Monday, December 15, 2008

Schools for Peace

(Origami cranes at the Children's Peace Monument in Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima. These paper cranes, symbolizing a desire for peace, are sent in by children from all over the world).

The School for Peace
The School for Peace is an educational institution offering Jewish-Arab encounter programs. They hope to promote better understanding through broad, in-depth examination of the nature of relations between Arabs and Jews. The School for Peace was established at Neve Shalom / Wahat al Salam as part of the village’s effort to bring about a more just and egalitarian relationship between Arabs and Jews.

International School for Peace Studies

School of Peace and Conflict Management

School of Peace (from the Presbyterian Record; September 1, 2006):
"Religious leaders in Asia are hoping a 'School of Peace' will help young activists from different religions spread a message of harmony and tolerance. 'This program has opened my eyes. Earlier, I thought my religion was the best,' said Elizarni Jaffar, a Muslim from Indonesia's Aceh province, at the end of the three month program. 'Now I realize that faith is precious to each one. If we need peace, we have to respect one another,' added Jaffar, who works with an action group in Aceh called Beujroh (Be Better). He was one of 16 Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Buddhist youth from conflict zones throughout Asia who took part in the program, in India, that lasted from February to May.

School of Peace
The School of Peace, jointly organized by the Asian Pacific Alliance of YMCAs, Christian Conference of Asia, Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst and Visthar is a three-month course based at Visthar, Bangalore.

Village of Peace Orphanage
In 2005, PAMASOR completed construction of the Village of Peace Orphanage in Kigali, which houses 75 children in mixed-age, independent family units. In addition to building a new primary school for area children, the orphanage raises cattle and rabbits that provide fresh milk and meat, respectively, and produce enough surplus that milk from the cattle and offspring of the rabbits can be sold to raise additional income for the orphanage. Additionally, the organization worked with the Kigali Institute of Technology (KIST) to develop a BioGaz system that uses the waste from the cows to provide gas for cooking. The gas is pumped directly from the storage tanks to the kitchens and presents a steady supply of fuel. The orphanage also maintains small vegetable gardens to supplement the children’s diet.

Peace Matunda Orphanage - Tanzania

Peace Child Orphanage - Pokhara, Nepal

India Peace Charitable Trust Orphanage

Peace Child International
Founded in 1981, PCI is one of the largest networks of youth-led organisations in consultative status with the United Nations. First famous for bringing the first Soviet Youth to the USA on a youth exchange to perform the musical, Peace Child, it has grown to unite 1,500+ affiliate groups and networks in over 180 countries. PCI’s mission is to empower young people to address the most pressing global challenges they are going to have to address in their lifetimes – climate change, peace, human rights, making poverty history and achieving sustainable prosperity for the entire human family.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

War Crimes?

This past Friday, a bipartisan Senate report named Secretary Rumsfeld and other top officials directly responsible for sanctioning torture (see the article below). Now, rumors are that Bush will pardon Rumsfeld and others for these abuses. Amnesty International is advocating for a letter-writing campaign to local newspapers protesting any possible pardon of accused war criminals. Click here to learn more about the campaign and how you can easily write a letter that will bring awareness of the issue to your local community.

Report on Detainee Abuse Blames Top Bush Officials
(Washington Post: December 12, 2008)
by Joby Warrick and Karen DeYoung
For the full article, click here. Here are some excerpts:

A bipartisan panel of senators has concluded that former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials bear direct responsibility for the harsh treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and that their decisions led to more serious abuses in Iraq and elsewhere.

In the most comprehensive critique by Congress of the military's interrogation practices, the Senate Armed Services Committee issued a report yesterday that accuses Rumsfeld and his deputies of being the authors and chief promoters of harsh interrogation policies that disgraced the nation and undermined U.S. security. The report, released by Sens. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), contends that Pentagon officials later tried to create a false impression that the policies were unrelated to acts of detainee abuse committed by members of the military.

The full report was unanimously approved by the committee late last month and sent to the Pentagon with no dissenting views, Levin said in an interview. Although much of the information has previously been made public, there are references to still-classified memos, including an Aug. 1, 2002, report to the CIA by then-Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee, who headed the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, evaluating the legality of specific interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.

Levin acknowledged that most of the senior officials named in the report have left government or soon will. "But I would hope that the new administration, as well as the Defense Department . . . would look for ways, where appropriate, to hold people accountable," he said.

In July 2002, Rumsfeld's senior staff began compiling information about techniques used in military survival schools to simulate conditions that U.S. airmen might face if captured by an enemy that did not follow the Geneva Conventions. Those techniques -- borrowed from a training program known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE -- included waterboarding, or simulated drowning, and were loosely based on methods adopted by Chinese communists to coerce propaganda confessions from captured U.S. soldiers during the Korean War.

The SERE program became the template for interrogation methods that were ultimately approved by Rumsfeld himself. In the field, U.S. military interrogators used the techniques with little oversight and frequently abusive results, the panel found.

"It is particularly troubling that senior officials approved the use of interrogation techniques that were originally designed to simulate abusive tactics used by our enemies against our own soldiers," the report said, "and that were modeled, in part, on tactics used by the Communist Chinese to elicit false confessions from U.S. military personnel."

Human rights and constitutional law organizations have urged further action, ranging from an independent commission to prosecutions of those involved in authorizing the interrogations. Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has helped defend detainees at Guantanamo, said the committee report is valuable because "it's official, it's bipartisan."

"It's open and explicit, going right to Rumsfeld and having Rice involved," Ratner said. "It breaks new ground in saying that the SERE techniques basically don't work . . . that they're actually designed to elicit false confessions."

Our note:

As the Bush administration scrambles to push through numerous measures before January, the pressure is on Obama to work to restore confidence in the US government and military. In September, Feingold chaired a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Constitution Subcommittee entitled “Restoring the Rule of Law.” The hearing featured testimony and recommendations from about forty historians, law professors and advocacy organizations, including the head of President-elect Obama’s transition team, John Podesta. Feingold provided a copy of the written record of the hearing to the President-elect.

The recommendations include:
Closing the facility at Guantanamo Bay – a step Obama has supported;
Banning torture and establishing a single, government-wide standard of humane detainee treatment;
Conducting a comprehensive review of Office of Legal Counsel opinions and repudiating or revising those that overstate executive authority;
Supporting significant legislative changes to the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act;
Cooperating with congressional oversight, including providing full information to intelligence committees;
Establishing presumptions of openness and disclosure in making decisions on the classification of information and responding to requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

Feingold's open letter to Obama can be found here .

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Music as Weapon

A recent leak revealed that music is being used to "soften up" detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo, often bringing them to the point of trying to commit suicide or mental insanity. The news continues to paint an even uglier portrait of the US military and only adds to the mounting cases of war crimes, accusations of torture, and global criticism of the US as a whole. The news also outraged the many musicians whose very music was being used to torture prisoners. It has been reported that music is blasted for several days without stop into the holding cells. And while these reports of torture don't perhaps sound as horrible as those of the recent past (the Abu Ghraib scandal being the most notorious, but perhaps only because it was the most reported and mediated), it seems a sick irony to compare levels of torture. Once again, we are asked to consider what has become "standard operating procedure" (because these are not cases of exceptional "bad apples") and what sort of accountability can exist for a power as unbridled as that of the US military.

"One of the most startling aspects of musical culture in the post-Cold War United States is the systematic use of music as a weapon of war. First coming to mainstream attention in 1989, when US troops blared loud music in an effort to induce Panamanian president Manuel Norriega’s surrender, the use of “acoustic bombardment” has become standard practice on the battlefields of Iraq, and specifically musical bombardment has joined sensory deprivation and sexual humiliation as among the non-lethal means by which prisoners from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo may be coerced to yield their secrets without violating US law."
Read the essay, Music as torture / Music as weapon here:

A pretty good account of "Music Torture" in general (Wikipedia):

Sesame Street breaks Iraqi POWs: Heavy metal music and popular American children's songs are being used by US interrogators to break the will of their captives in Iraq.
Read the article here:

Musicians don’t want tunes used for torture: Nine Inch Nails, even ‘Sesame Street’ theme used for interrogations
The U.S. has used loud music against those held in Guantanamo Bay, Iraq and Afghanistan, and detainees now aren't the only ones complaining: Musicians are banding together to demand the U.S. military stop using their songs as weapons.
Read the article here:

And, finally, an interesting article about two soldiers (one of whom is Darby, the Army reservist who turned in the Abu Ghraib photos) who are now living with the burden of their time as prison guards in Iraq.
Read the article here:

Monday, December 08, 2008

The End of Television

From the blog:
(Please click on the link for the whole story).

Cutting through the digital TV static:
Three months from today, the television broadcast system that most Americans watched growing up will sign off forever.
Through a handful of measures since 1996, Congress has ordered most broadcast stations to phase out their use of conventional analog transmission and switch their signals to digital technology by the end of Feb 17, 2009.
For most TV viewers, the digital transition already has taken place, even if they don’t realize it. About 93 percent of broadcast stations – most affiliates of the national networks such as CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS and Fox – are sending their signals digitally today, according to the National Association of Broadcasters.
Cable TV companies have sold digital packages for years, sending programs through digital set-top boxes for subscribers. Other TV service providers, such as satellite companies and Verizon Communications, tout “all-digital” lineups that have severed their customers’ connections to the old format.
Still, in more than 9 million households nationwide ... the old analog TV picture is the only one some people watch, according to statistics released last month by The Nielsen Co.
When they go to turn on their televisions Wednesday morning Feb. 18, their screens will show dead air.
Unless they get ready...

The End of Television is a video program beginning where analog television ends. On February 17th, 2009 the U.S. television broadcast signal will change over from analog to digital. No television will receive a signal without a special converter box.

On February 17th, The End of Television will air through analog broadcast TV on channel 2 in Pittsburgh. When broadcasters turn off their analog transmitters The End of Television turns it's analog transmitter on and broadcasts the program. Using a restricted and nearly obsolete medium (broadcast TV) , The End of Television re-imagines the omnipresent idea of "broadcast yourself." We are accepting all videos submitted before the deadline and there is no submission fee.

For questions contact:

Send videos to:
The End of Television
331 S. Aiken st
Pittsburgh, PA 15232

- Please have the video postmarked by January 25th.
- Work should be submitted on miniDV or VHS.
- Work will not be returned unless a SASE is included.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Human Rights Day

2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. December 10 is celebrated as the official "Human Rights Day" to commemorate the UDHR and to advocate for human rights advocacy around the world.
You can go to the U.N.'s website to read/print the full text of the UDHR and to access other educational materials).

With rampant violations of Human Rights in the USA and worldwide, what does this anniversary mean and how can we use this as a moment to strengthen the rights of people everywhere?
How can we advocate for human rights that are matched with human responsibilities?
And how can we champion the rights of the whole Earth and the environment - where the rights of animals, plants, and humans are treated with equal respect and understood as interdependent?