Deutschland und andere EU-Staaten haben eine Entscheidung über den weiteren Einsatz des Unkrautgiftes Glyphosat in Europa vorerst verhindert. Da die nötige Mehrheit unter den Vertretern der EU-Staaten am Donnerstag in Brüssel nicht zustande gekommen wäre, wurde erst gar nicht abgestimmt. Die Kommission brachte nun eine Übergangsregelung ins Spiel. Bis Dienstagabend sollen sich die Mitgliedsstaaten dazu äußern.
Wenn sich die Mitgliedsstaaten nicht einigen, läuft die Zulassung Ende Juni ersatzlos aus. Anschließend könnten Bestände der umstrittenen Chemikalie aber noch bis zu anderthalb Jahre lang weiterverkauft werden. Agrarminister Christian Schmidt (CSU) sagte, man werde den Vorschlag aus Brüssel prüfen, sobald er eingehe.
Glyphosat steht im
Unter Rodrigo R. Duterte, dem designierten neuen Präsidenten der Philippinen, sollen die ins Stocken geratenen Friedensgespräche mit dem linken Untergrundbündnis der Nationalen Demokratischen Front der Philippinen (NDFP) wiederbelebt werden –
Von RAINER WERNING, 20. Mai 2016 -
Vor drei Jahrzehnten, als im Februar 1986 die Marcos-Diktatur stürzte, war die Neue Volksarmee (NPA), die Guerillaorganisation der Kommunistischen Partei der Philippinen (CPP), nach Einschätzung US-amerikanischer Militärexperten „die weltweit am schnellsten wachsende Guerillabewegung“. Bis auf Vietnam, Laos und Kambodscha sind in den anderen Ländern Südostasiens einst starke kommunistische Parteien – wie beispielsweise in Indonesien, Malaysia und Thailand – von der politischen Bühne verschwunden
Lawyers for Chelsea Manning appealed her conviction on Thursday, calling it “grossly unfair and unprecedented” and arguing that “no whistleblower in American history has been sentenced this harshly.”
Manning was convicted of six counts of espionage by a military court in 2013 and is currently serving a 35-year sentence in military prison.
In January 2010, while serving as an Army intelligence analyst overseas, Manning – then known as Bradley — sent hundreds of thousands of documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to WikiLeaks. The documents revealed dramatically higher numbers of civilian casualties than were publicly reported and featured a video of Apache attack helicopters in Baghdad gunning down two Reuters journalists.
Manning’s treatment in military court came under fire from journalists and free speech advocates. Because she was indicted under the Espionage Act, she was not allowed to raise the public interest value of her disclosures as a defense.
In the 209-page legal brief made public on Thursday, lawyers for Manning questioned the testimony of military officials at her trial, arguing that their claims of harm were “speculative” and “provided no indication” of actual harm, which they said had a “highly prejudicial” effect on the trial.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed an amicus brief arguing that applying the Espionage Act to whistleblowers is unconstitutional and “furnishes the government with a tool for selective prosecution.”
The ACLU brief cites the example of Gen. David Petraeus, a former Army general and CIA director, who gave eight notebooks filled with classified information to his biographer, who he was sleeping with. Petraeus was not charged under the Espionage Act, accepted a plea deal for two years probation and a $100,000 fine, and kept his security clearance.
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has cited Manning’s treatment and trial as a key reason for not returning to the United States.
[Disclosure: First Look Media Works, Inc., publisher of The Intercept, made a $50,000 matching-fund donation to Chelsea Manning’s legal defense fund through its Press Freedom Litigation Fund, and Glenn Greenwald, a founding editor of The Intercept, donated $10,000.]
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The post Chelsea Manning Appeals “Unprecedented” Conviction appeared first on The Intercept.
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Na quinta-feira passada, o Senado votou por 55 a 22 pelo afastamento da Presidenta Dilma Rousseff para apreciação de seu impeachment por supostas pedaladas fiscais para fins de maquiagem da dívida pública, conforme aprovado pela Câmara dos Deputados. Embora Dilma permaneça no cargo e continue a residir no Palácio da Alvorada, em Brasília, o Vice-presidente Michel Temer assume o comando do país interinamente acompanhado de um novo gabinete conservador, repleto de escândalos de corrupção e formado apenas por homens brancos, todos nomeados pelo presidente em exercício.
Na terça-feira, conversei com a Presidenta Dilma no Palácio do Planalto em sua primeira entrevista após ser suspensa. A entrevista de 22 minutos encontra-se logo abaixo. Em lugar de se comportar de forma subjugada, conformada ou derrotada, Dilma – presa e torturada por três anos pela ditadura militar que governou o país com o apoio dos EUA por 21 anos – está mais firme, combativa e determinada do que nunca.pessoalmente envolvido em escândalos de corrupção. Além de ter sido recentemente multado por violação de leis eleitorais, o presidente em exercício está por oito anos impedido de se candidatar a qualquer cargo público (inclusive o que acaba de assumir). As pesquisas mostram que apenas 1 ou 2% dos brasileiros o apoiariam em uma eleição, enquanto quase 60% desejam vê-lo também impedido.
Como se não bastasse, Temer (que ainda não respondeu à solicitação de entrevista do The Intercept) provocou controvérsia internacional ao apontar 23 ministros, sendo absolutamente todos homens brancos, em um país de extrema diversidade, sendo que um terço dos quais se encontram sob suspeita em diversas investigações de corrupção. O governo do vice – adorado pelos fundos de investimento e por Wall Street, mas detestado por muitos outros setores – iniciou os preparativos para um ataque da direita radical à rede de segurança social do país, tão intenso que nunca receberia o apoio de eleitores em um contexto democrático. Enquanto isso, à medida que se aproximam os Jogos Olímpicos, afloram protestos por todo o país, que certamente se tornarão mais acirrados e intransigentes à tentativa do governo Temer de cortar os programas sociais implementados pelo partido da presidenta afastada (que venceu consecutivamente quatro eleições para presidência).
Eu conversei com a Presidenta Dilma sobre todas essas questões, além de termos abordado o provável impacto que mudanças de ideologia tão antidemocráticas podem gerar nas relações internacionais e alinhamento econômico do quinto país mais populoso do mundo e sétima maior economia.
Outros artigos recentes do Intercept sobre o Brasil
- ASSISTA: Entrevista Exclusiva de Glenn Greenwald com ex-Presidente Lula
- A Democracia Brasileira Sofrerá um Duro Revés com a Posse de um Inelegível e Corrupto Neoliberal
- Para Entender a Verdade no Brasil, Veja Quem Está Sendo Implantado na Presidência — e na Chefia das Finanças
- João Roberto Marinho me Atacou No Guardian e Tentou Enganar o Mundo. Eis Minha Resposta.
- O Brasil Está Sendo Engolido Pela Corrupção — E Por Uma Perigoso Subversão da Democracia
(A transcrição foi editada para adequar conteúdo e ficar mais clara.)
GLENN GREENWALD: Eu sou Glenn Greenwald, do The Intercept, e estou no Palácio Presidencial, em Brasília, onde falei com a presidente do Brasil, Dilma Rousseff, na sua primeira entrevista desde que foi suspensa pelo senado brasileiro.
GG: Bom dia, senhora presidente, e obrigado pela entrevista.
DILMA ROUSSEFF: Bom dia, Greenwald.
GG: A última fase do processo do impeachment é o Supremo Tribunal, que tem onze ministros, oito que foram apontados do PT, cinco deles pela senhora. Acha que esse tribunal e suas decisões são legítimas?
DR: Olha, eu acho que as decisões do tribunal têm sido legítimas. O que eu acredito é que o tribunal não vai julgar, não é o Supremo que julga agora o meu processo de impeachment. O processo de impeachment é julgado no Senado, no Brasil. Quem preside a sessão é o ministro presidente do tribunal, o ministro Lewandowski. Então, eu espero que a presidência do Lewandowski dê um rito mais consistente ao processo.
GG: Mas se a senhora é impedida no Senado, pode pedir para o Supremo rejeitar ou definir se cometeu um crime de responsabilidade, e, também, o Supremo poderia parar o processo, mas até agora não o fez. É possível que um processo que está sendo conduzido sob a autoridade de um tribunal legítimo possa ser um golpe?
DR: Veja bem, são duas coisas completamente diferentes. O processo, pela lei brasileira, transcorre no Senado. Eu posso recorrer ao Supremo Tribunal, e o farei quando for adequado para minha defesa. Mas, no ínterim, ele correrá no tribunal. Ele irá transcorrer dentro do Senado, o Senado é o tribunal correto. A partir daí, o que eu posso fazer é discutir se os procedimentos foram corretamente levantados, foram corretamente aceitos, nos deram amplo direito de defesa, não houve nenhuma interrupção no processo. Nós estamos recorrendo disso.
Nós não conseguimos liminar, mas as ações estão no Supremo e serão, obviamente, levadas ao pleno do Supremo. O juiz, individualmente, não aceitou dar a suspensão do processo. Agora, eles terão de julgar.
GG: Mas vai ter uma oportunidade para pedir para o Supremo definir se cometeu crime de…
DR: O mérito!
GG: No dia seguinte à votação no Senado, o ministro Gilmar Mendes suspendeu uma investigação sobre o Aécio Neves, que a senhora derrotou na última eleição. E tem muitas pessoas que viram isso e pensaram: “Ah, agora esse tribunal está se comportando como um ator político, e essa suspensão inicia o processo para enterrar a investigação Lava Jato.” A senhora concorda com isso? Qual é o significado desta suspensão?
DR: Olha, eu acho que essa suspensão é estranha porque até agora, pelo que eu saiba, nenhuma ação teria sido suspensa até então, nenhuma ação de pessoas investigadas pela Lava Jato. Agora, o ministro Gilmar Mendes não é a única pessoa no Supremo Tribunal. O Supremo Tribunal é composto por doze integrantes.
Esses doze integrantes, nem todos têm a mesma posição um tanto quanto efetivamente militante, visivelmente militante, eu diria, do ministro Gilmar Mendes. Ele está tomando atitudes que vão ser avaliadas ao longo do tempo por todos os brasileiros.
GG: Mas acha que tem um perigo …
DR: Acho que no Brasil nós não podemos ter dois pesos e duas medidas. Quando se investigar, que se investiguem todos. Ninguém pode ser poupado da investigação.
GG: Acha que tem um perigo agora, depois da sua saída – se precisar sair – de que eles tentem enterrar a investigação da Lava Jato?
DR: Olha, eu acho que essa pode ser uma ameaça, mas eu acredito também que nesse processo da Lava Jato tem muitos atores. Então, eu não acho que seja algo trivial enterrar a Lava Jato. Eu olho com muita preocupação quando se fala em voltar à situação anterior, na qual o Ministério Público não era indicado baseado na lista tríplice e, sim, indicado por razões políticas, o que levou a muitos engavetamentos, né? Tanto que no Brasil se chamava o Procurador Geral da República de engavetador geral da república. A partir do Presidente Lula – e eu dei continuidade a isso – qual foi o procedimento?
Nós escolhemos, dentro de uma lista de três, geralmente o primeiro da lista. Por quê? Porque era dar ao ministério público maior autonomia para investigar, e evitar esses processos de engavetamento. Eu acredito que hoje você tem uma estrutura, tanto do Ministério Público quanto da Polícia Federal, quanto de setores, segmentos do judiciário – por exemplo, o Supremo Tribunal, o Superior Tribunal de Justiça – você tem esses segmentos com muita disposição de aceitar as investigações. Agora, como em todas as instituições, nenhuma instituição está acima da situação política de um país. Todas as instituições sofrem os efeitos da situação política de um país.
GG: Sobre a acusação contra a senhora,eu sei que outros presidentes, incluindo o Presidente Cardoso, governadores, usavam pedaladas fiscais. Eu sei que a senhora insiste que as pedaladas não são um crime de responsabilidade que poderia justificar um impeachment…
DR: Não são um crime de responsabilidade como não são um crime contra o orçamento, nem nada. Não são crime.
GG: Mas não admite que é proibido pela Lei de Responsabilidade Fiscal?
DR: Não, porque não é proibido pela Lei de Responsabilidade Fiscal. O que que ele chama de pedalada? Chama-se de pedalada um processo chamado Crédito Suplementar. Esse Crédito Suplementar está previsto na Lei Orçamentária, ele é autorizado pela Lei Orçamentária. E em que ele consiste? Consiste no seguinte: se você tiver um excesso de arrecadação específico numa ação de governo, você tem direito de utilizar esse excesso para ampliação deste governo.
Ora, eu te pergunto uma coisa: onde ocorreram esses decretos? Tribunal Superior Eleitoral. O crédito que eu autorizei foi pedido pela Justiça, pelo Tribunal. E este não é um excesso de arrecadação global, era um excesso em cada uma daquelas rubricas, é algo extremamente técnico. Não foi nada feito às escondidas, passou por todos, é uma análise que o Tribunal sempre fez.
GG: Quero mudar o nosso foco um pouco. A senhora foi a primeira mulher Presidente da República do Brasil, e o seu substituto interino, Michel Temer, na semana passada, revelou o seu gabinete com 23 Ministros, nenhuma mulher, nenhum negro, um terço sob suspeita de corrupção. Como reagiu quando viu essa equipe dele?
DR: O que está me parecendo é que este governo interino e ilegítimo, ele será um governo bastante conservador em todos os seus aspectos. Um deles é o fato de que ele é um governo de homens brancos, sem negros, num país que o último senso, o senso de 2010, teve uma declaração que eu acho muito importante, que foi que mais de 50% se declarou de origem afrodescendente. Bom, não ter uma mulher e não ter negros no governo, eu acho que mostra um certo descuidado com que país que você está governando.
GG: A senhora falaria que o Brasil chegou no fim da democracia?
DR: Não, não diria. Por que eu não diria que chegou ao fim da democracia? Porque hoje, as instituições, elas podem até ter abalos, mas elas são mais sólidas do que se imagina. Eu temo hoje, por que o que acontece com um governo ilegítimo? Um governo ilegítimo, ele tenta recobrir, sobre o manto de uma pseudo-ordem, o impedimento da manifestação, do direito de expressão e, sobretudo, mostra, eu acho, um grande apetite por cortar programas sociais.
GG: Diante de um governo que a senhora classifica como ilegítimo, acha que é correto que os brasileiros lutem contra esse governo com desobediência civil, como a senhora fez depois do golpe de 64?
DR: Eu acho que são situações diferentes, completamente diferentes…
GG: Eu entendo, mas os brasileiros agora devem usar desobediência civil para lutar contra essa – eu sei que as situações são diferentes – mas chegamos ao ponto em que é justificado que os brasileiros lutem contra esse governo, que está classificando como ilegítimo, usando desobediência civil?
DR: Eu acho que o que tem que se fazer aqui no Brasil é lutar contra, protestar e, inclusive, eu acho, exercer uma pressão sobre os congressistas, uma pressão sobre todas as áreas sociais.
GG: Com Bolsa Família agora…
DR: Não, eu só estou tentando dar o exemplo, porque você vai ter de ter lutas concretas. Não é uma desobediência civil genérica. Você terá lutas concretas. As pessoas vão ter que se mobilizar das mais variadas formas. Se você chamar de desobediência civil manifestações, eu diria que sim, seria uma desobediência civil. Agora, depende do que você define como.
GG: Tá bom, mas tem muitas pessoas agora que estão indo às ruas para protestar em sua defesa, em defesa da democracia, que estão muito preocupadas que possam ser enquadradas na Lei Antiterrorismo, que a senhora, há dois meses atrás, aprovou. E quando eu entrevistei o ex-Presidente Lula, no mês passado, ele disse que é contra essa lei, porque dá poderes para o governo desnecessários e perigosos e está sujeita a abusos. Agora, esses poderes estão nas mãos de outro Presidente. Acha que foi errado aprovar essa lei?
DR: Não, não acho, sabe por quê? Porque todos os itens que possibilitariam esse uso, eu vetei. Esta lei foi aprovada no Congresso, ela diz respeito às Olimpíadas…
GG: É pra isso, mas pode ser usada…
DR: Ela não tem dimensão pra movimento social, nem manifestação política. Ela é exclusivamente para atos terroristas. Todas as coisas meio obscuras, nós vetamos. Então, sinto muito, aí eu tenho uma pequena divergência com o presidente Lula. Ele teria toda a razão se ela tivesse sido sancionada como veio do congresso.
GG: O governo Temer disse que vai focar o Bolsa Família apenas nos cinco por cento mais pobres. Qual vai ser o impacto disso, e como a população vai reagir, na sua opinião?
DR: Eu acredito, viu Greenwald, que a população vai reagir mal. Por quê? Se focar nos cinco por cento, você calcula, num país de 200 milhões de pessoas, 204 milhões, você teria os cinco por cento, seriam 10 milhões. Hoje o Bolsa Família abrange em torno de 47 milhões de pessoas. Porque o Bolsa Família, a gente tem que entender pra que ele é feito. Ele não é feito para o adulto. Ele é feito fundamentalmente para a criança.
Porque toda a condicionalidade desse programa é: levar criança para a escola, vacinar e acompanhar a saúde infantil. Com isso, nós reduzimos mortalidade infantil, com isso nós colocamos na escola crianças que não iam para a escola, porque não tem como fazer política para as crianças, se não fizer para os adultos, para as famílias, para as mães. E isso eu acho que mostra claramente o caráter de retrocesso, de conservadorismo.
GG: Tem um jornalista americano, baseado há muito tempo no Brasil, Alex Cuadros, que escreveu um artigo no Washington Post, três semanas atrás, com essa manchete: “Como o PT perdeu os trabalhadores”, e ele apontou que o PT transferiu muito dinheiro para os bilionários, para os mais ricos, para as grandes empresas e, ao mesmo tempo, impôs medidas de austeridade para os mais pobres. É por causa dessas políticas que grande parte da base do seu partido te abandonou agora?
DR: Bom, primeiro eu não acho que a base do meu partido me abandonou….
GG: Mas tem muitos apoiadores que agora não estão te apoiando…
DR: Bem, eu não tenho visto isso, eu tenho visto pelo contrário, eu tenho visto um grande apoio pela base do meu partido, pela base progressista no Brasil. Acho que um dos resultados desse processo foi uma grande reaglutinação. Veja bem, vamos entender em que conjuntura nós estamos. O Brasil, como todos os países do mundo, está enfrentando, agora, a partir de 2014, começou a enfrentar a crise econômica.
Obviamente, quando você tem um processo de crise, você está na fase descendente do ciclo econômico, e não na crescente, você perde instrumentos para fazer a política anticíclica. Nós viemos fazendo uma política anticíclica em 2011, 12, 13 e 14. Em 2014 nós esgotamos a nossa capacidade fiscal de fazer essa política anticíclica.
GG: Eu sei, mas durante essa época ajudou muito os bilionários, as empresas grandes…
DR: Se você me explicar onde que eu ajudei bilionário e empresa grande, eu gostaria, por quê? Porque é o seguinte, nós não fizemos ajuste para cortar programa social. Nós preservamos o Bolsa Família, preservamos o Prouni, preservamos o Fies, preservamos toda a política para a pequena agricultura, o programa de aquisição de alimentos, preservamos todo o financiamento para essa agricultura pequena, preservamos a nossa política pra mulher, pra quilombola, pra índio, tanto é assim que tão desmontando.
GG: Dizem que o Michel Temer está construindo um governo muito conservador, e também que ele é o líder desse golpe, ele está envolvido nesse golpe. E, também, duas semanas atrás, o Eduardo Cunha foi afastado da presidência da câmara por casos de corrupção. Por que escolheu essas duas pessoas como aliados tão próximos?
DR: Veja bem, eu estava até olhando isso hoje. No Brasil, você tem um processo que eu acredito que talvez é um dos mais distorcidos do mundo. Aumenta o número de partidos sistematicamente, e cada vez os governos vão precisando de mais partidos para formar a maioria simples e a maioria de dois terços do parlamento. Você tem de ter uma base de alianças. Quanto maior a base de alianças, menos política e ideologicamente alinhada. Então, você passa a ter de construir alianças muito amplas. Este é um processo extremamente complexo. Além disso, tem outra característica. Esse golpe, ele tem um líder. O líder não é o presidente interino, o líder é o presidente da Câmara [Eduardo Cunha], que foi agora afastado. Um pouco atrasado, mas antes tarde do que nunca, como eu disse. Este líder, eminentemente, representa um setor conservador, extremamente conservador.
DR: Calma, calma. Ele era meu aliado porque era do partido de centro, o qual, desde 1999, constrói a maioria com os governos. Ele não é do segmento – esse é um partido complexo. Ele não é do segmento, ele não é de um partido ideológico. Então, é pra entender o fato de que dentro desse partido convivem as mais diferentes características. Ele, inexoravelmente, era, entre aspas, meu aliado.
Nós começamos a ter atrito desde o primeiro dia do meu governo, do meu segundo governo. Ao longo do meu primeiro governo, nós tivemos atritos sistemáticos com ele. Então, essa é uma questão que é muito importante de ser entendida, porque ele age nas trevas. Ele é muito bom de agir nas trevas.
GG: Na opinião da senhora, a mudança do governo e da orientação da política externa pode prejudicar a relação do Brasil com os BRICS e o Mercosul?
DR: Eu espero que não cometam esse absurdo para com o país. Eu espero. Acho que tanto a Unasul, como o Mercosul e os BRICS são grandes conquistas para o Brasil. Supor que é possível um país da dimensão do Brasil não ter uma relação estreita com os países da Unasul e com os países do Mercosul, e esta grande conquista para o multilateralismo que foi os BRICS, é uma temeridade. É uma temeridade. Eu acho que seria, no mínimo, uma grande ignorância. Grande ignorância da situação internacional.
GG: A senhora disse muitas vezes que vai lutar até o final no processo do impeachment, mas se perder o impeachment, e precisar sair, o que é melhor? Que o Michel Temer fique no poder sem aprovação eleitoral ou ter novas eleições?
DR: Você vai me permitir não te responder isso.
GG: Porque está lutando ainda.
DR: Porque eu estou lutando até o fim.
DR: Porque você vai entender que se eu colocar uma questão dessas para mim, eu estou me desmobilizando.
GG: A senhora é conhecida como uma mulher bem forte e disse muitas vezes que não tem comparação entre o que sofreu antes e o que está acontecendo agora, mas essa crise é bem dura para o país e para a senhora também. Isso está afetando a senhora e também a sua família?
DR: Olha, eu acho que afeta sim, afeta do ponto de vista pessoal porque eu até disse isso outro dia. No dia que eu saí da condição de Presidente operacional, porque eu sou a Presidente efetiva do Brasil, e a legítima. Eu acho que afeta no seguinte sentido: porque é uma injustiça. Talvez a coisa mais difícil pra uma pessoa suportar além da dor, da doença e da tortura, seja a injustiça. Por quê? Porque você fica como se estivesse preso numa armadilha. É claro que eles passaram, durante um tempo – eles falaram que eu era uma pessoa, uma mulher, eu acho que eles supuseram que eu podia renunciar.
Por que eles queriam que eu renunciasse? Porque a minha presença é incômoda. Como eu não tenho conta no exterior, já me viraram dos lados avessos, eu nunca recebi propina, eu não aceito conviver com a corrupção. Uma das coisas que dizem que eu sou dura é porque é muito difícil chegar a mim pra propor qualquer coisa incorreta. A injustiça desse fato, a injustiça política disso, a injustiça pessoal, afeta a mim, afeta a minha família, afeta a todos nós. E eu, outro dia, disse que eu era a vítima, não no sentido da vítima do sacrifício, mas a vítima da injustiça. Eu sou vítima da injustiça.
GG: Senhora Presidente, muito obrigado pela entrevista.
DR: Muito obrigada.
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The post Assista: Primeira Entrevista Com a Presidente Dilma Rousseff Depois de Sua Suspensão appeared first on The Intercept.
(Para ler e assistir a versão desse artigo e vídeo em Português, clique aqui.)
Last Thursday, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was suspended from the presidency when the Senate voted, 55-22, to try her on the impeachment charges, approved by the lower house, involving alleged budgetary maneuvers (“pedaladas”) designed to obscure the size of public debt. Although she nominally remains the president and continues to reside in Brasília’s presidential palace, her duties are being carried out by her vice president, Michel Temer — now “interim” President Temer — and the right-wing, corruption-tainted, all-white-male cabinet he has assembled (due to Brazil’s coalition politics, Temer is from a different party than Rousseff). Rousseff’s suspension will last up to 180 days as her Senate impeachment trial takes place, at which point she will either be acquitted or (as is widely expected) convicted and permanently removed from her office.
On Tuesday, I spoke to President Rousseff in the presidential palace for her first interview since being suspended. The 22-minute interview, conducted in Portuguese with English subtitles, is below. Rather than subdued, resigned, and defeated, Rousseff — who was imprisoned and tortured for three years in the 1970s by the U.S.-supported military dictatorship that ruled the country for 21 years — is more combative, defiant, and resolute than ever.exacerbated the fears of those who regard impeachment as an attack on democracy or even a coup. Unlike Rousseff, he is personally implicated in corruption scandals. He was just fined for election-law violations and faces an eight-year ban on running for any office (including the one into which he was just installed). Polls show only 2 percent of Brazilians would support him in an actual election, while close to 60 percent want him impeached.
Worse, Temer created a worldwide controversy when he appointed 23 ministers, all of whom were white and male in a deeply diverse country, and one-third of whom are under suspicion in various corruption inquiries. And his government — beloved by hedge funds and Wall Street but very few other factions — has begun preparing the groundwork for a radical right-wing attack on the country’s social safety net, which could never attract the support of actual voters if it were subjected to a democratic framework. Meanwhile, as the Olympics arrive in Rio in 10 weeks, protests are breaking out all over the country and are certain to become more destabilizing and disruptive as the Temer government attempts to cut some of the most critical social programs established by Rousseff’s party (which has won four straight national elections).
I spoke with President Rousseff about all of these matters, as well as whether it is now justified for Brazilians to use civil disobedience against the government she describes as “illegitimate,” and the likely impact on international affairs and economic realignment from this extreme and undemocratic change of ideology in the world’s fifth most populous country and seventh largest economy. (Interim President Temer has not yet responded to The Intercept’s request for an interview.)
The interview can be watched on the recorder below. A full transcript appears below that.
Recent articles about Brazil from The Intercept
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- Globo’s Billionaire Heir, João Roberto Marinho, Attacked Me in the Guardian. Here’s My Response.
- After Vote to Remove Brazil’s President, Key Opposition Figure Holds Meetings in Washington
(This transcript has been lightly edited for continuity and clarity)
GLENN GREENWALD: I’m Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept and I’m here at the presidential palace, in Brasília, to speak with the Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, for her first interview since being suspended last week by the Senate, after it voted to try her on impeachment charges.
Good morning, madam president, and thank you for the interview.
DILMA ROUSSEFF: Good morning, Greenwald.
GG: The last stage of the impeachment proceedings takes place at the Supreme Court, which is constituted of 11 judges; eight of them were nominated by the Workers’ Party (PT), five of them by you. Would you say that the court and its decisions are legitimate?
DR: I do believe that the court’s decisions have been legitimate. I don’t think that the court will judge it; it’s not the Supreme Court that will judge the impeachment proceedings. In Brazil, impeachment proceedings are judged by the Senate. The session is conducted by the president of the court, Judge Lewandowski. I hope that his leadership makes the proceedings more consistent. …
GG: But if the Senate impeaches you, you could ask the Supreme Court to reject that decision and rule on whether there were indeed high crimes and misdemeanors. Also, the Supreme Court could have interrupted the process, but has not so far. Can a process being conducted under the authority of a legitimate court be considered a “coup”?
DR: Look, these are two completely different things. The proceedings, according to Brazilian law, are conducted by the Senate. I can appeal to the Supreme Court, and that will happen at the appropriate time for my defense. But, in the meantime, it will go through the court. It will be undertaken by the Senate. The Senate is the appropriate court. After that, I can debate whether the proceedings were carried out accurately, whether they were correctly accepted, whether we were given a fair trial, and whether there was any interference in the proceedings. We are appealing this.
We have not been granted an injunction, but the Senate is analyzing the request, which will be presented to the full Supreme Court. It has not been accepted by the judge. … He has not granted a suspension of proceedings. Now, they will have to deliberate.
GG: But will you have the opportunity to ask the Supreme Court to define whether there were high crimes? …
DR: The merits [of the impeachment charges]!
GG: After …
GG: On the day after the Senate voted, [Supreme Court] Justice Gilmar Mendes suspended the investigation of Aécio Neves, defeated by you in the last election. Many people saw that and thought, “The court is behaving like a political actor. The suspension paves the way to bury the Car Wash investigation.” Would you agree with that? What does this suspension mean?
DR: I think the suspension is strange; as far as I know, no proceedings have been suspended up until now. No Car Wash investigations have been suspended. But Justice Gilmar Mendes is not the only judge on the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is composed of 12 members. Not all of the 12 members have similar dispositions, that of a real militant, an obvious militant, as Judge Gilmar Mendes does. His actions will be judged over time by the Brazilian people.
GG: Do you think there’s a risk …
DR: We should not have double standards in our country. If you’re investigating one, you have to investigate them all. No one should be spared from the investigations.
GG: Do you think there’s a risk, after you leave office — if it comes to that — that Operation Car Wash will be swept under the carpet?
DR: That might be a threat, but I believe that there are many parties interested in the continuation of the Car Wash investigation.
So I don’t think that it will be simple to bury Operation Car Wash. I am more concerned about reverting back to the previous situation, in which the prosecutor general was not chosen from a list of three nominees, but was selected on the basis of their political alignment, which led to lots of inquiries being “filed away.” So much so that the prosecutor general of the republic became known as the “filing clerk of the republic.”
After President Lula took office — and I carried on the same practice — what procedure did we adopt? We generally chose the first name on the three-nominee list. Why? To give the Prosecutor’s Office more investigative autonomy and to stop the filing away of inquiries. I believe that there is a structure today — the Prosecutor’s Office, the Federal Police, and segments of the judiciary branch, like the Supreme Court and the Superior Court of Justice — that is willing to undertake investigations. Now, no institution is immune to the political process. They all suffer the consequences of the country’s political climate.
GG: Regarding the allegations against you: I know that other presidents, including Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and some governors also performed the budgetary maneuvers that you did, although perhaps not to the same extent as you, but they did use them. I know you insist that the budgetary maneuvers are not high crimes and misdemeanors that deserve an impeachment.
DR: They are not high crimes just as much as they are not crimes against the budget. They are not crimes.
GG: But would you agree that the Fiscal Responsibility Act prohibits them?
DR: No, because it is not prohibited by the Fiscal Responsibility Act. What is considered a budgetary maneuver? The appropriation bill authorizes the process known as complementary credits. And what does it say? It says that if you expect to collect a surplus in taxes from a specific initiative, the surplus can be re-invested. So let me ask you this: Where do these decrees come from? The Superior Electoral Court. The credit I authorized was requested by the Justice Department, by the court.
This is not a surplus from the general pot; it was an extra credit from individual headings, which is something extremely technical. Nothing was concealed. It crossed everyone’s desks. The court has always done that sort of analysis.
GG: I’d like to switch gears now. You were the first female president of Brazil, and your interim replacement, Michel Temer, revealed his cabinet of 23 ministers last week: not a single woman or black person and one-third are accused of corruption. How did you react when you saw his team?
DR: Look, I think that … it seems to me that this interim and illegitimate government will be very conservative from every aspect. One of which is the fact that it is a government of white men, without black people, in a country that, in the last census in 2010, and I think this is very important, more than 50 percent of the population self-identified as being of African origin. So, I think that not having any women or black people in the government shows a certain lack of care for the country you are governing.
GG: Would you say that we have arrived at the end of Brazilian democracy?
DR: No, I wouldn’t. Why wouldn’t I say that it’s the end of democracy? Because today, institutions can be disrupted, but they’re stronger than you think. I’m apprehensive now, because what happens under an illegitimate government? An illegitimate government tries to dress itself in the veil of pseudo-order; it bans protests and freedom of expression and, above all, shows an enormous willingness to cut social programs.
GG: OK. Since you classify this government as illegitimate, do you believe it’s correct for Brazilians to fight against this government with civil disobedience, as you did after the coup of ’64?
DR: I think they are completely different situations …
GG: I understand. But should Brazilians engage in civil disobedience to fight against this? I know the situations are different. But have we arrived at the point in which it is justified for Brazilians to fight against this government, which you’re classifying as illegitimate, with civil disobedience?
DR: I think that, in Brazil, we need to fight against it, protest it, and also exert some pressure on members of Congress. I think we need to urge all social movements to engage …
GG: And with Bolsa Família [social program for the poor] now …
DR: No, I’m just trying to give the example.
GG: But I want to ask only about …
DR: Because we need concrete battles — not a generalized civil disobedience. There will be some concrete struggles. People will have to organize in the most diverse ways. If you call protests civil disobedience, then I’d say, yes, civil disobedience. Now, it depends how you define it.
GG: OK, but many people are now going to the streets to protest in your defense, in defense of democracy, and they are very worried that they can be caught up in this anti-terrorism law that you approved just two months ago.
And when I interviewed ex-President Lula last month, he said he’s against this law, because it gives powers to the government that are unnecessary and dangerous and subject to abuse. Now that these powers are in the hands of another president, do you think it was a mistake to approve this law?
DR: No, I don’t think so. Do you know why? Because I vetoed all the items in the law that would make that sort of use possible. This law was approved in Congress; it is about the Olympic Games. It …
GG: That’s what it’s for, but it can be used …
DR: I know, but it doesn’t have the scope to be applied to social movements or political protests. Everything that was somewhat vague we vetoed. So, I’m sorry, I slightly disagree with President Lula on this matter. He would be completely right if it had been approved in the format sent by Congress.
GG: The Temer government said that it would “focus” on Bolsa Família [social program] only for the poorest 5 percent. What impact would this have and how would the population react to that, in your opinion?
DR: Greenwald, I think people will not receive it well. Why? If you focus on only 5 percent in a country of 200 million people, 204 million, that would be 10 million people. Today, Bolsa Família reaches around 47 million people. We need to clarify what the target audience of Bolsa Família is. It’s not aimed at adults. It’s basically designed for children.
The programs require a key condition: Keep children in school, vaccinated and provided with medical care. With that, we reduced child mortality. With that, we brought children back to school. It’s not possible to create programs for the children without caring for their parents, families and mothers. And I think this clearly shows the regressive nature of conservatism.
GG: There’s an American journalist, based in Brazil for a long time, Alex Cuadros, who wrote an article in the Washington Post three weeks ago with this headline: “How the Workers’ Party Lost the Workers.” He pointed out that the Workers’ Party has transferred a significant amount of money to billionaires, to the richest, to large corporations, and at the same time, has imposed austerity measures on the poorest. Is it because of these policies that a large part of your party’s base has abandoned you?
DR: Well, firstly, I don’t think that my party’s base has abandoned me …
GG: But there are many supporters who now are not supporting you …
DR: Well, I have not observed this, quite the opposite, actually. I have seen a lot of support from my party’s base and from the progressive base in Brazil. One of the results of this process was a vast regrouping movement. See, let’s understand the scenario we currently live in. Brazil, as all other countries in the world, is now facing an economic crisis that started in 2014.
Obviously, when a crisis emerges, the growth rates begin to decline, rather than rise, and you lose the instruments needed to implement counter-cyclical policies. We implemented counter-cyclical policies: in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. In 2014, the fiscal capacity necessary for these counter-cyclical policies was depleted.
GG: I know, but during this period you helped many billionaires, many large corporations …
DR: I’d like it if you would explain to me where I helped billionaires and large corporations. Why? Because of the following: We did not adjust to the crisis by cutting social programs. We preserved Bolsa Família, we preserved the PROUNI and FIES [higher education funding programs], we preserved all of the policies for small-scale agriculture, the food acquisition program, all funding for this small farming, our policies for women, for communities founded by former slaves, for the indigenous — all of these things they are trying to take apart.
GG: You said earlier that Michel Temer is building a very conservative government, and also that he is a leader of this coup, or least involved in it. Also, two weeks ago, Eduardo Cunha was removed from the presidency of the lower house of Congress because of corruption. Why did you choose these two people as such close allies?
DR: Let’s be clear … I was even looking at this today. In Brazil, you have a process that, I believe, is perhaps one of the most distorted in the world. The number of parties is systematically increasing and every successive government needs more parties to form a simple majority and a two-thirds majority in Congress. To form a coalition you have to have a base of alliances. Larger coalitions cause decreased ideological alignment on policy. And you have to build very broad alliances. This is an extremely complex process. Beyond that, it has another feature. This coup has a leader. It was not the interim president.
GG: But he was involved.
DR: No. Wait. The leader is not the acting president. The leader is the president of the lower house of Congress [Eduardo Cunha], who is now removed from office. A little late, but better late than never, as I said. This leader, he represents a conservative sector, extremely conservative.
DR: Hold on. He was my ally because he was with the centrist party ’99, built the majority with the governments. He is not part of … It’s a complex party; it’s not an ideological party. So, you have to understand the fact that inside this party one finds many different characteristics. He inexorably, was, quote-unquote, my “ally.” We began to have friction from the first day of my government, of my second government. During my first term, we had systematic friction with him. So this is an issue that is very important to be understood, because he will act … he works … under the cloak of darkness. He’s very good at acting in the dark.
GG: In your opinion, could the change of government and foreign policy damage Brazil’s relationship with the BRICS [association of emerging nations: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa] and Mercosul [multi-lateral Latin American trading group]?
DR: I hope they don’t do something this absurd to the country. I hope. I think that UNASUL, Mercosul, and the BRICS are some of Brazil’s greatest accomplishments. To assume that it’s possible for a country of Brazil’s dimension not to have a close relationship with the countries of UNASUL, Mercosul, and the great achievement of multilateralism that is the BRICS, would be reckless. It is reckless. I think it would be, at the very least, greatly ignorant. It would reflect a huge ignorance of international affairs.
GG: You’ve said many times that you will fight until the end against the impeachment proceedings, but if you do end up losing and have to leave office, what would be better: that Michel Temer stays in office without the approval of voters or holding new elections?
DR: Please forgive me for not answering that question.
GG: Because you’re still fighting.
DR: Because I’ll fight until the end.
GG: I understand.
DR: Don’t ask me … Because you’ll understand that if I asked myself that question, I’d be giving up.
GG: You are known to be a very strong woman and have mentioned many times that there’s no comparison between what you went through in the past and what is happening now, but the crisis has been very harsh on the country, and on you as well. Is this affecting you and your family?
DR: Look, I think it does affect us, it affects you personally, I even mentioned that the other day. On the day I lost the status of acting president — I’m still the incumbent president of Brazil, and the legitimate one. I think it affects me in this sense: because it’s unjust. Maybe the hardest thing for someone to withstand, besides pain, illness, and torture, is injustice. Why? Because you feel like you’re trapped.
Of course, after a while they said that I was a person — a woman — I think they assumed that I would simply resign. Why did they want me to resign? Because my presence unsettles them. Because I don’t have foreign accounts. They totally took apart my affairs: I have never received a bribe. I refuse to consent to corruption. One of the reasons why they say I’m tough is because it’s very difficult to approach me and propose anything illicit.
The injustice of this situation, the political injustice of this, the personal injustice, it affects me, it affects my family, and it affects all of us. The other day I said I was a victim, not a sacrificial victim, but a victim of injustice. I am a victim of injustice.
GG: Madam president, thank you very much for the interview.
DR: Thank you.
The post Watch: First Interview With Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff Since the Senate’s Impeachment Vote appeared first on The Intercept.
The EPA announced new drinking water health advisory levels today for the industrial chemicals PFOA and PFOS. The new levels — .07 parts per billion (ppb) for both chemicals — are significantly lower than standards the agency issued in 2009, which were .4 ppb for PFOA and .2 ppb for PFOS. In areas where both PFOA and PFOS are present, the advisory suggests a maximum combined level of .07 ppb. While the old levels were calculated based on the assumption that people were drinking the contaminants only for weeks or months, the new standards assume lifetime exposure and reflect more recent research.
The new federal standards may unify what has been an inconsistent official response to the presence of these perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs, in drinking water. They will also instantaneously create official water contamination crises in dozens of cities and towns across the country.
According to the EPA’s most recent data on unregulated drinking water contaminants, released in January, 14 drinking water systems around the country reported levels of PFOA that exceed the new federal threshold, while 40 reported PFOS above the new cutoff. In all, water systems in 18 states, as well as in Guam, are contaminated.
Some of these water systems have already begun to quietly address the problem. In Suffolk County, New York, where public drinking water wells show PFOS levels of .33 and .53 ppb, the contaminated water “has either been blended with other wells to reduce the level of the compound to non-detection or their use has been limited to the greatest extent possible,” according to Kevin Durk, director of water quality and laboratory services for the Suffolk County Water Authority. Though he does not know the level of PFOS in the water that comes out of local taps, Durk wrote in an email that “it is a virtual certainty that levels of any detected chemical would have been reduced.”
Similarly, the Security Water and Sanitation District in Colorado Springs has been struggling to clean up its contaminated water since 142 tests detected PFCs. The district has shut down 7 out of 26 wells and is blending water to lower levels, according to Roy Heald, the district’s general manager.
But other water company operators have yet to lower their PFC levels. Steve Anderson, owner of the Oatman Water Company in Scottsdale, Arizona, where PFOS measured .2 and .23 in the most recent EPA testing, learned that the chemical was in his water only recently, after he received a call from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. Anderson, who suspects the PFOS originated from firefighting foam used by the nearby Oatman Fire Department, said he is “trying to come up with a solution.”
Until today, there was a wide range of official opinion on the level of contamination that presented a health danger. The military, which is in the throes of a massive cleanup of 664 contaminated fire and crash training sites, has been using the EPA’s older standards for PFOA and PFOS to guide its efforts and help determine who receives clean drinking water and remediation of contaminated private wells. (The Department of Defense did not responded to inquiries about how the new advisory levels would alter its cleanup plan.)
Others have set more stringent standards. On January 28, the EPA advised residents of Hoosick Falls, New York, not to use water with PFOA levels above .1 ppb. And a panel of scientists who spent years researching some 70,000 people whose water contained PFOA levels of at least .05 ppb, found probable links between that level of exposure and testicular cancer, kidney cancer, thyroid disease, preeclampsia, ulcerative colitis and high cholesterol. In 2010, New Jersey’s Drinking Water Quality Institute, calculated a safety limit of .04 for PFOA. Vermont currently has the lowest state drinking water limit for PFOA, .02 ppb.The EPA report noted that in humans “the developing fetus and newborn is particularly sensitive to PFOA-induced toxicity.”
The levels released today are based on numerous studies connecting the chemicals with health effects. For PFOS, the report notes, studies of lab animals exposed to the chemical reported “developmental effects (decreased body weight, survival, and increased serum glucose levels and insulin resistance in adult offspring), reproductive (mating behavior), liver toxicity (liver weight co-occurring with decreased cholesterol, hepatic steatosis), developmental neurotoxicity (altered spatial learning and memory), immune effects, and cancer (thyroid and liver).”
The report also acknowledged research on human populations that has found associations between PFOS and immune suppression, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, and reduced fertility. It also acknowledged a possible connection between PFOS and bladder, colon, and prostate cancer.
For PFOA, the research included studies on monkeys, rats, and mice showing “developmental effects (survival, body weight changes, reduced ossification, delays in eye opening, altered puberty, and retarded mammary gland development), liver toxicity (hypertrophy, necrosis, and effects on the metabolism and deposition of dietary lipids), kidney toxicity (weight), immune effects, and cancer (liver, testicular, and pancreatic).”
The new health advisory for PFOA was also based on human studies, which showed “associations between PFOA exposure and high cholesterol, increased liver enzymes, decreased vaccination response, thyroid disorders, pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia, and cancer (testicular and kidney).” The EPA report noted that in humans “the developing fetus and newborn is particularly sensitive to PFOA-induced toxicity.”
“Taken together,” the report notes, “the weight of evidence for human studies supports the conclusion that PFOA exposure is a human health hazard.” The exact phrasing was used in the PFOS report as well.
While calling the new level, “a very long-overdue step in the right direction,” Robert Bilott, an attorney overseeing a class action suit over PFOA contamination near a DuPont plant in West Virginia, cautioned that “the new guideline is still too high, as exposures at even the new guideline level would allow PFOA to continue to build up to ever-increasing, unacceptable levels in human blood.”
Bilott also noted that the new levels are informal guidelines, as opposed to enforceable regulatory limits. “If it was enforceable,” he said, “the EPA could issue unilateral orders requiring the responsible party to clean it up.”
- New Teflon Toxin Causes Cancer in Lab Animals
- DuPont and the Chemistry of Deception
- The Case Against DuPont
- How DuPont Slipped Past the EPA
- Poisoning the Well: Toxic Firefighting Foam Has Contaminated U.S. Drinking Water
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The post With New Drinking Water Advisory, Dozens of Communities Suddenly Have Dangerous Water appeared first on The Intercept.
Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer made big news last week when it announced a ban on the use of its drugs to carry out the death penalty by lethal injection. “Sweeping controls on the distribution of its products” have clamped shut “the last remaining open-market source of drugs used in executions,” the New York Times reported, calling it a milestone in the fight against capital punishment.
Somewhat buried in the flurry of headlines that followed was the fact that Pfizer has never been known to supply states with execution drugs. It is only after the company acquired a different drug company last year — Hospira Inc., which produced several drugs states have used or intend to use in executions — that Pfizer put such restrictions in place. This doesn’t make its policy any less important: “Pfizer has closed the circle,” said Arizona federal public defender Dale Baich, who litigates lethal injection challenges across the country. “The states can no longer obtain drugs from legitimate and legal sources.” But as Baich and others know too well, many states stopped seeking drugs from legitimate sources a long time ago. Today, most active death penalty states rely on anonymous compounding pharmacies, whose loose regulations vary wildly from state to state, making them dangerously unreliable compared to FDA approved drug companies when it comes to the efficacy of their products. Other states have broken federal law by importing illicit drugs from overseas. In driving states to the underground market, Pfizer’s announcement merely makes official what has already been happening for years.
Take Texas, which has carried out six executions so far this year and has eight more scheduled through the fall. There, prison officials were decidedly unfazed by the news. “It’s not anticipated that Pfizer’s decision will have an impact on the agency’s current ability to carry out executions,” Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesperson Jason Clark wrote in an email to The Intercept. So where does Texas get its drugs if not through companies like Pfizer? Today, we’re not allowed to know the answer to that question. “State law prevents the disclosure of the identity of the supplier of execution drugs,” Clark wrote, saying only that they come from a “licensed pharmacy that has the ability to compound.” The official rationale for the policy — which became effective last September — is that secrecy is the only guarantee of safety for those companies still willing to supply drugs for executions. “Pharmacies don’t have security details,” Deputy Texas Solicitor General Matthew Frederick told an appellate court earlier this month, opposing a legal challenge to the law. “Their only protection is anonymity. Once you take that away … there’s nothing they can do to protect themselves.”
The problem with such ominous rhetoric is that there is virtually no evidence to back it up. For years, suppliers of lethal injection drugs in Texas could be identified via open records requests, without incident. But in the fall of 2013, a local company, Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy, was revealed to have provided pentobarbital for executions, prompting the owner to complain about “hate mail” and unwanted media attention — and to ask for its drugs back. Some months later, the Texas Department of Public Safety released a threat assessment, warning that pharmacies like Woodlands are a “soft target for violent attacks” and that “publicly linking a pharmacy or other drug supplier to the production of controlled substances to be used in executions presents a substantial threat of physical harm … and should be avoided to the greatest extent possible.” As the Texas Observer reported, the only evidence for such threats offered by Texas officials included a strongly worded letter to Woodlands and a random blog post featuring an image of an exploding head.
Today, lethal injection secrecy statutes exist in some dozen states and counting, under the same pretense of security. “The states have never offered any proof that a manufacturer has been harassed,” said Baich. Yet the claim has become entrenched. In Mississippi, Attorney General Jim Hood recently praised lawmakers for passing a secrecy bill drafted by his office, stressing the need for drug suppliers to “be free from the intimidation and strong-arm tactics of some anti-death penalty activists.”
For years, lawyers and journalists have argued that the real purpose of such laws is to block scrutiny of states’ execution protocols. In effect, they have also “prevented manufacturers from learning how states have gotten a hold of the pharmaceutical products they have been using in executions,” said Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center. Pfizer’s tight new restrictions, Dunham said, are “designed to counter” such secrecy. With Pfizer’s announcement last week, the most significant challenge will not be overcoming state secrecy to ensure that major drug corporations can keep such promises. The bigger problem is how to hold states accountable to the Constitution as they do business with faceless companies that have no ethical qualms about selling execution drugs. “As compounding pharmacies do this in the dark,” said Maya Foa of the human rights group Reprieve, which has led the effort to convince the pharmaceutical industry to block its drugs for use in executions, “it is just going to a create more of a mess — potentially, more botched executions.”Agonizing Deaths
The image of abolitionist bullies threatening drug suppliers — or as Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito put it last year, waging “guerrilla warfare against the death penalty” — is a relatively new invention. Its origin can be traced back to the drug shortages that first set the stage for the current upheaval around lethal injection — and which inspired perhaps the country’s most far-reaching lethal injection secrecy law, in Georgia.
In August 2009, Hospira Inc. ceased production of the anesthetic sodium thiopental (a key ingredient in what was then the standard three-drug protocol in use across the country), after one of its suppliers stopped making a crucial ingredient. At first, Hospira planned to move its production to Italy, but after Reprieve successfully pressured the Italian government to block the export of such drugs for the use of U.S. executions, the company stopped manufacturing the drug altogether.
With their go-to supplier of sodium thiopental no longer an option, death penalty states started seeking other sources — and before long, some disturbing consequences emerged. In 2010, just days after the Arizona Republic revealed that local prison officials had imported sodium thiopental from overseas, Dale Baich witnessed the death of a client named Jeffrey Landrigan, whose execution appeared to go awry. While it was not the dramatic two-hour ordeal later suffered by a different client, Joseph Wood, in 2015, Landrigan’s death was alarming for one lurid detail: He died with his eyes open. Baich would later learn that the sodium thiopental used to kill Landrigan had almost certainly expired. This meant that he was not properly anesthetized when the second drug, a paralytic, kicked in. The inescapable conclusion: Landrigan was conscious and frozen in place as the third drug, potassium chloride, seeped into his veins and stopped his heart — an “agonizing” way to die, according to one anesthesiologist.
The same batch of sodium thiopental used to kill Landrigan in Arizona was also linked to two executions in Georgia around that time — Brandon Rhode in September 2010 and Emmanuel Hammond in January 2011. Both men died like Landrigan, with their eyes open. In an interview for an article I wrote for The Nation in 2011, Hammond’s lawyer said her client’s death had appeared painful — “like nothing I have ever seen before.”
Because Georgia’s open records law at the time allowed the disclosure of the state’s source of lethal injection drugs, Hammond’s lawyers were able to trace the sodium thiopental used to kill him to a strange Britain-based pharmaceutical wholesaler named Dream Pharma Ltd. As I wrote at the time, its headquarters were “a rented space in the back of a driving school in a West London suburb. Its bare-bones website boasts that it can provide ‘discontinued’ and ‘hard to find’ drugs to customers, promising that ‘confidentiality will remain paramount.’” Not long after news broke of the state’s sketchy execution source, the DEA seized Georgia’s supply of sodium thiopental, citing “questions about the way the drugs were imported.”
Following the DEA raid, two things happened quickly. First, Georgia hastily adopted a new drug to replace sodium thiopental: the barbiturate pentobarbital, over the objections of a Danish company named Lundbeck Inc., which warned the state that the drug was not meant for such use. Georgia ignored Lundbeck’s warnings, using the pentobarbital to execute Roy Blankenship, who “jerked his head,” lunged “with his mouth agape” and whose eyes “never closed,” according to one AP reporter in June 2011.
Second, on the urging of the Georgia Department of Corrections, lawmakers drafted a bill to block the release of any information about executions under the Open Records Act. Georgia’s Lethal Injection Secrecy Act, passed in March 2013, classifies as a “confidential state secret” the identity of “any person or entity who participates in or administers the execution of a death sentence” or who “manufactures, supplies, compounds, or prescribes the drugs, medical supplies, or medical equipment utilized in the execution of a death sentence.”
Apart from its assault on transparency, Georgia’s law now meant that condemned prisoners were not entitled to know the source of the drugs that would be used to kill them. This “created a catch-22 for any death-row inmate seeking to challenge Georgia’s lethal injection protocols,” as legal reporter Andrew Cohen wrote at the time. Without any information about where the state procured its drugs, prisoners could not fight their executions on Eighth Amendment grounds — even as they had ample reason to fear a cruel and unusual death. Nevertheless, in 2014, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the new law, calling the need for secrecy “obvious,” in order to avoid the “risk of harassment or some other form of retaliation” for those involved in executions — despite any lack of evidence that such risks existed.
As secrecy laws have continued to pass, most recently, Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia took a bizarre stance on the matter, urging lawmakers to reject a bill that would make the electric chair the state’s default mode of execution if drugs cannot be found for lethal injection, while pushing to conceal the identity of execution drug suppliers. Absent such a law, McAuliffe argued, “manufacturers will not do business in Virginia if their identities are to be revealed.” Doctors Without Borders delivered a petition signed by 370,000 people demanding a lower price for their lifesaving pneumonia vaccine. / AFP / DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)" />Product Misuse
By the time Pfizer made its decision to block drugs for executions, Foa had already worked with some two dozen other drug companies, from the U.S. to Europe, to find a way to cut off the supplies for U.S. executions. Contrary to the image of aggressive abolitionists, there was no ambush involved. “From the moment it purchased Hospira, Pfizer wanted a solution,” Foa said.
The first company Foa worked with was Lundbeck — the drug manufacturer who tried to prevent the state of Georgia from using its drugs to kill Roy Blankenship in 2011. In an email to The Intercept, Lundbeck’s communications director, Anders Schroll, recalled what happened. Reprieve contacted Lundbeck soon after the company discovered its “product misuse” in 2011. “We had a constructive dialogue,” Schroll said. This included “a couple of face-to-face meetings in Copenhagen and an active dialogue over the phone and via mail,” Schroll wrote. The company had suffered a wave of bad press over its drugs being used for executions, including an open letter published in The Lancet, in which a large number of doctors said they were “appalled at the inaction of Lundbeck” to prevent pentobarbital from being used in executions. Foa recalls the company acting in good faith — and Schroll said that it was a challenge to find “a way to restrict distribution while continuing to make it available for the small patient population who need it for emergency situations related to seizures. Striking that delicate balance wasn’t easy,” he wrote, “but all things considered, it was a very short time from learning about the misuse of our product to revamping the entire distribution system — just five months — and we did something no other company had achieved until that point, which was to cut off supply to prisons.”
Pfizer did not return multiple emails about its own process. But Foa describes it as similarly collaborative, not antagonistic, as well as much easier than the process with Lundbeck. As the industry has moved toward making such restrictions the industry standard, “the terrain is much more mapped out.”
In the wake of Pfizer’s announcement, the state of the death penalty across the country remains in disarray. As some states have gone backward, passing laws to bring back firing squads and electric chairs, those that insist on keeping lethal injection have proven shameless in their quest. Long after Georgia’s Dream Pharma debacle of 2011, the past few years have shown the absurd (and illegal) sources states have continued to find for their drugs — from “the salesman in India with no pharmaceutical background” who sold drugs to at least four states in violation of federal law, as BuzzFeed reported last fall, to a local hospital in Louisiana that inadvertently sent prison officials 20 vials of hydromorphone in 2014. (“Had we known of the real use,” one official told local news site The Lens, “we never would have done it.”)
Email records obtained by journalists have revealed “a disturbing flippancy” about the process, as reporter Katie Fretland reported in 2014, describing how Oklahoma officials joked in 2011 that, in exchange for helping Texas obtain elusive pentobarbital, they might be able to get “much sought-after 50-yard-line tickets to the Red River Rivalry, a football game between the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas.” In that state, whose execution protocol was upheld by the Supreme Court just last year, officials have exhibited shocking levels of incompetence and dishonesty when it comes to carrying it out.
Such revelations continue. Less than a week before Pfizer’s big announcement, the ACLU of Northern California released 12,000 pages of records from the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Through a similar records request years ago, the local ACLU chapter had discovered that California, too, had sought drugs high and low, including from local hospitals, only to end up with part of Arizona’s illegal shipment of drugs from Dream Pharma. (“You guys in AZ are life savers,” one California official wrote over email in 2010.) Reading the most recent batch of records is like bad déjà vu. One set of documents shows that CDCR yet again contemplated purchasing drugs from a pharmacy in the U.K. “We could do it again …” reads an email message from a consultant, an apparent reference to the disastrous purchase from Dream Pharma.
The documents also revealed a chilling attitude about recent botched executions. Criticizing the “big hoopla” surrounding the 2014 death of Dennis McGuire in Ohio — who writhed and gasped for air, according to witnesses — CDCR attorney Kelly McClease dismissed that ghastly spectacle as “snoring.”
Over email, Ana Zamora, criminal justice policy director for the ACLU of Northern California, said Pfizer’s decision does not stand to affect the death penalty there, since the company “does not manufacture any of the four drugs authorized for use” in the state. “The Pfizer decision, however, increases the likelihood that the CDCR will turn to troubling and costly sources to acquire lethal injection drugs,” she said. And the newly released records show that officials have considered purchasing drugs from “online pharmacies that boast offering cheap drugs without a prescription.” What’s more, records reveal that contrary to the CDCR’s public estimate that such drugs would cost $4,193 per execution, the department appears well aware that “a particular compounding pharmacy” would charge “between $133,080 and $150,000” per execution.
Although California has not carried out an execution in more than 10 years, there are active efforts underway to restart the state’s death machinery. And while there is no secrecy law in California, history suggests it is only a matter of time before someone decides such legislation is necessary. Zamara’s primary concern, she said, is that California has not learned any lessons from recent botched executions in other states. “If the CDCR acquires lethal injection drugs from sources that cannot ensure proper dosage, sterility, potency,” she said, “this will greatly increase the risk that an execution could go terribly wrong in California too.”
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A top military adviser to Donald Trump expressed qualified support for Trump’s proposal to kill terrorists’ families on Thursday, telling Al Jazeera that it would depend on the “circumstances of the situation.”
The statement from Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014, reignited a debate about whether the military in a Trump presidency could be counted on to refuse blatantly illegal orders.
CIA directors past and present have asserted that Trump’s proposal to bring back torture methods “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” was meaningless, because CIA officers would refuse to carry out such orders.
Trump insisted during a Republican debate in March that “they won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me.”
Flynn, who was appointed by President Obama, is one of the few credentialed military officials in Trump’s inner circle. But when Al Jazeera’s Mehdi Hasan asked Flynn directly “Would you kill the family of a terror suspect, yes or no?” Flynn replied that he would have to “see what the circumstances of that situation was.” Watch an excerpt and the entire interview.
Hasan responded, astonished: “Are you kidding me? What circumstances would justify the killing of a family – a wife and a child?”
Flynn answered by weaving a hypothetical about a former ISIS commander using human shields: “The circumstances could be – it could be something like an Omar Al-Bagdadi, let’s say he’s still alive, and we find him in a place where its very difficult to get into, and he is actually using children to protect himself, what do we do? How do we actually go get him if killing him is better than capturing him?
Hasan pointed out that Flynn was describing “collateral damage,” not intentionally targeting children.
Flynn acknowledged that troops have a duty to disobey illegal orders, but refused to say whether he would, remarking only that “these are difficult political decisions…” and that “he would advise differently.”
During the interview, Flynn also defended his tweet that “fear of Muslims is rational:”
Flynn said “I’m not saying to be fearful of all Muslims,” telling Hasan, “otherwise you and I would be wrestling right now.”
Hasan cheekily responded “and you’d probably win, which is why I should be afraid of you.”
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The primary factors driving Syrian youths towards extremist groups are deprivation and personal trauma stemming from five years of civil war in the country, according to a report from International Alert, a British organization. Entitled “Why Young Syrians Choose to Fight,” the report is based on interviews with 311 Syrians living in northern Syria, Lebanon and Turkey.
The prime drivers for extremism were personal experiences of trauma, loss of economic and educational opportunities, and a desire for vengeance against the Syrian government, according to the British NGO. The Syrian respondents said these practical factors, rather than ideological beliefs, led many young men to support groups like Jabhat al-Nusra (JaN), and the Islamic State.
With unemployment reaching 90 percent in some areas of the country and no end in sight to the conflict, many of those interviewed said that a simple need to survive drove many youths to join with militants, whether they agreed with their ideology or not. “The economic situation for young men, inside Syria, is bad,” said one respondent living in the Syrian province of Idlib. “They are only able to survive by joining a military faction either to receive salaries or for robbery and waylaying.”
Another individual interviewed for the report, issued earlier this month, told the story of an 18-year old who had been fighting with a Free Syrian Army unit that was unable to even maintain a supply of bullets. Despite disagreeing with their ideology, the young man later joined Jabhat al-Nusra after they offered him bullets as well as a salary to continue fighting the government.
The civil war that started in 2011 following a government crackdown on peaceful protests has now claimed up to 470,000 lives, according to some estimates. Out of a pre-war population of 22 million, over 11 percent of the Syrian population is now believed to have been killed or injured. Average life expectancy has plummeted from 75 to 55 years. Millions more have become refugees in neighboring countries or in Europe.
These staggering numbers have left few Syrian families untouched, and have had a profound psychological impact on those left behind. Many of those interviewed in the report said that a desire to avenge atrocities drives many Syrian youth into the arms of extremists, particularly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al Qaeda. Established by al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri after the 2011 uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, JaN is widely viewed as one of the most effective fighting forces on the ground against Assad’s regime.
“Many Syrians want to get revenge against the regime for destroying their families, houses, lives and everything else,” one Syrian, now living in Turkey, told the researchers. “Jabhat al-Nusra actually fights the regime and now offers the best chance to get that revenge.”
Syrians interviewed overwhelmingly cited practical rather than ideological reasons for joining militant groups. According to the study, “belief in extreme ideologies appears to be – at most – a secondary factor in the decision to join an extremist group,” adding that “religion is providing a moral medium for coping and justification for fighting, rather than a basis for rigid and extreme ideologies.”
Many young Syrians cited religious belief as something that obligated them to “defend their country” and “defend oppressed people” from the Syrian government. A young man in Aleppo told researchers that Syrian youths also became more religious after experiencing abandonment by other Arab and Islamic countries, as well as the sectarian policies of the Assad regime. Simple existential fear also led to increasing religious conservatism, he added: “Because of the ongoing shelling, youth became more religious for fear of sudden death.”
Amarnath Amarasingam, a fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, says the study’s findings comport with his own research. “Many Syrians have told me that the conflict is in many ways all-consuming, so if these youth want a future inside Syria, to go to school again without interruptions, build a family, and so on, it means contributing to bringing the war to an end,” he says. The spirit which animated the 2011 uprising against Assad still motivates many young Syrians, Amarasingam says, adding that a desire for political change among youth has increased after years of government brutality.
But for many others, taking up arms has been a matter of simple survival. “Our focus on jihadism means that we tend to ignore the many other youth who, out of sheer necessity, picked up a weapon to protect their villages from bombs dropping from the sky,” Amarasingam says. “I’m not sure what else we expect them to do at this point.”
Top photo: A Syrian man holds the body of his son, killed by the Syrian Army, near Dar El Shifa hospital in Aleppo on Oct. 3, 2012.
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