Category Archives: News

Unholy Wedlock: Unrestricted Drone Warfare And Wedding Party “Militants” — by Thomas Altfather Good




A protester and a predator square off
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

 

NEW YORK — December 18, 2013. The killing of Yemeni wedding goers by U.S. military personnel is a tragic example of unrestricted drone warfare’s fatal dialectic: “collateral damage” as an inevitable byproduct of “near certainty” in targeting alleged terrorists — for remote control assassination.




Drone assassinations violate international law
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

 
On Wednesday, December 18, activists held a vigil in front of Manhattan’s famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral, mourning 15 Yemeni wedding-goers killed on December 12, 2013 by a US drone strike. The vigil offered passersby a chance to acquire that most dangerous item: uncensored and unmanipulated knowledge.

 
The timing of the event was in part a response to the recent tragedy in Yemen, and in part a reminder of what Christians celebrate during the busiest shopping period in the corporate liturgical calendar.




The demand: stop the killings
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

 
“St. Patrick’s is chosen for the vigil,” said Nick Mottern, coordinator of KnowDrones.org, “as a reminder one week before the birth of Jesus Christ of his witness on behalf of poor and outcast people, his message of reconciliation and peace and his challenge to the religious and political establishments of his time. In this spirit, we urge Pope Francis and other religious leaders to condemn drone warfare everywhere in the world.”




Outreach…
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

 
The vigil included a large-scale model of the MQ-9 Reaper drone, the workhorse of US drone assassinations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Mottern estimates that over 5,000 people have been killed in US drone strikes since they began in 2001.




Remembering the dead: sons, daughters, mothers, fathers…
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

 
Organizations participating in the outreach effort included: the Granny Peace Brigade; Veterans for Peace; the War Resisters League, and; the World Can’t Wait.

 


View Photos From The Event…

 

In this general necessity, guilt has no place. One man can give the signal that liquidates hundreds and thousands of people, then declare himself free from all pangs of conscience, and live happily ever after.

Herbert Marcuse

 

Drone Vendors, Making A Killing by Thomas Altfather Good


War Resisters protesting drone killings.
(Photo: Ed Hedemann / WRL)

 
NEW YORK — November 24, 2013. The War Resisters League (WRL) have a message for the holiday season: drone manufacturers are making a killing.

 
On Monday 25 members of the NYC War Resisters League, Granny Peace Brigade, and other groups demonstrated outside the world headquarters of L-3 Communications,Third Avenue and 39 Street. The activists were protesting L-3′s manufacture of electronics for the Predator drones, used by President Obama, the CIA, and the Pentagon to track and kill “insurgents” — men, women, and children — in Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen.

 
The most infamous of the drone strikes was the Wech Baghtu wedding party airstrike which killed 63 people including 37 Afghan civilians, mostly women and children, and 26 insurgents on November 3, 2008. The group was celebrating a wedding at a housing complex in the village of Wech Baghtu, a Taliban stronghold in the Shah Wali Kot District of Kandahar province, Afghanistan. On November 5, 2008, Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded that President Barack Obama stop killing civilians.

 
The War Resisters are calling on Nobel laureate Obama to stop killing, period.

 
The L-3 project included LED-illuminated signs provided by the Light Brigade and projected messages by The Illuminator art collective. The WRL is well known for its use of creative visuals — one of their posters features the tagline, “More creativity, not war.”

 


Related: would-be consumers of alcohol must be 21-years-old to buy beer or liquor in New York. Recently the City Council voted to raise the minimum age to buy cigarettes. Yet, 18-year-olds can still enlist in the armed forces — and be deployed to Afghanistan. It would appear that indiscretion can be both youthful — and useful.

 

A Ruse By Any Other Name — by Thomas Altfather Good




(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 

NEW YORK — September 9, 2013. Saturday’s “Hands off Syria” protest in NYC featured signs calling for respect of international law — and opposing yet another unilateral U.S. military intervention in the Middle East.

 




A protester at Saturday’s “Hands Off Syria” rally marches down Broadway
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
Recently, President Barack Obama has been working the Hill and lobbying world leaders, looking to garner support for a U.S. military intervention in war torn Syria — in response to Syrian President Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons. But the response to Obama’s intense lobbying efforts has been overwhelmingly negative. Whatever rationale the President has offered has been met with opposition from the majority of the war weary American people who regard Syria’s troubles as “not our business” — and a fair amount of overt cynicism as well: apparently a ruse by any other name has an all too familiar odor. A “limited strike” has the potential for blossoming into a full blown conflict. And then there is the irony of a Nobel Prize winner — who just last week honored Martin Luther King, Jr. — stumping for a new war. Obama’s rhetoric hasn’t sold well and on Saturday several hundred New Yorkers took to the streets to demand that the United States maintain a “Hands Off Syria” policy.

 




Saying no to war in Syria in Arabic, Czech, Danish,
Dutch, French, German, Polish, Russian, Spanish, and Ukrainian.
(Graphic: © Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
A number of protesters at Saturday’s event compared Obama to George W. Bush. It wasn’t intended as flattery.

 




The push for punitive military intervention has a familiar ring for some
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
Obama’s history of “bipartisan” outreach to militarists in the Congress and his current lobbying for a new war have historical precedents. As far back as 1955 observers were commenting on the two party system’s willingness to overlook ostensible differences when it came to pursuing a hawkish foreign policy.


Bipartisanship in foreign policy overrides competitive group interests under the threat of international communism, and spreads to domestic policy, where the programs of the big parties become ever more undistinguishable, even in the degree of hypocrisy and in the odor of the cliches.
Herbert Marcuse, Eros And Civilization (1955)

 
And yet Obama appears to have less support for his Syrian intervention than students of history might expect. Republicans, like Tea Party Congressman Michael Grimm — who initially supported the intervention and abruptly withdrew support — appear to place a higher value on opposing any Obama policy than on promoting an aggressive foreign policy (and channeling increased profits to powerful arms vendors). The far Right’s animosity towards Obama may ultimately aid the antiwar protesters’ cause.

 




Obama: praising Martin Luther King one week, lobbying for war the next?
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 




Protesters marching down NYC’s Broadway – from Times Square to Union Square
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 




A protester’s sign lists the use of chemical weapons — by the U.S.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 


View Photos/Video Footage From The Protest

 

Remembering Viet Nam by Howard Machtinger



It’s a long way from Oslo to Syria
– and back to Saigon
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
I think it is vitally important to organize an alternative campaign to the 13-year-long commemoration of the Viet Nam war now being promoted by the Department of Defense, with a budget of $65,000,000. I am pleased to be working with Veterans for Peace (VFP) — of which I am an associate member — on this project. This link http://www.ncveteransforpeace.org/memorial/ will take you to an Open Letter I hope you will sign in support of the campaign. It explains the background of the DoD initiative, and suggests some ideas for getting started.


The opposition to war and military intervention strikes at the roots: it rebels against those who economic and political dominion depends on the continued (and enlarged) reproduction of the military establishment, its “multipliers,” and the policies which necessitate this reproduction. These interests are not hard to identify, and the war against them does not require missiles, bombs and napalm. But it does require something that is much harder to produce — the spread of uncensored and unmanipulated knowledge.

Herbert Marcuse, Eros And Civilization

At this point, I see our role as informing and suggesting. We hope that people will connect with the campaign in whatever ways make sense in their own local and work contexts. It would be great if communication and coordination could be created between those interested in working on a counter-commemoration, and we (and VFP) are prepared to help move this forward. A Working Group has been created within Veterans for Peace. We are confident that people’s creativity and initiatives will come into play, however and in whatever ways they want to connect directly to our work.

 
You are welcome, of course, to generate your own ideas, and we hope you will want to work together with us on this campaign! We would like you to circulate the letter for more signatures and help formally launch the alternative commemoration.

 

In a few weeks we will also be launching a petition campaign on the US government web site. This petition will be shorter and aimed at a broader audience. To get a response from the Obama Administration, we need 100,000 signatures in a month.

 
Howard Machtinger
Associate Member
Veterans For Peace
hm@nextleftnotes.net


[T]he established society seems to be apprehensive of the subversive contents of memory.

Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man

A Million Hoodies, 100 Cities, And A Cry For Justice by Thomas Altfather Good




On the steps of Staten Island’s Borough Hall: a cry for justice
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 

NEW YORK — July 20, 2013. Standing together in the midday sun on a hot July Saturday, members of Staten Island’s diverse progressive community cried out for justice: justice for Trayvon Martin; justice for the Martin Family; justice for all of the children – and their parents – who have suffered as a result of gun violence, and lastly; justice for George Zimmerman who was not afforded an opportunity to atone for his actions.

 
They were not alone. Across the harbor — at One Police Plaza in lower Manhattan — and across the country, progressives held rallies. The “Justice for Trayvon Martin” rallies were part of a “National Day of Action in 100 Cities” called by Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. The “100 City” rallies were organized locally by NAN and other groups including the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, the NAACP, and MoveOn.




At Police Plaza: a call to “Boycott Florida”
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

 
The protesters were clear in their single demand: they called on Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice to file charges against George Zimmerman for the racial profiling and killing of Trayvon Martin. Civil Rights organizations backing the rallies argued that Zimmerman violated Martin’s civil rights when the neighborhood watch captain shot and killed the unarmed teen. A secondary demand, voiced at many rallies, was a call to the Obama Administration to overturn the Stand Your Ground law, in Florida and across the U.S. This is the law that made Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict possible. When legal scholars argued, on television and in print, that the prosecution’s case was weak, Civil Rights advocates responded by pointing out that Zimmerman was ordered to stand down by police and failed to do so. The NAACP and others have argued that racism informed the verdict and if the situation was reversed the outcome would have been different.

 
NLN had team coverage of the rallies: Bud Korotzer covered One Police Plaza and Thomas Altfather Good was at the Staten Island protest. Here are some images from the events:

 
Staten Island
 




Speaking out on Staten Island
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 




On the steps of Borough Hall
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 




Spreading the word…
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 




Bobby Digi of Island Voice calls for justice
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 




City Council member Debi Rose (l) and Rev. Kathlyn Barrett-Layne (r)
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 




Peace Action’s Sally Jones
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 

 

One Police Plaza
 




The jury of six had one African American member
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

 




Reverend Al Sharpton speaking at “1PP”
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

 




Members of Trayvon Martin’s family at the rally
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

 




Hazel Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

 




Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY 13)
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

 




“We are all Trayvon Martin”
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

 




Outside 1PP…
(Photo: Bud Korotzer / NLN)

 

Click HERE To View All Of The Photos and a Video From The Staten Island Protest…

 
Bud and Fran Korotzer contributed reporting to this article.

St. Louis Can’t Survive — On $7.35 by Jason Sibert


(Photo: St. Louis Can’t Survice On $7.35)

 
ST. LOUIS — May 13, 2013. Fast food workers in St. Louis, Mo. took to the streets in a strike against 30 different fast food chains last week, according to St. Louis Can’t Survive on $7.35 An Hour Communicator Shannon Garth-Rhodes.

 
The strike, which included demonstrations on the streets of the city, lasted for two days – May 8 and May 9. One-hundred different workers joined the strike against 100 different fast food locations, but the strike was merely a portion of a campaign to gain formal union representation for local fast food workers. Missouri’s minimum wage is currently at the federal minimum which is 7.35 dollars an hour. Similar campaigns are underway in New York City and Chicago. The Chicago campaign included both fast food and retail workers.

 
St. Louis fast food workers’ goal is to attain a living wage relative to the cost of living in St. Louis which Garth-Rhodes said is 15 dollars an hour. She also said that many fast food workers rely on government programs such as welfare checks, local health clinics, food stamps and the earned income tax credit to survive. The fast food industry is a billion dollar industry and its’ payroll in only 300,000 dollars, according to Garth-Rhodes.

 
St. Louis Can’t Survive on $7.35 an Hour Community Director Martin Rafanan used to be the director of at Gateway 180, a shelter for homeless women and their families in St. Louis. Many of the people who stayed in the shelter worked in fast food or retail. He said that the government is providing subsides for fast food corporations through social welfare programs and that if workers could attain a living wage more of their income would circulate into local business and not back into the profits of huge corporations.

 
“These jobs can be middle-class jobs,” Rafanan said. “And they’re not jobs that are going to China.”

 
St. Louis Can’t Survive on $7.35 an Hour partnered with local clergy and organizations like Jobs with Justice on the campaign in the effort. The St. Louis Organizing Committee, an organization which is an outgrowth of St. Louis Can’t Survive on $7.35 an hour, hopes to act as the union for fast food workers. Although the fast food chains have yet to meet with the workers on a union, Garth-Rhodes and Rafanan said the effort will be ongoing. Rafanan said that no single worker lost their job in the strike and that clergy and community activists accompanied the workers back to their restaurants to show support.

 

New At NLN Video: May Day 2013


 
NEW YORK — May 1, 2013. Veteran activists Bernadette Evangelist and Bud Korotzer photographed two marches on May Day, capturing the moment, New York Style. The images chronicle the struggles to save the US Postal Service – and to secure basic human rights for ALL immigrants.

Click HERE to watch the video.

Delivering For America: Unions Work To Save The Postal Service by Thomas Altfather Good




Letter carriers blast Postmaster Donahoe’s plan to cut six-day mail delivery.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 

NEW YORK — If you received a greeting card over the Passover-Easter holiday thank a letter carrier – it may be your last opportunity to do so.




Letter carriers “Delivering For America.”
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
It’s been all over the news: the U.S. Postal Service is drowning in red ink and only drastic cuts can save it. Even the Postmaster General, Patrick Donahoe, is getting into the act, announcing that six-day mail delivery will end in August. But a growing number of voices are saying that, drastically cutting services is not the answer. On Sunday, March 24, 3000 letter carriers and their supporters held a rally in midtown to raise objections and consciousness. They were joined by labor leaders and elected officials.




Poughkeepsie letter carriers standing with Branch 36 (NYC).
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
The U.S. Postal Service is in fact facing serious fiscal problems. But postal union members, and many other outside observers, feel the “crisis” is artificial, a contrivance designed to further privatization — and union busting.

 
The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA), H.R. 6407, was signed into law by George W. Bush. The law requires the USPS to fund the present value of future health care benefit payments to retirees, 75 years into the future, and to complete this pre-payment within 10 years. According to Wikipedia this is “a requirement to which no other government organization is subject. Thus, in addition to the weak economy and the diversion of mail to electronic means, the mandates of PAEA have had a considerable impact on Postal Service finances. In 2012, the USPS had the third year in a order of losses from operations, which amounted to $4.8 billion.”




Using his voice to raise consciousness:
a member of NALC Branch 36.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
Charlie Heege, president of Branch 36 of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), expressed the feelings of many of the protesters when he said, “Dismantling our post service by closing and selling off our neighborhood post offices is wrong for all New Yorkers.”




Charlie Heege (right), vice president of Branch 36.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
The strategy Postmaster General Partrick R. Donahoe advocates is one of cutting services — starting with six-day mail delivery — and closing post offices. Heege and others feel that six-day mail delivery is essential to small businesses and to seniors who don’t have internet access or who have mail-order prescription plans. The working poor would also be adversely affected as internet access is a luxury that some cannot afford. In addition, many neighborhoods rely on the presence of letter carriers, who provide a sense of security due in part to their knowledge of the normal goings-on. The closure of post offices is also problematic as the bulk of these closures (or downsizings) target low income neighborhoods or rural areas. Heege and his NALC faithful were joined in the Manhattan rally by a large number of postal clerks, members of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) who recognize that any service cutbacks or post office closures will cost jobs.




Cutbacks and closures will cost jobs — union jobs.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
Speaking at the rally, Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, told the letter carriers and APWU clerks that other New York unions supported their efforts to save the Postal Service — and regarded the cutbacks and closures as part of a broader union-busting and privatization trend.

 
“Your two and a half million brothers and sisters of the New York State AFL-CIO are in this fight with you,” Cilento said.

 
Congressional Rep Grace Meng, (NY – 6 CD) spoke at the rally — amid the din of honking horns.




Rep. Grace Meng speaking at the rally.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
“All those people, as you know, are honking in support of you and in support of six-day service,” Meng told the crowd.

 
Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY – 10 CD) said that he will stand against what he regards as an anti-labor lobby led by Republicans.




Rep. Jerrold Nadler speaking at the rally.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
“We’re wise to their tricks. The labor movement is wise to their tricks … we will stop them, we will protect six-day mail service, we will protect the post office, we will protect all the jobs, and we will repeal the mandate for 75 years pre-funding of pensions because we need the pensions. We need the pensions. And we need decent financing for the pensions but we won’t let them use the pension system as an excuse to destroy unions, to destroy the federal services, to destroy
your jobs — or any jobs,” Nadler said.




Assembly Member Richard Gottfried.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

Assembly Member Richard Gottfried (75th AD) said that cutting public services, not police or military, helped only FedEx, UPS, and their allies in the drive for privatization of the Postal Service.

 
“There are a lot of people in politics today who are detertmined to cut back on public services, to cut back on everything that is funded by the government except maybe for the police and military,” he said.

 
The rich will not be affected, according to Gottfriend, because, “…you know, UPS and Fedex are not going to cut back, so the people with the money are going to keep getting all the services that they can pay for. It’s working people, and the people who provide the services for working people, who are going to get cut back and ground down.”

 
Victoria Pannell, a 13-year-old Activist from Harlem, said that, “Most of the post offices that were being considered to close were located in rural areas where poverty rates are higher than the national average. Once again, the poorest of the poor will suffer the most.”

 
The cutbacks and closures will not only hurt the poor, but will harm many other working people, according to George Mangold, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers.




NALC president George Mangold.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 

 
“When you start dealing in the private sector you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of jobs — in the printing industry, in the mailing industries, in all the other industries combined. This would be a catastrophic loss, nationwide,” said Mangold.




Bill de Blasio, NYC Public Advocate.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
NYC public advocate Bill de Blasio sees a connection between cutbacks and unemployment.

 
“One of the reasons we have the unemployment we have in this country is because somehow it became okay for all the levels of government, and all the public services, to cut back workers, and now look what it’s done to us as a country,” de Blasio said.




NYMAPU president Jonathan Smith.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
Jonathan Smith, President of the New York Metro Area Postal Union (NYMAPU – the largest APWU local in the U.S.) said that Congress stole money for war, and is now looking to close post offices in poor areas — by design.

 
“This is a community issue, this is a moral issue. Sometime the fight comes down to right and wrong. And the postal service works, and it was working until Congress decided to steal to supply war. Let’s tell the truth. And it’s mighty funny that all the post offices that they want to close are in the poorest communities. That’s not by accident,” Smith said.




Click HERE to view the video.

 
If the labor leaders and politicians’ forecasts are accurate next year’s Passover-Easter cards may have to be sent electronically to some areas. If the recipient doesn’t have internet access, they’ll be out of luck. And their letter carrier or postal clerk may be out of a job.

 


Click Here to View Photo Gallery

 

Walking For A New Spring by Thomas Altfather Good




A Buddhist “Peace Walker”, pauses to remember the dead.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — March 16, 2013. Snow fell gently, more like ashes than flakes, on the column of Buddhist “Peace Walkers” as they made their way through Oakwood Beach, New Dorp Beach, and on to Midland Beach, where Midland Avenue Relief Organization organizer Aiman Youssef told the group that, “God runs this place.”




A “Peace Walker” observed that Sandy’s damage was “just like the Tsunami in Japan.”
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
The group of nine “Peace Walkers” arrived in Staten Island’s battered Oakwood Beach section on Saturday morning. The Buddhist contingent was in the middle of a long walk — part of their annual “Walk For A New Spring” — making their way from Leverett, Massachusetts to Washington, D.C. Their mission: to underscore the need to prevent any future Fukushimas by ending reliance on nuclear power, to prevent any future Hiroshimas by eliminating nuclear weapons, and to bring about world peace by public acts affirming nonviolence. The group was met in Staten Island by members of Peace Action, themselves veteran marchers in the cause of peace.




Marching past a church, knocked off its foundation by Sandy’s storm surge.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
From the website (www.newenglandpeacepagoda.org):

 
The Peace Walks are a direct form of non-violent action. Each walk has its own theme but the overarching goal remains the same — a world free of nuclear weapons, a world with more sustainability and less violence.

 
The walks are anywhere from a week to a year long going through communities affected by the nuclear industry and war and working to bring them together through potlucks and educational meetings. Each night the walk stops at their stay place; it could be a community center, a church, or a personal home. The walk holds discussion circles to share the work they have done and to learn more about the local community.

 
The New England Peace Pagoda and affiliates have walked all around the world attempting to create spaces for dialogue and non-violent action.




The wetlands in Oakwood Beach are a reminder that Nature will always
seek to reclaim what humans have borrowed.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
The Peace Walkers and Peace Action activists started their Staten Island tour with a walk down Oakwood’s devastated Fox Beach Avenue. The group stopped to talk with relief workers from Guyon Rescue, a volunteer group working out of a trailer. The converted moving van fronted the marshland that separates the two forks of Oakwood Beach. The twin forks were home to many Islanders who now want to be bought out by the government so that the battered homes can be levelled and the land returned to its natural state, providing a barrier between the sea and the community.




Guyon Rescue is one of several ad hoc groups helping Sandy survivors.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
Finishing the first loop of their journey, the marchers turned north and made their way to Cedar Grove, the hardest hit section of New Dorp Beach. As the column chanted and drummed along the shattered street a lone police van followed at a distance. The marchers stopped for lunch at the Cedar Grove Community Hub, overseen by Donna Graziano. Volunteers from the Hub, surrounded by stacks of donated supplies, chatted with the marchers, posed for pictures, and served a hot lunch. Unphased by the visitors, locals wandered in and out of the tent, grabbing some food before returning to work on their homes. To the east, on the beach itself, a number of fallen trees were visible. This is a source of controversy — the Parks Department insists they are clearing only “dead trees” but one Islander videotaped contractors felling what appear to be intact trees.

 
“It’s stupid,” one resident said. “The trees are all we have to stop the water.”




Activists from Peace Action walked with the Buddhists.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
After lunch the column made its way to Midland Beach, stopping at various points along the way to pray outside shattered homes — and honor the dead.




A “red-tagged” home — deemed beyond repair by the NYC buildings department.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
Near the end of the tour, as a light snow began to fall, the column stopped at the Midland Avenue Neighborhood Relief tent, run by 42-year-old Syrian-American Aiman Youssef. Youssef and the marchers read the names of those who perished in the storm — the “official” list. Youssef insists there are many more victims who were never identified. As the group chatted, a truck unloaded pallets of Gerolsteiner mineral water, a donation from a beverage distributor in New Jersey.




Allan Eaton came from Los Angeles to help the Staten Island relief effort.
He works at the Cedar Grove Community Hub.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
As the marchers prepared to leave Youssef played a recording of the Our Father, sung in Aramaic, the language of Christ. The Buddhists bowed their heads reverently as neighborhood residents looked on. The song over, the group departed. Youssef hugged some of the marchers and said, “God runs this place…this is all we have.”




Aiman Youssef (l) runs the Midland Avenue Neighborhood Relief — with some help from God.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
In late November of 2012, Mayor Bloomberg tried to shutter Youssef’s relief operation — seeking to evict the refugee. Youssef, whose home was destroyed by Sandy — red-tagged by the Buildings Department, and demolished by the City — persevered and continues to offer aid to his community.




All that remains of one severely damaged home in Cedar Grove is a pile of shingles.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
Late in the afternoon, the column wound its way across the Island, towards the Buddhist Temple in Port Richmond. Along the way one of the Buddhists said he knew that Staten Island had been badly damaged by the hurricane. “But I didn’t know how bad it really was,” he said.




Members of the Buddhist contingent bow outside St. Margaret Mary’s church in Midland Beach.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
Another man, a resident of Osaka, Japan, who had volunteered at Fukushima, said, “This damage, is just like the Tsunami in Japan.”




The owner of Drink King, a New Jersey-based beverage distributor,
delivers mineral water to Youssef’s community “hub”.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
As the marchers made their way north the snow flakes fell, small and light, they drifted down upon the column, ashes falling and disintegrating as they landed.




(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 


View Photos/Videos From The Walk…

 

Bloomberg Casts A Shadow On Groundhog Day by Thomas Altfather Good




A member of ATU Local 1181 outside the Staten Island Zoo
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — February 2, 2013. “Staten Island Chuck” is the local zoo’s most famous resident, weather forecaster, and optimistic prognosticator — but this year, even though Chuck predicted an early Spring, there was a shadow cast on Groundhog Day.

 




CWA’s Steve Lawton joined the picket
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been battling the United Federation of Teachers for most of his tenure, currently on the issue of teacher evaluations. Recently the mayor announced his intention to seek competitive bids for school bus contracts as a cost cutting measure — a move Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union responded to by calling a strike. The ATU represents drivers and matrons currently employed by bus companies serving NYC’s Department of Education. The disruption in service angered some parents who formed a group called Parents In Support of Transportation or “PIST.” Bloomberg reacted to the strike and the frustrated parents — including the PIST members who support the strikers — by hiring replacement workers, exacerbating the conflict.

 




An ATU driver (l) is joined by CWA shop steward — and parent — Sam Cocozza
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
Bloomberg, the self-proclaimed education mayor, is now engaged in a two front struggle with labor: battling UFT educators on the issue of what constitutes a fair evaluation system, and the ATU on the issue of “competitive bids” which some labor activists regard as an attempt to award contracts to companies that use non-union labor.

 




A striking driver holds vigil outside the zoo.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
On Saturday, Groundhog Day, the Staten Island Zoo held its annual prognostication event. Staten Island Chuck, the resident groundhog and meteorologist, was on hand to perform his customary role of predicting when Spring will arrive. But Mayor Bloomberg, who traditionally takes part in the ceremony, was not present. In 2009, Chuck bit Bloomberg after the mayor grabbed the groundhog, attempting to pull the animal out of its lair. The mayor’s press office offered no explanation for his absence this year but Bloomberg’s post-bite incident, specially made, kevlar gloves were wielded by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Chuck did not see his shadow, thus predicting an early Spring. But a short distance away, just outside the zoo’s main gate, the missing mayor’s shadow was clearly visible.

 




A youngster urges Bloomberg to settle the dispute.
(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
Over a hundred members of ATU Local 1181 picketed the event, braving frigid temperatures and a biting wind. Several of the strikers told this reporter that they want to be back at work — and to know that their jobs are safe. “I miss my children,” one matron said.

 




(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 
The ATU members were joined on the picket line by a number of teachers, active and retired, and members of the Communications Workers of America, Local 1102.

 




(Photo: Thomas Altfather Good / NLN)

 


Click HERE to View Photos From The Event