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Linksunten Antimil - lun, 17/08/2015 - 15:26

Rising Up Against Police Violence, From the Black Panthers to #BlackLivesMatter

The Intercept - Engl. - dim, 16/08/2015 - 15:36

I turned away more than once while watching Stanley Nelson’s documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution. I averted my eyes from the screen when FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s nefarious mug first appeared. I turned away once more when the charismatic and admirable Fred Hampton was first shown, knowing that eventually he would be murdered by Chicago police and federal agents.

But, of course, I could never turn away for long, because Nelson’s documentary is something all Americans should watch to better understand the country’s current racial climate, including the formation of the #BlackLivesMatter campaign.

The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter first entered public consciousness after George Zimmerman’s acquittal, in July 2013, on charges of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Three activists, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, are credited with coining the phrase. Tellingly, it wasn’t until a year later — in August 2014 when a white police officer killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri — that the hashtag gained greater prominence and morphed into an enduring movement against police brutality.

I write “tellingly” because many black American riots can be traced back to an act of police violence. For black citizens, particularly those who are economically disadvantaged, the police are the most consistent and cruel representatives of the white supremacist state. It makes sense then that the same origin story would be true for the revolutionary Black Panthers, who organized after police killed a black person 49 years ago.

Nelson’s documentary, which he spent seven years makingopens with the organization’s founding in Oakland, California, in October 1966, after the death of Matthew Johnson. Johnson’s death convinced Panthers co-founders Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale of the need for a different, more proactive black movement. In Newton’s mind it was time for black Americans to defend themselves against police violence.

The Oakland Police Department, like so many today, was notorious for its treatment of black residents. The Panthers, legally armed with guns after Johnson’s death, began following the Oakland police around to monitor their actions. Whenever the police made a stop, armed Panthers were there, ensuring no racist harassment or brutality would take place.

One of the great virtues of Nelson’s film is the opportunity to see rare footage. There’s a clip of John Lennon, dressed in a Boston Red Sox jersey, chatting on a talk show with Black Panthers. And there’s the scene of Bobby Seale, depicted with court sketches and audio, gagged and tied to a chair during a trial because he kept calling the presiding judge a “racist, pig, fascist, liar.”

Given the Panthers’ cultural significance, it’s surprising that The Black Panthers is the first documentary to present a thorough examination of the group. (I omit from consideration the vapid and cartoonish 1995 docudrama Panther.) And the film is replete with information many viewers will find new. Nelson reminds us that one of the first major public displays of black power occurred when the Panthers entered the California legislature in Sacramento, armed with guns. Another surprising detail was that after Hoover declared war on the Panthers in the late ’60s, 233 of 295 domestic covert actions by the FBI aimed at black nationalist groups were directed against the Panthers. Undercover agents infiltrated the group almost from the very beginning. It was also news to me that the first known SWAT raid in American history was against the Black Panthers in Los Angeles, just five days after the notorious assassination of Illinois Black Panther leader Fred Hampton.

The 116-minute film leaves viewers wanting more, however. Nelson barely touches on the subject of Newton’s alleged shooting of a white Oakland police officer during a traffic stop in October 1967. Likewise, Newton’s struggle with a crack cocaine addiction later in life, and his 1989 killing by a drug dealer, receive little attention in Nelson’s documentary.

The film does, however, focus on Eldridge Cleaver, the eccentric Panther who along with Seale and Newton composed the Panthers’ powerful Troika. Some of the most exciting storytelling occurs when the documentary recounts how Cleaver fled the U.S. for Cuba, and then Africa, after being charged with attempted murder following a botched attack on the police. Nelson also focuses on how Cleaver, before his death, renounced his radical past and converted to Mormonism. In 1958 Cleaver was convicted of assault during an attempted rape, though Nelson doesn’t mention it except in passing. But with so much attention given to Cleaver’s antics, Nelson ignores the radical substance of the Panthers.

Former Panther Elaine Brown, writing in the Daily Beast, accused Nelson of “excising from his film the Party’s ideological foundation and political strategies, despite the wealth of published materials articulating the Party’s goals and ideals, reducing our activities to sensationalist engagements, as snatched from establishment media headlines.”

The colorful characters who made up the Panthers may provide a cautionary example for the young activists leading Black Lives Matter. Big personalities and internal conflict helped to tear the group apart, but so too did interference and disruption from the racist FBI. Like the Panthers, Black Lives Matter has struggled with refashioning and expanding its missions. The Panthers began a successful breakfast program in Oakland that gave free meals to young people, and attempted to start black businesses with the hope of constructing an economic foundation for black Americans. Black Lives Matter doesn’t seem quite sure where it wants to go next, though some St. Louis activists are attempting to organize black people around economic issues such as the Fight for $15 campaign.

Despite the struggles and the growing pains, Black Lives Matters represents, for the first time since the civil rights era, a social movement focused on battling American racism that has energized black Americans all around the country.

Perhaps the most important lesson that Black Lives Matter, and the rest of us, can learn from Nelson’s film can be encapsulated in an insight from Bobby Seale, which comes in the documentary’s closing scenes: “You don’t fight racism with racism, the best way to fight racism is with solidarity.”

The post Rising Up Against Police Violence, From the Black Panthers to #BlackLivesMatter appeared first on The Intercept.

Why Did the FBI Spy on James Baldwin?

The Intercept - Engl. - sam, 15/08/2015 - 15:37

James Baldwin’s FBI file contains 1,884 pages of documents, collected from 1960 until the early 1970s. During that era of illegal surveillance of American writers, the FBI accumulated 276 pages on Richard Wright, 110 pages on Truman Capote, and just nine pages on Henry Miller. Baldwin’s file was closer in size to activists and radicals of the day — for example, it’s nearly half as thick as Malcolm X’s.

In his new biography, All Those Strangers, Douglas Field decodes these files with great literary and historical finesse. Baldwin often said that his relation to politics was that of a “witness,” but he was vehemently stalked, harassed and even censored by the FBI. Field asserts that after looking through Baldwin’s FBI file, it’s clear his phone was tapped and that government agents, posing as publishers or car salesmen, followed him as he traveled to France, Britain and Italy.

The biography has landed at a particularly sharp moment in our awareness of government surveillance. We now have not only the National Security Agency and its global spying, but the FBI and local law enforcement agencies targeting political activists, such as supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement. And the NYPD, for instance, has its own counterterrorism unit that has surveilled entire communities.

Why did the FBI spy on Baldwin? He was a novelist, essayist and critic, one of the most distinguished writers and thinkers of his time. His skin was black, his sexuality fluid, and his politics tended toward the left, a combination that was enough to turn him into a target for the FBI.

Yet looking at his FBI file, even the most basic facts of his life are riddled with inaccuracies. There is, for instance, a description of Baldwin as “white, early 20s, 6′, neat.” In another file, Baldwin is listed as the author of “Go Tell It to the Mountains” and “Another World.” His first and third novels are in fact titled Go Tell It On The Mountain and Another Country. Such baffling errors read like a precursor to the ways in which bulk collection of metadata today often results in wellsprings of misinformation.

Baldwin’s dossier reads like a long, poorly written novel itself — it is, in every sense, fiction produced by the state.

The FBI is not alone in trying, albeit comically at times, to identify Baldwin’s fingerprint. His critics and detractors were almost always obsessed with categorizing him too neatly, labeling him a black writer, a gay writer, a religious or a secular writer, an American or an expat. Field’s book as a whole poses the argument that Baldwin’s irreverent humanism evades simple literary detection, and the formerly classified documents fit soundly, even crudely, into this line of thought.

Baldwin is one of those few literary figures who incites commentary in whatever age he’s read, by whomever reads him. Over the course of the last few years, for example, his essays on police brutality (“the police are simply the hired enemies of this population,” he wrote) have been analyzed and instrumentalized for their prescience; they fit into Baldwin’s time as well as ours. The FBI documents have a modern cadence because the injustices of the past have only undergone light revisions.

The FBI’s interest in Baldwin began in 1960 when he was “connected with several Communist Party front groups.” In the following decade, Baldwin was targeted additionally for his ties to civil rights and black power movements. A note from a 1968 document concludes that Baldwin “had joined a growing movement of prominent individuals supporting the struggle of Oakland’s Black Panther Party.” Baldwin befriended some of the most famous black intellectuals and activists of the day, such as Harry Belafonte, Lorraine Hansberry and Nina Simone. He was writing at a time when the FBI, under the directorship of J. Edgar Hoover, opened files on some 250 artists, and also at the height of the FBI’s struggle against the Panthers and other black nationalists, through what would be later revealed as its Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO).

Baldwin was incredibly open about his stance on state surveillance. He once called Hoover “history’s most highly paid (and most utterly useless) voyeur.” He also wrote about his experience of being accosted by two agents: In his essay The Devil Finds Work, he wrote that in 1945 the agents walked him out of a diner, stood him against a wall and showered verbal abuse on him, under the pretense of trying to track down a deserter from the Marine Corps. In 1963, he contributed to the satirical collection A Quarter-Century of Un-Americana: A Tragi-comical Memorabilia of HUAC, in which he referred to the House Un-American Activities Committee as “one of the most sinister facts of the national life.” That same year, Baldwin told the New York Times, “I blame J. Edgar Hoover in part for events in Alabama. Negroes have no cause to have faith in the FBI.”

What is perhaps most interesting about the Baldwin dossier is that it reads like a long, poorly written novel itself — it is, in every sense, fiction produced by the state. Field notes that Baldwin’s FBI files, with their rampant inaccuracies, whited-out passages, and oddball observations “resemble difficult modernist texts.” This is generous of Field and points to the intellectual isolation of these documents. To me, the FBI texts are so stilted and boring that they read more like a blathering source code, the chaotic backend of an intelligence that tries to project ideological coherence at all times. There is perhaps a kind of logic to them, though recognizable only to those in the agency.

In contrast, Baldwin’s language — rife with the contradictions of an artist pushing at his limits — will always contain parts unknown, and remain a difficult, rewarding subject of criticism. It’s a sort of literary encryption, but with the tantalizing promise of revelation.

Hannah K. Gold is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer.

The post Why Did the FBI Spy on James Baldwin? appeared first on The Intercept.

Bland Monster Jeb Bush “Proud” of His Brother’s Torturing People

The Intercept - Engl. - ven, 14/08/2015 - 20:19

Maybe you’ve seen that Jeb Bush has refused to rule out more torture if he’s elected president. But what’s gone unnoticed — perhaps because Bush is so dreary it’s hard to listen to him without losing consciousness — is he actually said he’s “proud” of his brother’s torture policies.

BUSH: I do think, in general, that torture is not appropriate. It’s not as effective, uh, and the change of policy that my brother did and was then put into executive order form by the president was the proper thing to do. I also would say that right after 9/11, I mean, we were attacked, and, uh, my presid — my brother — and I’m not saying this because I’m a Bush, I’m saying this because I love this country just like everybody in this room — I’m proud of what he did to create a secure environment for our country.

Here are just a few of the things that Jeb Bush is “proud” of:

• The torture of people who were victims of mistaken identity. This included Khalid el-Masri, a German citizen, who was picked up in Macedonia while on vacation and then flown to Afghanistan’s “Salt Pit” black site, where the CIA proudly tortured him. When the CIA realized they had the wrong person, they flew him to Albania and proudly dumped him on the side of the road. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture made a “conservative calculation” that 22 percent of the CIA detainees were cases of proud, mistaken identity.

• Around 100 U.S. prisoners died during interrogations. A CIA interrogator proudly told a detainee he would never go on trial because “we can never let the world know what I have done to you.”

• The proud tradition of waterboarding, proudly embraced by his brother, was also a favorite torture method of Imperial Japan during World War II, Latin American dictatorships, and Cambodia’s genocidal Khmer Rouge. The U.S. convicted a Japanese officer of war crimes for using it. Many of the torture techniques used by the CIA and the military were proudly modeled on Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain false confessions from American prisoners.

• The CIA proudly subjected at least five prisoners to “rectal rehydration” or “rectal feeding.” According to the Senate report, one prisoner’s lunch of “hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts, and raisins was ‘pureed’ and rectally infused,” thus creating a secure environment for our country.

• An FBI interrogator explained in 2008 that U.S. torture policies had proudly “helped to recruit a new generation of jihadist martyrs” and predicted that “a day of reckoning will come.” Cherif Kouachi, one of the two brothers who killed the staff of Charlie Hebdo, was motivated to become a jihadist by the U.S. torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Despite all this, it should not go unnoticed that during Bush’s pro-torture remarks he was wearing a very nice, understated tie.

The post Bland Monster Jeb Bush “Proud” of His Brother’s Torturing People appeared first on The Intercept.

It’s Not The First Time Military Reporters Have Fought The Pentagon Over Wartime Reporting

The Intercept - Engl. - ven, 14/08/2015 - 18:20

The Pentagon’s massive new Law of War Manual drew criticism from the New York Times editorial board on Monday for its section on how to treat journalists, which the Times said would “make their work more dangerous, cumbersome and subject to censorship.”

The manual delineates the military’s power to embed journalists with U.S troops, censor their work, and even deem them “unprivileged belligerents” should they be suspected of somehow spying for, or supporting the work of, the enemy. Legally, people deemed “unprivileged belligerents” are no longer considered civilians, and are afforded even fewer protections than actual combatants.

The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed concern that the manual would allow for arbitrary detention of journalists as well as lower the bar on freedom of the press internationally, in a time when a record number of reporters are being murdered and captured abroad. In particular, for reporters who write critically of U.S. efforts, the line between spy or insurgent and journalist might become blurred.

Organizations representing military and foreign correspondents are also raising concerns about the new legal guidelines. The Military Reporters and Editors Association announced this week that it intends to contact the Pentagon to urge them to revise the guidelines.

“To seasoned journalists who have found resistance by the military to embedding and access to troops on the front lines, they aren’t too sure if [the “unprivileged belligerents” label] doesn’t apply to them,” Isaac Cubillos, vice president of the association, told The Intercept.

It’s not the first time military reporters groups, alongside many media outlets, has fought the Pentagon for its treatment of journalists. There’s a long history of tension between military reporters and the Pentagon, whose relationship crumbled during the Vietnam War, leading to decades of battles over press access to war zones and government meddling in coverage.

Just six years ago, Stars and Stripes, an independent Pentagon-funded news outlet, revealed that the Department of Defense had hired a PR firm to vet journalists hoping to travel to Afghanistan and report on the war.

The Rendon Group was hired to assemble profiles of the reporters — ranking the slant of their previous work toward the U.S. military as “positive,” “negative,” or “neutral.” A U.S. military spokesperson, Air Force Capt. Elizabeth Mathias, said at the time that the profiles helped the military “know with whom we’re working,” and prepare for specific interviews, but most media outlets and activist organizations saw it as unprecedented meddling in a free press.

The Pentagon and the Rendon Group insisted that the profiles never led to reporters being blacklisted from working overseas, but several war correspondents contested that narrative, including one Stars and Stripes reporter, Heath Druzin, who said that he was barred from covering a certain unit in Mosul, Iraq, because he “refused to highlight” good news. Jason Motlagh, Time’s former Kabul correspondent, said he was accidentally included on an email containing his own Rendon assessment, which concluded that his stories were 6 percent positive. A day later, he was denied his embed request “without explanation,” he wrote.

Media outlets and activists were also concerned by the Pentagon’s choice of the Rendon Group, which had been accused of tracking foreign reporters, advising foreign governments on how to deal with the media, and pushing pro-U.S. military content for the Bush administration, for tens of millions of dollars.

By September 2009, the Pentagon killed its contract with Rendon, saying the firm’s controversial past and involvement in the embed process was distracting from the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

Caption: Journalists embedded with the U.S. Military in Kuwait City in 2003. 

The post It’s Not The First Time Military Reporters Have Fought The Pentagon Over Wartime Reporting appeared first on The Intercept.

Acoustic Cannon Sales to Police Surge After Black Lives Matter Protests

The Intercept - Engl. - ven, 14/08/2015 - 18:12

During a company conference call with financial analysts last week, Tom Brown, the chief executive of LRAD, a military contractor, informed investors that sales were rolling in, not just from Chinese government agencies and the U.S. Navy, but also from American law enforcement.

LRAD manufactures an acoustic cannon that can be used either as a mounted loudspeaker or as a weapon to fire deafening noises at crowds of people.

Over the last year, following a wave of protests over officer-involved killings of black Americans, LRAD has seen an uptick in inquiries from police departments around the country.

Brown told financial analysts in a May conference call about the “renewed interest” from police departments. “A lot of grant money starts to flow to law enforcement, and we’re getting a lot of inquiries” following protests, he said. One inquiry he mentioned came from the Maryland Sheriff’s Department following the protests in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray.

Speaking to investors, LRAD executives explained that their product was on site in Baltimore, on loan from Montgomery County, Maryland, though officers ended up not using it on demonstrators. But, the LRAD executives added, the New York Police Department used the cannon as a loudspeaker to order demonstrators in Union Square who were holding a solidarity protest in support of the Baltimore actions to disperse.

Videos of the NYPD using the LRAD cannon to manage the demonstrators were widely circulated on YouTube, company officials boasted. “So we have been getting good press,” Brown noted, adding, “depending on which side of the press you’re looking at, but we’ve been getting very strong press from law enforcement.”

Listen to the LRAD investor call below:

Notably, the LRAD-100X was deployed against Ferguson protesters last year, and has made appearances at other Black Lives Matter events over the last 12 months. In Ferguson, the LRAD cannon was fired on protesters who had assembled in the street.

The LRAD device can reach 152 decibels, a level that can cause permanent hearing damage. In December, Vice reported on the potential dangers of the LRAD cannon, noting, “Permanent hearing loss begins with a sustained sound that’s louder than 90 dB SPL — for example, a subway train 200 feet away — but you won’t start to feel immediate pain until 120 decibels, about the loudness of a shotgun blast. At 160 dB — a little less loud than a rocket launch — your eardrum will burst.”

Local law enforcement agencies have been courted by a range of companies hoping to sell next-generation crowd control and surveillance technology. In September 2014, just after the protests in Ferguson, the Military Policy Expo, a convention for companies supplying law enforcement, hosted an event in Ford Leonard Wood, Missouri, for vendors to “showcase their products.”

Caption: A police officer holds an LRAD sound cannon during a protest in New York City in November.

The post Acoustic Cannon Sales to Police Surge After Black Lives Matter Protests appeared first on The Intercept.

Die Strassen gehören uns, nicht die Gehwege

Indymedia antimil - ven, 14/08/2015 - 15:52
von: Stalinallee am: 14.08.2015 - 15:52

Eine von uns liegt im Koma, weil ein voll cooler Biker mal wieder viel zu feige war auf der Strasse zu fahren macht bis zum

German Foreign Policy - ven, 14/08/2015 - 00:00 macht bis zum 30. August 2015 Redaktionsferien. Danach liefern wir wieder in gewohnter Regelmäßigkeit Nachrichten, Dokumente, Rezensionen und Interviews. Bitte greifen Sie bis dahin auf unser Archiv zurück. Angenehme Sommertage wünscht Ihnen die Redaktion

Jeb Bush, Hosted By Defense Contractor-Backed Group, Calls Iraq War “A Pretty Good Deal”

The Intercept - Engl. - jeu, 13/08/2015 - 23:13

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said today that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein was a “pretty good deal.”

Bush was speaking at an event sponsored by Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security (APPS), a group formed and backed by a number of people associated with major defense contractors.

Video of Bush’s remark was posted online by an attendee of the event:

According to journalist Alan He, Bush also criticized efforts to reform the National Security Agency’s dragnet metadata surveillance program, telling the audience, that it was a “mistake to repeal the metadata provisions of the Patriot Act.”

As The Intercept previously reported, the APPS is advised by Raytheon’s Stephen Hadley, BAE Systems’ Rich Ashooh, former SAIC chief executive Walt Havenstein, among other defense contractors and defense industry lobbyists. APPS was formed earlier this year as a pressure group to “help elect a president who supports American engagement and a strong foreign policy.”

APPS, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, does not disclose its donor information. The chairman of the group, former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., a hawkish politician who has called for greater U.S. military involvement in a number of conflicts around the world, now works for a number of private interests, though he has refused to disclose them.

Costs associated with the war in Iraq, including medical treatment for war veterans, could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next decade, according to a study by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. The war killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civillians, as well as nearly 8,000 U.S. forces and contractors, according to the study.

The period following 9/11, including the war in Iraq,  has been a boon for the defense contracting industry. From 2001 through 2010, the stock prices of major defense firms surged 67 percent as the U.S. increased defense spending to manage the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well new homeland security spending.

The post Jeb Bush, Hosted By Defense Contractor-Backed Group, Calls Iraq War “A Pretty Good Deal” appeared first on The Intercept.

David Hyde, the Unpaid U.N. Intern Who Lived in a Tent, Tells His Story

The Intercept - Engl. - jeu, 13/08/2015 - 22:55

David Hyde, a 22-year-old from New Zealand, became an international media sensation this week after a Swiss newspaper described how, as an unpaid intern at the United Nations, he couldn’t afford a place to stay and was living out of a tent on the shore of Lake Geneva.

More than any number of previous attempts to call attention to the U.N.’s unpaid internship program, Hyde’s story launched a worldwide conversation about the implications of only hiring people who can support themselves in high-cost cities like Geneva and New York — and whether that essentially makes access to a key stepping-stone to a career in diplomacy and international policy available only to the children of the wealthy.

Hyde, who quit the internship this week, didn’t allege that he was forced to live in a tent. But he also didn’t fully describe his motivation. Here is his story:

Like so many others across the world, I have always believed that unpaid internships are unjust. But for many of us it feels like doing an unpaid internship (or two) is necessary in order to get a real job. Internships have fallen through the cracks in our moral codes and legal systems. But because it is known that there is a group of young people who have the ability to work for free, the system continues.

I have always wanted to pursue a career in the international field, and to do so it seemed that an internship was necessary (or at least highly desirable). At the same time, I strongly believed that unpaid internships are unjust because they further perpetuate inequality.

The hypocrisy was so clear to me — here are organizations like the United Nations, dedicated to human rights and fighting against inequality. Yet, the U.N.’s internship policy seemed to clearly contradict the values it claimed to stand for.

Seeing no possible alternative, I tried to ignore my qualms and began to apply. After a long night spent writing cover letters and searching job websites, I gave up. It is somewhat degrading spending hours trying your best to convince people to let you work for them for free. For six months. In some of the most expensive cities in the world.

Frustrated, I talked to my girlfriend (who is Swiss but unfortunately does not live in Geneva) who was also in the process of applying for many similar positions. And we started brainstorming what to do to try and change this.

The idea we came up with was simple. I would take an unpaid internship and do the job. But at the same time we would work to raise awareness on the issue and make a documentary about the subject.

After months of applying, there was some positive news. I had been accepted for an internship in Geneva … but not entirely based on honest terms. When interviewed for the position, I was clearly asked if I would be able to fully fund myself in Geneva for the six-month duration. I said yes, but my bank account clearly said no.

I looked up some studios and room shares to see the sorts of prices I would be paying in Geneva and it was clear that it would be too expensive for me.

I needed a solution. The answer was fairly simple. I would live in a tent.

It seemed that in doing so I could hit two birds with one stone: It was an affordable way to live in Geneva with my limited funds — and the fact that a U.N. intern was living in a tent could help to raise awareness on the issue.

When I started the job I had no idea that little over a week later I would be international news.

On a personal level, I truly enjoyed working at the U.N. I had nothing but warmth from those I worked alongside and many people that I spoke to shared my beliefs about internships.

After a week, I began to think of what I could do to raise awareness. And so I arranged for my situation to be leaked to the media. The intention was to spark a small discussion in Geneva on intern rights and get the media reporting on the issue. However, the response was more than I could have ever planned for or expected.

At work, I felt terribly compromised. Because of the scale the story has reached, I became increasingly worried that my actions would have repercussions for those I worked alongside who had been nothing but supportive. And so I made the decision to resign.

I would like to comment on the outstanding support that the people of Geneva showed me through all of this. I was truly touched. A reporter told me that a New Zealander had been in touch and was offering me a place to stay. The reporter gave me the email address and, still unsure of what to do about this generosity, I said I might follow it up. In the end, I decided to decline these kind offers and go and stay with my girlfriend, 100 kilometers away.

What I think the outpouring of support showed was that people feel a responsibility to help interns — a responsibility that should not lie with these kind people but rather with the organizations and companies who employ us in the first place.

The entire situation had become a million times bigger than I ever intended. And I was terribly conflicted.

I was happy to see that after my resignation, the media moved their focus from me to the wider issue of intern rights. And I was worried that if I came clean with my intentions right away, it would take the spotlight away from the real issue and compromise the opportunity for interns across the world to have their problems publicized and addressed. The bigger picture is what’s really important.

However I feel that now is the moment to state these things clearly. Yes, I worked as an intern at the United Nations. Yes, I lived in a tent in Geneva. Yes, I could not afford to support myself for the duration of the internship. Yes, I wanted to raise awareness on the subject. Yes, I chose to live in the tent because of the powerful imagery I knew it would provide.

Could I have ever imagined that this would become what it has? Absolutely not.

Ban-Ki Moon’s spokesperson has made a clear statement denouncing internships as a form of economic discrimination. International organizations have approached interns to discuss the possibility of introducing some form of remuneration. And many articles that examine the wider issue have been published in the media. I’m sure that intern organizations across the world will now be working to turn this talk into action.

I know that in the coming days I may be criticized for what I did. Some may try to discredit me and make me look like an extremist. But there is nothing extreme about what I hoped to achieve: a recognition of the rights interns deserve.

Was what I did justifiable? Perhaps it is too soon to tell. The fact is that a story like this has not come up before for a key reason: People from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are unable to do these internships in the first place.

In its response to my story, the United Nations office in Geneva shared a report that found its internship program was “positive for all involved.” My story has helped to show the side of those ignored by this report who cannot afford to be involved.

My intention was to do an internship and call attention to the issue of intern rights. I am no longer doing an internship, but intern rights have certainly been put in the spotlight. Whether what I did was justified should only be answered by young people who are affected by the current internship reality. Let them be the judge.

The post David Hyde, the Unpaid U.N. Intern Who Lived in a Tent, Tells His Story appeared first on The Intercept.

Citizens United Means Wealthy, White Donors Dominate 2016 Presidential Fundraising

The Intercept - Engl. - jeu, 13/08/2015 - 20:11

Though the American population is becoming more and more diverse, the presidential candidates are being bankrolled by a pool of very wealthy donors, the vast majority of whom are white.

The trend is driven in part by Citizens United and related campaign finance court decisions that deregulated much of the campaign finance system. With the exception of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, who has rejected Super PAC support on principle, all of the major presidential candidates are relying on big money donors to finance their presidential aspirations.

Out of over 50 individual donors who gave $1 million or more to the SuperPACs supporting the current field of presidential candidates, only four are nonwhite. And with the exception of a $2.5 million contribution by a company owned by Cuban-American Benjamin Leon, all of the corporate entities that gave $1 million or more to Super PACs are owned or run by white executives.

The New York Times recently reported that just “130 or so families and their businesses provided more than half the money raised through June by Republican candidates and their super PACs.”

And it’s not just the Super PACs, though they are providing the bulk of the money for the race next year. Research compiled by the campaign finance reform group Every Voice suggests traditional campaign donations skew heavily to wealthy white neighborhoods.

As Every Voice pointed out, just three wealthy, largely white zip codes around Central Park gave more to the presidential candidates than all of the majority black zip codes in the entire country.

“As it becomes more and more important in elections to court mega-donors and the ultra-wealthy, candidates will become more and more dependent on the favor of a narrow, unrepresentative sample of Americans for their success,” says Tam Doan, Research Director for Every Voice.

Activists have expressed frustration that politicians in Washington, particularly in Congress, have failed to hold investigations into police-involved killings of African Americans. In April, as demonstrators in Baltimore called for the federal government to bring relief to poverty-striken neighborhoods and clamp down on militarized law enforcement, lawmakers in Washington instead moved to boost spending on the F-35 and other pet projects requested by the defense contracting industry.

“Elections funded primarily by wealthy, white donors mean that candidates as a whole are less likely to prioritize the needs of people of color,” notes a report from Demos.

Publicly funded elections and small donor matching programs would provide an incentive for politicians to listen to the needs of a broader, more diverse donor base.

“Strong public financing systems reduce the incentive to go to wealthy donors while increasing the incentive to go to everyday people, especially in your own district,” says Every Voice’s Doan.

The post Citizens United Means Wealthy, White Donors Dominate 2016 Presidential Fundraising appeared first on The Intercept.

Hunger-Striking Detainee Tests Obama’s Will to Close Guantánamo

The Intercept - Engl. - jeu, 13/08/2015 - 15:59

Since the age of 23, Tariq Ba-Odah has been detained at the U.S. prison facility at Guantánamo Bay. Never charged with a crime, Ba-Odah went on hunger strike eight years ago to protest his indefinite detention, as well as the brutal treatment he is alleged to have suffered at the hands of his captors.

Now a 36-year-old man, Ba-Odah weighs less than 75 pounds. Despite having been cleared for release by a multi-agency review board in 2009, he remains behind bars with his release still a subject of legal wrangling by the Obama administration. In response to his rapidly deteriorating physical condition, his lawyers recently filed a petition for habeas corpus, citing the U.S. government’s legal obligations to free seriously ill prisoners.

Last week, Justice Department lawyers asked for an extension in the deadline to respond to his habeas filing. A New York Times article published at the time cited an interagency conflict between the State Department and Department of Defense as contributing to Ba-Odah’s continued legal predicament. An article published Monday by the Daily Beast, citing anonymous White House sources, purported to explain the nature of this dispute further, suggesting that Defense Secretary Ash Carter is refusing to sign release orders for the 52 Gitmo prisoners who have been cleared for repatriation or resettlement, not wanting to take responsibility for their possible future actions.

Both the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense declined to comment to The Intercept on the specifics of Ba-Odah’s case, while the DoD stated, “We are taking all practicable steps to reduce the detainee population at Guantánamo. … Unfortunately, this process can be slowed unnecessarily by burdensome legislative provisions.”

Omar Farah, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is representing Ba-Odah, says that the responsibility for his continued incarceration lies with President Obama. “For so long the president has complained that Congress has tied his hands on Guantánamo, but this is a case where he could directly and unilaterally instruct the Department of Justice to not contest Ba-Odah’s habeas petition and he has refused to do it,” Farah says. “We will know how serious Obama is on Friday when the Department of Justice either agrees not to contest Ba-Odah’s case, or fights on Obama’s behalf to hold him at Guantánamo even longer despite his desperate condition.”

The Pentagon Monday said that it was planning to submit a proposal for the closure of Guantánamo for congressional approval, following the August recess. Any such proposal, however, would have to be predicated on rapidly releasing prisoners, like Ba-Odah, who have already been cleared for release. The dispute over Ba-Odah calls into question this plan.

The heart of the dispute in Ba-Odah’s case is believed to be his physical deterioration, which is the result of a hunger strike. Like several other Guantánamo prisoners, Ba-Odah has refused to eat or drink, in protest of his continued indefinite detention. In response, the government has for years subjected him to a force-feeding procedure that it maintains is both healthy and medically appropriate. The government has also fought tenaciously to keep it from public scrutiny.

Last month, a frustrated judge ordered the government to release video footage of the feeding sessions, characterizing repeated government appeals on this issue as “frivolous.”

There is precedent for releasing prisoners in grave medical condition. In 2013, Ibrahim Othman Ibrahim Idris was released from Guantánamo on medical grounds, after the government chose not to oppose a habeas petition by his lawyers that cited his “severe long-term mental illness and physical illness.” However, to do the same in Ba-Odah’s case would amount to an admission by the government that its controversial force-feeding program is ineffective at keeping hunger-striking prisoners in proper physical health. Despite force-feeding Ba-Odah for years, he is wasting away, with doctors stating that his body is cannibalizing its own internal organs for sustenance.

Farah says that on his last visit to see him in July, Ba-Odah was in “disastrous” physical condition, and that continued government contestation of his habeas petition could end up being tantamount to a death sentence. “The government has maintained that it can maintain the health of hunger-striking prisoners by force-feeding them, something that Ba-Odah’s condition clearly disproves,” Farah says. “His case in particular brings to light some of the darkest failings of Guantánamo.”

Caption: U.S. Army Military Police escort a detainee to his cell, Camp X-Ray.

The post Hunger-Striking Detainee Tests Obama’s Will to Close Guantánamo appeared first on The Intercept.

SEC Admits It’s Not Monitoring Stock Buybacks to Prevent Market Manipulation

The Intercept - Engl. - jeu, 13/08/2015 - 15:08

The Securities and Exchange Commission has admitted that it has no ability to enforce the main rule intended to prevent market manipulation when companies buy back their own stock, and has no intention to do so,

SEC Chair Mary Jo White made the acknowledgement in a response to Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), who queried the agency about stock buybacks. Baldwin is one of a growing number of politicians – including presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders – who are citing buybacks as an example of deliberate financial engineering that bolsters concentration of wealth and keeps working-class wages stagnant.

Stock buybacks are an increasingly common practice in which corporations take profits, and instead of investing in facilities, research and development, or boosting worker wages,  buy shares of their own stock on the open market, thereby boosting demand and driving up its price. Companies bought back over half a trillion dollars’ worth of their own shares last year.

The practice creates short-term rewards for executives who are paid in stock and stock options, and benefit from an increased price. They also make corporate earnings look better by reducing outstanding shares and increasing the commonly reported ratio of earnings-per-share.

Prior to the Reagan era, executives avoided buybacks due to fears that they would be prosecuted for market manipulation. But under SEC Rule 10b-18, adopted in 1982, companies receive a “safe harbor” from market manipulation liability on stock buybacks if they adhere to four limitations: not engaging in buybacks at the beginning or end of the trading day, using a single broker for the trades, purchasing shares at the prevailing market price, and limiting the volume of buybacks to 25 percent of the average daily trading volume over the previous four weeks.

In White’s letter to Baldwin, dated July 13, she admits that the SEC doesn’t collect data that would let it know whether companies breach even these generous limits. “Performing data analyses for issuer stock repurchases presents significant challenges,” White writes, “because detailed trading data regarding repurchases is not currently available.”

Initially, Rule 10b-18 didn’t include any disclosure whatsoever on the part of companies. A 2004 revision requires companies to report monthly buyback totals at the end of each quarter, as part of their 10-Q SEC disclosures. But they do not have to disclose how much they repurchase on a particular day.

“The companies have that information, but the SEC doesn’t collect it,” said William Lazonick, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, who has done extensive research on buybacks, and who provided the White letter to The Intercept.

White writes in her letter that the rule is not really a rule at all. Baldwin’s “letter asks for a list of all investigations undertaken by the SEC into possible violations of Rule 10b-18,” White writes, but “Because Rule 10b-18 is a voluntary safe harbor, issuers cannot violate this rule.”

“I wouldn’t have thought that she would put it that way but she said it,” said Lazonick.

White is technically correct, but if the SEC paid any attention to when the corporations left the “safe harbor,” they could then investigate them for market manipulation.

In her agency’s defense, White listed a number of SEC enforcement actions against stock market manipulation, including “pump and dump” schemes where a company makes false statements to boost its stock price. But none of the four cases White listed involved stock buybacks. In the three decades since Rule 10b-18 has been in effect, investigations into buybacks have been “exceedingly rare,” according to Lazonick.

Rule 10b-18 was shepherded through the SEC by former E.F. Hutton executive John Shad, when he served as SEC chairman. “Shad believed that it you put burdensome reporting requirements on companies it impedes the operation of the capital markets,” Lazonick said. “The rule was a license to manipulate the market.”

In a statement to The Intercept, Senator Baldwin said, “While I am concerned that the SEC lacks the tools to properly evaluate this issue, I am also disappointed that the SEC’s official response does so little to even acknowledge the stock buyback phenomenon we are seeing in financial markets.”

Last year, companies spent $553 billion to repurchase outstanding shares, just short of the record $589.1 billion in 2007. Large companies like Apple, General Motors, McDonald’s, Pfizer, Microsoft and more have engaged in buybacks in recent years.

Returning profits to shareholders through buybacks and dividends accounted for 95 percent of all earnings in 2014. As a result, each additional dollar of corporate earnings now translates to under 10 cents of reinvestment, according to a study by J.W. Mason of the Roosevelt Institute.

Baldwin tried to attach an amendment to the appropriations bill for financial services agencies requiring the SEC to conduct a study on buybacks, including whether rules like 10b-18 encourage them. But the Republican majority blocked the amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee on July 23.

In the presidential race, Bernie Sanders called attention to buybacks in an op-ed in the Boston Globe in June, stating “we must demand an end to stock buybacks.” Hillary Clinton also highlighted the buyback issue in her critique of “quarterly capitalism,” vowing to increase disclosure by forcing companies to deliver information on their buybacks within one day.

Lazonick said he doesn’t believe Clinton’s plan goes far enough. “The practice is the problem,” he said, arguing instead for the repeal of Rule 10b-18 and an end to corporations repurchasing their own shares. “More disclosure might start a discussion about what manipulation is, but we’re way beyond that. Why not recognize that this is manipulation, and say this is something we shouldn’t allow?”

Read the letter here:

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The post SEC Admits It’s Not Monitoring Stock Buybacks to Prevent Market Manipulation appeared first on The Intercept.

Auf die Flucht getrieben (IV)

German Foreign Policy - jeu, 13/08/2015 - 00:00
(Eigener Bericht) - Deutschland trägt maßgebliche Mitverantwortung für die Ursachen der Flucht zehntausender Menschen aus dem Kosovo. Dies belegt eine Analyse der Entwicklung in dem Sezessionsgebiet seit dem NATO-Überfall im Jahr 1999, dessen Vorbereitung unter führender Mitwirkung der Bundesrepublik geschah. Auch die anschließende Besatzung des Kosovo haben deutsche Politiker in leitenden Positionen mitgestaltet. Dabei haben sie geholfen, Kommandeure und Kämpfer der Mafiamiliz UÇK in Priština an die Macht zu bringen, unter deren Herrschaft sich international scharf kritisierte soziale Verhältnisse herausgebildet haben. In einem Bericht des Europäischen Rechnungshofs hieß es etwa im Jahr 2012, die Organisierte Kriminalität bestehe im Kosovo auf "hohem Niveau" fort; im Europarat wurden sogar höchstrangige Politiker, darunter ein langjähriger Ministerpräsident, der Mafia zugerechnet. Die Armut grassiert; rund ein Sechstel aller Kinder leidet wegen Mangelernährung an Wachstumsstörungen - nach ungefähr 16 Jahren von NATO und EU geführter Besatzung, die maßgeblich von Berlin mitgestaltet wurde. Ohne Rücktransfers von Exil-Kosovaren könnten zahlreiche kosovarische Familien wohl nicht überleben. Allein im ersten Halbjahr 2015 haben mehr als 28.600 Kosovaren keine andere Chance gesehen, als in Deutschland Asyl zu beantragen - faktisch ohne Aussicht aus Erfolg. Berlin bemüht sich nun um Wege zu ihrer schnelleren Abschiebung.

CIA Torture Tactics Reemerge in New York Prison

The Intercept - Engl. - mer, 12/08/2015 - 23:04

Over 60 inmates at New York’s Clinton Correctional Facility have complained of abuse by prison guards in the wake of the June escape of convicted killers David Sweat and Richard Matt.

According to a New York Times report, they allege that the prison staff interrogated them by beating them, placing them in solitary confinement, and in at least one inmate’s case, throwing a bag over his head and threatening to waterboard him.

Hearing about the domestic use of tactics so similar to those used by the CIA on suspected terrorists during the Bush administration, the Reverend Ron Stief, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, made the obvious connection.

“Faith and human rights leaders who worked to stop the CIA’s torture program have long feared its corroding influence on our civilian authorities,” he said in a statement. “These events prove that we must fight the torture of Americans here at home just as we have fought the use of torture abroad.”

Stief told The Intercept that the New York State legislature should launch a comprehensive investigation into the behavior of its prison employees, modeled after the Senate’s investigation of the CIA.

“The Department of Corrections needs to stand in and say, ‘You cannot do this ever. Torture is always wrong,'” he said. “It’s not the kind of thing you can use under certain circumstances.”

The Senate recently voted to outlaw many of the specific tactics used by the CIA.

Stief said the use of solitary confinement — common in some prison systems — is another form of torture.

The National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union has sued many prisons and jails for inhumane treatment of prisoners, including “savage beatings” in Los Angeles County Jails, “grotesquely filthy” conditions in a Mississippi prison, and inadequate access to health care in many locations.

The post CIA Torture Tactics Reemerge in New York Prison appeared first on The Intercept.

As Turkey Bombed Anti-ISIS Fighters, It Hired Lobbying Firm Tied to 2016 Candidates

The Intercept - Engl. - mer, 12/08/2015 - 22:58

On July 24, Turkey launched a massive military campaign that included sweeping attacks against Kurdish forces as well as minor strikes on Islamic State positions south of Turkey’s border. Just five days later, the Turkish government inked a contract to hire a team of prominent lobbyists to add to its already formidable army of influence-peddlers in Washington.

The contract, revealed Wednesday in a filing with the Justice Department, shows that the law and lobbying firm Squire Patton Boggs was retained on July 29 on a $32,000 a month retainer — as a subcontractor to Gephardt Government Affairs, acting for Turkey on its own 10-month, $1.7 million contract.

Squire Patton Boggs is no ordinary lobbying firm. It is among the highest grossing firms inside the Beltway, with a roster of former senior government officials and lawmakers. Individuals from the firm are now helping to fundraise for Jeb Bush and are among the top 20 donors to Hillary Clinton over the course of her political career.

As we reported last month, Turkey has quietly used its hired political muscle to influence the U.S. war on the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, including a lobbying effort aimed at preventing U.S. military aide to Peshmerga forces, which have collaborated with other Kurdish militas against ISIS. Though American military commanders view the Kurdish fighters associated with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, as the most effective forces against ISIS, Turkey’s political leaders view PKK and other Kurdish militias as an existential threat.

Turkey’s decision to allow American military planes to use two air bases there led American officials to express support for Turkey, even as it ramped up its bombing campaign against Kurdish forces.

The lobbying registration documents show that Turkey will now be assisted by a Squire Patton Boggs team that includes former Sens. Trent Lott and John Breaux, along with former White House official Robert Kapla and former Republican congressional aide Bret Boyles.

The team from Squire Patton Boggs joins a small army of lobbyists employed by Turkey. They include former Democratic lawmakers Dick Gephardt and Al Wynn; former Republican Senator Tim Hutchinson; retired Central Intelligence Agency Director Porter Goss; former Democratic aide Brian Fornil; the law firm Greenberg Traurig; and Goldin Solutions, a media strategy firm. The Turkish government also uses a number of affiliated nonprofits to organize pro-Turkey publicity events and to organize vacation-style junkets for American journalists, politicians and other influential individuals.

Caption: A demonstration denouncing a police operation against Kurdish militants in Istanbul.

The post As Turkey Bombed Anti-ISIS Fighters, It Hired Lobbying Firm Tied to 2016 Candidates appeared first on The Intercept.

Syrien: Türkei erwägt Einsatz von Bodentruppen - mer, 12/08/2015 - 19:38

Von SEBASTIAN RANGE, 12. August 2015 -

Während die Gewalt in der Türkei eskaliert, schließt der türkische Ministerpräsident Ahmet Davutoğlu eine Entsendung von Bodentruppen nach Syrien nicht mehr aus, um im Grenzgebiet eine sogenannte Pufferzone zu schaffen, wie er in einem Interview gegenüber der BBC erklärte. (1)

Das dafür vorgesehene Gebiet soll einen rund einhundert Kilometer langen und fünfzig Kilometer breiten Streifen entlang der Grenze zur Türkei umfassen. Es wird gegenwärtig vom „Islamischen Staat“ (IS) und anderen islamistischen Terrorgruppen kontrolliert. Dem „IS“ dient es als Nachschubroute in die Türkei. Auch eine der wichtigsten Einnahmequellen der Terrormiliz, der Ölverkauf in die Türkei, hängt



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