Aretha in 1973; pic by AP.

by The Spark

Tributes are pouring in for the late legendary singer Aretha Franklin. Many certainly came from those in official positions and celebrities, but most came from people she grew up with and from all of the neighborhoods around the country. The strength of people’s feelings stems from the fact Aretha expressed, not only through her music but also through what she stood for politically, their feelings at a time of engagement and determination to fight for social change in the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

Aretha’s first hit single, her remake of Otis Redding’s song, “Respect,” hit the charts almost simultaneously with the eruption of the urban rebellion that occurred in Detroit in 1967. Like several of her records, “Respect”became an anthem, for black people and for women. Aretha transformed the point of view of Redding’s lyrics about a man expecting respect from his wife to that of a woman demanding respect from her man. Aretha’s spelling out of “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” and insistent phrases like “Give me my propers!” reflected women’s growing militancy and, beyond it, the attitudes of the larger community demanding change.

Similarly, her hit “Think!,” was direct and to the point “You’d better think, about what you’re trying to do to me,” ending in a chorus of  Read the rest of this entry »

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Below is a statement by Dr Swee Ang, who was the medical doctor on the al-Awda, the freedom flotilla ship delivering medical supplies to the besieged people of Gaza; among those assaulted and tasered was Mike Treen, the national director of Unite trade union in NZ and a veteran activist in progressive causes from opposition to the Vietnam War to anti-apartheid activities and support for the Palestinian cause.

The statement, made on August 4, has appeared in a number of places; we took it from the blog of veteran British anti-imperialist and socialist activist Tony Greenstein.  We’ve added subheads to break up the text a bit more.

by Dr Swee Ang

The last leg of the journey of al-Awda (the boat of return) was scheduled to reach Gaza on 29 July 2018. We were on target to reach Gaza that evening. There are 22 on board including crew with USD15,000 of antibiotics and bandages for Gaza. At 12.31 pm we received a missed call from a number beginning with +81… Mikkel was steering the boat at that time. The phone rang again with the message that we were trespassing into Israeli waters. Mikkel replied that we were in International waters and had right of innocent passage according to maritime laws. The accusation of trespassing was repeated again and again with Mikkel repeating the message that we were sailing in international waters. This carried on for about half an hour, while Awda was 42 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza.

Prior to the beginning of this last leg, we had spent 2 days learning non-violent actions and had prepared ourselves in anticipation of Israeli invasion of our boat. Vulnerable individuals especially those with medical conditions were to sit at the rear of the top deck with their hands on the deck table. The leader of this group was Gerd, a 75 year old elite Norwegian athlete and she had the help of Lucia a Spanish nurse in her group.

The people who were to provide non-violent barrier to the Israelis coming on deck and taking over the boat formed 3 rows – two rows of threes and the third row of 2 persons blocking the wheel house door to protect the wheel house for as long as possible. There were runners between the wheel house and the rear of the deck. The leader of the boat Zohar and I were at the two ends of the toilets corridor where we looked out at the horizon and inform all of any sightings of armed boats. I laughed at Zohar and said we are the Toilet Brigade, but I think Zohar did not find it very funny. It was probably bad taste under the circumstances. I also would be able to help as a runner and will have accessibility to all parts of the deck in view of being the doctor on board.

The attack begins

Soon we saw at least three large Israeli warships on the horizon with 5 or more speed boats (zodiacs) zooming towards us. As the Zodiacs approached I saw that they carried soldiers with machine guns and there was on board the boats large machine guns mounted on a stand pointing at our boat. From my lookout point the first Israeli soldier climbed on board to the cabin level and climbed up the boat ladder to the top deck. His face was masked with a white cloth and following him were many others, all masked. They were all armed with machine guns and small cameras on their chests.

Tasered

They immediately made to the wheel house overcoming the first row by twisting the arms of the participants, lifting Sarah up and throwing her away.  Joergen the chef was large to be manhandled so he was tasered before being Read the rest of this entry »

Kia ora koutou,

Fourteen quarry workers who took limited strike action last week in pursuit of pay parity with other workers in the industry have been locked out by their boss until Sunday, 12th August. You can support the locked out workers by donating to their hardship fund. Please follow the link here: https://together.nationbuilder.com/atlaslockout

For background, see here: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1808/S00079/quarry-owner-operator-locks-workers-out-of-work.htm

In solidarity – I roto i te kotahitanga

Malcolm Deans
Secretary, Unions Otago

Redline note: There’s a useful/informative article sympathetic to the workers in the Northern Advocate; see here.

by Don Franks

Former National leader Don Brash, invited to address a Massey university student club, was stopped by vice-chancellor Jan Thomas.  She canned the event after club members voiced concerns about safety. The university considered putting on extra security, then decided the risk of harm to students, staff and the public was too high.

Really?

Were anti-Brash protesters going to rock up with guns? Read the rest of this entry »

by The Spark

Every day, Trump hogs the spot light.  He uses summits to attack US allies, like Canada and NATO.  He takes aim at women leaders, insulting British prime minister Theresa May and German chancellor Angela Merkel.  He walks in front of the elderly Queen of England, almost tripping her up.

Then he rubs it in.  He pretends to be best buddies with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

The news media goes crazy.  “This is not a normal president” and “We’ve never had a president like this before,” they say.

That’s music to Trump’s ears.  He is playing a game to keep his base behind him.  He doesn’t mind shocking the others to do that.  It reinforces his play to look ‘tough’.

Trump poses as the champion of the Read the rest of this entry »

The interview below was conducted with members of the rank-and-file Health Sector Workers Network who belong to the nurses’ union (the NZNO).

Philip Ferguson: What have been the key issues in the nurses’ dispute with the DHBs?

Health Sector Workers Network actvists: They really are two-fold.

There are the issues around safe staffing, which with chronic staff shortages, have seen Nurses, Midwives and HCAs working in dangerously unsafe working environments.  In many worksites, particularly the Emergency Departments and Mental Health facilities, there are daily incidents of verbal and physical abuse and assault of staff.

The ability to give excellent patient care without the need for care rationing will only be possible with more staff and clear patient-staff ratios.

Pay equity is the other important issue that members are passionate about.  The need to have remunerations that reflect skills and responsibilities is essential.  We need staff retention and the ability to attract new people to the profession.  If this doesn’t occur, Nurses, Midwives and HCAs will look elsewhere for better wages and conditions, like jumping the ditch to Australia.  Already nurses are leaving on an almost daily basis, resulting in chronic staff shortages and if these issues aren’t addressed it will only get worse.

PF: How successful has the industrial action been?

HSWN: There have been mixed feelings on the success of the strike action.  Due to this dispute being Read the rest of this entry »

Mike Treen, a long time activist and leader of Unite union, was taking part in a flotilla loaded with medicines for the people of Gaza under a ten year blockade. Yesterday he was  was tasered, kidnapped and injured by Israeli Occupation forces who stormed the boat. He is being held in Israel in a prison.

Mike Treen

Unite trade union national director and veteran socialist activist Mike Treen

Kia Ora Gaza, the solidarity group which arranged Mike’s participation in the flotilla, is calling on the government to condemn the Israeli government for its actions. Winston Peters has been acting PM and is a supporter of Israel. From midnight today Jacinda Ardern resumes her role as PM. Will she prove to be less mute and disgraceful than Peters? We think not.

Below are reports from Kia Ora Gaza on Mike’s situation and the fate of the flotilla to Gaza:

Mike Treen repeatedly tasered by Israeli Occupation Forces, other injured and hospitalised

UPDATE (11:48am 31st July NZ time)   

We have now received a direct report from Mike in Givon Prison.

He was tasered repeatedly by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) while in the wheelhouse of the Al Awda and subsequently tightly handcuffed. He received injuries to his face and head and was bleeding but is now recovering.

Of Mike’s fellow flotilla members one was tasered in the head, a 69-year-old female surgeon received a head injury and a senior Canadian passenger received a foot injury and had to be treated in hospital.

The IOF takeover of the boat conducted by armed and masked soldiers was clearly violent with many passengers and crew assaulted, roughly handled and hit. 

Local civil rights lawyers met with all those detained a few hours ago. All their belongings, including their passports have been seized and not returned, despite promises they would if they co-operated.

Despite KiaOra Gaza contacting the New Zealand Hon. Consul in Tel Aviv requesting assistance we are unaware of any contact, visit or action from the New Zealand Government or its representatives to assist.

(update at 4pm Monday 31st July – The Honorary Consul has now been to see Mike. Winston Peters has responded to the letters sent to him but the Government has taken no specific action apart from alerting the Cairo embassy to Mike’s situation).

The next flotilla boat, the “Freedom” continues to approach Gaza.

Previous report (6.15am 31st July NZ time)

Eyewitnesses report that Unite Union leader Mike Treen’s boat was hijacked in a violent raid and that he and the rest of the crew are being held in Givon prison, near Tel Aviv.