The Rights Stuff Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Romney Wins Coveted Sugar Daddy Endorsement <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>We got a really important press release this morning from <em></em>, a <a href="" target="_blank">website</a> where old rich guys who want to pay for sex can find young women who want to sell it to them. Because GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney <a href="" target="_blank">gave a poor lady some money</a> over the weekend, the site says he "has shown all other politicians that being a good Sugar Daddy is about helping others," and has therefore bestowed him with <a target="_blank" href="">its endorsement for the 2012 GOP&nbsp;nomination</a>.</p> <p>This is a ridiculous publicity stunt, of course (and here I am writing about it!). I think "Due to Economy, More Women Than Ever Considering High-Class Whoring" probably would have been a better press release title. But any reason is a good reason to revisit <a target="_blank" href="">my story about</a>, in which I name-check SeekingArrangement, and go on some "dates" with dudes shopping for carnal treasure online. <a href="" target="_blank">Read it</a>!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Rights Stuff Elections Sex and Gender Offbeat Tue, 17 Jan 2012 19:36:27 +0000 Mac McClelland 157121 at Burma Halts War With Karen Rebels…For Now <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Crazy news coming out of Burma yesterday: The Karen National Union, an ethnic organization that's been <a target="_blank" href="">waging an armed insurrection against the Burmese government</a> since nearly the moment the country became independent in 1948, <a href="" target="_blank">has signed a ceasefire</a>.</p> <p>This wasn't some wee little skirmish. When the rebellion started more than 60 years ago, the Karen, an ethnic minority that had been favored as police officers and soldiers by the colonizers, used their British training and British guns to nearly take over the country. They've been fairly steadily beat back to the eastern jungles since then. Lately, this fight has been a few thousand soldiers from one of the poorest populations on the planet versus an army of hundreds of thousands that spends billions procuring weapons.</p> <p>But however small the KNU's army, the ramifications of this ongoing battle have been huge: More than 500,000 internally displaced people living without villages, infrastructure, or any kind of security whatsoever. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled to neighboring countries or been resettled by the UN as far away as the United States. Countless civilians have been raped and murdered at the hands of the Burmese army.</p> <p>So it is a great big deal if this ceasefire sticks. Truces between the Karen and the Burmese armies have been reached before and then broken down. If the Burmese army is really going to stop killing people and setting villages on fire, this ceasefire is going to make a real difference to a lot of people. If only the agreement had included sending a group of experts in to clear out all the land mines both sides have been laying for decades.</p> <p>This war has been a huge part of the Karen's culture, as is their refusal to stop fighting it. <a target="_blank" href="">"For us surrender is out of the question"</a> is the first tenet of the KNU revolution, and it's printed everywhere, from T-shirts to tattoos. I imagined the Karen <a href="" target="_blank">refugees I lived with in Thailand a few years back</a> would have mixed feelings about this news. I tried to call every one in my phone this morning, but they all work long hours or two jobs in places like meat-packing factories to survive in their new homes. (Many have moved to America, Australia, England, or Norway.) The only thing on any of their Facebook pages about the matter was other refugees asking them what they thought about it.</p> <p>The comments beneath the article about the ceasefire <a href="" target="_blank">on the website of the <em>Irrawaddy</em></a>, the exile newspaper read religiously by refugees and revolutionaries, are indeed mixed. One commenter accuses the KNU of wanting to profit from joining with the Burmese government in plundering Karen State's resources, and warns that only the enemy will benefit from this agreement. But another says, huzzah, it's about time for peace. And now the <a target="_blank" href="">Kachin Independence Army</a> should sign a ceasefire, too.</p> <p>Right&mdash;the KIA. This group also has been fighting for the autonomy and protection of their people for years. Reports (<a href="" target="_blank">PDF</a>) about atrocities have recently been pouring out of Kachin State on the Chinese border. (The Kachin News group's top story today, for example, is "<a href="" target="_blank">Burma army kills two unarmed Kachin women</a>.")</p> <p>Hopefully peace will come to that region, too. And hopefully this tentative peace with the Karen&mdash;Peace in Karen State! Something that hardly any Karen person living has experienced or can remember!&mdash;will hold. Not to mention the Burmese government's recent ceasefires with the Shan State Army-South, the United Wa State Army, and various other ethnic factions. "We have been fighting for 60 years," one of the Karen delegates at the ceasefire said, "and one meeting alone will not end it." It's a start, at least.</p></body></html> Rights Stuff Human Rights International Top Stories Thu, 12 Jan 2012 19:33:07 +0000 Mac McClelland 156451 at Today in Ridiculous Homophobic Comments <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>It's been kind of a banner week as far as making offensive and stupid comments about gays goes. In case you missed them, let's run down the top slurs:</p> <p>Coming in at No. 3, Pat Buchanan, on <a href="" target="_blank">why he appears to be suspended from MSNBC</a>: "Look, for a long period of time the hard left, the militant gay rights groups, militant&mdash;they call themselves civil rights groups, but I'm not sure they're concerned about civil rights&mdash;people of color, Van Jones, these folks and other have been out to get Pat Buchanan off TV." That's right. It's hard to be Pat Buchanan, what with all those blacks and homos you're always belittling out to get you. It turns you into the sort of paranoid freak that refers to himself in the third person.</p> <p>At No. 2, we've got <a href="" target="_blank">ABC president Paul Lee explaining</a> why he doesn't get concerns that the network's new <a href="" target="_blank">superweird series <em>Work It</em></a>, about two men who cross-dress poorly to get sales jobs, is pretty insensitive to actual transgender issues: "I loved <em>Tootsie.</em>" Oh. Alright then.</p> <p>For the No. 1 most heartbreaking comment, there's Troy, Michigan's mayor Janice Daniels. Last year, she <a href="" target="_blank">provoked some outrage</a> for writing, "I think I am going to throw away my I Love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there" on her Facebook page. This year, she's <a href="" target="_blank">told students of a high school Gay-Straight Alliance</a> that she would like to invite to a forum on bullying and suicide "a panel of psychologists who would testify that homosexuality is a mental disease." At least the students claim she said that; Daniels denies it. Though she says she taped the meeting, she refuses to let anyone hear the tapes. Maybe the kids misheard her. That, after all, totally doesn't sound like something she would say.&nbsp;</p></body></html> Rights Stuff Gay Rights Human Rights Media Wed, 11 Jan 2012 19:40:41 +0000 Mac McClelland 156231 at Love Letters for Veterans <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>It's not every marriage in which one partner implores the other to justify why, <em>why</em> they still love them. But then, it's not every marriage in which one partner went to war, killed or saw friends/enemies/innocent civilians get killed or witnessed/experienced Christ knows what kind of stress and trauma, and then came home to find the war still happening in their minds and nervous systems, making them agitated, suicidal, maybe violent.</p> <p>Brannan Vines, founder of the nonprofit <a target="_blank" href="">Family of a Vet</a>, has a marriage like that, though. Her husband Caleb did two yearlong tours in Iraq, suffered a traumatic brain injury and struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, so at the ripe old age of 34 he's dramatically different than the guy Brannan married. He sometimes has no control over being restless, or paranoid, or unbearably pissed off. In moments of lucidity, he asks his wife why the hell she still loves him. In response, she <a target="_blank" href="">wrote him a love letter</a>. And knowing that an estimated <a target="_blank" href="">one in five vets</a> has PTSD, she's invited other veterans' families to do the same.</p> <p>And <a target="_blank" href="">the results</a>: holy shit. Family of a Vet's "Love Letter Campaign," which kicked off on Veteran's Day and runs until Valentine's Day, has published dozens of letters to soldiers who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, and they are insanely moving. They're from wives (and even a mother-in-law) and they're the most unimaginably intimate window into the battles for psychological well-being and readjustment that assail many veterans' families. Or destroy them&mdash;not all the relationships in the letters have happy endings.</p> <blockquote> <p>Steven,</p> <p>As you left yet again to return to the VA hospital, leaving me alone with our children, I came to understand many things, you will never again be the man that I fell in love with, the father you once were, but you will survive this battle inside yourself.</p> <p>For this first time in a long time I saw glipses of the man I fell in love with, while it is hard on the kids to see you leave yet again they also have pride in you for facing your demons head on. I pray everyday that this time the VA is able to help you, that this time will bring about a change in you that you will never again try and hurt yourself, that you will remember that we will always love you. I can not walk beside you down this path any longer, it has proven to hard for me and for our children. I want you to remember that although we are not by your side everyday we are your biggest fans chearing you every step of the way, we are not turning our backs on you as so many have done we are instead chosing to walk a differant path. The hypervigalance, anxiety, fighting, sleepless nights, and addictions have worn us all down, and changed us all but thru it all we have always loved you.[...]</p> </blockquote> <p>Anyone who ever proposes sending soldiers to war should be forced to sit down and read these. You should <a target="_blank" href="">read them</a>, too. And if you're a family member of a vet, you can <a target="_blank" href="">submit your own</a>.</p></body></html> Rights Stuff Afghanistan Iraq Military Fri, 06 Jan 2012 16:20:11 +0000 Mac McClelland 155196 at Did Your Haiti Donations Ever Get Spent? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Why yes, according to a <a target="_blank" href="">new report</a> by the <em>Chronicle of Philanthropy</em>, most of them did. Since the earthquake that <a target="_blank" href="">devastated the country nearly two years ago</a>, two-thirds of the $2.1 billion aid organizations have collected has gone to rebuilding or otherwise helping Haiti. That's a significant improvement over what the <em>Chronicle</em> <a href="" target="_blank">found</a> six months after the quake, when less than half the money had been utilized.</p> <p>Not that two-thirds of the work is finished, however. "There are still 500,000 people in camps, there's still a very broken health system, and there's still endemic cholera and very little access to water and sanitation," says one NGO director interviewed for the survey. Though there are substantial millions remaining, it's not enough to get everything on aid groups' wishlists done&mdash;or to handle something like a full-blown <a target="_blank" href="">cholera crisis</a>. Since donations have tapered way off after the initial postquake fundraising bonanza, some groups are still offering encouragement to would-be donors. "It's not hopeless," Food for the&nbsp;Poor executive director Angel Aloma tells the <em>Chronicle</em>, "it's just slow."</p></body></html> Rights Stuff Human Rights International Thu, 05 Jan 2012 22:00:22 +0000 Mac McClelland 155211 at My (Fake) Interview With Jeff Bezos <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>If you missed <em>Wired</em>'s recent <a target="_blank" href="">cover interview</a> with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, you should check it out. Reading it on a plane recently, I was interested in a) knowing how thoroughly he controls important internet things (and possibly soon space travel) and will eventually be <a href="" target="_blank">low-paying abusive</a> overlord of us all, and b) being reminded why people do not assign me things like interviews with Jeff Bezos. Interviewer <a target="_blank" href="">Stephen Levy</a> is an old pro, and handled Bezos' comments with a good deal more class than I would have mustered. Below, some of Bezos' quotes to <em>Wired </em>and the responses I was hollering in my head while reading them:</p> <p><strong>Bezos:</strong> For your typical consumer book&mdash;I'm not talking about textbooks or anything specialized&mdash;$9.99 is really the highest price that's reasonable for customers to pay.</p> <p><strong> McClelland:</strong> A good sandwich costs $7.99. Don't you think my deli puts considerably less skill, time, and resources into making egg salad and prosciutto than an author puts into a decent book?</p> <p><strong>Bezos: </strong>We like [Zappos'] unique culture [of "happiness and customer service"], but we <a href="" target="_blank">don't want that culture at Amazon</a>. We like our culture, too. Our version of a perfect customer experience is one in which our customer doesn't want to talk to us. Every time a customer contacts us, we see it as a defect.</p> <p><strong>McClelland:</strong> That makes you sound like a total sociopath.</p> <p><strong>Bezos, </strong><strong>on why he aggressively opposes state sales tax</strong><strong>:</strong> There are five states where we collect sales tax. We do great in those states. That's not what this is about. We want federal legislation. That's what we've been working on. And I think we can get that done this year.</p> <p><strong>McClelland:</strong> Oh good. We definitely need more CEOs posting billions in profits and not contributing to the societies that help them make it in any way, except <a target="_blank" href="">donating $42 million to a foundation building a clock that will last for 10,000 years</a>.</p></body></html> Rights Stuff Human Rights Labor Tech Tue, 03 Jan 2012 19:19:34 +0000 Mac McClelland 154531 at Rick Perry Is an Idiot, Gay-Rights Edition <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Rick Perry <a href="" target="_blank">has no problem executing lots of people</a>, so it wasn't really that shocking when he announced last week that Obama's <a href="" target="_blank">initiative</a> to "ensure that US diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, and transgender persons" is a "war on traditional American values." Perry&mdash;who <a href="" target="_blank">isn't going to be president anyway</a>, so who the hell asked him&mdash;<a href="" target="_blank">says</a> that human rights for homos aren't "in America's interests." Well, Perry wasn't the only one who was pissed. Some African leaders, too, have now <a href="" target="_blank">responded</a> that the US is overstepping its boundaries by trying to push a gay agenda on their sovereign nations. Perhaps the sassiest of the complaints came from a senior advisor to Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, who said of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's speech that it's unacceptable to kill gay people, "I don't like her tone, at all." <br><br> He wouldn't, considering that Ugandan parliament was recently batting around a bill to do just that, the subject of my feature from our January issue that you can <a href="" target="_blank">read now</a> online. In writing it, I spent a lot of time with activists who go to gay bars or gay nights out, whatever the risks:</p> <blockquote> <p>When I return to our table, Dennis hollers at me. "Where were you?" He's got a bag full of lube packets in front of him, waiting for the friend who needed it to arrive. "I thought you were kidnapped for corrective rape."</p> <p>My face turns horrified.</p> <p>"Just kidding!" he says, grabbing my arm. Ha ha!</p> <p>"Do you know a lot of women that has happened to?" I ask.</p> <p>"Nooooo, not a lot. Like five."</p> </blockquote> <p>These are the kinds of traditional values Museveni's adviser thinks are worth protecting. But you can't really ask the Western hemisphere for billions of dollars of assistance while simultaneously telling it to mind its own business. If we're not going to leverage our massive amounts of foreign aid to impose our moral agenda in a way that saves lives and fights oppression, what's the point? For an illustrated argument of how imperative Obama's new policy is, check out this <a href="" target="_blank">excellent map</a> showing the staggering portion of Africa in which killing or imprisoning gays is legal. And for a narrative account of how much gay Ugandans are willing to risk for the right to cuddle publicly and go to karaoke like everybody else, <a href="" target="_blank">read our story</a>.&nbsp;</p></body></html> Rights Stuff Gay Rights Human Rights International The Right Rick Perry Sun, 11 Dec 2011 22:58:30 +0000 Mac McClelland 151527 at Hillary's Hopes for Burma <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This past month, I was on a <a href="" target="_blank">sort of sneaky assignment</a> and then out of the country, and in my absence there have been some huge developments in US-Burma relations. For the first time in 50 years, an American secretary of state dropped in on the nation that generally receives little more high-level American acknowledgment beyond passing negs about tyranny in presidential speeches. As <em>Mother Jones</em>' <a href="" target="_blank">resident Burmaphile</a>, I got an email from one of the editors last week asking the all-important question about Hillary Clinton's making nice and supposedly <a href="" target="_blank">making headway</a> with the intractable regime: "Is this for real?"</p> <p>If Washington is assuming that Burma's recent <a href="" target="_blank">(bullshit)</a> elections and the <a href=",9171,2032108,00.html" target="_blank">release</a> of its most famous political prisoner means that we can lead the country into a future awash in democracy and rainbows, that would be a little too lovely to be believed. But that the Obama administration is <a href="" target="_blank">cautiously optimistic</a>, or that it senses wee little steps toward progress, and that there's an opportunity for the United States to get involved and nudge it along? Yeah. Maybe.</p> <p>For decades, our policy has been to sanction Burma and wag our finger at it. I've long been a <a href="" target="_blank">proponent</a> of more engagement with the country. Though nobody wants to look like they're befriending bad guys, and there's no proof that getting more involved with Burma will work, there <em>is</em> proof of one thing: That the policy we've been pursuing so far does <em>not</em> work. Our sanctions are <a href="" target="_blank">meaningless</a>, because a) lots of other countries are happy to buy the Burmese resources we won't; b) the goods we sanction can still make it to us via roads like smuggling; and c) there are loopholes in our sanctions that still allow Chevron to operate there and make the regime big money.</p> <p>We're not lifting the sanctions yet&mdash;and, for the aforementioned reasons, I kind of doubt Burma really cares&mdash;but we are starting assistance to programs that deliver health care, microlending, English instruction, and help for land mine victims. Regardless of whether you're of the <a href="" target="_blank">school</a> of thought that aid to corrupt/underdeveloped nations is enabling/infantilizing, this aid at least has the possibility of creating leverage, like the kind the <a href="" target="_blank">United States</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Germany</a> wielded against Uganda when it proposed killing gay people. It's a long, long road to reconciling of Burma's problems, like, say, the systematic <a href="" target="_blank">government-perpetrated rape and torture and ethnic cleansing</a> going on its borderlands, issues Clinton <a href="" target="_blank">says </a>she "raised directly with the government" on her trip. That mention over lunch is unlikely to save lives. But what past administrations have said to Burma is, "Hey, not that there's any reason for you to listen, because we give you/cooperate with you on absolutely nothing, and you're dead to us. But: In our opinion, you should stop slaughtering people." Moving forward, the conversation might be a little more compelling when it sounds like, "Hey, stop slaughtering people. We give you money."</p> <p>Burma has long been run by assholes. It remains to be seen whether the president and parliamentarians put in power by the elections are as big of assholes as the assholes who led before them. And at the very least, the Burmese people will be getting the chance for more medicine and education and microloans. It can't hurt for trying to befriend Burma and empower the population. The former has a shot, and let's definitely hear it for the latter. I'm not necessarily given to bouts of optimism, even the cautious kind, but if there's anything we were reminded of this year, it's that an empowered population is the the best tool of all against repressive regimes.</p></body></html> Rights Stuff Human Rights International Mon, 05 Dec 2011 17:57:02 +0000 Mac McClelland 150131 at We Interrupt This Blog… <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>It's time for my next assignment! Unfortunately, we can't tell you what it is. Nor can I blog about it, nor explain why I can't blog about it at just this moment. So I'll be virtually disappearing, to return in a few weeks when we drop the pieces of the reportage serialized-style, if all goes according to plan.</p> <p>The last time I didn't post anything for such a long time, it was because for security purposes I couldn't talk about <a target="_blank" href="">this story</a> about a Congolese warlord until it was finished. Check it out while I'm gone. And don't worry, the subject I'm reporting this time isn't so dangerous (I&nbsp;think!).</p></body></html> Rights Stuff Human Rights Mon, 07 Nov 2011 14:30:41 +0000 Mac McClelland 143031 at The Latest From Ohio <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Some crucial updates from my <a target="_blank" href="">home state of Ohio</a>, which is proving to be ground zero in <a target="_blank" href="">the war on organized labor and the middle class</a>:</p> <ul><li>First up: Those lazy, selfish public workers Gov. Kasich and state Republicans have been trying to stop from greedily taking all the money in the state coffers with their wild benefits and compensation demands? They've <a href="" target="_blank">made $1 billion in concessions</a> in the last three years.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>On top of that, what kind of monster would want them to give up their right to collective bargaining, too? <em>MoJo</em>'s very own Andy Kroll has a roundup of <a href="" target="_blank">who's pumping cash</a> into the effort to destroy Ohio unions&mdash;and how hard and dirty they intend to fight. <br> &nbsp;</li> <li>But, guess what, guys? It's probably a waste of money. Yesterday's polls show that 57 percent of <a href="" target="_blank">Ohioans support the defeat</a> of the state's anti-union bill when it comes up on the ballot next month.</li> </ul><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Rights Stuff Economy Labor Wed, 26 Oct 2011 21:19:34 +0000 Mac McClelland 143671 at Are Qaddafi's Killers War Criminals? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Was Moammar Qaddafi&mdash;who was <a href="" target="_blank">wanted by the International Criminal Court</a> for committing war crimes&mdash;himself a victim of a war crime?&nbsp;Amnesty International thinks <a href="" target="_blank">it's a good possibility</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Video footage which emerged yesterday appears to show that Colonel al-Gaddafi was alive when he was captured by anti-Gaddafi troops in Sirte yesterday.</p> <p>"If Colonel al-Gaddafi was killed after his capture, it would constitute a war crime and those responsible should be brought to justice," said Claudio Cordone, Senior Director at Amnesty International.</p> </blockquote> <p>Killing a combatant after he's surrendered is a violation of both the International Criminal Court's statutes and the Geneva Conventions. But as <em>Foreign Policy</em>'s David Bosco points out in this <a href="" target="_blank">excellent analysis</a>, the fact that Qaddafi's death likely was a war crime probably doesn't matter.</p> <blockquote> <p>The choices of the prosecutor and the rulings of the ICC judges in recent years have made abundantly clear that the court prioritizes large-scale crimes that form part of a broad pattern or practice. Given that emphasis, it is unlikely the court will ultimately prosecute anyone for Qaddafi's killing unless they decide that there existed within the anti-Qaddafi forces a broad practice of war crimes or crimes against humanity and that the Qaddafi killing was a manifestation of that.</p> <p>What's more, the new Libyan authorities could foil any ICC investigation by carrying out their own investigation. With&nbsp; a national investigation underway, the ICC must yield unless it determines that the investigation is a sham. To the chagrin of many (mostly outside Libya, it seems), Qaddafi will never now see a courtroom in the Hague; neither will whoever killed him.</p> </blockquote></body></html> Rights Stuff Human Rights International Fri, 21 Oct 2011 19:07:54 +0000 Mac McClelland 142906 at The US vs. LRA Showdown, As Seen From Uganda <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Since President Obama's <a href="" target="_blank">announcement</a> on Friday that he will send 100 soldiers to Uganda to help fight the Lord's Resistance Army, a rebel group that's been responsible for killing thousands of civilians over more than two decades, most of the media coverage has focused on whether American troops will <a href="" target="_blank">actually be engaging in combat</a> and whether the move is meant to <a href="" target="_blank">pay back Uganda</a> for keeping troops in Somalia.&nbsp;</p> <p>But <em>UN Dispatch</em>'s <a href="!/marklgoldberg" target="_blank">Mark L&nbsp;. Goldberg</a> points out some potentially important context about the conflict. Like what happened to civilians when the Ugandan Army took on the LRA in 2009:</p> <blockquote> <p>About half the 100,000 people displaced amid a wave of atrocities in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the Ugandan army is leading an operation against Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, have no access to humanitarian assistance, according to the UN.</p> <p>"We estimate that half the displaced are beyond reach. There are no roads or airstrips. In some cases they are close to where the fighting is," Idrissa Conteh, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told IRIN in the north-eastern DRC town of Bunia.</p> </blockquote> <p>In an area where clashes can leave the most vulnerable populations even more vulnerable, there's no telling what effect this new phase in the war against Kony might have on innocent bystanders.</p> <p>And, from Ugandan journalist <a href="!/rosebellk" target="_blank">Rosebell Kagumire</a> (h/t <a href="!/texasinafrica" target="_blank">Laura Seay</a>), another important piece of the deployment picture: What do Ugandans think?</p> <blockquote> <p>Many Ugandans, through various social networks, have expressed skepticism over the 100 combat troops the US deployed to Uganda to help stamp out the rebels of Lord's Resistance Army currently operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR) and parts of western South Sudan.</p> <p>They think what they are actually here to do is secure for their country Uganda's newly found oil.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's probably based more on skepticism about the United States' motivation to send troops to other countries than actual fact&mdash;Uganda and the United States are already plenty friendly enough to strike oil deals. Read <a target="_blank" href="">Kagumire's analysis</a> of why Ugandans may need the American support anyhow&mdash;and why the Americans will need to wrap up their mission quickly. At least the International Criminal Court, which <a href="" target="_blank">issued arrest warrants</a> for LRA leader Joseph Kony and four of his other commanders six years ago, is probably happy to have some additional troops on the case. All of the LRA leaders remain at large except for one. And that's because <a href="" target="_blank">he died</a>.</p></body></html> Rights Stuff Human Rights Mon, 17 Oct 2011 20:09:30 +0000 Mac McClelland 141852 at Way to Go, Ohio! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Today, <em>MoJo</em> is publishing a story about the war on the middle class that I witnessed in Ohio this summer. <a target="_blank" href="">Read it here.</a> I've compiled a corresponding playlist. <em>Paste</em> informs me that there are newer, hipper <a target="_blank" href="">songs about my home state</a>, but here are a few relevant classics to listen to while you read.</p> <p><strong>1. "Ohio."</strong> <br> Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young's outraged anthem about the shooting of unarmed protesters by the National Guard at Kent State University in 1970. Kent State is in the district of Kathleen Clyde, the Democratic state representative interviewed in my story.</p> <p><object width="480" height="360"> <param name="movie" value=";hl=en_US"><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"><embed width="480" height="360" src=";hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object></p> <p><strong>2. "Burn On." </strong>Randy Newman laments that the Cuyahoga River, which winds through downtown Cleveland, used to have so much toxic shit in it that it actually <a target="_blank" href=";img=2323">caught on fire</a>.</p> <p><iframe width="420" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="" src=""></iframe></p> <p><strong>3. "My City Was Gone." </strong>The Pretenders' Chrissy Hynde is from Ohio, too, and this 1982 song is about the ugly overdevelopment she found on a trip home. My article is about how a lot of that stuff has been abandoned or torn down, but since the sad sentiment and the homesickness for a place that doesn't exist anymore are the same, it's kind of the perfect closing number. Queue it up, and <a target="_blank" href="">read the story here</a>.</p> <p><object width="420" height="315"> <param name="movie" value=";hl=en_US"><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"><embed width="420" height="315" src=";hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object></p></body></html> Rights Stuff Economy Music Mon, 17 Oct 2011 10:00:00 +0000 Mac McClelland 140592 at Inside a Haitian Women's Prison <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In the immediate aftermath of Haiti's 2010 quake, many relied on Twitter for news about what was going on in the country. One of the more prominent Haitian tweeters was <a target="_blank" href="!/ramhaiti">@RAMhaiti</a>, a.k.a. Richard Morse, a.k.a. front man of one of Haiti's <a target="_blank" href="">most famous bands</a> and proprietor of the country's <a target="_blank" href="">most legendary hotel</a>.</p> <p>In the last few days, Morse's tweet stream has been a good source of info on another hard-to-access subject: conditions in a Haitian women's prison. Below, check him out making some observations about what it's like inside during a visit. Now that newly elected President Michel Martelly (Morse's cousin) has appointed him an advisor, his time at the prison could influence his future advising focus&mdash;and so, his tweets imply, maybe the future of criminal justice in the country.</p> <script src=""></script><noscript><a href="" target="_blank">View "RAMhaiti prison visit" on Storify</a></noscript></body></html> Rights Stuff Human Rights Tue, 11 Oct 2011 14:27:35 +0000 Mac McClelland 140427 at The Blue Angels' Psychological Warfare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Today is the penultimate day of San Francisco's annual <a href="" target="_blank">Fleet Week</a>, during which communists like myself <a href="!/MacMcClelland/status/122444803484024832" target="_blank">complain</a> about the Navy's wasteful expenditure of taxpayer dollars on jet fuel so the Blue Angels can do acrobatics overhead. As Navy F-18s have screamed past my house, giving the city the feel of a battlefield, I've been thinking, "This is probably not going well for some people." Like people who have been traumatized in war zones and whose post-traumatic stress may be triggered by the noise.</p> <p>Sure enough, a massage therapist I was talking to mentioned that while he was working on a relocated Iraqi woman this weekend, the roar of the Blue Angels' engines sent her into a cowering panic attack on the massage table. That was sad, but not as sad/scary as the Navy SEAL he was working on who suddenly leaped off the table, flipped the massage therapist, and pinned him down by his throat.</p> <p>Kind of sounds like something that would happen in a movie, but that's definitely not just Hollywood melodrama. A lot of people who grew up amid war or went to war, the masseuse said, can be triggered by innocuous noises like low-flying jets or backfiring cars even in the profoundly safe and calming setting of a massage. And unexpected&mdash;and uncontrollable&mdash;triggering is only going to become a more prevalent problem; an estimated <a target="_blank" href="">one in five</a> Iraq and Afghanistan vets suffers PTSD. Already, some areas hold <a target="_blank" href="">extra support groups</a> during firework season. With <a target="_blank" href="">more vets coming home all the time</a>, maybe the Navy should consider making counseling part of its Fleet Week program next year.</p></body></html> Rights Stuff Human Rights Military Mon, 10 Oct 2011 21:23:15 +0000 Mac McClelland 140382 at Stat of the Day: Don't-Lend-College-Students-Money Edition <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's a fun tidbit fact-checker extraordinaire <a target="_blank" href="">Aaron Ross</a> dug up when we were shipping my <a target="_blank" href="">Assignment: Ohio</a> feature for the November/December issue. With the help of student-aid guru <a target="_blank" href="">Mark Kantrowitz</a>, Aaron was verifying that the majority of the student loans taken out in the United States haven't yet been paid back. Just how much in outstanding loans are we talking?</p> <p>Of the nearly $1.5 trillion in loans that US students have ever taken out on record, about $900 billion of it hasn't been repaid. Yes, there are, according to the best estimate available, around some 60 million Americans walking around with student-loan balances. No, the numbers aren't really so staggering because grads are slackers who never pay their debts; a third of all student loan debt was incurred in the last four years. So the national outstanding-loan debt is growing fast. Too bad for all us suckers who took out all that aid that the same cannot be said of the job market.</p></body></html> Rights Stuff Wed, 05 Oct 2011 22:21:03 +0000 Mac McClelland 137882 at Speaking of War Criminals <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Good news for Cote d'Ivoirians who would like to see any sort of incremental progress toward justice for alleged rapists, murderers, and civilian-attackers within their government. The judges of the International Criminal Court have approved an investigation into crimes committed during the past year's <a href="" target="_blank">unrest</a>. The judges have also given ICC&nbsp;chief prosecutor <a target="_blank" href="">Luis Moreno-Ocampo</a> a month to determine whether crimes also took place between 2002 and 2010, so they can decide whether to investigate that period as well. My guess as to the answer of that question: yes. Human Rights Watch has a whole library of <a href="" target="_blank">research</a> about an entire decade of war crimes perpetrated by the forces of both the former and current presidents.</p> <p>Some cool things about this development: Cote d'Ivoire is not a member of the ICC, but it gave the court jurisdiction anyway, which says something about the spread of the institution's reach. Some of the crimes in Cote d'Ivoire happened very recently, which says something about the institution's potential justice-persuing speed. It's good that someone with prosecutorial power is investigating possible crimes. Plus, the ICC's investigation process, which basically involves dispatching a bunch of <a href="" target="_blank">international research spies</a>, is just cool on its own merits.</p> <p>However, if this investigations results in the ICC issuing arrest warrants, it is going to catch <a href="" target="_blank">more flack</a> for only trying to arrest Africans. But it also will catch flack for <a target="_blank" href="">not actually being able to arrest</a> the Africans it has outstanding warrants for.</p></body></html> Rights Stuff Human Rights International Tue, 04 Oct 2011 21:42:22 +0000 Mac McClelland 138942 at Ohio Governor Gets a Raise While Slashing Public Services <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">While we're all at being (rightfully) mad at some really rich people</a>, let's splash some more fuel onto the class-warfare fire. Think tank Innovation Ohio has released some stats about that state's governor, John Kasich, who is trying to kill collective bargaining with a bill called SB 5 and who recently <a href="" target="_blank">slashed funding to services</a> people sort of need, like schools and firefighting.</p> <p>But the Ohio legislature isn't spreading the pain equally&mdash;namely, not among themselves. According to IO's most recent <a target="_blank" href="">report</a>, Kasich took a raise of more than $10,000 over the last governor's salary, bringing his pay to $148,165. And exempted the salary from the SB 5 provision that cuts automatic annual raises for other public employees. And lied about how much he pays his staff, whose senior members make $110,000. Also unaffected by the recent massive budget cuts is the Ohio General Assembly's minimum salary of $60K&mdash;for a part-time job in a state where the average worker makes $40K. Of course, 62 of the 70 legislators who voted for SB 5 make more than that minimum. Those 62 receive annual bonuses up to $34k. No wonder there was so much <a href="" target="_blank">protesting going on </a>when I was there.</p> <p>Check out the whole list of sad/maddening hypocrisies <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.</p></body></html> Rights Stuff Economy Labor Tue, 04 Oct 2011 03:19:20 +0000 Mac McClelland 138777 at Fear and Loathing in Congo <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The feature on war criminals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that I reported this spring <a target="_blank" href="">is out</a>. In honor of its publication, I'd like to share a scene that was in my notes but that didn't end up in the final product. Like the outtake from the <a href="" target="_blank">time</a> I was on camera for PBS and ripped a five-inch hole in the crotch of my pants. Except this one's less funny because it's about murder. Also Hall &amp; Oates.</p> <p>The story:&nbsp;My translator Joey and I are interviewing a slew of witnesses and sources who are running for their lives because, they say, International Criminal Court-indicted warlord Bosco Ntaganda is threatening to kill them. I'm so paranoid that when one of Ntaganda's colonels says something possibly innocuous to me, I think maybe he's actually telling me he's been following me, and Joey's having paranoid nightmares that the colonels will come after us in our hotel, and one of my Congolese drivers nearly throws me off a motorbike while whipping around to see if he's being tailed.</p> <p>That's all in the feature. Not included, however, is one of my sources warning me not to write anything about Ntaganda until I've left the country. Don't worry, I tell him; we'll delay running any stories until at least my arrival in Uganda. He shakes his head. Uganda is right next door, and the bad guys have alliances there. "They could easily kill you in Uganda," he says, not because he is being dramatic, but because he's been chased farther across the continent than that. Then one morning, some suspected assassination-plotters we've met call my cell: "Hey! Just want to say hello! See what you're up to!" That's the deleted lead-up to this deleted scene.</p> <blockquote> <p>I go upstairs to my hotel room and put my iPod on shuffle, and it picks "Private Eyes." <em>They're watching you. They see your evvvvveryyy moooove. </em>I stop dead in my tracks on my way into the bathroom, toothbrush in hand. <em>Oh I see you, oh I see you, private, private, private eyes, girl. </em>I look out the wide window for something awry in the empty lot next door, turn toward the door and watch it hard, trying to intuit what might be on the other side in the dark hallway where the lights never, ever work, just for a second, before laughing and congratulating myself for not believing in signs and letting the paranoia paralyze me. Though that's easy for me to say. I'm leaving tomorrow.</p> </blockquote> <p>Anyway, there's a lot of extremely brave Congolese trying to live their lives and tell their stories despite imminent danger. <a href="" target="_blank">Read the whole story here</a>. (And while you're at it, check out this related <a target="_blank" href="">photo essay</a> about the war on Congo's women.)</p></body></html> Rights Stuff Human Rights International Thu, 29 Sep 2011 10:00:00 +0000 Mac McClelland 138192 at Ohio Could Become Most Anti-Choice State Yet <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Yesterday, hundreds of people <a href="" target="_blank">rallied</a> at the Columbus, Ohio, statehouse in support of the so-called "Heartbeat Bill," the pending legislation that could crown Ohio as home of the strictest abortion law in the country.&nbsp;The law would, except in cases of extreme medical emergency, make it illegal to terminate a pregnancy once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, <em>i.e.,</em> as early as six weeks after conception (<em>i.e.</em>, probably before you've realized you're pregnant). It's so strict that even Ohio Right to Life <a href="" target="_blank">isn't supporting it</a>, saying there's no way it's going to hold up in court, because it's totally unconstitutional.</p> <p>But the bill has already <a href="" target="_blank">passed the House</a>; now it's up to the Senate, where Republicans outnumber Democrats more than 2-to-1. During the House hearing, proponents brought in two young pregnant women and <a href="" target="_blank">gave them live ultrasounds</a> in front of the committee. One fetus's heartbeats rang out loud and clear for the benefit of the audience. The other's was hard to make out. When I interviewed Democratic State Rep. Kathleen Clyde in June, she quipped, "I guess that fetus couldn't testify that day."</p> <p>It's been a rough couple months for choice in Ohio. As we <a href="" target="_blank">reported</a> in June, the new budget, which <a href="" target="_blank">passed</a> this summer, contained a provision to keep "unincorporated (read: mostly rural) counties from covering abortion in their employee insurance plans" except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the woman's life. "Another bans publicly funded hospitals from performing the procedure." According to Ohio NARAL's Kellie Copeland, that affected "pretty much all the public hospitals in the state." Republican lawmakers said the measures keep taxpayer dollars from going toward abortions. Copeland says they didn't, since taxpayer dollars were already banned from going toward abortions in Ohio; procedures at public hospitals already had to be paid with private funds.</p> <p>So also in attendance at the Columbus rally was Ohio NARAL, which showed up to rain on the anti-choice parade. "In a state like Ohio where the unemployment rate has continued to grow over the past three months to 9.1 percent, politicians who ran on ideas to improve the economy have shifted their focus to creating a divisive agenda that attacks a woman's right to choose," NARAL's Copeland said in a statement. NARAL says its supporters will stand outside the statehouse for a few hours every day the Senate is in session for the rest of the legislative year. If you live in Ohio and agree with them and are, like lots of people, unemployed, there's a fun afternoon activity for you!</p></body></html> Rights Stuff Reproductive Rights The Right Wed, 21 Sep 2011 18:20:52 +0000 Mac McClelland 136922 at The Real Price of Amazon's Free Shipping <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A couple of weeks ago, my best friend sent me an email. She just got this new expensive makeup she'd ordered on the internet. It had arrived! But then she remembered <a href="" target="_blank">that story I wrote</a> about a warehouse in Ohio that ships products from online retailers and how miserable everyone who works there is and how shitty they're treated by their employers, and then she felt really sad. So, hey, she said, thanks a lot.</p> <p>I'm not going to tell <em>her</em>, but now, <a href=",0,6503103.story" target="_blank">via the Allentown (Pa.) <em>Morning Call</em></a>, there's more confirmation that products are often shipped from the internets to your house by very demoralized workers operating in very depressing conditions because they have <a href="" target="_blank">no other job options</a>. Specifically, at the Amazon warehouse in the story, an employee got in touch with OSHA when the heat inside hit 102 degrees. Fifteen workers collapsed, and those that went home to beat the heat got negative marks put on their records.</p> <p>The Ohio warehouse I visited in June was the same kind of benefitless sweat-box. (It also sounds a lot like the sweltering warehouse described to my colleague Josh Harkinson <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.)&nbsp;The Pennsylvania warehouse mentioned in the <em>Morning Call</em> article was not actually run by Amazon, just like the warehouse I was in wasn't run by the retailers whose product they shipped; both are staffed by temporary workers from a contract agency. Amazon <a href="" target="_blank">responded</a> by saying, "The safety and well-being of our associates is our number one priority." Hmm, no statement yet on whether they're going to make their contractors treat their employees like human beings. In the meantime, every one of Amazon's millions of customers should write them a really angry letter demanding change. Except we won't. Because then our shipping wouldn't be free.</p></body></html> Rights Stuff Economy Labor Top Stories Tue, 20 Sep 2011 10:01:00 +0000 Mac McClelland 136577 at Putting the Pope on Trial <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Like most people who went to Catholic school, I have a long list of offenses I feel the church inflicted on me, which is probably partly why I&nbsp;sort of love the idea of an international police force arresting the pope. That's what a group of victims'-rights advocates is hoping for; last week, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests <a href="" target="_blank">filed a complaint</a> with the International Criminal Court against Pope Benedict XVI and three senior Vatican officials.</p> <p>It sounds like a publicity stunt to charge the pope with crimes against humanity. But the lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights who are handling the case sure <a target="_blank" href="">sound like they mean business</a>: "The Vatican officials charged in this case are responsible for rape and other sexual violence and for the physical and psychological torture of victims around the world both through command responsibility and through direct cover-up of crimes. They should be brought to trial like any other officials guilty of crimes against humanity."</p> <p>Fair enough. But as explained in <a href="" target="_blank">this primer</a>, the ICC is a somewhat tricky institution. It can't just go after whomever it wants. Widespread rape totally qualifies as a crime against humanity, and has been a charge in several ICC cases. The real issues behind the court's potential involvement in this case are jurisdiction and responsibility.</p> <p>First, jurisdiction. The court can only prosecute abuses that occur in a country that's a signatory to the ICC&mdash;or abuses that are perpetrated by a national of one of those signatories. Afghanistan, for example, is a signatory to the ICC; the United States is not<em>.</em> But the ICC would have jurisdiction over a crime against humanity committed by, say, an American soldier on Afghan soil. Which is precisely why the United States tried to block the creation of the ICC in the first place. The Vatican is not an ICC&nbsp;signatory, but theoretically, that's not a deal-breaker. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is an ICC signatory, and one of the cases cited in the Vatican filing took place there. Another case involves a priest from Belgium, which is also a signatory.</p> <p>On the question of responsibility, it's not like the pope or Vatican officials wanted priests to unleash a wave of sexual abuse on innocent underage church-goers. Certainly, no one is alleging that Vatican officials actually ordered priests to rape kids. Look at the language ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo used when explaining why the <a href="" target="_blank">court indicted Muammar Qaddafi</a>: "The evidence shows that Muammar Qaddafi <em>personally</em> <em>ordered</em> attacks on unarmed Libyan civilians." (My italics.)&nbsp;So far, the ICC has <strike>only</strike> mostly* gone after people who do bad things on purpose. It's not clear if it has the ability (or interest) to go after those who neglect to stop bad things from happening or try to cover them up.</p> <p>Commenting on the Vatican complaint, the ICC has said only that it will examine the evidence and the jurisdictional issues. Which is the sort of empty and official-sounding thing it would say about any complaint. Moreno-Ocampo, whom I spent a decent amount of time with when reporting a story for our <a href="" target="_blank">current issue</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">covering</a> <a href="" target="_blank">his requests for the Libyan warrants</a>, wouldn't comment when I reached him.</p> <p>My hunch is that it's extremely unlikely this complaint, one of many thousands the ICC has received, is going anywhere. But it is an important step in raising the issue of accountability. Though the ICC is a long, long, long shot for these victims of sex abuse, it is probably more likely than the Vatican to hold the responsible parties accountable. Even priests who abused hundreds of disabled children <a href="" target="_blank">weren't punished</a> by the church. And though headlines have been screaming about the priest-rape scandal since I was in grade school, it took the church years to clearly order its bishops to prioritize fighting sexual abuse in their dioceses. As in, it finally issued the directive <a href=";scp=3&amp;sq=catholic%20sex%20abuse%20scandal%20&amp;st=cse" target="_blank"><em>this May</em></a>.</p> <p>*Thanks to <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Wronging Rights</em></a>' briliant and actually-trained-and-qualified-to-pontificate-on-legal-issues Kate Cronin-Furman for hollering with the correction. The charges in the case against Jean-Pierre Bemba&mdash;some of whose trial <a href="" target="_blank">I caught in April</a>&mdash;she wrote me, "are not that Bemba ordered his guys to commit atrocities in [the Central African Republic], but that he could have prevented them from doing so, and failed to. This is known as command or superior responsibility doctrine. It's how you convict military commanders for actions taken by their subordinates that they should have prevented." Not that that, and the fact that the pope is at the top of the church's hierarchy, should necessarily give these rape victims hope that the ICC will act. It is a "neat idea," Cronin-Furman says, but concurs that it's "a stretch." </p></body></html> Rights Stuff Crime and Justice Human Rights International Religion Top Stories Mon, 19 Sep 2011 10:00:00 +0000 Mac McClelland 136192 at Today in Deepwater Horizon Updates <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A report by the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement, says that everyone&mdash;BP, Halliburton, Transocean&mdash;is to blame for the April 2010 explosion that caused the <a href="" target="_blank">second-largest oil spill ever</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">ruined a lot of lives along the Gulf Coast</a>. The findings aren't particularly surprising; a presidential commission <a href="" target="_blank">reached the same conclusion</a> earlier this year.</p> <p>Also, miles of tar balls and tar mats have <a href="" target="_blank">appeared on Louisiana beaches</a> after a tropical storm churned them up. This is also not particularly surprising, since BP was doing such a <a href="" target="_blank">totally awesome job of cleaning the oil up</a> when it first spilled. Workers are being dispatched to take care of the new mess posthaste.</p> <p>But <em>this</em> is news: A refreshing dose of honesty from BP, which last year was insisting, along with a <a href="" target="_blank">weirdly and tragically complicit media</a>, that the oil was all gone. Said BP spokesman Curtis Thomas, <a href=";tc=pgall%20" target="_blank">explaining</a> why they already had so much manpower ready to deploy for cleanup: "We knew this was coming."</p></body></html> Rights Stuff Wed, 14 Sep 2011 20:42:41 +0000 Mac McClelland 135762 at Ohio's Employment Picture: Bleak and Bleaker <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I know, Labor Day was <em>last</em> week, but in case you missed it, there's a <a href="" target="_blank">dismal new report</a> out from the think tank Policy Matters Ohio about the state of my home state. According to it, wages have declined in 10 states in the last 10 years. Leading the pack? Ohio, which I've been blathering about since I spent a month there reporting on its <a href="" target="_blank">abysmal employment prospects</a> and its <a href="" target="_blank">abysmal actual jobs</a>. Its median wage decline&mdash;of 86 cents an hour&mdash;over the past decade has been steeper than that of Michigan, which is more famous for its decrepitude, and also the only place I ever came across a dead body on a sidewalk.</p> <p>More fun facts about the Buckeye State: For the first time in 20 years, not even half of 16- to 24-year-olds are employed. Only about half of African-Americans are employed. Just a little more than half of women are.</p> <p>But not all of the 26 pages in the report are bad news. Just 23 of them are. The last few include the ways the Ohio legislature could turn the trend around and save the day. Like by not cutting local government budgets by 50 percent and by not slashing school funding. Aw, wait. That's the exact opposite of what the <a href="" target="_blank">legislature is starting to do right now</a>.</p></body></html> Rights Stuff Tue, 13 Sep 2011 00:22:25 +0000 Mac McClelland 135277 at A New Human Rights Logo, Brought to You By Qaddafi's PR Firm <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Maybe the idea of universal human rights would catch on if it had a memorable emblem. That's the idea behind the <a href="" target="_blank">Logo For Human Rights project</a>, which is currently holding a competition to crowdsource a logo that it hopes, as the promotional email that landed in my inbox yesterday explains, "will become as iconic as the peace sign and serve to advance the global spread and implementation of human rights."</p> <p>Since the logo campaign kicked off in May, more than 15,000 designs from more than 190 countries have been submitted. You can still vote for your favorites among the <a href="" target="_blank">10 finalists on its website</a> through September 17. The contest has picked up endorsements from <a href="" target="_blank">human rights "celebrities"</a> including Chinese dissident Ai Wei Wei and Nobel Peace Prize winners Aung San Suu Kyi, Shirin Ebadi, Muhammad Yunus, Jimmy Carter, and Mikhail Gorbachev. Among the campaign's <a href="" target="_blank">partners</a> are Google and <a href="" target="_blank">Cinema for Peace</a>, a German foundation whose awards galas have been attended by Sean Penn, Leonardo DiCaprio, and George Clooney. The winning logo will be unveiled at a bash in New York on September 23. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales will be there&mdash;no word yet on other celebs.</p> <p>Which all sounds great, except that the PR&nbsp;firm that contacted me to publicize the event is <a target="_blank" href="">Brown Lloyd James</a>, which is also in the business of rebranding governments that couldn't care less about that shiny new logo.</p> <p>According to records <a href="" target="_blank">filed with the Department of Justice</a>, in November 2010 the strategic communications agency landed a $5,000-a-month contract in which it "liased" between Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad and <em>Vogue</em>. The resulting <a href="" target="_blank">glowing profile</a> (since <a href="" target="_blank">yanked</a> from the <em>Vogue</em> website) described her as "glamorous, young, and very chic&mdash;the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies&hellip;a thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind who dresses with cunning understatement." Syria, it claimed, was "the safest country in the Middle East."</p> <p>In 2008, Brown Lloyd James signed a contract with a Libyan oil-drilling magnate to help Colonel Muammar Qaddafi clean up his international image. To that end, the firm assisted with an <a href="" target="_blank">op-ed in his name</a> and "reached out to newspaper editors to discuss placement and proposed edits." It also helped set up speeches for him at the United Nations and Georgetown University. (However, BLJ&nbsp;noted in its federal filings that it "did not advise on the content or delivery of these speeches." Highlights of his <a href="" target="_blank">rambling UN speech</a> included sticking up for the Taliban and suggesting that swine flu was man-made.) The firm reported that the Libyan Mission to the UN&nbsp;reimbursed it more than $1.2 million for "logistical support." In England, BLJ&nbsp;promoted Qaddafi as <a target="_blank" href="">"a fascinating contemporary world figure"</a> and arranged for him to give a video address at the London School of Economics.</p> <p>The agency was one of a handful of PR shops that represented Qaddafi and his family, as <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Mother Jones </em>has reported</a>. Defending his firm's choice of clients, BLJ partner Sir Nicholas Lloyd told <a target="_blank" href=""><em>PR&nbsp;Week UK</em></a>, "At the time, Libya was recognised by British and American governments. They all did business with Gaddafi."</p> <p>When I&nbsp;inquired how Brown Lloyd James squares its current work for the human rights logo campaign with its previous work for the Assad and Qaddafi regimes, the company sent me this statement:</p> <blockquote> <p>Working to advance the rights of all is a positive moral value and business practice. It is something we have done for years on behalf of a host of groups and individuals. Whether it was encouraging a better understanding of the groundbreaking role of Al Jazeera in the Arab world, establishing United Nations-recognized days in support of autism and the plight of widows, or supporting the first ever visit of Human Rights Watch to Libya, advancing social progress is at the core of our work. This is why we proudly support the first ever Human Rights Logo, which will create a common language for people around the world to communicate on this important global issue..</p> </blockquote> <p>Unfortunately, BLJ's message of social progress didn't get through to Damascus and Tripoli. Maybe the winning human rights logo will be more successful.</p> <p><strong>Update:&nbsp;</strong>A few hours after this post was published, the Human Rights Logo Initiative <a target="_blank" href="!/humanrightslogo/statuses/112187122756227072">tweeted</a>, "@MotherJones thanks for pointing this out! BLJ helped announce NY event,they're not part of the initiative. There'll be no further cooperation."</p></body></html> Rights Stuff Human Rights Media Top Stories Fri, 09 Sep 2011 10:00:00 +0000 Dave Gilson 134602 at