Big Media, Big Bullying, and What You Can Do About It
Release Date: 5/22/2013
by Emily Long, May 13, 2013 at 12:45pm for newdream.org
In the years since the issue of bullying has garnered national attention and increasing concern, most big media companies have created campaigns designed to prevent bullying or to otherwise give people an opportunity to speak against it and raise awareness.
MTV has A Thin Line, ABC Family has Delete Digital Drama, NBC airs anti-bullying spots via its public service campaign The More You Know, Nickelodeon has anti-bullying activities on The Big Help, and Cartoon Network has a Stop Bullying Speak Up campaign.
With efforts like these, it would seem as though big media has truly taken a step forward in reaching young people to stop the bullying epidemic.
That is, until you turn on the TV. On ABC’s The Bachelor, women snipe at each other as they compete for one man’s heart. All of these insults are captured on the Smack Tracker, thus cataloging an episode-by-episode breakdown of who said what about whom. In spin-off specials like The Bachelor: Women Tell All , snarky tweets from fans of the show are broadcast live, courting a dangerous game of one-upmanship as to which members of the viewing public can be the cruelest. All of this comes courtesy of the same company that puts stars from its scripted shows front-and-center in PSAs saying that it’s time to delete digital drama.
Tune into any one of The Real Housewives series on Bravo , and you’ll see more fighting and backstabbing. Check out Teen Mom or Jersey Shore on MTV for more of the same; perhaps you’ll also catch spots for A Thin Line. Watch E! or Access Hollywood for celebrity gossip, and ESPN for occasional glorification of athletes behaving badly. In the case of some of these shows, the connection to big media’s Astroturf anti-bullying campaigns might be harder to find, but they’re all there. Bravo is owned by NBC Universal , which also owns E! and Access Hollywood. Both ABC and ESPN are owned by ‘accountabili-buddy’ and report bullying.
Big media profits from shows that promote hateful messages disguised as entertainment, also called hatertainment .’" Their various attempts at ending bullying are moot when their own networks glorify, normalize, and reward the same type of behavior that most of us recognize as bullying and destructive. We cannot count big media as an ally when these companies are responsible for messages that can be so harmful for kids: in a 2011 study , the Girl Scout Research Institute found that 78 percent of girls who watch reality television believe that “gossiping is a normal part of a relationship between girls,” while only 54 percent of girls who do not watch reality TV agree.
In far too many documentaries and news stories, the blame for bullying has fallen squarely on the shoulders of parents, teachers, and school administrators, who are frequently accused of not taking enough preventative action. Big media companies need to also be held accountable for their role in fostering bullying behavior, and we must teach the basic media literacy concept of media as construction and an industry with a bottom line.
When watching reality television, ask your kids about what might have been left out, or how producers decide which portions of footage to use for a show. Talk to them about news, and why there is an entire industry devoted to reporting on celebrity gossip. Perhaps most importantly, ask them how they feel when they watch these shows. Moderating screen time is also a good step, as is being a positive role model—adults are not immune to hatertainment. Much like second-hand smoke has an indirect but powerful effect on our family’s health, hateful media also pollute homes in ways that may not be immediately recognizable. Yes, big media companies are powerful, but the real power lies in our own ability to filter their product.
Emily Long is Director of Communications and Development for The LAMP (Learning About Multimedia Project), a nonprofit organization bringing critical media fluency education to youth, parents and educators in New York City. For more on this subject, click here .
TransCanada Reps Kicked Out of Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation
Release Date: 5/20/2013
“You’re not welcome here… We’ve said no from day one.”
And with these firm words the TransCanada representatives were kicked out of Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation last week. The seemingly aloof TransCanada officials showed up at the Tribal Office in Eagle Butte, South Dakota in an attempt to win the tribe over to the pipeline, but were met with a swift, firm response. Robin LeBeau, Cheyenne River Sioux Councilwoman for District 5, saw them in the parking lot and promptly told them off.
The encounter was caught on video:
“I don’t want no TransCanada people here…I’m going to fight hard and if I find anyone else here I’m going to bring more people in abundance to tell you guys to leave.”
“This pipeline is the most destructive pipeline. You’re going to rape, steal and destroy everything that is for us….everything, our land, our culture, our water.”
Really?! Thats the best these guys can do? Like writing a letter to Russ Girling is going to convince this multinational corporation to stop building their multi-billion dollar project and respect the lives of indigenous peoples. This corporation has demonstrated numerous times that they only care about their profits and will bully and bankrupt anyone who stands in their way.
Tribal members know it. They aren’t buying TransCanada’s false promises and understand the threat that toxic tar sands pose to their Sacred Water, burial grounds, and historic landmarks. The Keystone XL pipeline would cut right through their Treaty Territory and some of their most Sacred Sites. (You can watch part 2 of the video here.
Cheyenne River Crossing: Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe
Google Earth map depicting proposed Keystone XL Pipeline crossing Cheyenne River at Milepost 430.07. Cheyenne River Indian Reservation is indicated. Source: NCAI Analysis – figure 4.
The last several months has seen the indigenous resistance along the proposed KXL Northern segment continue to grow. Just this last week the Native News Network reported that the National Congress of American Indians, “the nation’s oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country,” publicly released a statement of opposition to Keystone XL and criticized the State Department’s flawed “Environmental Impact Statement”.
Additionally, the Moccasins on the will travel to Cheyenne River in mid-June to continue to build this resistance and unite the Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota peoples against this toxic intruder.
By now Russ Girling shouldn’t need a handwritten letter to know the message coming from Red Nations along the pipeline route: “Go Away!”
Thirteen states warn EPA about taking sides re: methane
Release Date: 5/7/2013
Fracking regulation is states' turf, 13 states tell EPA
By ROD WALTON Tulsa World Staff Writer on May 7, 2013, at 2:24 AM Updated on 5/07/13 at 8:07 AM
A rig hand in Knox County, Ohio, monitors operations at a well site. Ohio is one of 13 states that signed a letter to the EPA opposing federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing. TY WRIGHT / Bloomberg
A letter by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and signed by his counterparts in 12 other energy-producing states tells the EPA it should not allow threats of litigation by six Northeast states to provide a back-door entry for federal oversight of fracking.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been studying the effects of hydraulic fracturing but so far has stayed out of an enforcement role.
The Pruitt letter, however, noted that New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Delaware and Rhode Island have threatened to sue the agency and perhaps force it into a regional regulatory role that eventually could set a precedent.
"EPA has appropriately declined to regulate methane emissions from new and existing oil and gas facilities under the Clean Air Act," Pruitt wrote. "It is abundantly clear that EPA should not succumb to the pressure intended by the northeastern states."
In addition, Pruitt wrote, any negotiations should include states that want oversight of fracking and drilling to remain a state responsibility.
Fracking is a method for unlocking oil and natural gas from deep shale formations.
Pruitt's letter also was signed by attorneys general from Texas, Alabama, Arizona, Montana, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio, Wyoming and West Virginia, as well as Indiana's environmental management commissioner.
The potential federal battle pits oil- and gas-producing states against states that are wary of the potential environmental impact of fracturing, which involves blasting a water, sand and chemical slurry into shale formations. Part of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale lies beneath New York, but that state has banned the practice since 2008.
Mike Terry, president of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, has argued that his state has effectively regulated the drilling practice for decades. He sees trouble with the EPA if the agency comes to agreements with the northeastern states and extends those rules nationwide.
"President Obama has not hidden the fact that he would like to eliminate the use of fossil fuels, and his administration has called for the repeal of long-standing tax provisions for oil and natural gas producers each year he has held office," Terry said. "When that effort failed due to a lack of support in Congress, efforts to slow oil and natural gas production were shifted to the nation's regulatory agencies."
Pruitt in a separate statement warned of "friendly lawsuits" that could bind all states to the outcome. Two years ago he wrote a letter to the nation's attorneys general accusing the EPA of using inaccurate methods to measure methane release from gas wells.
The EPA later declined to introduce new regulations for those emissions.
"This apparent practice by the EPA to engage in friendly lawsuits in order to circumvent the law is disturbing," Pruitt said. "The outcomes of these settlements have a very real effect on families, businesses, communities and state economies."
EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones would not comment directly on the Pruitt letter nor a notice of intent to sue filed by the northeastern states.
The EPA is studying the effects of fracking on drinking water resources. In an update late last year, it noted that natural gas plays a key role in the nation's energy future but that fracturing also raises health concerns.
"The purpose of the study is to assess the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources, if any, and to identify the driving factors that may affect the severity and frequency of such impacts," an EPA summary stated. "Scientists are focusing primarily on hydraulic fracturing of shale formations to extract natural gas, with some study of other oil-and gas-producing formations, including tight sands, and coalbeds."
70,000 people urge New York Times to stop using the dehumanizing and inaccurate term, "illegal", from news coverage
Release Date: 4/26/2013
Get With The Times: Drop The I-Word from Deep Dish TV on Vimeo.
Drop the I-Word: 70,000 Urge the New York Times to Stop Using Term “Illegal” from News Stories
On Tuesday, April 23, 2013 The Applied Research Center (APC) and The Drop the I-Word Campaign joined with activists, including Fernando Chavez, attorney and eldest son of Cesar Chavez, and Jose Antonio Vargas, award-winning journalist and founder of Define American, to deliver petitions signed by 70,000 people to the New York Times urging them to stop using the term, “illegal” from their news stories when referring to individuals. Mr. Chavez, Jose Antonio Vargas, the ARC and a coalition of supporters and activists delivered the petitions to Jill Abramson’s office, the executive editor of the NY Times. The petition was started by Helen Chavez, Fernando Chavez’ mother and widow of Cesar Chavez.
The petitions were delivered only a few weeks after the Associated Press announced their decision to drop the dehumanizing and inaccurate term from describing individuals and would instead only use the word “to refer to an action.”
We feel the term is provocative, dehumanizing, and racially charged. It is also imprecise and inaccurate. The term does not take into account the variety of reasons a person is undocumented; many came here legally and have overstayed visas, were brought here as children, or overstayed fleeing persecution. It creates the stereotyping of a group of individuals, mostly people of color, and centers the immigration debate around border control, when borders are not the issue. In an interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Rinku Sen, the ARC’s Executive Director and President, said it best. It is an “imprecise term that is applied in a blanket way,” and we feel it needs to change.
A few hours after the petitions were delivered, Philip B. Corbett, the associate managing editor for standards, who oversees The Times’ style manual, made an announcement that the Times updated its policies. Unfortunately, it would continue to use the word “illegal” to describe “someone who enters, lives in or works in the United States without proper legal authorization.” It encourages reporters and editors to “consider alternatives when appropriate to explain the specific circumstances of the person in question, or to focus on actions.”
The AP announcement earlier this month was a victory, and we can only hope that more major news sources, like the New York Times and the LA Times “get with the times” and drop the i-word.
For more information, please visit colorlines.com/droptheiword
Greek Children Go Hungry While Banks Get Bailed Out
Release Date: 4/26/2013
AFP Photo/Aris Messinis courtesy of rt.com
The Atlantic's Derek Thompson reports, "the real tragedy can't really be told with numbers. It's simple, really. Children are starving."
This was in response to Liz Alderman's New York Times article, More Children in Greece Are Going Hungry, published on April 17th, 2013, which describes Greek children fainting in schools, having to steal food and sift through garbage due to hunger and food shortages. There is not a subsidized lunch program for schools, which means children have to buy lunch from canteens or bring them from home. Many families are struggling now with unemployment due to strict austerity measures and are not able to provide lunch for their children.
Growing austerity measures within Greece have been promoted by the 'troika' of international creditors (European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund) to pay off bailouts. With Greece in line for another €2.8bn bailout, the troika continues to push for even more austerity in a nation where the economy and people are already suffering. Greek's government has promised the troika that it will cut 15,000 civil service jobs by the end of 2014.
Within the past 5 years, the economy in Greece has fallen 20%, unemployment is now at 27%, and youth unemployment is above 50%. It is predicted that almost a third of the population will be in poverty by the end of 2013.
The reality is that the bailouts in Greece are not going to the poverty-sticken, the unemployed, or the malnourished children. These funds go back to banks to pay off debts incurred, and they are being paid back by more austerity measures. As Derek Thompson said, it is simple. Children are starving while banks get bailed out.
Anti-austerity protests have spread throughout Greece in the recent years. Deep Dish TV producers, Brandon Jourdan and Marianne Maeckelbergh, have been documenting these protests, and other worldwide responses to economic crises, with their ongoing video series, Global Uprisings.
Dimitris Liatsos, a worker in Greece's Judges Office states in one of the videos, "We feel we are the human economical hamsters".
Fort more information on Global Uprisings, please visit globaluprisings.org.
Greece's Uncertain Future
Nov 2, 2012
Crisis in Greece
October 22, 2011
The Greek Revolt
March 10, 2011
A Violent Act Again in a Violent Nation
Release Date: 4/18/2013
Published in CounterPunch on
APRIL 17, 2013
Reaping the Whirlwind
A Violent Act Again in a Violent Nation
by DAVE LINDORFF
I ran the Boston Marathon back in 1968, and, my feet covered with blisters inside my Keds sneakers, dragged across the finish line to meet my waiting uncle at a time of about 3 hours and 40 minutes. It was close enough to the time that the current bombing happened in this year’s race — about four hours from the starting gun — that had I been running it this year, I might still been near enough to the finish line to have heard the blasts.
That really brings home to me the horror of what just happened.
At the same time, I’m reminded that back when I ran my Boston Marathon, which was only weeks after the Viet Cong’s bloody Tet Offensive, we didn’t give a thought to the idea of the Viet Cong bringing their war home to America. Now you have to at least wonder whether this bombing might in some way have been linked to America’s various wars abroad.
We don’t at this point have a clue who was behind this atrocity, but whether it was some foreign terrorist organization, a contingent of Taliban fighters seeking to bring the Afghan War to the US, or a domestic right-wing group protesting abortion, the income tax or the country’s “Kenyan” president, it should be a wake-up call to the nation that our violent national culture and our imperial pretensions will eventually reap us a whirlwind.
A country that goes around blowing up children in Afghanistan by the score, as happened last week in Kundar Province, Afghanistan, that claims for itself the right to kill anyone, anywhere, if the president or his designees in the Pentagon and the CIA decide that person is a threat or an annoyance (and that is willing to kill lots of innocent bystanders, including women and kids, to do it), a country that encourages its police to act like an occupying military force in their jurisdictions, breaking into homes in SWAT gear at dawn, pointing assault rifles in people’s faces, arresting people on trumped-up charges, such a country and its people at some point must realize that such behavior invites a violent response.
This time, it was apparently crudely made IEDs that killed three and tore the limbs from other people innocently participating in or watching a road race. Note, though, that we had never even heard of IEDs until Bush’s and Cheney’s criminal invasion of Iraq. Next time, it could just as easily be a home-made remotely piloted drone aircraft carrying a load of TNT or some other deadly explosive.
The point is you reap what you sow. Violence begets violence.
So America, the most violent country in the world today, lurches from one act of mayhem to another. It really matters little whether the slaughter is caused by a wack-job armed with a few high-capacity-clip automatic pistols or a foreign or domestic terrorist armed with a couple of crude IEDs. The victims are just as dead or maimed either way.
We cannot hope to escape this kind of thing if we go on as we are going.
If the government responds to this latest tragedy by doubling down on its domestic spying campaign, by enhancing police powers, by stepping up its deadly global drone war, and by invading or meddling in more countries abroad, we can expect more and more violent attacks aimed at killing Americans here at home.
I’m especially contemplating the danger of blowback because we learned here in Philadelphia only two weeks ago that the Pentagon has decided to set up a drone piloting base just two miles from my house on the site of the mothballed Willow Grove Naval Air Station. None of the local pols who were effusively praising the announcement, hailing it as a job-creating phenomenon, gave a thought to the reality that this was bringing the front line of the Afghan War to the suburbs of Philly, and that besides putting a bunch of killers in uniform in our midst, it was putting a big bull’s eye right in a suburb full of civilians. (See my article about this in the latest issue of CounterPunch’s new monthly magazine.)
Clearly we need a new approach — one that relies on fostering international peace and cooperation, and that here at home seeks to rekindle some sense of community, and of reverence for the rights and freedoms that many people have died for, but which have over last two decades been whittled away until they are vestigial or barely recognizable.
Maybe too, we Americans could look at the latest carnage in Boston and recognize it as the very thing that our military has been engaged in doing in our name in places like Iraq and Afghanistan — right down to the deliberate and sick timing of a second bomb to blow up people who are coming to the aid of victims of the first bomb, which is the wretched MO of the US bombing and drone strike campaigns along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border.
I’m disgusted by the attack on the Boston Marathon, and whoever did it is truly twisted, but no less twisted are the Pentagon officers and who planned the attack that killed those 10 children in Kundar, or the president who ordered the leveling of the Iraqi city of Fallujah. We Americans are far too selective in our sense of horror and outrage.
It all makes me sick. I’m going out for a run.
Dave Lindorff is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. Lindorff’s article on drones in Philadelphia appears in the March issue of CounterPunch magazine. He lives in Philadelphia.
Where Should the Birds Fly Film Screening and Discussion - Thursday, April 18 7PM @ Bluestockings Bookstore
Release Date: 4/17/2013
Bluestockings Bookstore Presents
The Powerful New Film by Fida Qishta,
Produced by Deep Dish TV:
Where Should the Birds Fly
Thursday, April 18th @ 7PM
172 Allen Street (between Stanton and Rivington)
Screening of Fida Qishta's Where Should the Birds Fly (58min, 2012)
Followed by a discussion with Deep Dish TV producer, filmmaker, and activist, Eva Lewis, who recently returned from the December 2012 International Delegation to Gaza where she documented the present situation and aftermath of Operation Pillar of Defense.
Where Should the Birds Fly is a document of the Israeli invasion and bombardment of Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009 through the stories of two courageous young Palestinian women: Mona Samouni, now 12 years old, and the filmmaker, Fida Qishta, now 27. This is the first film documenting the impact of the attacks made by Palestinians themselves.
In December of 2008 Israel launched a devastating attack on Gaza. A month of bullets, bombs, rockets, white phosphorus, tanks and bulldozers left 1400, mostly civilians, dead and this section of Occupied Palestine in rubble. Where Should the Birds Fly is a compelling and moving Palestinian film based on the story of two remarkable young women, the future of Palestine, who personify the struggle to maintain humanity, humor, hope, and to find some degree of normality in the brutal abnormality that has been imposed on them and Palestinians.
FIDA QISHTA is a Palestinian filmmaker/videographer who was born in Rafah, Gaza. She began her video work as a wedding photographer in the Gaza Strip, and then began accompanying human rights observers in Gaza, documenting their work. Her reporting, photography and video journalism has appeared in the UK Guardian, the Observer, and the International Herald Tribune. Fida is also a qualified teacher and, in 2004, co-founded with her sister Faten, The Lifemakers Center, an after school and tutoring program which serves several hundred children in Rafah.
Her first full-length documentary, Where Should the Birds Fly, is a powerful reflection of her work and life in Gaza from 2004 through 2009.
Drop the I-Word
Release Date: 4/17/2013
Published on Apr 3, 2013
"The Associated Press just dropped the term "illegal immigrant" from its stylebook, becoming the newest news outlet to drop dehumanizing language and embrace good journalism. Will the New York Times follow suit?"
Produced by Qualified Laughter: http://qualifiedlaughter.com/
Persistence of Vision: Revisiting the Mission and Methods of Public Access
Release Date: 3/29/2013
Several months ago, DeeDee Halleck, founder of Paper Tiger Television and Deep Dish Television, and long time activist and advocate, sent out an e-mail blast detailing her difficulties with access at New York's Manhattan Neighborhood Network. Apparently DeeDee had dared to demand (a) access -- to Board meetings and organizational policies and records in addition to access to equipment, facilities and channel time; (b) inclusion -- of citizens and access producers in discussion and decision-making about the directions and priorities of the organization; (c) responsiveness -- of the organization to the needs and concerns of the communities served; and (d) transparency -- in the creation of policies, decisions, budgets, and procedures governing the organization. She had been denied access to a Board meeting, and with local citizens, she had been prevented from attending the grand opening of a new facility in East Harlem. She tried to put programs on the MNN channels, one of them showing her and Papoleto Melendez being refused admittance to the official opening of the MNN Barrio Firehouse Media Center. As a result, DeeDee was suspended from MNN, and with her usual flair for effective media, she posted the program in question to YouTube, as well as an early documentary from the nascent activism of Paper Tiger that brought MNN into being.
DeeDee also posted her correspondence with a new MNN Board member to her list. I read the documents and watched the YouTube videos with a certain amount of nostalgia. I had been involved in the startup of MNN in the early 1990s and had served as the organizations interim Executive Director during an extended period of transition in 2005. In her letter, DeeDee said that she was "...worried that the organization has become cut off from some of its founding principles - especially that of transparency and accountability." Her concerns resonated with me. It seemed to me that those who had only recently come to public access -- staff members, and particularly board members -- might have a limited understanding of the origins and founding principles of public access, located as they were in the cultural context of the1960s, and might be unfamiliar with the vision of free speech, local community development and democratic participation that was at the heart of the public access project.
The American notion of public access to cable communication was derived from a utilitarian interpretation of the constitutional guarantees of the First Amendment, was bolstered by public policy which had, since the late 1940s, favored localism in broadcasting, and was driven by a technology (small-format video) which allowed non-professionals to participate effectively in public discourse. Providing the platform and the means for citizens to "speak" and disseminating their messages via cable so that they may be "heard" as well was grounded in the concept of a "marketplace of ideas" as the strength of a democracy. In theory, an enlightened and informed polity depends on having access to a diversity of opinions and viewpoints, and being able to engage in public dialogue and discussion about such viewpoints1. The social invention of cable had seized the opportunity to protect the rights of citizen access to the marketplace and to implement public policy with regard to localism.
Access was officially brought into being following the widespread urban unrest of the mid 1960s, and following the Kerner Commission Report (The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders). For some proponents, providing channels for citizen voice and dissent was seen as a safety valve, a way to co-opt the negative energy of our burning cities. The coalition of players that lobbied for public access provisions included policy wonks who saw access as a way of reframing and shifting the communications infrastructure and repairing imbalances of the existing system, artists who saw the potential of new tools, new venues and new means of distribution, liberal First Amendment pluralists who saw access as a way of invigorating local and national political dialogue and debate, community activists inspired by the work of the Canadian Challenge for Change project2 and saw the potential in access for organizing and empowerment, and business interests, particularly the self-interested cable operators seeking to break the stranglehold of the broadcast monopoly and side-step regulation. As a practice, public access called upon understandings, expertise and methodologies drawn from a wide range of the social sciences, and yet its practitioners, forms and models were most often derived from the fields of media production and distribution.
In its early years, public, or community access was about expression and the practice and production of culture, particularly that which was grounded in the local community. It championed diversity,
particularly as it related to permitting and sustaining a "multitude of voices" in a "marketplace of ideas". The work of access grounded itself in ideas about community, and the manner in which people reason together, air their differences, discuss their concerns, and build common understandings. It was informed by our precious democratic freedoms. The activity was formally designated as "public access", while the movement that supported it often referenced itself as "community access" or "community television". The "public" terminology was used in the sense of indicating a space for democratic deliberation that falls outside of the realm of the state or of market relations3. The "community" terminology was employed in terms of the root which it had in common with "communication" -- communis -- which implies some sort of "holding in common"4.
The sort of communication practiced through public access was very different from the hub-and-spoke model of broadcasting. As Hollander and Stappers (1992) point out, "community communication differs from the discrete roles of message sender and message receiver in broadcasting. Communicators in community communication address their audience on the assumption of the shared relevance that community issues have for both senders and receivers because they all participate in the same community" (p. 19). On some occasions a citizen is a sender of messages, while on other occasions they become a receiver, and through access, can move easily from one role to the other. The community provides a common frame of reference for the interpretation of the messages communicated within it. Attending to broadcasting, or to mass media in general, means turning away from the local experience and the local social organization. The information provided by broadcast and cable news, for example, has little to do with the specificity of the local situation, orients the viewer to events which are beyond both their experience and control, and provides little to analyze, learn, recall or act upon. Public access, on the other hand, was founded on the "cultural anchoring"5 of citizens, drawing upon their commitment to the local community, and relying upon the community framework for the interpretation of the messages that are circulated. At its best, access also gave voice to the conflicts, contradictions, differences and controversies within a community and provided a space in which those differences could be engaged constructively.
Public access attends to the local rather than the global, relies upon the diverse codes, conventions and values in the immediate community that it serves, and benefits from, reinforces and strengthens the beliefs and practices of that local community. Senders and receivers of messages are within the same social system, with little division of labor and minimal boundaries between the two roles, and are able to interact freely within that social system. Communicants are able to initiate communication actively, rather than receive messages passively, and are facilitated, through public access, in building collaborations and coalitions and participating in the construction of meaning. Public access provides the means for members of a community to speak for themselves and participate in public discussion rather than being spoken for or spoken about. It allows diverse groups to practice, preserve and transmit their unique cultural traditions -- crafts, stories, music, dance, history -- to the broader community and to future generations. It allows traditionally disenfranchised populations to enter into the community's marketplace of ideas without the usual barriers of socioeconomic class, race, age, education and language. It "transforms private individual experience into public collective experience" (Hollander and Stappers, 1992, p. 21) by permitting members of the community to discuss its problems, debate its issues, voice its viewpoints, vent its frustrations and air its grievances. The forum created by public access allows community members to give and receive feedback that is direct and immediate. It's location within the local culture, its functions in circulating community meanings and structuring public discourse, and its emphasis on holding-in-common distinguish public access as a unique communications medium. These structural characteristics provide a sharp contrast to broadcasting and have profound implications for the practice of access and for measuring its effectiveness.
Years ago, on a keynote panel at an NFLCP conference in San Francisco I asked those assembled whether the national organization was one of professional local programmers, or whether it was an organization of professional trainers and facilitators. If it was the former, I wondered out loud whose First Amendment rights were protected by access? Those of a professional group of programmers speaking for, to and about a community? If that was the case, I continued, it would only be a matter of time before the cable industry would make the case that yielding its own First Amendment rights must be in the service of the protection of the rights of speech of the public writ large, and not of a particular segment that "speaks for" by providing programming that was merely an "alternative" to broadcasting or other cable programming. It was the speaker we were protecting, I insisted, NOT the listener. How
could we know, I asked the group, if access providers were professional? Was it the numbers of programs produced and cablecast, or did it have to do with the extent to which access activity generated community interaction and supported public dialogue and debate. What were the barriers that limited participation of the broadest range of speakers? What sorts of standards might be developed to demonstrate whether or not an access operation was delivering on the mission and goals of public access in providing protected First Amendment speech to all those who were seeking a channel for expression?
In hindsight, the trends of urban access organization and delivery that were of such great concern to me all those years ago have persisted, while the vision, mission and principles that inform the access enterprise have withered substantially. In the intervening years, access and its professional organization -- the Alliance -- have become much more Gesselschaft than Gemeinschaft6. What I mean by that is there seems to be more and more of a focus on professional networking and development and less and less of a focus on community development and the interrelationships among those committed, through voluntary association, to working at issues of social change. I'm reminded of Warren Bennis' differentiation of Leadership and Managing:
-The manager administers; the leader innovates
-The manager maintains; the leader develops
-The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people -The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it
-The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why7
The trends toward the professionalization of workers in access centers seems to me to orient their activities toward production FOR rather than production BY and dialogue AMONG. The access organization becomes a "station" rather than an agora, a means of distribution rather than a network of interaction, a site for the origination of programs rather than a center for citizen agency and a catalyst for change. Access organizations seem to focus on networking within the very hegemonic infrastructure that access was designed to challenge. Those parts of conferences that are not dealing with technical and operational issues and methods, appear to be focused on seeking legitimacy by appearing to be a mainstream professional organization, and dealing with methods of non-profit management rather than leadership on social issues and the solution of community problems. For example, a friend described a recent Alliance conference roster to me as "A Chamber of Commerce confab". Purpose gives way to tactics, and access becomes confirming, rather than catalyzing.
It seems to me that a central question for access organizations to consider is whether the work that they currently are doing sufficiently reflects the original mission that compelled cable operators to yield channel space, revenue and equipment. If an access organization is not developing critical abilities, bringing private citizens into public life and the discourse of the community, or is not engaged in doing community development work, is there a compelling need for a cable operator to be putting money into it? Is the organization helping the community to set an agenda for addressing its problems, issues and concerns? Is the organization using its convening authority in bringing together various community groups and organizations and helping them build the relationships necessary to address those problems? Is the organization actively building networks, coalitions and alliances to help move the community forward? Is the organization an active player in the community's planning efforts? And most important of all, is the organization cultivating and engaging a broad range of constituent groups and voices in the life of the community? If an access organization is not contributing to that sense of "holding in common" through the communication and interaction of local citizens, then it seems to me that the rationale for sustained cable company or municipal support is seriously jeopardized.
Finally, let me return to DeeDee Halleck's grievance with MNN in New York. She sought to gather evidence of the disenfranchisement that she experienced, and so used a combination of home video and cell-phone video and sound. She sought to have her grievance heard, both locally in Manhattan, but also nationally to a wider audience, and so used a combination of YouTube and email to upload her current and historical video documents to the internet and to notify specific networks of friends, neighbors and colleagues regarding the availability those documents. The tools that DeeDee used to record and circulate her grievances weren't obtained from an access organization, and they are perhaps more ubiquitous and accessible today than video cameras and cable were when public access first launched. For example, as of August 2011, the U. S. internet population included 78% of adults and 95% of teenagers8, while internet access via broadband has been extended to 94 percent of Americans9. While there are significant disparities of internet access and use, most often stratified by income, race and education, a growing number of Americans have access at work, and libraries struggle to provide adequate access to that segment of the population that depends on public sites for internet technology. As of December, 2012, 87% of Americans had a cell phone, while 45% of American adults had a smart phone10. Ironically, DeeDee's efforts to address her grievances regarding MNN proved out, very effectively, an alternative sort of communicative "access" -- one that did not depend on the equipment, training, approvals or channels of cable-provided access.
1 Jacobs, Cook and Delli Carpini do a thorough job of excavating the limitations of the deliberationist approach, and describing the ways in which deliberation has been faulted as elitist, exclusionary, manipulative, divisive, oppressive and politically insignificant in Talking Together: Public Deliberation and Political Participation in America (2009), pp. 14-23.
2 A good summary of the early work of Challenge for Change can be found in Dorothy Todd Hénaut, "Video Stories from the Dawn of Time," Visual Anthropology Review, Volume 7, No. 2, Fall, 1991.
3 I am indebted here to Nancy Fraser's (1993) discussion of the manner in which "public" might be used to conflate the state, the official economy of paid employment and arenas of public discourse (p. 2).
4 Robert Devine, "Notes on Access as an Alternative Media Practice, Community Media Review, volume 18, No. 3, June/July, 1995.
5 Lundby (1992) clarifies that "Cultural anchoring is determined by the degree of social interaction (which entails both action or participation and communication) and identification with or commitment to the community" (p. 36).
6 This differentiation was put forward by Ferdinant Tönnies in Community and Society (Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft), first published in German in 1887. An English edition was published by Michigan State University Press in 1957. Gemeinschaft is interpreted as "community-ship", the spontaneously arising organismic social relationships characterized by strong reciprocal bonds of sentiment and kinship within a common code of tradition. Gesellschaft is interpreted as "company-ship", or rationally developed types of social relationships characterized by impersonally contracted associations between persons.
7 Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader. Cambridge: Perseus Books, 1984.
8 Pew Project on the Internet and American Life, Report on Internet Adoption Over Time, 2012.
9 Allison Terry, "Got Broadband? Access now extends to 94 percent of Americans," Christian Science Monitor, August 24, 2012.
10 Joanne Brenner, Pew Internet: Mobile, Pew Internet and American Life Project, January 30, 2013.
Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader. Cambridge: Perseus Books, 1984.
Joanne Brenner, "Pew Internet: Mobile," Pew Internet and American Life Project, January 30, 2013.
Robert Devine, "Notes on Access as an Alternative Media Practice, Community Media Review, volume 18, No. 3, June/July, 1995.
Nancy Fraser, "Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy," in Bruce Robbins, ed., The Phantom Public Sphere. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.
Dorothy Todd Hénaut, "Video Stories from the Dawn of Time," Visual Anthropology Review, Volume 7, No. 2, Fall, 1991.
Ed Hollander and James Stappers, "Community Media and Community Communication," in Nick Jankowski, Ole Prehn and James Stappers, eds., The People's Voice: Local Radio and Television in Europe. London: John Libby, 1992, pp. 16-26.
Lawrence R. Jacobs, Fay Lomax Cook and Michael X. Delli Carpini, Talking Together: Public Deliberation and political Participation in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.
Knut Lundby, "Community Television as a Tool of Local Culture," in Nick Jankowski, Ole Prehn and James Stappers, eds., The People's Voice: Local Radio and Television in Europe. London, John Libby, 1992, pp. 27-41.
Pew Project on the Internet and American Life, Report on Internet Adoption Over Time. 2012.
Allison Terry, "Got Broadband? Access Now Extends to 94 Percent of Americans," Christian Science Monitor. August 24, 2012.
Ferdinand Tönnies, Community and Society. Minneola New York: Dover Publications, 2002.
Bob Devine taught Media and Social Change at Antioch College for forty years, and served as that institution's President from 1996-2001. He has been involved with community media since 1969, and his background has included the startup and leadership of the Dallas, Milwaukee and Manhattan community access systems. He has served on the Editorial Board of Community Media Review a number of times, and has contributed to that journal for several decades. He has also served on the Boards of the Alliance for Community Media and the Alliance for Communications Democracy. In 2005 he served as Interim Executive Director of Manhattan Neighborhood Network, and in 2008 he served an extended term as an Executive Consultant for '‘Olelo Community Media in Honolulu, these organizations being the two largest community media centers in the country. Bob is the 1994 recipient of the Alliance for Community Media's George Stoney Award for Humanistic Communications, recognizing his national contributions to the field of community media.
Rousing Speech by Victoria Pannell, 13, at Postal Rally
Release Date: 3/26/2013
New York City, March 24, 2013 -- The surprise hit of the rally was thirteen-year-old Victoria Pannell. She delivered an outstanding address--lucid, passionate and well-researched-- to hundreds of postal workers from the city and upstate who participated in the National Day of Action to Save the Post Office. Such an address might be expected from Congressman Jerry Nadler, though the comparison is probably unfair, but an eighth-grader? Amazing--and reassuring. Postal activists are protesting service cuts such as eliminating Saturday delivery (a proposal which Congress has rejected), closures of stations and processing plants announced by the Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe , allegedly in order to reduce the ballooning deficit created by the prepayment of pension funds 75 years in advance, and other restrictions on postal activity. In case there's a reader out there who doesn't know it by now, the USPS receives not a cent from the taxpayer. Sunday's explosive, tightly-packed crowd , wearing black and red Six Day Delivery T-shirts and squeezed between narrow police barricades, stretched blocks south of the James A. Farley Post Office on the sidewalk. Their emphatic vocal response punctuated the speeches from the podium and was accompanied by a supportive chorus of honking horns on 8th Avenue. Pannell proved an easy match for many of the dozen or so politicians and union leaders , both in factual accuracy and in her understanding of the role of the mailman in the community, as well as the causes of the manufactured postal "crisis". Plus, she offered some solutions! She lives in Harlem and has been a postal activist since the age of 11. Her day started out leafletting at the 10 am CLUPJS rally with other community activists, including her mother Mary Pannell, on 9th Avenue and 15th Street in front of the Chelsea Market across the street from the Port Authority Post Office . According to a USPS spokesperson, USPS is considering relocating the Port Authority station but no final decision has yet been taken. USPS will present its plans concerning this matter, and the relocation of the Old Chelsea Station, at a public meeting on April 11th at the Fulton Center Auditorium, 119 NInth Ave, at 6:30pm. Video: press inquiries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
30% people of color
NB Other speakers also made excellent points: Liza Béar hopes to edit a Part II from her footage.
Community Access Television (Channel 10) will run the ENTIRE Shocking and Awful Series SATURDAY, MAR 23rd 3-9PM
Release Date: 3/22/2013
TUNE IN to: Community Access Television, (CATV) - Channel 10 SATURDAY MAR 23rd, from 3pm-9pm to see the Shocking and Awful 12-part series!! CATV will run the entire series as a marathon in commemoration of the Iraq war.
CATV serves the towns of Hartford, Hartland and Norwich, Vermont and Hanover and Lebanon, New Hampshire.
PLEASE SHARE FOR THOSE IN NH!
MONDAY, MARCH 25 - Where Should the Birds Fly Film Screening and Discussion
Release Date: 3/22/2013
The Center for Palestine Studies at
Columbia University Presents
The Powerful New Film by Fida Qishta,
Produced by Deep Dish TV:
Where Should the Birds Fly
Monday, March 25 at 7:45PM
Enter Gates on 116th St & Broadway or Amsterdam Ave.
Screening followed by a discussion with Fida Qishta. Moderated by Nooemi Artal, CPS Visiting Scholar.
In December of 2008 Israel launched a devastating attack on Gaza. A month of bullets, bombs, rockets, white phosphorus, tanks and bulldozers left 1400, mostly civilians, dead and this section of Occupied Palestine in rubble. Where Should the Birds Fly is a compelling and moving Palestinian film based on the story of two remarkable young women, the future of Palestine, who personify the struggle to maintain humanity, humor and hope, to find some degree of normality in the brutal abnormality that has been imposed on them and Palestinians.
FIDA QISHTA is a Palestinian filmmaker/videographer who was born in Rafah, Gaza. She began her video work as a wedding photographer in the Gaza Strip, and then began accompanying human rights observers in Gaza, documenting their work. Her reporting, photography and video journalism has appeared in the UK Guardian, the Observer, and the International Herald Tribune. Fida is also a qualified teacher and, in 2004, co-founded with her sister Faten The Lifemakers Center, an after school and tutoring program which serves several hundred children in Rafah.
Her first full-length documentary, Where Should the Birds Fly, is a powerful reflection of her work and life in Gaza from 2004 through 2009.
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Announcing Shocking and Awful Marathon on Free Speech TV Saturday, March 23rd
Release Date: 3/13/2013
Free Speech TV Presents
The Historic Deep Dish Series:
Shocking and Awful:
A Grassroots Response to War and Occupation
On Saturday, March 23, 2013, the 10th anniversary of the global uprising against the U.S invasion of Iraq, Free Speech TV will run a marathon of the Shocking and Awful Series, produced by Deep Dish TV.
Please see the times below!
March 23, 2013:
2:00am EDST - Shocking and Awful: The Real Face of Occupation
2:30am EDST - Shocking and Awful: Standing with the Women of Iraq
3:00am EDST - Shocking and Awful: National Insecurities
3:30am EDST - Shocking and Awful: The Art of Resistance
4:00am EDST - Shocking and Awful: Dance of Death
4:30am EDST - Shocking and Awful: Erasing Memory
5:00am EDST - Shocking and Awful: Globalization at Gunpoint
5:30am EDST - Shocking and Awful: The World Says NO to War
6:00am EDST - Shocking and Awful: Empire and Oil
6:30am EDST - Shocking and Awful: Channels of War
7:00am EDST - Shocking and Awful: Resistance at Home
7:30am EDST - Shocking and Awful: Baghdad
8:00am EDST - Shocking and Awful: The Real Face of Occupation
8:30am EDST - Shocking and Awful: Standing with the Women of Iraq
9:00am EDST - Shocking and Awful: National Insecurities
9:30am EDST - Shocking and Awful: The Art of Resistance
10:00am EDST - Shocking and Awful: Dance of Death
10:30am EDST - Shocking and Awful: Erasing Memory
11:00am EDST - Shocking and Awful: Globalization at Gunpoint
11:30am EDST - Shocking and Awful: The World Says NO to War
12:00pm EDST - Shocking and Awful: Empire and Oil
12:30pm EDST - Shocking and Awful: Channels of War
1:00pm EDST - Shocking and Awful: Resistance at Home
1:30pm EDST - Shocking and Awful: Baghdad
3:00pm EDST - Shocking and Awful: The Real Face of Occupation
3:30pm EDST - Shocking and Awful: Standing with the Women of Iraq
4:00pm EDST - Shocking and Awful: National Insecurities
4:30pm EDST - Shocking and Awful: The Art of Resistance
5:00pm EDST - Shocking and Awful: Dance of Death
5:30pm EDST - Shocking and Awful: Erasing Memory
6:00pm EDST - Shocking and Awful: Globalization at Gunpoint
6:30pm EDST - Shocking and Awful: The World Says NO to War
7:00pm EDST - Shocking and Awful: Empire and Oil
7:30pm EDST - Shocking and Awful: Channels of War
8:00pm EDST - Shocking and Awful: Resistance at Home
8:30pm EDST - Shocking and Awful: Baghdad
Shocking and Awful Series on PhillyCAM Saturdays in March
Release Date: 3/9/2013
Saturdays in March at 10:30pm on PhillyCAM
Leading up to the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War,
Deep Dish TV presents Shocking & Awful: A Grassroots Response to War & Occupation, a series of programs produced by independent video activists who believe that building a just world is the best way to combat terror, showing how people have mobilized through art, actions and international law.
A 12 episode series presented in 3 parts on
Comcast Cable 66/966 & Verizon Fios 29/30:
Sat. Mar. 9th at 10:30pm: episodes 1 – 4
Sat. Mar. 16th at 10:30pm: episodes 5 - 8
Sat. Mar. 23rd at 10:30pm: episodes 9 – 12
1.The Real Face of Occupation 2. Standing with the Women of Iraq 3.National Insecurities 4. The Art of Resistance 5. Dance of Death 6. Erasing Memory - the Cultural Destruction of iraq 7. Globalization at Gunpoint - the Economics of Occupation 8. The World Says No to War 9. Empire & Oil 10. Channels of War - the Media is the Military 11. Resistance at Home 12. Baghdad
Click HERE for Democracy Now!'s coverage of the series, featuring an interview with Amy Goodman and Deep Dish TV's director and producer, Brian Drolet.
"Beyond the Hills" Cristian Mungiu Video Interview
Release Date: 3/8/2013
An excerpt from Liza Béar's interview with Cristian Mungiu about his latest film Beyond the Hills, screened at the 50th New York Film Festival following its premiere last year at Cannes, where it won Best Screenplay and the Best Actress award shared by its two leads. The story is based on a tragic incident that occurred at a monastery in Tanacu, Romania, in 2005, and explores the relationship between two young women who had grown up together but whose lives took different paths. Mungiu's previous film, the riveting and unsettling 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, won the Palme d'Or at Cannes. The full interview is published in Bomb Magazine, Winter 2012.
Beyond the Hills opens theatrically today at IFC Center.
LGBT Center Bars Sarah Schulman Reading
Release Date: 2/15/2013
Originally Published by Gay City News on February 13, 2013.
By Duncan Osborne
A leading queer community author was barred from an appearance at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center apparently because the book she was to discuss deals with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We requested space for me to do a presentation of my new book ‘Israel/ Palestine and the Queer International,’ which has gotten a good review in the Lambda Literary Review,” wrote Sarah Schulman in a February 11 email. “It is amazing to me that after all my work in the community, I could be refused a platform to present a queer book.”
Schulman has published 17 books and is a leading progressive voice in the queer community. She holds the title of distinguished professor in the City University of New York (CUNY) system and has received multiple awards and fellowships.
Lesbian playwright, novelist, scholar’s book on Israel and Palestine runs afoul of “indefinite moratorium”
On January 23, John Francis Mulligan, a member of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA), a group that opposes Israeli government policy on Palestine, applied to rent space for a March event featuring Schulman reading from her book.
The reading was to coincide with Israeli Apartheid Week, a series of events that organizers say will discuss Israel’s “apartheid policies” toward Palestinians and promote the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel.
In a January 25 email, a Center staffer told Mulligan “We are unable to accommodate your request.” In later emails, Mulligan twice asked for an explanation for the refusal and was referred to the Center’s published room rental policy.
In 2010, the Center rented space to the Siege Busters Working Group, an organization that was challenging the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. In early 2011, Siege Busters sought space at the Center for a party to coincide with that year’s Israeli Apartheid Week. The group was denied space for the party and banned from the Center following complaints.
Siege Busters was banned because the party was “an incredibly controversial and contentious event” and “it was not LGBT-focused,” Glennda Testone, the Center’s executive director, said at a 2011 town hall meeting. Siege Busters and QAIA have members in common.
Following that ban, the Center permitted QAIA to rent space for three meetings, but abruptly banned that group after the first of them. The Center also announced an “indefinite moratorium” on renting to groups that “organize around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” The moratorium is still in effect.
“We were particularly intent on inviting Sarah for a number of reasons,” said Pauline Park, a QAIA member. “She is a particularly well known author, activist, and academic in the community, a Jewish lesbian, and the Center’s refusal to rent room space to have her speak is not only an insult to Sarah Schulman, it is an insult to the community.”
In a direct challenge to the ban, QAIA held unsanctioned meetings in the Center’s lobby for several months in 2011. The continuing ban is in marked contrast to a similar fight at Brooklyn College.
February 7 appearances at the college, which is part of the CUNY system, by Judith Butler, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, and activist Omar Barghouti to advance the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement drew protests and threats by some members of the City Council to cut the college’s funding. The school refused to back down and the event went forward.
In 2011, the Center, which declined to comment on the Schulman matter beyond confirming that the moratorium remains in place, said that it instituted the ban because it was “forced to divert significant resources from its primary purpose of providing programming and services to instead navigating between opposing positions involving the Middle East conflict.”
At the 2011 town hall, Testone said she initially heard from 50 to 60 people who either opposed or supported Siege Busters and that “hundreds” more have expressed their views to the Center.
The loudest voice opposing Siege Busters was Michael Lucas, the owner of Lucas Entertainment, a gay porn studio. He threatened to organize a boycott by Center donors if the party took place.
Stuart Appelbaum, the openly gay president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, and Steven Goldstein, who chaired Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s gay lobbying group, until this year, also opposed the Siege Busters’ event.
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Palestinian Statehood
Release Date: 2/15/2013
Despite the success of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s plan for Palestinian statehood, there do not seem to be any signs of cooperation from Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli state for further progress towards peace between the two countries. The continuing violence and hostility from Israel despite the call for compromise and a two-state solution make the image of peace seem increasingly like an unattainable illusion.
With the goal of increasing personal security, infrastructure, and economy to repair the credibility of a Palestinian government, Fayyad has worked on domestic affairs in order to create a better environment for peace and compromise through credibility and transparency. His plans for the state of Palestine have included creating a transparent administration as well as improving the lives of Palestinians both in terms of security and economic needs. Furthermore, Palestinian statehood is a step in the right direction for Israel as well since it ensures a two-state solution and strengthens moderates while weakening the radicals in Palestine (Simanovsky, “The Fayyad Plan: Implications for the State of Israel”).
However, when sitting down to talk to Prime Minister Fayyad, Roger Cohen of The New York Times found him disheartened by the continuing violence in the West Bank and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s lack of support for the two-state settlement. Fayyad saw Netanyahu’s agenda one of keeping a strict hold on the region, including all of the West Bank (Cohen, “The Success that Failed”). While Fayyad has worked hard on pursuing a more moderate approach to territorial compromise, the expanding settlements and violence from Israel have not ceased. This strong Israeli military presence continues to undermine and weaken the Palestinian National Authority, whose existence is the soundest means of achieving peace according to Fayyad. The less authority and security the moderately-positioned government can provide, the more violent approaches like that of Hamas gain credibility.
By changing positions from one of strict adherence to regaining lost territory and Israeli expulsion from the area, to one of compromise and a two-state solution, Palestine has pushed Israel into the role of accepting or rejecting the move towards peace. Yet Israel’s actions have not reflected any desire for compromise and cooperation. Just a day after the U.N. vote confirming Palestinian statehood, Israel announced plans for further expansion of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem (NPR Staff, “Now What? The State of Palestinian Statehood”). Prime Minister Fayyad sees the establishment of the Palestinian state and its credibility as integral to achieving a strong peace settlement. Since negotiations are only as legitimate as the governments that make them, the establishment of the Palestinian state is important to the future of the region. By failing to support his efforts towards creating an even playing field for negotiation, Israel is rejecting the new efforts towards peace.
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine held its New York session in October of 2012. There the role of the United States and the United Nations in the breaches of international law by Israel were investigated.
The continuing violence in Gaza is depicted in the film Where Should the Birds Fly? The documentary by Fida Qishta looks at peoples’ lives in Gaza and shows their strength and resilience after the Israeli attack on the region in December of 2008.
Beyond Gun Control, Obama Urged to Tackle Joblessness, Incarceration and U.S. "Culture of Violence"
Release Date: 2/15/2013
Originally Posted on Democracy Now! on February 13, 2013.
Obama asked Congress to vote on new gun reform measures, including background checks and a ban on assault weapons. But with the gun lobby-beholden Congress unlikely to approve Obama’s agenda.
The Real Causes of the Postal Deficit
Release Date: 2/8/2013
Originally Published in The Villager on June 7th, 2012.
By Liza Béar
In Jacques Tati’s satirical comedy “Jour de fête” (1949), the village postman who delivers mail on his bicycle is dazzled by the speed and efficiency of the U.S. Postal Service, shown as a movie-within-a-movie in a tent at the county fair. He could scarcely have anticipated the dire financial straits in which the once-exemplary, well-equipped U.S.P.S. — the only delivery service reaching every address in the country — now finds itself.
Last month, U.S.P.S., which receives no tax dollars, reported a $3.2 billion deficit for January through March 2012, up from $2.2 billion for the same period a year ago.
John Dennie, who worked for 14 years as a letter carrier and for 14 years as a mail handler on Staten Island, explained the often-overlooked reason for the deficit, usually attributed to the growth of electronic communication.
“The reason for the deficits that the post office has been running since 2006,” said Dennie, “is the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) passed by Congress in 2006, which, in part, restricted the Postal Service’s ability to compete with FedEx and UPS.”
FedEx and UPS are both members of a powerful corporate lobbying group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, founded in 1973. PAEA passed on a voice vote, with no record of who voted for or against it.
“But the most egregious part of PAEA,” Dennie said, “was the requirement that the Postal Service prefund its retirement benefits 75 years into the future in a 10-year window to the tune of about $5.5 billion a year.”
Over all, first-class mail continues to diminish. However, for business mail, bulk mail, parcel post and all other classes of mail, 2005, 2006 and 2007 were the highest years ever in volume.
Minus the prefunding obligation, U.S.P.S. would have accumulated a surplus of $611 million during the four-year period since the prefunding requirement was implemented.
Not all postal services are suffering. And U.S.P.S. is exploring new revenue streams, such as the popular Every Door Direct Mail, according to District Manager William Schnaars.
Designed to overhaul the Postal Service, the 21st Century Postal Service Act (S 1789), which passed the Senate in April, only partially addresses U.S.P.S.’s predicament.
“Supposedly, it changes the amortization schedule from 10 years to 40 years on the prefunding,” Dennie said. “It also calls for another $11 billion refund for overpayments made by the Postal Service to the Treasury for U.S.P.S.’s two different pension systems — Civil Service Retirement System and the Federal Employee Retirement System. According to most actuarial studies, they overpaid into both of those funds.”
Currently, S1789 is languishing in the House.
“If 1789 was passed by the House in its present form and went on to become law, it would refund $11 billion of the pension overpayments, to be used for early-retirement incentives, so that when the post office closes facilities they’ll be able to reduce their employee complement.
“Right now, the unions have a no-layoff clause in their contract. So if they close or consolidate a facility, those employees still have a job.
As for the bill’s plan of “cutting the hours of 13,000 rural post offices instead of closing them,” Dennie said, “That’s skirting the law. Title 39 US Code Section 404B states that you can’t close a rural post office solely for revenue reasons.”
Presumably impatient with the snail’s pace of the legislation’s progress through Congress, on May 17, U.S.P.S. announced the proposed consolidation of 140 of its 461 mail-processing centers. In New York City, the Staten Island plant is the only one on the hit list, the Bronx facility having been closed in October 2011. All mail from the Bronx is rerouted to the Morgan facility on Ninth Ave. and 29th St. in Chelsea, with consequent delays in service.
“At 5 o’clock you can see the 7-ton trucks lining up on Ninth Ave.,” said Frank Couget, 35, a shop steward and mail carrier at the Times Square Station Post Office for 12 years.
Other cost-cutting measures are threatened.
“The proposal to eliminate Saturday delivery — S1789 simply delays that for two years,” Dennie said. “And the beginning of these plant closings means the total gutting of the post office’s ability to maintain any kind of service standards. The service standards will be drastically degraded to the point where they’ll drive away the customer base, and they’ll be able to snag the post offices and privatize them.”
But Congressmember Jerry Nadler is determined not to let that happen. He supports restructuring the $5.5 billion annual Retirement Health Benefit prepayment requirement.
“As I strongly believe that the U.S.P.S. is a critical government service for the American public, I am firmly against the privatization of this service,” Nadler stated. “I’ve worked hard to preserve the stations in my district — including those in the Village — and have, fortunately, had a high degree of success.”
On Monday, a group calling itself Communities and Postal Workers United announced plans to begin a hunger strike on June 25 to call attention to what it says is the reason for the service’s financial failings.
“Not the Internet, not private competition, not the recession; Congress is responsible for the postal mess,” Jamie Partridge, a retired letter carrier who plans to travel to Washington from Portland, Oregon, for the hunger strike, said in an e-mailed statement. “Corporate interests, working through their friends in Congress, want to undermine the U.S.P.S. and bust the unions, then privatize it.”
Fifty-four Nations Are Implicated in a CIA Torture Scheme
Release Date: 2/8/2013
Originally Published at The Nation on February 6th, 2013.
By David Cole
When President George W. Bush launched the “war on terror” in the wake of the Al Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001, he famously defined the enemy as “terrorist groups of global reach.” But an important report released February 5 by the Open Society Justice Initiative shows that a central element of the Bush administration’s response was itself to spread terror—on a global scale. The report, “Globalizing Torture,” reveals that while the United States was the progenitor of the CIA program that abducted, rendered, disappeared and tortured terror suspects, at least fifty-four other nations are implicated in the program. The report, the most comprehensive to date on the rendition program, names names—from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe—and calls for the accountability that has thus far been almost entirely missing.
On the one hand, the extensive involvement of so many other nations in the CIA program suggests that the challenge of upholding human rights is even greater than we might have imagined. But on the other hand, these international entanglements also suggest a way forward. Many of these nations have their own accountability mechanisms. Some are answerable as well to transnational institutions like the European Court of Human Rights and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The complicity of fifty-four nations means there could be at least fifty-four routes to pursuing accountability for the wrongs committed by the CIA and its collaborators.
In December, the European Court of Human Rights provided a critically important example. In El-Masri v. Macedonia, the court ruled that Macedonia had violated the European Convention on Human Rights’ prohibitions on torture, inhuman treatment and arbitrary detention by handing Khaled El-Masri to the CIA, which rendered him to Afghanistan and tortured him. Macedonia did not do the torturing itself; the CIA did. But the court held that transferring El-Masri to the CIA under such circumstances amounted to complicity in torture and ordered Macedonia to pay damages. The European Court has no jurisdiction over the United States, and therefore could not issue a remedy against it; but it did find expressly that the CIA tortured El-Masri, a predicate to its finding of Macedonia’s complicity.
Some nations, such as Poland and Thailand, allowed the CIA to establish secret prisons, or “black sites,” on their territory. Some, like Syria, Jordan, Pakistan and Egypt, tortured suspects the CIA rendered to them. Some, like Macedonia, Georgia and Sweden, delivered suspects to the CIA, essentially handing them over to be tortured. Some, like Canada and Britain, provided intelligence that the CIA then used to capture, render or interrogate suspects. Some, like Germany and Britain, participated in the interrogations themselves. Many, including Belgium, Iceland, Greece and Denmark, allowed rendition flights to use their airports and airspace. And nearly all have failed to conduct serious investigations of their complicity in the US turn to the dark side.
What are we to make of these worldwide tentacles of the extraordinary rendition program? The involvement of so many other nations in a program that, once it became public, was almost universally condemned suggests that hypocrisy is not the exclusive domain of Bush officials (who claimed they did not “torture” even as they secretly authorized Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to be waterboarded 183 times). The widespread global condemnation of the rendition program voiced by other countries, it turns out, often masked quiet support for the program by those very same countries. It almost seems as if the United States affirmatively sought to implicate as many other nations as possible, to reduce the likelihood that anyone would call it out.
Thus far, only one of the fifty-four nations has admitted its culpability. In 2004, Canada established a commission to examine its role in the US rendition of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, to Syria, where the security services tortured him while posing the same questions to him that US authorities had. The Canadian commission exonerated Arar and found Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police at fault for providing misinformation, among other things. The Canadian Parliament formally apologized, and Arar was paid damages.
No other state has admitted complicity, although Britain, Sweden and Australia have settled lawsuits asserting such liability. But the Macedonian case points the way to similar actions. And each time another country is held responsible, the finding also implicates the United States.
These indirect efforts to pursue accountability are necessary not only because so many nations violated their most fundamental commitments, but also because the United States has so far blocked all efforts at accountability at home. President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have both admitted to authorizing waterboarding, a form of torture, and memorandums declassified by the Obama administration show that high-level lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel twisted the law to authorize these war crimes. Yet none of these individuals have been subjected to criminal investigation, much less prosecuted. All civil suits for redress have been dismissed, mostly on assertions of state secrets. The Justice Department’s ethics office recommended that John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the lawyers who wrote the first torture memos, be referred for bar discipline, but a Justice Department official vetoed that recommendation. And President Obama has opposed even establishing a commission of inquiry.
There is still one domestic forum that could in theory provide some opportunity for accountability—but not if the government can help it. The defendants in the military trials currently under way at Guantánamo were victims of the CIA’s rendition and interrogation program, and they have properly sought to raise that issue in their trials. The United States has responded by classifying the detainees’ accounts of their mistreatment and barring them and their lawyers from discussing the abuse in public. The government has installed special technology in the courtroom so that it can cut off the trial’s audio feed to the media and outside observers if the CIA’s treatment of detainees is even mentioned. In January, it emerged that the CIA was operating the switch, unbeknownst even to the military judge presiding over the trial. The judge has now asserted sole authority to turn off the microphones. But the fundamental issue is not who should turn the microphones off and on. It is that the United States is unable to acknowledge its own wrongdoing, even as it seeks to hold those who acted against us accountable for theirs.
The United States may be able to suppress complaints at home, but it lacks the power to exercise such censorship abroad. The only fitting response to the globalization of torture is the globalization of accountability.
Kill List Exposed: Leaked Obama Memo Shows Assassination of U.S. Citizens "Has No Geographic Limit"
Release Date: 2/8/2013
The Obama administration’s internal legal justification for assassinating U.S. citizens without charge has been revealed for the first time. In a secret Justice Department memo, the administration claims it has legal authority to assassinate U.S. citizens overseas even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the United States.
An interview with Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, looks into the memo and it's implications on Democracy Now!.
How Immigration Reform Could Expand Incarceration of Immigrants
Release Date: 2/8/2013
Originally Published at Colorlines on February 6th, 2013
By Seth Freed Wessler
The House made its first formal foray into immigration reform yesterday at a lengthy Judiciary Committee hearing in which Republicans struck a familiar chord. Despite record-setting deportation levels in recent years, Republican members of the committee were in broad agreement that they want even more enforcement before they could sign onto the comprehensive reform ideas laid out by Senate negotiators and President Obama.
“There is not in my opinion very much enforcement going on at all in the interior of the country,” said Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican.
The heightened enforcement that Goodlatte and others seek raises a thorny question for the immigration reform process: Will it address the dire concerns many have about the ways in which immigrants are detained while awaiting deportation?
Immigration reform advocates around the country are raising concerns about the sprawling complex of prisons and detention centers, run often by private corporations, that are used to lock up non-citizens. Today, a group of senators led by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy will release a strongly worded letter to colleagues calling for greater protections for immigrants inside those detention centers.
“Our laws mandate detention or deportation for many people, denying them access to a hearing before a judge, without guaranteeing legal counsel for those who cannot afford it,” the senators wrote, according to the Huffington Post. “Immigration enforcement measures frequently target minority and immigrant communities through impermissible racial profiling that instills fear and distrust of law enforcement and makes communities less safe. Our system is not fair. It is unnecessarily punitive and disproportionate.”
The tone at yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing suggests Republicans in that chamber would disagree. The ideas swirling there would instead expand policies that tightly entwine the criminal justice and immigration systems. Though a large-scale legalization of undocumented immigrants would seem on its face to render detention facilities obsolete, efforts are already underway to keep them growing.
Detention Reform or Detention Expansion
In recent years, the Obama administration has detained and deported immigrants at a record-setting pace. Though the administration purports to target serious criminal offenders, critics say immigration laws paint “serious” in exceptionally broad strokes. The bulk of the 1.5 million people deported in the last four years were charged with minor violations, and many of these people would still find themselves subject to deportation even if they’re on track to legal status or have a green card.
And for immigrants pegged with a long list of convictions, detention before deportation is mandatory. Laws passed in the 1990’s took the power away from ICE agents and immigration judges to review the particulars of cases, release detainees or stop their deportation. Approximately two-thirds of the 400,000 detainees last year were held on a mandatory basis in one of the more than 300 facilities that dot the American landscape, without the possibility of release, according to the advocacy group Detention Watch Network.
Advocates hope that an immigration reform bill will begin to replace punitive lock up with alternative, community-based measures to keep track of non-citizens in deportation proceedings. Last week, President Obama nodded in that direction. The White House’s guiding principles for immigration reform note that the president’s proposal “allows DHS to better focus its detention resources on public safety and national security threats by expanding alternatives to detention and reducing overall detention costs.”
In 2012, the federal government spent over $2 billion on detention operations, a nearly 150 percent increase from just seven years ago. And the two leading private detention companies, Corrections Corporation of America and Geo Group, together netted about $425 million in revenues from their ICE contracts. The industry spends millions lobbying Congress.
Republicans yesterday made clear that they’re not interested in cuts.
Rep. Randy Forbes, a Virginia Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, asked San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who testified at the hearing, if the U.S. should be allowed to summarily deport people with gang affiliations “before they committed another criminal act.” In 2005, Rep. Forbes introduced the Alien Gang Removal Act, which would have led to the mandatory detention and deportation of anyone the government labeled a member of a gang, even if they’ve never been convicted of a crime. Similar language made it’s way into a comprehensive immigration reform bill considered by the Senate in 2006.
Belinda Escobosa Helzer, an attorney with the ACLU of Southern California, says that laws like these cast an overbroad net that encourages racial profiling. “What we’ve seen in practice in California is that a lot of youth of color are being documented as gang members because of where they live, who they went to school with, who they were walking with,” she said, not because they’ve committed a crime.
A provision like the one Forbes suggests would add to an already long list of exclusions Congress could build into a reform bill.
Civil liberties and immigrant rights groups, meanwhile, are advocating for reduced reliance on detention facilities in the immigration enforcement process and restored discretion to judges.
“It’s absolutely crucial Congress include a rollback of mandatory detention laws in any new immigration legislation,” said Emily Tucker, the advocacy director at Detention Watch Network, in a statement Tuesday.
The collateral effects of detention have only recently come into view. A 2011 Colorlines.com investigation revealed that the detention of parents regularly leaves children stuck in foster care or in other precarious situations.
“Because of the deportations that have taken place over the last few years there are anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 children who have been placed in foster care because their parents have been deported. The children were citizens,” Rep. Karen Bass, a California Democratic and member of the House Judiciary Committee, said at the hearing yesterday, citing the findings of the Colorlines.com investigation.
Filling Federal Prisons
Democratic congressional staffers and Beltway advocates say they’re most concerned that in exchange for backing the legalization of undocumented immigrants, Republicans will demand an expansion of a program called Operation Streamline, which began in 2005 in counties along the U.S.-Mexico border to prosecute and incarcerate people crossing the border.
Advocates of the program say incarceration deters immigrants from crossing and contributes to the reported 40-year low in new migration over the border. There’s little evidence to support this claim, but Sen. John McCain, the leading GOP immigration reformer, and other border Republicans have nonetheless listed additional investments in Streamline as a key component of their border security demands in recent years.
Though congressional staffers and advocates say the demand has yet to appear on the table in the current round of Beltway trading, many expect it will.
Prosecutions for immigration-related offenses rose by 50 percent in just the last five years, and the federal Bureau of Prisons is building new facilities to make room. In the 1990’s the BOP began contracting out the operation of federal prisons to hold so called “criminal aliens,” who include people convicted of violations like reentry and of other crimes. Geo Group and Corrections Corporation of America now operate all 13 of the facilities that hold a cumulative 24,000 inmates. The companies took in over $460 million in revenue from federal contracts in 2011, the Huffington Post reports.
Advocates, journalists and the BOP’s own researchers have documented diminished quality and widespread abuse and neglect of inmates in private facilities and many are concerned that immigration reform could facilitate greater opportunities for these companies. Already, expansion looks likely.
In July the government put out a call for a 14th privately run facility—a 1,000 bed prison with a $25 million price tag. And a report released in September by the Government Accountability Office revealed that the BOP projects the addition of 1,500 more inmates to these facilities every year, increasing the population of the prisons by 50 percent by the end of the decade.
In a move that will help keep the prisons full, less than a month ago, California Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican on the Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation to add long mandatory minimums to sentencing rules for reentry and other immigration related offenses. In one case, his bill sets a sentencing range between 10 and 20 years for people coming back to the country. If passed, either on its own or as part of a comprehensive immigration reform bill, it would drive up the time these inmates spend behind bars.
Massive Cuts to Postal Service a Step Towards Privatization?
Release Date: 2/8/2013
Plan to restructure post office a big real estate play and boon to private courier companies
More about the history of the U.S. Postal Service and it's current threatened state on Truthout
Online pioneer, activist is hailed at memorial at The Cooper Union
Release Date: 1/24/2013
Aaron Swartz was facing up to 31 years in jail for downloading articles at M.I.T.
Originally Published in The Villager on January 24th, 2013
BY LIZA BéAR | It was standing room only at The Cooper Union’s Great Hall from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sat., Jan. 19, as family, friends, collaborators and supporters honored the memory of Internet pioneer, computer prodigy and cyber activist Aaron Swartz, 26.
Swartz ended his life on Jan. 11 in his Brooklyn apartment, a few weeks before the scheduled start of his controversial Department of Justice trial. He stood accused of breaking into a closet at M.I.T. in September 2010, and downloading 4.5 million articles from JSTOR, a nonprofit, subscription-based, online archive for more than 1,000 academic journals, to which Swartz, as a fellow at Harvard’s Safra Center for Ethics, had access.
Although neither JSTOR nor M.I.T. wished to pursue civil or criminal charges, as told by Swartz to The Huffington Post last June, D.O.J. brought 13 felony counts against him under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, or CAFA. As a result, he faced as much as 31 years in jail and/or a $1 million fine, causing incredible stress, according to his partner, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, founder of SumofUs.org.
A statement on the memorial program referred to Swartz’s death as “the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach.”
Efforts are underway to reform CAFA through an initiative called Aaron’s Law, for which signatures are being collected.
Repeatedly referred to as a “builder, not a hacker” at The Cooper Union memorial service, Swartz invented an A.T.M. machine. He spent a year in high school and a year in college. At age 14, he helped create the RSS Web feed and became a co-founder of Reddit — a social news and entertainment Web site where users vote submissions up or down. By 16 he was considered an expert in his field, contributing to the development of Creative Commons, which provides free and easy-to-use, copyright licensing for creative content shared online.
At the East Village memorial, Edward Tufte, professor emeritus of computer science at Yale, hailed Swartz as “marvelously and vigorously different.” Holden Karnovsky, co-executive director of Givewell, referred to Swartz’s interest in meta-issues, such as promoting rational altruism. Roy Singham, founder and chairperson of Thoughtworks, who had hired a team of international engineers to work with Swartz, eulogized him as a systems thinker, “a gentle giant who wanted to right the wrongs of the world, a complex and wondrous soul,” but also as “a consummate team member who was developing the next generation of tools for organizing and democratizing campaigning.”
Israeli news broadcasters don't cry
Release Date: 1/23/2013
By Ayelett Shani | Jan.19, 2013 | 10:35 AM | 2
As a commentator, you’re considered an odd bird.
Let’s say that for a time I was a person whom people liked not liking. It’s very easy to be a well-liked commentator: you simply tell the public what it wants to hear. But I always chose to tell the truth. And regrettably, I was never wrong. Both in Operation Cast Lead [the 2008-09 campaign in Gaza] and [last November’s follow-up] Operation Pillar of Defense, people were furious at me. People cursed me, sent messages, found me on Facebook and called me a Hamas man. But I saw where it was all going, and said so.
Not as a provocation.
No. I just say what I think. I read the situation, I don’t go by gut feelings or political beliefs. I thought it was wrong to assassinate Ahmed Jabari [the head of Hamas’ military wing]. Not because he didn’t deserve to die. He deserved to die. But the method of eliminating some top person and thinking someone better will replace him is wrong. All you do is heighten the problem. A top figure in the defense establishment told me, “Israel built up Hamas, not by its deeds but by its failures.”
Because we are always putting out fires.
All the decisions of the political leadership are made ad hoc, and aimed at putting out fires.
Let’s talk a little about the aftermath of Operation Pillar of Defense.
Before you arrived, I sat here with a think team from the Command and Staff College [of the Israel Defense Forces]. They wanted to hear my take on the subject, and I gave them a precise account of what I think is going on in Hamas now.
What did you tell them?
That I think Hamas is planning to take control of the West Bank. A month ago I would have said there was no chance of that, that Hamas has no interest in the West Bank. But something is changing. I don’t know exactly what, but I feel it on the ground.
What are you picking up?
To begin with, Hamas allowed Fatah to hold a huge demonstration [in the Gaza Strip]. A demonstration of support for Fatah would supposedly embarrass Hamas – because Fatah wants to prove that it is still alive and kicking in Gaza. You ask yourself what’s behind this.
Why did they let them do that? Obviously, something is happening. I like doing one plus one, and the answer I get is that if [Hamas political leader] Khaled Meshal came to Gaza a month ago, and said very different things from what he said in the past, he is priming himself to be the next Palestinian president.
What did he say?
Just a year ago, he said Hamas was abandoning the armed struggle and would henceforth advocate popular demonstrations. Now suddenly he comes and says “Not one inch! We want Jerusalem, we will not recognize Israel.” That’s a 180-degree shift. And you realize that he is saying this in the wake of Pillar of Defense. That Hamas understands they need to have elections.
To consolidate in the West Bank, and maybe even seize control of it.
Exactly. In order to become an important and influential force in the West Bank, they need elections. And to hold elections, Palestinian reconciliation is essential. They have already marked the targets and assigned the jobs. Meshal will compete for a position he didn’t dare even dream of two months ago: Palestinian president. If Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] doesn’t snap out of it fast and realize that he is being maneuvered, he will find himself outside the political game. The whole of Fatah will find itself outside.
As of now, Israeli journalists are not going into Gaza.
They are not going in, and will not be going in. A week ago I asked Mahmoud al-Zahar [a senior Hamas figure] what he thought about my coming to Gaza. He said no, because the situation did not allow it. I know what that means. I was in Gaza a week before Operation Pillar of Defense, and they asked me to leave. Someone was planning to kidnap me.
What do you think of the Israeli media’s coverage of the Palestinians?
We are not doing anything right. It’s no wonder that during military operations everyone mobilizes to serve the IDF Spokesman’s Unit.
You’re referring to Roni Daniel, Channel 2’s military commentator.
I don’t want to say anything bad about Roni Daniel, heaven forbid. The problem is that the Israeli media speak in one voice. We look at the other side and see people without faces. It is part of the dehumanization [process] we are undergoing. You know, the GOC Central Command recently initiated a very courageous move. On the [Muslim] Feast of the Sacrifice holiday, he allowed 200,000 Palestinians to enter Israel. Why? Because he understood something important: that the demonization process is working overtime and that it’s important for Palestinians to see Israel at eye-level, as the saying goes. The project was kept secret; no one knew about it. I was off that day. In the evening I went to a restaurant on the Tel Aviv beach and suddenly I see the boardwalk packed with Palestinians. Think about it - 10 years earlier there was the terrorist attack at the Dolphinarium [which is also on the boardwalk]. And now Palestinians are having barbecues there. I assume it’s impossible to check 200,000 people thoroughly. It was a bold decision, made by someone who understood that if Israelis don’t see Palestinians and Palestinians don’t see Israelis, nothing will move.
How did your perception change over time? For you, the Palestinians are not faceless. How did you change?
Basically, the change in my perception of them started when I entered Gaza and met human beings. You know, a few years ago I watched old reports of mine from the Channel 1 [state television] archive and I was simply ashamed.
Why? Because you felt that today you could not endorse that viewpoint?
Yes, I took a patronizing posture. The first times I entered Gaza was in a Border Police jeep, during a curfew.
A portrait of the occupier.
Yes. I arrived in a jeep and I filmed the sign “Welcome to Gaza” and filmed them looking out of windows. But when I started to get to know them, I began to see them as human beings. One of the events that influenced me most in my life was a report I did for Channel 1 about the children of the intifada. For the first time we saw children who were killed by IDF gunfire. We hadn’t known anything about that. That gave me an additional angle of vision - you could call it humane - namely, that there are human beings behind the masks they wore.
Does the occupation corrupt?
The occupation corrupts, yes.
I cannot forget your conversation with Izzeldin Abuelaish, the Gaza physician who lost three of his daughters and spoke to you live on television moments after his house was bombed during Operation Cast Lead. Tell me what you felt during that conversation.
I was thinking what the editor of the newscast would do about the fact that I had pressed the speaker and stopped a newscast, showing a lack of broadcast discipline. I only calmed down after he told me to hold the phone closer to the microphone. And then I fought with myself, because I knew I must not cry, that it would be wrong if I cried and choked up.
Because that would show that everything people say about you is true.
And why is that bad?
The truth is that it’s not bad. But that’s what I thought at that moment, that one has to be strong. Afterward I went to the hospital at Tel Hashomer and saw him there, with his pajamas soaked in blood and crying horribly. I didn’t say anything. What could I say - “It will be all right”? “It will pass”? I just sat next to him without a word. The next day, when I came again, he was washed and shaved, and he was already thinking differently. All he wanted was to prove his innocence, to prove that no shells were fired from his house, that he was falsely accused. His reaction frightened me. It seemed inhumane. His wife had died a few months earlier, three of his daughters were killed the day before, and he is not showing signs of mourning. How can that be? I was shaken by his behavior and kept my distance from him.
And that was the end of your relationship with him?
Hardly. The day after Operation Cast Lead ended, I saw that Channel 1 had reported that “the piece of shrapnel that struck the family of the doctor from Gaza was from Hamas.” I called Abuelaish at the hospital and told him. He said his daughter was being operated on again the next day to remove the shrapnel and he intended to save it, as proof. I told him, “Don’t give it to anyone; I will come tomorrow.” I got to the hospital the next day and spoke to Prof. [Rafi] Valdan. He told Abuelaish, “I will not give the shrapnel to anyone. I will enter the operating room, take it and put it in the safe. I promise not to give it to anyone, but I have to report to the chief medical officer [of the IDF].” And so it was. He informed the army that he did not intend to give them the shrapnel, and a few days later army personnel came to the hospital and asked Abuelaish to pardon them. They admitted they had been wrong. This was after they tried to say that he had [combat] materials and weapons in his house and posted factually incorrect photos on Facebook. That would not have happened if they’d known he had the shrapnel.
Did you ever speak to him about his behavior in the hospital?
Long afterward I met him at a screening of my film in Canada. [The documentary film, “Precious Life,” is about a Palestinian baby from Gaza who suffers from a rare disease]. He told me something for the first time. He said, “I heard the screams, I heard the shell. I ran upstairs, opened what was left of the door, saw the body parts of my daughters and saw Mohammed, my son, who said, ‘Daddy, Mayar, Bessan and Aya went up to mother, to heaven.’ I looked at Mohammed and decided that I had to live for the sake of the living, not for the sake of the dead.” And then he started to cry. It was only then that I grasped that he is cut from a different cloth. That he decided not to immerse himself in mourning, in order to safeguard his children who remained alive. I understood him. I understood who he is.
That evening I saw him sitting in the synagogue where the film was being shown and talking with members of the Jewish community about the importance of peace. The man who lost everything is persuading them that it’s necessary to talk about peace. It was off-the-wall.
An amazing person.
Yes. It took me many years to understand him; I even apologized to him afterward. You know, it took me two or three weeks to realize that people who saw that broadcast cried not because of the conversation, but because they saw my face.
But you didn’t cry.
No, but they saw I was fighting it.
I meant later, in retrospect.
No, I didn’t cry later, either.
How can that be? Just from talking about it with you, I feel a lump in my throat.
I don’t know why I didn’t cry. I even cry at the movies. You know, I was with the coproducers of my film, Ehud Bleiberg and Yoav Ze’evi, during the screening at a festival in Colorado. The part about the firing of rockets on Sderot came on. We’re sitting in the mountains of Colorado, paradise on earth, and I start to cry. I look to my right and see Ehud wipe away a tear, and I look to my left and see Yoav wiping away a tear, too. And it was at this trivial moment – not at the place where everyone cries when they see the film. I asked them, “Why did we cry?” And Ehud replied, “We cried at our situation.”
I can understand that.
We cried at our situation, and I think we need to cry about our future, too.
Let’s talk about our future. The picture you’re painting is that Hamas rules in Gaza and is the consensus or the mainstream, and the extremists are trying to undermine Hamas - in the same way as Hamas undermined Fatah 25 years ago.
That’s correct, and that situation still exists. That’s why I think Israel scored a big achievement in Operation Pillar of Defense.
Until now, Hamas was always dragged after the events. When Islamic Jihad fired rockets, Hamas was forced to respond, because it was being held up to ridicule. People told Hamas, “You came to power and forsook the holy war.” In the wake of Operation Pillar of Defense, Hamas could say to the Palestinian public: “We threatened the Israeli public, we drove them into shelters in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, we came out victorious and we don’t need a certificate of validation from anyone.” That means that tomorrow, if some young warrior from Islamic Jihad fires a rocket, they can arrest him.
Because they’ve already proved themselves. They showed what they are capable of. So now they can maintain quiet and stick to their desire not to escalate.
How ironic: By upgrading their status, they can now enforce a more moderate line in Gaza.
Yes, but it could still all turn around. If there is another terrorist attack and we do not restrain ourselves and take down someone from the Resistance Committees, and they start shooting in retaliation, the whole story starts over - only this time it will be a lot more complicated and complex. Hamas is intoxicated with victory now. I spoke to Zahar and many others. They are really convinced they won. The next confrontation will force Israel to decide whether we are letting them drag us into one more round, or really want to topple the Hamas government. But a decision has to be made. After all, last time they knew we were postponing the decision. Avigdor Lieberman said so explicitly in an interview to Channel 10. He said we did not intend to topple the Hamas government.
A brilliant strategist.
That interview was a serious mistake. A country can say it can no longer tolerate rockets or pay the price of peace. But why say so on television? I know the Palestinians. It took them exactly 10 minutes to figure out that Israel had no serious intentions in that round. They understood that all they had to do was hang in there.
Still, how can they possibly perceive it as a victory?
People from the army asked me how I understand it - after all, we dropped tons of explosives on them. We caused huge destruction. But that’s not what influences them. They don’t want to prove they can bring down the Israeli army. As they see it, they did something no one ever did before them. They posed a threat to Israel and created a deterrent balance. They won. It’s not a military victory. They won because they were not toppled.
So we defeat them militarily but lose in psychological warfare.
Just so. It’s because they understand us a lot better than we understand them. We think with Western logic: I threaten them, I will enter Gaza, they’d better watch out. That doesn’t work. Ibrahim Makadmeh, who was the strategist of Hamas [and assassinated by Israel in 2003], wrote back in 1994 that Hamas cannot topple the Palestinian Authority. What Hamas can do is stagger the Israelis with suicide attacks, so the Israelis will hit back at Arafat, weaken him and destroy his security units, and then it will seize power.
Which is what happened.
Are we one step behind all the time?
React and don’t initiate, get dragged along instead of leading.
The situation today is extremely complicated. Hamas is strong. And what message is Israel sending them? That we understand only force. I wrote that we will never have a better partner [for peace talks] than Abu Mazen. Not that it’s possible to make an agreement only with Abu Mazen. We will not repeat the mistake we made in Oslo, when we reached an agreement only with the PLO, which led to a total collapse. But when Abu Mazen went to the United Nations, we should have given him our blessing. Why? When there are no negotiations, you don’t have to give anything. There can be an observer and the father of observers, and I don’t have to give a thing. But that is something no one thought of doing.
What actually happened in Operation Pillar of Defense?
The operation was a mistake from the word go. The Resistance Committees fired a missile at an Israeli jeep in order to drag Hamas in. Israel immediately fired back and hit two children. Hamas put out the first communiqué: If civilians are attacked, we will hit back at civilians. What does that actually mean? You have to read between the lines. They are really saying, “Don’t drag us in. Don’t attack civilians, because we are already the object of ridicule.”
So it was actually more an admission of weakness, and Israel took it as a provocation.
Indeed, all the sites wrote: “Hamas is threatening us.” But Hamas was not threatening. Hamas was saying, “I am in a mess as it is, people are saying I am not protecting the citizens, and I can’t stop Islamic Jihad or the Resistance Committees.” So they started firing, because they had no choice, but they fired into open areas. Then Israel decided to strike at a Hamas position, and that was all it took. Hamas fired back and assumed responsibility. It’s wrong to think that if I hit them they will be afraid. It’s just the opposite.
If you could draw one sweeping conclusion from this period of covering Israel’s behavior toward Hamas, what would it be?
That the political decision makers never acted strategically, and that their tactics all along were both mistaken and bad.
What, in your estimation, will happen in Gaza in terms of the next Israeli government?
I will surprise you by saying that Netanyahu behaved very responsibly toward Gaza throughout his term of office. In Operation Cast Lead, Olmert wanted to restore to himself the lost honor of the Second Lebanon War. He went on the rampage in Gaza. After Operation Cast Lead, when I was making my film, I came into possession of shocking material. The kind of material that sends you to a psychologist. I have never shown it. Children who were shot. Piles of bodies of civilians. In contrast, in Operation Pillar of Defense hardly any ambulances arrived at hospitals. People were killed, but there is absolutely no comparison.
What will happen now? Does this problem have a solution?
No. It will always need to be based on a balance of terror. The question is what kind of balance of terror. My impression, after the events of the past two or three years, is that when you strike a deal with Hamas, they uphold it, as long as you yourself do not violate it. Fatah could not be trusted. They were a corrupt group, which is also why they lost. One of my big professional mistakes came in a book I wrote in which I forecast the rise of Hamas, but did not touch on the most fundamental issue.
The corruption in Fatah. Every corrupt Fatah man who arrived from Tunisia immediately equipped himself with a villa and a Mercedes, and I didn’t realize that the Mercedes would have a direct effect on me. I thought it was an internal matter, the Palestinians’ problem. It took me a long time to grasp that Hamas was not elected because of ideology. The vote was more against Fatah than for Hamas - because of the corruption.
So what then?
There is a middle road. You can’t enter into half a [peace] process, and I think Netanyahu understands that. I think it is possible to reach understandings with Hamas, though less so now than before Operation Pillar of Defense.
Is it true to say “there is no partner”?
I revealed a few years ago that Meshal wanted to talk to Olmert and sent him messages via [Shin Bet chief Yuval] Diskin. Olmert not only refused, he failed to inform the top ranks of the defense establishment and led the country into an operation in Gaza. So maybe Meshal was a partner, but today I’m not sure he is. Can I make a comprehensive peace with him today, with the condition of Palestinian society? The answer is no.
So it’s a lost cause. There is no solution.
You are right: there is no solution. There is no solution because, even if there were Palestinian unity, Israeli society today is not ready to pay the price of peace. We are incapable of evacuating even one settler outpost, so how will we be capable of doing more?
Did the process you underwent, from being someone who photographed the “Welcome to Gaza” sign to being a friend, almost a member of the family there, make you despair or give you hope?
There was a period when I had hope.
And it ended?
Today I have no hope. That is the general feeling of the whole Israeli public, both on the right and the left.
You are in a state of despair.
Yes. Something bad is happening here: politically, in policy and especially in the realm of social welfare. Israeli society is turning into a dangerous place. Things are not going to be good.
It’s as though we spent a lot of time in a café, and now the check is about to arrive.
We are still in the café. And we lost. Israeli society does not want to wake up and know. On the first day of the Second Lebanon War, I took my camera and wandered among the soldiers. When I got home that night I told my wife, “We lost the war.” She was shocked and asked, “Why are you saying such a thing?” I replied, “Because the soldiers were pulled from their offices and businesses and are sitting there, looking at pictures of their children in their phones. Hezbollah was militant and fired with motivation, but all we wanted was to get it over with and go back home.” We can only imagine the spirit of the Six-Day War, the spirit of mission and mobilization.
I think that is what’s working for Naftali Bennett, the leader of Habayit Hayehudi-National Union, in the election campaign. He’s doing well because he purports to embody that spirit.
Yes, that’s where it can be found, among the settlers and the “hilltop youth.” It speaks to them. That’s why we are being dragged in their wake.
I saw a clip on YouTube of a children’s program from Hamas TV. The children of the shahid [martyr] Reem Riyashi, 5-year-old children. They were shown a video clip of their mother as she prepared for the suicide bombing attack, putting on the explosive belt. A song was playing in the background: “Mom, you chose to embrace the explosive belt and not me.”
Hamas TV is inflammatory.
It was appalling on so many levels.
I am also constantly shocked by that. But try for a minute to see it from their point of view, the feeling of people in Gaza, under siege and occupation, whose relatives and friends were killed.
I can understand that - the motivation. What’s harder to understand is how deep the seed was planted, and when. I understood that there is no chance.
Right. I will tell you what “no chance” means. A few days after the end of Operation Pillar of Defense, I gave a talk at a Herzliya high school. The children, who said they came from good homes, told me we have to kill all the Arabs, including the Israeli Arabs, because where do they get off thinking they will get control of the country. Their ideal is to go into the army and kill as many Arabs as possible. That’s one side of the picture, Israeli youth, the new generation, living in an atmosphere of demonizing the Palestinians - which is something the Israeli media are responsible for in no small measure. The other side of the picture is the young generation in Gaza, a child of five or nine. Let’s say he is not wounded, but a four-ton bomb landed next to his house. Do you know that in Operation Pillar of Defense, not one pane of glass remained intact in the whole of Gaza? It’s a tactic of creating sonic booms to frighten people without hurting them. A child who has a bomb like that land next to him can’t hear anything for the next three days. What does he think about the Jews afterward? And where will we end up, if this is how Jewish youngsters think about Arabs?
We are on a nothing-to-lose track. Which is why I say there is no future. When I told the high school class that we have to look at them as human beings, one boy jumped up and said, “Who do you vote for? You’re extreme left, no?” I replied, “It would surprise you to know who I vote for.” But that’s not the point. The point is that we in Israel have reached a situation in which if someone says we have to talk peace, he’s considered extreme left.
You are very reserved.
I maintain reserve all the time.
As a defense mechanism?
What does it defend you against?
I safeguard myself, and I need to safeguard myself against a host of things. I will tell you something I have never told anyone, and I hope I will not regret telling you. During Operation Cast Lead I came into possession of material about very grim events relating to the idea that Israel was deliberately “going crazy.” Testimonies, images and much more. So many people were killed there. I took it all and put it in an envelope. I told Reudar Benziman, who was CEO of Channel 10 News at the time, what I had. He told me, “Work on it.” I told him I couldn’t. Because that’s the truth - I couldn’t. If I had verified what I heard, I would not be able to live with it. I couldn’t have evoked the “rotten apples” metaphor. I still have the material in a closed room. I didn’t give it to anyone. When there was talk about a commission of inquiry, I said I would be ready to give them the material - let them check it out, not me. I’m not touching it. I’m not capable. I can’t. I, too, understand my limits.
Announcing the Free Speech TV Broadcast of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine
Release Date: 1/11/2013
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RToP) will be broadcast on Free Speech TV beginning Monday, January 28th and will air through the month of February. Please see the schedule below for dates and times of each program:
Russell Tribunal on Palestine – New York Session
Broadcast on Free Speech TV
Dish Network Channel 9415
DIRECTV Channel 348
Russell Tribunal on Palestine - New York - Program #1
Monday January 28, 10pm ET
Tue Jan 29 at 1pm ET, Wed Jan 30 at 10am ET, Thursday Jan 31 at 3am ET, Saturday Feb 2 at 4pm ET, Monday Feb 4 at 4am ET
Russell Tribunal on Palestine - New York - Program #2
Monday February 4, 10pm ET
Tue Feb 5 at 1pm ET, Wed Feb 6 at 10am ET, Thursday Feb 7 at 3am ET, Saturday Feb 9 at 4pm ET, Monday Feb 11 at 4am ET
Russell Tribunal on Palestine - New York - Program #3
Monday February 11, 10pm ET
Tue Feb 12 at 1pm ET, Wed Feb 13 at 10am ET, Thursday Feb 14 at 3am ET, Saturday Feb 16 at 4pm ET, Monday Feb 18 at 4am ET
Russell Tribunal on Palestine - New York - Program #4
Monday February 18, 10pm ET
Tue Feb 19 at 1pm ET, Wed Feb 20 at 10am ET, Thursday Feb 21 at 3am ET, Saturday Feb 23 at 4pm ET, Monday Feb 25 at 4am ET
For more information on the RToP and for findings of the New York City Session, please visit www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com
5 Broken Cameras Nominated for Oscar (Documentary)
Release Date: 1/10/2013
NEW YORK, January 10, 2012--The day Emad Burnat's fourth son Gibreel was born, Israelis uprooted olive trees in his West Bank village of Bil'in prior to building an illegal separation barrier that would deprive the Palestinians of 55% of their arable land. Initially with a consumer camera acquired when his son was born, Burnat, (who quickly evolved into a freelance TV cameraman) started filming both the ensuing militant protests, creative counteractions and the effects of the barrier on his family's life as his son grew from baby to toddler. Soldiers shot at Burnat, a bullet lodged in his camera saved his life and one of his best friends was killed. Accumulating 700 hours of footage over a five year period, he met Guy Davidi, an Israeli activist filmmaker then working on a film about the water problems of the region. The two decided to collaborate on Burnat's footage and give it a personal angle, telling the story of the conflict from the cameraman's point of view and structuring it by the lifespan of the five destroyed cameras. Previous screenings: Sundance and New Directors New Films 2012.
Interview done by Liza Béar on March 27, Contact email@example.com. Trailer courtesy Kino Lorber. Today iThe Academy of Motion Pictures announced that 5 Broken Cameras received an Oscar nomination in Documentary.
Mali: The 'gentle' face of al-Qaeda
Release Date: 1/1/2013
May Ying Welsh, a former Deep Dish TV producer and Paper Tiger TV Collective member is an award winning journalist for Al Jazeera. Her 2011 documentary on Baharain
Dar es Salam, northern Mali - We make a flashing signal with our headlights to let them know our car is in trouble.
They drive a wide berth around us at high speed. Unsure who we are, they fear an ambush on their caravan. It is late at night and there are many forces in this Sahara.
After some hesitation, a group of men get out and in a staggered V-shape military formation, guns at the ready, start walking toward us in the dark.
"Al Sallam alaykum." "Wa alaykum sallam."
"Are you from Ansar Dine?" we ask referring to the local Malian Islamist armed group.
They do not say yes.
"We are mujahideen in the cause of Allah."
Exclusive: Al Qaeda urges Mali to reject foreign intervention.
The hair on our necks stands on end.
The fighters look like desert military preachers - members of some stoical sect that took a vow of poverty and jihad. They wear double bandolier ammo belts over austere beige cotton smocks and matching high cropped pants - like inhabitants of Tatooine, the desert planet in Star Wars. These are not outfits one buys at the market, or inherits from a brother or friend. They are uniforms tailor-made to send a message of simplicity.
The men, mostly Mauritanians, are escorting a caravan of trucks loaded with food and medical aid for the people of Timbuktu - a gift from the Higher Islamic Council of Mali.
One picks up a walkie talkie and relays: "They're just civilians. Their car is stuck in the sand." A voice in Arabic comes over the line: "My brother, why didn't you tell us this before?"
The mujahideen set about helping us extricate our car - its wheels churning deeper and more hopelessly into the sand. One enters the driver's seat to manoeuvre while the others help us push from behind. The effort drags on for an hour.
They banter easily with our team in Tamasheq, the Tuareg language - evidence that they have spent years living in northern Mali where al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) had a mountain base and a tacit agreement with the Malian state.
They do not have to spend all night stuck in the sand with us. Their generosity is impressive, their faces luminous, their voices soft, their manners exquisite. And they have given us the satisfying feeling that we are more important to them than time, or anything else.
Omar, a local Arab travelling with us in his old pick-up truck, is impressed.
"Look my brother," the mujahideen tell him, "your car is very old, it can't work. You need to buy a new car." It is an ingeniously subtle flag - and it elicits the intended response. "I wish you would buy me a new car because I have no money," Omar says.
The fighters barely need to signal what everyone in this impoverished Sahara long ago came to know: al-Qaeda has money and they can help you with it.
"We can bring you to a path that is even better than money," they tell Omar, "the path to paradise."
"I love the idea of jihad," says Omar, "but I have children and elderly people relying on me. I have to support them and I can't leave them behind."
At this moment two of the fighters say almost simultaneously: "If you tasted jihad you would leave all of this and come with us."
Omar decides to stay the night with the mujahideen who are bedding down in the sand. It will not be possible to reach Timbuktu tonight.
The suffering of Timbuktu
The barge crosses slowly, silently - making its way over the river to Timbuktu. On board: a fleet of shiny new 4x4 Land Cruiser trucks, bristling with communications gear, black jihad flags flying.
The ship driver chews his siwak and concentrates on the bigger picture: the water and sandy yellow shore he will get to. All kinds of people cross here. In the absence of a state, the default position is to mind one's own business.
"Recognise us as a state, and then we can talk about fighting al-Qaeda."
- Bilal Ag Cherif, the head of the MNLA
Timbuktu is the gateway to the Sahara desert. North of here are vast seas of sand believed to be filled with oil and gas. Algeria, France and Qatar are exploring the Mauritanian side of the massive Taoudeni Basin, while Algeria holds exploration concessions on northern Mali's side. The region's indigenous Tuaregs believe this land also contains a mother lode of uranium, gold and more.
But northern Mali is only rich in theory - it is one of the poorest regions on Earth, which the government of Mali has done little to develop.
That is one of the reasons why the secular Tuareg rebel movement - the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) - rose up in January 2012 and swept the northern two-thirds of Mali, declaring an independent state called Azawad.
But the MNLA rebels were soon sidelined by al-Qaeda and its local offshoots, which pushed them from the cities and took over the region, imposing Sharia. The MNLA declined to fight al-Qaeda and beat a tactical retreat. They say their primary enemy is Mali, and until the world recognises them, they cannot lose blood and treasure opening a second front.
"We should fight al-Qaeda in exchange for what?" asks Bilal Ag Cherif, the head of the MNLA and president-in-waiting of the Tuaregs' hoped-for Azawad state.
"Will they recognise Azawad?" asks Bilal. "Provide clear political, economic, security and military assistance to the Azawadis? Those are the requirements of war. So give us those things, recognise us as a state, and then we can talk about fighting terrorism."
In the meantime, Timbuktu is being run by AQIM in partnership with local Islamist armed group Ansar Dine - an organisation of mostly Malian Tuaregs and Arabs which serves as an umbrella and host for the foreign fighters of al-Qaeda, much as the Taliban did in Afghanistan. The two groups work hand-in-glove managing the Islamic police and distributing charity.
Many here are afraid of the mujahideen and say so quietly - they feel sad and confused by the imposition of unfamiliar interpretations of Islam and the destruction of their heritage.
"Aren't we Muslims?" asked one old man in the street. "By God this is the land of Islam. We have many good Islamic scholars here. We don't understand their ways. We feel like we're in prison."
Exclusive: Humanitarian Crisis in Timbuktu
Timbuktu is now a city of the hungry, where food staples like millet have tripled in price and no one has money to buy them anyway.
In the slums where Tuareg families who have lost their animals scratch a living from garbage heaps, the mujahideen are playing the role of humanitarians.
"When the Salafis came with millet and rice, we got some of it," says Fatimatou, who is now dependent on the groups to survive.
"I can't lie before God. They came to us and paid their respects. At the time these little girls were not wearing hijab. They put hijabs on them and gave us a dress code."
At Timbuktu hospital where starving babies are beginning to appear, Ansar Dine spokesman Sanda Ould Boumana stalks the halls worrying about the hungry children.
"Any humanitarian aid to assist people here, regardless of who it comes from or under what name, we have no problem with it," says Sanda, adding that the only aid they would reject is evangelical aid.
Sanda's mobile erupts with the sound of a laughing baby - the preferred ringtone of the mujahideen because it is family-friendly and is not music.
"We call upon the world," he resumes, "we ask them to please give aid to this poor and suffering people."
Sanda, who did hard jail time in Mauritania for being an alleged member of al-Qaeda, does not understand why almost no one is giving.
Amidst the whimpers of children too hot or sick to cry, the beleaguered director of this hospital, Saidou Bah Salloum, looks like he is going to explode from suppressed grief or anger, or both.
"I am a committed Muslim," he says choosing his words carefully to protect the hospital, which receives aid from the armed groups. But his eyes contradict the calm tone, telegraphing a message of desperation.
"For all the people of Timbuktu, as a native of Timbuktu, I hope that God will accord us a better tomorrow and that he will really help us. We are Muslims. And the only reason we are still alive is because of our faith."
How did al-Qaeda get here?
Al-Qaeda has based itself in northern Mali for 10 years, as part of an alleged secret agreement with Amadou Toumani Toure (ATT), the president of Mali who was deposed in a military coup in March 2012 as northern cities were falling to Tuareg rebels.
During ATT's presidency, AQIM amassed an outrageous fortune in Mali – collecting up to $250m in hostage ransoms from Western governments for more than 50 European and Canadian hostages kidnapped over the past decade, usually from neighbouring Niger.
At this moment there are still European hostages being held by al-Qaeda in northern Mali pending delivery of a $132m ransom.
The ransom negotiations, which were carried out under the auspices of the presidency, were confirmed by the Wikileaks cables to be a goldmine for the Malian VIPs involved - with each receiving his cut of the jackpot including, according to a former Malian official with knowledge of the deals, the president himself.
Another powerful individual alleged to have enriched himself from hostage ransoms was ATT's close political and business associate Iyad Ag Ghali who has been involved in nearly every al-Qaeda hostage negotiation since the first one in 2003.
Iyad Ag Ghali is the head of al-Qaeda offshoot Ansar Dine, and the closest thing Mali has to a Mullah Omar.
Now Mali's closest neighbour seems to be confirming the deal.
Niger's foreign minister Mohamed Bazoum recently told the French National Assembly: "ATT was very proud to appear on the steps of his palace trying to return former hostages to their country. But there was a deal with AQIM, which kidnapped the hostages in Niger and Mauritania before taking them into Malian territory. The hostages were then released through the mediation of the Malian president. And his emissary was often Iyad Ag Ghali."
For years Malian Tuaregs have been complaining that their government was in bed with al-Qaeda, but their cries fell on deaf ears.
"Mali opened the field to Al Qaeda- to roam among the camps and villages, to build relationships with the people… Mali facilitated Al Qaeda."
-Colonel Al Salat Ag Habi,Commander MNLA
According to numerous northern residents, AQIM fighters have been circulating openly in Tuareg towns, not for the past year, but for the past 10 years; shopping, attending weddings, and parading fully armed in the streets, in front of police stations and military barracks.
Colonel Habi ag Al Salat, a Malian army commander who defected in 2011 to join the MNLA, was one of the first to notice the Algerian fighters from the Salafi Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) entering Tuareg towns of the far north such as Aguelhoc, which was under his command.
But when Habi warned his army superiors they told him to stand down and leave the men alone because they were "not enemies" of Mali. When the GSPC changed its name to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, following a pact announced by Ayman Al Zawahiri, that policy did not change.
"Mali opened the field to al-Qaeda - to roam among the camps and villages, to build relationships with the people," says Habi.
"Local people benefitted up to a point from the trickle down of money flowing to al-Qaeda by way of Mali. And this ensnared many of our youths who are unemployed. Mali facilitated al-Qaeda, providing them complete freedom of movement among our families because they believed the presence of this group would impact the Tuareg struggle against the governing regime which has been going on for 50 years."
Yet for all the huge sums of money, most Tuaregs in northern Mali dislike Salafism and remain un-seduced by al-Qaeda. Most still cling to dreams of independence and find old-school national liberation groups like the MNLA attractive, in spite of the fact that it cannot even afford to feed its troops.
"We are Muslims but we can't stand the Salafi way," says Bukhadu, a 22-year-old Tuareg herder who likes the MNLA. "We want our sisters to feel the wind in their hair."
Were it not for legendary Tuareg warrior-turned-Salafi Iyad Ag Ghali, who led Mali's Tuareg rebellion in the 1990s and who has used all his political and tribal capital to press his followers into the cause of jihad, al-Qaeda would have little support in northern Mali, and the Tuareg push for independence would have been hard to stop.
Now, thanks to his alliance with al-Qaeda, Iyad Ag Ghali has muscled Ansar Dine to a place at the negotiating table with a prize bargaining chip in hand - much to the relief of regional negotiators who prefer dealing with Ansar Dine, which unlike the MNLA, does not want an independent state.
The forbidden state
Can the welcome mat Mali extended to AQIM be understood only as a case of greed?
This region has been dealing with Tuareg rebellions and Tuareg separatism for 50 years. Not a single country in the Sahel or Sahara supports the notion of a new state, especially not one that might fuel Berber aspirations in Algeria, or more seriously, spark Tuareg irredentism on the part of oil-rich southern Algeria's Tuareg populace, or oil-rich southwest Libya's Tuaregs, or uranium-rich northern Niger's Tuaregs.
The major existential threat to states like Mali, Niger and Algeria is Tuareg/Berber rebellion and separatism.
Exclusive: Al Qaeda linked groups take over northern Mali
The fact that Tuaregs are one of the world's poorest and most isolated people living atop some of the world's richest resources only fuels the fear, and the desire.
Of the millions of dollars in US and EU support allocated to help the Malian army fight al-Qaeda, much of it was diverted to fight the Tuareg insurgency.
Ighlas Ag Offin, a national security official in the Office of the President witnessed ATT ordering 55 military vehicles and a massive weapons cache to equip an Arab militia during the 2008 rebellion.
"Those weapons had come to Mali as foreign aid to fight terrorism. All of it went north to fight the Tuaregs," says Offin, "and to this day they are still in the hands of that militia."
Profits and kickbacks from drug smuggling were also allegedly thrown into the fight.
"The president was surrounded by drug smugglers," says Offin, "every single day drug smugglers were coming and going from the presidency."
According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), northern Mali is a major drug trafficking corridor for the $1.8bn to $2bn worth of cocaine that is moved from West Africa to European and Middle Eastern markets every year.
Ibrahim Ag Al Saleh, a former MP from Bourem, which is the epicentre of northern Mali's cocaine traffic, says ATT and his wife were deeply involved in the business.
"The president used the profits from drug smuggling and al-Qaeda hostage ransoms to help fund northern militias to protect the drug traffic and fight the Tuareg rebellion," says Ibrahim, whose home area is now under the control of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), another al-Qaeda offshoot.
"Today it is those very same drug smuggling protection militias who are raising the black flag with the words upon it ‘No God but Allah' in Gao and in Bourem. They no longer have ATT to protect them. Now they are hiding behind the Salafists."
"I invite the Muslim people of Mali of all its tribes to put their hands together with their brothers Ansar Dine… and save the country from break up."
- Abdul Malek Droukdel, Emir of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
While ATT relied increasingly on ethnic militias and special units to crush Tuareg insurgency, the Malian army was starved and demoralised, its hungry soldiers forced to sell their weapons to eat, to watch AQIM parade before their barracks, and planes filled with cocaine landing near their bases. The system was rotten. Could they be blamed for overthrowing it?
The most interesting testimony on the relationship between AQIM and Mali comes from the organisation itself.
The emir of AQIM, the Algerian Abdelmalek Droukdel a.k.a. Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, seen earlier this year by Al Jazeera touring Timbuktu's main souq, recently addressed the people of Mali.
Reading from a teleprompter in a television studio, Droukdel begged Malians to reject the MNLA and to preserve the territorial integrity of Mali.
"France lies to you," he implored, "when they pretend that they want to protect the unity of Mali while all the evidence proves their intentions are otherwise and confirm they want to divide the country. Are they not the ones who supported MNLA in order to put them in charge of northern Mali and make an independent state there? But thanks to Allah, your brothers, the mujahideen, your brothers in the north, the Islamists, they are the ones who stopped this satanic plan and corrupted their steps …. I invite the Muslim people of Mali of all its tribes to put their hands with the hands of their brothers Ansar Dine and to come to a mutual understanding with them that they become one hand and one cohesive group and save the country from break up."
It is an unusual plea from a group professing only to defend Islam, and to have no interest in the preservation of secular states and their borders. It sounds almost nationalistic.
"We know the intelligence agencies of a number of countries have been working with the leadership of these groups," says MNLA chief Bilal Ag Cherif.
"Where are the resources and capabilities these groups enjoy coming from? Why are the leaders of these groups able to enter the capital cities of neighbouring countries and then return here, while they have been declared 'terrorist' organisations? Why do they not arrest them in those capitals, whereas the minute they return to Azawad they say: ‘Fight them'?"
Bilal stares amazed. "This game of chess should not be played."
The one armed force that has both the numbers and local knowledge to credibly expel al-Qaeda from a wide swath of the Sahara and keep them out over the long term would be the region's indigenous Tuareg fighters.
But giving them a mandate to do that would mean recognising and empowering them as a force with legitimate demands, which neither Mali, nor any neighbouring country wants to do.
Meanwhile the Tuaregs have a sinking feeling: The fear that they are the ones who will be killed in any coming war, in the name of fighting al-Qaeda.
Where Should the Birds Fly on KPFA Pacifica Radio 94.1FM
Release Date: 12/17/2012
Excerpts of the new documentary, Where Should the Birds Fly, directed by Fida Qishta & produced by Deep Dish TV, was featured on KPFA Pacifica Radio 94.1FM on December 5, 2012.
Please click HERE to hear to download the show.
Video Calls for Clemency for Leonard Peltier
Release Date: 12/7/2012
Sign the Presidential Pardon Petition Right Now for Mr. Leonard Peltier. Click www.treaty.tv. Write your congressmen for clemency for the wrongfully imprisoned First Nation Native. Prosecutor twice admitted there was no evidence against Peltier. Amnesty asserted: "Unfair Trial." Natives and Friends honored Mr. Peltier at the 2012 National Day of Mourning - known as Thanksgiving Day. Mahtowin Munroe of UAINE explains the issue and Elder Bert Waters speaks the words of Leonard Peltier to the music of Blackfire: American Indian Movement Song + Carlos Nakai: "Song for the Morning Star" being played on stage as speakers address the audience and as the audience responds enthusiastically at the Plymouth, MA event on November 22, 2012.
Slain Peace Activist Rachel Corrie's Parents Reflect on Gaza Visit Just Before Recent Cross-Border Violence
Release Date: 11/29/2012
Posted Nov. 28, 2012 via Between the Lines, a weekly radio newsmagazine
Click HERE to listen to Scott Harris' interview with Cindy & Craig Corrie.
Interview with Cindy and Craig Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie, peace activist slain by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza, conducted by Scott Harris
Eight days of violence that began with Israeli airstrikes targeting Gaza militants who fired rockets into Israel – leading to an escalation of more than 1,000 cross-border airstrikes and rocket attacks on both sides, claimed the lives of an estimated 169 Palestinians in Gaza and 6 Israelis – with hundreds more injured. A cease-fire brokered by Egyptian officials went into effect in Nov. 21. In the second phase of the cease-fire agreement, negotiations began in Cairo on Nov. 25 to discuss establishing new border regulations in Gaza.
Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist party that governs Gaza, is demanding that Israel lift its economic blockade imposed in 2007 that restricts the movement of goods, construction material and people in and out of the Gaza strip. Israel for its part says it wants an end to the smuggling of arms into Gaza and the production of weapons inside the territory.
Cindy and Craig Corrie, are the parents of Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American peace activist from Olympia, Wash., who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer on March 16, 2003 while undertaking nonviolent direct action to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home in Gaza. An Israeli Civil Court ruled on Aug. 24 that Israel’s Army was not at fault for Rachel’s death. Between the Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Cindy and Craig Corrie, who were part of an Interfaith Peace-Builders' delegation from the U.S. that visited Gaza from Nov. 5 through the 11. Here, they talk about their views on the recent Gaza conflict and current ceasefire, as well as the obstacles standing in the way of achieving a lasting and just Middle East peace.
Learn about Interfaith Peace Builders and the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice by visiting Rachel Corrie Foundation.
Occupy Sandy: From Relief to Resistance
Release Date: 11/17/2012
November 15, 2012
by Yotam Marom
Rockaway Park residents in front of YANA Community Center. (Facebook/Occupy Sandy Relief NYC)
Two weeks ago I was in my hometown of Hoboken, New Jersey, wading waist deep in a murky combination of floodwater, oil and sewage. More than a week later, after finally getting unstuck from New Jersey (even the deepest Jersey pride has its limits …), I found myself in a van full of Occupy Sandy activists delivering hot meals to housing project high rises in Coney Island during a Nor’easter.
We were taking cues from local leaders, and I was amazed at the way people were mobilizing by creating support structures and politicizing one another through practice. In the past few days I’ve helped facilitate trainings for hundreds of people who came to Occupy Sandy hubs as volunteers for relief work and who left for the Rockaways or Staten Island well on their way to becoming community organizers or committed activists.
All along, I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that this is what climate change looks like; but it’s also what the beginning of a climate justice movement might look like.
Hurricane Sandy is a crisis in itself; it flooded homes, turned off power, kept people from work, made families cold – it even took lives and put families on the street. And of course it’s more complicated than just bad weather.
All along, I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that this is what climate change looks like; but it’s also what the beginning of a climate justice movement might look like.
This hurricane is one more expression of the erratic weather patterns that we can expect more and more as a result of global warming, which is the product of our society’s dependency on fossil fuels, driven by multinational fossil fuel companies. Hurricane Sandy is a reminder that the climate crisis sets off a whole set of other crises, based on social, economic and political systems that are already in place, and that those things land on top of crises already in play.
Many of the communities hardest hit by the hurricane are the same ones hardest hit by foreclosure, debt, austerity and mass incarceration. The flood didn’t create those things, but it made them worse and washed away all the crap that made them hard to see.
At the same time, Hurricane Sandy has brought new networks to life and put thousands of people in the streets to rebuild communities with an explicitly political framing. It’s now widely agreed that, despite setbacks, Occupy Sandy’s organizing has put the official agencies to shame.
Equity, solidarity and mass participation have been at the center of the effort from the get-go, driven forward by committed organizers with deep politics and foresight. All along the intention has been to see this as an organizing project rather than just a volunteer effort. Still, the question remains of whether those networks in motion now can rise to the occasion and begin to address the underlying crises.
Windows opening and closing
If we let things go the way they usually do, the coming weeks are likely to show a decline in community involvement in the relief effort. More and more people will gradually get their power turned on and go back to work if they still have jobs. Less attention will be paid to the crisis in general, fewer goods will be donated to Occupy Sandy hubs and other relief networks, and fewer volunteers will continue to go out to hard-hit communities to deliver those goods. Communities will do what they can with the rubble; most of the rest of us will go back to our business.
But volunteers and community organizers are not the only ones on the scene, not the only ones in motion. Already, an army of disaster-capitalist developers are plotting to use this opportunity to finally knock down the housing projects and replace them with the condos they’ve been drooling about for decades.
We can begin to hear the whispers of businessmen and politicians who are always looking for ways to cut our budgets and privatize our schools, hospitals, homes for the elderly and every other public institution they can get their hands on. For them, the game has just begun, and they don’t take many days off.
They will be out there, trying to beat us to the Rockaways, Staten Island, Redhook, Coney Island, Jersey City and other battered regions. If we don’t do something about it, they’re going to do a lot more damage to communities than Hurricane Sandy did. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Flexible networks like Occupy Sandy are incredible machines – more fluid than big organizations, more dynamic than government agencies. But they rely on having people or strong communities to network. Networks connect dots, but you still need the dots themselves to be ready. Crises and opportunities – like Hurricane Sandy or Occupy Wall Street last fall – put people in motion, but they only become part of a movement beyond those moments when participants are grounded in stable frameworks to keep them going.
We have to build infrastructure and create the institutional frameworks that can sustain a struggle over the long haul. Every movement needs them. The civil rights movement had SNCC and the Highlander School, among countless other organizations, schools, training institutes, churches and foundations.
Flexible networks like Occupy Sandy are incredible machines – more fluid than big organizations, more dynamic than government agencies. But they rely on having people or strong communities to network.
Even Occupy has had institutions all along, from the occupations themselves to the many groups that rose to the occasion to support it; part of the reason Occupy Sandy could mobilize so quickly and effectively is that the Occupy movement already had enough building blocks in place, enough experience with alternative structures, enough relationships built and enough organizing being done behind the scenes to leap into action when it was needed.
If we want to last, we need to create the frameworks, processes and systems that keep us in motion – that keep the windows open – for long enough to win.
Where the rain boots meet the road
We need to think clearly about how to deepen, grow and nourish all of the different circles of people in action right now, so we can transition from surviving Hurricane Sandy to beating back the hurricane of profiteers to come and use the momentum from that to build a vibrant climate justice movement.
The Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew has become an Occupy Sandy distribution hub.
Thousands of volunteers have come through Occupy Sandy hubs and gone out to the hardest hit areas in New York to do relief work and support the community organizing taking shape there. Watching people react strongly in the trainings being facilitated at the different sites and watching them come back to become trainers themselves has been some of the most rewarding activist work I’ve ever participated in.
In my experience, people who come to Occupy Sandy get it. They want to understand the politics behind all of this because they’ve seen the crisis in action. They are ready to stand and fight, and they are excited to envision their task as part of something bigger. We just need to create structures to support that.
Political education needs to be part of our practical skills trainings, and that skills training needs to be broader than the particular mission at hand, so that well-meaning volunteers become grounded organizers with the capacity to be active movement leaders beyond this particular moment.
Hundreds of organizers are at work in this effort already. They’re developing rotations so that some stay at the main hubs to keep a level of consistency and institutional memory while others spend a few days at a time at different sites in the field to help build similar systems and create connections.
We need more of that – more coordinating between different hubs, more unifying the different trainings and processes, more strategizing together about directions for moving forward. Before we know it, the communities slowly recovering from Hurricane Sandy will be under direct attack. We need to lay the ground for solidarity across communities and coordination in action, so that when the time comes, our volunteers and community members are ready to transform into home defenders, direct action practitioners and occupiers.
Dozens of local community institutions, from churches to community centers, have opened their doors and become the vital infrastructure for this network of relief and recovery all across New York City. Just setting foot in one of the Coney Island hubs based in a church was enough to feel the weight of that institution, its deep roots in the community and the potential it has to make possible a movement to come.
Occupy Sandy volunteers coordinate relief in Red Hook. – Photo: Tod Seelie
Now is the time to be intentional about cultivating these relationships and to begin developing with them a shared analysis, vision and strategy. Just as the Baptist churches served as the institutional foundations of the civil rights movements, these institutions serving as support systems for relief work today may be the basis of resistance tomorrow and a genuine recovery after that.
Tens of thousands of people have been drastically affected by the storm, and they are responding with courage and foresight; many are emerging as genuine community leaders and skilled activists. I was reminded of this by Tameka – a 39-year-old mom in Coney Island who had organized her block. She knew who lived where and who needed what. She knew where to put the hot meals and had all the relationships necessary to make our distribution effort work.
Tameka is a community organizer, whether she uses that term or not. What she needs now are direct ties to other people like her in neighboring communities, some support in developing her politics and her skills, and some material aid to help her meet her needs and those in her community. The stakes are high for her; it won’t be long before she will be a leader of a front-line community in a climate justice movement.
Hurricanes and social movements
Welcome to the climate crisis. There’s nothing abstract about it. It isn’t some apocalypse decades away or an event that comes down like one big hurricane to wipe us all out. It’s Hurricane Sandy. It’s all the economic, political and social conditions that were already in place. And it’s the opportunity for forces of profit and repression to push their agenda forward in the aftermath.
But guess what: The climate justice movement isn’t so abstract either. This is it. It’s dedicated organizers recognizing how their work can be aligned across issues. It’s relief providers and hard-working volunteers transforming into activists and community leaders.
Before we know it, the communities slowly recovering from Hurricane Sandy will be under direct attack. We need to lay the ground for solidarity across communities and coordination in action, so that when the time comes, our volunteers and community members are ready to transform into home defenders, direct action practitioners and occupiers.
It’s the hardest hit neighborhoods taking control of their own liberation. It’s local community institutions with deep roots and long histories connecting to one another and mobilizing their efforts as part of a movement. It’s all of that alongside so many other fights for climate justice – from the blockade of the Keystone XL pipeline to the fight for water rights in Bolivia, from Indian women standing up to corporate seed monopolies to youth from 350.org launching campaigns to divest from fossil fuel companies.
There is much work to do. But people are doing it – day by day, block by block. Windows of opportunity have opened here in New York, just as they have in other places around the world. Many people are working to keep those windows open and continue the transformation that is already underway – from volunteer work to organizing, from emergency response to a genuine recovery, from relief to resistance.
Yotam Marom is a political organizer, activist, educator, musician and writer based in New York City and a founding member of the Organization for a Free Society. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story first appeared on Waging Nonviolence.
Russell Tribunal on Palestine: Oct 6 - 7, 2012 at Cooper Union
Release Date: 10/2/2012
The RToP is an International People’s Tribunal created in response to the international community’s inaction regarding Israel’s recognized violations of international law. The Tribunal aims to bring attention to the complicity and responsibility of various national, international and corporate actors in the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and the perpetuation of Israel’s impunity under international law. Although the RToP has no legal status, like other Russell Tribunals on Vietnam, Chile and Iraq, its legitimacy comes from its universality and the strength that it draws from the will of citizens and the support of international personalities who advocate for an end to the Israeli occupation and Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights.
More Deep Dish TV videos on Palestine:
Where Should the Birds Fly?
Imperial Geography - Palestine/Israel
Chronicles Of A Refugee
Gaza Crisis: Emergency Town Hall Meeting
An Evening of Analysis and Outrage
GMOs--What's Eating You?!
Release Date: 9/28/2012
Almost all conventional processed foods in the United States, an estimated 80%, contain Genetically Modified Organisms. These processed foods contain ingredients from plants whose DNA has been completely conceived in a laboratory. The plants’ original DNA is altered by splicing pieces of other DNA, largely from plants, animals, bacteria and viruses, into them.
The supposed upside of these “super” plants? A new-found toleration to the use of herbicides and pesticides, allowing farmers to spray for weeds and bugs without damaging their crops.
A product is likely to contain GMOs if any of its ingredients include non-organic corn, soy, canola or cottonseed. Non-organic animal products are also likely to contain GMOs, as the animals that produced the products were likely fed GMO feed.
Biotech companies, like Monsanto, claim that eating genetically modified food won’t negatively affect your health. The Federal Drug Administration has echoed this statement, despite ongoing public outcry for the labeling of such foods, they’ve claimed that it isn’t necessary because the modifications don’t materially change the food.
It’s easy for the FDA to forget public interest, however, when biotech companies spend enormous amounts of money on lobbying Congress each year. And it’s precisely the biotech companies who fear the backlash of potential GMO labeling the most. If consumers are confronted with labels that read, “Warning: This Product May Contain Genetically Modified Organisms,” they will likely avoid the purchase of those products.
A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists and Center for Responsive Politics found that biotech companies with operations in California, where one-third of all the country’s biotech firms headquarter, spent $40 million on lobbying Congress between the years 2009 and 2011.
It’ll be interesting to see, then, if the FDA will choose to react to a new controversial study released by a group of scientists regarding the potential effects of consuming genetically modified food. The study, conducted secretly by a group of scientists at Caen University in France, says eating a sole diet of one of the bestselling strains of genetically modified corn caused cancer, organ damage and early death in the 200 lab rats they tested. The study was the first of its kind to examine the effects over a lifetime in rats, a period of two years. Previous trials have only examined the effects over a 90-day period.
Shocking images of large tumors caused in rats who were exclusively fed genetically modified corn.
This 90-day trial period, embraced by biotech companies seeking approval of their products under guidelines set out by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, is proven inadequate by the study. Evidence of severe health outcomes didn’t appear in the study until one to three months past the 90-day period. At that point, large tumors, which caused respiratory and digestive issues, became noticeable. Since all genetically modified food crops have been approved safe on the basis of 90-day feeding studies, the study notes that additional long-term studies are needed to evaluate the safety of the crops.
A 12-minute video documenting the French researchers’ finds.
Clearly, more research, conducted by people who aren’t affiliated with the biotech companies, needs to be done.
On November 6, however, California voters will help decide the future of GMOs’ existence. If passed, “The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act,” or Proposition 37, will require manufacturers to label their products containing GMOs. As of mid-September, however, opponents of the proposition had already contributed $32 million to its defeat.
Until then, there are numerous ways to help prevent your consumption of GMO-ridden food. Non-profit organizations such as Label It Yourself have inspired individuals to spread the warning message. Some concerned consumers act as vigilantes by printing warning labels and discreetly placing them on products in their local supermarket. An iPhone application, ShopNoGMO, additionally helps consumers avoid purchasing GMO-ridden products while shopping for their groceries.
Thinking of Troy Davis in Gaza
Release Date: 9/21/2012
The following letter comes from Jen Marlowe, a tireless fighter for human rights and a good friend of Deep Dish TV.
September 21, 2012
One year ago tonight, I stood in the prison yard of Georgia's Diagnostic and Classification Prison with the family, friends and hundreds of other supporters of Troy Davis as the state of Georgia did the unthinkable--execute a man, despite a strong case of innocence.
Sitting last night in the north of Gaza, listening to shelling and mortars while sitting with a family whose 9 year old child had been killed and home destroyed, I could not get Troy, and this night in Georgia last year, off my mind.
When Troy told us "We can correct all the wrongs if we just stand together and educate each other. And that's what we need to do. Stand together, educate each other, and don't give up the fight!" I believe he meant the fight to end the death penalty, but I believe he was also referring to a much larger fight against injustice. I believe Troy meant the fight that started me on the journey that led me to Georgia's death row, as well as the fight that brought me to Gaza to sit with a family I care for whose homes and lives have been destroyed.
Everywhere we are today, struggling for justice in our different causes and in our different ways--be it on behalf of civilians in Syria, Reggie Clemons on death row in Missourri, human rights defenders imprisoned in Bahrain... let today's fight be in the name of Troy Davis.
Standing with Troy Davis in His Final Days
A year ago today, the state of Georgia executed a man whose guilt was widely contested. Jen Marlowe, friend and journalist, on what it was like to stand with the Davis family on the last day.
by Jen Marlowe
posted Sep 21, 2012
Troy Davis Graffiti photo by Marie A.C.
A graffiti mural in Paris.
Photo by Marie A.C.
In mid-October, I received a letter from my friend, Troy Davis. I had just returned to my home in Seattle after nearly three months on the road, and, as I sifted through a pile of bank statements and junk mail, there was Troy’s letter, dated July 27 and waiting for me all this time. I sat shivering on my front porch, though the late afternoon sunlight was still warm, and held the envelope, staring for several minutes at the neat, almost childlike cursive penmanship of my name and address. I was unprepared to be receiving this communication, and uncertain if I could bring myself to open it. My friend Troy Davis was dead now. He had been executed by the state of Georgia three weeks earlier.
I first learned about Troy in July 2007. Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman was interviewing Troy’s sister Martina, who spoke about her struggle to save his life, as well as her fight for her own life. In 1991, Troy had been convicted and sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail. In 2001, Martina had been diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer and was given six months to live. When I heard her speaking on Democracy Now!, Martina had already survived six years beyond her prognosis and Troy had just survived Georgia’s first attempt to kill him. The execution had been stayed less than 24 hours before it was to take place.
Martina was clearly a force of nature—her feisty, indomitable spirit came through strongly over the interview. I wanted to learn more about the brother whose life she was fighting for. I found Amnesty International’s report about Troy online and read about the specifics of his case, my incredulity growing with each new bit of information. No physical evidence linked Troy to the murder, and seven out of nine key witnesses had recanted their testimonies. Multiple witnesses signed affidavits asserting that they had been pressured by the police into saying that Troy was the shooter. Other individuals had come forth implicating Sylvester “Red” Coles—who happened to be the very man who gave Troy’s name to the police following the murder. There seemed to be no case left against Troy Davis, who had steadfastly proclaimed his innocence. How could he be slated for execution? Wasn’t the death penalty supposed to be reserved for the most certain, most egregious, of cases?
I found a website with Troy’s address in prison and jotted him a card expressing solidarity. He wrote back a few weeks later, and our friendship grew through a steady correspondence over the next year. I told him about my work as a filmmaker, and he suggested that I make a film about Martina. He told me stories about his teenaged nephew, De’Jaun and newborn niece, Kiersten, and I shared with him my adoration for my own young nieces and nephew. He wanted to know more about my work, so I sent him a copy of my first book, Darfur Diaries: Stories of Survival. In every letter he expressed his optimism that he would one day walk free and when he did, he would work side by side with Martina fighting injustice. He would take her to every one of her doctor’s appointments, he wrote, and sit by her side through each chemotherapy treatment. Though always upbeat, small details of life on the row crept into the letters. He wrote of air so thick and steamy, he could cut it with a knife. He mentioned a cockroach that dropped from nowhere onto his arm.
On April 12, Troy’s mother Virginia sat down in her living room, slumped over in her chair, and departed this world. Martina said she died of heartbreak.
In September, 2008, Georgia announced once again its intention to kill Troy. This was now Troy’s second execution date. As the hours and minutes marched towards 7 p.m.—the time that Georgia had determined to put Troy to death, I checked for updates obsessively, glued to my computer and phone. How could I focus on any other work when I knew my friend was in a tiny cell next to the execution chamber? How could I do anything at all, when Troy’s family, having already said goodbye to him, were waiting in the prison yard, and his lawyer was sequestered in the death house, preparing to watch his client die?
Thankfully, ninety minutes before that scheduled execution, I got a call from another supporter. The U.S. Supreme Court had granted Troy a stay. I sat with the news for a minute, absorbing it. He was safe for a time, but he wouldn’t be for long. It was not enough to write Troy letters in prison, or to sign and circulate petitions. I had to do more, all that was in my power, so that Troy could come home. He had a teenage nephew to guide and advise. He had a baby niece to bounce on his knee.
Troy Davis and Martina Davis-Correia
Standing Up for My Brother on Death Row
Why Martina Davis-Correia defended Troy's innocence to the end.
I did not know that in the near future, Troy and I would speak over the phone on a sometimes daily basis, developing nicknames for one another and cracking jokes. I did not realize that I would visit him several times on death row, where he and his family somehow managed to transform concrete blocks, iron bars, barbed wire and guard towers into warmth and humanity. I had no idea that three years later, nearly to the day, on September 21, 2011, I would be standing with Troy’s family and a crowd of other friends and supporters in the prison yard in Jackson, Ga., as the state of Georgia did what it had tried and failed to do on three previous occasions: strap Troy onto a gurney, insert IVs into his arm and inject toxins into his bloodstream that first numbed him, then paralyzed him, then stopped his heart.
The tragedies were set in motion months before September 21. On March 28, the US Supreme Court denied Troy’s final appeal, ending hope for relief through the court system. Newspapers carried headlines about Troy’s execution date being imminent. The March 31 editorial in the Savannah Morning News, which came to the Davis’s home each morning, opened with, “It’s time to stop playing the broken record known as the Troy Anthony Davis appeals process.” In other words, it was time, already, for the execution to go forward. On April 12, Troy’s mother Virginia sat down in her living room, slumped over in her chair, and departed this world. There was no discernible cause of death. Martina said she died of heartbreak. Her mother was unable to endure a fourth execution date. (Troy’s third execution date, in October 2008, came within three days before it was stayed.) The funeral was both a tribute to Virginia and a call to action. Reverend Dr. Warnock, the pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King Jr. once preached and an active part of the campaign to save Troy’s life, delivered an impassioned eulogy. The best way to honor Virginia’s life, Reverend Warnock said, was to fight for Troy’s.
I woke up every morning the summer of 2011, trying to remember why I was feeling such dread and then, remembering, opened my laptop to check if Troy’s execution warrant had been signed.
I was in the Savannah airport the day after the funeral with Laura Moye, Amnesty International USA’s death penalty abolition campaign director. “I’m not going to another Davis funeral,” she said with steely resolve as we mounted the escalator leading to our respective gates. She didn’t have to explain her words. She had been working with Martina for a dozen years and had been a leader in Amnesty’s campaign for Troy for the past four. Martina’s health was more precarious than it had been since her diagnosis ten years ago. Troy’s execution date could be set any day.
I woke up every morning the summer of 2011, trying to remember why I was feeling such dread and then, remembering, opened my laptop to check if Troy’s execution warrant had been signed. No warrant meant I had at least one more day to organize. I could reach out to more lawyers and clergy, asking them to add their names to Amnesty’s sign-on letters. I could make another video, I could write another article.
Two execution warrants were signed in Georgia over the summer. I was disgusted with myself for feeling relief that it was other human beings—not Troy—who would be killed. According to the AP’s Greg Bluestein, during the June 23, 2011 execution of Roy Blankenship, “Blankenship jerked his head toward his left arm and began rapidly blinking. He then lurched toward his right arm, lunging twice with his mouth wide open as if he were gasping for air. A minute later, he pushed his head forward while mouthing inaudible words. His eyes never closed.” I read the lurid description with hope that maybe, just maybe, this botched execution would stop Georgia’s machinery of death before it reached my friend.
Support cascaded in from every corner of the globe. We were going to stop this execution. Any other outcome was unimaginable.
As the summer wore on, the anxiety dug deeper. It was with something almost like relief that I greeted the September 6th text message from Kim Davis (Troy and Martina’s sister): “They just set Troy a date for Sept 21st.” At least now, the waiting was over. At least now, we could spring into action.
The next two weeks were a haze of organizing frenzy, with Amnesty offices in DC and Atlanta serving as the hub. Support cascaded in from every corner of the globe. We were going to stop this execution. Any other outcome was unimaginable.
Troy’s clemency hearing in front of the Georgia Board of Pardons & Parole was on September 19. No decision was announced that day. Laura and I were in the car outside the Davis’s hotel in Atlanta the morning of September 20 when she got the text message from a member of his legal team: “Clemency denied.” Laura ran into the hotel to tell the Davis family. An hour later, Wende Gozan-Brown (also with Amnesty) and I were on our way to Jackson, GA. We had learned minutes earlier that we were on the list Troy had compiled the previous week—the twenty-some people who could visit him on his final days, and say goodbye. Preparations for the execution were already underway. SWAT team guards lined the perimeter of the prison. Our names were verified at a check-point set up at the entrance. Wende and I sat outside for an hour as the prison ran a security check on us.
By the time our security clearance was finally processed, we had less than thirty minutes with Troy. We were separated by thick Plexiglass preventing any physical contact, and had to use phones to communicate, allowing us to speak only one at a time. Troy’s words were rushed. I had the sense he had worked out in advance what he wanted to say. He appreciated all I had been doing, he told me, especially the videos—he had heard about them from many people. He had been shocked to learn that clemency was denied, but he was still fighting, and needed me to keep fighting too. There was almost a businesslike quality to his voice. Troy, of course, had been through this before—he had said goodbye to friends and family on three previous occasions. No, of course, it wasn’t over, I assured him, and yes, of course I would still be fighting.
The next day, Laura and I joined the 150 or so protesters inside a roped off area of the prison yard, surrounded by media on one side and armed guards on the other three. 450 more supporters were at a church across the street with the family for a press conference and prayer vigil. The family would come to the prison grounds just before 7 p.m. As the Hail Mary appeals for a stay were rejected, first by the County Court, then the Georgia Supreme Court, a helicopter circled overhead, its large blades slicing the air loudly. This was no press helicopter. Kung Li, also with Amnesty, sent me text messages from the press conference and vigil:
The crowd of angry, chanting protesters organically morphed into a human corridor for the Davises to walk through, profound sorrow and respect rippling down the lines. The corridor then closed itself into a circle, wrapping the family with love, song, and prayer.
4:01 p.m. “Martina sounded strong. She was magnificent. Press literally fell over themselves trying to get a better shot.”
5:48 p.m. “The place is packed. And pissed off. And joyous all the same time. Absolutely amazing.”
6:06 p.m. “Five full busloads of students on their feet with Ed DuBose. (president of NAACP’s Georgia State Conference) Oh wow he’s on fire.”
6:23 p.m. “Whole church walking up the hill, two by two in silence.”
6:26 p.m. “Sending off the family into the prison grounds.”
Inside the prison ground, the protesters were angry and chanting. “No justice! No peace!” But as the Davis family entered the roped-off pen, with De’Jaun pushing Martina in a wheelchair and three-year old Kiersten crying, “I want to go home!” in her mother (Troy’s youngest sister’s) Ebony’s, arms, an astounding transformation took place. The crowd of angry, chanting protesters organically morphed into a human corridor for the Davises to walk through, profound sorrow and respect rippling down the lines. The corridor then closed itself into a circle, wrapping the family with love, song, and prayer. The SWAT chopper continued to hover overhead.
More texts from Kung Li:
Chaos, elation, confusion, and tears coalesced into hard-focused prayer once we learned that there was not a stay, only a delay.
6:43 p.m. “All 450 lining the Hwy. (across from the prison) NAACP asked for silence. Some chanting.”
6:44 p.m. “SWAT teams are wound up tight.”
6:59 p.m. “Half the crowd on one knee, the other half with fist in the air.”
The circle closed even tighter around the Davis family, and the praying/song rose in volume and intensity, peaking in pitch and fervor at 7 p.m.—the scheduled execution time—when a rumble began from across the highway. Within seconds, the rumble spread into a low, guttural roar and exploded into a shout: TROY GOT A STAY!
“Hold on, wait, we don’t know if it’s a stay yet!”
Ebony grabbed me, erupting into tears. “Oh Jesus! Oh Jesus!”
Chaos, elation, confusion, and tears coalesced into hard-focused prayer once we learned that there was not a stay, only a delay until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the appeal. The last vestiges of light disappeared as 7 p.m. turned to 8 and then to 9 and prayers turned into sitting, and waiting, and waiting.
Texts from Kung Li:
A young woman grabbing me in a fierce hug. “Do I know you?” I asked, trying to see her face in the darkness.?“No, but you looked like you were hurting.”
8:42 p.m. “Ridiculous show of force by 100+ officers. Crowd turns back to them.”
9:51 p.m. “125 CERT team officers in formation on the road.”
Martina, dignified as royalty, sat in her wheelchair in the center of the prison grounds, watching Troy’s lawyers in the far corner of the pen. She would know from their posture if news arrived and whether it was good or bad. Kiersten instructed a group of college- aged girls with moves she learned in her ballet class, at one point darting underneath the ropes outside the pen, where men with automatic rifles ringed the perimeter. I had a moment of panic—surely the guards wouldn’t hurt the little girl?
At 10:30 p.m., I turned to Laura, trying to grasp the meaning of the information that Ben Jealous of the NAACP had just imparted. The Supreme Court had rejected Troy’s request for a stay. “The execution is going to happen now, effective immediately?” Yes, Laura told me. They would begin to kill Troy, now, effective immediately.
The memories after that are disjointed:
De’Jaun and his cousin Earl, sitting together in the corner of the pen, heads bowed and silent.
A young woman grabbing me in a fierce hug. “Do I know you?” I asked, trying to see her face in the darkness.?“No, but you looked like you were hurting.”
Photo Essay: The Fight For Troy in His Final Days
Laura getting into the center of the circle, next to Martina. “It has been a privilege and an honor to stand by this family!” Her blue eyes flashing, rage and love in her voice in equal measure.
Were they leading him to the execution chamber at this moment? Strapping him to the gurney? Was he saying his last words?
Laura put her arm around me stiffly. She had been tough as nails throughout, and needed to maintain that, for now. “Don’t crack me, Marlowe.”
It was over. I left the pen, walked up the small hill to the prison exit and hesitated, momentarily stunned by the militaristic display of over a hundred SWAT team officers. “Keep moving!” an officer barked. I crossed the highway through columns of black-clad full-on riot gear. This human corridor bore no resemblance to the one that wrapped the Davis family in its embrace just a few hours ago.
I pushed through the hundreds of protesters on the other side and sat down on the embankment, alone in the cover of shadow. I did not want anybody to see me break down.
I cried for Troy—for the Davis family—for the state of Georgia, the MacPhail family, and this country. I cried for all of us, as the helicopter circled loudly overhead, blades violently chopping the night sky.
This article was originally published in the Tidal Basin Review, reposted by YES! Magazine with permission. Jen Marlowe is a Seattle-based human rights activist and filmmaker and the author of two books, The Hour of Sunlight: One Palestinian’s Journey from Prisoner to Peacemaker and Darfur Diaries: Stories of Survival. Her most recent feature-length documentary is Rebuilding Hope: Sudan’s Lost Boys Return Home. For more information, visit Donkeysaddle Projects.
Economic Sanctions: The Backlash on Iranians
Release Date: 9/12/2012
Last month’s focus was the Sikh community. This month, it’s the Iranians.
Racism has forever plagued the United States. Fear, often perpetuated by the corporate media, has caused stereotype-based racializations to flourish, ignorantly grouping cultures which often bear no similarities to one another.
Just last month, Deep Dish TV reported on the Sikh community’s latest causalities: five men and a woman who were murdered by a white neo-Nazi, Wade Michael Page, at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Although Sikhs are not Muslims, their religious choice to grow their hair long and wear turbans has resulted in countless attacks against the community.
Such blatant hatred is nothing new. Following the first Gulf War, Arab Americans were victimized by violence and racism. Deep Dish TV documented the negative effects of such racism in the 1990 film, "Manufacturing the Enemy,” a part of Deep Dish TV’s series, "Gulf Crisis Project.”
Within the film, Arab Americans express several of their frustrations, including their anxiety over their constant questioning by the FBI. The film compares Arab Americans’ experiences with those of Japanese Americans during and after the Second World War. Those similar types of comparisons are still being made today. Not only with those of the Sikhs, but also with the Iranians.
Attention was recently raised to Iranian profiling when Sahar Sabet, a 19-year-old woman in Alpharetta, Ga., went to the press with claims than an employee at her local Apple store refused to sell her products after he overheard her speaking Farsi. This was not an isolated case. Farsi speakers in two other states were equally appalled when they, too, were denied the sale of Apple products.
In protest of these discriminatory actions, Havaar, a grassroots group of Iranians, Iranian-Americans and allies, recently organized a flash mob at the 5th avenue Apple store in New York City. The Havaar members quickly gathered once inside, chanting, “We are from Iran! Apple stop profiling, technology is for all people!”
Havaar stands in solidarity with the Iranian people’s struggle against war, sanctions and state repression.
Apple’s company policy website states that it prohibits the sale of their products to countries against which the U.S. has enforced complete economic and financial embargoes, including Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Syria and Sudan. If Farsi speakers have been denied the sale of Apple products for possibly hailing from Iran, will Spanish speakers soon meet the same fate (for possibly hailing from Cuba)?
Clearly, Apple has taken their fear of U.S. government legal action to the extreme. That fear, however, may have gotten them in even deeper water. For under the Civil Rights Act, it's illegal for a private company within the United States to discriminate against persons based on color, religion, race or national origin.
Apple, however, isn’t the only corporation to recently be accused of denying service to citizens of Iranian heritage. TD Bank began sending letters to Iranian-Canadians in May, noting that their bank accounts would soon be closed in order to comply with federal economic sanctions. These clients have yet to hear a response from TD Bank on the status of their bank accounts and are therefore being held in financial purgatory.
Havaar recently underwent a similarly frustrating experience when Indiegogo, a fundraising website which claims that, “Everyone should have the opportunity to raise money...No matter what you are raising money for,” allegedly denied the organization the ability to host their fundraiser on their site.
Non-Working Havaar Fundraiser Page on Indiegogo Website
It is quite troubling to see large corporations such as Apple use these sanctions to blatantly deny their customers service. Within this “land of the free,” how can corporations merely cite these sanctions in defense of and in explanation for their various forms of racial profiling and discrimination? And if the government is, indeed, pressuring companies such as Apple to enforce these sanctions against individual citizens of the U.S. or against people whose crime is speaking Farsi, does that mean they can violate the Civil Rights Act with impunity? Will we let this stereotyping and racism continue to spiral out of control?
Fracking in the Blackfeet Nation
Release Date: 8/29/2012
Photo courtesy of Tony Bynum.
On August 15, 2012 the New York Times published an article, “Tapping Into the Land, and Dividing Its People”
, about hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" on the Blackfeet reservation in Northern Montana. Members of the tribe are divided on the issue.
The Blackfeet reservation spans 1.5 million acres east of the Rocky Mountains and South of Canada.
In December 2009, the Blackfeet Nation signed the largest oil exploration deal
in the history of the tribe with Newfield Exploration Company. Since that time, 1 million acres of the 1.5 million acres of the reservation have been leased to Newfield, Anschutz Exploration Corporation, and Rosetta Resources for oil exploration. These companies promise money and jobs to members of the tribe.
PBS talks with filmmaker Josh Fox about "Gasland", his Sundance award-winning documentary on the surprising consequences of natural gas drilling.
Filmmaker Josh Fox spoke about how he was approached by oil companies interested in leasing his land in an interview with PBS (above). A representative approached him and offered approximately $100,000 dollars to put a drill on his property, downplaying the effects of fracking, and comparing the well to a "fire hydrant" on his land. Later, when he asked why it's not mandated for these oil representatives to disclose the potential risks of fracking, which include groundwater contamination, he was told that residents should hire a lawyer. It's easy to see how oil companies persuade people, especially those living in impoverished places, to lease land to these companies.
Part of the reason that it's been so easy for oil companies to get away with partial disclosure (or none at all) about risks of fracking, is because it has been so widely unregulated. Fracking is a procedure used to extract natural gas. In order to frack
, millions of gallons of water and hundreds of chemicals are pumped into a steel pipe at high pressure. These fluids open and crack underground rock, creating small earthquakes. Once the rock is open, or fractured, oil above can drain into the pipe and be pumped to the surface.
"What the frack is going on with all this fracking going on?". "My Water's On Fire Tonight" is a product of Studio 20 NYU in collaboration with ProPublica.org.
In 2005, President Bush signed the Energy Policy Act, which prevented the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating fracking to protect drinking water sources. At the urging of Vice President Dick Cheney, fracking fluids were exempted from the clean water act
after oil companies complained
that disclosing fracking chemical formulas would mean that competitors could steal their compositions. Essentially, oil exploration companies were exempt from strict water safety regulations. And whole communities have had their water contaminated by fracking.
In areas of the country where fracking occurs, residents have reported their water catching on fire
and pets' hair falling out. Chemicals in the fracking mixture include: benzene (a known carcinogen), formaldehyde (a known carcinogen), hydrochloric acid (a highly corrosive, strong mineral acid), methanol (highly toxic to humans), xylene, and many scary more
In December 2011, the EPA made a link
between ground water contamination and fracking. They are now conducting a study
about the impacts of fracking on drinking water. The first progress report will be available in late 2012. It will then be peer reviewed and released in 2014.
The Blackfeet's territory in Montana will be changed forever. There have been members of the community who have been vocal about their concerns and opposition. Pauline Matt
, a Blackfoot Elder, and Lori New Breast
, organized Blackfeet Women Against Fracking
. This month, Matt organized the Chief Mountain Water Walk
, to raise awareness about fracking. The walk
covered 80 miles, from the sacred site of Chief Mountain to the sacred site of Heart Butte Summit.
"In my worst nightmares I never thought it would be this way," Matt writes in "Fracking For Oil in the Blackfeet Nation"
for the Glacier National Park Travel Guide.
"This destruction will change the life of the Blackfeet Indian like nothing else has ever done. This makes me sad," Matt concluded.
For more information about the Blackfeet and to show your support of the Blackfeet Women Against Fracking, please visit the links below:
Blackfeet Women Against Fracking Facebook
Tony Bynum's Interactive Map of the Oil Exploration on the Blackfeet Reservation
Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark
Release Date: 4/12/2012
When Western media discuss the Arab Spring protest movements, they recall the overthrow of governments in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya (the latter with the help of NATO airstrikes), and now, potentially, Syria, where violent military suppression helped suck a peaceful protest movement into a bloody civil war against Bashar al-Assad and his loyalists. U.S. officials and others, seizing on the chance to score a human rights win and oust an "anti-Western" regime, expressed disdain for Assad's actions, trumpeting the vital role of freedom and democracy to any just world. However, there is one Middle Eastern protest movement that Western geopolitical maneuvering has had no time for. What about Bahrain?
Former Deep Dish TV and Paper Tiger TV producer May Ying Welsh, now working for Al Jazeera English, has just received the George K. Polk Award for reporting, producing, and directing the excellent documentary, "Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark." The 50-minute piece chronicles the Bahraini protest movement that began on February 16, 2011, when thousands amassed in Pearl Roundabout, in Manama, the capital, to speak out against the injustices wrought by the ruling Sunni minority upon the Shia majority. The government reacted to the gathering with swift brutality, clearing out the roundabout in a 3 a.m. raid, in a similar but far more violent fashion to the NYPD's handling of Zucotti Park. Army and police forces, which are predominantly Sunni, killed four people in that raid, and beat, maimed and injured many more, including doctors treating protesters (the doctors also cared for wounded soldiers and police). Welsh and her team went undercover to interview Bahrainis on the ground, capturing the pain, indignation, hope and even occasional spontaneous joy of the movement and putting a human face on an uprising that has been "forsaken by the West and forgotten by the world." Indeed, as Libya received NATO support, and Egyptians and Tunisians received moral support from Western diplomats, Bahrainis have been neglected while military and riot police increase the intensity of their crackdown on the Shia majority. Doctors Without Borders has observed that many wounded Bahrainis avoid seeking medical attention, for fear of being arrested, especially after the military occupied Salmaniyya Hospital, the main hospital in Manama, arresting, imprisoning, and torturing and arresting dissident doctors and patients. In November 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry released a report on conditions in the country, which, among other details, found that the government "systematically tortured prisoners."
Though Bahrainis are living through much harder times than Occupiers, they, at their core, are fighting common enemies: government corruption and violence, lack of citizen power in politics, the undue influence of wealth and privilege in politics, and the "theft of public wealth" by a small ruling minority. The Sunni Khalifa family has controlled Bahrain since the 17th century, backed first by a treaty with the British, and later by its oil alliance with the United States and Saudi Arabia. In 2001, Emir Hamad Khalifa changed his status to King. The king's uncle, Prime Minister Salman Khalifa, has headed the Parliament for 40 years, the longest such tenure ever. Parliament is littered with royal appointees to keep power in the hands of the Khalifa family. PM Khalifa bought the Bahrain Financial Harbor, a conduit of capital in a struggling nation, for one dinar ($2.65 US). Today, the protest movement continues, and the government continues to ruthlessly persecute, shame, imprison and torture protesters and those aiding them.
Every year, Long Island University gives out George K. Polk Awards to celebrate excellence in journalism across many categories. Winning the Television Documentary category, May Ying Welsh is the first Al Jazeera correspondent to receive the award. She has worked on many documentaries, including the Deep Dish TV programs "Anchors Away!" and "Breaking the Blockade." She has also worked for Democracy Now!, and currently works for Al Jazeera English. You can catch all of "Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark" here:
And here's an interview about the film with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:
Deep Dish TV's South Asia Video Collection
Release Date: 1/19/2012
There have been several youth-led, popular uprisings in the Middle East. Corporate media, like the U.S. Government, have embraced the revolutions where they have supported U.S. capitalist interests, but have shunned the factions that threaten (what they believe to be) our natural right to rule the Middle East and control its resources. Although Libya, Egypt and Tunisia have jettisoned their Western-backed dictators, the struggle for self-determination is nothing new. In Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Kashmir, people continue to protest colonial domination and the client governments that allow it. And, yet, they are conspicuously absent from the discourse. South Asia has long been one of the most brutally exploited areas on the planet. Today, as many peoples in South American and Africa continue to do, South Asians are fighting for their rights in a post-colonial world. In this light, Deep Dish TV would like to unveil a collection of our coverage of South Asia.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER!
Aggression & Self-Determination: Massacre in East Timor (1992) (28 mins)
In 1975, Indonesia invaded East Timor, using arms supplied by the United States. Nearly one-third of the Timorese population has since died. This activist document offers eyewitness accounts and analysis of how to end the occupation.
Arundhati Roy: Two Talks on Democracy With Noam Chomsky, Alice Walker, David Barsamian, and Amy Goodman (2010) (192 mins)
In the first program, filmed in San Francisco in March 2010, Arundhati Roy discusses the largest military occupation in the world: the disputed Kashmir Valley, a formerly sovereign state currently occupied by India and Pakistan. Journalist David Barsamian interviews Roy on the massive human rights abuses committed by the world's largest "democracy."
In the second program, at MIT, Amy Goodman, Noam Chomsky and Arundhati Roy discuss the economic crisis and the future of democracy. As corporations exert more and more influence over an increasingly less democratic state, what does the future of America, India, and other "democracies" begin to look like? Here are some excerpts from the full program:
Faiz Ahmed Faiz- Anthems of Resistance
Deep Dish TV's Panel at the 2011 Left Forum (2011) (105 mins)
In March of 2011 at the annual Left Forum in New York City, Deep Dish TV hosted a panel discussion to celebrate the centenary (1911-1984) of one of Pakistan's greatest Urdu poets and revolutionary artists, Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Fluent in Arabic and English, he was a long time Sufi and Marxist, newspaper editor, founder in 1936 of the All-India Progressive Writers' Movement, and at times, a political prisoner. He inspired two generations of young activists from South Asia to Egypt to Lebanon. He was also, awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1962 and nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature shortly before his death in 1984.
David Barsamian Interviews (2011) (288 mins)
While the vast majority of U.S. media foreign affairs sections have focused on covering the Middle East, David Barsamian of Alternative Radio has been covering key issues in South Asia for many years. He has interviewed scores of academic, literary, journalistic and legal authorities on the region. Here, he interviews author Arundhati Roy and independent Kashmiri journalist Parvaiz Bukhari on Pakistan, the Kashmir region, and the Pakistani military. He also talks to Muhammad Junaid, a student living in the Kashmir region, about the history of the dispute over the area, post-colonial struggles of Kashmiri Muslims, and the role poets play in revolutions. Barsamian also interviews Harsh Dobhal, Human Rights Law Network, and editor of the human rights-centric bi-monthly magazine, Combat Law.
Arundhati Roy Part 1:
Arundhati Roy Part 2:
Parvaiz Bukhari Part 1:
Parvaiz Bukhari Part 2:
Here's part one of eight from the Junaid interview (you can find the rest on our blip.tv page):
David Barsamian on Kashmir, Pt 1 (you can find the rest on our blip.tv page):
Not only will this collection shed some light on an under-reported region, it's a discount. Purchasers will receive over 10 hours of programming for the cost of about three! Even if you don't plan to purchase the program, please check out some of the videos on this page - you never know what you might learn!
Occupy Wall Street - Live Video Feed
Release Date: 10/15/2011
Watch Live Video Coverage from Liberty Square (aka Zuccotti Park) in New York City.
View Previous News Items
Release Date: 5/26/2011
Go Here To View All Past News Stories
The Deep Dish TV News Items
The purpose of this section of our website is to link current news stories to relevant videos in the Deep Dish TV archives – over 300 programs that we've produced or distributed during the past 23 years. These programs provide useful background and important perspective on contemporary events.
IMF: Raping the World - May 18, 2011
Death Threats Continue Against Community Radio in Radio in El Salvador! - May 13, 2011
Juliano Mer Khamis Memoria l - May 2, 2011
Leonard Irving Weinglass - Attorney and Counselor At Law (1933 - 2011 - April 29, 2011
What's the Fracking Problem? - April 25, 2011
What Hope For The Workers? - April 21, 2011
Top Legal Scholars Denouce the Torture of Bradley Manning - April 18, 2011
Horrific Tragedy in West Bank - Juliano Mer Khamis Assassinated - April 4, 2011
Obama Comes to Harlem - April 1, 2011
- Conflict: The Mavi Mamara and the Middle East - March 28, 2011
Remebering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire - March 25, 2011
Leonard Irving Weinglass - Attorney and Counselor At Law (1933 - 2011 - April 29, 2011
Independent Media, Technology and Self-Determination Struggles in Nigeria - March 25, 2011
The Torture of Bradley Manning - March 23, 2011
Deep Dish TV at The Left Forum - March 17, 2011
Is It Worth The Risk - Japan and the Nuclear Future - March 18, 2011
Aristide to Return to Haiti on Thursday - March 17, 2011
Indymedia Africa Convergence - March 12, 2011
Modern Day McCarthy Hold Court - March 12, 2011
Wisconsin - Is This What Democracy Looks Like? - March 11, 2011
Fight for Women's Liberation Far From Over On The 100th International Women's Day - March 10, 2011
Footage from the First Indymedia Africa Convergence Report Back - March 8, 2011
From Egypt to Wisconsin - February 20, 2011
January 2010 News Items
In the midst of all the sad and bad news that draws the focus of our cameras, it is refreshing to look at the everyday moments that make up the fabric of our lives Carlos Pareja short video is about two minutes long and a patchwork of small moments i captured in and around Brooklyn, New York with his point & shoot in movie mod
The Cairo Declaration
New Year's Eve Candlight Vigil in Egypt's Tahrir Square
The Gaza Freedom March has come to an end. 1400 delegates from 43 countries traveled to Cairo Egypt in order to enter Gaza by the Rafah border crossing controlled by Egypt. Despite months of negotiating with the Egyptian Government and responding to all of its requests, as the Gaza Freedom Marchers were on their way to Cairo from around the world, the government announced that the border with Gaza was closed and no marchers would be allowed to enter Gaza. As the delegates gathered in Gaza, the Egyptian Government and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were building an "underground wall", metal plates driven 50 meters into the ground, to block the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt which are the main source of food, medicine and other supplies for the people of Gaza. The delegates of the Gaza Freedom March spent the week from December 27th to January 2nd attempting to persuade the government to allow them entry via Rafah. Every effort to protest and create public opinion was met with police blockade and force. Finally the government it would allow 100 people could enter. The offer was rejected as an effort to divide and vilify the delegation.
Haiti Community Radio Earthquake Emergency
Community Radio Stations in Haiti destroyed by Earthquake
U.S. Military Occupation of Haiti in Guise of Aid
As Haitians desperately await food and water, medical aid and help digging out from under the devastating destruction of the earthquake, the U.S. has put thousands of heavily armed soldiers on the ground, taken over the airport and turned back flights from other countries bringing in aid. "We don't need soldiers and guns" said a former Haitian Defense Minister.
Video Reports from Haiti
Deep Dish TV's blog Waves of Change features recent short videos by Ciné Institue from the town of Jacmel in the Southeast area of Haiti, not far from Port au Prince.
Stay up-to-date on Haiti with the Waves of Change Blog
The Waves of Change Blog is a terrific source of ongoing news about the crisis in Haiti, and the efforts of community activists to bring hope to this desperate station.
December 2009 News Items:
Egyptian Security Forces Detain Gaza Freedom Marchers in el-Arish and shut down Gaza Memorial in Cairo
Israel-Egypt-US tighten stranglehold on Palestinians in Gaza. Egypt refuses to allow medical supplies, food and International delegations from 46 countries to enter Gaza - the world's largest concentration camp
Egypt continues effort to block Palestinians in Gaza
Egyptian Government Tries to Block All Support For Palestinians in Gaza
Close to 1400 delegates to the Gaza Freedom March (GFM), people from 46 countries have arrived in Cairo intending to travel by bus to the Egyptian border crossing at Rafah to enter Gaza and join the Gaza Freedom March scheduled for January 31st. The March has been planned for four months and representatives of the GFM have been meeting with Egyptian officials for months to insure smooth passage. At the last minute Egypt refused permission to enter Gaza, forced the bus company that was to transport the participants, forbade them to meet in public in Cairo and denied access to a planned memorial on the Nile River. We just received the following from Cairo.
Gaza Freedom Marchers Reject Egyptian Offer to Let Just 100 Enter Gaza
After three days of vigils and demonstrations in downtown Cairo, Suzanne Mubarak’s offer to allow just 100 of 1,300 delegates to enter Gaza was rejected by the Gaza Freedom March Coordinating Committee as well as many of the larger contingents – including those from France, Scotland, Canada, South Africa, Sweden and New York State (U.S.).
Gaza Freedom Marchers Attacked by Egyptian Police
Participants of the Gaza Freedom March describe their efforts of the Egyptian government to prevent their expression of solidarity with the people of Gaza
Aid Convoy for Gaza blocked by Egyptian Government, Waits in Jordan
'Fighting to break the Gaza siege'
85 year old Holocaust Survivor Hedy Epstein Begins Hunger Strike to Open Gaza Borders
Hedy Epstein, the 85 year old Holocaust survivor and peace activist, announced that she will begin a hunger strike today as a response to the Egyptian government’s refusal to allow the Gaza Freedom March participants into Gaza.
Dennis Brutus, South African poet, freedom fighter 1924-1985
The memory of Dennis Brutus will remain everywhere there is struggle against injustice. Uniquely courageous, consistent and principled, Brutus bridged the global and local, politics and culture, class and race, the old and the young, the red and green. He was an emblem of solidarity with all those peoples oppressed and environments wrecked by the power of capital and state elites
Gaza Freedom March
Over 1000 people from the U.S., Europe, Latin America and Asia plan to join tens of thousands of Palestinians on historic Dec. 31st, 2009 March in Gaza
Rich Countries' Secret Deal on Global Warming
The Copenhagen climate change summit may be in peril as exposed document reveals scripted agreement between developed nations.
10 Years Later-The Impact of Shutting Down The WTO in Seattle
Reflections on the 'power of the people'
The Murder of Fred Hampton
Fred Hampton was the 21 year old, brilliant revolutionary Chairman of the Black Panther Party of Illinois. On December 4th, 1969 in the pre-dawn hours, Chicago Police raided the apartment where Hampton, his fiancee and other Party members were sleeping. Investigations proved that the FBI planned and orchestrated the raid,
November 2009 News Items:
Howard Zinn's "The People Speak" on the History Channel
December 13, 2009
8 PM Eastern and Pacific
7 PM Central
Produced by Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Chris Moore, Anthony Arnove, and Howard Zinn. Performances by: Brolin, Damon, Rosario Dawson, Bob Dylan, Michael Ealy, Lupe Fiasco, Morgan Freeman, Jasmine Guy, John Legend, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, Sandra Oh, Viggo Mortensen, Bruce Springsteen, Marisa Tomei, Kerry Washington, and many others.
Digital Oral History From Durban South Africa
An Israeli Mother's Solidarity with Palestinian Women
Thanks-giving or Thanks-taking
Cal Student Occupation vs Tuition Hikes, Layoffs: Spark For a New Movment.
Civil Rights Attorney Lynne Stewart's Appeal Denied
Health Care Bill: Tragedy or Farce?
What You Didn't Know About the War
Friday November 20th! Great Deep Dish Screening!
Deep Dish TV Now on Facebook and Twitter!
October 2009 News Items:
Amnesty International Accuses Israel of Denying Water to Palestinians
Argentina Democratizes Media Law
Deep Dish TV Announces Release of DIY Media Series!
Iraq Government Closes Baghdad University
War in the Cities - G-20 in Pittsburgh
Women of Afghanistan Speak Out
Marek Edelman - Hero of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Dies
July 2009 News Items:
A Report From Gaza
I learned that there is no cease fire in Gaza. Israel continues its bombardment of Gaza and shooting its farmers and fishermen. - Felice Gelman, member of the Code Pink delegation to Gaza, May-June, 2009
Pakistan & Afghanistan: Battle Ground of Empire
An interview with David Barsamian, author and founder of Alternative Radio. Barsamian discusses the Taliban and the expansion of the U.S. war in Afghanistan to Pakistan in the context of Pashtun nationalism.
A Summer Not to Forget Wins Jury Award at Sole Luna Festival in Palermo Italy
Carol Mansour's film is part of Deep Dish TV series Nothing Is Safe - Israels 2006 War on Lebanon.
Israeli Soldiers Testify to War Crimes in Gaza Invasion
You feel like an infantile little kid with a magnifying glass looking at ants, burning them." Fifty-four testimonies of Israeli combat soldiers who participated in Operation Cast Lead reveal gaps between the reports given by the army following January’s events; the needless destruction of houses; firing phosphorous in populated areas and an atmosphere that encouraged shooting anywhere.
Honduras:Military Coup and the Fight for Land and Liberty
"A more likely motive for the coup lies in the Honduran oligarchy's fear of what would happen if the people got a chance to write their own Constitution."David Wilson, Monthly Review
Laughing all the Way to the Bank
The IMF was used to force neoliberalism - that poisonous cocktail of financial deregulation, free markets, privatisation and the rolling back of the state – on developing countries. IMF policies have been, despite the heartache, the wrecked lives, the savaging of countries' agriculture, education and institutions, granted legitimacy during this crisis.
The Women of Afghanistan
Part 5 of Brave New Films' Rethink Afghanistan exposes the reality of life for women in Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion.
This is Where We Take Our Stand
The Winter Soldier Project: New Online Film Series Documents GI Resistance
YES MEN Withdraw Their Film From Jerusalem Film Festival
Whatever words are applied to such actions, our film mustn't help lend an aura of normalcy to a state that makes these decisions. For us, that's the bottom line.
June 2009 New Items
For The Record: The World Tribunal on Iraq
Documents the organizing efforts that put the United States on trial for its illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq and the atrocities that have been committed in the name of "liberation."
US Colonel Advocates US 'Military Attacks' on 'Partisan Media'
Calls the independent media "the killers without guns"
May 2009 News Items
City of West Hollywood CA Takes Anti-Torture Stand
"If any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any prisoner, I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring such exemplary and severe punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it would not be disproportionate to his guilt at such a time and in such a cause, for by such conduct they bring upon us shame, disgrace, and ruin to themselves and to our country."- George Washington
Deep Dish TV on Facebook
Release Date: 1/17/2011