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08 Oct

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

Al Jazerra

Until her passing, the Detroit-based community activist never stopped questioning

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It seems odd to reinvent oneself after 95 years, but in 2011, Grace Lee Boggs, a Chinese-American philosopher turned radical civil rights activist, basically started afresh. In her last book, “The Next American Revolution,” she began to call for a new, holistic way of human development that braided environmental and social justice; she urged activists to looked to direct action in the community, not law or government, as a wellspring of urban change.

Last year she told me about her new vision of social renewal in one of her final interviews, published in Guernica after the release of a biographical documentary. I pressed her on the need for poor people to seize control of their lives and political systems, expecting her to agree. But she demurred on the question of power, turning instead to the question of healing souls. “I think that at some level, people recognize that growing our economy is destroying us,” she said. “I think there’s a great human desire for solutions, for profound solutions — and that nothing simple will do it. It really requires some very great searching of our souls.”

These were searching words from a woman who never stopped questioning.

When Boggs died earlier this week, she had lived for a full century, but her social and political movement — the product of 100 years of witnessing and pushing forward cycles of social struggle — remains incomplete.

Writing on her adopted hometown of Detroit a few years ago, where she moved in the 1950s from Chicago, she described the American economic system as doomed. She called for a program of humanistic development. “Instead of trying to resurrect or reform a system whose endless pursuit of economic growth has created a nation of material abundance and spiritual poverty — and instead of hoping for a new FDR to save capitalism with New Deal–like programs — we need to build a new kind of economy from the ground up,” she wrote in “The Next American Revolution.”

At the heart of Boggs’ vision of social renewal was a reimagining of America as a more compassionate society. As a veteran radical of the civil rights and black power movements — an Asian-American academically trained philosopher with a Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr who devoted decades to working with racial and environmental justice campaigns — Boggs knew too well the power and contradictions of social movements.

Her final proposition contains tough lessons on both their potential and their complexities.

Boggs saw hope blossoming in a city that had been written off by politicians and even some of its own residents as hopeless. She found it by redefining hope itself. In contrast to the Fordist industrial evangelism that spawned, then cannibalized the Motor City, she didn’t see the future springing from mass production. She instead drew upon the grass-roots ethos cultivated in the youth development projects she helped found, such as Detroit Summer, which championed social change through sustainable and cooperative restoration of neighborhoods. Hope, for her, was the spirit of community regeneration…………………

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Democrats say investigation of women’s rights group over claims it was involved in fetal tissue trade is politically motivated and wasteful

A rally in support of Planned Parenthood in New York.

A rally in support of Planned Parenthood in New York. Photograph: Andy Katz/Rex

The House of Representatives has voted to establish a select committee to investigate Planned Parenthood, splitting along party lines 242-189 with only one Republican opposed and two Democrats supporting the bill.

The move on Wednesday came after months of controversy stemming from a series of hidden camera videos taken by pro-life activists alleging Planned Parenthood was profiting from the sale of fetal tissue. The women’s rights group has repeatedly said the videos have been heavily edited and that the attacks are entirely politically motivated.

Establishment of the committee comes a week after Republicans had sought to block funding to Planned Parenthood, which receives half a billion dollars from the federal government. That attempt failed after Republicans proved unwilling to risk a government shutdown on the issue.

The investigation also comes in the aftermath of controversial comments made about the also politically charged select committee on Benghazi. The House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, who is the leading candidate to succeed John Boehner as Speaker, said in a television interview last week that the committee was responsible for causing Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers to drop.

McCarthy came under fire across the political spectrum. Democrats claimed his comments proved the Benghazi committee was a partisan witch-hunt, while Republicans accused him of undermining what they argue is a crucial investigation in the 2012 terrorist attack on the US consulate on Libya.

Democrats said the investigation of Planned Parenthood was another partisan abuse. “It’s all a waste of time,” said Democratic congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee………………

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A third global bleaching of coral reefs is underway following a massive and persistent underwater heatwave

A strong El Niño is set to worsen the plight of coral in 2016.

A strong El Niño is set to worsen the plight of coral in 2016. Photograph: Alamy

Scientists have confirmed the third-ever global bleaching of coral reefs is under way and warned it could see the biggest coral die-off in history.

Since 2014, a massive underwater heatwave, driven by climate change, has caused corals to lose their brilliance and die in every ocean. By the end of this year 38% of the world’s reefs will have been affected. About 5% will have died forever.

But with a very strong El Niño driving record global temperatures and a huge patch of hot water, known as “the Blob”, hanging obstinately in the north-western Pacific, things look far worse again for 2016.

For coral scientists such as Dr Mark Eakin, the coordinator of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coral Reef Watch programme, this is the cataclysm that has been feared since the first global bleaching occurred in 1998

“The fact that 2016’s bleaching will be added on top of the bleaching that has occurred since June 2014 makes me really worried about what the cumulative impact may be. It very well may be the worst period of coral bleaching we’ve seen,” he told the Guardian.

The only two previous such global events were in 1998 and 2010, when every major ocean basin experienced bleaching.

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, Australia, said the ocean was now primed for “the worst coral bleaching event in history”.

“The development of conditions in the Pacific looks exactly like what happened in 1997. And of course following 1997 we had this extremely warm year, with damage occurring in 50 countries at least and 16% of corals dying by the end of it,” he said. “Many of us think this will exceed the damage that was done in 1998.”……………….

The global bleaching event sea surface temperature anomaly, April 2014 to October 2015. Last two slides are prediction for Oct-Jan 2016 and Feb-May 2016. via GIPHY

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Activists voice anger over Republican’s words on Umpqua Community College massacre: ‘Some of the ugliest comments that I’ve ever heard’

Anti-gun groups reacted with outrage and disbelief on Wednesday to comments made by Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson about the gun massacre last week at an Oregon college.

A gunman at Umpqua Community College killed nine people last Thursday and injured nine others before taking his own life. The father of one survivor said the gunman, Christopher Harper-Mercer, asked a number of victims whether they were Christian before killing them.

In an appearance on Fox News Tuesday, Carson – a retired neurosurgeon currently performing strongly in the polls and with fundraisers – was asked to put himself in the shoes of someone approached by a gunman and asked to declare his or her faith.

“I’m glad you asked that question,” Carson said. “Not only would I probably not cooperate with him, I would not just stand there and let him shoot me. I would say, ‘Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can’t get us all.’” Then Carson smiled and chuckled.

Carson also told USA Today kindergarten instructors should have weapons training. “If the teacher was trained in the use of that weapon and had access to it, I would be much more comfortable if they had one than if they didn’t,” he said of guns………………….

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Alliance’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, makes comment after violations of Turkish airspace by Russian jets conducting airstrikes in Syria

Jens Stoltenberg speaks at a press conference at the Nato headquarters in Brussels

Jens Stoltenberg speaks at a press conference at the Nato headquarters in Brussels. Photograph: Virginia Mayo/AP

Nato is ready to send troops to Turkey to defend against threats on its southern flank, the head of the alliance has said following violations of Turkish airspace by Russian jets conducting airstrikes in Syria.

Moscow’s growing military involvement in the Syria conflict – which on Wednesday involved its jets backing an offensive by ground troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad – is expected to be high on the agenda of a meeting of the alliance’s defence ministers.

“Nato is ready and able to defend all allies, including Turkey against any threats,” Jens Stoltenberg, the organisation’s secretary general, told reporters before the Brussels meeting on Thursday.

“In Syria, we have seen a troubling escalation of Russian military activities. We will assess the latest developments and their implications for the security of the alliance. This is particularly relevant in view of the recent violations of Nato’s airspace by Russian aircraft.

“Nato has already responded by increasing our capacity, our ability, our preparedness to deploy forces including to the south, including in Turkey.”

The ground offensive backed by Russian airstrikes was an escalation in Moscow’s week-long campaign, which had previously been restricted to bombing runs to soften up rebel positions near major loyalist strongholds…………….

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I wondered if people planning mass shootings found it just as easy to get their hands on illegal weapons on the black market

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In the United States, guns are not hard to find, even illegal ones. Photograph: PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images

It’s not hard to get your hands on illegal guns and rifles in America. It took me about two hours. I called a guy from the old neighborhood in LA, said something about a “piece”, and, hours later, I was staring at an AK-47 and an illegally modified AR-15, which were sitting on a kitchen table. Welcome to America.

Admittedly, he was surprised at my interest in being strapped since it’s been a good minute since I was about the life, but when I explained I was simply curious to see how long it’d take for me to get a gat, he agreed to the idea. He had some handguns, too, he said, although I didn’t see ‘em. I took his word for it after seeing the AK-47 and AR-15, because those weapons leave an impression.

Some of the weapons were smuggled in, while others were bought on the up and up – waiting period and all. Moving them is not his thing; he collects, and, on occasion, heads out to the desert with others to shoot. If I needed something, we could talk to another homie and with a few hundred dollars out of pocket, I’d be set. I passed on the opportunity.

I didn’t expect my search to be so successful – especially since the black market usually requires some know-how, something I don’t have much of these days, since, well, I’ve done a complete 180, and I rarely spend anytime even associating with people running afoul of the law. But it was shockingly easy.

Looking at these highly dangerous weapons, I felt deeply disturbed – despite being a veteran and having served in Iraq. There’s something about seeing these weapons here in the US and not in a combat zone; it makes it all too unsettling, as though they’re out of place with the idea I have of a peaceful America in my mind.

I found it hard not to wonder if people planning mass shootings found it just as easy to get their hands on dangerous and illegal weapons as I did. It seems so, unfortunately………………

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