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Opinion: Trump Cranks Up the Miseries of the People of Venezuela



President Trump apparently has decided that intervention in Venezuela’s agonies can help repair an image scarred by the government shutdown debacle.

In recent days, he recognized an obscure, right-wing opposition leader when he declared himself acting president. Trump has blustered that “I am not going to rule out a military option.” Mike Pompeo, his secretary of state told the world’s nations to “pick a side” in the internal Venezuelan standoff.

Trump is ratcheting up sanctions, increasing the miseries inflicted on the Venezuelan people. And most recently, he named as point person for Venezuela the notorious Elliott Abrams, ardent advocate of dictators and war criminals, a cheerleader for virtually every catastrophic U.S. intervention from Reagan’s covert war on Nicaragua to the Bush’s invasion of Iraq, and a convicted perjurer (withholding information about the Iran-Contra scandal).

This is like putting Al Capone in charge of enforcing law and order.

Venezuela is in deep crisis. Inflation is soaring, the currency is in free fall, corruption is crippling. Oil — it has the largest known reserves in the world — is its blessing and curse.  For decades, the rapacious elite pocketed the wealth, leaving the vast majority in poverty.

When a popularly elected president, Hugo Chavez, took over oil production, redistributed land and provided greater resources for health care, food and housing for the poor, the elites sought to overthrow him in a 2002 failed coup — one the U.S. shamefully supported (including Abrams as a member of the Bush National Security Council).

When the price of oil plummeted, the economy went into crisis; government mismanagement and corruption made things worse. Millions have fled the country. The opposition exacerbated the situation by refusing to recognize the 2013 electoral victory of Nicolas Maduro, sponsoring violent attacks, boycotting future elections and calling for military and foreign interventions. The agonies were worsened by U.S. economic sanctions, illegal under treaties of the Organization of American States and the UN.

Now, the U.S., joined by a significant number of Latin American countries as well as an increasing number of European allies, is calling for Maduro to resign and for new elections.

Abrams’ appointment signals that the pressure will be ramped up even more. Most likely, Trump will follow the textbook used in the overthrow of Chile’s democratically elected leader, Salvador Allende. Then U.S. sanctions were tightened to “make the economy scream.” Covert efforts were made to enlist generals to overthrow the president.

The CIA helped fuel strikes and demonstrations from the opposition. The result was the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship that consolidated itself with savage brutality.

The U.S. has a long sordid history of regime change — military and covert interventions aimed at overthrowing governments — in Latin America, a record that belies our proclamations about international law and a rule based global order. We would do well to avoid adding to that regrettable record.

Last week, an open letter signed by 70 scholars and other experts on Latin America called on the Trump administration to “cease interfering in Venezuela’s internal politics, especially for the purpose of overthrowing the country’s government.” Given how polarized the country is, the experts argued, “the only solution is a negotiated settlement.”

They called on the U.S. and outside countries to support negotiations between the government and its opponents, rather than to risk fostering a coup that might plunge the country into further violence.

It is a time for diplomacy and for restraint, not another intervention that unleashes violence that we surely will come to regret.

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Civil Rights Before the Loving Decision

Loving v. Virginia was a landmark civil rights case in 1967 that recognized marriage as a fundamental right guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which includes the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause.





Not so recently in the United States, same sex marriages were illegal. In the last century, there were laws on the books that prohibited folks from different races marrying.  

Loving v. Virginia was a landmark civil rights case in 1967 that recognized marriage as a fundamental right guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which includes the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause.

In 1958, Mildred Loving, a Black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were convicted and sentenced to a year in prison for violating the state of Virginia’s laws prohibiting their marriage.

That conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1968, ending discrimination in marriage based on race.

The Loving decision was a catalyst in 2015 to help abolish discrimination in marriage in same-sex marriages, which allowed for equality in the LGBTQ communities of all races including this author.

Before the Loving decision, Joan Steinau, a white woman, married Julius Lester, who at the time was a singer and a photographer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  Julius later became a writer.  

Joan and Julius were divorced in 1970.

Next month, Joan’s memoir, “Loving before Loving:  A Marriage in Black and White,” will be released. In the book, she recounts her marriage to Julius Lester before the Loving decision in the midst of the civil rights era as a wife, mother, and activist. 

In an interview with the Post, she said,   “Given both the erasure and distortion of Black lives as presented in the white-led media, the existence of a robust Black press . . .has been essential to the survival and thriving of Black community.”

Quoting the Chicago Daily Defender in her memoir, she said, “When one of its reporters asked President Truman, after he said school integration might lead to intermarriage, ‘Would you want your daughter to marry a Black man if she loved him?’ The president responded with a typical segregationist attitude of the time, ‘She won’t love anybody that’s not her color.’   It was important for the Black reporter to be there, because of course he assumed the possibility that naturally she could love anyone and pointed that out with his question.”

She added,  “That’s just one example of a long history of significant advocacy and reportage by hundreds of Black newspapers over the last 150 years. The Post News Group has jumped into the gap regionally to fill this important space, and I’m grateful for it. Until we have true representation of all experiences/perspectives at major media outlets, we will continue to need media targeted to excluded groups.

“My own history with Oakland/Berkeley dates to the 1980s when I began to visit from the East Coast and plot a way to move here. In 1991, my wife and I did settle in Berkeley. We immediately joined a predominantly Black church in Oakland and began creating a friendship circle. The diverse culture here was high on our list of reasons to move from our predominantly white area in New England. And it has been everything we hoped for.”

Joan Lester dedicates this memoir to her wife, Carole.  In addition to this memoir, she is a commentator, columnist and book author.

“Loving before Loving A Marriage in Black and White” by Joan Steinau Lester is available for pre-order now and on sale on May 18 on Amazon and at local bookstores.

For more information log onto

Wikipedia was a source for this story.

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Bay Area

At Least 4 Bay Area Counties Pause Use Of J&J Vaccines Amid Blood Clot Concerns

Public health officials in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Marin counties announced that they would temporarily halt use of the vaccine, which was developed by J&J’s pharmaceutical subsidiary Janssen.




     At least four Bay Area counties paused administrations Tuesday of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after a handful of people across the country developed blood clots less than two weeks after the shot.

     Public health officials in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, and Marin counties announced that they would temporarily halt the use of the vaccine, which was developed by J&J’s pharmaceutical subsidiary Janssen.
The state’s Department of Public Health also issued a statement Tuesday urging a temporary pause on the vaccine’s administration while state and federal officials determine whether the clotting incidents are significant.

    More than 6.8 million doses of the vaccine have been administered across the country.
Health officials have confirmed cases of rare and severe blood clots in just six women between the ages of 18 and 48 who received the J&J vaccine, with symptoms appearing between six and 13 days post-vaccination.

   Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have also advised states to pause administration of the Janssen vaccine to allow for an investigation of the clots and whether a causal link with the vaccine can even be established.

     In a joint statement, FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research Dr. Peter Marks and CDC Principal Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat said the two agencies will review the cases of clotting this week to determine whether they are statistically significant. “Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” Marks and Schuchat said. “This is important, in part, to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot.”

     State epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said the state will also follow the recommendation by the FDA and CDC and order a statewide pause of administrations of the Janssen vaccine.
“Additionally, the state will convene the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup to review the information provided by the federal government on this issue,” Pan said.

     California joined the states of Nevada, Oregon, and Washington to establish the workgroup last year to conduct independent review and analysis of each vaccine as they are approved for emergency use by the FDA.
Officials in the four Bay Area counties noted that Janssen vaccines represent 4 percent or less of the doses administered in each county to date, with the majority being the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Health officials have lauded the Janssen vaccine’s utility in reaching demographics like unhoused residents and people who are homebound, who may have difficulty returning for a second vaccine dose.

     Officials in the four counties said they did not expect the Janssen vaccine pause to force the widespread cancellation of vaccination appointments or significantly affect their ability to continue vaccinating their respective populations.

    Janssen vaccine recipients who got vaccinated more than a month ago are not deemed at risk for developing blood clots, according to local, state, and federal health officials.

   People who received the vaccine more recently are encouraged to contact a health care provider if they begin noticing symptoms like severe headaches, leg pain, and shortness of breath, which may be associated with clotting.

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Equity Summit Zoom Discussion: “Learning from Our Elders”




The Equity Summit Series, hosted by the Friends of Adeline in Berkeley, will hold a  Zoom panel discussion, “Learning from Our Elders: Listening and Honoring the Past to Guide the Future,” Sunday, March 28, 7:00 p.m.


One of the speakers on this week’s panel will be Wil Ussery, a long-time civil rights leader in the Bay Area. 


The Equity Summit Series has focused on building power to create change in our communities, especially emphasizing gentrification, equity and economic justice. 



To participate by Zoom on a computer, go to: https: //us02web.zoom.u.s./j/87087838028
To participate by conventional telephone, dial: +1 669 900 6833; or: 1-253 215-8782 US80288
Meeting ID: 870 8783 8028


For more information call (510)  655-2503.





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