Kennedy Center honoree Sting deserves highest regard for his work in human rights

Along with other worthy artists, Sting received recently the 2014 Kennedy Center Honors and the accolades of his peers, the nation, and President and Mrs. Obama. It was a very worthy choice. 

However, the moving tributes omitted what I regard as Sting’s highest contribution - his passionate work on behalf of human rights throughout his life and career. So along with the accolades of the White House and Bruce Springsteen, I want to add my personal reflections of who Sting is and what he has done for human rights. He and Peter Gabriel were my anchors in music while I was Director of Amnesty International USA. I and the organization were in good and steady hands and great hearts.

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I WILL: Call for Leonard Peltier Clemency

Human Rights Action Center (HRAC) is joining a flood of supporters seeking clemency for Native American Leonard Peltier.

Native peoples across the United States have joined with HRAC, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and other luminaries and organizations including, but not limited to Harry Belafonte, Kris Kristofferson, the late Pete Seeger, members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, The National Congress of American Indians, Wes Studi, Chris Eyre, Carlos Santana, Jackson Browne, Irene Bedard, Peter Gabriel, Michael Moore, Chaske Spencer, Chef Art Smith, Tom Morello and others to bring Peltier’s case back to the public's attention.

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Vengeance in Taiwan

Three years ago, Professor Jay Tu of North Carolina State University wrote me concerning the plight of the former president of Taiwan, Mr Chen Shui-Bian. Mr. Chen was jailed immediately after his two terms as President of Taiwan for corruption, real or imagined.  Jay felt no one was paying attention to this prisoner’s treatment in jail as well as the false charges against him. At first I did not see much of an issue, as I got the same impression as everyone else – that Mr. Chen was a corrupted politician. 

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Burma's Slave or Burma's Save: Democratic Reforms, Human Rights, and the Reluctant Generals of Myanmar

The world is waiting, trying to decipher how to angle itself to an American government that appears to be changing, but may be just end up being same-old, same-old. In spite of the "shellacking" given to Democrats in the elections two weeks ago and the prospect of the greatest degree of Republican control over both houses in the bicameral Congress, and sharp divides on a handful of important issues, in most respects there is absolutely no indication for any revolutionary change in regard to internal and external goals for both major parties. While President Obama has lost considerable power in numbers to get legislation passed through Congress when it doesn't have true widespread support, there is quite a lot achievable without needing assent from legislators by simply using executive order. 

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Chairman Ma: To Support Hong Kong Democracy, Support Taiwan's and Free Chen

Even the best possible world of media will make mistakes and omissions from time to time. We live in a complex world and the sheer quantity of trying to keep track of things will sometimes flood the most devoted news junkie. In the past few days, there have been tales tugging at your eyes for attention about serious subjects. The Ebola virus continues to concern domestically, while extremists of various stripes incite fear internationally, and emails are flooded with forecasts to garnish your votes for next week's elections. With all of this happening, there's probably not much happening now that that Hong Kong thing or whatever it was has stopped happening, right? Wrong.

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Ebola Panic and Human Rights: Racism and Public Health in the United States

With only a handful of cases in the United States or afflicting Americans abroad, the country is adrift on an apparently boundless sea of anxiety. Although worthy of more energy to contain and resolve this outbreak, it would be far wiser to extend compassionate treatment than to overreact with panic. Human rights would be empowered by a proportional and rational response, but knee-jerk fear has a history of racism in this country when it comes to public health. 

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Without Reservations: Supporting Human Rights for Native Americans

Indigenous peoples in the Americas, American Indians, have been decimated several times over. While a lot of loss came from diseases for which there was no native immunity, it is impossible to overstate the intentional displacement, disrespect, and active destruction of indigenous peoples. It is deeply distressing to see that legacy of active disregard continue to this very day. From sending smallpox-infected blankets as deadly "gifts" to the catastrophic Indian Removal Act, there are still only nominal notions of equality. In the current climate of indifference, neglect, and overt deprivation that continues to mar the lives of the descendants of the nation's original inhabitants and cultures, we should be aiming big by granting freedom to Leonard Peltier and changing the name of DC's NFL team as first steps. We should be acting in concrete ways now by supporting the human rights of this country's native peoples, and not kicking the can down the road.

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Humor, Hope, and Human Rights: On the Loss of Robin Williams

Luckily for me, though perhaps not for them, I have had the opportunity to meet, work with, and come to know a few comedians. I was the advance man for Dick Gregory's cross-country Run Against Hunger in 1976 and had a campaign for human rights in Burma take off with the involvement of Jim Carrey in 2007.

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Human Rights Are for All Folks: Security and Liberty

This spring, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein, traditionally sympathetic to the intelligence community, accused the CIA of searching and spying on the computers of Senators and their staffers. CIA head John Brennan loudly asserted that "nothing could be further from the truth."

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Manifest Delusion: Debunking American Exceptionalism to Protect Human Rights

It's hard to not think about America with our Independence Day recently renewing fresh memories of fireworks, barbecues, and flags. A country of superlatives in matters economic, military, and cultural exports, talking about America's future finds fountains of opinions often strong but which mostly sing the same chorus.

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Revolvers: Blurred Lines Between Human Rights Organizations and the State Department

Americans have long held governments, as well as politicians, as not quite worthy of trust. With a public that already believed that governments trick the citizenry to enrich politicians and insiders, people have been further shaken in recent years. 

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On Universal Human Rights: Navi Pillay, Prince Zeid, and Keeping a Strong Voice at the United Nations

My first meeting with Navanetham ("Navi") Pillay was when she was studying law while at Harvard University along with Jessica Neuwirth. Neuwirth eventually became the legal advisor at Amnesty International USA and one of the producers of the Human Rights Now music tour.

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Twenty Five Years After Tiananmen

The Tiananmen Square Massacre occurred 25 years ago, with troops moving into Beijing and the Square by late on the morning of June 3 and with a full assault going on by the early hours of June 4. Estimates of deaths range from the hundreds well into the thousands, with many more injured.

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On a Human Rights Attitude and Advocacy: The Gregory-Chappelle (or Angelou-Baldwin) Doctrine

Having lost Maya Angelou only a few days ago, I'm reminded of her indefatigable commitment to not merely embrace the world but to wrestle with its problems and not let them go until the world became better for everyone. 

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Truth, Justice, and Accountability: The Luck of the Irish?

To many outsiders, and the vast majority of Americans, it is difficult to imagine how truly grimly awful the period of discord known as The Troubles was to those in Northern Ireland. Sited mainly there, with plenty of spillover to both the Republic of Ireland and also across the sea in England, the conflict between the late 1960s and late 1990s involved over fifty thousand casualties in the part of Europe that Americans usually think of primarily as "like America."

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An American Retreat from Human Rights

In an ideal world, we'd need no military, no war, and no violence. But we do not yet live in an ideal world, and even the most peace-minded among us would appreciate that there is a need for a military to defend the United States. But what are we doing with the military we have? Are we treating the soldiers themselves with anything resembling dignity or are we treating them like insensate property?

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