By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)
During a lengthy, members-only meeting on Capitol Hill on January 19, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) discussed various options to protest the current President of the United States. Their protest plans centered around the annual State of the Union address.
President Donald Trump’s second State of the Union address is scheduled for January 30.
The meeting the CBC held to talk over State of the Union protest plans occurred only hours after 66 members of the House voted to act on impeaching the President. That effort was led once again by Black Caucus member Rep. Al Green (D-Texas). Rep. Green’s second impeachment try failed 355-66. Three Democrats voted “present.”
Weeks after Donald Trump reportedly called Haiti, El Salvador and the continent of Africa “shithole countries” during a meeting on immigration with members of Congress in the Oval Office, many members have had it.
CBC members who attended the discussion confirmed that several options of protesting President Trump were discussed including walking out, wearing African themed garb and even not showing up to the State of the Union at all. The more vocal members included Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), Greg Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.).
During an interview with Buzzfeed on January 17, days before the meeting, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) mentioned the CBC might hold its own State of the Union.
“We will…discuss how we want to respond to the president’s State of the Union. We could go, we could go and walk out, we could go and hold up fists…or we could not go, or we could hold our own ‘State of the Union,’” Richmond said.
A few Black Caucus members have already stated that they will not attend the president’s State of the Union address. They include Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.).
Some CBC members are concerned about Congress’ largest caucus not being unified in protest, whatever form the protest may take. Other members wanted to make sure serious issues are highlighted and expressed concerns about the protest taking attention away from serious policy discussion. But in the age of former reality TV star turned President Donald Trump, others say that the best response is to fight fire with fire.
With protests in the air and in the streets around the first anniversary of the start of the Trump presidency, the timing of any protest the CBC may undertake on the night of the State of the Union is likely to receive serious media attention.
Regarding Rep. Green’s impeachment attempts, which House leadership is in opposition of, Green pointed out that Trump, “has by his statements brought the high office of president of the United States in contempt, ridicule, disgrace and disrepute; has sown discord among the people of the United States; has demonstrated that he is unfit to be president; and has betrayed his trust as president of the United States to the manifest injury of the people of the United States and has committed a high misdemeanor in office.” Rep. Green’s form of protest was a legislative one. On the night of the State of the Union, we are likely to see a more theatrical display. Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist, political analyst and contributor to the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com. She can be reached by email at LBurke007@gmail.com and on Twitter at @LVBurke.
By: Joe Sandler Clarke and Ed Pilkington, Guardian
UN Peacekeepers in Haiti
The United Nations uncovered serious sanitation failures in its Haiti peacekeeping mission just a month after a deadly cholera outbreak erupted in the country, killing thousands, a leaked report has revealed. The UN has consistently refused to accept that it is responsible for compensating victims of the disaster. But the report, which was commissioned a month into the cholera crisis in November 2010, found a series of alarming problems in several UN peacekeeping bases including sewage being dumped in the open as well as a lack of toilets and soap.
The authors of the review alerted the UN leadership that the failure to dispose of sewage safely at a time when the cholera epidemic was raging “will potentially damage the reputation of the mission”.
They also warned that the way the UN stabilisation mission in Haiti (Minustah) had managed waste disposal “and the poor oversight of contractors carrying out this work has left the mission vulnerable to allegations of disease propagation and environmental contamination”.
The existence of the internal UN review, which has been seen by the Guardian, will add to pressure on the world body to face up to the role it played as the source of the cholera epidemic. The UN is currently facing a lawsuit from 1,500 Haitians who blame the world organisation for negligently allowing peacekeepers from Nepal to carry the disease into the country, months after Haiti was devastated by an earthquake.
Until the epidemic started in October 2010, Haiti had been free of cholera for at least 150 years. Mounting evidence suggests that the Asian strain of cholera was unwittingly imported by the peacekeepers from Nepal when they were relocated to Haiti to help with emergency work in the aftermath of the earthquake.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege that the UN failed to screen peacekeepers from Nepal for cholera, where the disease is common, and that a private contractor hired by the UN failed to ensure sanitary conditions and adequate infrastructure at the UN military camp in Mirebalais. They allege that this led to sewage and other waste being pumped straight into the Meille river, a tributary of Haiti’s biggest river, the Artibonite.
Despite clear evidence, the UN continues to refuse to accept any responsibility for the disaster, claiming immunity from any claims for compensation. The former head of Minustah, Edmond Mulet, has repeatedly stated that UN peacekeepers were not responsible for the outbreak.
The UN’s controversial position looks increasingly awkward now that the world body’s own internal review exposing dire sanitation problems at its camps has come to light. In the leaked report, UN researchers led by the former chief of special support services at the department of field support, Melva Crouch, gave their immediate assessment of the state of sanitation in the peacekeeping bases in Haiti just weeks after the epidemic broke out.
In the most devastating finding, Crouch’s team found that a month after the cholera outbreak, more than one in 10 of the UN camps were still disposing of sewage – known as “black water” – “directly into local environment”. In addition, more than seven in 10 of the camps disposed of their “grey water” – that is water from showers and kitchens – into the “local environment”.
Some camps were found to have open drains with “grey water” running right through them, while several camps flooded due to “inadequate drainage after rains”. “Most disposal sites” where private contractors were paid by the UN to take away the sewage and dirty water from the camps were found to be “too close to water sources and/or population centres and without adequate fencing”.
To add insult to injury, the leaked review, titled the Minustah Environmental Health Assessment Report, notes that the UN mission owned five self-contained waste-water treatment plants that were on site in Haiti and could have been used to make sure the peacekeepers’ camps were sanitary and safe. Two of them were found to be faulty, and as for the other three “the mission had intended to install these plants in the current financial year, however due to competing priorities none of them have yet been installed”.
A study by Médecins sans Frontières published this month in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases found that the official count of about 9,000 deaths from Haiti’s cholera epidemic is likely to be a gross understatement. The researchers pointed out that most of the official fatalities were recorded through hospitals and medical centers, thus ignoring thousands of deaths that occurred in rural areas miles away from any formal medical provision.
In March, the Guardian revealed that the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, had been personally chastised by UN’s own human rights experts for the organisation’s failure to compensate Haitian victims of the cholera outbreak.
In a letter addressed to Ban, five special rapporteurs said the UN’s handling of the cholera epidemic “undermines the reputation of the United Nations, calls into question the ethical framework within which its peace-keeping forces operate, and challenges the credibility of the organization as an entity that respects human rights”.
The leaked report reveals the relatively tiny amount of money the UN could have spent to clean up its camps and prevent sewage disposal into the river. The officials estimated that an investment of just $3.15m would have covered most of the sanitation issues they had identified.
Now that cholera has taken hold in Haiti, a program to eradicate the disease is estimated to cost well over $2bn.