February 2006 Newsletter
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Two Shows Featuring Iraqi Unionists and Sanctions Challengers
Two Flying Focus shows continued our ongoing attention to U.S. policy in Iraq. In the first, "Iraq Labor Tour Visits Portland" (VB #56.10&11), Hassan Juma'a Awad, President, and Faleh Abood Umara, General Secretary, of the General Union of Oil Employees (GUOE) describe what life is like under occupation and continuing conflict in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. They talk about the law that made unions illegal under Hussein and how American occupation chief Paul Bremer continued this law. In addition, they cover issues such as opposing globalization, the bias of the media, women's rights, the difference between governments and people, and ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
They also speak about a time when the Union shut down the oil industry to protest U.S. policies.
Faleh Abood Umara (L) told an enthusiastic audience of
The GUOE represents 23,000 workers in the oil industry in the south of Iraq, and has been strongly opposed to the occupation and threatened privatization of Iraq's industries. These are voices you are definitely not hearing in the mainstream press, voices of Iraq's working people who see strength in solidarity, who decry the random killing of civilians, and who oppose the U.S. presence in Iraq.
The men visited the U.S. as part of a tour coordinated by U.S. Labor Against the War (www.uslaboragainstwar.org). Their June, 2005 presentation was coordinated in Portland by Portland Jobs with Justice (www.jwjpdx.org), the Oregon AFL-CIO (oraflcio.unions-america.com), and a number of union and social justice groups.
The second program was taped by Flying Focus member Dan Handelman in Washington, DC last July as participants in the campaign Voices in the Wilderness (VitW) appeared in Federal Court ("Fined for Compassion: Voices in DC Court 2005," VB #57.2). At issue: a $20,000 fine the U.S. government imposed for VitW bringing medicine to Iraq in 1998. One day prior to the hearing, activists in the campaign held a news conference at the National Press Club.
Also on the show is a second impromptu news conference after the hearing, while reporters covering the trial of New York Times journalist Judith Miller waited outside, and a march from the courthouse to the White House and the Treasury Department.
VitW made over 70 trips to Iraq in deliberate violation of U.S./U.N. sanctions to call attention to their devastating effects on ordinary Iraqis. Activists and attorneys from all over the country came together to make a statement that the sanctions were illegal and immoral and that regardless of the outcome of the hearing, the members would not pay the fine. Lawyers from Washington, DC and New Orleans spoke to the international principles which VitW was trying to uphold by challenging the sanctions. Activists, including VitW founding member Kathy Kelly, spoke out about the U.S. policy which allowed Iraqi children to die for lack of clean water or adequate food and medicine. During the march, participants sang and read out names of Americans and Iraqis who have died since the U.S. invasion in 2003.
Many participants in Voices in the Wilderness recently created the new organization Voices for Creative Nonviolence, focusing on Iraq under occupation (www.vcnv.org).
Media Critic: How Wars Are Spun
One-time Portlander and syndicated columnist Norman Solomon returned to the Northwest in October to speak about his most recent book. In "Norman Solomon: Media Spin Makes War Easy" (VB #58.2&3) he shows the parallels between the coverage of the Vietnam War and the current war on Iraq, as well as the policies driving those interventions. Using specific examples from the New York Times, the Washington Post, PBS, and others, he explains how the corporate media helps beat the war drums and repeats the White House justification for what are really violations of international law.
As academic as this sounds, rest assured that Solomon does not forget about the human costs of war, nor does he forget "obscure" incidents like the U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965. Bringing in another human, humorous, and hummable point of view, musician David Rovics opens and closes each show with a different politically charged song.
Activist/producer Yvonne Simmons sings the
Working For Hope In Peru
Flying Focus member Yvonne Simmons once again shares her experiences working with people around the world in these two videos from trips to Peru in August, 2004 and March, 2005.
Bundled as a two-part show, "Working for Human Rights in Peru" and "Working for Human and Animal Rights in Peru" (VB #s 57.5&11) show a rare glimpse at one of the South American country's poorest regions. The first half-hour program shows Yvonne learning about food, water, and other needs in the community of Las Lomas, outside Lima, which is a community built on the garbage dump for Lima's trash. Working with NGO Centro Proceso Social, Yvonne helps children put together creative projects and celebrate peace through song and the "hands are not for hurting" program.
The second show features the opening of JOT, a youth center built by the young people of San Benito, Carabyllo. Without the center, they have almost nothing to do as they live on the garbage dump. There is also footage of 29 dogs and one cat being spayed and neutered. When the dogs' lives were threatened, a new animal rights group got started. The local university agreed not to kill the animals if they were "fixed" to prevent overpopulation and vaccinated against disease.
There is also more of Yvonne working with children, and attending a protest against a proposal to cut trees in Lince Park, the largest park in Lima, to build a business complex.
Fourteen Years Of Our Series--
In November, we piled into the studio to tape introductions to clips of the past year's programs for our "Fourteenth Busiversary" (VB #57.8&9), celebrating 14 years since our weekly half-hour program premiered on November 18, 1991.
On the "Busiversary" we feature six volunteer producers who created 15 new shows, a total of 24 new programs from December 2004-October 2005. While you do not ordinarily see Flying Focus members in front of the camera, we produce a retrospective show once a year so that we can show the audience at home that we are just ordinary people, activists who picked up video cameras to use them for social change. On the "Busiversary," many introductions are in the form of short interviews by field footage coordinator PC Peri. The producers this year have been with Flying Focus for between three and fifteen years; they were Adam Bernstein, Martin Evans, Barb Greene, Dan Handelman, Yvonne Simmons, and Daniel Webb. Other volunteers contributed to this year's shows by videotaping, interviewing or assistance in editing.
Once again there were a large number of shows revolving around the occupation of Iraq and related issues, the Israel/Palestine situation, a focus on Biodiesel, the importance of independent media, issues of animal rights, copyrights, and women's rights; women in times of war (taped in Europe); and the past and current history of post-apartheid South Africa. As an added bonus, we featured clips from a 9-hour "Speakers and Events" program covering the 2004 National Conference on Police Accountability, held in Portland.
Show Asks Questions About Privatizing Social Security
One recent show features a discussion on the benefits of Social Security and the recent threat posed by the administration's privatization plan ("Should We Privatize Social Security?", VB #56.13). Congressman Earl Blumenauer begins the show, speaking at a 70th anniversary celebration of Social Security. Also featured is Oregon State Senator Frank Shields and State Representative Mitch Greenlick, who spoke at a PSU Town Meeting on the topic. Shields offers his insights into why we are putting money into prisons and war while taking it away from health care, schools, and seniors. Greenlick gives an ethical analysis stating that if anyone is impoverished, everyone is.
Lenore Bijan, a senior Social Security recipient, tells her story of how she went from being well off to depending on Social Security for survival. She states that there are millions of people like her, though they don't speak out. Ed Yoon, the director of Oregon United to Protect Social Security gives a talk in his office on the risks posed by privatization, stating that like any investment scheme there would be winners and losers, quite different from the intended social insurance concept.
This show, which also includes former candidate for Portland School Board Charles McGee, AFSCME member Celia Amandalaro, and student activist Nigel Vanderford, was produced prior to the privatization scheme's failure.Below is a short list of items we hope you can (and will) donate to Flying Focus, including volunteer time.
See ourLending Library pagefor information about our
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