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Change of leadership at the Courage Campaign

One of California’s most prominent liberal activists – and that’s saying somethin’! – is taking a leave of absence from the group he founded in order to become Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s deputy chief of staff.

Rick Jacobs will step back from his post as founder and chairman of the Courage Campaign, and will be replaced there by Dr. Paul Song, who has been a member of that organization’s board.

Paul SongSong, 48, of Santa Monica, is a radiation oncologist on the faculty at the Samuel Oschin Cancer Center at Cedars Sinai Medical Center and is the Chief Medical Officer of American River Nutrition. An outspoken advocate for universal healthcare, he was named by Jones in January as the California Department of Insurance’s first visiting fellow. Song also serves as an executive board member of Physicians for a National Health Program California, as well as on the boards of Liberty in North Korea and People for the American Way. His wife is journalist and talk-show host Lisa Ling.

Song’s involvement in state and local politics has included working to help elect Democratic U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell of Washington, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Tim Kaine of Virginia; House members Tammy Duckworth, John Garamendi, Mark Takano and Henry Waxman; state officials including Controller John Chiang, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones; state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg; and Garcetti.

The Courage Campaign claims an online grassroots activism network of more than 750,000 members.

“Paul is made to order to lead Courage to the next level,” Jacobs, who’ll remain on the Courage Campaign’s board, said in a news release. “He shares the political and moral convictions that have made Courage a leader in state and national progressive work. I look forward to continuing to work with him over the years ahead.”

Song said after having watched the Courage Campaign fight for last year’s state income and sales tax increase, for same-sex marriage and for other liberal causes, he’s thrilled to take the group’s helm. “Courage Campaign, and our members, are fighting everyday for a more progressive California and country, and I could not be more excited to lead the team.”

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Israel re-opens probe of Oakland activist’s injury

Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the Israel Defense Forces to reopen an investigation into the grievous head injury suffered by an Oakland activist during a West Bank protest in March 2009, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports.

Tristan AndersonTristan Anderson, then 39, was at a protest of Israel’s security fence in the West Bank city of Na’alin when a tear gas canister fired by an Israeli soldier struck him in the head, causing severe brain damage.

The Israel Defense Force investigated whether the Border Police were at fault following the incident, but a petition to the court – filed by attorneys for Anderson’s family and by Yesh Din, an Israeli human-rights group – claimed the probe was inadequate. The petition said the army did not visit Na’alin and questioned only a few soldiers who were on the scene; it’s not clear whether the army questioned the soldier who fired the canister. No criminal charges have been brought against any police or military personnel involved in the case.

“It is the obligation of the State of Israel to investigate suspicions of unwarranted injury of protesters, which occur time after time,” Yesh Din attorney Michael Sfard said in a news release issued by Anderson’s supporters Wednesday. “It is a shame that it took three-and-a-half years for the High Court to intervene in order to force the investigators to implement basic investigative procedures.”

Anderson’s mother, Nancy Anderson, said in the release that her son “will live the rest of his life with serious mental and physical limitations and chronic pain. This has devastated his life and profoundly affected our family forever.” The family’s civil lawsuit against the Israeli military and government is scheduled to go to trial in November.

Gabrielle Silverman of Oakland – Anderson’s girlfriend, who was with him when he was injured – said Wednesday that Anderson was released from an Israeli hospital in June 2010 and now lives with his parents in Grass Valley. He remains hemiplegic – paralyzed on his left side – and suffers permanent cognitive and emotional impairments from his injury; he requires around-the-clock care, Silverman said.

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Toilet-paper prank targets Cal’s John Yoo

One of the many activists protesting University of California, Berkeley law professor John Yoo – who as a Justice Department lawyer helped build a legal framework for the “enhanced interrogation” techniques many now consider to be torture and for other perceived Bush Administration transgressions – has found a, well, creative new way to voice displeasure with him.

Students using the restrooms at Cal’s Boalt Hall Law School today reportedly found “Yoo Toilet Paper,” printed with text from the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

Los Angeles-based activist/artist Matt Cornell said the prank was meant to remind law students that “Yoo helped turned human rights laws into toilet paper.” At the bottom of each roll is a reminder that “this toilet paper was made by possible by John Yoo, Professor of Law.” He also said his toilet paper is both softer and better than that provided by the budget-crunched university, and that it contains “valuable reading material” for students.

(I’ll assume that the “Josh Wolf” listed in the video’s production credits is the very same UC journalism student who keeps getting in trouble with various authorities as he blurs the line between journalism and activism.)

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Bay Area activist dies in car accident in Uganda

This just in, via an e-mail from the Impact Fund — renowned environmental justice activist Luke Cole of San Francisco has died in a car accident while abroad:

We have lost a champion for justice. Our dear friend and Board member, Luke Cole, was killed in a car accident while on a sabbatical in western Uganda on June 5. Details of the accident are sketchy, and we are keeping our fingers crossed for his surviving wife Nancy Shelby who was injured to an unknown degree.

Luke was one of the founders of the environmental justice movement, and the Executive Director of the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment. No date has yet been set for a memorial.

Per the CRPE’s Web site, Cole has represented community groups across the nation in their struggles for environmental justice, and taught seminars at the University of California, Berkeley; Stanford University; and UC-Hastings Law School.