Truthout Stories http://www.truth-out.org Wed, 29 Jul 2015 16:01:55 -0400 en-gb Shortchanging Rural Americans http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32127-shortchanging-rural-americans http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32127-shortchanging-rural-americans

Rural America has a greater need for investment but is getting less of it, according to two new reports by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. One analysis found more than one in four rural children lives in poverty. That number jumps to one in three or higher across much of the South, where manufacturing boomed in the 1990s but plummeted during the severe recession that began in 2007. The decline of the manufacturing sector wiped out jobs with living wages and tax revenue to fund infrastructure needs. Many municipalities find themselves stretched so thin, they're forced to cut basic services.

People who battle inequality in the rural South are witnessing these economic trends and their impacts on struggling families. Federation of Child Care Centers of Alabama Executive Director Sophia Bracy Harris says the squeeze on public funding perpetuates the cycle of poverty. "Poor communities, low income, disenfranchised communities, particularly rural communities, people of color, where the concentration of people of color, really get the poorest, the smallest amount of funds coming out of the system. So there is no way for people to pull themselves out of poverty when you have a system that really poorly educates the citizenry. Those are the same communities that lack economic development. ... So when you combine poor education...the lack of economic opportunities and access to jobs where you can take care of your families, poor systems or nonexistent systems of transportation for basic things such as employment or getting to healthcare facilities, you have created a system that really is compounded by poverty."

Remote parts of Georgia are feeling the same pinch. "This is a high poverty area, not a lot of resources, lack of jobs, infrastructure, housing, opportunities, training. Education is a challenge," said John Littles, Executive Director of McIntosh SEED. "For the last 20 years, there has not been a significant difference in the government to the people. Basically, local government spends on roads, fire department or fire trucks - so any resource that is not geared toward changing conditions in the communities, job creation, continuing education, just those opportunities for families to have a better way of living."

Aside from the obvious strain on services, shortchanging rural communities causes subtle psychological harm, according to former SWGAP Business Development Specialist Daa'iyah Salaam. "There is infrastructure that we take for granted - roads, access to health care, access to books, a full school week – things that we don't even think about. For some communities, these are very real issues that they have to fight against every day," Salaam said. "There's so much that we have here that we don't value because other people have told us that we don't matter. If you're not in Atlanta, you don't matter. If you're not even in Savannah or Columbus, we don't matter. No one pays attention to us down here, and so we tend to not pay attention to us. In a perfect world, I would see us valuing ourselves, just as much as other communities value themselves."

Not helping conditions in these impoverished areas is the disproportionately small share of philanthropic support they receive. USDA economists analyzed grants from 1,400 of the largest foundations from 2005 to 2010 and concluded just 5.5 to 7.5 percent benefit rural counties, even though 19 percent of Americans live there. Researchers also found rural grantmaking favors counties with already reasonably well-funded nonprofits with the capacity to court foundation support. "This illustrates circularity in the process of community development - funds are needed to develop local capacity, which is needed to raise funds. This type of circularity may be at the root of problems of persistent poverty in some rural areas," wrote the author, John L. Pender.

Why is the philanthropic sector underinvesting in rural? Some speculate it's because urban funding formulas don't work outside of cities. "One funder said, 'What's the number of full-time jobs that you're creating?' And we kept butting our heads against that one because in an urban area, you may be able to create 400 jobs and you have that number, but you don't understand the significance of having maybe 40 part-time jobs and what that means in a rural place that has no industry," said McIntosh SEED Project Manager Cheryl Peterson. "We want funders to understand that there are challenges associated with being in the rural South, and you have to invest differently and you can't use the one-size-fits-all approach. ... It may not be the same numbers that you get when you invest in an urban area, but the impact that you're having in the life of the people in those communities is significant and well worth the investment."

And those investments are likely to take longer, says Littles. "A lot of times, programs come in to the rural South and don't invest enough; they don't allow it to develop because of all the underlying conditions that exist, and so they pull out immediately. The talent is already there. It just takes time to shape it; it takes time to nurture it and be consistent with working with those folks, and those folks having access to you on a continuous basis. We understand the investments and they need results, but sometimes there are obstacles that lie ahead before you can get to those results. Once those are addressed and those barriers are removed, then you can address the real issues and bring about the changes that are needed in rural communities. So we ask for longer-term investments, we ask for patience and for investors to come and be a part of those investments and see what they're investing in."

Salaam wants grantmakers to know rural economic development efforts don't lend themselves to a widget-counting mindset. "Funders, because they can't measure and see where their money is going, they have shied away from here, whereas if you're in an urban area, there are more resources, there are more evaluative methods they can use to say, 'Okay, we've served this number of kids and they ate this amount of fresh fruit, or we've done this.'"

She has a straightforward response to anyone who questions the value of rural investment: "Why should we have to ask the question of why we should care about rural people? For the simple fact that rural people are people. Rural America has built the industrialized America, and we tend to forget that, and rural America really mirrors where we're headed, as far as this country. When we don't pay attention to those things, big issues, come up, rise up, and we tend to be caught off guard, when in fact we just haven't paid attention to how they've manifested themselves over the years. So rural America is just as important as urban America because it really is the foundation of how this country was built. And I think it always will be."

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News Wed, 29 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Fighting Both Sides of the Same War: Is Turkey Using Attacks on the Islamic State as Cover for Assault on Kurds? http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32125-fighting-both-sides-of-the-same-war-is-turkey-using-attacks-on-the-islamic-state-as-cover-for-assault-on-kurds http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32125-fighting-both-sides-of-the-same-war-is-turkey-using-attacks-on-the-islamic-state-as-cover-for-assault-on-kurds

Turkish jets have reportedly launched their heaviest assault on Kurdish militants in northern Iraq since airstrikes began last week, effectively ending a two-year truce. Over the past week, the Turkish military has launched combat operations on two fronts: one against the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Syria, and another against Kurds inside Turkey and in northern Iraq, where Kurdish groups have been fighting against the Islamic State. This means Turkey is now essentially bombing both sides of the same war. During an emergency session of NATO in Brussels Tuesday, the body offered support for Turkey's military campaigns, although some member states expressed unease over the crackdown against the Kurds. Turkey's attacks on the Kurds come just a month after the pro-Kurdish opposition People's Democratic Party won 13 percent of the vote, helping to deprive President Tayyip Erdogan's AKP Party of a majority in the parliament for the first time since 2002. Over the past week, Turkey has detained more than 1,000 people in a series of raids, many targeting members of Kurdish groups. We speak to Kani Xulam, Director of the American Kurdish Information Network.

TRANSCRIPT:

AMY GOODMAN: Turkish jets have reportedly launched their heaviest assault on Kurdish militants in northern Iraq since airstrikes began last week, effectively ending a two-year truce. Over the past week, the Turkish military has launched combat operations on two fronts: one against the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Syria, also called Daesh, another against Kurds inside Turkey and in northern Iraq, where Kurdish groups have been fighting against the Islamic State. This means Turkey is now essentially bombing both sides of the same war.

During an emergency session of NATO in Brussels Tuesday, the body offered support for Turkey’s military campaigns, although some member states expressed unease over the crackdown against the Kurds. Turkey and the United States both consider the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, to be a terrorist organization, but the group and its allies has been given credit over the past year for helping in the fight against the Islamic State. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance stands in strong solidarity with Turkey, which recently opened up its air bases to the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Terrorism in all its forms can never be tolerated or justified. It is right and timely that we hold this meeting today to address the instability on Turkey’s doorstep and on NATO’s border. NATO is following developments very closely, and we stand in strong solidarity with our ally, Turkey.

AMY GOODMAN: Turkey’s attacks on the Kurds come just a month after the pro-Kurdish opposition People’s Democratic Party won 13 percent of the vote, helping to deprive the Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP party of a majority in the Parliament for the first time since 2002. Over the past week, Turkey has detained more than a thousand people in a series of raids, many targeting members of Kurdish groups. On Tuesday, President Erdogan said it is impossible to continue the peace process with Kurdish militants.

PRESIDENT TAYYIP ERDOGAN: [translated] It is not possible for us to continue the peace process with those who threaten our national unity and brotherhood. There should have been a national unity and brotherhood. Brotherhood comes above the peace process, and it is a very comprehensive subject. I want our people to be sure of that. Those who walk in the countryside and in big cities wearing masks and carrying guns and patrol bombs will get the necessary response from our security forces and judiciary bodies.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about Turkey, the Kurds and the fight against the Islamic State, we’re joined by Kani Xulam, director of the American Kurdish Information Network in Washington, D.C.

Kani, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about what’s happening right now in Turkey and this very rare meeting of NATO and what Turkey is doing?

KANI XULAM: I can. Thanks for having me, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: So explain what’s taken place this week.

KANI XULAM: Well, first, the NATO general secretary’s comment that the instability is at the border of Turkey or at NATO’s doorstep, as he put it, is really—is inside Turkey. For the last 31 years, there has been a big conflict inside Turkey between the Kurds and the Turks. Over 40,000 people have been killed. And unfortunately, the NATO general secretary didn’t really mention that.

As far as the problem or the rise of ISIS and the—Turkey’s decision to allow its air base to be used against it, for a year now, Kurds on the ground, inside Syria especially and also inside Iraq, have been fighting ISIS. By some accounts, they are the most effective ground troops, the boots on the ground, that the U.S. has cooperated with, and ISIS has had major setbacks. All of a sudden, now Turkey wants to join this fight. But it really doesn’t want to fight ISIS; it wants to fight the Kurds. So, I don’t know what’s going on at the White House, hoping that Turkey would fight ISIS. It doesn’t. It doesn’t want to. It doesn’t have the desire. It doesn’t have the wish.

And also, soliciting Turkish help to fight ISIS is like using a bloody towel to clean the mess in the kitchen, if you will, to mop the floor, if you will. For two years, three years, some 15,000 foreign fighters used Turkey as a stepping stone to go into Iraq, to go into Syria. And Turkey was hoping that they would basically topple Assad, turn Syria into a client state for Turkey, for Ankara, and also fight the Kurds. You know, Turkey wanted to have its cake and eat it, too. And now that these fighters are being degraded, in the words of President Obama, by the YPG and the PKK and the peshmerga, Turkey doesn’t know what’s—you know, is very unhappy about it. That’s why it called this meeting in Brussels.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to comments made by State Department spokesperson John Kirby. Speaking Monday, he said Turkey’s actions against the PKK were self-defense and had no connection to Turkey’s fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, against ISIL.

JOHN KIRBY: We are grateful for Turkey’s cooperation against ISIL to include now use of some of their bases for coalition aircraft to go against targets, ISIL targets, particularly in Syria. So we’re grateful for that support. So, separate and distinct from that, Turkey has continued to come under attack by PKK terrorists, and we recognize their right to defend themselves against those attacks. And it was in retaliation for recent attacks by the PKK that Turkey conducted these most recent strikes. ... I understand the coincidence of all of this, but it is just that. The attacks against the PKK were in retaliations for attacks they, the Turks, endured. And what they’re doing against ISIL in Syria, I’ll let them speak to, but obviously we welcome all coalition members’ efforts against ISIL, particularly in Syria.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s State Department spokesperson John Kirby. Kani Xulam, your response?

KANI XULAM: You know, on July 20, a suicide bomber went to a meeting in Suruc, Turkey, a town just miles away from Kobani, the Stalingrad of the Kurds, if you will. Last year, ISIS almost took it over, and thanks to the United States government dropped air—airdrops on October 19, 2014, and the town that had been occupied 80 percent by ISIS, the Kurds fought back, house to house, street to street, and kicked out these Daesh and ISIS supporters, sent them back to Raqqa, if you will.

As far—this recent incident, on July 20, when one ISIS sympathizer or militant went to this meeting where these Kurdish activists from western Turkey, from Kurdistan, from Kurds, wanted to go to Kobani and build a playground for the kids. They wanted to build a school. And 32 of them were killed. And supposedly because of that, Turkey entered the war. And guess what it did. It went after the PKK inside Iraq, you know, 400 places, sorties, as opposed to several, according to the British accounts, British press media. And ISIS—according to British media again, ISIS spokesperson have said, "Well, Turkey just bombed a couple of empty buildings." So, the desire is not there. The enthusiasm is not there. I mean, Turkey views Assad as a greater threat. Assad, for all his faults, have never enslaved people, have never sold women in the markets. Daesh has done that. ISIS has done that.

And then, as far as the spokesperson for the State Department, you know, he should also talk about the people who get killed inside Turkey, and he should also condemn—you know, there’s a ceasefire. For two-and-a-half years, guns have gone silent. But close to a dozen, close to, you know, 20 Kurdish activists have been killed in the meantime, and I wish he would also condemn that and say that Turkey should give peace a chance and, you know, resolve this issue. And if it cannot resolve this issue, it cannot resolve the issue inside Syria. It has to—there has to be peace at home. A house has to be united inside before it can venture out and help, you know, next-door neighbor Syria or Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the significance of Turkey allowing the U.S. to use Incirlik, the air base, and if you think that ties into what’s going on here in the attack on the Kurds?

KANI XULAM: I think it does. It is significant. Incirlik is only 100 to 200 miles away from Raqqa, the Islamic basis, the so-called Islamic State basis. And President Obama, you know, wants to tackle this issue and address this issue, and he wishes to leave a good legacy and maybe hope that Islamic State will be degraded and destroyed on his watch. The problem is, he has picked the wrong partner. You know, he should have supported the Kurds, who are willing to fight them and have fought them and have a good record fighting them.

And so, you know, he hopes for the good, but I think, at the end of the day, he may—just like a lot of people at the Obama administration thought Iraq was lost to Iran, and the Bush administration did that, and Turkey might be lost, too, because the fault lines that are in Syria, the Sunni-Alevi or Sunni-Shiite fault line, and then the minority issue of Kurds—Arab majority, Kurdish minority—and also in Iraq, the same fault lines are in Turkey. There are 12 million Alevis in Turkey. There are 20 million Kurds in Turkey. And there is a Sunni domination in Turkey, and that has to come to an end. If NATO wants to have a stable partner, it needs to address this issue. It cannot—you know, some of the members, like Germany and U.K., have urged Turkey to be proportionate, if you will, and address this issue in a sanely manner.

But Erdogan, in the last election, lost the majority. He was hoping to get 400 deputies in the Parliament, and he was hoping to become, you know, next to an absolute ruler in the country. And now he’s—with this war, he’s trying to raise jingoistic feelings and then call for early elections in November and hope and pray he will get the 400 votes—deputies. And he might do that. He might be able to do that, too. But I think—I don’t think NATO should help him do that. I don’t think U.S. should help him do that.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party.

SELAHATTIN DEMIRTAS: [translated] What is our unforgivable crime? Our only crime is winning 13 percent of the votes and reflecting the people’s wish at the ballot box and for the Parliament. I am saying, in brackets, there is no other wrongdoing they can blame us for. We fought for the development of democracy, removing injustice, and making the principles of quality and freedom our permanent life system. ... Mr. President, you panicked because the PKK was going to disarm itself. You stopped it. It seems if PKK members come down from the mountains with their weapons, he will tell them to stop. He has no intention. I am saying very clearly, brothers, citizens, everyone living in Turkey has to know that the president of this country has stopped and prevented the disarmament of the PKK.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s a leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party. Kani Xulam, can you expound on that?

KANI XULAM: Well, two things. One is he’s been compared to Obama, but I’d like to think that he’s actually better than Obama. At least he says things like "You cannot clean blood with blood." He is the—Turkey should count its blessings for having Selahattin Demirtas as the leader of the Kurdish party, the most scrupulous person you could have in Turkish politics.

Turkish government—the Turkish president now says, for example, "We should lift the immunity of these deputies"—he’s referring to Kurdish deputies—"and then we should prosecute them for having links to the PKK." And Selahattin Demirtas said, "Fine, we’ll come to you, and let’s make a deal. Lift the immunity of all the deputies, 550 of them." And many of the members of the AKP party are accused of siphoning millions of dollars. Some of the cabinet members last December were caught red-handed with millions of dollars stashed in shoeboxes in their homes. And now the government doesn’t want to prosecute them. And because they lost the majority, if a coalition government comes into power, the members of the opposition parties are saying, "We want to investigate that." And so, Erdogan is panicking, is panicking that the prosecution might come, that he might actually go to jail. And he deserves to go to jail. You know, if a cabinet member is found with millions of dollars stashed in shoeboxes in his home, any president would have said that person should go to jail, that person should be discredited. Erdogan is covering, you know, is basically protecting them.

And that is this—you know, these are the issues that President Obama should address. These are the issues that the NATO secretary general should address, rather than saying that the problem is outside of Turkey. There are problems inside Turkey, too.

AMY GOODMAN: Kani Xulam, we want to thank you for being with us, director of the American Kurdish Information Network. This is Democracy Now! When we come back, a judge in California has issued a major ruling that could see hundreds of immigrant women and children freed from detention prisons in Texas. We’ll bring you the latest. Stay with us.

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News Wed, 29 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400
"Deplorable": Federal Judge Condemns Texas Detention Centers for Immigrant Families http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32124-deplorable-federal-judge-condemns-texas-detention-centers-for-immigrant-families http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32124-deplorable-federal-judge-condemns-texas-detention-centers-for-immigrant-families

In what could be a major victory for human rights advocates here in the United States, a federal judge has issued a harsh condemnation of the mass detention of immigrant women and children, calling conditions in the privately-run prisons "deplorable." The ruling by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee gives the Obama administration 90 days to either release the more than 2,000 women and children being held in two Texas facilities or to show just cause to continue holding them. Immigration lawyers say the ruling has already had a "groundbreaking" impact as Texas judges have started ordering women and children's release without bond, though many have been forced to wear electronic ankle monitors. Republicans are calling on the Obama administration to appeal the ruling. We speak to longtime immigration lawyer Barbara Hines who represents many clients who are detained in the Karnes and Dilley detention centers in Texas.

TRANSCRIPT:

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn right now to the issue of immigration, what could be a major victory for human rights advocates here in the United States. A federal judge has issued a harsh condemnation of the mass detention of immigrant women and children, calling conditions in privately run facilities "deplorable." The ruling by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee gives the Obama administration 90 days to either release the more than 2,000 women and children being held in two Texas prisons or to show just cause to continue holding them. Immigration lawyers say the ruling has already had a "groundbreaking" impact as Texas judges have started ordering women and children’s release without bond, though many have been forced to wear electronic ankle monitors. Republicans are calling on the Obama administration to appeal the ruling. But at a hearing Tuesday on Capitol Hill, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and House Judiciary Committee—and House Judiciary Democrats said the practice must end. This is Congressmember Judy Chu, Democrat of California.

REP. JUDY CHU: I was one of the eight who visited the Karnes and Dilley detention center. And when I saw the Dilley detention center, I was so shocked at how isolated and barren it was. The first thing I thought was that they looked so much like the Japanese-American internment camps of World War II. I saw the sterile barracks, the muddy dirt pathways, the mass institutionalized cafeteria, and the guards everywhere. And I was shocked and so very moved by the desperate pleas of hundreds of mothers who came out to say, "Release me, I am not a criminal," and who scratched out picket signs that were written on their pillowcases and bedsheets.

I also remembered how the Japanese-American internment camps were pitched the American public as though the federal government was doing this for the safety of Japanese Americans. A similar argument has been made in the government’s case for detaining families, mainly from Central America fleeing unspeakable violence. The Department of Homeland Security repeatedly justified detaining families for deterrence reasons, to send a message that others weren’t welcome. Well, after much pressure and a federal court ruling that such a policy was unconstitutional, I am happy to say that DHS has finally reversed course and will no longer be using detention in that way. And just like we have to call the Japanese-American internment camps for what it was—a prison for people who were not criminals—we have to call the Karnes and Dilley detention center what they really are: prisons for people who are not criminals.

AMY GOODMAN: Among those who testified Tuesday about conditions for women and children in detention was a recently released mother named Sonia Hernández. She explained how, after she came with her three children from El Salvador to escape violence and threats to their lives, she was detained 315 days, until June 9th of this year, at the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes, Texas, which she compared to a prison.

SONIA HERNÁNDEZ: When my children would get sick, like when they had a fever sometimes as high as 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the only thing that I could do was to put them in the bath or in the shower in order to lower their fever. When they were hungry, I had to buy instant soup to be able to give them noodle soup. Sometimes immigration would see that I looked like I was doing really badly, like I wasn’t doing well, and they would tell me that I should go to the psychiatrist. And I would respond to them, "The psychiatrist isn’t going to resolve my problems. The only thing that will resolve my problems is to be freed from this place."

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined now from Washington, D.C., by two guests, including one who has inside knowledge of the conditions at Karnes. Olivia López is a longtime social worker who began working at Karnes last October but decided to leave her position in April after she says it was clear she had been hired to give the appearance of a well-supported medical unit. She says her efforts to improve documentation of the mothers’ care and concerns were repeatedly blocked.

We’re also joined by Barbara Hines, longtime immigration lawyer with many clients who are detained in family detention centers in Texas. She’s formerly with the University of Texas School of Law Immigration Clinic, now a fellow at the Emerson Collective.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! You both testified yesterday at the congressional hearing. Let’s begin with Barbara Hines. Talk about the significance of Judge Gee’s ruling. Did you expect this? And what is the scope of it?

BARBARA HINES: Well, I’m very pleased with Judge Gee’s ruling. I think what Judge Gee’s ruling does is confirm what advocates have been saying since last June and what members of Congress have been saying, is that running these detention camps is a violation of the Flores settlement, which was a settlement that was entered in 1996 regarding the treatment of children. And the most important pieces of Judge Gee’s ruling are, number one, that children cannot be housed in secured, unlicensed facilities. These are facilities that do not have a child welfare license from the state of Texas, and there is—or—and there is absolutely no independent oversight. The other thing that Judge Gee recognized is that children should be released—there’s a preference for release—family unity is very important, and that children should be released to their parents. And in this case, it would be parents who are detained with them.

AMY GOODMAN: And what is the timeline here?

BARBARA HINES: Well, Judge Gee gave the government until August 3rd to respond and then a certain amount of time—I think it’s one week—for the government to respond. And she proposes that the government has an implementation program within 90 days, because, really, we have now been running illegal detention camps for more than one year. So I hope that the government and the Obama administration will as quickly as possible accede to Judge Gee’s ruling.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the ankle bracelets, Barbara Hines, that these women, if they are released, are forced to wear?

BARBARA HINES: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: What are they? Who makes them?

BARBARA HINES: OK. So, first of all, they’re not really ankle bracelets. I think "bracelets" really doesn’t represent what these are. The women use the word "grillete" in Spanish, which is a shackle. They are very cumbersome. The batteries don’t work. The cords are very, very short. Women are like almost chained to the wall trying to keep these things charged. The government, just like they have done since last summer, is they never have an individualized determination of flight risk. So, asylum seekers, there should be a presumption that they should be released. So, instead of saying no bond, what ICE is doing, in a coercive way, is telling women, "The only way you can get out is to have an ankle shackle put on your leg."

I can give you an example of one of our clients. Her husband is a lawful permanent resident, so she has significant family ties in this country. She was released on an ankle shackle, and her leg swoll up because it was put on too tightly. Her daughter says that people look at her when they walk out, because normally the people that have these ankle monitors are prisoners. And these are women that have suffered such tremendous trauma. Their children have suffered such tremendous trauma. And without asking—making an individualized determination whether there are certainly other less intrusive methods for release of the women. So, I think they’re a significant problem and not the answer to how to deal with asylum seekers, mothers and children, fleeing violence in Central America.

AMY GOODMAN: The ankle shackles are made by what company?

BARBARA HINES: Well, they’re made by the BI company. And I just recently learned that the BI company was bought out by GEO, and GEO is the private prison company that runs Karnes. So, as you can see, this is—there’s a lot—this is intimately tied into the private prison industry.

AMY GOODMAN: So they profit either way, whether they’re in prison at Karnes—GEO runs the prison—or if they have these ankle shackles put on them.

BARBARA HINES: That’s correct.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to play an excerpt from an interview with 19-year-old Lilian Oliva Bardales, who was detained at the detention center at Karnes County, Texas. She came to the U.S. with her four-year-old son seeking asylum from her abusive husband. After she was held for months and grew despondent, she tried to cut her wrists. In an interview with McClatchy, she described what happened when she was put on suicide watch.

LILIAN OLIVA BARDALES: [translated] When they said, "Remove your clothes to put this on, as a punishment," they told me, "If you don’t undress, we’ll see who is in charge, you or us. We’re going to rip your clothes off." So, since I was afraid of that, I had to take my clothes off. I cried. I didn’t eat. My life was very sad in that place. I felt like absolutely nothing in that country. And they didn’t give me the support when I needed it most.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Lilian Oliva Bardales, formerly held at the GEO Group detention center in Karnes County. Not long after she attempted suicide, she was deported to her home country of Honduras. The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties has opened an investigation into her case. How does something like this happen, Barbara Hines?

BARBARA HINES: Well, RAICES and the Karnes Pro Bono Project and other lawyers were actually involved in Lilian’s case. And we were desperately trying to get hold of her, so we could get papers signed, so that we could take over her case—she had been represented by another lawyer—and we were denied access to her.

This, unfortunately, is not an isolated incident. Several weeks later, we represented another client, who also was put on the suicide watch. And what I just heard from Lillian is hauntingly familiar and so similar to what our second client spoke about when she was put into isolation and separated from her child, while the GEO—or, the medical unit watched her, their alleged suicide watch.

How does this happen? One of the reasons is because GEO is a for-profit prison, so you can cut corners or you want to cut corners whenever you can. It’s a coercive environment. It is a jail. This is not a family residential center. It’s a joke to call this a residential center. And we’ve had so many complaints, both at the Karnes facility, the Berks facility in Pennsylvania, and Dilley, over inadequate medical care.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to immigrant rights attorney Barbara Hines. Usually, we speak to her in Austin. She’s in Washington, where she testified yesterday before Congress. We’re going to break, and when we come back, we are also joined by Olivia López, who is a longtime social worker. She’ll describe what she experienced when she went inside this detention center. Stay with us.

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News Wed, 29 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Candidates Ignore the Role Race Plays in Determining Who Thrives and Who Struggles http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/32122-candidates-are-ignoring-race-s-crucial-role-in-determining-who-thrives-and-who-struggles http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/32122-candidates-are-ignoring-race-s-crucial-role-in-determining-who-thrives-and-who-struggles

Earlier this month, presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley were booed and heckled by liberal activists at a town hall discussion at the Netroots Nation annual conference.

Why would attendees at a gathering of left-leaning progressives commandeer the microphone on stage and shout down Democratic White House contenders? Because Sanders and O'Malley, like the rest of the candidates, have built political platforms that largely ignore race.

The activists at the Netroots meeting were angry because Sanders and O'Malley have failed to respond to racial criminal justice issues, largely ignoring recent high-profile cases – such as the death in police custody of Sandra Bland – and police misconduct involving blacks. Instead, the candidates have focused on economic reforms. But those platforms ignore race too.

Sanders eventually denounced the circumstances surrounding the Sandra Bland arrest and has called for police reforms, and Hillary Clinton now appears to have embraced the Black Lives Matter movement.

Still, none of the White House hopefuls has publicly discussed the role that demographics – particularly race – play in determining who will thrive, and who will struggle, in today's economy.

Cookie-Cutter Platforms

Sanders, who is a socialist and the most progressive candidate in the presidential race, has characterized the well-documented wealth and income gaps as "grotesquely" unfair. His proposed solutions, though, are generic and race-neutral ones, like raising the minimum wage or creating jobs in low-income neighborhoods.

Likewise, Hillary Clinton's recently announced economic policy platform largely steers clear of race and instead focuses on stagnating middle-class wages.

Few Republicans have discussed racial justice issues either, and Jeb Bush has now dismissed the Black Lives Matter movement as merely a "slogan."

But, about eight months before he launched his presidential campaign, Senator Rand Paul, a libertarian-leaning Republican, wrote an op-ed that discusses the racial disparities in the criminal justice system. The opinion, written in response to the violence in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police shooting death of Michael Brown, argues that "[a]nyone who thinks race does not skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention."

Since announcing his candidacy for president, though, Rand has largely avoided discussing racial criminal justice issues. While his official web page refers to an "unjust criminal justice system," his campaign has not focused on how the criminal justice system disproportionately harms black Americans.

Likewise, rather than focusing on police misconduct as a cause for the recent riots in Baltimore, he instead suggested that they resulted from a breakdown in family structure, a lack of fathers and the lack of a moral code in society.

While Republican candidate Rick Perry mentioned black poverty in a recent speech, his response was also a race-neutral one that focused on giving people at the bottom of the economic ladder a chance to climb.

For the most part, the candidates' proposals to address income and wage inequality are generic and nonracial: raise the minimum wage, expand social security, tax the ultra-rich or increase the earned income tax credit. None of the proposals acknowledges that, because of the widening wealth gap, race and ethnicity have now become almost decisive factors in determining whether a family will thrive or struggle financially.

Who Thrives and Who Struggles

The authors of a series of essays recently issued by the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis show that race remains a powerful, if not conclusive, predictor of whether you will be a financial "thriver" or "struggler."

After analyzing data collected in the Fed's Survey of Consumer Finances from 1989 to 2013, the authors found that about a quarter of American families are financially thriving, while the other 75% are struggling.

Thriving families are middle-aged, white or Asian college graduates who have above-average incomes and have amassed enormous amounts of wealth. In contrast, strugglers are young, black or Hispanic, are less educated, have little or no wealth and work in low-wage jobs. The essays reveal that income – and particularly wealth – gaps among whites, blacks and Hispanics are staggering.

Average income for blacks and Hispanics is 40% lower than for whites. Even worse, average wealth held by Hispanic and black families is 90% lower. While the presidential candidates' proposals to increase the minimum wage might help close the income gap, a little more take-home pay would do little to close the staggering wealth gap.

The essays also reveal that wealth patterns for racial groups have changed little over the last 25 years and, except for Asian families, may now be permanent. For example, from 1989 to 2013, white families have consistently held the greatest amount of wealth, followed by Asian, then Hispanic, and finally black families. Although Asian family wealth has steadily increased over the 25-year period because of higher college completion rates for young Asians, financial patterns have remained virtually unchanged for whites, Hispanics and blacks.

Race-Neutral Solutions Won't Address the Roots

Increasing college graduate rates for blacks and Latinos or making colleges free (as Sanders has proposed) are race-neutral solutions that could ostensibly close the wealth gap. But, even if more young blacks and Latinos receive college degrees, the wealth gaps won't go away.

The Fed researchers considered whether education, rather than race, was the main cause for the wealth gap. They found that age and education play only small roles in explaining the gaps. Racial and ethnic differences in financial well-being remain even after accounting for the age and educational attainment of the head of the family.

In the last decade, the US population became more racially and ethnically diverse than it has ever been. If political leaders continue to ignore widening wealth inequality, the gaps may become permanent, and that could be destabilizing both politically and economically. It will be harder to boost the economy in the future if blacks and Latinos are permanently relegated to an economic underclass that has little wealth.

It is not particularly surprising that the presidential hopefuls shy away from saying that race may determine a family's financial well-being. Though a recent New York Times poll now shows that most Americans think race relations in this country are generally bad, making such a statement in a political climate that purports to be colorblind might quickly end the candidate's presidential aspirations.

Until politicians are willing to admit that whether you thrive or struggle financially may be influenced by your race, however, the United States will remain racially split into groups of a few haves – and a lot of have-nots.

The Conversation

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Opinion Wed, 29 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Are Countries Legally Required to Protect Their Citizens From Climate Change? http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32121-are-countries-legally-required-to-protect-their-citizens-from-climate-change http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32121-are-countries-legally-required-to-protect-their-citizens-from-climate-change

2015.7.29.ClimateChange.main(Image: Dave Burnham / Flickr)

On June 24, 2015, a court in The Hague ordered the Dutch government to act faster in its duty to protect its citizens against the effects of climate change. This marks the first time the issue has been legally declared a state obligation, regardless of arguments that the solution to the global climate problem does not depend on one country's efforts alone. The decision was based on various branches of law, including, most importantly, human rights. In effect, it makes the Dutch government accountable for greenhouse gas emissions on its own territory, an outcome other countries may also need to heed.

The government, the court said, must ensure that Dutch emissions in 2020 will be at least 25 percent lower than those in 1990 - the amount the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report says is needed from industrialized countries if the world is to not exceed 2 °C (3.6 °F) warming and avoid the worst consequences of climate change. Dutch political leaders had been planning to cut emissions by up to 17 percent within the next five years.

"Our case lets politicians know that they can't let climate change happen. They have a duty to act, be it legally or morally," says Dennis van Berkel, legal counsel to the Urgenda Foundation, which, supported by about 900 co-plaintiffs, initiated the suit.

The Dutch, whose country lies largely below sea level, have reason to worry about climate change. But they live in a country that has resources to adapt. People in poorer countries, who have contributed least to climate change and are also often least well prepared to respond, are likely to suffer the most. It's for them that the Dutch victory is critical, says van Berkel. "The rights of our co-plaintiffs are central, but people outside of the Netherlands will be even harder hit by climate change," he says. "The ruling will encourage others to appeal to human rights when it comes to climate change threats." Which brings up the big question: Is the Dutch court ruling a landmark for the entire globe?

From Human Rights to Policies

In 2008, the International Council on Human Rights Policy in Geneva, Switzerland, wrote in a report about climate change and human rights: "As a matter of law, the human rights of individuals must be viewed in terms of state obligations." But the world has long been grappling with international agreements for such obligations; from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to repeated Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - COP - meetings, the best efforts have struggled to gain traction, in large part because political actions have not kept pace with promises made.

Aware of that gap, citizens have tried to litigate political leaders into action, but prior to the Urgenda (a portmanteau of "urgent agenda") case there were no victories. In 2005, for example, the Inuit Circumpolar Council filed a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, based in Washington, D.C., claiming that global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions from the United States violated the Inuit people's right to sustain their traditional ways of life due to destruction of the Arctic environment. But the commission dismissed the complaint due to lack of sufficient evidence.

"The obligations are clear," says Wim Voermans, a professor of constitutional law at Leiden University in the Netherlands. "But when they aren't kept, can citizens then make a claim that it's a country's non-acting that's endangering them? That's the challenge. … It's hard to prove direct causalities in civil litigation."

In 2008, the village of Kivalina, Alaska, sued several large energy companies, claiming that global warming had diminished sea ice formation, forcing the village to relocate. The case was dismissed based on judicial determination that decisions about permissible levels of greenhouse gas emissions should be made by the executive and legislative branches, not by the courts.

"The real problem is, who has what power?" says Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University Law School. "Whose job is it to set climate policy? Basically, all judges have said, not me. Before the Urgenda case, no court had really taken on this role."

Courts haven't been entirely averse to taking responsibility, though. In 2006–7, Massachusetts sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which had refused to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the federal Clean Air Act of 1970. The agency claimed that any attempt to regulate greenhouse gases might impede potential White House strategies. The Supreme Court disagreed. While it was an important outcome, "the court did not set policy," Gerrard explains. "It was just saying, it is EPA's job."

Meanwhile, in different countries courts have varying views about how broadly they can act. In environmental policy, courts have at times chosen to intervene on behalf of the public. In 2001, for example, the Supreme Court of India decreed that all Delhi buses had to convert from diesel to natural gas, which has had a profound effect on air quality. It was an important ruling, but it didn't get into climate change.

Amid this impasse between governments avoiding responsibility and courts preferring not to interfere, academics and attorneys worldwide as well as some members of the judiciary have felt a growing unease. A group of them eventually came together to determine whether climate change is an actual issue under existing law, specifically international law, human rights law, national environmental law and, to a lesser extent, tort law. They concluded the answer is yes. "There are longstanding principles of human rights and protection of environment that are threatened by climate change," Gerrard says. "Our view is that the law should have the ability to address this great threat."

The group's discussions, which took several years, led to the launch of the Oslo Principles on Global Climate Change Obligations on March 1, 2015. Drawing on existing law and the IPCC's 2 °C (3.6 °F) threshold finding and prepared by expert members from national and international courts, universities and organizations in every region of the world, the principles seek to define the scope of legal obligations relevant to climate change. "We are currently educating judges around the world of the existence of the principles," says Gerrard, a co-author of the principles. "Our hope is that judges in various countries will use the framework of the principles and that they are cited by the courts."

The Urgenda case began before the principles were established, and was inspired by a book titled Revolution Justified, written by Roger Cox, one of the lawyers representing Urgenda, which looks at how courts can play a role in solving energy issues. But as the suit progressed it relied in part on the Oslo Principles, bringing together various branches of law and IPCC science. According to Gerrard, the Urgenda ruling was "the first decision by any court in the world ordering states to limit greenhouse gas emissions for reasons other than statutory mandates."

Building Momentum

Meanwhile, new scientific findings keep pouring forth. The journal Nature reported in February that carbon emissions from thawing permafrost will accelerate climate change, information not accounted for in current IPCC reports. With each such finding, the goal to not exceed an increase of 2 °C (3.6 °F) becomes more difficult. "Our findings add one more pressure for action," says Kevin Schaefer, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, who contributed to the Nature paper. "There is a sense of urgency. The carbon feedback is an irreversible process, a true tipping point."

But a lack of scientific evidence hasn't been the stumbling block for climate action in the decades since scientists have identified the issue. The Urgenda ruling could offer a different way forward because it sets a legal precedent, saying that concrete reductions cannot wait. While the ruling is not binding for any other country, it sets an example and, as such, is a landmark for the world.

"We hope that there is enough momentum built that many countries feel an obligation," Gerrard says.

A Pathway to Commitment

This offers a new piece to the puzzle as countries move toward convening in Paris for COP 21 this coming November - a piece they will likely have to deal with before then as lawyers are emboldened to bring similar cases around the globe. "No one expects that commitments made in COP 21 will be sufficient to avoid dangerous climate change," van Berkel says. "But after COP 21 it is going to be critical that countries remain committed to what is needed. Juridical procedures similar to our case are going to be instrumental in this." No events have been scheduled yet in Paris to discuss the Oslo Principles, but Urgenda has been organizing a march from Utrecht to Paris starting November 1 to draw further attention to action needed to fight climate change.

A citizen suit similar to Urgenda's is currently underway in Belgium, and another is expected soon in Norway. Urgenda's decision may yet be appealed, and future cases may be successful or not. Either way, they each will play a role in changing the zeitgeist toward a feeling that climate change and human rights are inextricable, says Bill McKibben, founder of the climate campaign 350.org, which, among other actions, has led the campaign for universities and other entities to divest from fossil fuels. "They'll drive home, constantly, the message from Desmond Tutu: Climate change is the human rights crisis of our time."View Ensia homepage

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News Wed, 29 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Police Shoot and Kill Mentally Ill Native American Man http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32120-police-shoot-and-kill-mentally-ill-native-american-man http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32120-police-shoot-and-kill-mentally-ill-native-american-man

On July 12 of this year, Denver police shot and killed Paul Castaway, a mentally ill Lakota Sioux man. His case raises awareness of two issues that are flying under the radar in the ongoing national conversation about police shootings: Over half of fatal shootings involve mentally ill people, and Native Americans are statistically more at risk of dying in police shootings than other racial groups. Castaway's traumatic and horrific death is riveting his Denver community, and his last words are a haunting indictment of law enforcement in the United States: "What's wrong with you guys?"

According to family members and witnesses, Castaway's mother Lynn Eagle Feather called the police for help when her son started waving a large knife while he was intoxicated. This is often the first step in fatal incidents involving police officers and mentally ill people - frequently people are off their medications or experiencing breakthrough episodes of breaks with reality and other mental health problems. They may not be fully aware of what they're doing and they pose a greater risk to themselves than others, but family members aren't equipped to provide the help they need. Since few communities have a mental health crisis response unit, families resort to calling police in the hopes that officers can subdue their family members and help them get to treatment.

As is commonly the case, that didn't happen for Castaway. When officers responded, the terrified man ran into a mobile home park around the street, where officers cornered him. Witnesses and family who had access to surveillance tapes claim that he was holding the knife to his neck, while police claim that he was posing a threat to officers, so he was shot four times, later dying at the hospital. Chillingly, witnesses report that he was forced onto his stomach and cuffed after being shot, despite his severe injuries. The much-loved member of the community left behind a son as well as other family members.

Advocates have risen in protest against the shooting - over 100 people rallied in downtown Denver to raise awareness of the shooting and ask for justice. His family is demanding full copies of video related to the shooting, and families of some of the witnesses are asking for counseling as well. Many of those who saw the shooting were children at play who were traumatized by the sight of law enforcement chasing and shooting a man right in front of them, especially when it was followed by brutal handling on the ground as he was put into cuffs. Members of the Colorado Chapter of the American Indian Movement, meanwhile, have rallied in front of the Denver Police Department to ask for answers.

Even when alerted to the fact that a subject is mentally ill - as happened in this case - police officers often respond poorly, illustrating the need for better protocols and training in addition to the long-term development of mental health crisis units. Cuts to mental health support services in the United States have left police forces on the front lines of providing support to the mentally ill community, and sometimes this involves paying a high price. Notably, Native Americans experience mental illnesses at a higher rate than the general population, putting them at greater risk of police interventions gone wrong.

Even without mental illness as a compounding factor, Native Americans frequently die at the hands of U.S. police. Though they account for .8 percent of the population, 1.9 percent of police shootings involve Native Americans. The black community makes up 13 percent of the population and 25 percent of police shootings - a truly shocking statistic - but in terms of death per million people annually, Native Americans rank perturbingly high on the list. While black people between 20 and 24 die at a rate of 7.1 per million, Native Americans between 25 and 34 follow close behind at 6.6, and 35-44 year old Native Americans are the next largest category of those who die in fatal shootings. The horrible statistics on police encounters for the Native community need to be addressed as part of a larger push for reforms in American policing, but the movement to talk about Native deaths hasn't yet expanded nationally. Maybe Castaway's encounter will act as the tipping point, rather than slipping below the surface of his small community.

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News Wed, 29 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Obligatory Trump Cartoon http://www.truth-out.org/art/item/32119-obligatory-trump-cartoon http://www.truth-out.org/art/item/32119-obligatory-trump-cartoon ]]> laurenayo@gmail.com (Lauren Walker) Art Wed, 29 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400 The Crypto Wars Have Gone Global http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32118-the-crypto-wars-have-gone-global http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32118-the-crypto-wars-have-gone-global

2015.7.29.Encryption.main(Image: Yuri Samoilov / Flickr )

Recently, Congress heard testimony about whether or not backdoors should be introduced into encryption technologies, a technically problematic proposal that would fundamentally weaken the security of the Internet, according to a recent report written by eleven of the world's leading cryptographers. But while Congress is reliving these debates from the nineties (we hear they're in these days), the Crypto Wars are very much alive and well in other parts of the world.

The United Kingdom, Netherlands and Australia have gone farther than the proposals put forward by the FBI by introducing new regulations that seek to weaken and place limits on the development and use of encryption. These efforts, made ostensibly to protect citizens against terrorism, are likely to have severe economic, political and social consequences for these nations and their citizens, while doing little to protect their security.

According to the cryptographers' report, encryption in fact has a critical role to play in national security by protecting citizens against malicious threats. The harm to the public that can be presented by lax digital security has been illustrated a number of times over recent months: data breaches such as the hack of the Office of Personnel Management compromised the personal information of tens of millions of Americans, while weak or flawed cryptography led to vulnerabilities such as Logjam and FREAK that compromised the transport layer security protocols used to secure network connections worldwide. Encryption is not only essential to protecting free expression in the digital age—it's also a critical part of national security.

This is what makes law enforcement claims that encryption prevents them from pursuing criminals and terrorists so concerning, especially when it's not backed up by evidence. Testimony by Manhattan's DA before the Senate Judiciary Committee revealed that the office had encountered 74 iPhones whose full-disk encryption had hindered an investigation, or less than 0.1% of all cases, as EFF's Nadia Kayyali notes. As Bruce Schneier put it recently in an interview, "[David] Cameron is unlikely to demand that cars redesign their engines so as to limit their speeds to 60 kph so bank robbers can't get away so fast. But he doesn't understand the comparable trade-offs in his proposed legislation."

United Kingdom

Cameron has said there should be no "means of communication" which "we cannot read" in the United Kingdom, which has been interpreted by some media outlets as a proposal to ban the use of encryption in the UK.

No legislation has been made available publicly yet, and a spokesperson for the prime minister backed off such claims in recent days, so the exact form of implementation remains to be seen. But to entertain the hypothetical, the consequences of such a move would be quite significant: not only would UK citizens be banned from using secure software and UK companies be banned from producing it, but any sort of free and open source software would be banned, due to an inability to police whether encryption had been introduced in any of the code.

A ban would likely mean, as Cory Doctorow notes, that many companies would have to relocate or completely revamp their servers as operating systems like GNU/Linux and BSD use free and open source code. Popular messaging applications including iMessage and WhatsApp would bebanned for their use of encryption. Moreover, anyone entering the UK with a phone or computer from outside of the UK would have to conform to UK standards or have their devices seized at the border.

But the likely proposal, that Cameron will seek to mandate technology companies provide backdoor access to UK law enforcement, is already having a negative impact on UK businesses. A number of technology firms, including Ghost, Ind.ie and Eris Industries, have moved out of the UK over concerns they will be forced to introduce backdoors in their encryption technologies. Leading technology companies including Apple and Google have also expressed trepidation at the UK's planned expansion of its state power over their products.

The consequences for users' privacy are even worse. Parliament is expected to revive the Draft Communications Data Bill, commonly known as the Snoopers' Charter, in its next session. The bill would require Internet service providers to maintain records of users' communications and would change authorization procedures to allow senior law enforcement officers to give monthly authorizations for bulk collection rather than requiring individual requests for the collection of data.

In combination with a mandate for backdoored encryption, this would mean a dramatic expansion of the UK's capacity to surveil the communications and metadata of its citizens even as the state diminishes those citizens' capacity to protect themselves from harm.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands is similarly considering legislation that would combine an expansion in surveillance powers with limits on cryptography in a slightly different form, through the capacity to compel decryption of data. It recently launched public consultation on a proposed update to the Intelligence & Security Act of 2002 which expands the country's surveillance capabilities to include non-specific interception. In combination with intelligence services' existing authority to compel anyone to decrypt stored data and communications either by handing over keys or by providing the decrypted data, citizens of the Netherlands face significant incursions on their privacy.

Mandating end-users decrypt their data is in many ways problematic, particularly because it reverses the presumption of guilt. If the user doesn't have the private key or passphrase to access the decrypted data, there is no way for them to prove this is the case—and they could face felony or misdemeanor charges for their failure to comply.

But the mandate to decrypt also includes other parties, including intermediaries and online service providers, which would introduce another complicated twist. According to analysis of the bill by Matthijs Koot, this provision is written in such a way as to facilitate bulk interception of encrypted communications where mandated by a Minister. The existing law already grants legal room for the use of hacking, which could be used in order to obtain the information necessary to decrypt data, or using third party agents or informants in order to obtain this information, for example by intercepting someone's keys in order to decrypt their data—all of which would present greater challenges to protecting user privacy.

There's still time for these provisions to be amended in response to public comments. The Dutch Review Committee on the Intelligence & Security Services has already raised a number of important questions about the bill, including whether the expansion of interception powers will be effective and necessary, how the privacy of innocent citizens should be protected and what the minimum requirements of oversight should be. We're hopeful that critique will also come from within Parliament, given that Dutch representatives opposed similar measures when proposed by the Council of Europe in January, according to EDRi. But the proposal of such measures is indicative of a range of challenges to encryption broader than UK and US-proposed backdoors.

Australia

Recently passed revisions of Australia's Defence Trade Controls Act may likewise have a deleterious effect on the development and use of encryption technologies. The DTCA is a permitting regime that regulates trade in military technologies and dual-use technologies, including encryption. The newest list of these technologies introduces the risk of overbreadth by setting an extremely low bar for what forms of encryption classify under this regime—regulating not only encryption software itself, but the systems, electronics and encryption used to implement, develop, produce and test it.

All it takes is for such an ambiguously-written regulation to be re-interpreted or over-enforced, and a country with an apparently positive approach to strong encryption could quickly morph into a state that silences or even prosecutes its own security researchers. While such regulations exist on the statute books, statements by politicians declaring their intent to prevent the privacy of encryption contribute to this climate of uncertainty, without any need for a new law.

In this case, the planned introduction of criminal provisions to the Defence Trade Controls Act has raised serious questions about the safety of distributing or even teaching encryption among researchers. Daniel Mathews, a lecturer at Monash University, is concerned that the specifications are so imprecise that "the only cryptography not covered by the DGSL is cryptography so weak that it would be imprudent to use."

Moreover, they risk being interpreted in such a way as to make the teaching of cryptography and even other areas of mathematics illegal without obtaining a permit. The EFF recently signed on to a letter from members of the International Association for Cryptologic Research expressing concern over the law, saying it "subjects many ordinary teaching and research activities to unclear, potentially severe, export controls." The amendments to the Act were passed in April and will come into effect next year.

The Danger of Setting New Norms

The unintended consequence of these efforts to provide law enforcement unfettered access to communications for users' privacy and the security of the Internet far exceeds the benefits that would be gained.

Even with amendments, the regularity with which these debates occur presents a risk that they begin to set the norm: given the geopolitical weight of the nations in which they're being considered there's potential that such proposals could set precedent for other nations to follow suit. And as EFF lawyer Nate Cardozo noted in a panel at the recent Crypto Summit, even more dangerous is the potential for silent capitulation by technology companies regardless of whether there's a law on the books.

Already, FBI Director James Comey praised the UK's proposal for being "a little bit ahead of us" on encryption policy in his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, suggesting such policy measures are progressive rather than outdated and ill-informed. It's time to leave the Crypto Wars behind, and treat encryption as a part of national security rather than a threat to it.

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News Wed, 29 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Haiti Marks 100th Anniversary of US Occupation http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32117-haiti-marks-100th-anniversary-of-us-occupation http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32117-haiti-marks-100th-anniversary-of-us-occupation

They landed a century ago this month, brandishing guns and hoisting the stars and stripes on government buildings in a foreign land.

It would be 19 years before Old Glory would come down, and Haiti's bicolor red and blue flag would fly again.

While many in this struggling nation are too young to remember the years, 1915 to 1934, that marked the first U.S. invasion of Haiti, the occupation remains a complex, and for some, a vexing period in Haitian history.

"Haitians like the U.S. visa to travel, but they don't like American interference in their politics," said Jean-Junior Joseph, a political blogger who once served as spokesman for the U.S. backed interim government that led Haiti between 2004 and 2006.

On Monday, Junior was among a handful of Haitians who attended a conference at the national pantheon museum as part of a monthlong series of activities aimed at commemorating the day the U.S. marines landed in Port-au-Prince, July 28, 1915.

Inside the museum, 56 books about the occupation are on display, the titles underscoring the resistance marines found in an unstable Haiti after a mob mutilated the body of then-Haitian President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam. Sam had ordered the deaths of 167 political prisoners, and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson reasoned that U.S. financial interests and citizens needed protection.

But instead of protecting Americans, soldiers were soon calling the shots, accused of abuse and racism, and leaving their footprint on almost all aspects of Haitian life and politics.

"It's during the occupation that Haitian women learned about going to the beauty salon," said Pierre Buteau, a historian and former education minister.

Despite such influences, including modern roads and infrastructure, Buteau said the "modernization left by the Americans was fake. It was a modernization that was archaic, that didn't have an output to development."

Among the displays at the museum to commemorate the occupation, is the Haitian flag, now faded and barely recognizable, that President Sténio Vincent raised on Aug. 21, 1934 at the end of the occupation. Four years earlier, Vincent had won the presidential elections.

Haiti's historians and writers have long debated the impact of the occupation. Despite some positives, like a stable economy, many say the occupation failed to bring about sustainable development or improve the lives of the rural poor.

"The American occupation was a failure," said Herold Toussaint, a professor at the State University of Haiti. "There was stability of [the domestic currency] and they diminished corruption in the public administration. But the objective they had, friendly relations between Haiti and the U.S., didn't happen."

Instead of cooperation, there was domination, said Toussaint, noting that the soldiers accentuated the class and color issue in Haiti where lighter-skinned Haitians were rewarded with plum diplomatic posts, and the rural poor led an unsuccessful revolt.

Buteau said while U.S. officials underestimated what awaited them in Haiti, the country's rural poor also underestimated what a world power the U.S. was at that time.

The occupation would eventually end after the resistance became too much for the U.S. government and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration.

"We should think of the Haiti after the occupation and the Haiti before the occupation as a moment of mourning," Buteau said.

On Tuesday, a small group of protesters observed the anniversary by marching to the U.S. Embassy.

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News Wed, 29 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400
The US Hand in the Syrian Mess http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32116-the-us-hand-in-the-syrian-mess http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/32116-the-us-hand-in-the-syrian-mess

2015.7.29.Syria.mainA Syrian refugee walks among severely damaged buildings in downtown Homs, Syria, on June 3, 2014. (Photo: Xinhua/Pan Chaoyue via Flickr )

Neocons and the mainstream US media place all the blame for the Syrian civil war on President Bashar al-Assad and Iran, but there is another side of the story in which Syria's olive branches to the US and Israel were spurned and a reckless drive for "regime change" followed.

Syria's current leader, Bashar al-Assad replaced his autocratic father as president and head of the ruling Ba'ath Party in 2000. Only 35 years old and British educated, he aroused widespread hopes at home and abroad of introducing reforms and liberalizing the regime. In his first year he freed hundreds of political prisoners and shut down a notorious prison, though his security forces resumed cracking down on dissenters a year later.

But almost from the start, Assad was marked by the George W. Bush administration for "regime change." Then, in the early years of Barack Obama's presidency, there were some attempts at diplomatic engagement, but shortly after a civil conflict broke out in 2011, the legacy of official U.S. hostility toward Syria set in motion Washington's disastrous confrontation with Assad which continues to this day.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in front of a poster of his father, Hafez al-Assad.

Thus, the history of the Bush administration's approach toward Syria is important to understand. Shortly after 9/11, former NATO Commander Wesley Clark learned from a Pentagon source that Syria was on the same hit list as Iraq. As Clark recalled, the Bush administration "wanted us to destabilize the Middle East, turn it upside down, make it under our control."

Sure enough, in a May 2002 speech titled "Beyond the Axis of Evil," Under Secretary of State John Bolton named Syria as one of a handful of "rogue states" along with Iraq that "can expect to become our targets." Assad's conciliatory and cooperative gestures were brushed aside.

The Assad regime received no credit from President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney for becoming what scholar Kilic Bugra Kanat has called "one of the CIA's most effective intelligence allies in the fight against terrorism." Not only did the regime provide life-saving intelligence on planned al-Qaeda attacks, it did the CIA's dirty work of interrogating terrorism suspects "rendered" by the United States from Afghanistan and other theaters.

Syria's opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and its suspected involvement in the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri deepened the administration's hostility toward Damascus.

Covertly, Washington began collaborating with Saudi Arabia to back Islamist opposition groups including the Muslim Brotherhood, according to journalist Seymour Hersh. One key beneficiary was said to be Abdul Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian vice president who defected to the West in 2005. In March 2006, Khaddam joined with the chief of Syria's Muslim Brotherhood to create the National Salvation Front, with the goal of ousting Assad.

Thanks to Wikileaks, we know that key Lebanese politicians, acting in concert with Saudi leaders, urged Washington to support Khaddam as a tactic to accomplish "complete regime change in Syria" and to address "the bigger problem" of Iran.

Meanwhile, the Assad regime was striving mightily to reduce its international isolation by reaching a peace settlement with Israel. It began secret talks with Israel in 2004 in Turkey and by the following year "had reached a very advanced form and covered territorial, water, border and political questions," according to historian Gabriel Kolko.

A host of senior Israelis, including former heads of the IDF, Shin Beit, and Foreign Ministry, backed the talks. But the Bush administration nixed them, as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek confirmed in January 2007.

As Kolko noted, the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz then "published a series of extremely detailed accounts, including the draft accord, confirming that Syria 'offered a far reaching and equitable peace treaty that would provide for Israel's security and is comprehensive' — and divorce Syria from Iran and even create a crucial distance between it and Hezbollah and Hamas.

"The Bush Administration's role in scuttling any peace accord was decisive. C. David Welch, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, sat in at the final meeting [and] two former senior CIA officials were present in all of these meetings and sent regular reports to Vice President Dick Cheney's office. The press has been full of details on how the American role was decisive, because it has war, not peace, at the top of its agenda."

Isolating Assad

In March 2007, McClatchy broke a story that the Bush administration had "launched a campaign to isolate and embarrass Syrian President Bashar Assad. . . . The campaign, which some officials fear is aimed at destabilizing Syria, has been in the works for months. It involves escalating attacks on Syria's human rights record. . . . The campaign appears to fly in the face of the recommendations last December of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which urged President Bush to engage diplomatically with Syria to stabilize Iraq and address the Arab-Israeli conflict. . . . The officials say the campaign bears the imprint of Elliott Abrams, a conservative White House aide in charge of pushing Bush's global democracy agenda."

Not surprisingly, Vice President Cheney was also an implacable opponent of engagement with Syria.

Attempting once again to break the impasse, Syria's ambassador to the United States called for talks to achieve a full peace agreement with Israel in late July 2008. "We desire to recognize each other and end the state of war," Imad Mustafa said in remarks broadcast on Israeli army radio. "Here is then a grand thing on offer. Let us sit together, let us make peace, let us end once and for all the state of war."

Three days later, Israel responded by sending a team of commandos into Syria to assassinate a Syrian general as he held a dinner party at his home on the coast. A top-secret summary by the National Security Agency called it the "first known instance of Israel targeting a legitimate government official."

Just two months later, U.S. military forces launched a raid into Syria, ostensibly to kill an al-Qaeda operative, which resulted in the death of eight unarmed civilians. The Beirut Daily Star wrote, "The suspected involvement of some of the most vociferous anti-Syria hawks at the highest levels of the Bush administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney, have combined with US silence on the matter to fuel a guessing game as to just exactly who ordered or approved Sunday's cross-border raid."

The New York Times condemned the attack as a violation of international law and said the timing "could not have been worse," noting that it "coincided with Syria's establishing, for the first time, full diplomatic relations with Lebanon. This was a sign that Syria's ruler, Bashar Assad, is serious about ending his pariah status in the West. It was also a signal to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan that Assad, whose alliance with Iran they abhor, is now eager to return to the Arab fold."

The editorial added, "if President Bush and Vice President Cheney did authorize an action that risks sabotaging Israeli-Syrian peace talks, reversing the trend of Syrian cooperation in Iraq and Lebanon, and playing into the hands of Iran, then Bush and Cheney have learned nothing from their previous mistakes and misdeeds."

In an interview with Foreign Policy magazine, Syrian ambassador Imad Moustapha noted that his government had just begun friendly talks with top State Department officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "And suddenly, this [raid in eastern Syria] happens," the ambassador said. "I don't believe the guys from the State Department were actually deceiving us. I believe they genuinely wanted to engage diplomatically and politically with Syria. We believe that other powers within the administration were upset with these meetings and they did this exactly to undermine the whole new atmosphere."

Despite these many provocations, Syria continued to negotiate with Israel through Turkish intermediaries. By late 2008, according to journalist Seymour Hersh, "Many complicated technical matters had been resolved, and there were agreements in principle on the normalization of diplomatic relations. The consensus, as an ambassador now serving in Tel Aviv put it, was that the two sides had been 'a lot closer than you might think.'" Then, in late December, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, a devastating assault on Gaza that left about 1,400 Palestinians dead, along with nine Israeli soldiers and three civilians.

Israeli Sabotage

The brief war ended in January, just before President Obama's inauguration. Assad told Hersh that despite his outrage at Israel "doing everything possible to undermine the prospects for peace … we still believe that we need to conclude a serious dialogue to lead us to peace." The ruler of Qatar confirmed, "Syria is eager to engage with the West, an eagerness that was never perceived by the Bush White House. Anything is possible, as long as peace is being pursued."

Of Obama, Assad said "We are happy that he has said that diplomacy — and not war — is the means of conducting international policy." Assad added, "We do not say that we are a democratic country. We do not say that we are perfect, but we are moving forward." And he offered to be an ally of the United States against the growing threat of al-Qaeda and Islamist extremism, which had become major forces in Iraq but had not yet taken hold in Syria.

Assad's hopes died stillborn. The new government of Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which took office in March 2009, steadfastly opposed any land-for-peace deal with Syria. And the Obama administration lacked the clout or the will to take Israel on.

President Obama did follow through on promises to engage with Syria after a long period of frozen relations. He sent representatives from the State Department and National Security Council to Damascus in early 2009; dispatched envoy George Mitchell three times to discuss a Middle East peace settlement; nominated the first ambassador to Damascus since 2005; and invited Syria's deputy foreign minister to Washington for consultations.

However, Obama also continued covert funding to Syrian opposition groups, which a senior U.S. diplomat warned would be viewed by Syrian authorities as "tantamount to supporting regime change."

At home, Obama's new policy of engagement was decried by neoconservatives. Elliott Abrams, the Iran-Contra convict who was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush and who directed Middle East policy at the National Security Council under President George W. Bush, branded Obama's efforts "appeasement" and said Syrian policy would change only "if and when the regime in Iran, Assad's mainstay, falls."

Syria, meanwhile, rebuffed Washington's demands to drop its support for Iran and for Hezbollah and reacted with frustration at the administration's refusal to lift economic sanctions. Said Assad, "What has happened so far is a new approach. Dialogue has replaced commands, which is good. But things stopped there."

As late as March 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continued to defend talks with Assad, saying: "There's a different leader in Syria now. Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he's a reformer."

But that stance would change a month later, when the White House condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the Damascus regime's "completely deplorable" crackdown on political opponents in the city of Dara'a, ignoring the killing of police in the city.

That August, following critical reports from the United Nations and human rights organizations about the regime's responsibility for killing and abusing civilians, President Obama joined European leaders in demanding that Assad "face the reality of the complete rejection of his regime by the Syrian people" and "step aside." (In fact, a majority of Syrians polled in December 2011 opposed Assad's resignation.)

Washington imposed new economic sanctions, prompting Syria's U.N. ambassador, Bashar al-Jaafari, to assert that the United States "is launching a humanitarian and diplomatic war against us." Obama's policy, initially applauded by interventionists until he failed to send troops or major aid to rebel groups, opened the door to support from the Gulf States and Turkey for Islamist forces.

The Rise of the Salafists

As early as the summer of 2012, a classified Defense Intelligence Agency report concluded, "The salafist [sic], the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq, later the Islamic State]" had become "the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria."

As Vice President Joseph Biden later admitted, "The fact of the matter is . . . there was no moderate middle. . . . [O]ur allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria. . . . They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and . . . thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except that the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis."

As with Iraq and Libya — do we never learn? — "regime change" in Syria may well bring about either fanatical Islamist state or a failed state and no end to the violence.

Recalling Israel's folly in cultivating Islamist rivals to Fatah (notably Hamas), Jacky Hugi, an Arab affairs analyst for Israeli army radio, recently made the remarkable suggestion that "What Israel should learn from these events is that it must strive for the survival and bolstering of the current regime at any price." He argued:

"The survival of the Damascus regime guarantees stability on Israel's northern border, and it's a keystone to its national security. The Syrian regime is secular, tacitly recognizes Israel's right to exist and does not crave death. It does not have messianic religious beliefs and does not aim to establish an Islamic caliphate in the area it controls.

"Since Syria is a sovereign nation, there is an array of means of putting pressure on it in case of conflict or crisis. It's possible to transmit diplomatic messages, to work against it in international arenas or to damage its regional interests. If there's a need for military action against it, there's no need to desperately look for it amid a civilian population and risk killing innocent civilians.

"Israel has experienced years of a stable border with the Syrian regime. Until the war broke out there, not a single shot was fired from Syria. While Assad shifted aggression toward Israel to the Lebanese border by means of Hezbollah, even this movement and its military arm is preferable to Israel over al-Qaeda and its like. It's familiar and its leaders are familiar. Israel has 'talked' through mediators with Hezbollah ever since the movement controlled southern Lebanon. It's mostly indirect dialogue, meant to serve practical interests of the kind forced on those who have to live side by side, but pragmatism guides it.

"While Hezbollah fighters are indeed bitter enemies, you will not find among them the joy in evil and cannibalism, as seen in the last decade among Sunni jihadist organizations."

Washington need not go so far as to back Assad in the name of pragmatism. But it should clearly renounce "regime change" as a policy, support an arms embargo, and begin acting in concert with Russia, Iran, the Gulf states and other regional powers to support unconditional peace negotiations with Assad's regime.

President Obama recently dropped hints that he welcomes further talks with Russia toward that end, in the face of prospects of an eventual jihadist takeover of Syria. Americans who value human rights and peace ahead of overthrowing Arab regimes should welcome such a new policy direction.

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News Wed, 29 Jul 2015 00:00:00 -0400