Category: US

An unashamed look into the real issues facing this nation, brought to you the way only The Fifth Column can.

The Lost Language of Integration

In a recent This American Life episode, investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones discusses the perils of America’s segregated school system. She points out that there has been only one proven way to narrow the performance gap between African-American and white schoolchildren, and it has nothing to do with magnet schools, or Teach for America, or any of the newfangled efforts to right a wrong system. The only strategy that has shown demonstrable success in the last half century has been: desegregation.

Between 1971 and 1988, the gap between the standardized reading scores of black and white 13-year-olds dropped by more than half. “And these scores are not just the scores of the specific kids who got bussed into white schools,” notes host Ira Glass. “That is the overall score for the entire country. That’s all black children in America, halved in just 17 years.”

Innocent British businessman Kris Maharaj marks three decades in US jail

British businessman Krishna ‘Kris’ Maharaj was arrested in Florida 30 years ago this Sunday (16 October 1986) and sentenced to death the following year. He has now spent three decades in prison, despite compelling evidence of his innocence and poor health.

Mr Maharaj, now 77, was handed a death sentence in Miami in 1987 for his alleged role in the murders of Derrick and Duane Moo Young.

However, since then three former drug cartel operatives and a CIA informant have admitted that the murders were carried out by the Medellín cartel on the orders of Pablo Escobar, who thought the Moo Youngs were cheating him. In addition, leaked evidence, suppressed by the US government, has shown that the Moo Youngs were laundering money for Colombian drug cartels to the tune of five billion dollars.

How to support Standing Rock and confront what it means to live on stolen land

A month after President Obama told the Army Corps of Engineers to pause construction on the Dakota Access oil pipeline, the Standing Rock Sioux and those supporting them still find themselves in a dire struggle to protect their water and land. With winter approaching, the 300 tribes that are now represented at the Camp of the Sacred Stone in North Dakota are preparing for a lengthy battle.

In their effort to protect water, life, ancestors and future generations, indigenous peoples are also demanding that corporations, the U.S. government, and settlers respect the treaties and indigenous self-determination. This is widening an existing dialogue and expanding ties of solidarity to include more of us who are of white European descent occupying indigenous land.

Maintaining Influence in Afghanistan

Despite President Obama’s promises of a drawdown in Afghanistan, the United States is settling in for the long haul.

Over the past few months, the Obama administration has renewed its efforts to strengthen its position in Afghanistan. In spite of the worsening death toll from the ongoing war, the Obama administration has made a series of new wartime commitments to ensure that the United States maintains a powerful influence over the country well into the future.

In June 2016, President Obama made one of the most significant new commitments when he authorized U.S. military forces to more directly engage the Taliban in military operations. The new authorities allow “U.S. forces to be more proactive in supporting conventional Afghan forces as they take the fight to the Taliban,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained. “And this means, in some cases, offering close air support, or it means, in some cases, accompanying Afghan forces on the ground or in the air.”

Is There a Way to Justify US Aggression Against Yemen?

The United States stands ready to take action in “self-defense,” which it claims is necessary and appropriate to address further threats – according to an announcement US President Barack Obama made in a letter to Congress referring to the situation in Yemen.

Attempts to legitimize America’s involvement in Yemen, which remains a crucial strategic focal point, have been made repeatedly by the US. After all, a military victory over Yemen would move forward a broader strategy allowing the US to contain China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, along with taking control over the most important Middle Eastern trade and energy routes.

US: Disastrous Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use

The massive enforcement of laws criminalizing personal drug use and possession in the United States causes devastating harm, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a joint report released today. Enforcement ruins individual and family lives, discriminates against people of color, and undermines public health. The federal and state governments should decriminalize the personal use and possession of illicit drugs.

The 196-page report, “Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States,” finds that enforcement of drug possession laws causes extensive and unjustifiable harm to individuals and communities across the country. The long-term consequences can separate families; exclude people from job opportunities, welfare assistance, public housing, and voting; and expose them to discrimination and stigma for a lifetime. While more people are arrested for simple drug possession in the US than for any other crime, mainstream discussions of criminal justice reform rarely question whether drug use should be criminalized at all.

How the Nation’s Opioid Epidemic Is Morphing — and Growing

The nation’s opioid epidemic shows no signs of abating—and in fact may be headed in a far more dangerous direction.

That’s the conclusion of journalist David Armstrong, who has been chronicling the scourge this year for STAT, a new health and medicine website. Armstrong has written about how heroin and, increasingly, fentanyl have overtaken narcotic painkillers as the drugs of choice for addicts — presenting new challenges for law enforcement and health professionals.

Are U.S.-Saudi Relations Finally Souring?

Pressure from human rights organizations like Oxfam to victims of the 9/11 attacks are helping erode the bond between these old political allies, but the results of this election season could squander our chance at change.

Congress recently passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) allowing families of victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks to sue other governments, including Saudi Arabia, for possible damages.

Despite threats by the Saudi government to sell billions of dollars’ worth of their assets and reexamine the bilateral relationship with the U.S., Congress snubbed the monarchy and passed the bill, then overturned a presidential veto to it almost unanimously.

Was the Anti-Globalist Movement Infiltrated by Provocateurs?

Subsequent to the United Kingdom’s «Brexit» referendum, which saw 51.9 percent of voters in the United Kingdom opt to leave the European Union, political forces around the world were encouraged that the forces of anti-globalism had achieved a substantial victory. The Brexit success was followed a month later by the U.S. Republican Party’s nomination of anti-globalist businessman Donald Trump as the traditionally pro-free trade party’s presidential candidate. UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage traveled to the Republican convention in Cleveland to forge an anti-global common front with Trump.

In just two months, a series of embarrassing revelations about Trump’s past as a philandering television celebrity and UKIP internal political upheavals, left the two most potent anti-globalist forces in the world – the Trump presidential campaign and UKIP – in shambles. The rapid decline of both political movements led to a belief by many political observers that outside influences, led by professional «agents provocateurs» employed by globalist powerbrokers, caused the fracturing of the Trump and Farage movements.

The Perpetual Radioactive Disaster in the U.S.

As fears over rumors of a possible nuclear war incite Americans to speculate on the future and survival, a silent nuclear disaster continues almost unnoticed within the borders of the United States. Abandoned Uranium mines and radioactive waste storage continue to affect the lives of people living on and off reservations, as well as contaminating surface and ground water resources in multiple states.

Among the affected indigenous populations, the Navajo Nation, with the reservation covering parts of New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, is the most well-known. Navajo uranium miners and their families became ill due to contact with uranium and dust from mining. The ongoing contamination of the surface dirt and water as well as groundwater supplies affect their nation today. The Navajo Nation currently has over 500 abandoned uranium mines within the borders of their reservation.

How the ‘use of force’ industry drives police militarization and makes us all less safe

From the Force Science Institute in Mankato, Minnesota to the ecological reserve outside Rio de Janeiro that houses Condor Non-Lethal Technologies’ police training center, the “use of force” industry has grown into a worldwide marketplace. Beginning on October 9, Hoffman Estates will host the five-day conference of the Illinois Tactical Officers Association, or ITOA. To greet them, a coalition of community groups and organizations from the Chicago area are assembling under the banner #StopITOA. These diverse groups, including AFSC-Chicago, CAIR-Chicago, Assata’s Daughters, Black Lives Matter-Chicago, the Arab American Action Network and War Resisters League, argue that government officials should prioritize spending for human needs not for militarization and violence.

Binational vigil at US-Mexico border protests US state violence

Over the weekend, while much of the country was preoccupied with the scandal-plagued state of electoral politics, hundreds of activists gathered at the U.S.-Mexico border for a demonstration of multilateral unity. Headed by the organization School of the Americas Watch, or SOA Watch, this convergence brought attention to the human rights dimension of immigration and foreign policy, taking aim at U.S. practices that contribute to displacement and violence in Latin America and beyond.

Prison Labor is Slavery by Another Name

Across the country the largest prison strike is taking place, vowing to “finally end slavery in 2016.”

Right now there’s a national movement mobilizing to raise the federal minimum wage to a living wage of $15 an hour. But imagine if instead of earning even that much, you could only earn a few cents an hour.

If that sounds like something from the developing world, think again. The reality is our prisons are perpetuating slave labor.

Every day, incarcerated people work long hours for barely any money. Meanwhile, prisons charge inmates for everything from telephone calls, to extra food and convenience items, to occupying a bed.

Crisis Management in Syria Still Has a Chance If US Shelves Plan B

The recent US military involvements in the broader Middle East conflicts have one thing in common – it’s easy to get in but almost impossible to get out. This assertion is easily confirmed if one has a look at the recent history.

The planned partial withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan is suspended. President Obama has changed his mind to have the forces out of the country till 2017. According to the plans recently announced, a residual force of 9,800 troops would remain. This presence may be increased as fighting intensifies. The conflict has been continuing for over 15 years with no solutions found and no gains to brag about. The future of the Afghan government is uncertain, especially if foreign forces leave the country. The Taliban is as strong as ever as the Afghan forces are engaged in fierce fighting in the strategically important northern city of Kunduz.

New Documents Show US Knew Helping Saudis in Yemen Could Be War Crime

As the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia comes under renewed scrutiny in the wake of the Gulf nation’s weekend bombing campaign in Yemen, a Reuters exclusive published Monday reveals that the Obama administration approved a $1.3 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia last year despite warnings that it could implicate the U.S. in war crimes.

The Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen on Saturday killed at least 140 people and wounded hundreds more, prompting the U.S. to launch a “review” of its support for the kingdom. On Monday, Reuters reported that the U.S. Department of State had already warned the government that “the United States could be implicated in war crimes” for aiding the campaign.