15 years jail for graffiti art in Detroit, USA?

Gabriela June Gibson, graffii artist

By Tyler Van Dyke in the USA:

Detroit woman faces 15 years in prison over graffiti incident

8 April 2017

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and his administration continue to pursue vindictive penalties in cases involving graffiti. Dozens of charges have been laid against graffiti artists since Duggan, a Democrat, took office in 2014.

In the most recent incident, Gabriela Gibson, 27, faces three felony charges carrying 15-year prison sentences. She is charged with lying under oath when questioned about the tagging of a long abandoned building on Detroit’s east side. Her license plate information was allegedly captured by an eyewitness while driving away from the scene after spray-painting faces on the building.

Prosecutors claim to have found information about other graffiti incidents while searching Gibson’s phone and text messages. Two other individuals, Nathan Koorhan and Craig Kowalski, face similar charges. Both face up to 10 years in prison for breaking and entering, and “malicious destruction” of one of Detroit’s many abandoned schools.

Detroit, America’s largest poor city, has been a target of graffiti for decades.

The three defendants are the latest victims of the crackdown against non-violent crimes by city officials.

The Duggan administration has also been issuing thousands of tickets to property owners in Detroit, giving them only seven days to remove graffiti from their buildings or be fined. Some residents, caught in the bureaucratic morass of the deeply underfunded and understaffed city, have been fined without being adequately warned about removing the graffiti.

Retired postal worker Freddie Jones, Jr. told the Detroit Free Press that the city had sent a crew to remove the tags off the side of his building and fined him $1,121 just three days after being warned.

“They’re doing it to get money,” Jones told the Free Press, “Had I been given an opportunity I would’ve done it no problem. I wasn’t even allotted the opportunity to clean up my own property.”

Another small business owner, Roosevelt Hendrix, barely avoided paying a $1,500 fine. He told the Free Press, “We just got lucky, man. I think we got lucky by doing it ourselves because $1,500–who has $1,500 for some graffiti, man? … $1,500 for nothing?”

Buildings where graffiti has been removed will often be tagged again in a matter of days.

The Duggan administration continues to try and present itself as “returning democracy to Detroit,” while working behind closed doors to turn the city of Detroit into a haven for big investors and speculators.

Duggan is up for re-election this year and will no doubt use his bullying policing tactics as an example of how he has helped the city by cracking down on petty crime. This is known as “broken window policing” or “quality of life policing,” the premise of which is that if small crimes are responded to harshly this will deter more serious crimes from occurring. The unconstitutional “stop-and-frisk” program in New York City is associated with this approach.

Duggan, a longtime proponent of “broken window policing,” said in 2003, when he was Wayne County prosecutor, “I consider these quality-of-life crimes serious issues,” and commented further that “They will have a ripple effect on other crimes.”

The “theory,” of course, is both unfair and anti-democratic and has no essential effect on conditions and crime rates that are the product of the overwhelming decay and devastation of America’s inner cities.

As great numbers of people realize full well, the true “vandals” in Detroit, guilty of “malicious destruction” on a vast scale, are the auto and other giant corporations that have destroyed hundreds of thousands of decent-paying jobs over the past 35 years, reducing the city’s population to levels of misery seen in so-called Third World countries. Duggan and the Democrats have presided over the social carnage, acting with one goal in mind: to suppress popular anger and protect the wealth of the city’s elite.

The imposition of tougher penalties for petty crimes, including the brutal treatment of Gibson, is intended to intimidate the population and muzzle potential opposition. Both the graffiti artists and the property-owners threatened with fines are victims of the same social process.

Duggan has received wide bipartisan support for his re-election bid, with many politicians and corporate figures already announcing support for him.

Health insurance corporation Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s political action committee, BluesPAC, sent out a letter in late February to “more than 1,000 Blue Cross employees … asking for donations of $1,000 for corporate officers, $500 for vice presidents, $250 for directors and $100 from managers and others to support the Mike Duggan for Detroit Committee,” according to Crain’s Detroit Business .

Duggan served as Wayne County Prosecutor from 2001 to 2004. Soon after leaving that office he took a position as president and CEO of the Detroit Medical Center. After DMC was sold to Vanguard Health Systems in 2010, Duggan walked away with more than $2.4 million, along with sizeable stock options.

After an attempt to run for mayor of suburban Livonia in 2011, Duggan decided to campaign for mayor of Detroit in 2014. Because of his reputation as a cost cutter, Duggan secured the backing of major sections of Detroit’s ruling elite.

Among those donating the nearly $2 million to the 2014 Duggan mayoral campaign were political action committees associated with Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert; Ford executive Bill Ford; Compuware founder Peter Karmanos; Roger Penske and executives from Vanguard Health Systems. All of these firms and individuals have continued to prosper under Duggan’s administration.

Victim of police brutality suing Detroit Police Department: here.

TRAPPED IN AN INTERNET DESERT, DETROIT TEENS ARE STRUGGLING TO STAY ONLINE The digital divide may be shutting students out of opportunities they desperately need. [HuffPost]


Spotted nutcracker in Sweden

This video shows a spotted nutcracker in Sweden.

British government support for dictators

Tony Blair, then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, meets, greets Hosni Mubarak, then dictator of Egypt

By Callum Alexander Scott in Britain:

The strange bedfellows of British foreign politics

Saturday 8th April 2017

Steadfast support for dictators of all hues and all over the world has been the norm in British foreign policy, writes Callum Alexander Scott

Like all prime ministers, May presents herself in public as a person of integrity and principle — she claims to uphold “British values,” to be a feminist, a champion of working people and equal opportunity, a proponent of freedom and democracy, she’s apparently against unnecessary wars, repression, torture and injustice (unless it’s for “defence” purposes, of course).

Donald Trump, however, seems a world away — he is a public showman, a billionaire, an obvious misogynist who’s bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy”, he has repressive, warmongering and authoritarian tendencies, and he has shamelessly harnessed racism, xenophobia and division to win the presidency of the US, among other reprehensible things.

So when asked about how she’ll manage the differences between herself and Trump, what might we expect May to say? “He’s a despicable man,” “I intend to avoid him at all costs,” “Britain will refuse to do business with him because we are a nation of principle?” No, of course not. When asked this very question in January 2017 she responded: “Haven’t you ever noticed, sometimes opposites attract?”

Opposites most certainly do attract, especially when it’s in the commercial interests of Britain for them to do so. In fact, Britain’s commercial interests have always trumped its principles.

This is why May and her predecessors have supported the royal family of Saudi Arabia, a repressive, authoritarian, human rights abusing regime of billionaires who permit the beheading of [alleged] criminals, the stoning of women and the funding of Islamic terrorism around the globe.

They’re also engaged in a campaign of terror in Yemen right now that’s killed over 10,000 civilians, a campaign that May’s government supports and has continued to provide weapons for.

How are “British values” being upheld here? Or how are they being upheld when May visits Turkey and brokers a £100 million arms deal with its authoritarian, human rights abusing, free speech suppressing, misogynistic, Isis sympathising president Erdogan? And then there’s British support for Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt under Sissi (and previously Mubarak) — all are repressive, authoritarian human rights abusers who the British government happily trades with (particular commodities include oil and weapons).

Or lest we forget Britain’s collusion with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi under Tony Blair, which helped broker a £550m deal for Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell to explore for gas in Libya. Or Britain’s support for Saddam Hussein under Margaret Thatcher, who continued selling him arms despite knowing he’d used chemical weapons against Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war between 1980-88 and had committed genocide against the Kurds in 1988.

Or Thatcher’s faithful support for the brutal and murderous Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet, who she affectionately described as Britain’s “true friend.”

Then there was her support for General Suharto of Indonesia, whose dictatorship has been described as “one of the most brutal and corrupt of the 20th century.” After coming to power in a military coup in 1965 his regime tortured and killed around 500,000 people and in his subsequent invasion and occupation of East Timor in 1975 he killed around 250,000 more. Thatcher described him as “one of our very best and most valuable friends.” while Elizabeth Windsor received him on a state visit in 1979.

Or further still, how about Thatcher’s problematic stance on apartheid South Africa, in which she opposed sanctions and condemned Mandela’s African National Congress as a “typical terrorist organisation”?

Oh, and then there was Britain’s support for the Shah of Iran from 1953 to 1979. The Shah, another brutal dictator, came to power after the British, under Winston Churchill, helped the US overthrow the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh because he wanted to nationalise its oil industry. Where were the so-called “British values” of freedom, justice and democracy then?

Indeed, it’s important to understand, in the light of May’s kowtowing to Trump that the British Establishment has always pandered to, and supported, the most despicable people when it has suited the interests of British business.

A most outrageous example of this, which has been tactfully erased from most British history books, came in the 1930s when a large portion of the British Establishment, by way of finance, weapons and diplomacy, supported fascism at home and in Germany and Italy.

From the royal family to Churchill, fascism was of little concern until it directly threatened British interests. As the renowned British historian AJP Taylor wrote: “Every politician extolled the virtues of democracy, especially at the expense of Soviet Russia. Despite this rhetoric, Labour turncoat Ramsay MacDonald wrote friendly personal letters to the fascist dictator Mussolini; Austen Chamberlain exchanged photographs with him and joined him in family holidays; Churchill sang his praises in newspaper articles.”

Or take Lord Reith, the founding director-general of the BBC. He openly admired both Adolf Hitler and Mussolini. As early as 1933 he declared that “I am certain that the nazis will clean things up and put Germany on the way to being a real power in Europe again […] They are being ruthless and most determined.”

Dare we even remind ourselves of the following footage of a seven-year-old Elizabeth Windsor giving a nazi salute with her mother, sister and uncle in 1933?

It’s certainly a powerful, if controversial, illustration of just how normalised and accepted fascism was among the British Establishment during that period; that is, before it threatened our own national interests.

Callum Alexander Scott writes about culture and politics. Tweet him @CallumAScott or check out his blog: callumalexanderscott.wordpress.com.

Roe deer in Sweden, video

This video is about roe deer in Sweden, in March 2011.

Trump’s air force killing Syrian civilians again

This video says about itself:

8 April 2017

Up to 15 civilians have been killed in a Syrian village near the city of Raqqa, in an alleged air strike by the US-led coalition, Syrian media report.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

“Again civilian deaths in Syria by coalition air strikes

Today, 18:16

In a Syrian village west of the ISIS stronghold Raqqa airstrikes have killed at least thirteen civilians. Both Syrian state media and the [anti Assad] Syrian Observatory for Human Rights report that the attacks are the work of the international coalition led by the USA.

Among the victims were four children, the Observatory which reports on the war in Syria from the UK, says. …

The coalition must often defend itself against criticism lately due to the increasing number of civilian fatalities in several operations in northern Syria.

Nazi mass murder of Soviet prisoners of war in the Netherlands

One of few photos of the Soviet prisoners, murdered in Amersfoort

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Unknown mass execution of Soviet prisoners commemorated in Amersfoort

Today, 15:25

Their graves are anonymous, their stories little known. The 101 Soviet soldiers who will be commemorated tomorrow at [former nazi concentration] Camp Amersfoort. Defeated on the battlefield, brought to the Netherlands as living propaganda material, beaten and killed.

“It was the second-largest mass execution of the war in the Netherlands”, says Remco Reiding of the Foundation Russian Field of Honour. “You could say that people would like to know.”

Tomorrow is the 75th anniversary of when nazi shots in the necks ended the brutal journey of the Soviets. Around a monument at Camp Amersfoort at dawn candles will be lit for the victims. It’s only the fifth time Reiding will organize the ceremony; previously there was little attention for the group.

“During the Cold War it was not customary to commemorate soldiers from a country that was our new enemy,” Reiding explains. “Moreover, these boys came from a far away country, and we have no information about their identity. So there are no family members who can visit a grave. Therefore, the story never came to life and was increasingly forgotten.”

The soldiers came in September 1941 in cattle trucks to Amersfoort after a two week journey. Prisoners of war from the Eastern Front, probably Uzbeks. They must have felt completely lost: displaced, starved, beaten, in a country where they did not speak the language.

“The Nazis took them to the Netherlands to show Dutch people what untermenschen [German nazi jargon: ‘racially inferior’ people] they were. They were exhibited: as a group they had to walk among rows of people through the city to the camp. Also inside the camp they had to stay outdoors for days, as a warning example for the Dutch prisoners.”

The plan failed immediately because the shocked Dutch spectators, contrary to expectations, , wanted to give wate,r fruit and bread to the soldier prisoners – what the Germans did not allow. An attempt to incite the soldiers against each other failed as well. “There was a German film crew who had to record how they would fight each other for a piece of bread; but when the bread was thrown over the fence, the opposite happened. It was divided neatly into pieces by the men, although they were terribly hungry.”

“The SS criminals failed”, wrote anti-nazi resistance newspaper De Waarheid. “At no time did they succeed in making discord between the Dutch and Russian prisoners.”

Skulls on desk

It seems that the Nazis wanted the Soviets to die of hardships. By disease, malnutrition and mistreatment 24 soldiers died within six months. Finally, in consultation with Berlin they decided on a mass execution of the rest of the group. The men were told that they would be transported to France, but after a short drive they arrived at the firing squad.

“You could say that they had no use anymore. The propaganda story had not worked and eventually the Nazis did not know what to do with them. Then they decided to shoot them dead.” Two skulls of the prisoners ended up on the desk of the camp doctor, as a curiosity. …

Reiding spent a lot of time to figure out the identity of the war dead, but the 101 Amersfoort men will forever remain anonymous: the Germans destroyed all information about them.

“That makes us morally responsible for these guys,” says Reiding. “Far away from home without the family knowing, slaughtered like beasts. That’s something we should keep in mind, even if only once a year.”

Yet Reiding also notes that once again there are tensions in relations with Russia by bickering over MH17, European embargoes and reports of Russian fake news. “A difficult relationship between the Netherlands and Russia is felt at all levels, so we feel that as well. But what we do is apolitical. The war victims of then, allies, should not suffer from contemporary politics.”

With 150 visitors Reiding expects tomorrow morning double the number of people last year, more than ever. “Of course it is early morning and we have a new tradition, but it is quite a nice result. We are very happy that for the first time a school, fifty pupils and their parents will join. It would be a good tradition to continue.”