2014 WSC Jr. Peacemaker Award Gala: Jeremy Scahill

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Sally Jones & Arnie Matlin travel to Nicaragua

By Arnie Matlin

On October 30, Sally Jones and I traveled to Nicaragua.  It was Sally’s first trip there, and my 32nd trip.  This allowed us to share perspectives in an interesting way.  I was able to introduce Sally to the projects our family supports, and the people I’ve worked with over the years, and she was able to allow me to look at Nicaragua from the perspective of someone seeing it for the first time.

To refresh everyone’s memory, Nicaragua is a country in Central America which the United States has dominated—or attempted to dominate—for over a century.  Augusto Sandino was a revolutionary leader whose guerilla army forced the U.S. Marines to leave Nicaragua in 1933.  Sandino was assassinated in 1934 by the Nicaraguan National Guard, under orders from Gen. Anastasio Somoza.  After the murder, the Somoza dynasty, all of them truly brutal dictators, ruled Nicaragua for 45 years.  In 1979, after a long and difficult revolutionary struggle, the FSLN (in English, the Sandinista Front for National Liberation or Sandinistas) overthrew the Somoza government.  The U.S., unable to tolerate Nicaragua as a sovereign nation, began the Contra war, and imposed a trade embargo on Nicaragua.  During the 1980’s, over 100,000 people from the U.S. visited Nicaragua to learn about the country and its revolution.  My daughter Sara and I visited Nicaragua in 1988.  Like so many others, we returned with a great respect for the Nicaragua people and their revolution, and an equally great disgust at how the U.S. was trying to destroy Nicaraguan as a sovereign nation.  In 1990, the U.S. was partially able to achieve this goal by accomplishing the electoral defeat of the Sandinistas.  Right-wing governments were in office for 16 years, and Nicaragua again became a U.S. client state.  The right-wing presidents were able to push back many of the revolutionary gains, but they couldn’t destroy the Nicaraguan revolutionary spirit.  In 2006, FSLN leader Daniel Ortega was again elected as president of Nicaragua. Sally and I were able to visit a country where the leaders of government actually care about poor people, and are trying to make life better for them.

Our family supports two solidarity projects in Nicaragua—a scholarship program and a Casa Materna.  The scholarship program provides financial assistance for 12 college students in various academic programs—nursing, social work, medicine, engineering, public relations, agronomy.  We met and spoke to every student.  (Sally has a great advantage, because she speaks Spanish and I don’t.  I need to work with an interpreter.)

The Casa Materna is where women with high-risk pregnancies can stay and be cared for until it’s time for their delivery.  They receive nutritious food, pleasant accommodations, information about childcare, and a daily visit from a nurse.  The Casa Materna is a joint project of the Mayor’s office, MINSA (the health ministry), and la familia Matlin.

November 2nd was Day of the Dead in Central America.  It’s not celebrated as extensively in Nicaragua as it is in Mexico, but most people go to the cemeteries and visit the graves to their loved ones.  Sally and I traveled to the city of Matagalpa to pay tribute to Ben Linder, the young U.S. engineer who came to Nicaragua as a volunteer, working on a hydroelectric program in the mountains.  The Contras murdered Ben on April 28th, 1987.  He was 27 years old.  By an amazing coincidence, we came to his gravesite at the same time as two women who owned the house where Ben had lived.  The older woman, who says Ben called her “mother,” is 95 years old.  However, she still makes an annual pilgrimage to his grave to commemorate his life and his sacrifice.

I’m a member of the Sandinista party, so Sally and I were able to have extensive political discussions with the FSLN political secretary of El Sauce and the political secretary of the Department of León.  We also had a long session with the mayor of El Sauce, mainly about the Casa Materna budget and fringe benefits of the four workers whose salaries we pay.

We had meetings with the Health Director of El Sauce, Dra. Teresa Velásquez, and her brother, Dr. José Miguel Velásquez, who is director of health for the entire Department of León.  Our big push was for an expanded program for medical students from the University of Rochester Medical School.  (We succeeded in getting unofficial approval.  Time will tell about the formal contract.)

On our last day, back in Managua, we had dinner with Jenny Atlee, long-time solidarity activist.  She and her husband, Tom Loudon are now working in solidarity with the people of Honduras, who are now ruled by a military dictatorship.

During the day inn Managua, we visited two old friends: Fr. Miguel d’Escoto, who was Nicaraguan Foreign Minister during the Contra war, and was President of the United Nations General Assembly in 2008 – 2009.  Pope Paul II had taken away Fr. Miguel’s right to perform the sacraments, no doubt because Fr. Miguel was a supporter of Liberation Theology.  After 30 years of being denied this privilege of performing the sacraments, Fr. Miguel was reinstated, and now he is able function fully as a priest.

Dr. Fernando Silva is a pediatrician whom I met in January 1988.  He brought a group of us into La Mascota, the children’s hospital, and took us to the bedside of a young child who was in critical condition after having been shot in the stomach by the Contras.  I thought to myself, “My government caused this terrible suffering, and my tax dollars paid for it.”  (That’s when I became Nicaragua solidarity activist.)  Dr. Silva’s biography describes him as “a pediatrician, a poet, a narrator, a short story writer, an essayist, a painter, and a linguist.”  Moreover, he has been brilliant in almost all of these spheres.  I know the details of his medical successes, but he’s probably best known in Nicaragua for his poetry.  (Poetry is very important to Nicaraguans.)  Dr. Silva has been called, “The most Nicaraguan of poets, and the most poetic of Nicaraguans.”

Nicaragua is a beautiful and welcoming country, but Sally didn’t get much chance to see Nicaragua as a tourist.  I see Nicaragua as a country whose people are determined to live in a sovereign nation, despite being in “the shadow of the eagle.”

Apparently, this is how Sally saw things also.  Just days after her arrival home, Sally began to obtain books for shipment to a primary school in Nicaragua.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Linder Accurate article about Ben Linder

http://www.un.org/ga/president/63/presskit/president.shtml Official U.N. bio of Fr. Miguel (Wikipedia article is out of date)

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-28656661 About Fr. Miguel’s reinstatement

http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fernando_Silva_Espinoza Excellent article about Dr. Silva (Spanish)

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Coming SOON!

WSC Jr. 2014 Jeremy Scahill Event Vide0

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Call To Action Againt Wars in Iraq & Syria- Nov 11-16, 2014

NATION WIDE CALL TO ACTION AGAINST WARS IN IRAQ & SYRIA

Join Peace Action and over 20 peace groups on NOVEMBER 11-16 for a Nation Wide Action to End Wars in Iraq and Syria

Let your voice be heard! Do one or more of the following:

  1. CALL: National Call Congress day (11/13):  877-429-0678 (toll free#) and tell them “not another endless war.”
  2. TWEET: your members of congress with these messages #EndEndlessWar and adding in #Iraq, #ISIS and #Syria on (11/13)
  3. EMAIL: your member of Congress using the form here
  4. THUNDER CLAP: Thunder Clap with us on (11/13) @12-1pm -[details to follow]
  5. FACEBOOK:  Download and post on social media the graphics found here

For more information about the actions taking place November 11-16 click here

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Jeremy Scahill receives the William Sloane Coffin Jr. Peacemaker Award

Peace activists, supporters and friends of Peace Action New York State (PANYS) gathered in the auditorium of Scholastic Books in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood.

They were there to attend the 2014 William Sloane Coffin, Jr. Peacmaker Award Gala honoring Jeremy Scahill, founding editor of The Intercept, contributing editor to The Nation magazine and author of the international bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, for which he received the George Polk Book Award. His newest book and documentary, Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, has been nominated for an Academy Award.

Scahill was introduced by PANYS’s new Executive Director, Elizabeth Turchi. She presented Scahill with Peace Action New York State’s William Sloane Coffin, Jr. Peacemaker Award.

His speech touched on many topics, including the nefarious drone wars being conducted in many countries around the globe by the United States and the attack on whistle blowers who have attempted to alert the American people to the skulduggery and wars being secretly conducted in their name. He was critical of both parties and observed that until we are able to remove corporate cash that has flooded the political process, now accelerated by the Citizens United decision of the Roberts Supreme Court, these wars and attacks on civil liberties will continue. He urged activists to focus on action to that end.

Following his speech, Amy Goodman, host of the Democracy Now! program, interviewed Scahill. The two have had a long history of working together on various projects.

After the presentation and speech-making, the audience moved to the spectacular penthouse for a reception with light food and drink. The evening was concluded with a raffle of nice prizes including a case of wine.

It was another great gala event hosted by one of New York’s great peace and justice organizations.

WSC Jr.Gala Photos ( All Photos by Matthew Weinstein)


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Sally Jones goes to Japan!

This Month, Sally Jones was  invited by Shinfujin (New Japan Womens Association) to attend and speak at the 2014 World Conference against Atomic & Hydrogen Bombs to be held from Aug. 2 to 9 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For all of you who wanted to be there, here is a copy of the speech she gave.

World Conference – Nagasaki
August 8, 2014
Sally Jones
Peace Action – USA

A Broader Consensus-Building Movement Heading to 2015 NPT

Konichiwa.  My name is Sally Jones from Peace Action USA.  I am from our New York affiliate and will be one of your hosts for the 2015 NPT.  Thank you to the Women’s Peace Fund, Shinfujin, Gensuikyo and everyone who helped make my first trip to Japan the experience of a lifetime.  It has been a wrenching experience to be here at ground zero of the A-bomb attacks.  With the crisis in Ukraine and the military build-up in Asia, we are living in dangerous times.  But it is also inspirational to be at the epicenter of the No Nukes! No War! Movement.

What I heard from activists from all over Japan at the conference in Hiroshima is that we need to make this movement a broader, consensus building movement, not just here in Japan but globally.  Anti-nuke activists here in Japan are showing us how.

The anti-nuke movement here has the spirit of the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s in the USA and you have even adopted its theme song:  We Shall Overcome.  The huge petition drive movement going on right now has resurrected some of the techniques of the 1980’s nuclear freeze.  Shinfujin is connecting to women by making the nuclear abolition movement a women’s movement.  It is connecting to youth by making this a youth movement.  It is connecting to people of faith by making this a spiritual movement.  It is seeking the endorsement of celebrities and putting their faces on flyers.  It is asking parents and grandparents to take their youngsters to peace walks and festivals and making the work creative and inspiring.  Japan’s movement is telling the world the compelling stories of the hibakusha with testimony and exhibits and it  connects their plight to the plight of the many victims in other countries who suffer because of nuclear accidents and testing.

Being a broad consensus building movement does not mean we are compromising our ideals of justice and equality.  The Japanese No Nukes! Movement stands in solidarity with the Marshall Islands and their lawsuits against the U.S. and the nuclear weapons states.  It goes to Okinawa to help the struggle against US military base expansion.  You support the peace and justice movements from other countries – which is reflected in the international delegation you brought to this conference – from Korea, Guam, the Philippines, Vietnam, Nepal, India, Indonesia, Cuba, Malaysia, Portugal, France, Norway, the United Kingdom and the US and Russia.

As we approach the all important year of 2015 with the NPT Review happening on the 70th anniversary of the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we will be taking this broader, consensus-building movement to NYC.  In our planning of activities for NY, let us use the spirit of the Japanese Anti-Nuke movement and apply them to the streets of NY.  This is what I’ve heard from activists at this conference so far:

Let the women, families, youth, and persons of faith who are in our movement create their own actions so that every person who cares about our issues will want to be there with us – and make it clear that we are there for their issues, too.  Some of the ideas I’ve heard is a Tea Party in Central Park, a Youth Peace Walk, and perhaps even a Children’s March.

Political and celebrity endorsements aren’t a bad idea, either.

Let the world be involved by choosing a global action at an agreed upon hour in every time zone around the globe.

And, finally, bring the heart and soul of the No Nukes! Movement to NYC in the form of the Japanese delegations from every prefecture, every group, with their hundreds of thousands of signatures, exhibitions and stories of the hibakusha and let them spread that spirit as far and high as possible.

With the creativity of activists from all over the globe, let us go to NY and breakdown the stone walls of the nuclear weapons states’ intransigence, nuclear deterrence, militarism and injustice.

Thank you.

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5 Things to Know Now About Iranian Nuclear Negotiations

By Dani Douglas

1.  The Joint Plan of Action (JPA) expired on July 20, after negotiations failed to reach a permanent, long-term agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

Significant gaps” remained on each side, and a larger compromise could not be made.

2.  Instead, a four-month extension to the JPA has been agreed upon, giving the parties until November 24 to come up with a final plan.

This extension worries some Members of Congress, who believe that Iran’s demands will only increase and become stronger within the next few months.

“Let me be clear,” Secretary of State John Kerry said, “Iran will not get any more money during these four months than it did during the last six months, and the vast majority of its frozen oil revenues will remain inaccessible.”

Some Republicans suspect that the extension will be used by Iran to continue uranium production until a final deal is reached. Some believe that disputes within Congress will make negotiations more difficult, as some hawkish Republicans press for Iran to get rid of any and all nuclear capability. Read more

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A Question of Perspective: Examining the progress of a nuclear agreement from various global viewpoints

By Dani Douglas

The deadline for a final, comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program between the P5 + 1 (United States, United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany) and Iran is less than two weeks away. American and foreign diplomats, foreign ministers, and secretaries alike are scrambling to create a backup plan and alternative methods to foster a cooperative environment so that a permanent agreement can be reached prior to the July 20 deadline set by the Joint Plan of Action. The last round of talks began July 3 in Vienna and will last at least until July 15.

This final agreement not only concerns the great world powers, but also many other nations across the globe. Thus is the nature of international affairs: what happens in one country affects the next, a disagreement in one hemisphere will have consequences in the other. For a deal to be successful, both Iran and the United States need to understand and address the concerns not only of each other and the P5+1 nations, but also of other important partners. Each nation has its own agenda in mind, but must be conscious of the desires of others.

Read more

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A Send Off for PANYS Executive Director Alicia Godsberg

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New Campaign Promoting Carbon-Free Energy!

By Dani Douglas

As the effects of climate change become increasingly apparent and are impacting individuals and communities around the globe, it is evident that the way in which we produce energy needs to change. Today, 82% of energy in America comes from fossil fuels (including petroleum, natural gas and coal). Fossil fuels release mass amounts of carbon dioxide into the air, and further exacerbate the greenhouse effect. It has been proven that environmental changes cause increased political conflict, as resources become scarce and citizens are not happy with policy. New legislation is being implemented and sources of energy are beginning to be used, but there is still much progress to be made.

Maple Ridge Wind Farm in Lewis County, New York is the second largest wind farm in the United States.

To learn more about the importance of alternative, carbon-free energy, visit the “Campaigns” tab or click here.

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