In a truly free country, the masses would have a voice. But Citizens United, and the entire history of US government, created an oligarchy. OOPS. Everything you believe in about the US (if you grew up here) is false.
Has BP hired internet “trolls” to threaten critics of its handling of the 2010 oil disaster?
This is horrifying. But not at all surprising.
Yeah. Good Job, United States Lobbies…. this TOTALLY makes sense. Blame a magazine for honoring those who are victims of violence.
November 3, 1979: The Greensboro Massacre
On November 3, 1979, at the corner of Carver and Everitt Streets in Greensboro, North Carolina, forty Ku Klux Klansmen and American Nazis handed each other shotguns and automatic weapons from the trunks of their cars and opened fire on black and white anti-Klan demonstrators and union organizers who had gathered at Morningside Homes, a black housing project.
In the aftermath five people were killed and 11 wounded in the attack. All five were members of the Workers Viewpoint Organization (WVO) [which had recently become the Communist Workers Party (CWP)], and four were rank-and-file union leaders and organizers.
Sandi Smith, president of the student body and a founding member of the Student Organization for Black Unity (SOBU) at Greensboro’s Bennett College. She was a community organizer for the Greensboro Association of Poor People (GAPP) and became a worker at the textile mill where she and others formed the Revolution Organizing Committee (ROC) to unionize the plant. Sandi was a leader of a march of over 3,000 people in Raleigh to free the Wilmington 10, ten young activists jailed on false charges to stop them from organizing. In her work at a Cone Mills textile plant, she battled sexual harassment, low wages, and unhealthy working conditions.
Dr. Jim Waller, who received his medical degree from the University of Chicago and trained at the Lincoln Hospital Collective in New York City. In 1973 at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, Waller organized medical aid and set up a clinic to aid American Indian Movement activists under siege by the FBI. When he moved to North Carolina to teach at Duke University he coordinated Brown Lung screenings in textile mills, co-founding the Carolina Brown Lung Association. He later gave up his medical practice to organize workers becoming vice president of the AFL-CIO local textile workers union Waller and went to work in a Cone Mills textile plant in Haw River. From inside he helped organize and eventually became president of the AFL-CIO union local after leading a strike in 1978 that helped the union grow from about 25 members to almost 200.
William “Bill” Sampson was a student anti-war activist and president of his college student body. He studied at the Sorbonne in Paris during college, received his Masters degree in Divinity from Harvard in 1971, then studied medicine at the University of Virginia. As a medical student he organized health care workers to support the liberation struggles in southern Africa. Bill left medical school to work and organize in one of Cone Mills’ Greensboro textile plant, where he built the union and focused on training new leaders. The workers had chosen Bill to run for president of the local.
Cesar Cauce was a Cuban immigrant who graduated magna cum laude from Duke University, where he was a campus leader in the anti-war movement. He rejected a full scholarship to study history at the University of California at Berkeley and instead to help to unionize Duke Hospital workers. Cesar organized strike support for union struggles throughout NC and was a regular participant in the Goldkist strike, a campaign to organize poultry workers in Durham. He also traveled extensively throughout the South, writing about class struggles for the Workers Viewpoint.Dr. Michael Nathan, chief of pediatrics at Lincoln Community Health Center in Durham, a clinic that helped children from low-income families. Nathan had been an anti-war and civil rights student activist at Duke University. He organized and led a chapter of the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR), an organization that fought for improved health care for poor people. Mike studied child health and treated sick children in a mountain clinic in Guatemala in 1972 and 1973, and was a leader in a movement to send aid to liberation fighters who eventually toppled the apartheid system is what’s now Zimbabwe.
Ecuador’s foreign ministry announced on Friday that the US has seemingly denied visas to a delegation that was set to travel to the UN General Assembly in New York to present their case regarding an ongoing dispute against Chevron-Texaco.
According to the ministry’s official announcement, the visas for the five Ecuadorian nationals were returned by the US Embassy in Quito “without any explanation.”
That group was to present testimony during a special event at the UN regarding the ecological impact caused by Chevron-Texaco’s oil operations in the Amazon rainforest region of Ecuador - which contaminated two million hectares, according to the country’s government.
At stake in the case is a US$19 billion judgment awarded by an Ecuadorean court against Chevron for cleanup and ecological damage, which is currently being fought at The Hague.
That case faced a setback on Tuesday when an interim ruling in favor of Texaco Corp., later acquired by Chevron, found that a 1995 agreement absolved the company from claims of “collective damage.”
The case against Chevron-Texaco has been ongoing for two decades, and stems from the oil company’s operations in the Amazon which date back to the period between 1972 and 1990.
In February 2011, a judgment by a provincial court in Ecuador produced the multi-billion dollar award against Chevron. However, as the company currently has no holdings in Ecuador, the plaintiffs have instead attempted to force payment in Canada, Brazil, and Argentina.
The $19 billion verdict was the result of a 1993 lawsuit filed in New York federal court by a group of American attorneys – including Steven Donziger - on behalf of 88 residents of the Amazon rainforest. In the intervening period, Texaco was acquired by Chevron in 2001, and plaintiffs re-filed their case in Ecuador in 2003.
Inside look at the internal strife over Al Jazeera America
As the new US network is finally set to launch, serious concerns arise about its brand and intent: especially from within the organization
When Al Jazeera last December purchased Current TV in order to launch its own “Al Jazeera America” (AJAM) network, it seemed clear they had two general options for how the new network’s brand could be built. AJAM could embrace the traditional attributes that has made Al Jazeera, at its best, an intrepid and fearless global news organization: willing to cover stories, air dissident views, and challenge power in ways that many other outlets, especially in the US, are afraid to do. Those excited by the entrance of a new Al Jazeera network into the US marketplace - and I included myself in that group - typically cited the urgent need for such an adversarial, bold and brave approach on the US airways from a large and well-funded TV news organization.
The alternative was that AJAM could try to replicate the inoffensive, neutered, voiceless, pro-US-government model favored by most US news organizations: as a way of appeasing negative perceptions associated with the Al Jazeera brand in the US. Those perceptions in some American precincts - that the network is “anti-American”, “anti-Israel” or even “pro-terrorist”- stem from the network’s coverage of US foreign policy (especially the War on Terror) that has been far more critical (in the best sense of the word) than most US news outlets were willing to be. For years, Bush officials fed this perception by accusing the network of being an anti-American source of terrorist propaganda. The US (accidentally, it claims) attacked al Jazeera bureaus on two occasions, killing its personnel. It even imprisoned an al Jazeera camerman, Sami al-Haj, for six years in Guantanamo without ever charging him with a crime.
Draining al Jazeera of its vibrancy and edginess and turning it into an imitation of CNN would be a way of trying to appease those negative views of the Jazeera brand. The target of such accommodation would be not only the parts of the US public which regard the network with suspicion, but at least as critically, cable carriers and corporate advertisers, whose willingness to be associated with the network is vital to its financial success, as well as US political officials, whom the network wants to appear regularly.
Because AJAM has not launched yet, debates over which course the new network has chosen have been mostly speculative. But one prominent Al Jazeera journalist, Marwan Bishara, the network’s senior political analyst and host of “Empire”, is insistent that the network has chosen the latter course of appeasement, fear and self-neutering.
Earlier this week, Bishara sent a scathing 1,800-word email to multiple Al Jazeera executives, directed particularly at those overseeing the new network. The missive, a copy of which was provided to the Guardian and whose receipt was confirmed by AJAM executives (published here), excoriates network officials for running away from the Jazeera brand due both to “the rush to act out of a personal ambition” and “to appease those who won’t, or don’t necessarily want to be, appeased”. Such a re-branding effort, he wrote, “insult[s] the intelligence of the American people”.
Bishara was especially incensed at the efforts he said the executives have undertaken to avoid having the news network be labeled “anti-American”. Such efforts include, he claimed, promises made to distance the American network from both its flagship network in Doha (AJN) as well as the Al Jazeera English network (AJE) which encountered such difficulty inducing US cable carriers to broadcast it. The network has also scrapped its original plan to include substantial amounts of AJE programming in favor of all original, all-American programming. Bishara wrote:
"Have we signed a deal where AJAM program/content must be substantially different from AJE? Really!!!! What does substantially mean? Who have we made the agreement with and why? I asked several executives and not a single person can give me a categorical answer about the issue, which by itself is mind-boggling!!! (I have issues with AJE’s formats, and at times perspectives, but we have so much to hold onto).
"Does the fear of contractual obligations with carriers etc. mean it’s necessary for some to do whatever they want with Aljazeera, including banning AJE altogether from America and web livestream, just when they themselves try to make the case for a 21st century type television news!!!! … .
"And how have we moved from the main idea that the strength of AJN lies in the diversity, plurality and even accents of its journalists to a channel where only Americans work, when clearly that’s not what American viewership wants, even according to the polls?
"Let me be clear. I reject flat out that we are polled in the United States as AJE journalists-programs-network in order to find out from Americans whether ‘we’ are ‘anti-American’!! As I wrote to those who ran the poll in the US (and never gotten a response back). By merely posing the question we’ve sent the wrong message.
"What does ‘Anti-Americanism’ even mean here? How did you define anti-Americanism to those polled! Do you estimate that criticizing the American government or its policies ‘anti-American’ [or] a fundamental ‘American’ trait and essential element of its democracy and freedom of speech, not to speak of the role of global media.
"Do you think The Guardian newspaper asks whether its columnists are anti-American as it expands its presence in America? Or does John [sic] Stewart ask whether John Oliver is an anti-American Brit considering he’s continuously ridiculing American power and at times culture? Since we are Aljazeera from Muslim Qatar, featuring an entire episode critiquing the Catholic Church, why not ask if we are anti Christian! … Shameful."
Bishara singled out one AJAM executive in particular, Ehab Al Shihabi, its executive director of international operations. Al Shihabi, whose background is in business and not journalism, has sparked criticism inside al Jazeera by proclaiming that the network “will be the voice of Main Street” and proudly touting a meeting with the Chicago Mayor, former Obama White House chief of staff and vehement “pro-Israel” advocate Rahm Emanuel.
Speaking directly to al Shihabi in his email, Bishara wrote: “personal ambition is leading you astray”. He added: “You should make no more appearances in public forums or photo-ups with political characters, shady or otherwise, that would only hurt us on the long run.” He also recommended: “stay clear of our content. Journalism is not your thing; do whatever you know how to do.” Bishara concluded his email by highlighting the stakes: “If we fail America around the launch time, it will be ever more difficult to salvage a tarnished image and compromised credibility.”
In an interview with me yesterday, Paul Eedle, AJAM’s deputy news and editorial director responsible for programming, disputed many of Bishara’s claims. “Marwan is a talented intellectual and these reflect his opinions,” said Eedle, “but he hasn’t been involved in the planning of AJAM from the inside”. Eedle did, however, acknowledge that he has heard the same concerns and complaints from others both inside and outside the network.
Eedle referenced a recent column in the Toronto Star by former Al Jazeera English chief Tony Burman, opining that “the Al Jazeera America project has the odour of potential disaster”. Burman cited a New York Times article by TV reporter Brian Stelter that began: “While it has a foreign name, the forthcoming Al Jazeera cable channel in the United States wants to be American through and through.”
Stelter noted that AJAM scrapped its original plan to include content from AJE and instead: “now Al Jazeera America is aiming to have virtually all of its programming originate from the United States.” Wrote Stelter: “It will, in other words, operate much like CNN (though the employees say they won’t be as sensational) and Fox News (though they say they won’t be opinion-driven).”
Based on that report and others, Burman wrote that one must have “completely lost your marbles” to believe that “American viewers will turn away from their current channels and switch to Al Jazeera to get their American news”. Moreover, said the former AJE chief, “the rumoured shortlist of potential ‘presidents’ includes several of the people who have driven US cable networks, including CNN, to a level of utter mediocrity.” It has been reported that the list of finalists to run the network include former CNN executives along with one from ABC.
The same concerns were raised in May when AJE silently removed an Op-Ed by Columbia Professor Joseph Massad that pro-Israel advocates such as Jeffrey Goldberg had attacked. Only after a week of controversy did AJE re-publish the Op-Ed, apologizing for having handled the matter so poorly.
One Al Jazeera insider, granted anonymity to speak critically of his employer, said one central problem was that the new network was relying heavily on risk-adverse US consulting and lobbying firms such as DLA Piper, Qorvis Communications, and David Axelrod’s consulting group, “all of whom don’t understand the Jazeera brand or the industry.” He added that the consultants guiding network officials are squarely “from the American mainstream, not the critical left or even a critical movement that could speak for millions of people.” He added that the Massad Op-Ed was taken down at the urging of a DLA Piper consultant, petrified of what impact it would have on the new AJAM brand. Al Shihabi’s publicly trumpeted meeting with Emanuel was arranged by people who worked for Axelrod, he said.
It’s “an identity issue”, the Al Jazeera employee added, “and we’ll likely end up being somewhere between MSNBC and CNN, which nobody will watch.” Moreover, “they’re very concerned about the Israel Lobby.”
I asked Eedle about this perception that AJAM was, out of fear, attempting to embrace the inoffensive CNN model in order to placate an American audience and avoid offending anyone. I cited the fact that the network’s most prominent on-air hires were fairly conventional former CNN hosts, including Ali Velshi and Soledad O’Brien (as disclosure: I had several discussions with AJAM officials back in January and February about doing some work with the new network, though those discussions never advanced beyond the preliminary stage; I also covered the US elections for AJE last November from Doha and have appeared on that network many times).
Eedle insisted that there was no attempt to distance the new US network from the Jazeera brand nor any attempt to copy CNN. To the contrary, he said, “the Jazeera brand is central to what we are doing”, citing the fact that AJAM is using the well-known Jazeera logo. Moreover, he said, executives are “building a newsroom culture to embody the Jazeera spirit” by training its new hires, including those from CNN, “to break free of inhibitions they might have had and feel liberated and go for the story”. He added that there is “no point in being a pale imitation of what others are doing”.
Eedle said that after scuttling several planned starts, the network finally has a definitive launch date, though he would say only that it is scheduled “before the end of August”. The network is retaining roughly 150 employees of Current TV, but none of its on-air personalities. As for al Shihabi’s proclamation that the network will channel “the voice of Main Street,” Eedle said al Shihabi’s responsibilities are confined exclusively to business matters and that he has no role whatsoever to play in the content of programming.
As for negative perceptions of al Jazeera, Eedle said his message to US viewers will be simple: “give us a try and make up your own mind”. While denying that the network’s goal was to mainstream itself, he proudly pointed to the praise heaped on Al Jazeera by Hillary Clinton during the Arab Spring, and also said that “leading people on the Hill” consider al Jazeera to be good, solid journalism.
He acknowledged that they are attempting to Americanize the network in order “to avoid the fate that befell BBC America: being pigeonholed as an international channel way at bottom of the cable guide.” Instead, he said, they “want to build an American channel for an American audience”, one that will “compete with MSNBC, Fox, and CNN as a comprehensive news source for US viewers,” though with a “more international dimension than most US networks”. But, he insisted, “we are not stepping away from Al Jazeera core values.”
There is certainly a gaping need for strong, fearless, adversarial journalism in the American TV landscape. There is a huge audience hungry for that type of TV journalism inside the US. A well-funded TV network with a new, aggressive, fearless investigative approach and a well-recognized global brand name could certainly succeed. Whether AJAM will seek to fill that need, or will run away from it, remains to be seen.
Have gay rights groups abandoned Bradley Manning?
Mainstream LGBT rights groups like Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD have stayed quiet about Manning
Gay 25-year-old US army private Bradley Manning stood trial for supposedly aiding the enemy by passing classified information to Wikileaks, including several hundred thousand pages of army reports, diplomatic cables and information that detailed the killing of civilians by American soldiers. His verdict is expected today.
The trial, which ended last week, was marked by government intimidation of the media and comes after Manning spent almost a year in solitary confinement in Quantico, Virginia, prompting international outrage.
One of the interesting factors is that two of the largest and most well funded LGBT rights groups in the US have stayed quiet about Manning, his reprehensible treatment in custody and his trial. Why has Manning, whose revelations about the US Army’s actions epitomize social justice in action, gotten the cold shoulder from the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD (formerly known as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation)? The silence of these groups has been deafening.
First, Manning is the opposite of everything that these groups seek to portray as the image of “gay Americans”. I use those quotes because the majority of LGBT Americans don’t conform to these upwardly mobile, white, polished, virile male stereotypes. Manning doesn’t look like CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. With his slight frame, lower-class background, questioning of his gender identity, inability to hold down a typical job, general dorkiness and dysfunctional family life, Manning does not fit the poster boy image that GLAAD or the HRC would hold up and promote. It’s bizarre because Manning is actually what many, if not most, LGBT people have been at one point or another – an outsider, a loner, a person who does not fit in or conform.
Second, organizations like the HRC, which had net assets of over $32.7m at the end of last year and claims more than a millions members and supporters, happens to have the financial backing of major military industrial corporations, including Lockheed Martin, which is sponsoring the HRC’s upcoming national gala in Washington DC and Booz Allen Hamilton, a corporate partner for the national event, as well as Northrop Grumman a sponsor of their Los Angeles gala.
US government contracts account for at least 85% of Lockheed Martin’s work, Northrop Grumman is intricately tied to our military and Booz Allen Hamilton is wrapped up in Washington's lobbying morass – kicking into high gear now that legislators are finally considering limits on the NSA's surveillance capabilities.
There was no quid pro quo, however, the HRC and GLAAD know exactly where their bread is buttered. The Human Rights Campaign spent millions of dollars and countless volunteer hours to lobby for the repeal of Don’t ask, don’t tell, ensuring that patriotic and law-abiding gays and lesbians can continue to serve in the US military and fight its wars in far-flung places.
Each of these defense organizations depends on federal money; therefore, the more able-bodied young men and women who sign up for the US military, the better. The more the American war-making machine expands, even if shrouded in utter secrecy, the better. GLAAD has had Goldman Sachs (that bastion of awesomeness) as a patron of its media awards in the past and Verizon (remember those agreements with the NSA?) as a supporter while doling out awards to men like Anderson Cooper, who came out at the height of his career after following in the footsteps of other journalists, and Bill Clinton, the man responsible for DADT and the Defense of Marriage Act.
Self-censorship is a beautiful thing. It can’t be proven. It occurs as a matter of course and is a great example of the banal, duplicitous intertwined relationships between the military industrial complex, the US government and corporate nonprofits. Why would the Human Rights Campaign risk offending the sensibilities of Lockheed Martin, Booz Allen Hamilton and Northrop Grumman? Because these and other defense companies, drowning in profit, might turn off the “diversity” spigot that sustains the Human Rights Campaign.
Why wouldn’t GLAAD support a frail, maladjusted young queer man whose efforts exposed US military malfeasance? It’s much easier – and requires no courage whatsoever – to honor those who are privileged and already at the very top of society. Abandoned by these mainstream rights organizations, who will speak up in defense of Manning?
The protesters are demanding the nationalisation of the Kumtor mine, which has been wholly owned by the Canadian mining group Centerra Gold since it started operations in 1997.
Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev on Friday declared a state of emergency in the Dzheti-Ogyzsky district of the northern Issyk Kul region where the mine and electrical substation are located.
The state of emergency will last until June 10 and a curfew will last from 9 pm to 6 am local time, the presidency said.
All the organisers of the meeting at Kumtor will be punished in full accordance with the law. I guarantee that as president of the country,” said Atambayev.
"We will not give them the chance to shake and destroy the country," he added.
Prime Minister Zhantoro Satybaldiyev blamed the unrest on the “enemies of Kyrgyzstan” and said that the government was prepared for “negative” developments of the situation in the region."
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