STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — September 19, 2009. The weather cooperated providing a picture perfect day for the third annual Staten Island African Heritage Parade. Elected officials who turned out included Assemblyman Matt Titone (D, 61st Assembly District) and State Senator Diane Savino (D, 23rd Senate District) — they were joined by recent Democratic Party primary winner Debi Rose who is challenging Conservative Party candidate Ken Mitchell for the North Shore City Council seat in November. Also present was Democrat John Luisi who is running for the Borough President’s job, taking on incumbent and New York State Conservative Party vice chair James Molinaro. Ed Josey of the National Associaton for the Advancement of Colored People, clad in yellow NAACP garb, joined the march as did a large contingent from the College of Staten Island. Activist Sally Jones was spotted sporting her familiar light blue Peace Action t-shirt. NLN photographer Tom Good was there and took advantage of the photo op.
Debi Rose casts her vote in Tuesday’s primary
(Photo: Michelle Akyempong)
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — NY1 News described it as a “throw out the bums” type of election — but however you describe it, Tuesday’s primary accomplished something very rare: four New York City Council incumbents lost their primaries. Pundits are debating whether Bloomberg’s overturning of term limits last Fall prompted a clean sweep mentality in the electorate but whatever the motivation, primary voters voiced a desire for change.
It is rare enough for an incumbent in the New York City Council to lose a re-election bid but even rarer: Staten Island will see its first African-American elected official if Progressive Democrat Debi Rose prevails in the November election. In fact, it is quite likely that Rose has already assured her place in the history books. Philip Blitz, treasurer of the Democratic Committee of Richmond County, told NLN in a phone interview that he can’t remember any African-American ever winning the party’s nomination before. Although Blitz stressed that he is not the county committee’s historian he did say that he while he recalls African-Americans holding office inside the Staten Island Democratic Party, to the best of his knowledge Debi Rose has made history as the first African-American to win the party’s nomination.
After losing a very tight special election in February, Rose defeated incumbent Ken Mitchell in Tuesday night’s primary. The incumbent said that he will continue to run — on the Conservative line. Rose is running on both the Working Families line and the Democratic Party line. Mitchell chances are not good — Rose won the primary with a convincing 55 percent to 39 percent victory. Rajiv Gowda garnered the remaining 6 percent.
In a NY1 interview, Rose described her victory as “Obama-esque” and said that she and her campaign staff are gearing up for the November election. Inspired by her resounding victory over the Democratic Party machine on Staten Island’s North Shore, Rose told NY1 that she believes Mitchell’s candidacy will siphon votes away from Republican Timothy Kuhn and that this will help her bid to be the first African-American from Staten Island to serve on the New York City Council.
Rose has significant labor support — she has been endorsed by CSEA, the UAW, DC 37 — and several women’s rights organizations have endorsed her as well. Planned Parenthood’s New York City Action Fund and the Brooklyn Queens chapter of the National Organization for Women endorsed Rose on August 20.
NARAL Pro-Choice New York also endorsed Rose in August and issued a statement of congratulations after her primary victory:
NARAL Pro-Choice New York congratulates Debi Rose on an important victory in the north shore Staten Island City Council primary.
The defeat of Ken Mitchell is a win not only for Rose, but for the women of Staten Island and the vast majority of New Yorkers who support Debi Rose’s pro-choice, pro-women position.
The man she just defeated, Ken Mitchell, not only refused to answer questions as to where he stands on women’s health issues and the right to choose, but he was also one of only eight Council members to vote against clinic access legislation (a law that now ensures women and their doctors are protected from acts of harassment and intimidation at health centers all across this city).
The Council overwhelmingly voted for this legislation, the police department supported it, Mayor Bloomberg quickly signed it into law, but Ken Mitchell voted against it. Debi Rose, on the other hand, cares passionately about women’s reproductive health, is ready to fight for women’s health, and is ready to be a leader in the New York City Council for women’s health.
NARAL Pro-Choice New York is proud to have contributed to her victory through direct mail, canvassing and phone banking and we look forward to her leadership on our issues.
Rose will square off with Conservative Party candidate Ken Mitchell and Republican Timothy Kuhn on November 3. If Rose prevails she will make history as the first African-American elected official from Staten Island. But she has already accomplished something noteworthy: a progressive running a people power, grass roots campaign has defeated the powerful Democratic Party machine on Staten Island.
NEW YORK — Saturday, September 12, was another rainy day in New York City — in what has been a rainy summer. But New York is a union town and the faithful turned out in good numbers for the annual Labor Day parade — despite the dampness.
Recognition of health care benefits as a basic human right and the ability to organize a union without intimidation were two ideas underpinning this year’s march.
The New York City Central Labor Council said that this year’s parade would be “A march for a stronger, fairer economy and the passage of legislation to reform health care, the economy and the freedom to form unions (Employee Free Choice Act).” And so it was: AFL-CIO signs stating “Health Care Can’t Wait” and “Employee Free Choice Act Now!” were carried by many of the marchers.
CONTRACT, COOKIES – AND A NEW OWNER?
Another sign that was also very visible urged onlookers to “Keep Stella D’Oro In The Bronx.”
The membership of Local 50 of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) Union are a group of workers familiar to many as the “Stella D’Oro Strikers”. Although Local 50 prevailed in court — in June the NLRB ruled that the 134 strikers were to be reinstated under their original contract terms and the company must provide back pay for loss of earnings and health benefits incurred in an 11 month strike — the Stella D’Oro factory owners are now trying to close the plant. Local 50 is trying to find a buyer who will keep the factory open — a buyer who will respect the union contract.
On Saturday, Local 50 fielded a large, boisterous contingent — and signs supporting the local were visible in other contingents as well. NY1, the cable news station known for its coverage of New York City politics, ran parade footage that showed a worker wearing a Local 50 / BCTGM t-shirt hugging mayoral candidate Bill Thompson.
WRITING OUR OWN HISTORY
Another union that has been struggling in recent months as a direct result of the recession is the United Auto Workers. The UAW is a diverse union that represents auto workers, teachers, attorneys — and independent writers. Each of these groups was represented in the UAW contingent on Saturday.
On 47th Street, a group of UAW members, wearing bright blue t-shirts that said “Buy UAW Cars And Trucks,” stood in front of a brand new canary yellow Camaro and a metalflake gray Challenger. Shortly after noon the contingent formed up, started their engines, and stepped off for the march up Fifth Avenue to 72nd Street. The UAW Region 9A contingent included Legal Aid attorneys from Local 2325 and educators from the New School and NYU, whose union, ACT-UAW, is Local 7902. Also marching were members of Local 2110 TOP (Technical, Office and Professional workers) and the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981. Holding one end of the Region 9A banner was Larry Goldbetter, the newly elected president of the NWU. On the opposite end of the banner was NLN photographer and editor Thomas Good, who put away his camera temporarily to march with his union — and with his new president.
PHILADELPHIA — Seven activists, including Richie Marini, Elaine Brower and Debra Sweet, were arrested today for nonviolent civil disobedience at the Army Experience Center (AEC) outside Philadelphia. The U. S. Army had shut down the center this morning for a “private party”, the patrons of which were apparently the “Gathering Of Eagles”, a pro-war organization. The civil disobedience occurred outside of the Franklin Mills Mall which houses the AEC. The Army recently announced it does not intend to create any more of these centers — which use video games as a recruiting tool — due to alleged budgetary constraints.
SAN FRANCISCO (BeyondChron.org) — With President Obama highlighting the lies surrounding the attacks on health care reform, it’s worth emphasizing that these falsehoods were primarily circulated on television and talk radio — two longstanding traditional media outlets. Yet despite this and other examples, the traditional media continues to insist that, as The New York Times recently put it, “the persistence of the rumor despite the lack of tangible evidence says something about the Internet-driven media culture.” Ironically, the Times made this point in an article about falsehoods about Chelsea Clinton that were spread not by the Internet, but rather by … the New York Times Company.
The September 3 New York Times story, “A Real Fairy-Tale Wedding,” describes the cascade of false stories surrounding Chelsea Clinton’s nonexistent plans for an August wedding on Martha’s Vineyard. The theme of the story, noted above, was how these falsehoods get traction in the Internet age.
But here’s the problem. According to the Times, the false rumors were first reported in The Boston Globe. The Globe is owned by the New York Times Co.
After the Globe got the misinformation ball rolling, the Times reports the rumor being promoted in New York magazine. It then gathered steam in the New York Daily News, which was followed by FOX News.
The Washington Post, certainly a hallowed member of the traditional media, then ran a 1775 word article on how Clinton could conduct a “secret” wedding. The New York Times Travel section then described the rumors in passing (without denying them).
Finally, the New York Post reported on Sunday, August 30 that the Clinton wedding could occur that day, reporting having seen “preparations in full gear for a very large gathering.”
None of the above sources relied on the Internet to spread their falsehoods. Yet when August passed and no wedding occurred, the Times blamed “the Internet-driven media culture” rather than its traditional media brethren.
This falsehood eclipses the lies about Clinton’s wedding.
From health care to the lead up to the war in Iraq, the traditional media, not the Internet, led the drive of misinformation. Most of the Internet’s craziness is not deemed credible and hence does not impact public policy — the same cannot be said for the misinformation in the Times and other traditional media.
Reprinted from BeyondChron.
Randy Shaw is the author of Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — On Wednesday, September 9, New York City Council candidate Debi Rose visited the Staten Island Ferry Terminal but was unable to sit down for a meal or use her laptop. Citing a “failure of leadership”, Rose referred to the ferry terminal as a “blight” — the terminal remains devoid of retail shops despite promises of elected officials to convert it into a space that would offer commuters amenities — and tourists a reason to visit the island.
In recent years the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) administered a $130 million renovation project of the St. George ferry terminal on behalf of the Department of Transportation (DOT). The project produced two salt water fish tanks, a panoramic view of the harbor — and nowhere to sit down and eat, shop for books or utilize a wifi connection to the internet according to Debi Rose. The result: tourists take the ferry for a free ride past the Statue of Liberty but do not linger on Staten Island — and the terminal remains largely vacant in terms of shops that could provide residents with employment.
“This space could be wonderful and full of amenities for the commuters, for tourists, and it could be a boon to the economic development on Staten Island,” said Rose.
“But as you see, because of a lack of planning and a failure of leadership, this space is blank, this space is empty, under-utilized and the communters don’t have access to the amenities that would make the commute more palatable,” she added.
Rose pointed out that basic amenities, including a restaurant, existed prior to the renovation. But $130 million worth of improvements later, the terminal lacks even the restaurant it once boasted — let alone a book store or a wifi ready waiting room. And construction in the hallway that once housed shops continues — at a snail’s pace.
Rose argued that elected officials must be prodded to make it a priority to get businesses to return to the terminal — providing jobs for residents as well making the terminal more welcoming.
“It takes someone who will stay on the elected officials, that will stay on EDC to make sure that we have a neighborhood and a community that is thriving, that we have jobs and businesses. And that we also have the amenities that every other community has,” Rose said.
When asked what she would like to see in the terminal, Rose said that “There should be a Barnes and Noble, or a book shop, a Starbucks, somewhere where the commuter could sit down and read. You could use your wireless — this whole area should be wireless, so that while you’re waiting to get on the ferry you could utilize your PC. This could be, you know, more than just a transportation hub, it could really be an economic boon to Staten Island.”
Noting that a lot of tourists ride the ferry and are obliged to walk through the terminal, Rose said that “It should be something that makes tourists get off the ferry. Right now they get off, they walk around the corner and they get back on.”
Rose argued that the elected officials have little interest in correcting the situation, or other similar infrastructure problems — until just before an election.
“I’ve seen where, all of a sudden, projects are being completed, or the ground is being broken for a lot of projects and it’s just in time for the election. We need somebody who is going to be on the case, all the time, twenty-four seven, not just in an election,” said Rose.
Rose is challenging incumbent Ken Mitchell for the District 49 city council seat. The candidates will square off in a Democratic Party primary on September 15, 2009.
PEACE ACTION OF STATEN ISLAND HONORS LOCAL PEACEMAKERS AT SECOND ANNUAL “MAKE FOOD NOT WAR WITH STATEN ISLAND’S OWN CELEBRITY CHEFS”
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. (PASI) — Peace Action of Staten Island will host its second annual “MAKE FOOD NOT WAR WITH STATEN ISLAND’S OWN CELEBRITY CHEFS” benefit buffet dinner honoring four local peacemakers, each of whom in his or her own way helps to raise awareness of peaceful, non-militaristic solutions, and promotes acceptance of diversity with a focus on the humanitarian needs of our community and world. It will take place on Saturday, October 3, 2009, from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the Central Family Life Center, 59 Wright Street (Rev. Calvin Rice Place) in Stapleton, New York. Tickets are $35.00 each for adults, $10.00 per child (children under 5 are free). RSVP by September 19, 2009. Please call Peace Action at (718) 989-2881 for reservations and more information.
Entertainment will be provided by Staten Island’s legendary musician Jimmy Mack on acoustic guitar, along with an ethnic dance performance (to be confirmed.) There will be a silent auction of items ranging from a three day vacation in the Berkshires to a variety of gift baskets including gift certificates from Vida restaurant on Van Duzer Street and Dosi Cafe on Bay St. Attire is informal. Families as well as individuals are welcome.
The celebrity chefs’ offerings include: Sri Lankan specialities served by Dosa Garden of Victory Boulevard.; vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free fare from Tuttoriso Cafe on Richmond Terrace; delectables from pastry chef Nonnie Chu of Desserts by Nonnie Chu; Cajun, Creole and Low Country cuisine from Chef Dennis Crotty of St. George Parish Grill on Stuyvesant Place; enticing fare from David Hernandez and Charlie Gonzalez of David and Charles Catering; a superb Mexican stew from accomplished home chef Rona Solomon; tantalizing treats from Addie Corn, a former Staten Island restauranteur, and; extraordinary baked goods from Pat Berg. In addition there will be other chefs’ culinary creations.
The honorees are individuals from distinctly different backgrounds, yet all share a common vision and commitment to achieving it.
Hesham El-Meligy is a well known community activist with Building Bridges Coalition, a Staten Island interfaith multi-ethnic social group which holds interfaith events; and a Muslim spokesperson. Hesham personally reaches out to the community with his “What It’s Like to be Muslim on Staten Island” presentation and dialogue, addressing organizations and acting as a link himself as he informs and educates people.
Thomas Good, a College of Staten Island graduate and father of two, is a photojournalist and editor of NEXT LEFT NOTES, an independent Left online journal. His work has appeared in numerous publications including IN THESE TIMES, THE NATION, and UNDERGROUND: MY LIFE IN SDS AND THE WEATHERMEN by Mark Rudd. He is active with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the War Resisters League (WRL), Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS), and Peace Action. A lifelong Lefty and an alumnus of Pier 57, he feels “Privileged to have been inconvenienced by law enforcement for reading the names of the U.S. war dead aloud in Vito Fossella’s office along with several of [his] heroes: Sally Jones, Elaine Brower and Barbara Walker.”
Barbara Walker, a member of the Granny Peace Brigade, is a native New Yorker who graduated from Jamaica H.S. and Hunter College. In her junior year of college she signed on for volunteer work with the American Committee for Africa where she met and became acquainted with people from another country for the first time in her life. There followed 15 years at the Institute of International Education organizing travel and study programs for specialists from the U.S., Asia, and Africa. For 25 years Barbara worked with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Ethiopia, and in the UN peacekeeping operation in New York, Namibia, Jerusalem, and Angola. Barbara’s philosophy is, “I believe focus on the promotion of conflict resolution through diplomacy and negotiation, on the necessity for elimination of war profiteering, on opposition to war undertaken for control of resources should be maintained.”
Sylvia Zaage, a member of Peace Action, has been a Staten Islander since 1952 when she, her husband and their toddlers first arrived here. Her involvement in the community began with the League of Women Voters, then the Unitarian Church, followed by becoming a Brownie Scout leader; friends in Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) motivated her to join in Civil Rights marches and protests. She became a member of Staten Islanders Against Nuclear Weapons led by “gifted peacemaker” Sam Finklestein. There followed involvement with Protectors of Pine Oak Woods, teaching yoga as a volunteer, joining JCC Senior Net to teach older people computer skills, and helping out in the campaigns of progressive leaders, notably Mary Codd (the Staten Islander who ran for Mayor) and recently Steve Harrison, Debi Rose and President Barack Obama. Sylvia works with the membership committee and says, “Knowing and working with the people who are the movers and shakers of our community has enriched and given meaning to my life.”
NEW YORK — New At NLN Video: 7 clips that tell the story of the struggle for universal health care, with a public option — and one clip that covers a recent protest against the coup in Honduras. Click on the images below to access the videos.
NEW YORK — On Wednesday, New Yorkers held hostage by insurance companies shared their tragic stories — and their impassioned pleas for health care reform were echoed by health care providers.
On Wednesday, September 2, over 700 supporters joined a MoveOn.org vigil at Columbus Circle. The event was one of three hundred “We Can’t Afford To Wait” vigils held nationwide – events designed to show Congress that an urgent need for health care reform exists and that people are suffering because of it. The New York action was co-sponsored by MoveOn.org, the Center for Community Change, Democracy for America, Doctors for America, Health Care for America Now and True Majority.
MoveOn organizer David Greenson opened the event with a taped speech — a recording of recently deceased Senator Ted Kennedy arguing for universal and comprehensive health care coverage, the cause he called “The passion of my life.” In the recording Kennedy argued that the American people are entitled to the same health care that members of Congress have.
As dusk fell on Columbus Circle, vigilers lit candles and speakers offered damning evidence that the U.S. health care system has flatlined.
Some of the speakers were patients, some were celebrities — and some of the most passionate were health care providers, standing up for their patients.
Dr. Alex Blum, a pediatrician, described his anger and frustration after an encounter with a mother whose 12-year-old child had just suffered a massive stroke — triggered by lack of proper health care:
“I realized that my frustration is with a broken health care system. A broken system that every day forces Americans to choose between providing for their family and accessing care. And its unacceptable, it’s totally unacceptable. I’ll tell you when I’d seen enough of these patients I said enough is enough and I became politically active. I became a volunteer on the Obama campaign and I was registering voters on the border with Colorado, and Kansas, volunteering my time. I joined the National Physicians Alliance, a progressive organization. I’m the national field director for Doctors for America. 14,000 physicians in every state pushing for health care reform.”
“We need health care reform now, now, and not just for you all, my patients, but for me as a doctor, I need health care reform now!” Blum said.
One after another, people bankrupted and underserved by the U.S. health care system spoke out, describing the horror of being entangled in insurance red tape while attempting to survive catastrophic illness. 27-year-old Barry, a public relations specialist from Texas, told the crowd that he had been forced to undergo open heart surgery at 26. Surgery, and the medication that he needs to survive, have left him desperate for a health care solution that doesn’t send him into bankruptcy. Lisa Beth described surviving breast cancer and a staph infection only to be made destitute by her insurance company.
Interspersed with survivors’ testimonies were speakers who read brief stories sent in to MoveOn by people in need of proper, affordable health care. The stories had been compiled into lists of lives interrupted by illness and lacking health care — one paragraph per life story.
At one point a woman who had been reading such a list looked up from the printed page and surveyed the audience.
“I have to say when I was given this list, when I first came here, I said ‘Oh my god, why am I reading this? Everybody here knows this.’ But you know what? I didn’t know the specifics of this. And I’m hearing all of these incredible stories from the people that are here and it is just going to frigging reinspire me to do much more than I’ve done which is complain and send the occasional check. We’ve all go to do more than we’re doing to make this happen,” she said.
NEW YORK — On the evening of August 30, at Bluestockings, a neighborhood bookstore on New York’s Lower East Side, Kathleen and Bill Christison read from their new book PALESTINE IN PIECES. The Christisons are both former CIA analysts who have visited Israel and Palestine many times and have been pained by what they saw as the genocidal policy of Israel towards the Palestinians. They have spent a month there seven times since 2003 and they have seen things getting worse each time.
Bill read from the book, the Zionist policies, he said, were getting more and more aggressive. The policy, from the very beginning, was to get all non-Jews out of the country and take their land. Non-Zionist Jews are rare and have no influence. He quoted Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz journalist,as saying that Israel talks peace but wants war. Very few people in the U.S. realize what the Zionists are doing. It was hoped that Obama would make changes but it is apparent that there is no real change in policy. He called the U.S. Israel’s enabler. The Israeli attack on Gaza which left 1400 Palestinians dead, including about 400 children, was blamed on Hamas. The Israeli election gave the right there a victory and they will resist any pressure to end the occupation. They will not relinquish control of Palestine and control of the lives of Palestinians. And, they will continue killing or driving Palestinians out of Palestine.
Then Kathleen read. She described the situation of the small village of Noman located between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. There are only 170 people there and the Israeli government wants their land to be incorporated into one of the settlements (a better word would be colonies). Even though the village is in part of Jerusalem the residents have been given West Bank ID cards. Every possible harassment has been perpetrated to get the residents out: they have been economically crippled, water and electricity have been shut-off, houses are being demolished, children have to walk great distances to get to school. Gideon Levy wrote of one of the elderly residents of the town being found beaten to death, tied to his donkey with the donkey dragging the man’s body. At this point Kathleen got choked-up, holding back tears, she took a moment to recover. When confronted with the incident the Israeli border police said they called it their “donkey procedure”. This story represents a microcosm of the occupation.
The International Court at the Hague has ruled all of this illegal over 5 years ago. The wall, 26 feet high in some areas, was ruled illegal. Forcing people off their land is illegal. The blockade that is starving Gaza is illegal. But there is no way to enforce international law. Jeff Halper, an American born Israeli professor and activist against the Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes, wrote, and the Christisons quote him, that from 1948 to 2007 the policy was to drive the Palestinians out and take their land. That policy has changed somewhat. Now the Palestinians are to be strictly contained. There is a policy of cantonization – separating Palestinians from the Jews and from each other. There are 1,000 miles of Jews-only roads on the West Bank. Palestinians cannot even visit other Palestinian villages without major difficulties.
Bill’s final reading was about Israelis comparing their treatment of Palestinians to the U.S. treatment of Native peoples in this country. Israelis use it to justify their behavior and say that they should be able to “take care of Palestinians”as the U.S. took care of the American Indians. The Israeli historian, Benny Morris, said that the great American democracy could not have been accomplished without the destruction of the Indians. But Palestinians have said that they will not surrender, they will not disburse, they will continue to be there. For Palestinians their land is their source of self and they will resist to the end.
After the readings there was a very lively, sometimes passionate, question and answer period with almost everyone in the room participating. What was particularly interesting was the level of militancy in the room and that noone defended the Zionists. One person believed that instead of calling the U.S. enablers they should see them as symbiotic partners because of their vital mutual interests such as the economics of the Middle East and the military industrial complex. Another person asked if Israel was a fascist state. The Christisons thought it was but preferred not to use the word because it raises the anger level. The questioner then made the point that if it is a fascist country then those helping it are guilty of helping fascism. Someone asked about the Palestinian West Bank security forces – what do they do? The answer was that they were being trained by American generals to defend Israel – not Palestine. They do middle of the night raids against homes on the West Bank where people that oppose the occupation are thought to live. There was a long discussion about the role Obama might, or might not, play in the struggle. The overwhelming consensus was that Obama would not stand up to the Israel lobby in congress and not, in any way, protect the Palestinians from Israeli aggression. Hope was expressed that the policy of boycott, divestment, and sanctions, which is growing, would eventually yield positive results as it did in South Africa.
When the formal discussion ended people remained and spoke in small groups. Some exchanged a-mail addresses. Not so many years ago people in this country were not thinking about Palestine. But the other night, because of the struggle of the Palestinian people, and the outrages of the Zionists, there was an enlightened, caring discussion with an expressed will to destroy Israeli apartheid.
* The Christisons plan to donate all profits from their book to organizations that aid the Palestinian people.
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