Egyptian Blogger Sandmonkey will Continue on Despite Brutality

by Dennis Bernstein

To call the ongoing people’s revolts in Tunisia and Egypt FaceBook revolutions is certainly overstating the case.

In both countries, the time was ripe for revolution and social upheaval. Poverty, repression and hopelessness were enforced by greedy U.S.-supported despots who were deaf to the needs of their people.

But there is little doubt that the recent street-protest revolts in Tunis and Cairo were assisted by new social media: Facebookers, tweeters and a new generation of Internet bloggers.

In Egypt, the blogosphere  has been on fire with young activists planning meetings, sharing information, planning actions and sending emergency messages about government attacks.

Mahmoud Salem, known in the blogosphere, as “Sandmonkey,” is among the most famous and savvy young Egyptian bloggers, now working at the edges of Liberation Square.

Sandmonkey, who describes himself as “a pro-democracy, free-speech, women’s rights activist,” has been blogging since 2004. His blog is now read around the world and has become part of an alternative information flow, carrying the message from the street to the 24-hour-a-day rush hour on the information super-highway.

What Sandmonkey’s blogging had helped bring about was brought home to him this week when he moved from the blogosphere to Liberation Square where hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have been demanding that longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak resign.

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Robert Meeropol, son of the executed Rosenbergs, on WikiLeaks

by Dennis Bernstein

U.S. citizens Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed under the 1917 Espionage Act in 1953.

The U.S. Justice Department is now considering charging WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange with espionage under the 1917 Espionage Act. In a recent interview, syndicated on PacificaRadio’s Flashpoints show, I spoke to  Robert Meeropol, founder of the Rosenberg Fund For Children. Meeropol is the son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the only U.S. citizens to be executed under the 1917 Espionage Act. In a strong defense of Wikileaks, Assange and Bradley Manning, Meeropol released a statement stating:

My parents were executed under the unconstitutional Espionage Act, here’s why we must fight to protect Julian Assange.

In the following interview he talks about the history of the 1917 espionage Act, the execution of his parents and some of the political “Echoes” from the 1950’s red scare days that are reverberating today. Meeropol also talks movingly about how his parents’ unwillingness to cave  in the face of government intimidation, even at the cost of their lives.

I think that resistance is inspirational.  When people resist, they inspire others and if you combined the resistance with the inspiration you end up building a movement of support.

DB: Let’s begin this way, Robert Meeropol.  The U.S. Congress is back in session, the Republicans are in charge of the House, and today they read the Constitution. Would that be relevant in your defense of Julian Assange?

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Curiosities Abound in Assange Case

Update: John Pilger writes in The Independent defending Assange against a defamatory piece published by the Guardian.

by Dennis Bernstein

An interview with John Pilger

John Pilger (Photo: AFP)

Dennis Bernstein (DB): Let me get your overview here of Julian Assange and what is happening to him. How do you see this?

John Pilger (JP): Well, it’s a very complicated and very suspicious case, of course. Today [Thursday] we saw a pinch of justice, that’s all. But his bail is weighted down with conditions. He’s virtually under a kind of house arrest. Now if he wasn’t Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, none of this would have happened. I doubt whether there would be any prosecution, we’d be having this conversation.

And we learned today [Thursday] that the Swedes had not initiated this appeal against bail that was heard today in the London court. It was the British. Why were they doing it? Were they doing it on behalf of the U.S.? I don’t know the answer to those questions. But suspicions really do mount in this case.

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BP Oil Spill Threatens Bayou Tribes

by Dennis Bernstein

For unlucky residents of the Gulf States, the BP oil-spill disaster, coming up on 100 days, could take another turn for the worst if one of the storms churning up tropical waters in the Atlantic Ocean blossoms into a full-blown hurricane and heads into the Gulf of Mexico.

For several already marginalized Native tribes living on the Louisiana Coast – many of them fishermen and shrimpers – a hurricane crashing through the oil-polluted Gulf now could destroy a way of life that has survived for centuries.

Already, the tribal land among the coastal bayous is disappearing faster than anywhere on the planet, the victim of unbridled oil exploration and dam building projects of the Army Corps of Engineers dating back to the 1930s.

“For us it’s more like a hundred years of oil disasters than a hundred days,” said Chief Charles Verdin of the Pointe au Chien tribe. “And really when you look at it … it’s business as usual. The tribes being ignored, forgotten, overlooked, and forced from their land.”

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Dying Sea Turtles Warn of Toxic Gulf

by Dennis Bernstein

Endangered Olive Ridley sea turtle (Photo: Greenpeace USA)

Scientists and environmentalists across the United States and around the globe have their fingers crossed that BP’s claim to have finally capped its runaway well, after three months, is true, and that the damage of history’s worst environmental disaster can now be assessed in finite terms.

Yet, it will take years, if not decades, to truly comprehend the extent of the devastation: the dead and damaged wildlife, the soiled beaches and marshes, and the huge swaths of the sea that may become dead zones, so polluted that fish and other animals can’t survive there.

Even as BP was announcing its alleged capping success, many more wounded animals were being spotted and oil was still splashing on shorelines across the Gulf. Just recently, oil surged into one of the largest sea-bird nesting areas along Louisiana’s coast near Raccoon Island.

Three hundred to four hundred more pelicans were spotted with oil, as well as hundreds of terns. Scientists say these visible blotches of oil mean death for the sea birds.

To date, it’s estimated that over 3,000 birds have been killed, 59 dolphins, at least one sperm whale, and more than 460 turtles. Indeed, perhaps the species most threatened by the tens of millions of gallons of oil and toxic dispersants is the giant prehistoric sea turtle.

Dr Christopher A. Pincetich, a marine biologist and toxicologist for the Turtle Island Restoration Network, is convinced that the BP oil spill has destroyed a “generation” of turtles.

“We’re working as fast as we can on several fronts,” Dr. Pincetich said in an interview from New Orleans. “Most urgent right now is the immediate rescue of more of the endangered sea turtles that are in the Gulf oil spill right now.”

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Who Goes to Jail? BP CEO or Shrimper

by Dennis Bernstein

On June 17, after watching BP’s oil blowout pollute the Gulf of Mexico for nearly two months, environmental campaigner and fourth-generation Texas shrimp boat captain, Diane Wilson, had had more than enough.

So Wilson seized the only opportunity she may ever have to confront BP chief executive, Tony Hayward, eye to eye, about his “criminal activities” as top dog at the oil giant.

That day, Hayward happened to be giving testimony before the Senate Energy Committee hearings. Wilson, who works with CodePink now, had been on the road and was heading home to Seadrift, Texas, when she heard Hayward would be testifying at the Capitol.

“I was coming back to Texas and I found out the CEO of BP was going to be in D.C,” said Wilson, in a telephone interview. “I felt compelled to come. I had to see Hayward. I had to. And I did.”

But Wilson was not merely planning to be a passive observer, sitting in awe in one of the great deliberative bodies of U.S. democracy.

“I got in and I snuck in some black paint,” she said, “and I sat there and waited ‘til he started testifying and then I smeared that paint all over myself, poured it on my hands, and I stood up and told him he should be jailed. He should be jailed, I told him.”

“BP is a criminal company that has ignored safety regulations at the health of our oceans and even its own workers,” Wilson called out to Hayward and the members of the committee,” before she was pounced on by security and hustled out of the hearing room.

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