Posts Tagged ‘issues’

PRUNING: Gentle Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Inc.

June 4, 2019

libertytallwd6.jpg

Illus: “CONSERVATIVE CONQUEST OF AMERICA” ©JLegry

Short Story – Approx. 2,500 wds

“January gives a man pause, doesn’t it, Bob?” Lowell W. Lucash Jr., President of the United States, asked. “Turn of the year, life shrouded in ice and snow, but still a time of renewing and all that crap.”
“Not so much,” Old Bob replied, never diverted by simple life.
Lucash stood at the windows of the Oval Office, staring out at the frosted White House grounds. The bare trees were thin sticks against a pale sky. A guard muffled in winter clothing, accompanied by a large breath-steaming police dog, crossed the snow-shrouded vista and went into the dormant Arbor. Lucash felt the cold despite warmth from his cheerful fireplace. He shivered.
His distinguished senior advisor, Robert “Old Bob” Archer, was seated in front of his desk, neat and meticulous, resolutely bald and shiny on top, with a thin signature file in his lap. Lucash had depended upon him from college into the White House, a legacy from Dad, now safely buried in New Jersey.
“Profits are up,” Lucash said. He sat at his desk, glancing at a crystal paperweight from Tiffany engraved with his name and the Presidential Seal– a gift from his wife, Marilyn, at his joyful first-term inaugural celebration.
“Buying power is down,” Old Bob replied.
Lucash smiled humorlessly. “We are committed?”
“Yes, Mr. President.”
“There are no alternatives?”
“No, Mr. President.”
“So, we are ready to ‘relieve the strained, overpopulated regions of earth,’” Lucash said uncomfortably. “Isn’t that what the agreement says?”
“Everything is prepared,” Old Bob replied. “We are ready for pruning.”
“‘Pruning,’” Lucash repeated. He ran a nervous hand through his famous luxuriant, color-enhanced hair. “I should never have allowed this.”
“We have no choice,” Old Bob replied. “The Developed Fossil-Fuel Nations, China, the Arab Oiligarchies and the Russian-Ukrainian Petroleum Alliance have already signed the secret accord. There is no going back now, Lowell. You must be resolute.”
“What is the full list?” Lucash asked, stalling. “How many continents and countries are we pruning? I can’t believe that I have to do this. Trump ignored the problem. Why me? This is hard. I need an assistant. I need more options.”
“There are no other options,” Old Bob said. “You can’t use an assistant. You are the president. You have to do it yourself. That makes it legal. No one likes this, but it is all that is left. If we wait any longer, we are lost, overwhelmed by starving, desperate people in a rising tide of garbage and toxic waste.”
“How did the world prune before it had me?” Lucash asked resentfully.
“The same sorts of things: famine, fire, war and pestilence, but considerably less well managed, more drawn out and agonized. We are not savages, Lowell. We do not want people to suffer. We are organized. Our pruning will be swift and merciful.”
“We’re the Gentle Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Incorporated.”
“It is self-defense, Lowell,” Old Bob sympathized. “As difficult as this is, you’ve seen the projections. Our way of life will be destroyed, if we don’t act.”
“There must be a way out,” Lucash said helplessly. “Trump’s ‘Take a Big Stick and Flail It Wildly’ Strategy was an utter failure.”
“It’s pointless to rehash the whole discussion,” Old Bob replied. “It is too late. Too much is at stake for last minute change of plan, or a time-wasting crisis of conscience. Sign the Executive Order, authorize the Third World Strike, suffer crippling angst later.” He opened the file, put papers and pen on Lucash’s desk.
“This is wrong,” Lucash said. “What about a total embargo?”
“Embargo what? The world’s resources are running out. A few years ago there was choice. Trump pissed it away. Today, billions are eating each other.”
“I thought they didn’t eat meat,” Lucash said. “Or, is that only Hindus?”
“It is getting worse,” Old Bob replied. “The good Lord provided necessary tactical devices, and it is up to us to use them to clean up our mess.”
“‘The good Lord provided necessary tactical devices,’” Lucash mocked.
“But we survive,” Old Bob argued. “Food and water are short, energy is giving out, food riots here at home, overflowing prisons, border fights with migratory gangs the size of military battles. We must control the situation. Do it quickly. Do your duty, sign the fucking accord.” Old Bob urged, not unkindly.
“It’s good we waited until after Christmas,” Lucash said bitterly, “because genocidal holocaust depresses sales. Not even Trump could think like this.”
Old Bob looked away in pain.
“I still need time to think,” Lucash said, avoiding the papers on his desk.
“There’s not much time.”
Lucash did not reply.
“Don’t agonize,” Old Bob said gently. “It will only consume you, Lowell.”
“I followed the rules,” Lucash said. “I did what I was supposed to do. I went along with the Trump Libertarian Me-First Agenda. But… I’m having trouble beating my conscience down on this. How do you do it, Bob? How do you stay so detached?”
“I approach it academically,” Old Bob said uneasily. “I try to keep my perspective.” His hands were atremble in his lap. Old Bob’s academic perspective was wearing thin. That still doesn’t stop him from being a bossy old murderous bastard, Lucash noted.
“Why don’t you go to hell?” Lucash asked with sudden anger. “Why don’t you do your damned hideous holocaust pruning without my signature? Get that frickin’ robber’s nest in the senate to sign it!”
“It’s your legal responsibility,” Old Bob insisted. “You make it official.”
“My signature makes it official to kill, how many, Bob, seven billion?”
“Five and a half, before they multiply to twenty and eat the planet.”

Lucash studied his mentor and saw a tired frightened old man. It scared him. “I need more time,” he said. “Please ask Marilyn to see me on your way out.” He turned his profile to the right to close the meeting. He often turned that way for photographic effect. He did so now to hide his fear. Old Bob rose, said farewell and left. Lucash rose and went to the windows, looked out at the frozen day and shivered again. Moments later, his wife Marilyn entered, a slender dark-haired beauty, elegantly dressed as always. They were loyal to one another, publicly and privately, despite discrete dalliances on both sides.
“You sent for me, darling?” she asked.
“Oh, Mommy!” he cried, going to her.
She held him, soothing him and stroking his hair.
“Now, now,” she crooned, “it’s all right. Poor little Lowly. It will be all right. You didn’t think the Presidency was all golf, after dinner speeches and rallies, did you? Of course, you did. Remember your programming. It would make old Uncle Puti proud if he wasn’t down with stroke. Der Don would pop his buttons. You’re trained to pop buttons too, aren’t you? Don’t you carry a big flailing stick?” Lucash flinched and released her.
“Whose side are you on?” he asked in distress.
“I support you, Lowly, as always, but you must act soon. Do something.”
“What should I do?”
“Do what Old Bob wants. Don’t think and sweat. It’s bad for vid lights.”
He nodded grimly, staring at the documents on his desk.
“The hell with Bob,” he decided. “I’m going to the War Room.”
“‘Situation Room,’” she corrected. “They haven’t called it the War Room since FDR died. I don’t think they have wars anymore, just situations.”
“Whatever,” he replied and was soon the center of noise and activity: voices, phones, flickering screens. Hours passed, predictions piled up, scenario after scenario was analyzed. At last, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General McClean Benson, arrived with a small entourage to receive immediate private audience with the President.
“Every scenario runs the same, Mr. President,” Benson said. He put the summaries on Lucash’s desk. “Pruning is the only option.”

Lucash looked at him suspiciously.
“I’m not eager for this either, Mr. President,” Benson said defensively.
“The projections are totally unbiased?” Lucash asked.
“Totally unbiased, Mr. President.” I did not have to bias them, he thought.
“Not good enough!” Lucash yelled. “Run it again. Find something!” Upset by his own passion, he said, “Keep working, General, thank you. Carry on.”
Benson saluted stiffly and departed.
Hours later, with the early morning darkness still upon the city, Old Bob returned to the Oval Office to find Lucash hunched tiredly at his great desk.
“Come up with anything?” Old Bob asked, wanting to say, I told you so.
“There’s enough data to reflect every possible variable on the uncertain face of the whole planet. It all adds up the same, regardless of how arranged.”
“You admit that we have no other choice?”
Lucash abruptly picked up the pen Old Bob had provided hours earlier and signed the accord. He shoved the papers across to him.
“There are two more copies,” Old Bob said, pushing them back.
Lucash stared, then quickly signed the copies. He tossed the pen down.
“Souvenir, Bob. Put it in your breast pocket. It will eat a hole in your heart.”
“It already has, Mr. President,” Old Bob said. He picked up the documents, avoiding the pen, and advised, “Destroy it.”
“Pruning is set for seven-thirty a.m., EST,” Lucash said, glancing at his Rolex. “We’ve two hours, fly the damned pen to the closest target and nuke it.”
“I’ll have the Secret Service dispose of it,” Old Bob said. He picked the pen up with a tissue. “I…uh, must get the documents to the courier.” Lucash nodded and Old Bob left. Marilyn Lucash entered immediately. He looked at her bleakly.
“Are you all right?” she asked and was suddenly crying. He went to her.

“It’s done,” he said, hugging her close. “Please, be still.”
“How bad will it be?” she asked, wiping her cheeks with her palm.
“’If everyone holds to the accord,’ he cited the official Trumped Scenario, “‘and if we contain effects, according to projection, we guarantee safety for the civilized world: North America, Europe, Russia, Japan.’ Unfortunately, Australia may suffer due to wind, or ocean currents, but that is part of the ‘necessary cost to succeed.’” She stared at him. He took a deep breath and released her.
“What about China and Korea?” she asked.
“Whatever must be done, will be done. This is no time for mourning.”
“We must be brave,” she agreed, drying her eyes. “You look so tired.”
Thirty-eight hours later, a haggard Lowell W. Lucash Jr. stood at a microphone, looking at a largely uniformed crowd of men and women cramped into Command Shelter Number One. Their families were in equally crowded adjoining quarters linked by a brightly-lighted tunnel network. Built for ten thousand, the bunker accommodated sixteen-thousand-five-hundred for the “duration of the emergency.”

Lucash saw Marilyn with the White House staff group. She smiled bravely at him and he smiled back uneasily.
“Your attention,” Lucash called, stilling excited voices. “Pruning is over. We think it is. Nothing has been released, or detonated for an hour. I regret that everyone exceeded pruning level by, uh, 32%. Is that right, General Benson?”
“That may be conservative, sir,” Benson replied. “We matched ’em release for release. Some analysts say fifty, but, damage assessment isn’t complete.”
Lucash nodded. The world felt upside down.
“Your prepared remarks,” Old Bob urged.
“In a short while,” Lucash read, feeling disconnected, as if in a dream, “we will return to the surface, hopefully. Thank each of you for your dedication and loyalty. The real task lies ahead: building a strong new America and a brave new world order.” There was scattered applause. “I know that you are up to the challenge. Our goal is worth sacrifice. Our country began nearly three hundred years ago and it is up to us to see that it lasts for a thousand more. Our brave new world order will be finer, better and safer than ever. As Tiny Tim once said, ‘God bless us every one!’” There were patriotic tears in many eyes as he finished. The crowd applauded and cheered, full of hope, glad the speech was over, their optimistic echoes springing back from the high-vaulted thick concrete ceiling.
“Can we trust the Chinese and Koreans, sir?” General Benson asked.
“Trust has to begin somewhere,” Lucash replied. “I’d rather not spend the rest of my life cooped up down here, would you, General?”
“What if they are waiting for us to come out so they can finish us off right now?” Benson warned. “We should hit ’em first. Pre-emptive strike.”
“General, everyone is horrified,” Lucash said. “I even heard it in Imam Fuad’s voice when he agreed to cease fire and he thought it was a holy war.”
“I wouldn’t mention that publicly,” Old Bob cautioned.
“It’s all my fault,” Lucash said sorrowfully.
“Stop that,” Old Bob scolded. “Be strong.”
Lucash looked at the people waiting to return to their normal topside world. The great concrete walls curved over their heads into black darkness and they instinctively moved closer, seeking comfort in proximity. Lucash wanted to console and wish each one well, and then lead them straight up out of that claustrophobic over-filled chamber.
A military attaché arrived with a message for Lucash. Lucash was shocked at what he read. He handed the message to Old Bob, whose face went white.
“The surface is contaminated beyond habitability,” Lucash told the crowd.
A moan went up.
“Damned Korean overkill!” General Benson shouted angrily.
People wept.
Lucash signed to Marilyn who quickly joined him. They hugged as when flashbulbs exploded and the Party Convention rocked with cheers short years before. Such pride. This time, shame almost overwhelmed Lowell W. Lucash Jr.
“We must…we must somehow live with this,” he told the crowd. Amid a common agonized murmur, an Air Force general went to his knees on cold concrete and began to pray. Others followed. A droning wail went up as echoes.
“My God,” Old Bob said at Lucash’s side, assessing the bunker’s long-term livability, “this is like being buried alive.”
“There are other bunkers all the way to California,” General Benson advised. “They were doing okay until communication went out. If they survived, they will be loyal to us.”
“If they survived, they are in the same mess,” Lucash said. “Cut off.”
“Meantime,” Old Bob said, “we must survive underground and there isn’t much room.” People looked at Lucash in horror. His flesh crawled.
“The Great Pruner!” an enraged technician screamed, pointing an accusing finger. “The bloody-handed Great Pruner!”
There were angry shouts, more weeping, more hostile eyes, more people screaming at Lucash. Marilyn’s arms tightened around his waist.
“O, Lowly, what do we do?” she whispered.
“This is a nightmare, Mr. President,” Old Bob said, taking Lucash’s arm.
“I wish to God it was, Bob,” Lucash said, trembling.
“Get behind me, Mr. President,” General Benson ordered, drawing his service weapon, as the angry crowd surged toward the Presidential party.

THE END: JL:Portland: 05-19
© JLegry

HELP SAVE LIFE ON EARTH CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY www.biologicaldiversity.org

GET CORPORATIONS OUT OF GOVERNMENT www.movetoamend.org

PEOPLE POWERED PROGRESS www.moveon.org

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EUGENE ON THE GREYHOUND

February 11, 2013

Hacienda

Excerpt, COMMON LIVES, an unpublished novel.

There was a clean Latino man in the seat beside Eugene on the Greyhound bus, who alternately dozed, or read from Antoine Saint Exupéry’s Wind, Sand and Stars.  His clothes were clean: dark new Levis and a good blue cotton denim shirt.  He also had a clean white straw cowboy hat with a sedate blue and white band.  Tucked under his elbow, between his body and the window wall of the bus was a new black leather jacket – not the kind bikers wore, but a skirted coat a gentleman might wear to take a lady out.  He also had a small brown paper bag with food for the trip – sausage and cheese, baguette of French bread, small condiments, crackers, fruits and vegetables in sealed plastic sacks.

Eugene met him when their bus driver narrowly avoided collision with a highballing semi-trailer headed north in a hurry.  Eugene banged into his seatmate as the bus made a wild swing onto and off the shoulder of the road.

“Sorry!” Eugene yelped, more frightened than he wanted to be.

“No problem!” the man said, clinging to the seat in front of them with one strong brown hand.  Saint-Exupéry was clutched securely in the other.

“Some drivers,” Eugene said as their driver regained control.

“Guess he has to make some time.”

“Eugene Formsby,” Eugene introduced himself on impulse, holding out his hand.

“Armand Garcia,” Armand said, shaking Eugene’s hand.

“Headed for Portland?” Eugene asked.  Armand’s hand was hard as horn.

“Wilsonville,” Armand replied.  “I follow the crops.”

“You’re a migrant worker?” Eugene asked in disbelief.  Armand fit none of the stereotypes.  He was clean and neat.  He wasn’t traveling in a caravan of scruffy dirty brown men.  He wasn’t drunk.

“Somebody’s gotta do it,” Armand said reasonably.  He smiled.  He had even white teeth, obviously well-cared-for beneficiaries of good professional dental attention.  “It’s a good livin’, if you don’t blow it all on booze and women.  A lotta the guys do that: make a little money and piss it all away.  They’re stupid.  Sure, it’s a little bit of money here, but it’s a lot where I come from.  I send my money home.  I got a wife and kids in Mexico.”

“Did I see you reading Saint Exupéry?” Eugene asked, fascinated.  He was meeting an industrious Mexican migrant farm worker – a clean one with a sense of responsibility.  The world was truly a marvelous place.

“Yes,” Armand said promptly.  “Would you like to hear a passage?”

“Well…?”

And suddenly,” Armand read, “I had a vision of the face of destiny.  Old bureaucrat, my comrade, it is not you who are to blame.  No one ever helped you to escape.  You, like a termite, built your peace by locking up with cement every chink and cranny through which light might pierce.  You rolled yourself up into a ball in your genteel security, in routine, in the stifling conversations of provincial life, raising a modest rampart against the winds and the tides and the stars.  You have chosen not to be perturbed by great problems, having trouble enough to forget your own fate as a man.  You are not the dweller upon an errant planet, and do not ask yourself questions to which there are no answers.  You are a petty bourgeois to Toulouse.  Nobody grasped you by the shoulder while there was still time.  Now the clay from which you were shaped has hardened, and naught in you will ever awaken the sleeping musician, the poet, the astronomer that possibly inhabited you in the beginning.’

“Good stuff, ain’t it?” Armand asked, smiling.

“It’s uncanny,” Eugene replied, nonplused.  Did someone send you here to read that to me?  He wondered, imagining all sorts of divine interventions and messages from Beyond.

“I’m tryin’ to improve my mind,” Armand said amiably.  “I don’t always wanna be pickin’ crops.  That’s stupid.  Gonna kill my back one day and then I won’t be able to do it anymore.  I’m thinkin’ of studyin’ book-keepin’.  What do you think?”

“Well, book-keeping is a reliable occupation,” Eugene said seriously, dismayed that the reader of Saint Exupéry was going to intentionally crash land in the desert.

“I was thinkin’ more along the line of tax preparation, ya’ know?”

“Uh-ha,” Eugene replied, nodding. 

“You’ve got a family?” Armand asked politely.

“No.”

“You should have a wife and children,” Armand said reasonably.  “They make your life mean something.  A lot of those guys I work with, they don’t know that.  They don’t work for the family.  They come up here and get drunk and wild and land in jail, or get run outta the country by the INS.  Stupid sonsabitches.”

“INS,” Eugene said, “that’s Immigration Naturalization Service?”

“That’s them.  They’re not too bad if you don’t get stupid.”

“You get hassled?”

“Sometimes, but I travel by bus and keep pretty much to myself.  Some of those other guys all chip in, ya’ know?  Buy an old junker car.  They get a little drunked up and ride along about a hundred miles an hour and get busted by a local cop.  Man, that’s stupid!  Local cops can be real mean.”

“I didn’t know migrant workers came all the way up to Oregon.”

“Sure, all the time.  We follow the crop right up into Canada.  We’re chasing the harvests, don’t ya’ know?”

“Well, yeah, sure, I know that.  That’s what migrants do.”  Eugene felt stupid.

Sometime around noon, the bus broke down.

“I always bite off a hard chunk,” Armand said as they stood by the side of the road.  The bus was disabled, its rear hatch open, smoky steam clouding up into the cool Oregon air in thin wet tendrils.  Passengers stood straggled along the roadway, or seated on their luggage, which had been removed in preparation for a relief bus, which was expected “momentarily” for the past two hours and twenty-three minutes.  Passing motorists speeding by on their way north glanced curiously at the stranded bus riders.  No highway patrolman appeared.  The driver smoked cigarettes, paced and scowled, stopping periodically to deal with impatient frustrated passengers.

“A hard chunk?” Eugene asked disinterestedly, holding Armand’s dog-eared Saint-Exupéry, which he’d asked to see.  He longed for the relief bus.  He leaned into its vision, hoping that it would soon put an end to his seemingly endless return to Portland.  Perhaps the fates were trying to tell him something – like, maybe, you’re a loser, go no farther.

“If it’s hard to chew,” Armand continued, “I try to spit it out.  If it don’t spit out, I have to tough my way through.  Life is like that; you don’t get to spit the damn thing out, until you croak.”

Reassuring, Eugene thought.

“I been thinkin’ lately on how man is an animal,” Armand said seriously.  “Unlike the other animals, he’s the only one who gets to remember much of anythin’ – includin’ hates and discontents – and the only one who knows he’s gonna die.  Pretty depressin’.  It’s also the human condition which everybody reads about – which some people think died out with those Frenchmen, sittin’ in Paris cafes, stickin’ knives in their hands to make a point durin’ the Nazi occupation; or walkin’ the beaches in self-exile in plague-ridden Morocco.  Camus had it bad.  Malraux and Sartre, all those thoughtful Frenchmen.  All life’s absurd.  It’s the human condition.  Man’s fate.  It all comes home.”

Eugene stared at Armand.

“Hey, who are those guys?” Armand asked with sudden concern.

Eugene looked around.  There were about a dozen, furtive men trying to slip into the small crowd of stranded bus riders.  The men fit Eugene’s stereotype: dirty, rough-looking Latino laborers, wearing faded jeans, straw hats, black mustaches, flannel shirts and heavy, thick-soled shoes.

“Shit,” Armand said furiously.  “Fuckin’ wetbacks ruin it for everybody!  Stupid motherfuckers!”

“What are they doing here?” Eugene asked nervously.

“I don’t know,” Armand replied angrily.  “Catchin’ the bus, I guess!  The stupid mother fuckers are gettin’ tickets from the mother fuckin’ driver!”

Sure enough, Eugene saw the newcomers line up, clutching their money in grimed hands, pressing it on the surly Greyhound bus representative in his surly-gray bus driver’s suit.  As he watched, a trio of official white sedans pulled off onto the shoulder of the road behind the bus.  A second trio of sedans and a large white van pulled up in front.

The next few moments were bedlam.

The laborers began running in all directions.  To Eugene’s horror, Armand went with them.  Men in dark blue bulletproof vests and matching ball caps ran past Eugene in hot pursuit.  The pursuers wore badges and the large letters INS were stenciled across their backs.  They were armed with batons and carried side arms at their belts.  Within minutes, the laborers returned, singly and in pairs, their hands handcuffed behind them, escorted by officers into the back of the white van.  Eugene saw Armand among the last herded up to captivity.  Armand did not see him.  The van was sealed, the officers returned to their vehicles, got in and drove away, leaving a gaping busload of passengers still stranded at the side of the road.

The surly Greyhound bus driver looked furtively at all the ticket money he’d just collected and pocketed it.  He glanced nervously at the passengers and smiled at a nearby older woman, who looked at him disapprovingly, thinking his unctuous smile the most terrible anomaly thus far in a terrible trip.

My God! Eugene thought. Armand is a wetback!  A goddamned literate wetback! How do I meet these guys?  Why do I meet these guys? What the hell?

The relief bus arrived almost immediately thereafter and Eugene climbed aboard gratefully, still carrying Armand’s copy of Saint-Exupéry.  He sat down with the book in his lap.  Armand would stay on his mind for a long time, maybe for life; he had only touched the surface.   He wished him well, commending him to his Catholic or Indian gods, or Sir Isaac Newton, perhaps.  Impossibly, he hoped he would meet him again.  He looked down at Saint-Exupéry and opened it to the part Armand had marked.  He read:

“No one ever helped you to escape.  You, like a termite, built your peace by locking up with cement every chink and cranny through which light might pierce.  You rolled yourself up into a ball in your genteel security, in routine, in the stifling conversations of provincial life, raising a modest rampart against the winds and the tides and the stars.  You have chosen not to be perturbed by great problems, having trouble enough to forget your own fate as a man.” 

Eugene turned to the first page and began to read.

UNITED FARM WORKERS :

To provide farm workers and other working people with the inspiration and tools to share in society’s bounty

http://www.ufw.org/

Friend of the Poor

AVAAZ – “VOICES”

July 16, 2009

This is a very interesting group.  They’re doing a lot of good and significant things for the right reasons, using positive methods. 

ABOUT AVAAZ Avaaz.org is an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people inform global decision-making. (Avaaz means “voice” in many languages.) Avaaz receives no money from governments or corporations, and is staffed by a global team based in Ottawa, London, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Buenos Aires, and Geneva.

Dear friends,

Here’s a quick report back on recent campaigning at Avaaz. Our community has grown like wildfire and is becoming really extraordinary — the pace and impact of our advocacy is intense. In just the last 8 weeks, we’ve run 9 major national and global campaigns on issues ranging from climate change to Iran to Guantanamo. Much more remains to be done on all these issues — but together we’re contributing in powerful ways. Here are some highlights from the last 8 weeks:

Brazilian rainforest – Brazilian Avaaz members made 14000 phone calls and sent 30,000 online messages to President Lula’s office in two days(!) and in the 11th hour successfully reversed a law that would hand over much of the Amazon rainforest to agrobusiness for exploitation – this was a major victory on climate change since the Amazon consumes enormous amounts of the greenhouse gasses that are warming the earth.

G8 Summit – last week 130,000 Avaaz members signed a petition in 48 hours calling for the G8 industrial countries to limit global warming to 2 degrees celsius – focusing on shaming 3 countries who were blocking progress. The petition was delivered at the summit to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown (see image at right), along with giant personalized postcards.

Outside the summit, Avaaz members stripped down to green underwear in a humorous theatrical delivery of the campaign’s message that generated substantial media coverage (pictured at right). As Avaaz and partners built pressure in Italy and around the world, the blocking countries relented, and the G8 leaders agreed to the 2 degree goal! However, they failed to agree on specific actions to make the goal a reality — our challenge now is to make sure leaders live up to their rhetorical commitments with a binding global treaty at the UN summit in Copenhagen this December.

Iran Protests – our community rapidly responded to the election crisis in Iran with an opinion poll to gauge the views of ordinary Iranians, a petition to world leaders to withhold recognition of the new President until the crackdown on protests ceased, and a fundraiser to support technology that would allow Iranians to freely access the internet. The rapidly deteriorating security situation has made it difficult to conduct the poll (final word on that coming this week), but the technology fundraiser has raised over a hundred thousand dollars to support the best tools for Iranians to access the internet and communicate freely. The situation in Iran remains uncertain, and we will continue to both support freedom of expression and oppose those who would exploit this crisis to justify military action against Iran.

Japan climate targets – In Japan, we raised the alarm as the Prime Minister Taro Aso was about to choose a damagingly weak climate targets. Funded by small online donations, Avaaz ran a national opinion poll that showed that 63% of Japanese people wanted strong targets, publicized it in the press, in a full page ad in the country’s largest business newspaper, and one in the Aso’s favourite comic book (see right). Internationally, Avaaz ran a front page ad in the Financial Times, and Avaaz members demonstrated and met with Japanese climate negotiators at summits in Paris and Bonn.

At last, the Prime Minister announced a target stronger than polluting industries had urged — but far from strong enough to stop catastrophic climate change. So we redoubled the pressure with a widely-covered international press conference dubbing the Japanese leader “George W. Aso” — comparing him to Bush for holding back progress on climate change.


Free Burma’s political prisoners
– Over 400,000 of us signed a major petition to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon asking him to make the release of Nobel prize winning political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners his top priority. The petition was delivered in an extended meeting with Moon’s office and in a press conference at the UN in New York. The UN chief issued a strong statement backing the release of Suu Kyi and traveled to Burma to attempt to meet with her, but was rebuffed by Burma’s military junta. International pressure did cause the junta to delay a new show trial to extend Aung San Suu Kyi’s prison sentence, but it will take much more pressure to secure her release.

United States and Torture – A global fundraiser and petition on stopping torture and closing Guantanamo prison allowed Avaaz to secure a giant, 9 story billboard just blocks from the White House in the heart of Washington DC to deliver our message — but at the last minute the company selling the ad space refused, despite members of the US congress offering to help unveil the billboard in a press conference. Avaaz has now secured an alternative option for delivering our edgy message that will have Washington DC buzzing with our call for justice.

UN Climate Summit – At a major summit on climate change in Bonn, Avaaz recruited among members in Germany to help our partners organize a massive 500 person aerial photo spelling out ‘Yes You Can’ as a message to leaders discussing climate targets (see right). It helped raise the profile and urgency of these faltering but urgent talks. Avaaz also sent a 16-person lobbying/activist team to the summit negotiations and members in 10 key countries joined “negotiator tracking teams” that are following and responding to urgent needs to press individual country negotiators at these summits.

Peru – Avaaz arranged with local indigenous and top political allies to deliver a global petition against new laws that would cause massive devastation to the Peruvian rainforest and its people, taking out an ad in the national newspaper (at right). The ad and campaign generated much attention, and the domestic and international pressure worked, for now — the Peruvian congress has revoked the controversial laws!

Israel – As Prime Minister Netanyahu prepared to make a speech responding to Obama’s historic Cairo address and demand that Israel stop illegal settlements of Palestinian land, Avaaz took out a front page ad in a major newspaper – Haaretz – delivering a joint petition from global and Israeli Avaaz members edgily asking Netanyahu to ‘be more like Obama’ and stop the settlements. Netanyahu has so far refused, but we’re helping to build an unprecedented wave of Israeli and global pressure and attention on this issue.

The petitions, fundraisers, rallies, and lobbying campaigns our community is doing are having an incredible impact. Avaaz has grown by 50,000 people a week and is now almost 3.6 million engaged citizens in every country of the world — and we’re truly global – operating in 14 languages our community has 25,000 members in Singapore, 35,000 in South Africa, 130,000 in Italy, 50,000 in Mexico… There hasn’t really been a community like ours before, able to rapidly and effectively mobilize people power all over the world to the greatest needs and concerns of all human beings — it’s a reason for hope.

It’s also an exciting journey — looking forward to taking on the next 8 weeks, and 8 months, and 8 years together!

With hope,
Ricken, Alice, Pascal, Ben, Veronique, Paul, Graziela, Brett, Raluca, Luis, Raj, Milena, Paula, Iain, Taren, Margaret and the whole Avaaz team.

PS – To see some of the highlights of Avaaz campaigning in 2007 and 2008 and leave a comment, click here:
https://secure.avaaz.org/en/report_back_2/

And to check out other recent Avaaz campaigning highlights like our climate victory in Germany, our messages to Obama wall in DC, the delivery of our Swine Flu petition to the WHO, our Green Recovery march at G20 Summit in London, or our support to Tibetan organizations to break the blackout on their communications — visit the Avaaz blog: http://www.avaaz.org/blog/en/.

Click here to learn more about our largest campaigns.

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