Update on Katrina Relief
Cross Left has a more comprehensive list of organizations helping clean up.
Christian Liberal is not an oxymoron
Gotbaum Debate Performance: Got a Clue?
While the incumbent Public Advocate stumbled over basic issues and failed to cite a single accomplishment of note, Rasiej presents big ideas to re-imagine New York 's future.
NEW YORK -- In the first major debate of the Public Advocate campaign, incumbent Betsy Gotbaum stumbled through a gaffe-filled performance last night; failing to cite a single significant accomplishment, flip-flopping on a major campaign pledge from four years ago, and showing a shocking lack of familiarity with basic and big issues alike for someone who has been a public figure for three decades.
By contrast, Andrew Rasiej showed a clear command of the issues and presented several new ideas for connecting New York and bringing the city into the 21 st Century, including his signature plan to create a low cost citywide wireless Internet system.
"It's time New Yorkers had a real Public Advocate who does more than put out trivial reports and trumped up press releases, and that's just what voters will get with Andrew Rasiej -- new leadership, new ideas, new results," said Rasiej campaign spokesman Jay Strell.
With a live television audience watching on NY1, Gotbaum proved one thing: she doesn't need opponents to demonstrate that she's uninspiring, ill-informed, and ineffective. She's more than capable of that herself.
Ineffective: Given several opportunities to talk about her accomplishments, Betsy Gotbaum failed to name a single accomplishment of note. Not a single one. Betsy Gotbaum might be the first incumbent in history to run on a broken record -- her answer on practically every issue was "I've talked about that."
Ill-informed: In confirming her support of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards development project in Brooklyn , Gotbaum said she was unaware that Ratner was threatening to use the city's power of eminent domain to forcibly take people's property.
Given that community groups have been protesting against this use of eminent domain for months, and that the news media has been reporting on it for j as long, Gotbaum either blatantly misled the audience or showed that she is completely out of touch with one of the biggest issues in the city.
New York 's voters, and the people of Brooklyn in particular, deserve to know which is the case.
Uninspiring: She spent more time telling people what the Public Advocate's office "wasn't about" than what it "was about." She doesn't know what the office can do because she's failed to do anything.
Case in point: When Andrew Rasiej touted his groundbreaking plan to shed light and crack down on the City Council's secretive and abusive process for funding special projects, and asked Gotbaum why she had not taken a similar action to prevent public funds from being funneled to the Church of Scientology, Gotbaum's only defense was to say that the Public Advocate does not have oversight over the City Council budget. But the truth is that the Public Advocate has clear authority to introduce legislation to change the budget process, and is charged with providing the public information on what the government is doing with taxpayer dollars and a fundamental responsibility to look out for their interests.
Flip-Flop: In one of the 2001 campaign debates, Gotbaum pledged she wouldn't use the Public Advocate's office to run for mayor. According to a October 5, 2001, article in the Daily News, she said, "I am promising I will never run for mayor." Then, last night she turned around and said she was now open to becoming a mayoral candidate. We can only guess that the word "never" has a different meaning to Betsy Gotbaum than it does to the rest of us.
"If last night proved anything it's that Betsy Gotbaum doesn't have a clue, especially about how to use this office to address this city's big challenges," Strell said. "She broke her pledge about not running for Mayor without breaking a sweat, she demonstrated no understanding of the issue of the role of eminent domain as part of the Atlantic Yards development, and most important, talked more about what the Public Advocate's office can't do instead of what it can."
Is Gotbaum Master of Her Domain?
Public Advocate candidates dispute what's eminent and imminent in the Atlantic Yards deal
What's worse, feigning ignorance or being ignorant? That is the question raised by the latest attack by public advocate candidates Andrew Rasiej and Norman Siegel on the woman they each want to unseat, incumbent Betsy Gotbaum.
In Tuesday's NY1 debate, Siegel asked Gotbaum how she squared her support for the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn with her opposition to the use of eminent domain. Siegel opposes the recent Supreme Court decision allowing government "takings" for private development rather than old fashioned public uses like hospitals and highways, and he has provided legal help to opponents of Bruce Ratner's plan to build a Nets arena and housing complex around the MTA rail yards.
In March, Gotbaum told the Brooklyn Rail newspaper that she "will not support any project that is dependent on the use of eminent domain for private use," but then in July called the Atlantic Yards project—and its community benefits agreement that includes jobs for locals and affordable housing—" a wonderful, wonderful example of what development should be all about." She went on to say: "To bring all these different groups together to get everybody on board, to have negotiated like that, Bruce Ratner, I think we can only praise you to the highest."
So, Siegel asked, what gives? According to an unofficial transcript of the NY1 debate, Gotbaum replied:
Well, Mr. Siegel, let me point out to you that I am against the use of eminent domain and . . . it is not my understanding that the developer at the Atlantic Yards is going to use eminent domain. I have been told in fact that that is not the case, so if you know something different that is something I don't know, but I am against the use of eminent domain in the northern part of Manhattan and at the Atlantic Yards. I am concerned about the project at the Atlantic Yards. I am concerned about the size and I am concerned about the traffic and I am also concerned if there is to be a use of eminent domain but I have been told there is not.
Perhaps Gotbaum has new information, but eminent domain's been in the Atlantic Yards mix since the beginning, and it remains part of the equation. It's mentioned in the February memorandum of understanding between Forest City Ratner and the city and state, as well as in the May presentation that Ratner's people made to the City Council, as well as in several articles in the local papers about the Brooklyn deal.
It's true that Forest City Ratner has bought up many of the parcels that lie in the project footprint, but some people so far are refusing to sell out (Besides, selling out with the prospect of eminent domain hanging over your head is a little different from deciding freely to relocate). That's why ACORN's Bertha Lewis, a champion of the Atlantic Yards deal, told the Voice in July that she supports the use of eminent domain "if it's a last resort and they are buildings where there's no other strategy to be dealt with." Gotbaum's salute to the Atlantic Yards community benefits deal can't have hurt the public advocate when she asked for ACORN's endorsement, which she received.
A spokesman for Gotbaum's campaign says simply, "If eminent domain is part of the project she's not supporting it."
"I didn't say 'assassination.' I said our special forces should 'take him out,'" Robertson said on his show. "'Take him out' could be a number of things including kidnapping."
Physical and Sexual Abuse of Women in Prisons
Gender based physical and sexual abuse is too common an occurrence in prisons in the U.S. Recent on-site evaluations of conditions in women's prisons have found extensive gender-based mistreatment, physical abuse and outright sexual assault. A pattern and practice has been found to exist, throughout the prison system, but especially at state institutions, of male prison personnel engaging in rape, sexual assault, sexual taunting, and unwarranted visual surveillance of female prisoners in showers and bathrooms. Similar types of abuses against women have been attributed to law enforcement personnel policing the border between the U.S. and Mexico to prevent unlawful immigration. To make matters worse, most states are failing to address custodial sexual misconduct because they do not have adequate policies and criminal sanctions in place (or refuse to apply them), and do not provide proper training for custodial personnel. The strong tendency is to punish the prisoners who have been abused, rather than their abusers. In the report they submitted in 1995 to the U.N. Human Rights Committee, the U.S. Government, in the judgment of Human Rights Watch, "vastly underestimated the problem of sexual abuse in women's prisons in the U.S., and greatly overstated the degree to which it is being remedied."
Return of Refugees to Situations of Torture and Persecution, and Their Long-Term Detention Under Abusive Conditions
Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture establishes an unconditional right of an emigree who has experienced or faces torture to not be expelled (refouled) back to their country of origin where they are likely to face additional torture. Although the U.S. government makes frequent assurances that it recognizes and observes the right of victims of torture and persecution not to be refouled, in fact it has adopted many practices and policies that help to produce this unfortunate (and prohibited) result. This includes the practice of "interdicting" boat people at sea, and automatically returning them without analysis of potential refugee status. This approach recently was approved by the U.S. Supreme Court under the dubious principle of "extra-territoriality," which considers actions taken by the U.S. government outside the nation's territorial limits as not subject to the jurisdiction of U.S. law and international human rights treaty obligations.
Increasing instances of refoulement of refugees and torture victims also are taking place as a result of the newly enacted Illegal Immigration Reform Act of 1996, which calls for "expedited return" of those seeking entry without proper papers, and significantly reduces opportunities for legitimate refugees to make effective asylum claims. Unless individuals are quickly identified as likely victims of torture or persecution during a very brief interview with an immigration officer immediately after their arrival, they are automatically returned to their countries of origin. Victims of persecution, especially torture and rape, often need time and medical or psychological treatment before they can tell their stories. These are not provided in expedited processing, nor is the opportunity to obtain legal or other representation that would help victims deal with the asylum process.
Failure to Extradite or Prosecute Torturers
Under international treaties all governments are equally responsible for the effective criminal prosecution of violators of the most significant international standards of conduct, such as war crimes, terrorism or torture. This principle of "universal enforcement" means that a government finding this type of offender within its borders must either extradite them for prosecution by the country where the offense occurred, or initiate prosecution themselves. The U.S. government has strongly supported this approach, as is the case, for example, with the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, the truck bombing of the U.S. barracks in Dharhran, Saudi Arabia, and other similar terrorist and war crime activities. However, the U.S. government recently declined to extradite or prosecute Emmanuel Constant, an alleged Haitian torturer, purportedly to keep from focusing public attention on the fact that Mr. Constant may have been receiving payments from the Central Intelligence Agency during the time when he was engaged in torture related activity. Instead, the government entered into an agreement with Mr. Constant to find him a safe haven in neutral territory, over the strenuous objections of the Haitian government.
Arms Sales and Other Assistance by the U.S. Government that Support Torture in Foreign Countries
While CAT does not specifically address the problem of governments providing arms or other assistance that is used to promote torture in other countries, it is reasonable to interpret the prohibition against torture as preventing these forms of "indirect" support for acts of torture committed abroad. Two forms of assistance along these lines by the U.S. government have recently begun to receive public attention and condemnation. First, the government transferred or authorized the sale of military equipment to several governments that have used these armaments in acts of torture. Human Rights Watch has documented that U.S. weaponry sent to Turkey, notably small arms and helicopters, has played a major role in a wide range of abusive practices committed against the Kurdish minority civilian population. Along similar lines, Amnesty International in its April, 1998 review of human rights violations by the U.S., has reported several cases involving the transfer of electronic stun equipment to governments likely to use them to engage in human rights violations, such as the shipment of 10,000 shock batons to Turkey. Similar problems have been raised in connection with proposed arms shipments to Peru and Indonesia.
How many times have you said "It's not fair!" without thinking about what the words really mean?
Unfortunately, a young woman named Linda Loaiza knows the bitter taste of injustice far too well.
Four years ago when Venezuelan police rescued 18 year-old Linda from her kidnapper's apartment she was bruised and cut inside and out and severely malnourished. One nipple had been cut off, her earlobe destroyed, her lip cut off, her skull fractured, and her entire body covered with cigarette burns. Even after nine surgeries, Linda will never recover from these injuries. Scarred for life, with reduced hearing and movement, her eyes clouded by chataracts, Linda can never have children.
Click here now to demand Justice for Linda!
Despite the fact that Linda's attacker, Luis Carrera Almoina (the son of Gustavo Carrera Damas, a very influential man who was president of one of Venezuela's major universities at the time) had kept her prisoner for four months while he repeatedly raped and brutally tortured her, Linda's case was passed over by the Venezuelan judicial system 29 times and a total of 59 judges declined to prosecute on her behalf!
Demand Justice for Linda! Click below now to send an email to Venezuela's top judicial officials demanding a timely and fair trial!
Click here now to demand Justice for Linda!Nearly three years later, the courts had still not set a trial date and Linda's case was in danger of being dismissed. So she took matters into her own hands, holding a two-week hunger strike on the steps of the Supreme Court to raise awareness of her plight. The media coverage that followed forced the court to finally assign a judge and set a trial date.
After all that, the judge let the man who'd raped and tortured Linda off scot-free, citing a "lack of evidence." Worse yet, the judge had the gall to order an investigation into Linda on the alleged grounds that she had been part of a prostitution ring.
This April, Linda and her supporters finally succeeded in getting the courts to reopen her case and request a retrial with the hope of convicting Carrera Almoina. After several more months of terrible waiting, Linda is still waiting for a trial date to be set.
Click here now to ensure Justice for Linda by sending a free message to high-ranking members of the Venezuelan government and key members of the country's judicial system on Linda's behalf.
Click here now to demand Justice for Linda!
We need your help to let the Venezuelan government know the world is watching.
Pressure from supporters like you will help hold the court accountable to make sure a trial date is set and that justice is served this time.
Our goal is to get a trial date set by the end of August by sending at least 10,000 messages in the next two weeks demanding Justice for Linda.
After you send your message to the Venezuelan justice system, please help us spread the word about the Justice for Linda effort by forwarding this message to everyone in your address book with a personal request to join you in demanding justice in this horrifying case.
Linda's experience is deeply disturbing - both for the violence she suffered and for the corruption and the injustice she has faced in her quest to put her attacker behind bars where he can't hurt her or others. The incident occurred in Venezuela, but it is representative of the immense difficulty faced by women in many parts of the world when they seek justice in the face of violence and abuse.
Your support will mean a great deal to Linda and to women everywhere.
Thank you for all your help.