Water is a human right, but who is considered a human being?

by Sarah Kendzior @ AlJazeera.com

Residents have protested against water cut-offs in Detroit [Getty Images]
Water is a basic human right.

Few dispute this. From the Talmud to the Bible to the Quran, from the European Federation of Public Service to the United Nations, societies throughout history have recognised water as a public good. To treat water as a commodity instead of a right is an act of violence. In May 2014, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon argued that “preventing people’s access to safe water is a denial of a fundamental human right.” He added: “Deliberate targeting of civilians and depriving them of essential supplies is a clear breach of international humanitarian and human rights law.”

Water is a right for all human beings. The question is: Who counts as a human being?

Not the poorest residents of Detroit, a US city which has cut off water to citizens at a rate of 3000 people per week since the spring, totalling about 125,000 people at present. Local activists estimate that up to 300,000 people - nearly all poor and African-American – will ultimately lose access to water. The reason for the cut, officials claim, is that residents cannot pay their water bills, which have spiked 120 percent in the last decade.

Detroit is one of the poorest cities in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Detroit is also surrounded by the largest supply of fresh water in the world. The US does not lack for money, and Detroit does not lack for accessible water. What Detroit lacks are people viewed as worthy of the compassion and resources given to their richer, whiter peers. They lack the rights and respect most US citizens take for granted.

At a rally in June, life-long Detroiter Renla Session spoke out for her community: “These are my fellow human beings. If they threatened to cut off water to an animal shelter, you would see thousands of people out here. It’s senseless … They just treat people like their lives mean nothing here in Detroit, and I’m tired of it.”

When rights are considered privileges, only the privileged have rights.

“They treat people like animals in Detroit,” an auto worker complained in July, but the US treats its poorest citizens worse. When the government shut down in late 2013, the food programme for impoverished women and children was suspended - but the animals in the National Zoo stayed fed. More attention was paid to the shutdown of the PandaCam, a livestream of a bear cub, than to the suffering of the US’ poorest citizens.

Water is a human right, but who is a human being? Corporations, the US supreme court ruled in June, as the parched citizens of Detroit started filling up at water fountains.

“In its last day in session, the high court not only affirmed corporate personhood but expanded the human rights of corporations, who by some measures enjoy more protections than mortals – or ‘natural persons’,” wrote Dana Milbank at The Washington Post.

The mortals of Detroit enjoy no such protection. Perhaps that is why the city’s corporate venues - like its high-end golf club, hockey arena, football stadium, and over half of the city’s commercial and industrial users – still have their water running despite owing over $30m, while its most impoverished residents have their water, and their rights, taken away.

In Detroit, corporations are people. Their worth is unquestioned because it is measured in dollars. The worth of the residents of Detroit is measured in utility, and so their utilities are denied.

‘War on poverty’

Human rights may be guaranteed by law, but one’s humanity is never a given. The US was built on the labour of slaves considered three-fifths of a person. Today, one’s relative humanity – and the rights which accompany it – is shaped by race, class, gender, and geography. Citizens may be subject to the same written laws, but they are not equally subject to the same punishments and practices. Water is a litmus test of how much of a “person” you are allowed to be.

For decades, marginalised peoples of the United States have struggled with lack of access to water. Today nearly 40 percent of the 173,000 Navajo, the largest Native American tribe, do not have a tap or a toilet at home.

Earthrise: A group of visionary residents in the American city of Detroit are sowing the seeds of an urban farming revolution.

Appalachia, a historically impoverished region of the US, was the focal point of the 1960s “war on poverty” after its lack of basic public services was publicised.

“This legislation marks the end of an era of partisan cynicism towards human want and misery,” President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed in 1965. “Wherever we have our commitments, whether to the old and the strong or to the young and the weak, we shall match our words with deeds.”

In January 2014, Freedom Industries, a chemical and mining company, dumped a toxic chemical into an Appalachian river, poisoning the water for up to 300,000 residents of West Virginia. Hundreds were hospitalised. Locals were shocked, but not surprised, by the horror that ensued. It was West Virginia’s fifth major industrial accident in eight years.

“Charleston’s nickname is Chemical Valley, and our life expectancy rates reflect this, even in the diaspora,” wrote one West Virginia writer. “Environmental injustice and trauma become part of your veins and cells, enamel and marrow, and it permeates the economies which underpin our existence. I have tried, but you can’t outrun a system.”

When the water crisis hit West Virginia, many were horrified, but others mocked the impoverished state – including a Detroit journalist, unaware her city was next. President Johnson’s war on poverty long ago turned into a war on the poor, and residents of both places have been blamed for their own plight. They elect bad leaders and support corrupt companies, people said of West Virginia. They should have paid their bills, people say of Detroit.

Which leads to the question: so what? Then they should not drink or bathe? They should swallow poison or roam the streets in search of water fountains? Their children, who have no stake in this battle, are supposed to suffer, and their parents are supposed to watch? Is that the lesson we are passing on – that poor children are inherently undeserving of a basic provision in one of the richest countries in the world?

A Third World problem?

US citizens denied clean water often compare their situation with that of distant, disenfranchised lands.

“It’s frightening, because you think this is something that only happens somewhere like Africa,” a mother in Detroit told the LA Times. “It’s like we’re living in a Third World country,” a West Virginian told The New Yorker.

Witness – Living Downstream

The circumstances differ, but the outcome is the same. Water is a right, and denial of water is a form of social control.

In Ukraine, water and electricity were cut off in certain regions following the Russian incursion. In Syria, multiple political groups manipulated the water supply at different times, leaving roughly one million people without access to clean water or sanitation.

In Gaza, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians lack water, including those living in hospitals and refugee camps. On July 15, citizens of Detroit held a rally in solidarity, holding signs that said “Water for all, from Detroit to Palestine”. A basic resource has become a distant dream, a longing for a transformation of politics aimed at ending suffering instead of extending it.

Water is a legal right ignored in places where law is selectively enforced. To merit the protection of the law one must be acknowledged fully as a human being. What the water crisis shows is who is considered human – and who is considered disposable.

The Most Water-Consuming States Are The Ones In Drought

by Alissa Scheller @ HuffingtonPost.com

As the drought in the western United States drags on, communities have considered rules for residents’ water use, and California imposed statewide restrictions last week.

A national survey on water use in the U.S. showed that residents in states that get less precipitation use a lot of water in their homes — western states use an average of 137 gallons per capita every day, compared to 82 gallons in the midwest. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, this is mostly because of the higher amount of landscape irrigation in the west. In other words, people striving for green lawns and lush plants in dry states have to water more often that people in places with lots of rain, or risk fines in some communities.

15,000 Detroit Homes Had Their Water Shut Off. You Can Help Where The Government Won’t

by @ HuffingtonPost.com

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has filed a lawsuit against Detroit. Thousands gathered in protest over the weekend and advocates are calling on the United Nations to help.

But it’s the tenacity of two concerned non-Detroit residents that will help the thousands of desperate people in the city who don’t have access to water.

In an effort to collect an estimated $90 million in past-due water bills, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) has shut off the water for more than 15,000 delinquent households, according to the Detroit News, and activists are calling the move a human rights violation.

A bankruptcy judge called on the agency earlier this month to find more effective ways for struggling customers to pay their bills, the news outlet reported. But it was two engaged citizens who found an immediate solution.

Tired of watching Motor City residents suffer — and seeing suspicious fundraising campaigns crop up — entrepreneur Tiffani Ashley Bell and designer Kristy Tillman, founded Turn on Detroit’s Water on Friday.

It launched the same day that throngs of union members, Detroit residents and
activists, including actor Mark Ruffalo, hit the streets of downtown Detroit to protest the controversial water shutoffs.

Turn on Detroit’s Water matches individual customers — not corporations — who owe $250 or less to the DWSD are with donors who will make a payment on their behalf to the agency. Donors can pledge any amount, as little as a few dollars to help ease the burden.

Those who want to help supply an email address and are paired with someone in need of help paying their water bill. The donor won’t know the identity of the recipient, unless the customer chooses to reveal it.

What Tillman and Bell hope to especially impress upon supporters is that many of these cash-strapped customers aren’t entirely to blame.

Water rates have climbed 119 percent in the past decade, and the city council recently approved another 8.7 percent increase, according to TakePart. Due to Detroit’s bankruptcy, residents’ pensions have been reduced while their water bills continue to increase.

Bell, who is based in Oakland, California, and Tillman, who resides in Boston, don’t personally know anyone who has been impacted by the crisis. Still, Tillman told TakePart she felt deeply affected by the situation and wanted to find a direct, grassroots opportunity to enable people to help.

“I just genuinely care about people and have been watching the ongoing situation in Detroit for some time now,” Tillman told TakePart. “I could no longer sit idly by.”

Student Loans: The Billion-Dollar Profiting Business

by Wiha Powell @ ASPA National Weblog

The majority of Americans view education as the key to a lucrative career and a comfortable lifestyle, but the constant indebtedness of student borrowers has become a looming financial crisis, which Washington fears would put a strain on the already shaky economy. In response to such fear, the current Administration is attempting to provide affordable education for all.

student-loan-debt-in-americaBut with the rising cost in tuition and student loan interest rate expected to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1, higher education still remains out of reach for millions of Americans.  Instead of making higher education more affordable, it is becoming more expensive for students. The result: adding more to the existing $1 trillion student loan debt, a number that overshadows all household debt except for mortgages.

The most disheartening part about this ordeal is that the federal government is making an enormous amount of profit off millions of struggling students. According to the Congressional Budget Office’s February 2013 Baseline Projections for the Student Loan Program, on every dollar loaned, the government will yield more than 36 cents in profit for 2013. In 2014, it is projected that the government will yield a profit of 12.5 cents per dollar loaned through the Federal subsidized Stafford student loan program; 33.3 cents through the Federal unsubsidized Stafford student loan program; 54.8 cents through loans to graduate student; and 49 cents on parent loans.

The government is expected to make billions of dollars in profit from student loans. According to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass),

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This Is How Empires Collapse

by Charles Hugh Smith @ CharlesHughSmith.blogspot.com

This is how empires collapse: one complicit participant at a time.

Before an empire collapses, it first erodes from within. The collapse may appear sudden, but the processes of internal rot hollowed out the resilience, resolve, purpose and vitality of the empire long before its final implosion.
What are these processes of internal rot? Here are a few of the most pervasive and destructive forces of internal corrosion:

1. Each institution within the system loses sight of its original purpose of serving the populace and becomes self-serving. This erosion of common purpose serving the common good is so gradual that participants forget there was a time when the focus wasn’t on gaming the system to avoid work and accountability but serving the common good.

2. The corrupt Status Quo corrupts every individual who works within the system.Once an institution loses its original purpose and becomes self-serving, everyone within either seeks to maximize their own personal share of the swag and minimize their accountability, or they are forced out as a potentially dangerous uncorrupted insider.

The justification is always the same: everybody else is getting away with it, why shouldn’t I? Empires decline one corruptible individual at a time.
3. Self-serving institutions select sociopathic leaders whose skills are not competency or leadership but conning others into believing the institution is functioning optimally when in reality it is faltering/failing.

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| Rebel Definitions

psyops: combination of the words psychological operations Using mind control, behavior modification, and other neurological techniques in order to condition and program individuals and even mass populations of people.

globalist: related to globalism Usually, a wealthy person that has the power to manipulate and, most likely, enforce policies on a planetary scale.

elitist: related to elitism A person that prefers to associate with like-minded, wealthy people, and consider himself/herself as being superior to people of lower class.

bankster: A combination of gangster and banker. A person within a banking institution that uses deception, corruption, and greed to gain the advantage over most of the populous.
| Bill of Rights

1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Establishment Clause, Free Exercise Clause; freedom of speech, of the press, and of assembly; right to petition

2. A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. Militia (United States), Sovereign state, Right to keep and bear arms.

3. No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law. Protection from quartering of troops.

4. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. Protection from unreasonable search and seizure.

5. No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. Due process, double jeopardy, self-incrimination, eminent domain.

6. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense. Trial by jury and rights of the accused; Confrontation Clause, speedy trial, public trial, right to counsel

7. In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law. Civil trial by jury.

8. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. Prohibition of excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment.

9. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. Protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Constitution.

10. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. Powers of States and people.
| News & Other

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| Rebel Quotes

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." | Nelson Mandela

"Those who would deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, cannot long retain it." | Abraham Lincoln -not a rebel, but good quote ;)

"We, and all others who believe in freedom as deeply as we do, would rather die on our feet than live on our knees." | Franklin D. Roosevelt

"Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom." | Albert Einstein

"It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them." | Mark Twain

"When man turns tyrant it is his own freedom he destroys." | George Orwell

"The basis of a democratic state is liberty." | Aristotle

"We naturally associate democracy, to be sure, with freedom of action, but freedom of action without freed capacity of thought behind it is only chaos." | John Dewey

"Freedom and order are not incompatible... truth is strength... free discussion is the very life of truth." | Thomas Henry Huxley

"To know how to free oneself is nothing; the arduous thing is to know what to do with one's freedom." | Andre Gide

"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it." | Thomas Jefferson

"Freedom lies in being bold." | Robert Frost

"Conformity is the jailer of freedom, and the enemy of growth." | John F. Kennedy

"God is not merely interested in the freedom of brown men, yellow men, red men and black men.He is interested in the freedom of the whole human race." | Martin Luther King Jr.

"He hath freedom whoso beareth clean and constant heart within." | Quintus Ennius

"Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it." | Malcolm X

"Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpation." | James Madison

"Tyranny is always better organized than freedom." | Charles Peguy

"Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate." | Hubert H. Humphrey