Friendly Help — J. Lester Feder at BuzzFeed has the story on Quakers helping gay Ugandans.
A group of American Quakers say they are offering a way out for some desperate Ugandans fleeing the country’s new Anti-Homosexuality Act.
This group, based in Olympia, Wash., calls its project the Friends New Underground Railroad (FNUR) because it sees itself as following in the footsteps of the Quakers who helped bring slaves out of the American South before the Civil War. Working with fewer than 10 Ugandan “conductors,” they report having funded passage out of the country for 107 people with grants ranging from $52-$185. The refugees mostly travel in small groups on back roads and make their way to safe houses in neighboring countries. FNUR says they know of at least 12 people who have gone on to third countries like South Africa and Sweden, and they have received unconfirmed reports that around 30 have reached Europe.
The security precautions they say they take makes their work impossible to verify. The identities and locations of the conductors are kept secret even from one another. FNUR won’t identify any of the people they’ve evacuated because they say they don’t yet feel secure in their new location, though they say they financed the escape of 22 students in a Catholic seminary accused of homosexuality in the eastern town of Jinja whose case made headlines abroad. They won’t say which countries people escape to, who aids them once they exit Uganda, or how those who have gone onto Europe have secured the visas that other refugees can spend years waiting for because they fear the escape routes being shut off. One of the three co-organizers — the only one of the group with experience in international relief work — won’t be publicly identified by his real name, saying “we don’t want to put anybody in danger.” Instead he goes by Levi Coffin II, adopting the name of one of the Quakers who was a leader in the original Underground Railroad.
“We got into this because we were asked,” Coffin said in a phone interview from Washington state. The person who became Conductor Number One was a Ugandan acquaintance who asked for support when a group of LGBT people asked him to help get them out of the country. “Quakers have a long tradition of this kind of work… This is work that we were both literally and figuratively called to do.”
If their account is accurate, it is a remarkable feat for a handful of individuals with very little experience in international aid. (Their project was adopted by their congregation, the Olympia Friends Meeting, and has since teamed up with another similar effort and other Quaker meetings. It also was just endorsed by the national Unitarian Universalist Association.) Most Ugandan activists and international human rights groups are discouraging LGBT Ugandans from fleeing, since they largely go to Kenya and wind up in enormous refugee camps that are often just as dangerous for LGBT people as Uganda itself. Those lucky enough to be identified as candidates for resettlement abroad can spend months or even years waiting for a plane ticket.
HT to Julie.
An Agenda for 2014 — John Nichols at The Nation looks at what Elizabeth Warren is telling Democrats to run on this year.
Elizabeth Warren says she is not running for president in 2016—despite the enthusiastic “Run, Liz, Run” chanting that erupted when the senator from Massachusetts took the stage at this year’s Netroots Nation conference. But Warren came to Detroit with the platform on which Democrats should be running in 2016.
And in 2014.
Warren is frequently described as a populist. And she can certainly frame her message in populist terms, as was well illustrated by the strongest statement of her Friday Netroots Nation address: “A kid gets caught with a few ounces of pot and goes to jail, but a big bank launders drug money and no one gets arrested. The game is rigged.”
But as the Rev. William Barber, of North Carolina’s “Moral Mondays” movement, reminded the conference in a Thursday evening keynote address, populism is not an ideology or a program unto itself. Populism can go left or go right. Populism can be cogent or crude. What matters is the vision that underpins a populist appeal.
What Elizabeth Warren brought to the Netroots Nation gathering was a progressive vision that is of the moment—a vision rooted in the understandings that have been established in the years since the “Republican wave” election of 2010. As Republicans in Congress practiced obstructionism, and as an increasingly activist Supreme Court knocked down historic democratic protections, Republican governors aggressively attacked labor rights, voting rights and women’s rights. Citizens responded with rallies, marches and movements—in state capitals, on Wall Street, across the country. They developed a new progressive vision that is more aggressive and more precisely focused on economic and social justice demands, and on challenging the power of corporations and their political allies.
Warren’s Netroots Nation speech incorporated what has been learned, and what has been demanded. She made a connection between the movements and the political process that has tremendous significance for the coming election cycles.
Warren’s Democratic Party has not fully recognized that connection—not by a long shot—but Warren gets it. And the response of the thousands of activists, organizers and communicators gathered at the Netroots conference suggests that “the base” is ready to rally around it.
So what is it?
“This is a fight over economics, a fight over privilege, a fight over power,” says Warren. “But deep down it’s a fight over values. These are progressive ideas; these are progressive values. These are America’s values. And these are the values we are willing to fight for.”
Bonus: Charlie Pierce on Sen. Warren.
Rick Scott Rakes It In — Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones on the people buying the Florida governor’s re-election.
Florida Governor Rick Scott really knows how to pick a fundraiser. Last month, he was scheduled to attend a $10,000-a-plate event at the home of a real estate developer who’d done prison time on tax charges. Hours after Mother Jones disclosed the event, Scott canceled it. Now, on July 21, Scott will headline a $10,000 per person fundraiser at the Boca Raton home of another deep pocketed donor who is the CEO of a private prison company that’s profiting handsomely over the immigration crisis at the Mexican border.
George Zoley is one of the founders of the GEO Group, the second-largest private prison company in the country. Among the 98 facilities the company owns or manages are several detention centers for undocumented immigrants run through contracts with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. One of those is a facility in Broward County, Florida, that’s been the site of at least one hunger strike and protests over allegedly poor treatment of the 700 immigrants held there, most of whom have no serious criminal histories.
In 2012, members of Congress demanded that ICE investigate the Broward facility after reports the center was holding people who should have been released and that it was not providing adequate medical care to the detainees. An investigation last year by Americans for Immigrant Justice also found credible reports of detainees suffering food poisoning from being served rotten food. The group noted instances of sexual assault among detainees and inadequate mental health care that may have contributed to at least three suicide attempts. Detainees also reported being forced to work for $1 a day and to pay $3 a minute for phone calls.
The Geo Group, which rakes in $1.5 billion in annual revenue, earns $20 million annually just from the Florida center.
The GEO Group also operates the Adelanto Detention Center that, with 1,300 beds for men, is the largest immigrant detention center in southern California. In 2012, a detainee there died from pneumonia. The US Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Detention Oversight concluded that the man’s death was preventable. Investigators determined that the medical staff had “provided an unacceptable level of care” and commit “several egregious errors” that led to the man’s death. Immigration reform advocates have reported various forms of abuse at the Adelanto facility: maggots in the food, inadequate medical treatment, mistreatment by the GEO staff, and the overuse of solitary confinement. These allegations landed the center on the nonprofit Detention Watch Network’s list of the worst detention facilities in the country.
The GEO Group is now expanding the Adelanto facility to add another 650 beds, which includes a women’s wing. The GEO Group expects the expansion to result in an additional $21 million a year in revenue. The GEO Group has also invested heavily in lobbying Congress, spending more than $3 million over the past decade to keep the money flowing to its detention centers.
Zoley netted $22 million in compensation from the GEO Group between 2008 and 2012. He’s donated a fair bit to the GOP and to Scott, who’s made privatizing Florida’s jails and prisons a priority of his administration. Zoley accompanied the governor to the UK in 2012 on a trade mission. The Geo Group donated $25,000 to Scott’s inauguration, and Zoley also personally donated $20,000 to help spiff up Scott’s living quarters in the governor’s mansion.
Zoley’s sponsorship of a fundraiser for Scott, who is in a tight race against former governor Charlie Crist, a Republican turned Democrat, isn’t surprising. (Scott’s office did not respond to a request for comment.) But the governor’s cozy relationship with the operator of some of the country’s biggest immigrant detention centers might not go over well with Latino constituents, who tend to oppose federal immigration detention policies.
Doonesbury — Fiction writing.