What's Left 2015-07-19 Volume 21

Contributors: Rodney Diverlus on behalf of Black Lives Matter-Toronto. On Sunday July 5th, Toronto police shot and killed Andrew Loku, a 45 year old South Sudanese refugee. A father of 5, Loku escaped war-torn South Sudan in an attempt to find safety in Canada. He was killed in his own home, an apartment building leased by the Canadian Mental Health Association to those with a history of mental health challenges. It has been two weeks since his death. At the funeral, his family and the community laid him to rest without any answers about what happened that caused his death.

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Black Lives Matter–Toronto calls community to action, demands justice for Andrew Loku

On Sunday July 5th, Toronto police shot and killed Andrew Loku, a 45 year old South Sudanese refugee. A father of 5, Loku escaped war-torn South Sudan in an attempt to find safety in Canada. He was killed in his own home, an apartment building leased by the Canadian Mental Health Association to those with a history of mental health challenges. It has been two weeks since his death. At the funeral, his family and the community laid him to rest without any answers about what happened that caused his death.

In US cities, instances of overt anti-black racism are often met with quick condemnation. However, Toronto’s leaders and broader community were virtually silent on this case. Newly-appointed Police Chief Mark Saunders issued no condolences to the family and there was absolutely no commitment to the investigative process. While there have been countless articles about the Pan Am games and an unfortunate dead raccoon, there has been general silence about Andrew Loku. A black man took refuge in this city, was killed by the state and the response is: silence. More problematic, Loku was just one of the many victims killed by Toronto Police since 1988, half of whom are black.

The tragic death of Andrew Loku affirms a reality that African, Caribbean, and Black (ABC) people in Canada know too well: to be black is to be a living target for police. He was a victim of the ever-tiring anti-black racism that exists in the Police Industrial Complex and society as a whole. The world we live in is anti-black. The country we live in is anti-black. Our communities are anti-black.

This past week, it was made clear to the Mayor and Chief of Police that, in the absence of action on their part, the community is ready to mobilize. It is a threat and a call-out, a warning and a demand for action. Our actions are centred on core demands, including: the release of the name(s) of the officers who killed Andrew Loku; charges to be laid against these officers; monetary compensation for the family of Andrew Loku; the adoption of all recommendations made by the African Canadian Legal Clinic; body cameras to be worn by all police officers, the release of data on the number of Special Investigations Unit cases involving racialized people, and racialized people living with mental health challenges; an inquiry by the Ontario Human Rights Commission into the disproportionate use of force used against black people with mental health challenges; and the adoption of the 84 recommendations of the 2014 report by Frank Iacobucci, aimed at reducing fatal encounters with people in emotional distress.

These recommendations have become more than requests for improved government policy, they are demands for action in matters of life and death. For black individuals navigating a violent and dangerous reality, these demands are not only policy directives, but one of many ways that state-sanctioned violence against black people can be eliminated. Rage seeps through the community, and will not be satisfied with studies, reports, or lip service. When we state that black lives matter, we are calling for justice for Andrew Loku, Michael Eligon, Reyal Jardine-Douglas, O’Brien Christopher-Reid, and Ian Pryce, all black individuals with mental health challenges killed by police. Black Lives Matter is not a slogan, it’s a realization that police violence, poverty, mass incarceration, and under/unemployment are attempting to strip black people of our humanity and our worth. Andrew Loku’s life matters, and we will not stop until justice is served.

Rodney Diverlus\ on behalf of Black Lives Matter-Toronto

Facebook: Black Lives Matter-Toronto

More: Black Lives Matter protesters crash police board meeting



The importance of high-speed internet as a public service

This week, the Citizens’ Press (host of What’s Left) submitted formal recommendations to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on the importance of access to the internet. Based on analyses that has appeared in What’s Left over previous months, the submission outlined recommendations to address the inherent inequalities in access and security of the current model dictated by a small number of multi-billion dollar telecommunications companies. Instead, Citizens’ Press argues that these services would be better provided as public, community-based services.

More: [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=c17ec66620&e=8484a6ba75][Access to high speed internet services should be a right for everyone in Canada]]

Public services lead New Horizons to Pluto

Who says the government cannot make the trains, planes and star ships run on time? This week, nine and a half years after it was launched, NASA’s New Horizons space probe reached Pluto – within 72 seconds of when it was originally scheduled to arrive. In a trip that could and would never be funded by private capital, NASA continues to drive bleeding-edge technological advancement, build a greater understanding of science through action, and expand our imagination of what is possible. This particular probe will be sending back information on Pluto for months to come, leading to a wealth of research on what makes up the large universe that’s out there.

Under the Harper government’s regime of privatizing and commercializing scientific research, such scientific endeavours would never happen. The Conservatives have made it clear that their priority is to rig publicly funded science so that it benefits corporate research, not scientific knowledge that benefits the public at large.

When compared to high-cost failures of the private sector (looking at you Tesla’s SpaceX), it puts to rest claims by anyone espousing the virtues of the efficient private sector.

More: New Horizons – NASA’s Mission to Pluto

Instagram: New Horizons

Instagram: NASA



Citizens’ United case comes back to haunt Republicans

Ever since unions have been legal, Conservatives have pushed, in rather sophisticated ways, for corporations to be allowed to out-spend workers in funding political parties. Conservative arguments defending this agenda range from the false concept of “balance” between workers and management, to the complaint that populist policies are not compatible with the professionalization of the electoral campaign system. Unfortunately, many on the left have adopted this “rational” call for “balance”, not realizing that there was no imbalance to begin with, and that any new rules will give more weight to corporations at the expense of organized social justice movements.

This false narrative has come to a head in the United States where a Supreme Court case, led by the conservative non-profit organization Citizens’ United, gave monopoly corporations the right to spend as much money as any individual. All this did was empower anti-social, undemocratic, profit-maximizing entities to out-spend, and out-influence everyone.

Ironically, the US right-wing has been so focused on this ideological crusade that they failed to realize an obvious downside: that it would also empower the irrational and unelectable far-right. Candidates who would usually be pushed out of the primaries early-on for lack of broad public support, are now able to fund their campaigns for much longer, poisoning the Republican Party’s brand and confusing the public.

More: Revenge of Citizens United

As the Greece situation evolves, so does the analysis

You’re not the only one baffled while following the latest developments in Greece. The situation is fast-paced and provides for many possible analyses. The debate rages on about which analysis and position is correct when it comes to the direction Syriza has taken the country.

For the entire range of opinions, from the juvenile left to those who have become apologists for concessions, stay tuned to leftnews.org. Take solace in the fact that the Greeks will figure it out. To this point, they have done more than the rest of us to fight austerity and they are not about to give up.

More: Left News

Three cheers for the cheerleaders (finally) deemed employees in California

After a lawsuit spanning over 18 months, cheerleaders in California were successful in pressuring lawmakers to adopt new legislative standards for their working conditions. With this new law, wages and benefits for cheerleaders on the state’s professional sports teams will improve to the minimum wage (\$9 per hour). However, it’s worth noting that these new standards will still leave them with lower remuneration than the state’s fast food workers.

The law was brought forward after wide-spread concerns over pay, scheduling, issues of sexual harassment and arbitrary (and unfair) rules. Cheerleading is a poorly paid, exploitive and toxic occupation across the US and around the world. The hope is that the victory in California will serve as a precedent for other states. It is inspiring to see groups of workers take it upon themselves to fight these battles for basic rights and recognition. As more and more workers slip through the cracks of work standards set by governments, making the argument to be recognized as employees promises to be an important area where workers can fight back and win.

More: Cheerleaders celebrate new laws that mean they will be treated as employees

Agreement reached over future of Iran’s nuclear programme

The deal between Iran and the EU3+3 (United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, Russian Federation, and United States) is a victory for those who have been calling for a diplomatic solution to an issue which, for much of the past decade, was a ready pretext for war. That said, the unlocking of Iranian assets will increase its regional influence and likely instigate a conventional arms race with Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf-Arab monarchies. Such a development will bolster the stocks of American weapons manufacturers.

However, it’s Iran’s extra-regional influence which may prove to be the most interesting outcome. While Iranian negotions were underway, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) (led by China, Russia and five other ex-Soviet republics) held its annual meeting and expanded its membership (for the first time since 2001) to include India and Pakistan. Although the SCO began as a security-pact focused mostly on stemming the expansion of NATO, it has evolved into an economic organization focused on the facilitation of trade. The Iranian President was present at the meeting and struck important deals with both India and Pakistan.

Although Iran and India have been trading for decades, Iranian-Pakistani trade relations have been effectively frozen since Pakistani generals overthrew the country’s democratically elected leader in 1977 and helped to thwart Iran’s revolution in 1979. But, while there have been serious talks of a gas-pipeline between Iran and Pakistan since 2013, Pakistan has been held back by the the United States and Saudi Arabia. The lifting of economic sanctions against Iran will likely change that. The utility of this work cannot be underestimated as Iran is keen to expand its economy and increase its leverage. While Europe and the United States take their time to re-engage with Iran, it is through the SCO, that the republic will quite literally find a life-line.

More: Full text of the Iran deal

More: [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=83a297cf88&e=8484a6ba75][Iran nuclear deal a step forward, but traditional arms race still a threat]]

More: Iran offers India \$8 billion of projects

More: Iran’s ‘Look East’ policy takes wings