Task & Purpose: The Pentagon tried to bury an alarming survey about widespread racism in the ranks

Posted at Task & Purpose here, Jan. 28, 2021.

What many of us have known for years…CONFIRMED!

From the article: “Overall, about one in five active duty members (17.9%) indicated experiencing racial/ethnic harassment and/or discrimination in the 12 months prior to taking the survey,” according to a copy of the survey. “Black (31.2%) and Asian (23.3%) members were more likely to indicate experiencing Racial/Ethnic Harassment/ Discrimination than other active duty members, whereas White members (12.7%) were less likely.“Overall, Total Minority (24.4%) members were more likely to indicate experiencing Racial/Ethnic Harassment/Discrimination, whereas White members (12.7%) were less likely.”

click for the full story
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MLK’s act of faith on health care

An commentary piece from our Linus Pauling VFP Chapter President, Rick Staggenborg, which appeared in the Jan. 16 edition of the Corvallis Gazette-Times.

My two passions are working to oppose war through Veterans For Peace and promoting universal health care through Health Care for All Oregon. I do outreach for HCAO within the faith community of Albany and around the state, trying to convince others that we need to create a system that provides care based on need rather than ability to pay. I am frequently asked, “Isn’t that a political issue?” The short answer is yes and no. The longer answer is the subject of this essay.
Reverend King once said: “A nation that year after year continues to spend more on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.” He also said: “Of all the forms of injustice, inequality in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” Dr. King’s faith drove him to oppose racism, poverty, and war, which he recognized are intimately intertwined. Though he realized addressing these problems would involve political action, he knew it was his spiritual duty to speak out.
Working for social change involves politics, but it is our duty to do so if we profess to care for others as we would want them to care for us. We must remember the lesson of the good Samaritan. Like the traveler who he helped, anyone can fall victim to illness or injury. People of good conscience cannot ignore their suffering when they can help.
Losing access to health care can happen to almost anyone under 65. The economic disaster brought on by the pandemic has made clear that having a job does not assure you can get care when you need it. The great majority of those without insurance are employed, often as essential workers. They just don’t make enough to afford insurance. Even if they can afford the premiums, they often cannot pay the out-of-pocket costs, so they forego needed care. Millions more have fallen through this crack in the system in the time of COVID.
Over 40,000 Americans die needlessly every year for lack of access to health care. Over 60% of all bankruptcies are primarily due to medical bills. One wonders why anyone who claims to have faith should be more concerned about the miniscule chance that any nation would dare to attack America than the fact that our fellow citizens are dying of treatable disease.
In a representative democracy, the government’s actions should reflect the values of its citizens. When it does not, it is the duty of those citizens to push for change. In a democracy, we cannot escape responsibility for the actions of our government. When we spend trillions of dollars on wars without end, it is the height of hypocrisy to say that Americans must fend for themselves if they get sick and go bankrupt if they cannot afford medical bills.
It took political action by people of faith to end slavery, achieve (nominal) equal rights under the law and to make war illegal (though most don’t know it, after the carnage of WWI, a mass movement led by people of faith resulted in the signing of the Kellogg-Brian Treaty outlawing war). It will take political action to create a system of universal health care and to stop endless war. King died only months after his 1967 Riverside speech in New York City opposing the war in Vietnam. In it, he made the connection between war, poverty and racism in a way that alarmed other leaders in the civil rights movement, who feared the political consequences. To honor his sacrifice, we must do the hard work of pushing our government to bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice.

Rick Staggenborg, a retired Veterans Affairs psychiatrist living in Albany, is President of the Linus Pauling Chapter of Veterans For Peace and a co-convener of the HCAO Faith Caucus.

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Just Released: Brown Univ. Costs of War study finds Afghan civilian deaths up dramatically after Trump 2017 ROE changes

“…new rules of engagement (ROE) ushered in by the Trump administration three years ago coincided with a 95 percent increase in [Afghan] civilians killed by U.S and allied airstrikes compared to the previous decade.”

Study: “Afghanistan’s Rising Civilian Death Toll Due to Airstrikes, 2017-2020.”

By Neta C. Crawford. Released December 7, 2020 by the Brown University “Costs of War” Project.

Summary: “When the United States tightens its rules of engagement and restricts air strikes where civilians are at risk, civilian casualties tend to go down; when it loosens those restrictions, civilians are injured and killed in greater numbers.

“In 2017 the Pentagon relaxed its rules of engagement for airstrikes and escalated the air war in Afghanistan. The aim was to gain leverage at the bargaining table. From 2017 through 2019, civilian deaths due to U.S. and allied forces’ airstrikes in Afghanistan dramatically increased.

In 2019 airstrikes killed 700 civilians – more civilians than in any other year since the beginning of the war in 2001 and 2002. [emphasis added]

“After the U.S. and Taliban reached a peace agreement in late February 2020, U.S. and other international air strikes declined – and so did the harm to civilians caused by those strikes. The Afghan government is now negotiating with the Taliban and as part of a broader offensive, perhaps aimed at increasing Afghan government leverage in the talks, air strikes by the Afghan Air Force (AAF) have increased. As a consequence, the AAF is harming more Afghan civilians than at any time in its history.

“The uptick in civilians killed by AAF airstrikes between July and September 2020 was particularly striking. In the first six months of this year, the AAF killed 86 Afghan civilians and injured 103 civilians in airstrikes. That rate of harm nearly doubled in the next three months. Between July and the end of September, the Afghan Air Force killed 70 civilians and 90 civilians were injured.

“As with the international air strikes, some of this harm could be avoided by tighter rules of engagement, as well as better training. A negotiated ceasefire might also yield results at the bargaining table and at the same time avoid escalating harm to Afghan civilians from airstrikes.”

Read the full study here.

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Far Right Militias Are Recruiting Vets. We Must Organize Against This Trend.

By Rory Fanning, Truthout

Published November 11, 2020 at Truthout.org

After nearly four years of Donald Trump, far right and white supremacist forces are emboldened in the United States. As a war veteran, I know very well that veterans are far from immune to this problem — in fact, the war machine conditions vets to embrace white supremacy. Meanwhile, the military carries out racist practices of recruitment, targets working-class communities of color and carries out inherently racist wars abroad, feeding the connection further.

Killing another human being is the most unnatural thing a person can do, which is why the U.S. government has spent so much time and energy researching ways soldiers can overcome their instinct to avoid killing. In order for soldiers to kill, racist indoctrination needs to be part of the training. The otherization of the enemy that happens through military training is how many soldiers ultimately come to squeeze the trigger on combatants and innocent civilians. Most people can’t kill another human unless they feel they have some sort of moral imperative for doing so. Racism is one of the ways the U.S. military compels soldiers to kill — by declaring their targets to be less than human.

I saw it myself when I was in the military. The people of Afghanistan were never referred to as Afghans. They were only mentioned in the most derogatory terms. We never discussed Afghans in a positive light. We focused only on the extreme and violent acts committed by a microscopic percentage of the Afghan population. Of course, there was zero acknowledgment of the exponentially larger atrocities the U.S. military has committed throughout American history. The results of this training have been devastating.

This summer, the Military Times conducted a poll among active-duty soldiers. Soldiers identified white nationalism as a “national security threat on par with al-Qaida and the Islamic State Group, and more worrisome than the danger posed by North Korea, Afghanistan or Iraq.” This same Military Times poll reported that 57 percent of troops of color have personally experienced some form of racist or white supremacist behavior; and that one-third of all active-duty soldiers see signs of white supremacist or racist ideology in the ranks.

Vets returning home from deployments, oftentimes to dire employment situations, now only made worse by the COVID pandemic, are primed to be manipulated by far right hate groups and militias. We are seeing this play out. The numbers are disturbing. Veterans make up 25 percent of all militia members in the U.S., according to a recent report from The New York Times.

The Oath Keepers is one of the largest far right anti-government organizations in the country, with tens of thousands of members according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Oath Keepers see vets as critical to their organization as they actively prepare for Civil War.

And when we talk about far right paramilitary groups that vets are drawn to, police departments are the largest among them. Police departments, evidenced by their overwhelming support for Trump and their disproportionate targeting of Black and Brown people, reinforce the racist indoctrination these vets were exposed to in the military.

Research done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that there are twice as many police and prison guards as there are auto workers in the U.S. Seven percent of the population are veterans; yet vets make up 19 percent of all police. This reality makes the decision to sign up for the police force an all too convenient option for returning vets.

However, active-duty troops and veterans are not a homogeneous body. Some of the fiercest anti-racists I know are veterans. Thousands of them participate in groups like Veterans for Peace and About Face: Veterans Against the War. Many sign up to fight with noble intentions. They believe they are defending freedom and democracy. They, too, are victims of the U.S. war machine and propaganda. Many become disillusioned by the day-to-day reality of the military, and they return home ready to share their experiences and fight systematic oppression. And there are hundreds of thousands of Black and Brown active-duty soldiers and vets.

The left should embrace vets willing to renounce their training. Veterans can be incredibly effective in the fight against white supremacy, not only because they have proven that they are willing to sacrifice for a cause greater than themselves, but also because they have an understanding of how deep and sophisticated the white supremacist project runs in this country, not only domestically but also abroad.

The problem lies in ignoring the increasing minority of vets who gravitate toward white supremacist groups.

Radical policy changes need to be enacted if we hope to push back on the growth of white supremacy among vets. Challenging U.S. imperialism and combating white supremacy are part of the same struggle. We challenge U.S. imperialism by providing alternatives for high-school age students who see the military as their only option after graduation. We fight for the development of programs like the Green New Deal, which would provide jobs for thousands of returning vets currently stationed in one of the 800 military bases around the world. We organize for student debt abolition and free education. Too many high-school age students sign up for the military because they can’t afford college. And we work to defund and abolish the police and prison-industrial complex — agents of white supremacy that suck in veterans as both employees and prisoners.

The far right and the influence it has over some vets will not go away under a Biden administration. Racism thrives in desperate economic situations, and our profit-based system, enthusiastically endorsed by Biden, is incapable of solving the economic crisis now facing this country. Organized and widespread pressure needs to be imposed on the next administration if we ever hope to see real change. If we fail to come together on these issues over the next four years, the stage will be set for someone even more dangerous than Trump in 2024. Such a person will undoubtedly mobilize sympathetic, military-trained followers.

—————-

Rory Fanning

Rory Fanning walked across the United States for the Pat Tillman Foundation in 2008–2009, following two deployments to Afghanistan with the 2nd Army Ranger Battalion. He is the author of Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger’s Journey Out of the Military and Across America, and co-author with Craig Hodges of Long Shot: The Triumphs and Struggles of an NBA Freedom Fighter. He regularly speaks at high schools and universities about his walk across the U.S. and his experience as a war resister. Follow him on Twitter: @RTFanning.

Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission.

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Free Webinar: AFRICOM & Human Rights in Africa

When: Friday, December 4 at 11 am (PST). The program will run about two hours.

Register: For more information, including bios of the panelists, and to register (click here).

AFRICOM is the acronym for “Africa Command” and is one of the Pentagon’s “11 combatant commands, each with a geographic or functional mission that provides command and control of military forces in peace and war.” [1]

World BEYOND War (WBW) is working with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), U.S. Section, and the Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) in hosting a webinar on AFRICOM on December 4th.

The webinar will feature first-hand reports from WILPF members living in Nigeria, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Kenya. Additional speakers include Amanda Sperber, award-winning investigative journalist who will be speaking about Somalia, and Margaret Kimberley representing BAP and their initiative: Out of Africa: Shut Down AFRICOM.

The U.S. military established AFRICOM on October 1, 2008. They claim that combat operations in Africa are to counter violent extremist organizations which they say are finding safe haven throughout African countries. However, the truth is that the U.S. uses military force to impose control of African land, resources and labor to service the needs of U.S. multinational corporations and the wealthy in the United States.
Despite the Pentagon’s claims that AFRICOM has a “light footprint,” recent documents reveal that the U.S. has at least 29 military bases in 15 countries across the continent.

This webinar is endorsed by our Veterans For Peace Chapter and the Albany Peace Seekers, among many other groups.

We encourage our VFP members to attend. We will discuss the topic at our December 12 chapter meeting.

[1] https://www.defense.gov/Our-Story/Combatant-Commands/

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National Lawyers Guild: MLTF PROVIDES LEGAL RESOURCES ON 2020 ELECTION RESPONSE FOR MILITARY PERSONNEL AND ADVOCATES

Responding to broad concerns about the possibility for unlawful orders regarding the 2020 election, MLTF is providing new and expanded resources for attorneys, GI rights advocates, and servicemembers.

News Release – October 29, 2020

https://nlgmltf.org/military-law/2020/legal-resources-for-military-personnel/

The Military Law Task Force (MLTF) of the National Lawyers Guild shares the concerns of many in the public and the legal community, that US servicemembers may be given illegal orders or face real conflicts with their moral, political, or religious beliefs in the context of the 2020 Presidential election and its aftermath. In particular, we are concerned that National Guard members and other military personnel may be used in voter suppression or repression of progressive demonstrations.

The Task Force is troubled about the lack of effective legal alternatives for servicemembers dealing with possible illegal orders and believes it is essential that members of the military are fully informed about their rights under the law. We are also concerned that servicemembers are given almost no information about options available to them under military regulations to avoid direct orders that threaten the integrity of our democracy and violate the Constitution of the United States.

For this reason, the Task Force has set up a system for free, confidential telephone consultations with attorneys to discuss possible illegal orders and related issues. Servicemembers can call the MLTF, at 619-463-2369, for referral to a volunteer attorney. In addition, the Task Force has now posted legal resource material for servicemembers, attorneys, legal workers and law students on this website. An audio Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminar presented by MLTF attorney James Branum is available on the website.   A comprehensive legal memo is included as part of the CLE which discusses the law regarding illegal orders and alternative methods of avoiding compliance with such orders.

The Military Law Task Force wants servicemembers to be fully informed as they make these choices and urges anyone who is activated or deployed, or might be facing a future deployment, to call us for referral to a civilian attorney or counselor to discuss their options.


For more information and resources, please visit:

nlgmltf.org (619-463-2369)
girightshotline.org (1-877-447-4487)
couragetoresist.org
aboutfaceveterans.org
veteransforpeace.org
centeronconscience.org

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ICAN: Historic milestone: UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons reaches 50 ratifications needed for entry into force

From The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN): https://www.icanw.org/historic_milestone_un_treaty_on_the_prohibition_of_nuclear_weapons_reaches_50_ratifications_needed_for_entry_into_force

On October 24, 2020, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons reached the required 50 states parties for its entry into force, after Honduras ratified just one day after Jamaica and Nauru submitted their ratifications. In 90 days, the treaty will enter into force, cementing a categorical ban on nuclear weapons, 75 years after their first use.

This is a historic milestone for this landmark treaty. Prior to the TPNW’s adoption, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction not banned under international law, despite their catastrophic humanitarian consequences. Now, with the treaty’s entry into force, we can call nuclear weapons what they are: prohibited weapons of mass destruction, just like chemical weapons and biological weapons.

ICAN’s Executive Director Beatrice Fihn welcomed the historic moment. “This is a new chapter for nuclear disarmament. Decades of activism have achieved what many said was impossible: nuclear weapons are banned,” she said.

Setsuko Thurlow, survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, said “I have committed my life to the abolition of nuclear weapons. I have nothing but gratitude for all who have worked for the success of our treaty.” As a long-time and iconic ICAN activist who has spent decades sharing the story of the horrors she faced to raise awareness on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons this moment held particular significance: “This is the first time in international law that we have been so recognized. We share this recognition with other hibakusha across the world, those who have suffered radioactive harm from nuclear testing, from uranium mining, from secret experimentation.” Survivors of atomic use and testing all over the world have joined Setsuko in celebrating this milestone.

The three latest states to ratify were proud to be part of such a historic moment. All 50 states have shown true leadership to achieve a world without nuclear weapons, all while facing unprecedented levels of pressure from the nuclear armed states not to do so. A recent letter, obtained by AP only days before the ceremony, demonstrates that the Trump administration has been directly pressuring states that have ratified the treaty to withdraw from it and abstain from encouraging others to join it, in direct contradiction to their obligations under the treaty. Beatrice Fihn said: “Real leadership has been shown by the countries that have joined this historical instrument to bring it to full legal effect. Desperate attempts to weaken these leaders’ commitment to nuclear disarmament demonstrate only the fear of nuclear armed states of the change this treaty will bring.”

This is just the beginning. Once the treaty is in force, all states parties will need to implement all of their positive obligations under the treaty and abide by its prohibitions. States that haven’t joined the treaty will feel its power too – we can expect companies to stop producing nuclear weapons and financial institutions to stop investing in nuclear weapon producing companies.

How do we know? Because we have nearly 600 partner organisations in over 100 countries committed to advancing this treaty and the norm against nuclear weapons. People, companies, universities and governments everywhere will know this weapon has been prohibited and that now is the moment for them to stand on the right side of history.

Photos: ICAN | Aude Catimel

=================

See also:

https://apnews.com/article/nuclear-weapons-disarmament-united-nations-gun-politics-united-states-a539eee6868462b17a81747f04fc6fbb

AND this important op-ed from one of the co-founders of ICAN: “Now that nuclear weapons are illegal, the Pacific demands truth on decades of testing”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/25/now-that-nuclear-weapons-are-the-pacific-demands-truth-on-decades-of-testing

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The latest on renewing the New START Treaty

From Politico’s Morning Defense Newsletter, October 23, 2020:

FRESH START OR FULL STOP? “President Donald Trump has been eager to notch a major election-season win on arms control with Russia — and that prospect looked promising early this week when Moscow appeared to give in to a major U.S. demand,” Seligman and your Morning D correspondent report.

“But a top Trump official, and now Russian Vladimir Putin, are making clear there is still a serious divide between the two nuclear heavyweights.”

National security adviser Robert O’Brien told Seligman that an agreement to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty for another year is not “a done deal” because the two sides still need the procedures for verifying the terms of an agreement “that are suitable to both parties.”

At issue is Washington’s requirement that an extension of the 10-year-old agreement include a temporary freeze on all nuclear weapons, including strategic weapons covered by the treaty and tactical weapons that aren’t.

“In any negotiation but especially in arms control, the devil is always in the details,” O’Brien said in an interview. “Assuming that we can get suitable verification on the freeze, I think we should be able to get a deal. At least I hope so. I think we will propose something very shortly in the next couple days, or next week.” 

Putin also threw more cold water on the prospect of an imminent victory for Trump on Thursday. “The agreement expires in February and what I proposed is very simple,” Putin said in an online appearance at the Valdai forum in Moscow. “Nothing terrible will happen if we extend it for a year, without preconditions, and we can continue to work with determination on resolving all the issues that concern us and the Americans.”

Washington has already rejected an extension without preconditions, so the comments dimmed hopes for an agreement just days after Putin indicated that his government was open to a one-year freeze, including tactical weapons that aren’t covered by New START.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also told a Russian newspaper on Thursday that the two sides are far from a deal. “So far, at this stage, it cannot be said that we are on the verge of agreements,” he told Kommersant.

What the U.S. is demanding is considered extremely ambitious: a full accounting of all of Russia’s nukes and protocols for verifying it is abiding by a freeze, including on-site inspections. That’s especially true when it comes to the thousands of weapons Russia is believed to possess that are not covered by New START. 

“You can’t freeze what you can’t count, so you have to get an accurate count,” said Peter Huessy, director of strategic deterrent studies at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. “New START gives us a fuzzy start. The hard part will be to freeze non-strategic systems which are not even accounted for.”

He predicted that fashioning a viable process for verifying a freeze would take “many months” and “probably over a year.” That could mean a freeze will not be formalized until after the treaty extension expires. 

The graybeards weigh in: Some of the leading architects of the Cold War arms control regime that birthed New START are hoping things can be salvaged so the last remaining nuclear treaty between the two sides doesn’t disappear.

“The United States and Russia should seal the deal now to extend New START, because if the last remaining bilateral treaty governing U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces ends in February, the world’s most destructive nuclear arsenals will be unlimited and unverified for the first time since the end of the Cold War,” former Secretary of State George Schultz, former Secretary of Defense William Perry and former Sen. Sam Nunn wrote in The Washington Post.

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If all wars are based on lies, truth is our greatest weapon

by Rick Staggenborg, MD. Originally posted at OpEdNews, Sept. 2, 2020

In this article, the new President of the Linus Pauling chapter makes the case that to make the public understand what really causes war, we have to challenge the propaganda that is used to manufacture consent for it. When Americans realize how extensively they are being lied to about what is being done in their names, they may just get angry enough to demand an end to the forever wars.

The problem of manufacturing consent for war.

Respect for national sovereignty has been the basis of international law designed to prevent preemptive warfare since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 ended the 30 Years War. The idea was to prevent wars by agreeing that empires and international alliances would not interfere with the internal affairs of any nation. The idea was rejected by later Empire builders, leading to two world wars. This practice of the US ignoring international law has become increasingly blatant ever since. It now poses a risk to peace and national sovereignty everywhere.

Rick Staggenborg

Americans are taught that Hitler’s attempt at creating a fascist New World Order was the result of his insane personal ambition alone. Raised to believe that America is champion of freedom and democracy, most of us do not see that since the end of WWII the US has been working to create its own empire, one that is fast coming to resemble Hitler’s. The major difference is that it is not run by a dictator but by an oligarchy who exert much of their influence through our privately financed system of elections and their control of an increasingly interlocked network of powerful corporations controlled by a relative few.

American exceptionalism: The American Empire is no longer a secret

Despite the obvious signs of a police state being created in the US with the passage of the Patriot Act, the 2012 NDAA authorizing Presidents to arrest and indefinitely imprison without charge Americans he or she deem enemies of the state and the NSA program of unlimited domestic surveillance, most Americans refused to see this trend until Trump made it obvious with his authoritarian behavior. Many think that everything will go back to normal if Biden defeats him in November. However, other than taking on a more sophisticated tone, the bellicose nationalism that so alarmed Democrats when Bush was in office continued largely unchanged during the Obama-Biden years. It seems that American exceptionalism is not a partisan issue. It’s a fundamental principle in US foreign policy and whoever the Current Occupant of the White House is, they challenge it at their peril.

The Bush Doctrine of preemptive war has been replaced by the Obama Doctrine of “responsibility to protect,” first implemented in Kosovo by Bill Clinton. Obama used the same rationale to justify intervention in Libya and Syria. In all three cases, the results have been disastrous. “Humanitarian intervention” differs in name only from the neocon practice of making war against (or at least destabilizing) any country that stands in the way of US geostrategic goals. The targets are the same. The legal principle of humanitarian intervention exists nowhere in international law. There is a good reason for that. It is a direct violation of the UN charter and of the earlier Kellogg-Briand treaty that made war illegal except in self-defense.

The origins of the post-WWII government propaganda apparatus

If we are ever going to see the end of war, it is imperative to understand the systematic way in which generations of Americans have been indoctrinated to accept the idea that it is inevitable. The explanation is not complicated. The problem is that so few people are working to educate Americans about their real history since WWII, leaving them to allow their leaders to repeat the same mistakes that lead to the downfall of all empires.

Continue reading here.

Rick Staggenborg is the current president of Veterans For Peace, Linus Pauling Chapter, Corvallis-Albany, Oregon. Rick is a former Army and VA psychiatrist who ran for the US Senate in 2010 on a campaign based on a pledge to introduce a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood and regulate campaign finance.

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Making Waves: Rebirth of the Golden Rule

If you haven’t seen this short video of the VFP project, the sailing vessel Golden Rule, it’s well worth your time.

The latest info on the Golden Rule is here. They are currently sheltering in Hawaii and hope to continue their trans-Pacific public information tour soon. Donations are gladly accepted at their web site to support their work.

Click above.
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