toronto Imam has received death threats because he is helping the board with religious and accommodation issues.

Last December, Pamela Geller, a U.S.-based Islamophobic blogger who once described President Obama as a "third-worlder and a coward," and said that "[h]e will do nothing but beat up on our friends to appease his Islamic overlords," was invited to speak by the Jewish Defence league in Toronto, and Ezra Levant joined her at the event.

Once again, freedom of speech was a fine pretext for allowing a blatantly Islamophobic event to take place and hate speech to flourish and become normalized.

I believe there are three categories of people responsible for this troubling situation.

The first are politicians. Many of them have been playing with identity politics for a long time while others have remained sitting on the bench. Not long ago we had a prime minister named Stephen Harper who said that "Islamicism is the biggest threat to Canada." The uncommon word "Islamicism" amalgamates Islam, fundamentalism and terrorism, making the terms interchangeable. Later, he even gave the example of a mosque as a potential place of youth radicalization, immediately making a connection in people's minds between Islam and violence.

Even if Justin Trudeau considered the Quebec City killings a terrorist act, his government took very little initiative to help provinces and cities come up with education campaigns in schools, in hospitals or public transit to fight Islamophobia. He didn't make any changes to hate crime laws to dissuade white supremacist groups, that are on the rise in Canada. Instead in 2015, Justin Trudeau and the Liberals voted for the anti-terrorism legislation introduced by Stephen Harper, formerly known as Bill C-51. Once again, they used laws to create two specific kinds of crimes: ones committed by Muslims and ones committed by other people whose faith doesn't matter.

Here, it is ironic to remember that Alexandre Bissonnette won't face anti-terrorism charges.

Even the recently passed amendments to the anti-terrorism law keep the heavy feeling that Canada is constantly under threat by terrorists, a.k.a. Muslims, allowing for secret trials to take place, a practice so far only applied to Muslim suspects.

The second group is media. Some media outlets have also been dangerously playing the card of fear against Muslims. They choose which incidents to report and over-represent, like the issue of the niqab during the 2015 federal election. That was not the only time. In 2008, during the reasonable accommodation crisis, many media outlets in Quebec inflated and distorted the cases of religious accommodation demands, making them seem overwhelming. In Ontario, during the "Sharia debate" crisis, some media invited only extremist views from each side, helping to polarize the debate, and leaving the population with more fear than real answers.

And finally, the third group is the general public. When violent events committed by Muslims occur around the world, the onus is placed on Muslims to distance themselves from violence, from their faith, and from the violent ideologies espoused by some Muslim groups. I lived through that and I keep going through it each time a terrorist act is committed in Western countries (mind you that when terrorist attacks happen in other places in the world, they go almost unnoticed).

I wouldn't expect people to condemn every single Islamophobic act committed as this is not possible and it isn't fair to make people guilty by simple association. However, I think that there is a huge duty for self-education about Islam and Muslims, and to make an effort to get out of our comfort zone and make new friends who are Muslims. They can be good or they can be bad, as anyone else. But the effort is worth it. Critical analysis of the news and of politicians' words and actions should not only matter when it comes to work, health and the economy but also when it comes to national security too. Fear shouldn't blind us and give a blank cheque to politicians. It should rally us to fight darkness and hate.

Monia Mazigh was born and raised in Tunisia and immigrated to Canada in 1991. Mazigh was catapulted onto the public stage in 2002 when her husband, Maher Arar, was deported to Syria where he was tortured and held without charge for over a year. She campaigned tirelessly for his release. Mazigh holds a PhD in finance from McGill University. In 2008, she published a memoir, Hope and Despair, about her pursuit of justice, and recently, a novel about Muslim women, Mirrors and Mirages. You can follow her on Twitter @MoniaMazigh or on her blog

Photo: J_P_D/flickr

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islamophobiastophatecahate groupsMuslim communityQuebec City shootingMonia MazighJanuary 12, 2018On independence and the niqabQuebec's shameful embrace of a niqab ban grew out of the identity politics that followed the failed 1995 referendum to separate from Canada.The 'alt-right' and Islamophobia continue to be normalizedWe need to continue to confront and fight back.Quebec politicians and police fail to condemn far-right demonstratorsDozens of counter-protesters arrested in Quebec City face-off.
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Grid Dynamics connects wars in Ukraine and Syria with Soros’ Open Russia, Sobchak and snipers in Saratov

by Scott Humor The “Russian hackers” story never seems to go away. I have described before a scheme behind the empty shell company called the “Internet Research Agency,” and the
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Syria - Erdogan (Again) Switches Sides - Delivers New Supplies For Terrorist Attacks

Turkey, in line with U.S. services, decided to block the current Syrian advance in south-east Idleb. Yesterday an ad-hoc alliance of jihadi "rebels" launched a counteroffensive to stop the Syrian army from cutting off a big chunk of "rebel" held...
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Ivan Ilyin on contemplative love

Introduction by the Saker: Today I am starting a new feature of the Saker Blog – I will regularly publish various texts written by Russian philosophers and Orthodox Church Fathers. 
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Syrian War Report – January 11, 2018: Syrian Army Launches Final Push To Capture Abu al-Duhur On January 11, the Tiger Forces, the Syrian Army (SAA) and the National Defense Forces (NDF) launched a final push to recapture the strategic Abu al-Duhur Airbase from Hayat
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