Eric Cantor stomps his feet and VAWA doesn’t get ratified

by Granate Sosnoff on 11th January, 2013



One of the best books I read in 2012 was Louise Erdrich’s powerful, National Book Award-winning novel, The Round House. The central theme is that of a violent rape committed against an Ojibwe woman. What is important to note here is that where the rape occurs is of legal significance as well as who perpetrates the crime, since tribal courts have limited jurisdiction over crimes that occur on reservations by non-Natives.

The book is a complex exploration of the impact violence has on family, community, and of the limitations of legal recourse – all relevant to the issue of violence against women…

I bring this up because the reason why VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) didn’t pass this time around was because:

“At the eleventh hour…majority leader Eric Cantor dug in his heels over the Native American provision, which would have expanded tribal courts’ jurisdiction over domestic violence offenses committed on reservations against Native women by non-Native men.” Excerpted from The Nation article by Erica Eichelberger

Seems to me that a provision for extending tribal law is written in there for a reason. According to US government statistics (via Amnesty International) Native American and Alaska Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than other women in the U.S.

According to the US Department of Justice, 86% of this violence is perpetrated by non-Natives. Given the history of violence against Native Americans in the US it seems that tribal courts SHOULD have more jurisdiction over crimes committed by non-Natives on reservations.

Please take a few minutes to let him know that you think he is wrong. You can leave him a message at: (202) 225-2815 or write to him at:



May 17 – Prior to Obama’s meeting with African Leaders

by Granate Sosnoff on 4th June, 2012

Investing in hunger: Africa

This Saturday President Obama will meet with African leaders to discuss food security at Camp David. One thing they probably won’t discuss is the role of foreign investment in causing food insecurity.

Most of us know that the US offers huge amounts of aid to governments like Ethiopia (over a billion a year since 2007) including funds for famine relief. What we don’t all know is that at the same time that we taxpayers and donors are giving aid to help African nations, American investors are hindering Africa’s food production by accumulating fertile, breadbasket lands there.

Investing in agricultural projects in Africa that provide food or jobs to buy food would make sense. But investors aren’t supporting the production of staple foods like cassava and maize for sale in African markets. They’re making money off growing exports like sugar in Ethiopia and palm oil in Sierra Leone and creating very few new jobs.

The World Bank has facilitated this process as it continues to promote a welcoming investor climate as the road to successful development. Unlikely investors such as university endowments, pension funds, and foundations are drawn to both the promise of 25% returns and the added flash of supporting development and responsible agriculture.

Critics of the World Bank’s strategy, say that they are not opposed to investment that is actually responsible. They argue that promises of infrastructure and jobs have not been realized. And what should be a boost to African communities has instead only added to existing problems.

Tragically, land deals have had a deep downside in Africa. Including the fact that huge groups of people have to be displaced to make way for them.

In Ethiopia, 70,000 are being forcibly moved in Gambella. The government has said that people are going willingly to new villages where promises of schools, health care and food await. But Human Rights Watch, the Oakland Institute and other NGOs have documented that this is hardly the case. They found that the ongoing displacement has been fraught with violence and coercion and that promises of benefits have gone unrealized.

The World Bank estimates that more than 96 million acres, an area the size of France, is engaged in land deals. Much of this land was previously occupied by villages and utilized for food production.

Take Tanzania for example. AgriSol Energy’s website markets their partnership of American technology and know-how to help underdeveloped global locations.

The reality is that some of the land AgriSol intends to develop is home to thriving, robust communities successfully producing food for themselves and nearby villages. AgriSol’s deal is reliant on moving 162,000 people. Bad press and ugly events on the ground has prompted Iowa State University, a key partner in the charade of responsible agro-investing, to pull out entirely.

What the Oakland Institute, a policy think tank, found in investigations of fifty land deals in seven countries is that investors are in Africa to make a lot of money, not improve the lives of Africans.

Simply put, foreign investors are taking some of the choicest lands in Africa and offering little in return. This ceding of Africa’s fertile lands is not only unfair it is laying the groundwork for fresh tragedy as small farmers are being forced off their lands and losing the ability to provide food for themselves and their communities.

It makes little sense to promote this kind of investment in Africa. It displaces communities who then add to the ranks of those already dependent on foreign aid.

It’s one of those win-lose-lose situations: investors get huge returns on their investments; Africans lose their land; and taxpayers and donors pay for more aid.

A Shout Out to Adbusters and the Occupy Movement

by Granate Sosnoff on 7th December, 2011

Just when you thought there was only single-issue protest left out there, the Occupy Wall Street 99% came on the scene to give us something real and compelling to respond to, talk about and support. Aside from some of the tactics and drum circles, this movement has been a breath of fresh air for many on the left and progressives. Thanks to the people out there we have a discourse that mentions “income disparity” in the daily paper. Ordinary and decent people who are angry at losing houses and jobs and need and want change are getting an audience. Fingers are getting pointed at the right institutions.

Kudos to Adbusters the Canadian magazine that launched this whole movement. An amazing thing to have a group like this that spoofs corporate advertising in a socially biting, lefty, sometimes ironic and usually intelligent way, be responsible for starting this surprising and important protest. Check them out at

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