Screw The Vets!

Talk, talk, talk, but accuse vets of trying to game the system and use system to benefit profit by private firms and not the VA health system.

In Saner Thought

Closing Thought–30Nov18

This country is failing the people at every turn…..the most blatant crap is the promise the veterans get with every election and with every election they continue to be crapped on by the very country they have signed on to protect.

This administration is NO different…it has been lying to the vets from day one……and veterans still support this goddamn poser in the White House why?

The latest debacle against the veterans is from the Trump people…..

A major snafu has hit benefit payments to student veterans under the GI Bill—and congressional aides tells NBC that they have been told the veterans are never going to be paid back. The aides say they were told by the Department of Veterans Affairs that the VA will not be making retroactive payments to veterans who were underpaid for their housing allowance because it would mean reviewing around 2 millions claims…

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Investigating The Kerch Strait Incident

On the 25th of November, Ukraine and Russia were involved in one of the most serious confrontations of the almost 5-year long conflict between the two countries. Russian Navy vessels first rammed and then later fired on and captured three Ukrainian Navy vessels, marking the first time Russian-flagged military units had officially attacked those of Ukraine.

Like many events in this conflict, both sides put out conflicting stories of what happened, as well as statements accusing the other of breaching international law. But what can we say for certain happened?

The First Confrontation

The opening act of the clash between the two navies began around 07:00 Russian time. Three Ukrainian Navy vessels – the Gyurza-M-class artillery boats ‘Berdyansk’ and ‘Nikopol’ and the tugboat ‘Yany Kapu’ – sailed towards the Kerch Strait, aiming to transit to the Ukrainian port of Mariupol. At around this time, they were intercepted by Russian Coast Guard vessels including the ‘Don’ and the ‘Izumrud’.

At this point, the clarity of the picture begins to break down. Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) claims that Russian vessels attempted to hail the Ukrainian ships and ask them to turn back, as they were not allowed to transit the Kerch Strait without a Russian navigator on board. The Ukrainians, for their part, claim they were illegally intercepted and had the right to free navigation through the strait.

As to what happened next, we need to analyse several primary sources. The first of these is an alleged communications intercept released by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). In it, several groups of Russian naval officers discuss the events which took place. There is no specific timeframe given, and it appears that the intercept is a collection of several recordings between different people forming seven discrete conversations.

Video 1: Intercepted Russian communications from the 25th of November released by the SBU.

From this recording, several key pieces of information can be taken away. The first is that the Russian vessel ‘Don’ rammed the ‘Yany Kapu’ twice. Once at 07:35 at the location (44°56’00″N 36°30’08″E) and a second time at 7:44 at (44°56’06″N 36°30’05″E). The second takeaway is that Russian vessel ‘Izumrud’ was damaged in a collision with another Russian ship.

Another piece of evidence is a video showing the Russian ship ‘Don’ appearing to intentionally ram the Ukrainian tug ‘Yany Kapu’. This footage can be seen below.

Video 2: Footage of Russian Coast Guard vessel ‘Don’ ramming the Yani Kapu.

From this footage, several things can be seen. First, the identity of the boat which the video was shot from can be determined from the distinctive off-set 30mm autocannon seen at 0’51” in the footage, which is also present on the preexisting photos of the ‘Don’. Second, the approximate time of day that the video was shot can also be determined. In the footage, it appears to be shortly after sunrise. According to SunCalc, sunrise on the 25th of November in this area was at 7:46. As such, the video must have been shot within around an hour after sunrise the given the relatively low position of the sun in the sky. As well, in the video, a voice (presumably that of the pilot of the ‘Don’) shouts “eight twenty-one (08:21)” immediately after the collision. It is likely this is the time of the collision and appears to converge with the timeframe suggested by the solar position.

This is further backed up by an apparently unnoticed detail in the video. In it, the tug ‘Yani Kapu’ has already sustained damage from at least two individual strikes. This would confirm that it happened after the 07:35 and 07:44 strikes mentioned in the SBU intercept video. Photos of these areas of damage, when compared to a photo of the undamaged ship taken just a day before can be seen below.

Image 1: FSB photo of the undamaged tug ‘Yani Kapu’ on the 24th of November

Image 1: FSB photo of the undamaged tug ‘Yani Kapu’ on the 24th of November


Image 2: Damage sustained to the starboard stern of the ‘Yani Kapu’. (screenshot from ramming video)

Image 2: Damage sustained to the starboard stern of the ‘Yani Kapu’. (screenshot from ramming video)

Image 3: Damage sustained to the starboard midship of the ‘Yani Kapu’. (screenshot from ramming video)

Image 3: Damage sustained to the starboard midship of the ‘Yani Kapu’. (screenshot from ramming video)

Notably, following this video, the Yani Kapu was struck at least one more time. Video released by Telekanal Zvezda shot an hour or two later in the morning, when the sun was higher in the sky, shows that the tug has sustained additional damage to its port stern, which was not present either in the ramming video or the image taken of the Yani Kapu on the 24th of November.

Image 4: Damage sustained to the port stern of the ‘Yani Kapu’. (Zvezda video screenshot)

Image 4: Damage sustained to the port stern of the ‘Yani Kapu’. (Zvezda video screenshot)

Further evidence also backs up information from the SBU intercept. Images released by Kerch.FM show damage sustained by the Russian Coast Guard ship ‘Izumrud’. The location of this damage (high on the starboard midship area) is consistent with a strike from a Russian vessel larger than the smaller Ukrainian boats. As well the long scar along the side of the ship is inconsistent with weapons damage. This fits in with the SBU tape wherein a collision between ‘Izumrud’ and another Russian vessel is discussed.

Image 5: Damage to the Russian Coast Guard vessel ‘Izumrud’ sustained in a collision with another Russian ship.

Image 5: Damage to the Russian Coast Guard vessel ‘Izumrud’ sustained in a collision with another Russian ship. (Via Kerch.FM)


The Second Confrontation

As the day continued, Russian Coast Guard vessels continued blocking manoeuvres against the three Ukrainian ships. A large cargo vessel was used to physically block the narrow passage under the Kerch Bridge, and a separate group of three Ukrainian naval vessels in the Sea of Azovwas forced to return to their base in Berdyansk.

Little information exists for what transpired over this period, however, the SBU intercept recording suggests that one of the Russian Coast Guard vessels took on a complement of 10 special forces soldiers to assist in later actions.

Image 6: Comparison of the large red ship in Zvezda footage and an image of the bulk carrier 'Aviona'

Image 6: Comparison of the large red ship in Zvezda footage and an image of the bulk carrier ‘Aviona’

The aforementioned Telekanal Zvezda video also contains another piece of useful information. In the first few seconds of the video, a bulk freight ship identified as the ‘Aviona’ can be seen within a few hundred meters from one of the Ukrainian armoured artillery boats. Using ship-tracking website MarineTraffic, we can determine that the ‘Aviona’ was at anchor in the Kerch Strait in effectively the same location for the entirety of November 25. This gives us a new data point for the location of the Ukrainian ships later in the day, much further north than previous positions.

Image 7: Locations of the bulk carrier 'Aviona' on the 25th of November

Image 7: Locations of the bulk carrier ‘Aviona’ on the 25th of November (Source: MarineTraffic)

Under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which Ukraine and the Russian Federation are parties to, territorial waters extend at most 12 nautical miles (22.2 km; 13.8 mi) from the baseline (usually the mean low-water mark) of a coastal state. Notably, this additional position near the ‘Aviona’ shows a Ukrainian vessel within not just the territorial waters of Crimea, but also mainland Russia.

It is also worth noting that Ukraine, as well as most Western countries, does not recognise Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and by extension its territorial sea. Moreover, Ukraine has cited a 2003 agreement with Russia that denotes the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait as a shared waterway, allowing free passage.

After 18:00 local time, however, the Ukrainian ships attempted to leave the area, and return to their home port of Odessa. They were, by all accounts pursued, intercepted, fired on, and boarded. Several Ukrainian soldiers were injured and the ships were later captured by Russian Naval forces.

Both sides made attempts to assert that this clash happened either outside of Russian territorial waters (in the case of Ukraine) and inside them (in the case of Russia).

The Russian FSB released a detailed timeline of the events of the day, including a number of geographical positions in which key events occurred. These events are plotted on the map seen below.


mage 7: Timeline of the events and key positions according to the FSB.

Image 8: Timeline of the events and key positions according to the FSB.

The Russian FSB makes that point that the initial interception, as well as the warning shots, and finally the shots which hit the ‘Berdyansk’ all took place within the ‘territorial waters of Russia’. This does not align with the location data they themselves released.

Specifically, the most serious incident – the shooting of the ‘Berdyansk’ – took place at 44°51.3’N, 36° 23.4 E  (notated in the official release as Ш=44° 51’3 СШ, Д=36° 23’4 ВД). We know the FSB is using decimal arc-minutes in their notation, rather than arc-minutes and arc-seconds, due to the fact that an earlier location is given as (Ш=44° 53’47 СШ, Д=36° 25’76 ВД) something which would be impossible under a degrees and minutes notation style – specifically the final digits ‘76’.

Image 8: Distance between the location where the ‘Berdyansk’ came under fire according to the FSB, and the coastline of Crimea.

Image 9: Distance between the location where the ‘Berdyansk’ came under fire according to the FSB, and the coastline of Crimea.

As can be seen in the above image, the FSB data, if correct, shows that the ‘Berdyansk’ was 22.72km from the coast of Crimea, and more than 500m outside of Russian territorial waters when it came under fire.

Ukraine for its part provided less detailed information regarding key locations during this period.

Image 9: Ukrainian release showing the locations of the capture of the three ships.

Image 10: Ukrainian release showing the locations of the capture of the three ships.

Unfortunately, while Ukraine asserts that its ships were outside of the 12 nautical mile UNCLOS limit, even if their location data is taken at face value, it is inconclusive. This is due to the fact that they only provided 4-digit locations. Such locations do not pinpoint a single point but rather a rectangle approximately 1.8 km on the N-S axis and 1.3km on the E-W axis. Given this level of imprecision, the positions could be potentially within, or outside of the 12 nautical mile limit. Ukraine likely does has access to more precise location data, and could make this public if it wishes to add clarity.

Additionally, an alleged mayday call released by Ukrainian publication Liga Novosti from one of the three Ukrainian vessels includes the audio “How many wounded do you have? I need help! I need help! Mayday! Mayday!” followed by the coordinates N 44° 51’ 00’’, E 36° 23’ 04’’. This location is southwest of the position Russia claims it fired on the ‘Berdyansk’, and is also outside of the 12 nautical mile limit, and thus in international waters.

As for the details of the confrontation itself, we again fall back on statements by both Ukraine and Russia, in lieu of primary sources. Interestingly, neither country’s statements contradict the other aside from their positions relative to the territorial waters line. Both sides claim that Russian forces shot at and crippled the ‘Berdyansk’, capturing it and the tug Yani Kapu shortly after. Initially, the Ukrainian military claimed that both the ‘Berdyansk’ and the ‘Nikopol’ ships had been damaged, before clarifying at 23:20 (Russian time) that only the ‘Berdyansk’ was hit.

Image 10: Damage to the Ukrainian Navy ship ‘Berdyansk’

Image 11: Damage to the Ukrainian Navy ship ‘Berdyansk’

Photos of the Ukrainian ships in port in Kerch post-capture show many small calibre bullet holes in the ‘Berdyansk’ as well as at least one large calibre hole in its bridge. This larger hit especially confirms that Russian forces were not shooting to disable the vessel, but rather to harm the crew. The FSB release itself notes that the Russian Coast Guard vessel ‘Izumrud’ issued threats to the ‘Berdyansk’ that “weapons to kill” would be used if the vessel did not comply with its request to stop.

Image 12: Interactive map showing key positions and events from the 25th of November


From this information, several things are made clear. Firstly, based on geolocated video footage, Ukrainian ships did enter Russian territorial waters, both that of Crimea and mainland Russia in the Kerch Strait. Ukraine nonetheless argues this was legally permissible due to the 2003 agreement between the two countries. Secondly, we can say that the Ukrainian tug ‘Yani Kapu’ was intentionally rammed at least four times over a period of at least an hour. Thirdly, based on information provided by the Russian FSB which appears to incriminate themselves, the shooting of the ‘Berdyansk’ most likely took place in international waters.

The post Investigating The Kerch Strait Incident appeared first on bellingcat.

CNN Caves to Anti-Palestinian Smear Campaign

CNN fired commentator Marc Lamont Hill for calling for a free Palestine, after some claimed he meant the destruction of Israel. But his statement is no more a call for the destruction of Israel than the end of Jim Crow was the destruction of America.

By Omar Baddar

Marc Lamont Hill participates in a CNN panel, August 29, 2014. (Screenshot/CNN)

Marc Lamont Hill participates in a CNN panel, August 29, 2014. (Screenshot/CNN)

“All the people that live in the West Bank are Israelis. They are not Palestinians. There is no Palestinian. This is Israeli land.” These were the shocking words of former Senator Rick Santorum in 2012, denying the existence of Palestinians, and endorsing Israel’s illegal annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories. Santorum was subsequently hired by CNN as a paid contributor.


By contrast, prominent commentator and Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill was just fired by CNN for delivering a speech at the UN in solidarity with the Palestinian people, and closing that speech by urging international action “that will give us what justice requires, and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea.” Could the double-standard be any more glaring?

The backlash to Hill’s comments was instant, reaching the level of deranged hysteria in the case of Washington Examiner executive editor Seth Mandel, who absurdly claimed that Hill was calling for a “Jewish genocide.” Fox News host Ben Shapiro displayed some shameless hypocrisy in expressing outrage at what he deemed an anti-Semitic speech, despite Shapiro himself explicitly calling on Israel to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians (something Hill never even came close to). The right-wing online hysteria proved too much for CNN to bear, so they dropped Hill within hours.

Before getting into the grave consequences of CNN’s decision, it’s important to understand Hill’s comment. Since no honest person could derive anti-Semitism or genocide from a “free Palestine,” I won’t dignify those accusations with a rebuttal. I would simply note that those smears are deliberate attempts to mislead people away from the reality of the injustice Palestinians live today, because this is a debate that opponents of Palestinian rights can no longer win on merits. But because an honest person could read an “anti-Israel” position in Hill’s comment, given that modern Israel is within the “river to the sea” area he refers to, that much is worth addressing.

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Israel was created in 1948 on 78 percent of historic Palestine, at the expense of over 700,000 Palestinians who were driven from their homes, and hundreds of Palestinian villages that were destroyed. Later in 1967, Israel captured the remaining 22 percent of Palestine, and the UN called on Israel to end the occupation of those territories.

Having long fought to restore their entire historic homeland, the Palestinians made a major compromise in the late 1980s, recognizing Israel on 78 percent of the land, as accepted by the UN, and settling for a Palestinian state in the occupied territories. The world rejoiced as the elusive two-state solution finally seemed inevitable.

Except there was one problem: instead of ending the occupation, Israel kept building illegal settlements on Palestinian lands. Today, nearly 750,000 settlers live in the occupied territories, and some of the settlements are major cities. The extent of Israel’s colonization of the Palestinian territories, in violation of international law and to the condemnation of the whole world, made a viable Palestinian state practically impossible. In other words, Israel used force to kill the two-state solution, and guarantee a one-state outcome.

As Israel’s rejection of the Palestinian compromise leaves us with a one-state reality between the river and the sea, the question we confront today is: what kind of one-state should this be? Should it be one where everyone is treated equally or not?

In the one-state reality that exists today, the Israeli government is the primary authority in charge. Jewish citizens of Israel live in a liberal democracy, while Palestinians are divided into many groups: citizens of Israel with partial rights, occupied people in the West Bank and Jerusalem with hardly any rights, and prisoners in Gaza with no rights. Put more bluntly, Palestinians live under Israeli apartheid.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who opposes Palestinian independence or statehood, is further entrenching this one-state apartheid. What people like Marc Lamont Hill object to isn’t the one-state reality that Israel imposed on the land, but the discriminatory nature of that state.

It is true, of course, that a single state with equal rights for all would no longer be a Jewish state. But this is no more a destruction of Israel, as some claim, than the end of Jim Crow segregation in the United States was the destruction of America. We’re not talking about destruction, but simply a transformation of the kind of state we have — and that’s precisely what Hill’s comments referred to.

To oppose Hill’s vision of freedom and equality without simultaneously opposing Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories is effectively an endorsement of apartheid. And what is disturbing is that we live in a political moment where endorsing that apartheid is considered normal in our public discourse, while promoting full equality is considered a taboo deserving of panic, shunning and even firing.

The damage wasn’t just done to Hill’s reputation and career — it goes far beyond that. CNN’s decision to fire Hill chills freedom of thought. It contributes to an already suffocating environment in which commentators avoid speaking honestly about Israel’s abuse of Palestinians because it is so frequently punished in a variety of ways. Suppression of advocacy for Palestinian rights in the United States goes back decades, and the current iteration of this suppression campaign isn’t just about career consequences — there are efforts underway to formalize punishments for Palestine advocacy.



While boycotts are protected political expression under the First Amendment, Congress is considering a bill to criminalize boycotts of Israel in America. There are also efforts to expand the definition of anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israel, a transparent attempt to chill campus activism on Palestine. Thankfully, civil rights groups, including the ACLU, are fighting back against both measures, but the battle to speak freely about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains potentially the biggest free speech challenge of our generation.

The United States enables Israel’s oppression of Palestinians by the endless billions of dollars it gives to Israel in military aid, and the unconditional diplomatic cover it offers at the United Nations. We in the United States have a moral responsibility to speak out against this injustice. Defenders of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians scored a point by smearing their way into getting Hill fired from CNN. But it doesn’t end here, because there is a growing movement that will defy these intimidation tactics, and will continue speaking truth to power.

Omar Baddar is the Deputy Director of the Washington-based Arab American Institute. He is a political analyst specializing in US-Middle East policy, with a particular emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The post CNN Caves to Anti-Palestinian Smear Campaign appeared first on +972 Magazine.


And turn blind eye to Saudi Arabia dealing with Israel, mass killings in Yemen, and killing those who disagree ti Prince.


The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, through the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), has contributed US$ 63 million for projects to be implemented in Gaza, the West Bank and Jordan.

Four agreements were signed on 28 November by the SFD Vice-Chairman and Managing Director, Dr. Khalid Sulaiman Alkhudairy, and the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Pierre Krähenbühl.

The first agreement, valued at US$ 31 million, will support ongoing projects, including the reconstruction of shelters, construction of new health centers and two UNRWA schools, maintenance of schools and fuel supply in Gaza. The second agreement, valued at US$ 17 million, will assist UNRWA in the reconstruction and furnishing of several health centers, camp offices and schools in the West Bank, comprehensive maintenance of UNRWA premises in East-Jerusalem and the implementation of several other ongoing projects.

The third agreement, valued at US$ 8 million, will provide funds for comprehensive maintenance for UNRWA schools and Health Centers in

Jordan. While the fourth agreement valued at US$ 7 million, will provide funds for maintaining UNRWA facilities across all its fields of operations.

Dr. Khalid Alkhudairy said: “We are a proud partner of UNRWA, which is doing an excellent job serving Palestine refugees. We shall continue to support UNRWA and we look forward as always to witnessing the impact of these projects on Palestine refugees.”

Expressing his gratitude, Mr. Krähenbühl said: “I am extremely grateful to the government and the people of Saudi Arabia for the sustained support that the Kingdom has extended to Palestine Refugees and to UNRWA services over the years.

I would like to express particular appreciation for the role played by the Saudi Fund for Development and recognition for the trust it places in the Agency. Our partnership with the Fund is of high importance and deeply appreciated.”

In 2018, UNRWA faced its largest budget shortfall since its founding. Support from dedicated partners like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has enabled the Agency to sustain vital services to Palestine refugees across the Middle East.

On 28 November, H.E. Dr Abdallah Al Rabeeah, Supervisor General of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSC) and Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) signed an unprecedented US$ 50 million agreement which confirmed the pledge of US$ 50 million made by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, in support of the Agency’s core services.

Expressing his deep recognition and gratitude, Commissioner-General Krähenbühl stated that:

“The disbursement of this landmark donation will make a major contribution to the Agency’s global mobilization aimed at reducing an unprecedented shortfall this year.

With Saudi Arabia’s donation and the support of our other partners, we have brought the deficit of US$ 446 million down to its current level of US$ 21 million, and have been able to open on time the 711 schools run by UNRWA for 530,000 girls and boys in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

It was crucial to ensure that their education is preserved. Similarly, our 140 health centres remained open thanks to the funding received, providing crucial primary health care to 3 million patients.“

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, along with its humanitarian and development bodies, is an important and consistent partner to UNRWA. This year alone, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has contributed close to US$160 million towards UNRWA including projects across its five fields of operations.

The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre was established on 13 May, 2015 under the high patronage and guidance of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, aiming to provide humanitarian aid and relief to those in need outside of the Kingdom’s borders. The Centre has provided humanitarian and development aid to more than 37 countries through international, regional and local partners in place.

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs.

As a result, the UNRWA programme budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s programme budget.

UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation.

Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

Tijuana Border Crossers Stranded in San Ysidro

By Mario A. Cortez

Mario A. Cortez | La Prensa San Diego

Maria Garcia checked her phone impulsively, looking for an answer to a pressing question.

“They say they didn’t close down the Otay crossing, but the Trolley isn’t running and there are no busses that can take me there and nobody knows when the exit will open here,” said Garcia, who crossed from Tijuana to the United States to take advantage of black friday sales at a border-adjacent mall. “I don’t even know what to do.”

Garcia was one of hundreds of border crossers from Tijuana who found themselves temporarily stranded in San Ysidro after U.S. authorities shut down activity at pedestrian and vehicular ports of entry going into and out of the United States last Sunday, Nov. 25.

The halt in operations came after a large group from the refugee caravan in Tijuana marched towards the El Chaparral border checkpoint in Mexico. From this larger contingent, a smaller group broke off and ran towards the United States side of the border, inciting a hostile response from armed Customs and Border Protection agents.

The shutdown, which started at 11:30 a.m., left many confused as to why they could not return home.

Jorge Olvera’s plans of kicking back at home after work were struck out with the closing of the border.

“I don’t know what the hell happened that they closed it,” he said. “I don’t know if the caravan people jumped the wall or if they straight up closed the border like (it was rumored by people) this week but this sucks.”

Others, such as Ramon, who asked to only be identified by his first name, and his wife chose to return to family members instead of waiting for the border to reopen.

“We’re seeing where my daughter can pick us up to return to her house; it’s pointless to wait here if they aren’t opening the border in a little bit,” stated Ramon, who spent Thanksgiving weekend with his eldest daughter in Chula Vista.

As these residents of the border waited, there was no other choice but to remain along sidewalks near the pedestrian exit port. At the southern end of San Ysidro Boulevard many gathered at the final street corner before reaching Mexico, many looking at the military helicopters flying overhead while others searched for more information about the closing on their phones.

Mario A. Cortez | La Prensa San Diego

Along the bridges connecting San Ysidro’s West and East districts, many curiously watched the highly transited freeways which lead to ports of entry stay clear of cars.

“When have you seen no cars down there or passing by? It’s really weird isn’t it?” said Perla Lopez, who also took advantage of Black Friday deals at San Ysidro malls.

At 3:45, over four hours later, operations resumed at pedestrian ports of entry in both directions, putting an end to the limbo Tijuana residents stranded in San Ysidro found themselves in.

Southbound lanes into Mexico’s port of entry reopened at 5 p.m. with northbound crossings resuming minutes later.

Las Protestas de Estudiantes Chicanos y su Efecto Transformador

Por Marielena Castellanos

Enojados por la forma en que fueron tratados y en un esfuerzo por promover la igualdad educativa, hace 50 años, casi 20,000 estudiantes chicanos abandonaron sus clases en el este de Los Ángeles, algo inimaginable en esos tiempos. Estas protestas tendrían un efecto transformador.

El profesor Isidro Ortiz, del Departamento de Estudios Chicanos de la Universidad Estatal de San Diego, lideró una discusión sobre las protestas estudiantiles chicanas de 1968 como parte de la serie KPBS One Book One San Diego en la Biblioteca Central del centro de San Diego.

Ortiz comenzó con un video de una serie de PBS llamada “Latino Americans”, donde el narrador decía sobre los latinos, “que parecía estar destinada a permanecer en sociedades de clase baja. Más de cien mil estudiantes asistieron a las escuelas públicas de Los Ángeles, pero su tasa de graduación fue una de las más bajas del país, así había sido durante generaciones”.

También explicó que existían ciertas condiciones para que los estudiantes realicen las protestas, que incluyen tener recursos. Uno de ellos fue Sal Castro, nativo del este de Los Ángeles que enseñó en la preparatoria Belmont. En el video de PBS, Castro recuerda acercarse a una directora por preocupaciones sobre estudiantes chicanos que no participan en el consejo estudiantil o en programas académicos. La directora se comunicó con Castro después de su conversación inicial y le dijo: “Los mexicanos tienen una pasividad encantadora. No quieres quitar eso, ¿verdad?

El activista comunitario y ejecutivo de entretenimiento Moctesuma Esparza también está en el video y explicó que en esos tiempos en que los estudiantes fueron castigados por hablar español, Castro lo hizo sentir como “amar la cultura mexicana y nuestra propia herencia era realmente genial. Y eso fue inquietante, revolucionario y emocionante “.

Ortiz dijo que Castro buscó organizar a los estudiantes y organizaron las protestas de salirse de sus clases durante varios meses. A través de sus esfuerzos, permitió que los estudiantes hicieran lo que los sociólogos llaman “liberación cognitiva”, lo que les permitió liberar sus pensamientos y también les permitió liberarse de ideas que los habían mantenido pasivos “.

El Dr. Ortiz explicó que hay una larga historia de activismo estudiantil, pero lo que faltó fue la contribución de los chicanos: “Fueron tan grandes que durante mucho tiempo se mantuvieron como las protestas estudiantiles más grandes que se hayan realizado en la historia de la educación pública estadounidense, hasta el pasado mes de marzo de este año, cuando los estudiantes salieron de las escuelas de todo el país para protestar por la violencia con armas de fuego”.

Ortiz también dijo que las huelgas fueron las primeras protestas importantes de la generación emergente que se llamó chicanos y marcó un nuevo capítulo en la lucha de los chicanos por la igualdad educativa en los Estados Unidos.

También explicó que los sociólogos describirían las protestas de salir de las clases como una demostración de la voluntad de violar las reglas del juego. Las huelgas son un descanso de confiar en las tácticas tradicionales de acción indirecta, cabildeo, litigios. Los estudiantes salen a la calle en lugar de tratar de trabajar dentro de los canales tradicionales del sistema político. Se suman a una resistencia transformadora contra las condiciones educativas desiguales que enfrentaron como parte de una mayor insurgencia que se produjo a lo largo de la década de 1960. Ortiz también dijo que las huelgas se inspiraron en parte de por los estudiantes afroamericanos y las protestas en el Sur que provocaron una serie de acciones en todo el Sur y en partes de los Estados Unidos por parte de estudiantes universitarios que se resisten a la segregación que enfrentan.

“En lo que fue un año muy tumultuoso”, dijo Ortiz refiriéndose a 1968. En abril de ese año, fue asesinado el líder de los derechos civiles Martin Luther King Jr. Ese mismo año, en junio, fue asesinado Robert F. Kennedy. También se realizaron protestas en todo el país, incluso en México.

Ortiz dijo que los estudiantes se enfrentaban a las caras de la opresión a diario, incluida la impotencia, lo cual era evidente de varias maneras, incluso por el hecho de que los estudiantes no tenían representación en el consejo escolar.

Los estudiantes elaboraron una lista de demandas que incluía maestros que no deberían ser reprendidos por trabajar por la igualdad racial, la inclusión de programas de educación bilingüe y el desarrollo de libros de texto y currículos que muestren las contribuciones de los mexicoamericanos.

También dijo que la Junta Escolar de Los Ángeles rechazó las demandas de los estudiantes, pero eso no significa que nada haya cambiado. A principios de este año, el LA Times informó que, un año después de las caminatas, la inscripción de mexicanos estadounidenses en UCLA se disparó de 100 a 1,900. A lo largo de las décadas, la matrícula universitaria aumentó del 2% al 25% a nivel nacional. Los programas de estudios chicanos se fundaron en colegios y universidades de todo el país. Más mexicoamericanos también ingresaron en las filas de subdirectores y directores en el Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Ángeles.

Ortiz dijo que la mayor transformación tuvo lugar dentro de los propios estudiantes. Dijo que las protestas de las clases sirvieron como escenario para superar el miedo, desarrollar habilidades y movilizar otros esfuerzos.

Entre sus comentarios finales, Ortiz dijo: “Las protestas de las clases rompieron con el precedente de seguir las reglas y establecieron las protestas como formas legítimas de efectuar un cambio social”

The Chicano Blowouts and Their Transformative Effect

By Marielena Castellanos

Angry over how they were treated and in an effort to push for educational equality, 50 years ago nearly 20,000 Chicano students walked out of their classrooms in East Los Angeles, something unimaginable in those times. The walkouts would have a transformative effect.

Professor and activist Isidro Ortiz of San Diego State University’s Chicana and Chicano Studies Department led a discussion of the Chicano Blowouts of 1968 as part of KPBS One Book One San Diego series of events at the Central Library in downtown San Diego.

Ortiz began with a video of a PBS series called “Latino Americans,” where the narrator said Latinos, “Seemed destined to remain in society’s underclass. Over 100,000 students attended Los Angeles public schools, but their graduation rate was one of the lowest in the country. It had been that way for generations.”

He also explained there were certain conditions present in order for students to carry out the protests, including access to resources. One of those was Sal Castro, an East Los Angeles native who taught at Belmont High school. In the PBS video, Castro recalls approaching a principal over concerns about Chicano students not participating in student council or academic programs. The principal contacted Castro after their initial conversation telling him, “Mexicans have a charming passivity. You wouldn’t want to take that away from them do you.”

Community activist and entertainment executive Moctesuma Esparza is also in the video. He explained that in a time when students were punished for speaking Spanish, Castro made him feel “loving Mexican culture and our own heritage was actually cool. And that was both unsettling and revolutionary—and exciting.”

Ortiz said Castro looked to organize the students, and they planned the walkouts over several months. Through his efforts, he enabled students to do what sociologists call, “Cognitive liberation,” which allowed students to free their thinking and also enabled them to free themselves of thinking about ideas that had kept them passive.”

Ortiz explained there’s a long history of student activism, but what had been missing was the Chicano contribution.

“They were so large that for a long time they actually stood as the largest student protests ever conducted in the history of American public education, until last March of this year when students walked out of schools across the country to protest gun violence, that the standing of the walkouts had was actually eclipsed,” he said.

Ortiz also said the walkouts were the first major protests from the emerging generation which called itself Chicanos, and they marked a new chapter in the struggle by Chicanos for educational equality in the United States.

He also explained sociologists would describe the walkouts as a demonstration of a willingness to violate the rules of the game. The walkouts were a break from relying on traditional tactics of indirect action, lobbying, and litigation. Students took to the streets instead of trying to work within traditional channels of the political system. They mount to a transformational resistance against unequal educational conditions which they faced as part of a larger insurgency occurring throughout the 1960’s. Ortiz also said the walkouts were inspired in part from sit-ins in the South by Black students which triggered a whole series of actions across the South and other parts of the United States by students and college students primarily who were resisting segregation they faced.

Ortiz said referred to 1968 as tumultuous. In April of that year, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. That same year in June, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. Protests were also being held all over the country, as well as in Mexico.

Ortiz said students were confronted with the faces of oppression on a daily basis, including powerlessness which was evident in several ways such as the fact that students had no representation on the school board.

Students came up with list of demands which included teachers should not be reprimanded for working for racial equality, inclusion of bilingual education programs, and the development of textbooks and curriculum showing Mexican American contributions.

He also said the Los Angeles Unified School Board rejected the students demands, but it didn’t mean that nothing changed. Earlier this year, the LA Times reported that a year after the walkouts, UCLA’s enrollment of Mexican Americans soared from 100 to 1,900. Over the decades, college enrollment increased from 2 percent to 25 percent nationwide. Chicano studies programs were founded at colleges and universities across the nation. More Mexican Americans also entered the ranks of vice principals and principals in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Ortiz said the biggest transformation took place within the students themselves. He said the walkouts served as a stage to overcome fear, develop skills, and mobilize other efforts.

Among his final comments, Ortiz said, “The Blowouts broke with the precedent of playing by the rules, and established protests as legitimate forms of effecting social change.”

Millions Lost in San Ysidro Due to Temporary Border Closure

By Alexandra Mendoza

According to San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce data, local businesses lost just over $1 million per hour during the five hours that the San Diego-Tijuana border remained closed this past weekend.

The upheaval south of the border when a group of immigrants tried to rush into the U.S. forced enforcement agencies to shut down operations at what is known as “the busiest border crossing in the world.”

The impacts were immediate and devastating for the hundreds of businesses that depend on Mexican customers, particularly since it occurred during the Black Friday weekend, one of the most profitable periods for these businesses.

San Ysidro businesses lost an estimated $5.3 million due to the border closure. Other cities whose lifeblood are the thousands of visitors from south of the border – such as Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, National City, and San Diego – may have suffered similar losses.

According to the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce, at least about 700 local businesses get 93 percent of their revenue from cross-border shoppers, and the largest percentage of that comes during the period from Nov. 20 through Jan. 6. This year, the border has been shut down three times during that period, including for exercises carried out by U.S. agencies fearing a mass crossing of immigrant caravan members to petition for political asylum.

The uncertainty has impacted the region, as many shoppers are thinking twice about crossing into the U.S. because they are scared they might not be able to return home.

“It’s a very serious situation, because as we know, our (local) economies are tied to each other,” said Paola Avila, Vice-President of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

With President Donald Trump threatening to shut down the border with Mexico once again “permanently, if necessary,” the mere possibility of it worries local businesses as well as workers who live on one side of the border and work on the other. Many have taken steps and looked at alternatives in the event that the border is temporarily shut down once again. Others just hope it will not happen. The reality, however, is that whether it will happen or not is anyone’s guess. “Uncertainty is not good for business,” stressed Avila.

San Ysidro Chamber Executive Director Jason Wells agrees that the rumors going around regarding the situation have had an impact, with some businesses already seeing decreased sales since days before in comparison to the previous year. “Not knowing affects us more than the actual events,” he said.

Over 50,000 vehicles and 25,000 pedestrians cross through San Ysidro every day, and it is estimated that one in six people entering the U.S. do so through this busy Port of Entry.

For Wells, the President has yet to understand the economic implications of closing down the border one more time. “He has no idea [what he is saying],” he expressed. “It’s like when he sent the 5,000 troops; if he really wanted to help the situation, he would have been better off sending 5,000 officers to process the asylum petitions.”