Truthout Stories http://www.truth-out.org Tue, 31 Mar 2015 11:28:33 -0400 en-gb Impunity Fuels Abuse in Immigrant Detention Centers in Spain http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/29957-impunity-fuels-abuse-in-immigrant-detention-centers-in-spain http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/29957-impunity-fuels-abuse-in-immigrant-detention-centers-in-spain

Trial of five police officers for alleged sexual abuse against immigrants held in the detention centre in the southern Spanish city of Málaga. This case is just one of many reported of mistreatment in these centres, whose closure is demanded by human rights groups. (Photo: Inés Benítez/IPS)Trial of five police officers for alleged sexual abuse against immigrants held in the detention centre in the southern Spanish city of Málaga. This case is just one of many reported of mistreatment in these centres, whose closure is demanded by human rights groups. (Photo: Inés Benítez/IPS)

Málaga, Spain - “They mistreat you, they don’t respect you. I’ve seen beatings, suffering, and you can’t defend yourself. When you’re locked in there it’s as if you were in another world,” Salif Sy, a Senegalese man who in 2011 spent eight days in an immigrant detention centre (CIE) in Madrid, told IPS.

Behind the walls of Spain’s eight CIEs, immigrants are frequent victims of abuse and mistreatment by the national police, who are in charge of guarding them, national and international human rights organisations warn.

They also complain about hurdles thrown in the way of investigations of reports of abuse, and about the prevailing impunity.

In the southern city of Málaga, five police officers are on trial for alleged sexual abuse of women held in the local CIE, in 2006. The centre operated in an old military garrison and was shut down when the dilapidated building was condemned in June 2012. A hearing of the trial was held Mar. 5.

“The police would hold parties, where they would take advantage of the inmates sexually. It’s disgusting,” Jaime Ernesto Rodríguez, the attorney for three women who are protected witnesses in the case, told IPS. The accused face possible sentences of 27 years. The verdict is expected in April.

“Two of the agents had access to the lists of women who were coming in and they would choose,” said the lawyer for the three women, from Brazil, Honduras and Venezuela, who were deported to their home countries in 2006, despite the opposition put up by their attorney and several organisations.

Spain’s immigration law states that the CIEs are “public establishments of a non-penitentiary nature…for the detention and custody of foreigners subject to deportation orders.” It stipulates that no one can be held for more than 60 days.

But non-governmental organisations say the CIEs are “prisons in disguise,” where human rights violations are rampant.

Their demand that the centres be shut down was bolstered by the position taken by the new government of Greece.

The deputy interior minister of Greece, Yannis Panousis, announced Feb. 14 that the five immigrant detention centres in his country would gradually be closed, after a 28-year-old Pakistani citizen committed suicide in one of the centres the day before.

The latest accusation in Spain was filed on Feb. 3 for the alleged torture of Mohamed Rezine Zohuir of Algeria and Ben Yunes Sabbar of Morocco, who were detained in January in the CIE of the southeastern city of Valencia, lawyer Andrés García Berrio of the legal team of the campaign Tanquem Els Cies (Close the CIEs, in the Valencian language), told IPS.

He said the case is under investigation and that there are photos documenting injuries on the two men’s heads and faces, which the CIE authorities claim were self-inflicted.

In 2014, immigrants held in the CIE filed 40 formal complaints of abuse by police.

“Any complaint of mistreatment should be promptly, exhaustively and impartially investigated,” Amnesty International Spain’s head of domestic policy, Virginia Álvarez, told IPS. “We are concerned about the lack of adequate oversight and accountability mechanisms.”

In November 2014 the United Nations Human Rights Committee asked the Spanish government for explanations in the cases of alleged mistreatment in the CIEs and excessive use of force by the immigration authorities.

Spain’s interior minister, Jorge Fernández Díaz, denied in a Feb. 22 interview that there were cases of torture in the CIEs.

“How could torture happen in the CIEs?” he said. “I would bet my life on the fact that no torture is being committed. And if anyone did commit such a barbaric act, they would be committing a crime. False reports have been made.”

But according to García Berrio, “there is no willingness on the part of the Interior Ministry to resolve this situation.” He also complained about “hurdles being set in the way of the investigations,” citing as examples two cases in which security camera footage that served as evidence “went missing due to supposed technical problems.”

In the CIEs there have been “aberrations,” said Rodríguez, the lawyer. He mentioned the case of the Brazilian immigrant, who is one of the protected witnesses in the trial against the police officers in the Málaga CIE. When she was taken to the centre, she had a high-risk pregnancy, and suffered a miscarriage while awaiting deportation.

Rodríguez filed a complaint against the police for omission of duty to aid a person in distress, which was thrown out.

“Impunity surrounds abuses by police in the CIEs,” the president of the non-governmental Spanish Association for the Human Right to Peace, Carlos Villán, told IPS. He said the agents “have not received adequate training, and they are not warned that torture and mistreatment are prohibited by both Spanish and international law.”

People held in the CIEs have died due to “inadequate detention conditions and lack of medical care,” said Villán, who did not mention a precise number.

“There have been suicides, rapes,” activist Luís Pernía, president of the Platform of Solidarity with the Immigrants of Málaga, an umbrella group made up of some 20 organisations, told IPS. “Many people have suffered all kinds of abuse in Málaga’s CIE for decades, and there is a legal vacuum.”

On Mar. 14, 2014, Spain’s Council of Ministers approved the regulations for the operation of the CIEs. Until then the inmates were in a legal vacuum without specific regulations such as those used to guarantee the basic rights of inmates in prisons.

But Villán believes that despite the regulations, “those who torture still have guaranteed impunity when they abuse people who are in especially vulnerable situations – undocumented immigrants, isolated from their families and friends, without money to pay a lawyer, and without knowledge of Spain’s legal system, let alone international law.”

“There is racism and a lot of suffering in the CIE,” said Salif Sy, who reached Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa, from Senegal, in a boat in 2006.

A few weeks before he was detained in 2011, Sy, who was heavily involved in different associations where he was living in the southeast Spanish city of Albacete, played King Balthazar in the city’s traditional Three Wise Men parade. Pressure from different organisations and his many friends blocked his deportation.

“We are all immigrants, we are all equals, I have to keep fighting for the people who will come after me,” said Sy, who is married to the Spanish woman who was his girlfriend when he was picked up by the authorities in their home in 2011.

Of the 49,406 foreign nationals detained in 2013 for breaking Spain’s immigration law, 9,002 were held in the CIEs and 4,726 were finally deported, according to the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture report published by the ombudsperson’s office in 2014.

Amnesty International’s Álvarez said people are detained in the CIEs “in the full knowledge that they cannot be deported if there is no repatriation agreement with their countries, along with people who are sick, possible victims of people trafficking, or potential asylum seekers; their human rights are being violated.”

 

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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News Tue, 31 Mar 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Capitol Dome http://www.truth-out.org/art/item/29956-capitol-dome http://www.truth-out.org/art/item/29956-capitol-dome ]]> Art Tue, 31 Mar 2015 00:00:00 -0400 Ring of Snitches: How Detroit Police Slapped False Murder Convictions on Young Black Men http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/29950-ring-of-snitches-how-detroit-police-slapped-false-murder-convictions-on-young-black-men http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/29950-ring-of-snitches-how-detroit-police-slapped-false-murder-convictions-on-young-black-men

Man in profile with emergency lights(Image: Man profile, emergency lights via Shutterstock; Edited: JR/TO)

One jailhouse informant for the Detroit Police Department sent Lacino Hamilton to prison. Now, Hamilton's fight to be released has revealed systemic corruption allegedly perpetrated by police, prosecutors and prisoner informants hoping for more lenient sentences.

Man in profile with emergency lights(Image: Man profile, emergency lights via Shutterstock; Edited: JR/TO)

It was the middle of July in 1994, outside an old strip club on Detroit's West Side, when Lonnie Bell admitted to his friend Christopher Brooks that he had killed somebody.

The two young men, both drug dealers, had been friends for a year. Less than a week earlier, while Brooks was selling crack outside of a laundromat in the East Side, he happened to see Bell leaving a home where police later discovered the body of Willa B. Bias shot to death. Brooks casually mentioned what he'd seen as the two of them relaxed in the strip club. According to Brooks, Bell was mum at first, but then invited Brooks to blow lines of cocaine in his Ford Bronco. Inside the car, Bell confessed to the murder.

The informant was part of a ring of jailhouse informants - or "snitches" - that allegedly received lenient sentences.

He said he killed Bias because she was supposed to be dead, possibly for the $70,000 in drug money her foster son kept hidden in the basement. He also told Brooks that if he ever told anyone what he saw, he'd lay Brooks' corpse next to the woman's. Brooks was so shaken - Bell had a reputation as a cold, careful killer - that he soon decamped for Monroe, Michigan, fearing Bell would kill him if he stayed in Detroit. Brooks says he never told anybody about what he saw until 2013, the year he was contacted by an independent investigator reassessing the murder case. Brooks says he is coming forward now because he believes the wrong man is in prison for Bias' death.

Today, Lonnie Bell is dead, a casualty of Detroit's gang warfare. The man imprisoned for Bias' murder is Lacino Hamilton, her foster son, who grew up in her home and was 19 years old when she was killed. Hamilton, now 40, has always maintained his innocence, and he says he loved his foster mother - whom he simply refers to as mom. Without a retrial, the earliest he can expect to be let out of prison is 2046, when he will be 71.

Hamilton's murder conviction hinged on two pieces of evidence: a coerced statement, and testimony from a jailhouse informant claiming that Hamilton confessed to the murder while awaiting trial in his jail cell. But according to affidavits, courthouse transcripts, letters and internal memos obtained by Truthout, the informant - who is long deceased - may have received incentives from Detroit police to falsely testify against a number of individuals. These documents also suggest that the informant was part of a ring of jailhouse informants - or "snitches" - that allegedly received lenient sentences as well as food, drugs, sex and special privileges from detectives in the Detroit Police Department's homicide division in return for making statements against dozens of prisoners eventually convicted of murder.

Jailhouse Informants "Lie Primarily in Exchange for Lenience"

A 2005 report published by the Northwestern University School of Law traced the first documented use of "snitch testimony" in the United States to 1819, when the state of Vermont convicted Jesse Boorn for murder based on testimony from his cellmate. The cellmate told a judge that Boorn confessed to the crime inside their jail cell while awaiting his trial. In exchange for testifying, the cellmate was freed after Boorn's trial, and Boorn was sentenced to the gallows.

This basic reward system underpinning jailhouse informant testimony persists into the present day. It's not difficult to imagine why a prisoner informant would lie about overhearing a confession if it means real material benefits.

Snitch testimony was paramount in 45.9 percent of 111 death row exonerations since the late 1970s.

"Informants lie primarily in exchange for lenience for their own crimes, although sometimes they lie for money," according to a report from Golden Gate University Law Review. While informants are motivated to falsify testimony for material reward, prosecutors are often motivated to make those informants sound believable to a judge. Testimony from a single jailhouse informant is enough to convict a person for a charge as serious as murder, according to Valerie Newman, assistant defender in Michigan's State Appellate Defender Office.

"You can be convicted on any credible evidence ruled as admissible," she told Truthout. "If a judge rules it's admissible and a jury believes it, you can be convicted. People find it hard to believe people can be sent to prison for the rest of their lives based on this kind of testimony."

They can also be killed. The Northwestern report found that snitch testimony was paramount in 45.9 percent of 111 death row exonerations since the late 1970s, making it the leading cause of wrongful convictions in US capital cases. As DNA detection became more sophisticated in the late 1990s, waves of prisoners were exonerated, and some states began examining their use of jailhouse informants. The Innocence Project, a group that investigates innocence claims in decades-old cases, claims that in 15 percent of all wrongful conviction cases overturned by DNA testing, statements from people with incentives to testify were critical evidence used to convict a person.

These relatively recent revelations have moved some states to examine the use of jailhouse informant testimony. In a broad review of all state defendants wrongfully convicted of capital murder, the Illinois Commission on Capital Punishment found that prosecution often "relied unduly on the uncorroborated testimony of a witness with something to gain," including "in-custody informants," and passed a law preventing death sentences if a conviction was based on "uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice or a jail-house snitch." Similarly, California reopened 225 cases in 1989 after an informant blew the lid off the way Los Angeles prosecutors fed prewritten testimonies to informants, and the state later adopted a law requiring informant testimony be held to higher proof standards.

Whistleblower in the Homicide Division

While these higher standards can sometimes backfire, in places like Michigan, where there are no regulations for using informant testimony beyond prosecutors knowing and admitting to it, there has never been a serious investigation into the systematic use of jailhouse informants by police and prosecutors. Claudia Whitman, director of the National Death Row Assistance Network of CURE (NDRAN), believes some cases would be overturned following a serious re-examination.

"In the two cases [from Detroit] I have worked on in depth, jailhouse informants were major players in the state obtaining convictions," she told Truthout, acknowledging that while using informant testimony is not illegal, it is known to be highly inaccurate.

Police routinely hid exculpatory evidence from prosecutors and judges.

On at least one occasion, the veneer of secrecy over the Detroit Police Department's homicide division was punctured, giving a fleeting glimpse of systemic corruption. In 1997, Detroit native Dwight Carl Love was freed from a Michigan prison after 15 years. He wasn't exonerated by DNA tests, but through the efforts of a tenacious defense attorney named Sarah Hunter with a whistleblower inside Detroit's homicide unit. Based on a tip from the whistleblower, Hunter forced Detroit police to turn over evidence they'd hidden from trial that supported Love's innocence. He was exonerated - as other men would be in later years - because of the police department's failure to present exculpatory evidence to the court.

According to an affidavit from Hunter, the whistleblower, who allegedly committed suicide less than a year after meeting the attorney, told Hunter that police routinely hid exculpatory evidence from prosecutors and judges. In the years after Hunter obtained the Love evidence, she claimed to Claudia Whitman that Detroit police intimidated her by beating prisoners if they spoke to her. Neither she nor the police responded to Truthout's request for comment.

Snitches on the Ninth Floor

Besides the attorney and the whistleblower, evidence of systemic corruption within Detroit's homicide unit in the mid-1990s comes from alleged informants themselves. Their claims involve dozens of cases of men who are still in prisons across Michigan.

Before Jonathan Hewitt was sentenced to four years in prison in 1994, he says he spent months in a cell on the ninth floor of the Detroit Police Department waiting for his trial. While there, he claims, homicide detectives offered him and at least six other prisoners food and drink, conjugal visits, time to watch television and, most importantly, the promise of lenient sentences if they testified against other prisoners also being held in the jail cells on the ninth floor. Hewitt says police told informants that a deal for their reduced sentences would be hatched after the suspect's trial, so that they would not have to acknowledge it in court, which could have swayed jurors' away from a conviction.

Allen estimated that over 100 people who were convicted of murder were "set up" by Detroit police based on false testimony.

"The Detectives would provide me with the necessary information, but just they wanted me to try and convince a couple prisoners to tell me about their cases - murder [cases] only," Hewitt wrote in an affidavit in 2011. In a phone interview with Truthout, he said detectives supplied him and other informants with prewritten statements to memorize before the preliminary hearings of the accused men. In those statements, informants would say that the accused person confessed to their crime in a way that "filled in" the details detectives were missing to connect the suspect to their crime. Often, Hewitt said, informants had familial or fraternal connections to the men they snitched on, indicating they were all scooped up from the same underclass milieu.

It's hard to gauge how many cases from that time relied on informant testimony, and how critically. Hewitt estimated that between just two informants he personally knew, upwards of 30 men were convicted of murder in the mid-1990s. By another account, from Detroit Police Sgt. Dale Collins in the homicide division, a single informant helped police with at least 20 cases before July 1994.

In 2013, a defense attorney looking into a prisoner's innocence claim hired a private attorney to interview another admitted snitch in 1994, Edward Allen. Allen told the investigator that police witnesses on the ninth floor of the Detroit Police Department were allowed visitors who brought food and drugs from outside, and claims he even had sex with one of the homicide detectives. He also reveals in a letter to a federal circuit judge that he spent two years imprisoned on the ninth floor, and hoped to extract a favorable plea deal for helping police with five different cases.

Allen estimated in another letter to Larry Smith, a man convicted largely because of Allen's testimony, that over 100 people who were convicted of murder were "set up" by Detroit police based on false informant testimony. He also admitted to falsifying his testimony against Smith, who is still incarcerated. Allen, who is currently incarcerated, was released from prison in 2008 but sentenced to three years in 2012 after violating his probation.

The Memo

Eventually, some of the defense attorneys for men incriminated by snitches approached the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office with concerns about certain informants. In February 1995, the deputy chief assistant prosecutor for Wayne County, Robert Agacinski, wrote to his supervisor expressing concern over the department's use of informants. He noted that two detectives in the homicide department, Dale Collins and Bill Rice, had approached prosecutors to ask that they reduce a sentence for two informants, a request the district attorney turned down.

"I don't know how to reconcile or accept this. I just don't know how, so I don't try."

If an investigation had found that police were promising informants lenient sentences - which is outside of their authority - or working with prosecutors to fabricate informant's testimony, it could have resulted in evidentiary hearings, jump-starting the process of overturning convictions. But Agacinski, who recently headed the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission, says nothing was ever done to address the concerns he outlined.

"I was low-middle-ranking management. I wasn't part of top level," he told Truthout. "Nobody ever told me anything else and I have no idea if [the memo] was acted upon."

One informant Agacinski mentioned by name in the memo was Lacino Hamilton's snitch, Olivera Rico Cowen, a man living with AIDS. In July 1994, three weeks before Hamilton was arrested for his foster mother's murder, Cowen was granted a radically reduced sentence for cooperating with homicide detectives. Instead of serving five to 15 years in prison, he would only have to do a year - as long as he continued to cooperate with homicide investigators.

But Cowen didn't live that long. He spent the last months of his life on the ninth floor of the police department, loyally trying to coerce a confession out of Hamilton.

"Reading and Rebelling"

Lacino Hamilton rejects the legitimacy of the entire carceral system, and says his resistance to the system's dictates has likely made his life harder in his current prison, the already violent Kinross Correctional Facility. Over the last 19 years, Hamilton frequently bounced around different prisons until ending up at Kinross, near the Canadian border.

"I don't know how to reconcile or accept this. I just don't know how, so I don't try," he told Truthout, adding that he spent much of his time "reading and rebelling."

Even after nearly two decades of imprisonment, Hamilton rages against prisons, police and a whole social order founded on oppression.

"How some of us live is not a mistake; neither is it the product of a broken system," he wrote in an essay from prison. "We live like that because it is profitable to a lot of people businesses: pawn shops, pay-day loan services, slum lords, creditors, social services, and others who traffic in misery."

Homicide detectives and a prisoner conspired to pressure him into testifying against Hamilton.

These days, Hamilton has reason to feel optimistic. After writing to thousands of journalists, lawyers and colleges to plead his case, he finally got in touch with Claudia Whitman from the NDRAN, who supplied this reporter with most of the documents behind this story. Whitman also made contact with Christopher Brooks, the prisoner who says he knows who really killed Hamilton's foster mother. With Whitman's help, Hamilton was able to convince an up-and-coming attorney to work to overturn his conviction pro bono. Mary Chartier said her firm vetted the case before taking it on.

"If we think someone is wrongfully convicted, we really put the resources of the firm behind the client," she told Truthout. "If we're going to take on this case for free, it means we really believe in it."

Hamilton was imprisoned with a man named Darnell Thompson, who claims he was threatened by police into pinning the crime on Hamilton. In an affidavit reviewed by Truthout, Thompson said that homicide detectives and prisoner Olivera Rico Cowen conspired to pressure him into testifying against Hamilton. Thompson, who was 18 at the time, says he was coerced into signing a statement against Hamilton, but he later refused to testify against Hamilton in court. But Thompson's statement, as well as Cowen's testimony and testimony about Hamilton's character by a neighbor, were enough for a jury to convict Hamilton to a maximum of 80 years in prison.

Chartier says Cowen's testimony was a critical reason for the conviction, even though he was also instrumental in six other murder convictions, according to court documents.

Patterns and Practices

Documents pertinent to Hamilton's case also suggest there may be many more prisoners in Michigan convicted because of the Detroit Police Department's jailhouse informants. They include Larry Smith, the man to whom informant Edward Allen admitted falsifying testimony in a 2002 letter.

Like Hamilton, Smith wrote to lawyers and journalists for years before somebody responded. When he was 18, he claims he was detained for murder without an attorney, which he says allowed police to fabricate a statement by him. Allen later corroborated that fabricated statement at Smith's trial. Smith's current attorney, Mary Owens, says they are wading through the appeals process now.

"In many cases, even if all the witnesses have recanted, or if a person claims innocence, it's still difficult to [overturn a conviction]," she told Truthout. "The courts are more concerned with whether the trial has been procedurally proper."

When the snitch ring on the ninth floor was busiest, Detroit police were casting a wide net over neighborhoods.

But in recent years, as challenges to US police as an institution have risen in the media and the streets, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has more publicly scrutinized police across the country, most memorably in Ferguson. Ron Scott, director of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, is hopeful that the old snitch cases in Detroit could be reviewed by the DOJ, given its recent investigations.

"If we could find those patterns and practices, [the DOJ] would be willing to use it as a template for looking at the department and the way it infuses this behavior," he said, adding that he and a federal monitor had met with prisoners from Detroit with "questionable convictions."

Yet even if federal investigators do get involved, legal sources tell Truthout any lawsuit that follows would likely only affect future policies and practices, not grant relief for currently incarcerated people alleging past harm.

Backdrop of Corruption

Federal intervention in Detroit police affairs would not be new; in fact, the police have been under a federal "consent decree," which is the DOJ's official method of addressing civil rights abuses by law enforcement. Police under a consent decree are audited every quarter by a court-appointed monitor to assess their progress on reforms. Detroit's decree was put into effect after the Detroit Free Press exposed that Detroit police had the highest number of fatal shootings by police in the United States.

Despite the pretense of oversight, in 2008, the FBI uncovered a romantic affair between the federal monitor and the city's now-imprisoned mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick. The monitor and her team were replaced in 2009 by the current monitor, Robert Warshaw. The city will exit the decree in 2016.

In addition to the affair scandal, evidence of corruption in the homicide department emerged in 2008. An audit by Michigan State Police into the DPD's crime lab revealed that police made assumptions about "the entirety of all items [in a case] based on the analysis of only a few," likely resulting in erroneous convictions. The lab's closure led to yet another scandal three years later: The Detroit Free Press discovered that the lab, and all the evidence in it, including sealed evidence bags, ballistic tests and investigative reports, had simply been abandoned and left open to anybody who wanted to go inside. Evidence was allowed to degrade, touching hundreds of cases.

Neglect

Lacino Hamilton was part of a generation that grew up in the so-called "crack era," and before going to prison, he sold drugs in order to build a life for himself in a dying city. As in Congress and major cities across the country, Detroit's answer to the social fallout of drugs and poverty was more aggressive policing and sentencing. It fell on homicide detectives in the lockup craze of the mid-1990s to funnel Black youth from the streets into the prison system.

Around the time when the snitch ring on the ninth floor was busiest, Detroit police were casting a wide net over entire neighborhoods that bore the worst effects of divestment and disrepair. This is, in fact, how Hamilton describes his arrest: He wasn't singled out after his foster mother's murder, but picked up alongside many other young Black men after she was killed. He was originally picked up for questioning in an unrelated case, before detectives allegedly pinned the murder on him when they couldn't pin it on another suspect.

Hamilton says the reason his original defense attorney did not challenge the prosecutor's use of an informant corresponds to some of the reasons Black communities around the nation still suffer at the hands of the state: neglect and an assumption of disposability.

"By now, the demonstrative wasting away of Black life in urban areas, such as Detroit, has become an historical and social fact, called neglect," he wrote in an email to Truthout. "I mean what else can it be? Society places little to no value on Black lives. And what people don't value, they don't bother with ... I'm in prison because no one wondered, cared, or took the time to ask how a handful of serial offenders [snitches] could show up in court again and again to have received unsolicited confessions - neglect."

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News Tue, 31 Mar 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Why the House of Representatives Doesn't Represent the US Public http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/29949-why-the-house-of-representatives-doesn-t-represent-the-us-public http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/29949-why-the-house-of-representatives-doesn-t-represent-the-us-public

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) discusses President Barack Obama’s executive actions addressing immigration reform, at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 21, 2014. (Jabin Botsford/The New York Times)Speaker of the House John Boehner discusses President Obama's executive actions addressing immigration reform, at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, November 21, 2014. (Jabin Botsford/The New York Times)

One of the really weird ironies of politics these days is the huge divergence between what the US people actually want and what the radical right-wingers in Washington actually do.

You won't hear this on "Fox So-Called News," but right now the US people are as progressive as they ever have been.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

Don't believe me? Just check the polls.

The Progressive Change Institute recently asked likely 2016 voters about their views on a bunch of big issues, and it turns out that everyday citizens overwhelmingly support some of the most liberal policies around.

  • 71 percent of the US public supports giving all students access to a debt-free college education.
  • 70 percent support expanding Social Security.
  • 71 percent support a massive infrastructure spending program aimed at rebuilding out broken roads and bridges and putting people back to work.
  • 59 percent support raising taxes on the wealthy so that millionaires pay the same amount in taxes as they did during the Reagan administration.
  • 77 percent support giving every US child free pre-K education.

And the list goes on.

  • 58 percent of Americans support breaking up the big banks.
  • 59 percent, meanwhile, support a basic guaranteed minimum income while a still higher percentage - 70 percent - support the creation of a "Green New Deal" that would see the government invest hundreds of millions of dollars in renewable energy.

Oh, and if that wasn't enough, support on Capitol Hill for the Congressional Progressive Caucus' (CPC) annual budget, which would put into place many of these very same liberal policies, is growing.

A full 40 percent of House Democrats supported the CPC budget in 2012, 43 percent supported it in 2013, 44 percent supported it in 2014 and more than half - 51.5 percent - support it this year.

In other words, progressive values aren't just popular with everyday citizens - they're also popular, and increasingly more popular, with one of our two major parties, the Democratic one.

But all this begs the question: If more than half of congressional Democrats and way more than half of all citizens support doing things like expanding Social Security and making college free for all, why aren't those policies becoming law?

Why, in our democracy, is the will of the people not being heard?

The answer is both simple and tragic - we no longer actually live in a democracy.

We live in an oligarchy.

Thanks to the Supreme Court's long war against campaign finance law, the billionaires and economic royalists now have more control over our political system than they have in almost a century.

This isn't opinion; it's objective and quantifiable fact.

A study released last year by political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, for example, found the following:

A proposed policy change with low support among the US economic elite (one-out-of-five in favor) is adopted only about 18 percent of the time while a proposed change with high support (four-out-of-five in favor) is adopted about 45 percent of the time.

It really is all about money in politics.

Since billionaires like Charles and David Koch can now pretty much buy their own politicians, along with billions in advertising and PR, it's their views that get heard in Congress, and it's their views that become law.

And because real progressive policies so often cut into the power of the rich, they only very rarely become law in this "Brave New World" of ours.

The United States has and always will be a progressive nation, but if we don't do something right now to reign in the corrupting influence of big money, it won't matter whether 70 percent or 30 percent of citizens want to break up the big banks.

So go to Move to Amend right now to get money out of politics once and for all.

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Opinion Mon, 30 Mar 2015 15:53:28 -0400
The Fight Against High-Stakes Testing: A Civil Rights Movement http://www.truth-out.org/progressivepicks/item/29948-is-the-next-civil-rights-movement-against-high-stakes-tests http://www.truth-out.org/progressivepicks/item/29948-is-the-next-civil-rights-movement-against-high-stakes-tests

History teacher and author of More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing, Jesse Hagopian, talks about the fight against high-stakes testing, the roots of that testing in eugenics movement and its insidious anti-democratic and anti-labor social goals.

(Image: Haymarket Books)(Image: Haymarket Books)"We are experiencing the largest ongoing revolt against high-stakes standardized testing in US history," according to Jesse Hagopian, high school history teacher, education writer and editor of More Than a Score. This remarkable book introduces the educators, students, parents and others who make up the resistance movement pushing back against the corporate "testocracy." Click here to order More Than a Score today by making a donation to Truthout!

The largest ongoing revolt against high-stakes testing in history is currently being waged by teachers, students, parents and administrators at schools across the United States.

Jesse Hagopian is part of it. A history teacher and the Black Student Union adviser at Garfield High School in Seattle, Hagopian and his colleagues made history in 2013, when they chose to boycott their region's standardized test, the MAP.

"I think that we have to see this movement against high-stakes standardized testing as a civil rights movement."

Administered via computer, the MAP test (which stands for Measures of Academic Progress), is given to some 3 million students across the United States and the world. When Garfield's teachers and students boycotted the MAP, they faced threats from the superintendent of schools, but they had the support of their Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and local schools.

"To see students standing up for their own education ... was a powerful moment," Hagopian told the Laura Flanders Show recently.

Garfield's boycott helped inspire acts of resistance across the nation, many of which are written up in More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing, edited by Hagopian and published by Haymarket Press.

In this conversation, Hagopian describes what went into the Garfield boycott, the first resisters (who, he says, are the wealthy who send their kids elsewhere) and the origins of standardized testing in the eugenics movement of the early 1900s. He also imagines an education system fit for a more cooperative economy.

"I think that we have to see this movement against high-stakes standardized testing as a civil rights movement," says Hagopian in this interview.

Watch Jesse Hagopian's interview in full on The Laura Flanders Show, which airs at 9 pm Eastern and Pacific on KCET/LINKtv, (DIRECTV, ch. 375 & DISH Network ch. 9410); in English and Spanish on TeleSUR, or online, with comprehensive archives at GRITtv.org.

Laura Flanders: You call yourself a member of a movement of "test-defiers."

Jesse Hagopian: That's right.

Special spelling, tell us what you mean.

We're a group that is refusing to give high-stakes standardized tests, refusing to take high-stakes standardized tests, opting our children out of these tests, and we're up against the testocracy, what I call the corporate education reformers who are trying to reduce the intellectual process of teaching and learning to a single number that they can then use to punish teachers and students, deny our kids graduation, bust up the teachers' unions, label the schools "failing" and then close them, like we've seen in Chicago or Philadelphia, with scores of schools closed.

What were the risks faced by your students, fellow teachers, even administrators there at [Garfield High School] as they considered this boycott in 2013?

When we took the vote to decide whether or not to refuse to give the MAP test, teachers right away asked me, "What are the consequences we're going to face?" Everyone knew this test was not giving us useful feedback to drive instruction. They knew it was a waste of our teaching and learning time, but the question they had for me was what's going to happen if we refuse, and I couldn't sugarcoat it. I let them know. We have a progressive discipline policy, but especially if you're in a tested subject, and you refuse to give [the test], you could be terminated.

For their kids? They want the arts. They want creativity and critical thinking taught in the classroom. But for our kids, they want this rote memorization.

In fact, when we announced that we were going to refuse to give this test, the superintendent issued a threat of a 10-day suspension without pay.

It was really the mass resistance of other schools joining the boycott; of our PTA voting unanimously to support our boycott; and the students themselves staging a sit-in in their classroom, refusing to get up and go to the library to take this computer-generated test, that kept us safe.

You wrote about it in the book. You are in a different room, and you've done all this organizing, and it comes to the question of, are the students going to walk to the library and take that test? Were you confident?

It was an incredible moment at Garfield High School because we knew the success of the boycott rested in the students' hands at that point. Administrators were told by the superintendent they had to go door to door and pull kids out of class and march them off to the computer lab, and when students heard their name called out and refused to get up, or some of the students went to the lab but then they just hit the A key over and over again so the scores were invalidated because the test was done in 30 seconds, it was really the linchpin of the resistance, and to see students standing up for their own education to say, "I want to be in my teacher's class right now and take a test that actually is aligned to my curriculum, take an exam that actually means something to what I've been learning," was a powerful moment.

So why did they take those risks, those teachers, the students, the parents? George Bush is in favor of standardized testing, high-stakes testing. Barack Obama is in favor of it. What do you know that they don't?

Well, they don't actually send their kids to schools that use these exams. I've often said that actually, the MAP test boycott didn't start at my school at Garfield High School; in fact, it began at Lakeside High School, a school down the road, where Bill Gates went, where he sends his kids, because they never administered the exam, and they wouldn't do that to their own children, reduce teaching and learning to this score and teach to the test.

Instead, they have a system called performance-based assessment that is far superior to high-stakes standardized tests. It's an incredible model which is much like when you get your PhD.

For their kids? They want the arts. They want creativity and critical thinking taught in the classroom. But for our kids, they want this rote memorization, and that contradiction I think is what led to the MAP test boycott. And the MAP test boycott helped inspire an entire country as we saw more boycotts break out in the wake of ours across the nation.

And yet Bill Gates has been very influential in pushing this testing regime.

Absolutely. I mean, he's invested hundreds of millions of dollars, upwards of $200 million to implement the Common Core [curriculum] and the high-stakes test that are attached to it - the PARCC and Smarter Balanced [tests]. We've seen one man who uses his fortune and his wealth to manipulate and subvert the democratic process of education and to impose his will over the democratic will of the community.

Talk about what you want instead. You talked about testing or evaluating that is in line with the curriculum as one of the teachers' goals. Sometimes critics of standardized tests are people who were against testing all together. What are you for?

Right. Absolutely. Teachers invented testing, and we're not against assessment. We have to have ways to know how our students are doing. I'm actually here in New York to visit the [New York Performance Standards Consortium], which is an incredible group of some 28 schools across New York that have a waiver and don't have to give the state standardized tests. Instead, they have a system called  performance-based assessment that is far superior to high-stakes standardized tests. It's an incredible model ,which is much like when you get your PhD. You do research over time. You develop a thesis. If your evidence doesn't match your thesis, you have to revise your thesis. You work with a mentor, a teacher; collaborate with peers, and at the end of a period of time, you present your research and you defend your thesis much like a PhD candidate would defend their dissertation.

A major goal of the 1% in this country is to bust unions and to make America a low-wage economy that can compete with China.

These students at the New York Consortium Schools are doing this in every subject. I think the proof is that the New York Consortium Schools have higher graduation rates. They have their students of color performing and graduating at higher rates, going to college at higher rates, staying in college at higher rates, and the New York Consortium Schools have larger numbers of students who are at-risk and have special needs. If the corporate education reformers truly were about improving achievement for all students, they would be flying the principals of these New York Consortium Schools all over the nation to talk about why this assessment model and the inquiry-based classrooms that lead to it are creating such incredible outcomes for our students, but that's not their goal at all.

Talk about goals. You referred to the corporate education reformers. Obviously, there's a moneymaking piece in this. George Bush's brother Neil was very invested in the company that was creating the test that that administration was pushing. But there's another agenda here, too, that you allude to in the book.

Absolutely.

What's that?

I think there's the people who directly want to profiteer from the selling of the test. That's part of what's driving it, but I think that there are larger goals at play here. One is that the teachers' unions are the last major national unions, the biggest unions left in America. I think especially after the 2008 Great Recession, that a major goal of the 1% in this country is to bust unions and to make America a low-wage economy that can compete with China.

Just to play devil's advocate for a moment, if unions have been protecting bad teachers and their jobs . . . isn't it time for a change? Don't we need some changes?

Well, I would say that due process is a lot different than a job for a life - as that we're often painted the teachers' union movement with. I would also invite critics of the teachers' unions to look at some important statistics. The South, large swaths of the South don't have teachers' unions. Are those schools outperforming the schools in the North?

This drive for high-stakes testing is about training an entire population that knowledge is the ability to eliminate wrong answer choices from a prescribed list of answers that are given by the elite.

Well, by the measures of test scores that the corporate reformers hold so dearly, no. Actually, the unionized schools are performing better on the test scores, which completely debunks their logic and exposes the real quest of the corporate reformer, which is I think to bust the teachers' unions. Also, to label our schools failing so that they can privatize them, right?

If in Chicago, they label the schools failing, mostly in Black and Brown neighborhoods, and then they move the charter schools in and have private operators use public funds to run them.

The last part of what I think is behind this drive for high-stakes testing is about training an entire population that knowledge is the ability to eliminate wrong answer choices from a prescribed list of answers that are given by the elite. We want to reframe that and say that actually, knowledge and wisdom are about empowering students to solve the problems they face in the world today from myriad disasters that we face, from mass incarceration to climate change. These problems won't be solved unless we can develop critical thinking and imagination skills in the classroom.

Where did these tests come from, historically speaking? IQ testing and what's come since came in at a particular moment in history, particularly when it comes to race relations.

That's absolutely right, and I think that's an important history that lays bare the lies of the testocracy today. They say that these tests are about closing the achievement gap, but if you know that these tests actually enter the public schools in the early 1900s, tests that were developed out of IQ tests that were first used during World War I to separate the officers from the grunt soldiers, and then a man named Carl Brigham was one of the men who developed those IQ tests. He taught at Princeton University and then he developed the SAT test.

When we say that Black lives matter, we're not just saying that young Black people shouldn't be shot down in the street with impunity and no accountability for the police. We're saying that we need culturally relevant curriculum.

Carl Brigham was an open eugenicist, a white supremacist whose whole premise of these tests were about ranking and sorting the races to prove that white men were smarter than women, were smarter than immigrants, were smarter than African-Americans. And now we see the same A, B, C, D bubble testing that was brought into the public schools by eugenicists. They're claiming that these are going to be the tests that close the achievement gap, and I say that's nonsense.

Talk about the future of this movement that you're a part of. Many people involved in your struggles were also out in the streets in Seattle and elsewhere in the #BlackLivesMatter protests around policing. The stories in your book come from teachers and administrators and parents about what's going on locally. There's a world of trouble coming to this status quo I would say.

I hope you're right. I think you are.

But how do you see it playing out and where do you see the connections?

Yeah. I think that we have to see this movement against high-stakes standardized testing as a civil rights movement, and I think that the people that are a part of this movement to end high-stakes standardized testing would do well to study the racist origins of this test and to make connections between these tests and the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

There's a recent study that came out of Boston University that shows the number one outcome of exit exams in high school to graduate is increased incarceration rates. We're seeing the school-to-prison pipeline being built with these high-stakes tests, and so part of our movement must have an antiracist message. We need to say that when we say that Black lives matter, we're not just saying that young Black people shouldn't be shot down in the street with impunity and no accountability for the police. We're saying that we need culturally relevant curriculum. We need a nurturing education system that's fully funded and develops the capacity of all of our students, especially those who have have been historically discriminated against. I would say the #BlackLivesMatter movement would also do well to join in with this movement against high-stakes standardized testing and say that we want more for our students.

If you were going to redefine education or redesign it for a more group-oriented economy, how would it change?

It would look quite different. It would be about inquiry-based classrooms where students are asked open-ended questions, and they're asked to bring in their experience, and they're asked to do problem-based learning, where we discuss problems that we face in our society, and we look to the different disciplines to help address those problems. We would have interdisciplinary classes, so that if we wanted to tackle a problem like climate change, we could have courses designed where we integrate history of coal extraction and the Industrial Revolution together with science classes that look at issues around climate change and have a more holistic approach.

I didn't know that you were going to say that, but it does sound an awful lot like what Bill Gates says Common Core is about.

Yeah. Except for he tells a lot of fibs, right? The problem is that he's attached to the same old high-stakes standardized tests with the A,B,C,D answers to Common Core, which then drive the curriculum towards teaching kids how to eliminate wrong answer choices rather than solving problems we face in our communities. I think that we need to move towards a student-centered approach and listen to teachers and have teachers and educators be the ones driving education reform like we're seeing with the Consortium Schools here in New York, like we're seeing at my high school, where we rejected the test and are now moving to implement alternatives.

All right. Jesse Hagopian, thank you so much for coming. Good luck with the book

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Progressive Picks Tue, 31 Mar 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Rounding Us Up, and Exposing Us All to Cancer http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/29946-rounding-us-up-and-exposing-us-all-to-cancer http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/29946-rounding-us-up-and-exposing-us-all-to-cancer

The World Health Organization has just declared the most widely used herbicide in the world, glyphosate, a "probable human carcinogen," a designation long overdue. Cancer is only one of many health consequences of the growing scourge of herbicides, pesticides and GMOs.

Spraying herbicide(Image: Spraying herbicide via Shutterstock)

A friend of mine sent me an email recently after being alarmed by observing a neighbor's son, as a city employee, spraying the herbicide Roundup along the Jordan River Parkway in the center of Salt Lake City. She asked him what he was spraying and he said, "nothing dangerous, just Roundup." He wasn't wearing any protection of any kind.

The very same day, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that they had concluded the active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, the most widely sold agricultural and household herbicide in the world, billed as one of the most benign herbicides ever manufactured, was a "probable carcinogen." The WHO elaborated that their biggest concern was for occupational exposure, but that the evidence was "convincing" that glyphosate caused cancer in lab rats and mice. Obviously, the young man spraying herbicides along the Jordan River has occupational exposure. What about the rest of us?

Glyphosate residues cannot be removed by washing and they are not broken down by cooking.

The bulk of food in the United States now originates primarily from mass plantings of monocultures of "Roundup Ready" crops, genetically engineered to withstand Roundup, which is repeatedly sprayed to exterminate weeds between the crop plants. Not surprisingly, glyphosate residue remains on the crops, which then enters the food chain of animals and humans. About 90 percent of the world's high volume grains are now "Roundup Ready." Glyphosate residues cannot be removed by washing and they are not broken down by cooking. They remain in food for a year or more, even if the foods are frozen, dried or processed. Eating strictly organic doesn't protect you. Several studies have shown that it is even present in the air we breathe, water we drink and rain that falls from the sky. (1) Essentially, no one on earth has been spared. A recent study of non-farmworker, urban dwellers in Germany found glyphosate in the urine of every person tested, and at levels five to 20 times the legal limit for drinking water.

To see more stories like this, visit "Planet or Profit?"

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a legally enforceable maximum contaminant level (MCL) for glyphosate of 700 micrograms per liter in drinking water, which is 7,000 times higher than the limit set in Europe. Not surprisingly, urine testing of US residents showed levels 10 times higher than those of European residents. This reflects the pervasive use of Roundup in the United States compared to Europe. A 2012 study from Washington State University professor Charles Benbrook confirmed that the increased use of GMO crops had resulted in increased national use of glyphosate, contradicting the often stated justification for GMO crops - that they would result in less pesticide use.

Regulatory bodies worldwide seem to have taken Monsanto's word for it that glyphosate is not bioaccumulative. Senior Monsanto scientist (forgive me if "Monsanto scientist" seems like a contradiction in terms) Dan Goldstein even recently stated, "If ingested, glyphosate is excreted rapidly, does not accumulate in body fat or tissues, and does not undergo metabolism in humans. Rather, it is excreted unchanged in the urine." One year ago, the first ever testing for glyphosate in the breast milk of US women proved Monsanto's claims to be propaganda. Researchers found high levels in three out of the 10 samples tested, 760 to 1,600 times higher than the European Drinking Water Directive allows for individual herbicides. The shocking results prove that glyphosate does in fact bioaccumulate. Certainly, the last thing a newborn should be ingesting is Roundup from its mother's milk. The pesticide DDT has showed up in concentrations 300 percent greater in breast milk after just one household spraying. (2)

Even at levels barely measurable, Roundup has been shown to promote the proliferation of cancer cells.

Pesticides like Roundup are "biocides" - biologic poisons. They destroy living cells. Cells in the human body share many of the same biologic processes as the cells of weeds and insects, especially nerve cells. So are humans "Roundup Ready" - able to shrug off being exposed to this, and other agricultural poisons? The WHO thinks not, mentioning the multiple studies that suggest its cancer causing potential. Even at levels barely measurable, as small as parts per trillion, Roundup has been shown to promote the proliferation of cancer cells. (3) More pesticide exposure increases a person's risk of lymphoma. (4) Even pre-conception exposure of parents to pesticides (via professional application of pesticides for termites) increases the risk of childhood brain tumors. (5)

Cancer is far from the only concern about Roundup. The medical and toxicological literature examining the health consequences of pesticides reads like a horror show. These deadly chemicals have been shown to be strongly associated with higher rates of depression and suicide, impaired intellect, memory deficits, impaired psychomotor speed, executive functioning, acceleration of the cognitive decline of aging, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13) Pregnant mothers exposed to more pesticides give birth to children with brain architectural anomalies, including thinner cortexes. (14) Children whose mothers had more pesticide exposure during pregnancy demonstrated clinically impaired brain development and scored significantly lower in memory and IQ tests in multiple studies at various ages in childhood. (15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20) Children with higher levels of pyrethroid pesticide metabolites in their urine showed higher rates of behavioral disorders. (21)

Greater pesticide exposure significantly increases the risk of diabetes and obesity in both animals and humans. (22, 23)

In fact, greater exposure to pesticides and their metabolites in lab animals increased rates of obesity, kidney disease and brain dysfunction in three generations born after the exposure. (24, 25, 26, 27) Pregnant mothers exposed to more pesticides delivered infants with lower birth weight and shorter gestational age. (28) A study comparing urine samples of people with multiple chronic diseases showed much higher concentrations compared to people who were generally healthy. (29)

Even Roundup's "inert ingredients" induce apoptosis and necrosis in human umbilical, embryonic and placental cells. Concentrations were 100,000 times more dilute than retail formulations. Proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and even death around residual levels to be expected in home garden use. (30) Pesticide applicators have shortened telomeres, chromosomal markers that very accurately predict life expectancy. (31) In a study just published, glyphosate and two other popular pesticides were also shown to increase antibiotic resistance in bacteria, already one of the most pressing public health issues of our time.

Monsanto and other producers of glyphosate-containing herbicides are fighting back against the WHO declaration. Unchastened, they issued this defiant public statement: "All labeled uses of glyphosate are safe for human health." Without even a pause for introspection, hesitation or the stirring of a conscience regarding the damage they are doing to the entire world's population, Monsanto is demanding a retraction from the WHO.

With glyphosate-based herbicides we are seeing a replay of the saga of many 20th century environmental toxins.

Don't assume the EPA will now ban Roundup. The agency has a very poor track record in protecting us from dangerous chemicals. In fact, in 2013, well after much of the alarming research on glyphosate had already surfaced, the EPA actually increased the "acceptable" levels of glyphosate contamination of numerous foods, anywhere from twice for soybeans to 25 times higher for carrots. No medical research justified increasing those thresholds. It was just the latest in a long history of federal agencies acting as the handmaidens of Monsanto and the biotech industry.

It was inevitable that weeds would become resistant to Roundup, which is the only thing slowing down its use. The pesticide and biotech corporations' answer has been to just bring in the next generation of even more toxic chemicals - and GMO crops resistant to those chemicals - a never-ending, escalating chemical arms race.

A couple of years ago, a French court found Monsanto guilty of falsely advertising its herbicide as "biodegradable," "environmentally friendly" and claiming it "left the soil clean." The truth is that Roundup is anything but friendly to the environment or your health. The WHO finally made that call official.

With glyphosate-based herbicides we are seeing a replay of the saga of many 20th century environmental toxins - lead, asbestos, radiation, PCBs, DDT, Agent Orange and many others. Red flags were raised early on in the life story of all these products. But powerful corporations were able to milk them for decades of profit by corrupting public policy that should have protected us in the first place.

The cover story of the March issue of the venerable National Geographic, by Joel Achenbach, was titled, "The War on Science." People who believe GMOs are not safe were lumped into the same "Luddite" basket as those that won't vaccinate their kids, believe the moon landing was a fake, evolution is not proven and climate change is not happening.

But no perspective on GMOs is relevant if it ignores the safety of the industrial agriculture system itself, and all the pesticides designed to be used with GMOs. Count me as a proud Luddite scientist who believes in vaccinations, the moon landing, evolution, climate change and that GMOs are a terrible scourge to public health. Apparently, the World Health Organization is also a proud GMO/pesticide Luddite, at least until Monsanto's attorneys and lobbyists crush the rebellion once again.

 

Footnotes:

1. Chang FC, Simcik MF, Capel PD (2011) Occurrence and fate of the herbicide glyphosate and its degradate aminomethylphosphonic acid in the atmosphere. Environ Toxicol Chem 30: 548-555

2. Manacaa MN, Grimaltb JO, Sunyerd J, Mandomandoa I, Gonzaleza R, Sacarlala J, Dobañoa C, Alonsoa PL, Menendez C. Concentration of DDT compounds in breast milk from African women (Manhiça, Mozambique) at the early stages of domestic indoor spraying with this insecticide. Chemosphere http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2011.06.015.

3. Thongprakaisang S, et al. Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth via estrogen receptors.
Food Chem Toxicol. 2013 Jun 8. Epub 2013 Jun 8. PMID: 23756170

4. Bräuner, EV, M Sørensen, E Gaudreau, A LeBlanc, KT Eriksen, A Tjønneland, K Overvad and O Raaschou-Nielsen. 2011. A prospective study of organochlorines in adipose tissue and risk of non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Environmental Health Perspectives http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1103573

5. Greenop K, Peters S, Bailey H, et al. Exposure to pesticides and the risk of childhood brain tumors. Cancer Causes & Control. April 2013

6. Beseler CL1, Stallones L. A cohort study of pesticide poisoning and depression in Colorado farm residents.
Ann Epidemiol. 2008 Oct;18(10):768-74. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2008.05.004. Epub 2008 Aug 9.

7. Beard J, et al. Pesticide Exposure and Depression among Male Private Pesticide Applicators in the Agricultural Health Study. Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1307450.

8. Marc G. Weisskopf*, Frédéric Moisan, Christophe Tzourio, Paul J. Rathouz and Alexis Elbaz Pesticide Exposure and Depression Among Agricultural Workers in France. Am. J. Epidemiol. (2013) doi: 10.1093/aje/kwt089
First published online: July 12, 2013

9. Ross S, et al. Neurobehavioral problems following low-level exposure to organophosphate pesticides: a systematic and meta-analytic review. Critical Reviews in Toxicology, Ahead of Print : Pages 1-24. (doi: 10.3109/10408444.2012.738645)

10. Horton M, et al. Does the home environment and the sex of the child modify the adverse effects of prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos on child working memory? Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.ntt.2012.07.004

11. Pezzoli G, Cereda E "Exposure to pesticides or solvents and risk of Parkinson disease" Neurology 2013; 80: 2035-2041.

12. Ross S, McManus IC, Harrison V, Mason O. Neurobehavioral problems following low-level exposure to organophosphate pesticides: a systematic and meta-analytic review. Critical Reviews in Toxicology, Ahead of Print : Pages 1-24 (doi: 10.3109/10408444.2012.738645)

13. Richardson, J. Elevated Serum Pesticide Levels and Risk for Alzheimer Disease JAMA Neurol. Published online January 27, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2013.6030

14. Rauh V, et al. Brain anomalies in children exposed prenatally to a common organophosphate pesticide
PNAS 2012 109 (20) 7871-7876; published ahead of print April 30, 2012, doi:10.1073/pnas.1203396109

15. Kimura-Kuroda J, Komuta Y, Kuroda Y, Hayashi M, Kawano H (2012) Nicotine-Like Effects of the Neonicotinoid Insecticides Acetamiprid and Imidacloprid on Cerebellar Neurons from Neonatal Rats. PLoS ONE 7(2): e32432. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032432

16. Rauh V, Arunajadai S, Horton M, Perera F, Hoepner L, Barr DB, et al. 2011. Seven-Year Neurodevelopmental Scores and Prenatal Exposure to Chlorpyrifos, a Common Agricultural Pesticide. Environ Health Perspect 119:1196-1201. http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1003160

17. Bouchard M, et al. Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphate Pesticides and IQ in 7-Year Old Children. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2011; DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1003185

18. Engel S, et al. Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphates, Paraoxonase 1, and Cognitive Development in Childhood. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2011; DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1003183

19. Horton M, et al. Impact of Prenatal Exposure to Piperonyl Butoxide and Permethrin on 36-Month Neurodevelopment. Pediatrics 2011; 1

20. Ostrea EM, et al 2011.. Fetal exposure to propoxur and abnormal child neurodevelopment at two years of age. Neurotoxicology http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuro.2011.11.006.

21. Oulhote Y, MF Bouchard. 2013. Urinary metabolites of organophosphate and pyrethroid pesticides and behavioral problems in Canadian children. Environmental Health Perspectives. http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1306667.

22. Wu H, Bertrand KA, Choi AL, Hu FB, Laden F, Grandjean P, Sun Q. Persistent Organic Pollutants and Type 2 Diabetes: A Prospective Analysis in the Nurses' Health Study and Meta-analysis. Environ Health Perspect (): .doi:10.1289/ehp.1205248

23. La Merrill M, Karey E, Moshier E, Lindtner C, La Frano MR, et al. (2014) Perinatal Exposure of Mice to the Pesticide DDT Impairs Energy Expenditure and Metabolism in Adult Female Offspring. PLoS ONE 9(7): e103337. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0103337

24. Skinner M, Manikkam M, Tracey R, Guerrero-Bosagna C, Haque M and Nilsson E. Ancestral dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) exposure promotes epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of obesity. BMC Medicine 2013, 11:228 doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-228

25. Crewsa D, Gillettea R, Scarpinoa S, Manikkamb M, Savenkovab M, Skinnerb M.
Epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of altered stress responses. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Published online before print May 21, 2012, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1118514109

26. Chamorro-García, R, M Sahu, RJ Abbey, J Laude, N Pham and B Blumberg. 2013. Transgenerational inheritance of increased fat depot size, stem cell reprogramming and hepatic steatosis elicited by prenatal obesogen tributyltin in mice. Environmental Health Perspectives http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1205701.

27. Manikkam M, Haque MM, Guerrero-Bosagna C, Nilsson EE, Skinner MK (2014) Pesticide Methoxychlor Promotes the Epigenetic Transgenerational Inheritance of Adult-Onset Disease through the Female Germline. PLoS ONE 9(7): e102091. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102091

28. Rauch SA, Braun JM, Barr DB, Calafat AM, Khoury J, Montesano MA, et al. 2012. Associations of Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphate Pesticide Metabolites with Gestational Age and Birthweight. Environ Health Perspect :-. http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1104615

29. Curwin BD, Hein MJ, Sanderson WT, Striley C, Heederik D, et al. (2007) Urinary pesticide concentrations among children, mothers and fathers living in farm and non-farm households in iowa. Ann Occup Hyg 51: 53-65.

30. Benachour N and Gilles-Eric Seralini GE. Glyphosate Formulations Induce Apoptosis and Necrosis in Human Umbilical, Embryonic, and Placental Cells Chem. Res. Toxicol., 2009, 22 (1), pp 97–105 DOI: 10.1021/tx800218n

31. Hou L, et al. Lifetime Pesticide Use and Telomere Shortening among Male Pesticide Applicators in the Agricultural Health Study. Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1206432

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News Tue, 31 Mar 2015 00:00:00 -0400
The Submerged State http://www.truth-out.org/art/item/29941-the-submerged-state http://www.truth-out.org/art/item/29941-the-submerged-state ]]> laurenayo@gmail.com (Lauren Walker) Art Mon, 30 Mar 2015 00:00:00 -0400 On the News With Thom Hartmann: Senate Decides Social Policy Cuts, and More http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/29940-on-the-news-with-thom-hartmann-senate-decides-social-policy-cuts-and-more http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/29940-on-the-news-with-thom-hartmann-senate-decides-social-policy-cuts-and-more

In today's On the News segment: The US Senate holds a vote-a-thon to decide which proposals and policies will make it into the upper chamber's budget; US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein finally rules that we have a right to see the evidence of torturous acts; employers are moving away from actual paychecks to electronic payroll cards; and more.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

TRANSCRIPT:

Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News...

You need to know this. If you thought the 2013 sequester was a disaster for our country, you should be pretty thankful that there's a Democrat in the White House. Last week, the United States Senate held a vote-a-thon to decide which proposals and policies would make it into the upper chamber's budget. Although the document is non-binding, it should cause some very real concern over what happens if Republicans win in 2016. According to the Senate Republicans, our nation should slash another $5 trillion in domestic spending, all while handing out more tax payer dollars to the military and lowering taxes on the rich. To put that number in perspective, consider that the 2013 sequester cut $1.5 trillion from our spending, and that was enough to slash the budgets of everything from the Centers for Disease Control to Border Security to Head Start. That massive cut cost our nation real jobs, and it slowed our economic growth. But, all that means little to Republicans who want to destroy our social safety net, all while giving the wealthy a tax cut, and boosting the paychecks of their buddies in the defense industry. $5 trillion in cuts is almost unimaginable, unless we consider a nation that stops protecting Americans from poverty and disease, and a nation that values war profiteers and billionaires over everything. That is not the nation that our parents and grandparents built, and we must never allow it to become reality. For the next two years, we have a president who can stop the worst of this legislation, but the time is now to make sure that we have another Democratic leader in 2016. If we don't stop the Republicans from destroying the social programs and agencies that make our country great, we may not get a chance to repair them before they're gone for good.

For the last decade, the ACLU has been fighting to expose the torture and abuse that has been committed in our name. Last week, US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein finally ruled that we have a right to see the evidence of those torturous acts. For the last 10 years, the ACLU has been locked in a legal battle over their Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request, which asked the government to release photographs and records relating to the torture and even death of prisoners held by our nation around the world since 2003. The government denied that FOIA request, saying that the "disclosure would endanger Americans." But, Judge Hellerstein concluded that the government failed to prove how Americans would be in danger, and ordered that the photographs and records be released to the ACLU. That group's legal director, Jameel Jaffer, said, "Giving the government that kind of censorial power would have implications far beyond this specific context." As Americans, we have a right to know what has been done in our name, and this ruling is a victory for justice.

Quite a few employers have moved away from actual paychecks, to electronic payroll cards, and workers have been hit hard by fees and other problems. Finally, one state is stepping up to do something about this, and employees in Washington state may soon be better off as a result. Earlier this month, the Washington state legislature advanced a bill that would make sure all workers have an alternative to these predatory debit-like cards. In addition to federal legislation that may soon require all employers to disclose the fees and charges associated with these cards, workers should have real protection against the payroll card scheme. Those in favor of the cards claim that workers who don't have bank accounts can avoid check cashing fees and the ability to buy things online, but opponents point out that the cards charge exorbitant fees for cash withdrawals, balance inquires, and even calling customer service. No one should be subjected to these unjust fees because they want a job, and it's great news that at least one state is moving to protect workers.

Indiana is finding out that businesses aren't all in favor of discrimination. In the wake of Gov. Mike Pence singing a so-called "religious liberty" bill in his state, the list of companies standing up for LGBT rights just continues to grow. By last Friday, huge organizations like Apple, Yelp and even the NBA have come out against Pence's bill, saying that it legalizes discrimination. Over the weekend, the CEO of Angie's List put a stop to that company's expansion plans in Indiana, saying that they are looking for alternative locations for their headquarters in other states. Even religious groups like the Disciples of Christ denomination said that the bill is "distressing" and it is causing them "to reconsider their decision to hold their 2017 gathering in Indianapolis." Regardless of how lawmakers, including Gov. Mike Pence, try to spin this law as anything but LGBT discrimination, these businesses and the public who they serve won't be fooled. Good on these groups for refusing to discriminate against someone because of who they love.

And finally... Republican governors all around our country are slashing education to cover the cost of tax breaks for the rich. But, Gov. Mark Dayton of Minnesota wants to invest a portion of his state's budget surplus in universal pre-K. Rather than dishing out tax breaks, the Democratic governor actually raised taxes on the top two percent in his state, and it's turned in to quite a success. Republicans in Minnesota balked at the tax hike idea, saying that businesses would leave that state, but that hasn't happened. In fact, higher wages, stronger unions and better education systems have lured business to that state, and that's paying off in terms of more investment in the people of Minnesota. Universal Pre-K would ensure that every child starts school with stronger skills, and allow parents to work more hours instead of caring for kids. Families get the help they need to be stronger, and Minnesota gets a better educated workforce. This is what happens when progressive ideas are allowed to become real policy. Governor Dayton has proven that these ideas work for the state of Minnesota, so let's keep fighting to implement these policies nation-wide.

And that's the way it is - for the week of March 30, 2015 – I'm Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.

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News Mon, 30 Mar 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Ex-US Official on Bowe Bergdahl Charges: Why Are We Vilifying an Ex-POW Tortured by Taliban? http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/29939-ex-us-official-on-bowe-bergdahl-charges-why-are-we-vilifying-an-ex-pow-tortured-by-taliban http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/29939-ex-us-official-on-bowe-bergdahl-charges-why-are-we-vilifying-an-ex-pow-tortured-by-taliban

With Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl facing charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, the case has revived controversy over how the Obama administration won his release in exchange for five Taliban detainees held at Guantánamo Bay. On Friday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee asked the White House for documents related to the swap. Others have raised different questions over the Bergdahl case, including whether he is being unfairly targeted while the military and political leaders who mishandled the Afghan war evade scrutiny. We speak with Matthew Hoh, a former Marine and State Department official who resigned in protest from his post in Afghanistan over U.S. policy in September 2009.

TRANSCRIPT:

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: "Hero of War," Tim McllRath of the band Rise Against. The video has been viewed online more than 25 million times. This is Democracy Now!, Democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman. As we continue to look at the case of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who was held in Taliban captivity for 5 years after leaving his base in Afghanistan in 2009. He was freed last year in exchange for five Taliban prisoners who'd been held for years at Gauantánamo. Last week, the Army announced it plans to charge sergeant Bergdahl with one count of desertion and one count of misbehavior before the enemy. If convicted, he faces life in prison. The tough military charges Bergdahl faces have revived controversy over how the Obama administration won his release in exchange for 5 Taliban prisoners. Fox News reports at least three of the 5 have since attempted to reconnect with their former terrorist networks.

On friday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee asked the White House for documents related to the swap. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki defended the trade during an interview on Fox News.

JEN PSAKI: Was it worth it? Absolutely, we have a commitment to our men and women serving overseas — or serving in our military, defending our national security everyday that we are going to do everything to bring them home if we can. And that's what we did in this case.

AMY GOODMAN: Others have raised different questions as Sergeant Bergdahl faces charges of desertion and the very rare charge of misbehavior before the enemy. Reporter Peter Maass wrote for The Intercept, "What punishment should Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl receive for allegedly deserting his post in Afghanistan? The answer comes by asking another question, what punishment has been handed out to American generals and politicians whose incompetence caused far more bloodshed and grief than anything Bergdahl did?" Well, for more we are joined by Matthew Hoh, a former marine and state department official who resigned in protest from his post in Afghanistan over U.S. policy in September 2009.

Prior to his assignment in Afghanistan, he served in iraq. He is now a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy. Last june he wrote a piece for Politico headlined "Stop Persecuting Bowe Bergdahl, He and his parents have suffered enough–like all of us veterans." Matthew Hoh now joins us from Raleigh, North Carolina. Welcome back to Democracy Now! So, Matthew, we haven't spoken since the Army has charged Bowe Bergdahl with these two counts of desertion and this rare charge that we were just speaking with Eugene Fidell, his attorney, about, desertion before the enemy. Your response?

MATTHEW HOH: Well, good morning Amy, and thank you for having me back on. My response is along the same lines that I have been saying for almost 10 months now. Give this time, no rush to judgment. Why are we vilifying and crucifying a young man who suffered at the hands of the enemy for five years? And even more so, persecuting his family as well. Just to, really, score political points. With regard to the most recent developments with sergeant Bergdahl, the most important aspect of all this is the fact, as Mr. Fidell was just explaining, the Army's investigation has found that sergeant Bergdahl did not intend to desert permanently. He didn't intend to quit the war, quit the Army, or join the Taliban or walk to China, but that his intention was to try and get to another base to report some kind of wrongdoing, something disturbing to a senior military officer or to an American general. Something had bothered his conscience. Something had bothered his standards as a soldier that he felt that this was the only option he had, to travel overland, admittedly a pretty crazy option, and obviously one that did not work out so well as everyone knows. But, that is what the Army has found. That this is not a case of classic desertion but of a young man who was disturbed by something, possibly war crimes, some kind of wrongdoing, something immoral, maybe, and that he took it upon himself to report this to his senior officers because he had no faith in the soldiers he was stationed with anymore.

AMY GOODMAN: According to the book "Military Justice: A Guide to the Issues," by Lawrence Morris, Article 99, misbehavior before the enemy, essentially criminalizes a soldier's inability to overcome fear to carry out their duty. Do you think Bowe Bergdahl was afraid?

MATTHEW HOH: No. Honestly not, Amy, if he was willing to communicate with his squad leader, his team leader about this before hand. And then actually carry out this action. If we go back to information we know about this already, most of which comes from the Rolling Stone article published by Michael Hastings and Matt Farwell, we see that he actually asked his team leader what would happen to me if I went off base with my weapons and other serialized gear — so, my night vision goggles and other equipment the Army has issued to me. The team leader said you will get in trouble. And so, that is, to me, the reason why he went off base without that equipment. This was a plan he had. He obviously felt that he had no other possibility, no other option. So, for him to do that, to go overland in eastern Afghanistan to try and report this disturbing circumstances as the Army says he was trying to do, required quite a bit of bravery. With regard to this misbehavior before the enemy charge, a lot of us who are in the veteran community have never heard of that before. Obviously it is an actual part of the uniform code of military justice, but it is something that is extremely rare. And if you google it — I invite people to go and google it — you'll see there are nine sections to this possible charge. And really it's a catchall. If somebody does not have their boots tied properly while in their fighting position, that could be construed as misbehavior before the enemy. It really is a catchall that can be applied really to any circumstances. So, certainly i would imagine that if you were to say like he left the base, well, he left the base without permission that is misbehavior before the enemy so, I guess that you could say that he is in violation of that.

AMY GOODMAN: This is a clip of Bergdahl's father, Bob, speaking in a video produced last year by The Guardian.

BOB BERGDAHL: We teach two generations, at least, of children in this country that we had zero tolerance for violence but we can occupy two countries in asia for almost a decade. It's schizophrenic. No wonder this younger generation is struggling psychologically with the duplicity of this, the use of violence. The purpose of wars is to destroy things. You can't use it to govern.

AMY GOODMAN: You are friendly with the family, how did you come to know the family, Matthew? And what about what Bob is saying here, Bergdahl's father?

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News Mon, 30 Mar 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Attorney for Bowe Bergdahl: Army Report Shows Ex-POW Left Base to Report Wrongdoing, Not Desert Unit http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/29938-attorney-for-bowe-bergdahl-army-report-shows-ex-pow-left-base-to-report-wrongdoing-not-desert-unit http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/29938-attorney-for-bowe-bergdahl-army-report-shows-ex-pow-left-base-to-report-wrongdoing-not-desert-unit

The U.S. Army says it plans to charge Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with desertion and the rare charge of misbehavior before the enemy after he was held and tortured in Taliban captivity for five years when he left his base in Afghanistan in 2009. He was freed in 2014 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners held for years at Guantánamo Bay. Now Bergdahl's defense could center on an Army probe that found he walked off his post in an attempt to reach another U.S. base to report on wrongdoing in his unit. An earlier military report found Bergdahl likely walked away on his own free will, but stopped short of finding that he planned to permanently desert U.S. forces. We get the details from his lawyer, Eugene Fidell, a lecturer at Yale Law School and co-founder and former president of the National Institute of Military Justice.

TRANSCRIPT:

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to developments in the case against Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who was held in Taliban captivity for 5 years after leaving his base in Afghanistan in 2009. He was freed last year in exchange for 5 Taliban prisoners who were held for years at Guantánamo. Then, last week, the Army announced plans to charge him with one count of desertion and one count of misbehavior before the enemy. If convicted, he faces life in prison. Bergdahl's defense against a desertion charge could center on an Army investigation's finding he walked off his post in an attempt to reach another U.S. base to report on wrongdoing in his unit. And that he did not plan to permanently desert.

The investigation has not been released, but CNN cites senior defense officials who say Bergdahl claimed to be concerned about problems with order and discipline at his post in Paktika Province in Afghanistan and also had concerns about, "leadership issues" at his base. The next step in Bergdahl's case is an Article 32 hearing, a procedure similar to a grand jury.

For more we turn to Eugene Fidell, the lawyer for Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. He joins us from Yale University, where he is the Florence Rogatz Visiting Lecturer in law at Yale Law school. Fidell is a cofounder and former president of the National Institute of Military Justice. Welcome to Democracy Now!. Can you talk about the charges against your client, Bowe Bergdahl?

EUGENE FIDELL: Well, there are two charges, Amy, one, as you mentioned, is a charge of desertion, the other is a very unusual — let me back up. There's a lot of cases of desertion and they are typically handled at a very low level in the military justice system. The other charge is misbehavior before the enemy in that he left and, that is the gist of it. It's simply that he left and it was in a battle zone. At least that is the allegation. Those cases are extremely rare. It's under a statute that is kind of a museum piece that dates back to the very early days of the republic.

There's probably something like it in the Articles of War George III signed in 1774. It's a very, very rare charge and frankly, I have been doing this since 1969, I can't remember a case of an actual prosecution for that charge.

AMY GOODMAN: And, I mean, explain what it means, "misbehavior before the enemy."

EUGENE FIDELL: Well, typically, the charge entails things like dropping your rifle or running away from a battle, this kind of thing. What the Army seems to have done here, is gotten creative and turned it into a sort of catch-all where they can take any other offense, in this case an offense of desertion which they are also charging, and sort of escalate the whole thing into world war III by calling it misbehavior before the enemy.

AMY GOODMAN: Eugene Fidell, you wrote in your memo about the army's report on Bowe Bergdahl, "While hedging its bets, the report basically concludes that Sergeant Bergdahl did not intend to remain away from the army permanently, as classic long desertion requires it also concludes that his specific intent was to bring what he thought were disturbing circumstances to the attention of the nearest general officer." Can you explain this?

EUGENE FIDELL: Well, I'm not going to any more detail than the letter I sent in the letter to General Milly, the Commander of U.S. forces command, early in this month. The reason for that is, I think all of this is going to come out, has got to come out. And I want to make one point if you do not mind, Amy, the army has a substantial report for a Major General Kenneth Dahl, who investigated this thing to the hilt. He had something like 22 investigators going around for months and months, talking to everybody, examining all possible documents. The gist of what he said is, you can infer from what i wrote in my letter to General Milley. And frankly, I think it's incumbent on the army to release General Dahl's report.

Obviously, there are some health-related things that are in the report and Privacy Act stuff but, basically, the report ought to be out there so the American public can look at it and not be subject to the kind of rumor mongering that has been going crazy lately.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to read from Bergdahl's own description of his time held by the Taliban. Quote, "I was kept in constant isolation with little to no understanding of time, through periods of constant darkness, periods of constant light, and periods of completely random flickering of light and absolutely no understanding of anything that was happening beyond the door i was held behind." Bergdahl also wrote that for years he was chained on all fours, or locked in a cage, and that the sores on his wrists and ankles from the shackles grew infected. He said he was malnourished and quote, "my body started a steady decline and constant internal sickness that would last through the final year." How has his five-year imprisonment been described by the military?

EUGENE FIDELL: They haven't really described it. In fact, General Dahl's report, which I referred to before, which the summary of it, Amy, is 57 pages long, single spaced as I recall. The summary spent something like 8 words on his treatment while he was in captivity. So, the Army has not described this in any detail. They are more interested in delving into offenses from the 18th century.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, how do you think that should be weighed in what will happen to him, the fact that he was a prisoner of war for five years, where held, where he was tortured, where he largely sick during that time and attempted to escape, Sgt. Bergdahl writes, in his own words, 12 times?

EUGENE FIDELL: Oh, I think that's entitled to very considerable weight in the broad judgement as to how these charges should be disposed of. This is the broadest kind of discretion that the military knows. You'd have to have a heart of stone not to take this kind of experience, prolonged for five years, into account. People in the military are human beings, they are not automatons. And I expect and hope that those who are ultimately going to have to make a decision here as to what should be done — and an article 32 investigation doesn't commit anybody to anything — will take this into account.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to play a comment from Lieutenant Colonel Michael Waltz, who says he led the search Bowe Bergdahl. This is a clip from his interview on Fox News last week, starting with host Sean Hannity.

SEAN HANNITY: I know we lost at least six soldiers — is six the number — and how many others were injured in the search for him?

LT. COL. MICHAEL WALTZ: The disturbing thing is that the Taliban knew that we were pulling out all the stops to look for him and were feeding false information into our informant network. So, they were baiting us into ambushes. In one case they baited us into a house rigged to explode, thank god it didn't. But, soldiers died looking for him.

AMY GOODMAN: That's Lieutenant Colonel Michael Waltz. But, Eugene Fidell, you've said the Army's report found no evidence that any soldier died searching for Sergeant Bergdahl.

EUGENE FIDELL: Right, well, first, the comment Mr. Waltz, who I believe was a junior officer in Afghanistan, also has on his webpage that he worked for Vice President Cheney, just for background. The Army said in its report what I said in my letter to General Milley. I think it is incumbent on the Army to make the facts known. I also am concerned that something that Mr. Waltz may have said might be classified. I assume somebody will watch this and make a determination on that.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

EUGENE FIDELL: That's about all I want to say on that. I am not going to go any further.

AMY GOODMAN: Eugene Fidell, you wrote in your memo that the Army's report recommends that Sgt. Bergdahl be stripped of his status as a missing-captured prisoner of war. You note, "International humanitarian law does not distinguish between personnel who have deserted and personnel who have not." You also cite everyone from Bergdahl's captors to President Obama calling him a prisoner of war. This is Obama announcing Bowe Bergdahl's release last June.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: We're committed to winding down the war in Afghanistan and we are committed to closing Gitmo. But, we also made an ironclad commitment to bring our prisoners of war home. That's who we are as Americans. It's a profound obligation within our military and today, at least in this instance, it's a promise we have been able to keep.

AMY GOODMAN: The significance Eugene Fidell?

EUGENE FIDELL: That quote speaks for itself. Everybody in the picture understood that sergeant Bergdahl was a prisoner of war. The International Law of Armed Conflict does not distinguish between prisoners of war who are — or prisoners who are absent without leave versus prisoners who are not absent without leave. The status is precisely the same under international humanitarian law, as it's called. And I think it is preposterous that the Army at this late date might even consider changing his status. After all, he was locked up by the other side in the most horrible conditions. Conditions that none of us would possibly ever want to endure, and he endured them for five years. To his credit, I think, he did what soldiers are supposed to do when they are taken prisoner and attempted to escape. He attempted to escape something like 12 times, starting from the very beginning. The Taliban punished him severely when they caught him again and again.

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News Mon, 30 Mar 2015 00:00:00 -0400