Inequality Is Hurting Us All

Picturing Economic Growth, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

Other Words

If the levels of greater income equality of 1968 still prevailed today, the poorest fifth of Marylanders would be earning twice what they take home now.

By John Cavanagh

Imagine if you could go back 45 years to 1968. That year, after three decades of creative policy from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal through President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, the United States was one of the world’s most equal nations.

Now imagine that instead of falling into the extreme inequality of today, the United States had stayed at the levels of greater equality of that era. What would be the benefits?

There would be a lot of them. This is the finding of a new study, “Closing the Inequality Divide,” that my organization, the Institute for Policy Studies, recently released with the Center for Sustainable Economy. Continue reading Inequality Is Hurting Us All

Arrests, Intimidation And No New Zimbabwe

Prominent Zimbabwean human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa was arrested for allegedly obstructing the course of justice. She is pictured here existing a police vehicle as she arrived at the Harare Magistrate’s Court on Mar. 20. Credit: Nyarai Mudimu/IPS

By Nyarai Mudimu

HARARE, Mar 21 2013 (IPS) – Heightened political tension between the major rivals in Zimbabwe’s coalition government and increased clampdowns on civil society have left questions about the country’s readiness for a true democracy just days after people voted to adopt a new constitution.

Just over three million Zimbabweans voted on Sunday Mar. 17 in support of the draft constitution, which paves the way for elections later this year, while 179,489 rejected it. There were 56,627 spoilt ballots.

However, on the day of the referendum, prominent local human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa was arrested for allegedly obstructing the course of justice. She is said to have requested that police show her a search warrant when they raided Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s support staff offices on Sunday Mar. 17. Four staffers were also arrested. Continue reading Arrests, Intimidation And No New Zimbabwe

U.S. Looks to Overhaul Massive Immigration Detention System

By Carey L. Biron
WASHINGTON, Mar 21 2013 (IPS) – Rights groups and government officials here have been testifying in a string of hearings, before both bodies of the U.S. Congress, on how to overhaul the United States’ huge immigration detention system, the scope of which has expanded massively in recent years in ways that some suggest impinge on civil and human rights.

According to official estimates, the federal government will detain some 400,000 people on immigration charges this year, at a cost of around two billion dollars. Activists say the size and functioning of the immigration detention system are out of alignment with “U.S. values” – and, increasingly, Washington politicians appear to agree.
If these people are not public safety risks … why are they detained at all? Continue reading U.S. Looks to Overhaul Massive Immigration Detention System

Global Report 2012 on Trafficking in Persons

A 9-year-old girl making bricks from morning to night, seven days a week. She was trafficked from Bihar (India) and sold to the owner of a brick-making factory, unable to speak the local language and with no means of escape. Photo, Kay Chernush for the U.S. State Department:


On February 2013 at United Nations (UN) Headquarters, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime along with the Group of Friends against Human Trafficking presented the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, a crime that generates billions of dollars in profits for the traffic

Human trafficking is a crime that ruthlessly exploits women, children and men for numerous purposes including forced labor and sex. This global crime generates billions of dollars in profits for the traffickers.

The International Labor Organization estimates that 20.9 million people in the world are today victims of forced labor: this estimate includes victims of human trafficking. While it is not known how many of these victims were trafficked, the estimate implies that there are millions of victims of this crime. Continue reading Global Report 2012 on Trafficking in Persons

Rabbi Lerner assesses Obama visit to Holy Land

Jerusalem Today

Independent Catholic News

Today President Obama will spend a short time at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem before traveling to Jordan. Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, discusses the trip so for and assesses the speech Obama made in Jerusalem yesterday: “If only Obama could go beyond the brilliant principles he articulated today to Israelis in Jerusalem—to follow through with action based on those principles!!!

“Obama had an amazing opportunity to paint a detailed picture of what a peace agreement could look like between Israelis and Palestinians. Very few Palestinians or Israelis have ever heard one of their leaders present such a vision in a way that seemed detailed enough to be plausible. Continue reading Rabbi Lerner assesses Obama visit to Holy Land

Five tests of whether Pope Francis’ reform of the Vatican could be real

National Catholic Reporter

John L. Allen Jr.

Saturday will mark 10 days since the start of the Pope Francis era, and as introductions go, it’s been a tour de force. Polling around the world suggests that overwhelming majorities have a positive impression of the new pope, and the media have fallen in love with a man who packs his own bags, makes his own calls and prefers to walk rather than taking the limo.

Everything Francis does, however banal, is now a sensation. The fact that TV cameras caught him checking his watch near the end of Tuesday’s inaugural Mass, for instance, launched an essay in one of the Italian papers about his pastoral concern for not holding people too long for an overly elaborate liturgy.

The new papal style certainly has registered with his underlings. On Thursday, I had lunch in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome in an eatery popular among Vatican personnel who work in the Palazzo San Callisto, and I bumped into a cardinal who’s a veteran insider now over 80. When I noted he was dressed in his basic clergyman clothes rather than the usual finery, he smilingly said he was taking his cues from the new boss. Continue reading Five tests of whether Pope Francis’ reform of the Vatican could be real

Leave the Curia, Peter

The Tablet

Spanish missionary bishop writes an instructive poem for Pope Francis

Pedro Casaldáliga, a Catalan bishop who has spent his life in Brazil, wrote a poem for the new pope before Francis was elected. Casaldáliga is the retired bishop of São Félix do Araguaia in the Amazon. He is the author of A Spirituality of Liberation. Translation by Francis McDonagh.

Leave the Curia, Peter.
Demolish the Sanhedrin and the fortified walls,
Order all the impeccable parchments to be altered
By the words of life, fear.
Let us go to the garden where they plant bananas,
Cloaked and in darkness, whatever the risk,
where the Master sweats the sweat of the poor.
His tunic or cloak is this humble flesh disfigured,
all those children’s cries that go unanswered,
and embroidered with the memory of the anonymous dead.
A legion of mercenaries besiege the frontier where the dawn begins,
and Caesar blesses them in his arrogance.
In his tidy sink Pilate washes, legalistic and cowardly.
The people are just a ‘scrap’,
a scrap of hope. Continue reading Leave the Curia, Peter

‘Senate’s Big Oil Benefactors’ Slammed for Keystone XL Vote

Kxl Pipeline (Photo: via Flickr / Creative Commons License)

Common Dreams

10 KXL amendment co-sponsors took $8 million from fossil fuel industry

– Jacob Chamberlain and Jon Queally, staff writers

In a 62-37 vote late Friday, the US Senate passed a non-binding amendment calling for the approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Environmental groups and climate activists were quick to condemn the vote, but said the “symbolic vote” was valuable because it revealed which members of the Senate have received the message on the seriousness posed by climate change and which continue to bend to the demands of industry lobbyists.

A post-vote analysis by Oil Change International, in fact, revealed that supporters of the amendment “received 3.5 times more in campaign contributions from fossil fuel interests” than those who voted against it. In total, the researchers found that supporters took an average of $499,648 from the industry before voting for the pipeline, for a total of $30,978,153. Continue reading ‘Senate’s Big Oil Benefactors’ Slammed for Keystone XL Vote

Pope Francis Raises Hopes for an Ecological Church

Indigenous women fetching water from a well near San Cristóbal de las Casas in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

By Marcela Valente

BUENOS AIRES, Mar 22 2013 (IPS) – The new pope’s choice of the name Francis, to honour the Catholic Church’s patron saint of animals and the environment, has awakened the hopes of ecologists and others who are concerned about rampant consumerism and the deterioration of the planet.

In 1979, then Pope John Paul II proclaimed St. Francis of Assisi (1181/1182-1226) the patron saint of ecologists. In his first mass as pope, on Mar. 19, Jorge Bergoglio said: “Let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.”

”It’s excellent that a world leader is taking up this issue as a priority,” Diego Moreno, director of the Fundación Vida Silvestre, Argentina’s main wildlife advocacy organisation, told IPS. “With the Church’s ability to reach people, the fact that the environment is part of the pope’s discourse is very important, because it will get more people involved.” Continue reading Pope Francis Raises Hopes for an Ecological Church

Chinua Achebe, ‘Grandfather of Modern African Literature,’ Dead at 82

Common Dreams

Famed Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe has died following a short illness. He was 82.

Nigerian author Chinua Achebe wrote short stories, essays, poetry and children’s books in addition to five novels and edited collections of modern African literature. Nelson Mandela hailed him as the author “who brought Africa to the world.” (Photo: AP)

As the Associated Press reports:

Chinua Achebe, the internationally celebrated Nigerian author, statesman and dissident who gave literary birth to modern Africa with “Things Fall Apart,” has died. He was 82.

Achebe died following a brief illness, said his agent, Andrew Wylie.

“He was also a beloved husband, father, uncle and grandfather, whose wisdom and courage are an inspiration to all who knew him,” Wylie said.

For decades, Achebe penned novels, stories and essays to rewrite and reclaim the history of his native country.

His eminence worldwide was rivaled only by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison and a handful of others. Achebe was a moral and literary model for countless Africans and a profound influence on such American writers as Morrison, Ha Jin and Junot Diaz. Continue reading Chinua Achebe, ‘Grandfather of Modern African Literature,’ Dead at 82