Truthout Stories Sun, 29 Nov 2015 14:31:01 -0500 en-gb Western State Regulators Struggling to Keep Up With Radioactive Fracking and Drilling Waste

The question of how to handle the toxic waste from fracking and other oil and gas activities is one of the most intractable issues confronting environmental regulators. A new report details a string of illegal dumping incidents.

Fracking fluid and other drilling wastes sit in an unlined pit in North Belridge, California, July 11, 2014. (Photo: Faces of Fracking)Fracking fluid and other drilling wastes sit in an unlined pit in North Belridge, California, July 11, 2014. (Photo: Faces of Fracking)

The question of how to handle the toxic waste from fracking and other oil and gas activities is one of the most intractable issues confronting environmental regulators. Not only because of the sheer volume of waste generated nationwide, but also because some of the radioactive materials involved have a half-life of over 1,500 years, making the consequences of decision-making today especially long-lasting.

Every year, the oil and gas industry generates roughly 21 billion barrels of wastewater and millions of tons of solid waste, much of it carrying a mix of naturally occurring radioactive materials, and some of it bearing so much radioactive material that it is not safe to drink or even, on far more rare occasions, to simply have it near you.

But unlike most other industries, since 1988, the oil and gas industry has benefitted from an exception to national hazardous waste handling laws, which punts control of this radioactive waste from the federal government down to each individual state - no matter how dangerous the waste might be.

Over the past decade, states have often proved ill-prepared to handle the flood of waste from the shale drilling rush, sometimes because drillers struck oil or gas in a region with little prior experience with drilling's unique hazards, and other times because the political sway of a wealthy and well-connected industry or a lack of resources for environmental regulation left state rules vague or poorly enforced, environmentalists say.

Both types of problems are highlighted in a new report, published Nov. 19 by the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC), that examines how radioactive wastes are handled under various state laws.

"[S]tate regulatory frameworks remain sparse, where they exist at all," the report, titled No Time To Waste, concluded, after a review of rules governing radioactive waste from oil and gas operations in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Some of those states, like Wyoming and North Dakota, have long-established histories of intensive oil exploration, while others, like Montana and Idaho have far less drilling activity but nonetheless have found themselves grappling in recent years with radioactive waste from neighboring states and as far away as Pennsylvania.

The report details a string of illegal dumping incidents, including the dumping of thousands of pounds of filter socks, used to filter wastewater, on a truck bed in Watford City in Feb. 2014; a 2013 incident where roughly 1,000 filter socks were illegally snuck into a municipal landfill; and the discovery in March, 2014 of over 200 trash bags stuffed with radioactive waste at an abandoned gas station in Noonan, ND, which made national headlines.

That year, an Associated Press investigation uncovered over 150 attempts to dump radioactive waste at landfills not qualified to accept it - and that state regulators failed to fine or sanction anyone over the attempted illicit dumping.

And that's in North Dakota, which is the only state with a "relatively comprehensive" approach to regulating the drilling rush's radioactive materials, the WORC report concluded.

"Oil and gas companies essentially handle and dispose of radioactive waste at their own discretion," said Bob LeResche, WORC Chair from Clearmont, Wyoming. "Some have resorted to the cheapest option, illegally dumping it."

Concerns about corner cutting through illegal waste disposal have grown as oil prices have plunged over the past year.

And while, in theory, lower prices should lead to less drilling, some operators are trying different tactics to deal with the price slump, including continuing to drill wells but waiting to perform the final steps, including fracking, in the hopes of locking in low rig prices and then starting production when prices recover. In North Dakota, for example, over 1,000 oil wells had been drilled but not yet fracked as of September, compared to 13,000 wells producing oil and gas in the state.

Scientists warn that if this radioactive waste is dumped in regular landfills, water running off from the landfills after rainstorms could carry radioactive materials into rivers, streams and drinking water supplies, in part because companies treating wastewater collected from landfills may not know that radioactive materials are present.

Across the U.S., cuttings are finding their ways into these local landfills. "In just the past two years, over 500,000 tons of drill cuttings and shale gas waste products have been buried in the municipal waste landfill in our county," Bill Hughes, Chairman of the Wetzel County Solid Waste Authority, said earlier this year.

In 1988, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a regulatory determination that, even though the waste from oil and gas exploration and production was toxic, there was no need for the nation's hazardous waste handling laws, under the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act's Subpart C, to apply.

But that notion has increasingly come under fire, not only in Western states, but also in the Northeast.

In August, a coaliton of environmental groups announced their intention to sue the EPA to force it to issue regulations for the industry's toxic and radioactive waste.

"Thirty years ago the Environmental Protection Agency exempted oil and gas waste from federal classification as hazardous, not because the waste isn't hazardous, but because EPA determined state oversight was adequate," Earthworks' Eastern Program Coordinator Nadia Steinzor, said in a statement when a study detailing the failures to control this waste in the Northeast's Marcellus shale was released earlier this year. "But our analysis shows that states aren't keeping track of this waste or disposing of it properly."

Similarly, Western states have struggled to keep up with radioactive waste from drilling. "Though North Dakota has occupied much of the spotlight on this issue, other states have begun to see a rising tide of radioactive waste, as well," the WORC report concluded.

"Among New Western states, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana lack formal regulations, and only Montana has begun to address radioactive oil and gas waste. Idaho has several regulations in place, but no statewide disposal limit. Further east, South Dakota has a radioactivity limit for solid waste disposal, but after that regulations run out," WORC wrote.

The report criticized the way that Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) calculates whether the industry's waste is dangerous enough to require regulation. "Contrary to the DEQ's conclusion, then, Wyoming's TENORM waste products may actually have radioactivity concentrations that are on par with - or even higher than - those of neighboring states, because those wastes are emerging from soils that have higher concentrations already," the researchers reported.

In Idaho, despite the relatively small presence of the drilling industry, radioactivity is a concern because it's home to one of the nation's largest commercial disposal sites for radioactive waste, including fracking waste. "The facility's limit for radioactivity concentration is 1,500 picocuries per gram of radium - more than 30 times the limit deemed safe by Argonne's North Dakota study," WORC wrote. "This limit dwarfs the levels accepted in nearby states. As a result, Idaho receives wastes from all over the country, sometimes from as far away as the Pennsylvania shale fields."

Montana, which similarly has relatively little fracking, has been inundated with waste from neighboring North Dakota's Bakken shale.

"Montana has a radioactivity limit of 30 picocuries per gram, meaning that it can accommodate many of the oilfield wastes that exceed North Dakota's limit of 5 picocuries per gram; as a result, North Dakota generators and waste transporters have quickly flocked to this new facility," WORC wrote.

North Dakota is in the process of updating its rules for radioactive waste, but while many of the rules under consideration are tougher than existing state laws, the state plans to raise its maximum limits to above Montana's cap, making it 10 times less strict than before the update.

"Without thorough, rigorous, and consistent oversight from the state, especially in the face of a higher radioactivity limit," Larry Heilmann, a retired biochemist from Fargo, N.D., said in a WORC statement on the report, "it is doubtful that the new rules will result in improvements on the ground."

News Sun, 29 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
Another Victim in ICE's Ongoing War
Monday morning, I hear banging, banging, banging on the door... I just opened the door because I'm thinking it's my neighbor from downstairs, because I hold her key for her... I see like five officers, official-looking with the vest and hats, and they say, "We're Homeland Security. We're doing an investigation." And I'm, like, in my underwear.
He pulls out a piece of paper and says, "Can you tell me if you've seen this guy?" And I'm still half asleep, thinking, "Wow, Homeland Security, this guy must be dangerous."

This is Alisha, a student at John Jay College, resident of the Bronx and activist with the Social Justice Project, talking to Socialist Worker about an event this summer that changed her life. The officers at her door weren't investigating terrorism, but were part of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a division of Homeland Security, and they were looking for her partner Franz, who was sleeping in her living room that Monday morning in August.

As Alisha knew, Franz was far from dangerous. In fact, his only "crimes"- besides not having legal documentation - were the results of homelessness and racial profiling.

To hear the Republicans running for president tell it, Democrats have unleashed an epidemic of lawlessness - particularly for people of color. They complain about Barack Obama's claims that his administration is only focusing on deporting undocumented immigrants who are dangerous criminals, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's vow to end the police tactic of widespread stop-and-frisks.

But Alisha and Franz have a different story to tell. Despite legislation signed by de Blasio last year promising to limit the city's cooperation with ICE except for "those who have been convicted of violent or serious felonies," New Yorkers continue to find themselves in NYPD custody thanks to aggressive "Broken Windows" policing - in Franz's case, a dubious bust for skipping a subway fare - and then in the crosshairs of ICE.


Alisha and Franz met this past February. Franz, who had emigrated from Haiti in 1998, retained a thick accent. "I always joke and say that this relationship is working because I have no idea what he is saying," Alisha says. "But I love him."

When Alisha met him, Franz was coming out of homelessness, and - with the support of his cousin and Alisha - things were looking up. He was beginning to overcome his depression and get involved in the Osborne Association, a well-regarded organization whose mission is to offer opportunities for people who have been through the criminal justice system.

Franz hoped to get his GED and improve his English so he could go to college and eventually become a social worker to help those who were in a similar position to him. But those plans started to get derailed after an incident with the police earlier this summer, as Alisha describes:

Franz went out to get some fish for me, because he knows I love fish. The fish store was a few stops away from the house, so I loaned him my monthly Metrocard [to take the subway]. Next thing you know, I'm getting a call:

"Baby, they've arrested me. They said that I didn't swipe [the card]."

"Tell them that you have a monthly metro card," I said.

"I'm trying to tell them, but they won't listen."

"Give me the officer. Maybe they don't understand you."

I said to the officer, "He has a monthly Metro - it's my card. Why would he not swipe?"

This is the thing with NYPD. I call it the new profile tactic. They hide on the subway platform, trying to catch people coming through. Where I live, no one is going to the Hamptons. We don't have money, none of us - we're broke. So if we're going through the turnstile, we are going to school, to appointments, going to handle our business. What the NYPD is doing is using that tactic for whoever is swiping to get their names.

At the police station, the officer told Alisha he saw Franz go through an unlocked gate instead of the turnstile. Franz acknowledged that he went through the gate instead of waiting at the turnstile because a train was coming, but insisted that he had swiped his card.

When Alisha asked the officer why he didn't just check the Metrocard to see if it had been swiped, he replied, "You know, I would just have let him go, but I had my supervisor right behind me."

Once police ran Franz's name through the system, they found he had two open warrants for unpaid fines in 2008 and 2010.

"He totally forgot he had [the unpaid fines] way back when," Alisha says. "And with his situation of being homeless, he didn't have the money to pay in the first place.


Franz was arrested, processed and let go the next day. The following week, we went to court, where his first warrant was dropped, and he was told that his second one would be handled soon. But now that Franz's name was in the system, ICE had other plans. A couple of weeks later came the home raid. Alisha described what happened after she opened the door:

Franz got up from the couch, and he was walking towards us because he could hear his name. They were talking in the hall, so I looked over to Franz, but I stepped back...and they started coming in. I'm [still] thinking it's a case of mistaken identity.

And so they come in and they say, "Are you Franz? Can you give us some ID?" He shows his passport. I could tell he was already nervous. "We have a warrant for your arrest."

I said, "What are you talking about? A warrant for what?" when the officer started to come around, I put my arm up: "'Uh, uh, what's going on, hold up!"

Than another officer that I didn't see out in the hall came around and said, "Ma'am, whatever questions you have, don't worry, I will answer them for you."

I turn to the guy who says that he can answer all my questions and ask him, "Can you tell me what this is about?"

"Ma'am, you can come down to 201 Varick Street, and they will answer all your questions."

I asked him, "Can I have your name?"

"I'm not required to give you my name."

"Can I have your badge number?"

"We are not required to give you a badge number."

At this point, I say, "Is this America? Can I get a picture of the picture that you just showed me?" Then he laughed and said, "Absolutely not!" As if that was the silliest question he had ever heard.

He leaves out the door, and Franz is already being taking down the stairs. "Baby, make sure you come down."

I'm standing at the door, saying to myself, what the fuck just happened, what's going on? I go to my laptop, and before you know it, there are 20 tabs open. I don't know what to do. I don't know who to call. Do I call the police? Oh my God, no! I was so shocked. I had to go to sleep, this is just a dream.

I reached out to the ICE FREE NYC, and they referred me to Families for Freedom. When I spoke to Abraham, it made everything okay. If I didn't have that person at the other end, that could have ruined me. He just knew everything and predicted all the steps that Franz was going to go through.


Families for Freedom (FFF) is an advocacy and organizing group that describes itself as "by and for families facing and fighting deportation" and seeking to "repeal the laws that are tearing apart our homes and neighborhoods; and to build the power of immigrant communities as communities of color, to provide a guiding voice in the growing movement for immigrant rights as human rights."

Executive Director Abraham Paulos, who has been through immigrant detention himself, said in an interview that FFF was part of the effort to get ICE removed from city jails, but that since the bill's passage last year, he has seen more calls like Alisha's.

"ICE was kicked out of jail, but there was an increase in home raids," Paulos says. Before, he says, most calls were about loved ones in jail, but now "we're getting the same amount of phone calls, but home raid phone calls are the major phone calls. How do they know to come to his [Franz's] partner's house? It's hard to believe that [the information] is not been coming from the NYPD."

According to Paulos, this is part of a national trend under the Obama administration's Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), in which the president vowed to target "felons not families" - as if the two categories have nothing to do with each other.

Franz is now in the Essex Detention Center, in Newark, New Jersey. "There is no [right to] speedy trial," Alisha says. "He's been in there since August."

She believes detentions of people like Franz are motivated by a Congressional-mandated "bed quota" that obligates ICE to pay for a minimum number of immigrant detainees. "They need to have those beds filled... 'We know that you're not a threat, but we need to keep our money,'" Alisha says. "I'm living in a dream. The process is insane and dehumanizing as well. [For] the visits in the wintertime, they make you stand outside in a line for two hours, [including] little kids."

Alisha thinks de Blasio "comes from a good heart but represents a system that is corrupt as fuck."

The system itself is not about supporting those who want to bring what's best for society. So you have this one person in this corrupt system who's trying to do something right, he need a backup. That army has to come from the people. That's how changes are made in society.

It just becomes a scenario where society has to put the pressure on it, so we'll have to hold those politicians to their word. Hold Obama to his words. Hold de Blasio to his words. It's about us being organized and coming together as activists and making noise to be heard.

Like Paulos, Alisha thinks part of the problem is the way immigration has become associated with criminality.

I reposted a video that I saw on Facebook, about a little boy [whose] father was detained and was going to get deported. Somebody posted, "What [crime] did his father do?" automatically.

So for us to have this conversation in the community, the first thing is, "well, they are criminals, what did they do?... Well, no, you don't have my support". So it works for the system. It automatically signs the person off to not be worthy of support, to fight for, to raise my voice.

People first. We see that incarceration is a problem. Homelessness is a problem. It can be fixed when you separate the person from the situation and deconstruct the whole narrative. It is a hard job but I know it can be done.

Danny Katch contributed to this article.
News Sun, 29 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
"Spotlight" Celebrates Heroes of Investigative Reporting - and Democracy

Long before I ever set foot in an actual, working newsroom, I was a sucker for movies and TV shows about journalism and reporters: the snappy dialogue, the nose for a scoop, the determination to get at the truth and expose the bad guys.

I never miss Citizen Kane, All the President's Men or His Girl Friday (the great, screwball remake of that classic play, The Front Page). And when I entered the world of journalism for real, briefly working as a freelance feature writer for a now-deceased, great metropolitan newspaper and then for years in television news and public affairs, I discovered that there really were people in the business as funny, dedicated and talented as the characters on film (some stinkers, too, but that's for my future, sure-to-go-straight-to-remaindered memoir).

To see more stories like this, visit Moyers & Company at Truthout.

If you haven't already heard, to the list of superb movies about the trade, you can now add Spotlight. The riveting account of the Boston Globe's investigative team exposing the cover-up of widespread pedophilia in the city's Catholic Church - and beyond - stars a roster of big name talent that without ego works together seamlessly as an ensemble: Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, John Slattery and Stanley Tucci, to name just the top of the cast.

Directed by Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor) and written by McCarthy and West Wing alum Josh Singer, it's a Hollywood movie that's really about something, the story of dedicated, scrupulous reporters going up against a seemingly indomitable institution and discovering a scandal beyond anything they imagined.

They started investigating in 2001 and by the end of 2002, the Globe's Spotlight team published nearly 600 stories about the Church and 249 priest and brothers in the Boston archdiocese had been publicly accused of sexual abuse. The archdiocese teetered at the edge of bankruptcy and in December, Bernard Cardinal Law, Boston's archbishop, resigned (although he was transferred to Rome's influential Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore).

What's more, the filmmakers note, "major abuse scandals" have been discovered in more than 100 other American towns and in another 100 places worldwide. In the words of producer Blye Pagon Faust, "Spotlight took on this institution that had power, money and resources, and showed people that nobody is untouchable."

Tom McCarthy was quick to add, "I was raised Catholic so I have great understanding, admiration and respect for the institution. This story is not about Church bashing. It's about asking 'How does something like this happen?' The Church performed, and in some cases continues to perform, acts of institutional evil not only as an abuser of kids but also through the cover-up of abuse. How could this abuse go on for decades without people standing up and saying something?"

The movie Spotlight is a celebration of investigative journalism and a reminder that it could be a dying art. "I'm extremely concerned with how little high-end investigative journalism is out there right now compared to what we had 15 years ago," McCarthy said. "I saw this movie as an opportunity to show by example: Here is the kind of impact that can happen when you have well-funded journalism done by experienced professionals. I mean, what could be more important than the fate of our children?"

When I asked McCarthy at a recent screening of the film whether Spotlight may be more of a eulogy than a love letter, he pointed out that among young people, the 1976 release of All the President's Men, the movie version of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's book on the Watergate affair, spurred renewed interest in journalism as a career. He hopes Spotlight might have a similar effect.

We both noted that despite fewer investigative units at major metropolitan newspapers there are a number of independent, non-profit organizations doing great work like ProPublica, the Center for Public Integrity and the Center for Investigative Reporting; such publications and websites as Mother Jones, In These Times and Truthout; and reporters like Lee Fang at The Intercept, David Sirota at International Business Times, Ari Berman at The Nation and Andy Kroll at National Journal, to name just a few. Not to mention recent work like Matea Gold, Tom Hamburger and Anu Narayanswamy's exhaustive digdown at The Washington Post into four decades of campaign and charitable contributions to Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Of course, contributing to the problem in this Internet age is the slashing of press revenues that fund in-depth investigating, plus the sheer glut of information and data unaccompanied by knowledge or wisdom. Tom McCarthy thinks the problem's especially critical at the state and local level, where money for investigative journalism is scarcest but where some of the worst corruption occurs in dark corners unilluminated by the kind of reporting that makes Spotlight so remarkable.

The slogan on the movie's poster is, "Break the story. Break the silence." Journalist Ben Bradlee, Jr., played in the film by John Slattery, told the Annenberg Media Center's NeonTommy blog, "The movie underscores the importance of investigative journalism in a democracy." And in a recent interview at Salon, Tom McCarthy said that this kind of reporting is, "so essential to a free and healthy press in our country. The fact that it is eroding should really be a great alarm to people, as much as the ice caps are eroding. We should be really a bit worried about the state of journalism, and not just for the journalists but for us, because that's who it will impact most."

He told another interviewer, "I want to ring the bell about how essential this kind of journalism is, because to me, these reporters are straight-up heroes."


Opinion Sun, 29 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
Criminalizing Our People: Social Impacts of the PKK Ban

Kurdish PKK forces. (Photo: Kurdishstruggle)Kurdish PKK forces. The terror-listing of the PKK by Western states criminalizes ordinary Kurds. However, its hypocrisy also created a conscious, mobilized activist community. (Photo: Kurdishstruggle)

Last year, when Western mainstream media was confused about "PKK terrorists" fighting "Islamic State group terrorists," this evoked a tired smile in the faces of ordinary Kurds who, aside from oppression at home, are stigmatized and criminalized throughout Europe.

Terror designations often demonize one side of a conflict, while immunizing the other. This especially applies to the Turkey-PKK conflict, with the second largest NATO-army on one side, and an armed national liberation movement on the other. But in this case, a terrorist designation also criminalizes an entire community of ordinary people, denying them fundamental rights.

The on and off listings of groups and states, such as Saddam Hussein's Iraq, according to the day's political situation, are examples of how blacklistings are political, not moral, regardless of their pretensions. In reality, listings strengthen state-sponsored violence by reinforcing the state's monopoly on the use of force, ignoring the legitimacy of resistance and making no moral distinction between groups like ISIS and movements reacting to injustice.

Today, the Kurdish freedom movement around the PKK, especially with its pioneering women's liberation paradigm, appeals not only to Kurds, but to all oppressed peoples in the region.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was designated as a terrorist group by the United States in 1997 and by the EU in 2002. While PKK-affiliates committed violent acts in Germany in the 1990s, violence was not the reason to justify the ban, but rather the PKK "disrupting NATO interests in the Middle East." Still today, European officials state that as long as Turkey's stance on the PKK remains, they will refrain from lifting the ban. Whenever governments look like reconsidering the listing, it is due to tensions with Turkey. While the listing appeases Turkey, it is also a wild card to signal that the ban on their enemy could be removed if Turkey misbehaves.

One does not have to be a PKK-sympathizer to view the ban as an anachronism. In an era in which the PKK not only shifted its political perspective, announced several unilateral cease-fires, and initiated a two-year long peace process, it is also the life guarantee for many ethnic and religious communities in the Middle East as the strongest enemy of the Islamic State group. Old arguments fail to hold.

But, legal and political arguments aside, what social implications does black-listing have?

In Europe, Kurdish people constitute one of the most organized and political communities. The concept of democratic autonomy is implemented in the form of people's and women's assemblies in the diaspora. This democratic potential itself is seen as a threat.

European governments aim to delegitimize organizations perceived as terrorist by targeting and "disrupting" support bases through criminalization in an attempt to depoliticize communities and break their ties with politics at home.

But Western governments are often complicit in the oppression that forces these communities abroad. The same states that label the PKK as terrorist are the top arms providers of Turkey's war on the Kurds. Intelligence provided by U.S. drones killed 34 Kurdish civilians in 2011, German tanks destroyed 5,000 Kurdish villages in the 1990s in the hands of the Turkish army. Ironically, while supporting Turkey's war on the Kurds, European states also accepted thousands of Kurdish refugees due to political persecution in the 1990s. The explicitly geopolitical nature of these lists reinforces injustice; thus, for the Kurdish community, terror-listing is not a standard for morality or legitimacy, as Kurds actively die under its implications. What it is however is harassment and abuse to a community of millions.

In Europe, people don't need to actually commit offenses to be arrested for PKK-membership. In Germany, which pursues the most aggressive criminalization due to the long tradition of German-Turkish political and economic collaboration, the criteria for membership can be mere perceived sympathy, which is answered with phone tapping, psychological and physical violence at demonstrations, home raids, and closures of social and political institutions. Participation in social and political events, which are normally democratic rights protected under international agreements, suffice as membership criteria. Legally registered offices, student organizations, and community centers are under constant suspicion.

People are charged without seeing evidence against them due to the secretive nature of counter-terrorism procedures. In the case of Adem Uzun, a prominent Kurdish politician and activist, a reason to arrest him was actively fabricated by French authorities.

Young Kurds in Germany, France and the U.K., without residence status or citizenship, are targetted because of their vulnerability and coerced to collaborate with authorities as spies against their own communities. They face threats of deportation when they refuse. Nowadays, refugees from Kurdistan who escaped the Islamic State group are threatened and harassed by European police for joining political activities.

Simultaneous crackdowns are often coordinated across Europe and coincide with developments in Kurdistan. Shortly after peace negotiations were announced between the PKK and the Turkish state in 2013, crackdowns on Kurdish activists took place most notably in Spain, Germany, and France.

Angela Merkel's visit to Turkish President Erdogan before November's snap elections expressed support for his authoritarian-fascist rule and meant that Europe would close its eyes to Turkish massacres if Erdogan keeps refugees out of the EU. As besieged Kurdish cities like Silvan face massacre by the Turkish army, Germany raids Kurdish houses and arrests activists, as I write.

Simultaneously, after having spent most of the year in jail, Shilan Özcelik, an 18-year-old Kurdish woman is being tried in a British court under terrorism charges for allegedly wanting to join the fight against the Islamic State group. Activists believe that the U.K., which criminalized Kurds for more than a decade, wants to set precedence with Shilan's case, especially after British volunteer Konstandinos Erik Scurfield died fighting the Islamist terror group alongside Kurds in Syria, the funeral of whom was received by crowds praising him as a hero. The British government is in tacit alliance with Kurdish forces at the front, but criminalizes the same struggle domestically.

Statistics about PKK-sympathizers in Europe are only based on wild guesses by authorities because the mutual mistrust between ordinary Kurdish people and European state authorities makes it impossible to express political opinions openly. The UK, France, Germany, and Denmark made their point clear when closing several Kurdish TV channels, charging them with heavy fines for allegedly supporting the PKK. In the case of ROJ TV, the then prime minister of Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, is believed to have banned the channel to gain Turkey's favor for his post as NATO secretary-general in 2009, according to leaked documents.

What message do those that pride themselves with press freedom and democracy send to hundred thousands of diasporic Kurds who see these channels as their only voice and connection to their homeland?

That nobody is immune against the constant Kafkaesque distress of criminalization is exemplified by the case of Nicole Gohlke, Left Party Member of the German Parliament. In November 2014, during the siege of the Islamic State group on Kobane, she spoke at a demonstration in Munich. She held up the PKK flag for 15 seconds, saying: "I urge the German government to no longer criminalize symbols like these, because a fight for freedom, human rights, and democracy is being led under this flag as we speak. Lift the PKK ban!" She was detained, forced to pay a fine and had her parliamentary immunity lifted. This happened in a political environment where the PKK was internationally applauded after rescuing ten thousand of Yezidis stranded on Mount Sinjar.

Clearly, the terror designation is a veil behind which Europe hides its own wickedness. It is a tool of control to silence dissent and annihilate political consciousness. But the PKK is legitimate in the eyes of millions of Kurds; it is impossible to make any distinction between "organization" and "social base." Whoever attended a Kurdish demonstration will have heard the slogan: "PKK is the people - and the people are here." Kobane, the bastion of resistance against the Islamic State group, was liberated with the slogan "Long live Abdullah Öcalan."

Today, the Kurdish freedom movement around the PKK, especially with its pioneering women's liberation paradigm, appeals not only to Kurds, but to all oppressed peoples in the region. In Rojava and North Kurdistan, the idea of democratic autonomy based on the co-existence of all ethnic compounds is taking practical shape.

When Kobane was under siege last year, everyone saw the mobilization power of the Kurdish community; hundreds of spontaneous demonstrations, hunger strikes, occupations, and rallies were simultaneously organized across Europe within hours. At the same time, Europe's own two-faced politics were exposed when the PKK saved entire communities in the Middle East, while NATO-member Turkey supported jihadist groups, wanting to see the Kurds fall before the Islamic State group, thus becoming a major causal factor for the refugee crisis, for which the EU now brown-noses Turkey.

Regardless of their moralistic pretensions, crackdowns by arms-selling governments that support oppressive states like Turkey, which are realized in the hope of assimilating especially young Kurds into uncritical, pacified parts of the system by isolating and robbing them off their opinions, democratic rights, media, and sense of community, reached quite the opposite: a politically conscious, increasingly autonomous, critical community that burned its bridges with the system and is willing to dedicate itself fully to its legitimate struggle.

Opinion Sun, 29 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
Global Warming's Unacknowledged Threat: The Pentagon

Unidentified USA soldiers stands guard in a check point on January 26, 2007 in Maxmur, Iraq. (Photo via Shutterstock)Unidentified USA soldiers stands guard in a check point on January 26, 2007 in Maxmur, Iraq. Despite being the planet's single greatest institutional consumer of fossil fuels, the Pentagon has been granted a unique exemption from reducing - or even reporting - its pollution. (Photo: Sadik Gulec /

During the November 15 Democratic Presidential Debate, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders sounded an alarm that "climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism." Citing a CIA study, Sanders warned that countries around the world are "going to be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops and you're going to see all kinds of international conflict."

On November 8, the World Bank predicted that climate change is on track to drive 100 million people into poverty by 2030. And, in March, a National Geographic study linked climate change to the conflict in Syria: "A severe drought, worsened by a warming climate, drove Syrian farmers to abandon their crops and flock to cities, helping trigger a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people."

The sobering insight that climate change can accelerate violence should weigh heavily on the minds of delegates to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change set to begin November 30 in Paris - a city that, on November 13, suffered grievously from the blowback of the Syrian conflict. But there is another looming threat that needs to be addressed.

Put simply: War and militarism also fuel climate change.

From November 30 to December 11, delegates from more than 190 nations will convene in Paris to address the increasingly visible threats of climate disruption. The 21st Conference of the Parties (aka COP21) is expected to draw 25,000 official delegates intent on crafting a legally binding pact to keep global warming below 2°C.

But it is difficult to imagine the delegates reaching this goal when one of the largest contributors to global-warming has no intention of agreeing to reduce its pollution. The problem in this case is neither China nor the United States. Instead, the culprit is the Pentagon.

The Pentagon's Carbon Bootprint

The Pentagon occupies 6,000 bases in the US and more than 1,000 bases (the exact number is disputed) in 60-plus foreign countries. According to its FY 2010 Base Structure Report, the Pentagon's global empire includes more than 539,000 facilities at 5,000 sites covering more than 28 million acres.

The Pentagon has admitted to burning 350,000 barrels of oil a day (only 35 countries in the world consume more) but that doesn't include oil burned by contractors and weapons suppliers. It does, however, include providing fuel for more than 28,000 armored vehicles, thousands of helicopters, hundreds of jet fighters and bombers and vast fleets of Navy vessels. The Air Force accounts for about half of the Pentagon’s operational energy consumption, followed by the Navy (33%) and Army (15%). In 2012, oil accounted for nearly 80% of the Pentagon's energy consumption, followed by electricity, natural gas and coal.

Ironically, most of the Pentagon's oil is consumed in operations directed at protecting America's access to foreign oil and maritime shipping lanes. In short, the consumption of oil relies on consuming more oil. This is not a sustainable energy model.

The amount of oil burned - and the burden of smoke released - increases whenever the Pentagon goes to war. (Indeed, human history's most combustible mix may well prove to be oil and testosterone.) Oil Change International estimates the Pentagon's 2003-2007 $2 trillion Iraq War generated more than three million metric tons of CO2 pollution per month.

The Pentagon: A Privileged Polluter

Yet, despite being the planet's single greatest institutional consumer of fossil fuels, the Pentagon has been granted a unique exemption from reducing - or even reporting - its pollution. The US won this prize during the 1998 Kyoto Protocol negotiations (COP4) after the Pentagon insisted on a "national security provision" that would place its operations beyond global scrutiny or control. As Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat recalled: "Every requirement the Defense Department and uniformed military who were at Kyoto by my side said they wanted, they got." (Also exempted from pollution regulation: all Pentagon weapons testing, military exercises, NATO operations and "peacekeeping" missions.)

After winning this concession, however, the US Senate refused to ratify the Kyoto Accord, the House amended the Pentagon budget to ban any "restriction of armed forces under the Kyoto Protocol," and George W. Bush rejected the entire climate treaty because it "would cause serious harm to the US economy" (by which he clearly meant the U.S. oil and gas industries).

Today, the Pentagon consumes one percent of all the country's oil and around 80 percent of all the oil burned by federal government. President Barack Obama recently received praise for his Executive Order requiring federal agencies to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, but Obama's EO specifically exempted the Pentagon from having to report its contribution to climate chaos. (As a practical matter, the Pentagon has been forced to act. With battlefield gas costing $400 a gallon and naval bases at risk of flooding from rising seas, the Pentagon managed to trim its domestic greenhouse-gas emissions by 9 percent between 2008-2012 and hopes to achieve a 34 percent reduction by 2020.)

Climate Chaos: Deception and Denial

According to recent exposés, Exxon executives knew the company's products were stoking global temperatures but they opted to put "profits before planet" and conspired to secretly finance three decades of deception. Similarly, the Pentagon has been well aware that its operations were wrecking our planetary habitat. In 2014, Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel identified climate change as a "threat multiplier" that will endanger national security by increasing "global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict." As far back as 2001, Pentagon strategists have been preparing to capitalize on the problem by planning for "ice-free" operations in the Arctic - in anticipation of US-Russian conflicts over access to polar oil.

In 2014, Tom Ridge, George W. Bush's Homeland Security chief, stated flat-out that climate change posed "a real serious problem" that "would bring destruction and economic damage." But climate deniers in Congress continue to prevail. Ignoring Ridge's warnings, a majority of House Republicans hammered an amendment onto the National Defense Authorization bill that banned the Pentagon from spending any funds on researching climate change or sustainable development. "The climate . . . has always been changing," Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va) said dismissively. "[W]hy should Congress divert funds from the mission of our military and national security to support a political ideology?"

Since 1980, the US has experienced 178 "billion dollar" weather events that have caused more than $1 trillion in damages. In 2014 alone, there were eight "billion dollar" weather calamities.

In September 2015, the World Health Organization warned climate change would claim 250,000 million lives between 2030 and 2050 at a cost of $2-4 billion a year and a study in Nature Climate Change estimated the economic damage from greenhouse emissions could top $326 trillion. (If the global warming causes the permafrost to melt and release its trapped carbon dioxide and methane gases, the economic damage could exceed $492 trillion.)

In October 2015 (the hottest October in recorded weather history), BloombergBusiness expressed alarm over a joint study by scientists at Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley that predicted global warning "could cause 10 times as much damage to the global economy as previously estimated, slashing output as much as 23 percent by the end of the century."

This is more than a matter of "political ideology."

The Pentagon's role in weather disruption needs to become part of the climate discussion. Oil barrels and gun barrels both pose a threat to our survival. If we hope to stabilize our climate, we will need to start spending less money on war.

Opinion Sun, 29 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
When Surgeons Multitask: The Little-Known Practice of Concurrent Surgeries

(Photo: Operating Room via Shutterstock)"Concurrent surgery" is an open secret in hospitals, but patients rarely hear about it. (Photo: Operating Room via Shutterstock)

When you go to the hospital for an operation, did you know your surgeon might also be performing a procedure on another patient, in a different operating room, over the same scheduled time period? This practice - "two patients, two operating rooms, moving back and forth from one to the other" while relying on assistance from general surgeons or trainees - is called concurrent surgery. It's an open secret in hospitals, but patients rarely hear about it.

The Boston Globe recently investigated concurrent surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), as well as the broader conflict in the medical community over the ethics and safety of double-booking operations. On this week's podcast, two of the Globe reporters who investigated the story, Jenn Abelson and Liz Kowalczyk, talk with ProPublica reporter Marshall Allen about how they got tipped off to this issue, clashing opinions in the medical community, and what they think patients should have a right to know.

Highlights from their conversation:

Hospitals that allow concurrent surgery argue that it saves time.
Abelson: The No. 1 reason that's given by hospitals is around efficiency and access to care, so that there's no wasted time in the operating room.... It not only allows more cases in one day, but the hospitals also said, for some of these star surgeons who might have long wait lists, you can get greater access to them because they are doing more surgeries.

But some doctors question its ethics.
Abelson: [Dr. Dennis Burke, who fought a multiyear battle against double-booking at MGH] had two major concerns. One is that there were concerns and complaints raised to him by anesthesiologists over the issues of what they considered were patient safety, and concerns around whether patients were getting the best medical care possible. And then the separate issue of patient consent - that this practice was just known by the doctors and the nurses and the anesthesiologists and the billing clerks and everyone else. The only one who didn't know about it was the patient.

It's hard to tell how common it is because there's scant data and hospitals aren't talking.
Abelson: The whole industry is reluctant to talk about it. We have had a hard time placing … how MGH practice and policy compares to other hospitals. … We approached a number of hospitals and tried to figure out the policies and practices, and most have not been willing to share with us or speak in detail about it.

Listen to this podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher. For more, read the Boston Globe investigation Clash in the Name of Care and ProPublica's Making the Cut: Why Choosing the Right Surgeon Matters Even More Than You Know.

News Sun, 29 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
Ta-Nehisi Coates on Police Brutality: "The Violence Is Not New, It's the Cameras That Are New"

Today we spend the hour with Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of the explosive book about white supremacy and being black in America. Titled "Between the World and Me," it is written as a letter to his teenage son, Samori. In July, Ta-Nehisi Coates launched the book in his hometown of Baltimore. He spoke at the historic Union Baptist Church. "It seems like there's a kind of national conversation going on right now about those who are paid to protect us, who sometimes end up inflicting lethal harm upon us," Coates said. "But for me, this conversation is old, and I'm sure for many of you the conversation is quite old. It's the cameras that are new. It's not the violence that's new."


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

AMY GOODMAN: Today, we spend the hour with Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of an explosive new book about white supremacy and being black in America. It's called Between the World and Me, written as a letter to his teenage son, Samori. Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics and social issues. He received the George Polk Award for his Atlantic cover story, "The Case for Reparations." His book, Between the World and Me, is called "required reading" by Toni Morrison. She writes, quote, "I've been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that plagued me after James Baldwin died. Clearly it is Ta-Nehisi Coates."

Well, in July, Ta-Nehisi Coates launched his book in his hometown of Baltimore. He spoke at the historic Union Baptist Church.

TA-NEHISI COATES: This book proceeded from a notion, and there are a couple of main notions that are really at work here. And one of the dominant ideas in the book, Between the World and Me, which is, you know, effectively an extended essay told in a letter form to my son, is the notion of fear, because I think like when people think about African-American communities, there are a lot of things that come to mind, but one of the things that does not come to mind, I think, enough in the mainstream conversation is simply how afraid we are of our bodies, how afraid we are for our children, how afraid we are for our loved ones, on a daily basis. And, you know, I understood this as a very, very young person, as I talk about it in the book. You know, from my earliest memories, I was talking to Dad about this a little while ago, and I think about my first memories, my first memories of going - my first coherent memories of going with my mother and father to see Marshall "Eddie" Conway in prison, and understanding that there are black men - you know, are in prison. That was like my first memory. He had done something, or somebody accused him of something. Something had happened where he did not have the full freedom and control of his body, and that was something that happened to people who look like me, even though I didn't quite understand how and why that happened.

And then, as you grow up in the community, and you have to go out into the world and navigate - you know, I've said this several times in many places - you know, I have my memories of going to middle school here in Baltimore, and I think about how much of my mental space was possessed with keeping my body safe, how much of it dealt with how I was dressed, who I was walking with, what neighborhood I was walking through, once I got to school how I conducted myself in the school, and not so much in such a way that would be obedient to my teachers, but in a way that would keep me safe from the amount of violence. I mean, I was talking in this interview the other day; I was saying that any sort of policy that you think about in this country that has to do with race ultimately comes back, for black folks, to securing our bodies, the physical safety of our body. And so we have these kind of high and abstract debates about, you know, affirmative action. And in the minds of certain people, we think those conversations are literally just about "Is my kid going to get into Harvard or not?" But behind that, for us, as black people, is a conversation of "Is my kid going to be able to have the means to live in a neighborhood where he or she walks outside the house and they're not looking over their shoulder, and they're not watching their back, and they're not - they don't have to do the sort of things that I have to do, the threat of violence is always there?"

Now, one of the horrifying things - and this is what, you know, I'm going to read about tonight - even for those of us who escape those neighborhoods, even for those of us who make it somewhere and are able to do something and live in better places, the threat never quite leaves us, because once we're no longer afraid of the neighborhood, it turns out we actually have to have some fear for the very people we pay taxes to protect us. And that's what we've been hearing about for the past year over this country. We've been seeing a lot of that. And it seems like there's a kind of national conversation going on right now about those who are paid to protect us, who sometimes end up inflicting lethal harm upon us. But for me, this conversation is old, and I'm sure for many of you the conversation is quite old. It's the cameras that are new. It's not the violence that's new. We are not in the midst of a new wave of anything. We're, you know, in a new technological wave, you know? And this is not unprecedented. You know, the sort of violence that folks saw in the 1960s, in Selma, for instance, or on Bloody Sunday, that sort of violence was not, in fact, actually new. That's what white supremacy, what racism is. It is an act of violence. What was new was the cameras. There was certain technology that was able to take that into the living rooms of America. And we're going through a similar thing right now, but the violence is not new.

When I think about the first time I really, really became aware of this, beyond theory, it was in the instance of the killing of a good friend of mine - a friend of mine, I should say to clarify our relationship, a friend of mine by the name of Prince Jones, who I went to Howard University with.

As a brief aside, when you write things, they're forced to become abstract, or when you interview people, they become abstract. And then, whenever you're forced to talk about them, they immediately become real, and all the emotions that you feel about those people come back. I'm going to try to control myself here.

Prince Jones was a fellow student of mine at Howard University. He was a tall, beautiful young man. He hailed from a prosperous family, a family that had not always been prosperous. His mother, you know, was the child of sharecroppers, had worked her way up through life out of poverty in Louisiana and had risen to become a prominent radiologist.

Prince was in Prince George's County, Maryland, driving. It was late at night. He had just dropped off his young daughter. He was going to see his fiancée. And he was in a jeep, an SUV. The SUV he was in was being followed, as it turned out, by the police, the Prince George's County police. And I'm in Baltimore, so you guys know about the reputation of the Prince George's County police; I don't need to give any sort of lectures on that. The gentleman who was following him had come to work that night as an undercover police officer and had dressed up as a drug dealer, so he was, you know, literally dressed as a criminal, to appear as a criminal. He was in an unmarked car. He thought Prince Jones was someone else who he was supposed to be doing surveillance on. He tracked Prince Jones from Prince George's County, Maryland, through Washington, D.C., and into Fairfax, Virginia, where, as far as I'm concerned, he effectively executed him. In the story he tells, because he's the only witness - and, you know, he's the only person whose version of events we actually have - the story he tells is that once they got to Fairfax, they got into a dark cul-de-sac, and Prince rammed his car. And he said before Prince rammed his car, he got out of the car, and he pulled a gun on Prince, and he identified himself as a police officer, but he didn't produce his badge. By his own admission, he didn't produce his badge. By his testimony, Prince got back in the car, into his truck, and rammed the guy, the police officer's car, and the police officer shot and killed him.

This happened in 2000. I believe my son was about a month old at that point. You know, you talk about fears for, like, bringing a black child into the world, like it was immediately real. You know, it was just suddenly like so visceral, like right there. And the most terrifying thing for me was when I thought about, like, myself. Like, I couldn't distance myself from what Prince had done, even in the version of events as given by the officer, whether they're true or not. Even in, you know, the most sympathetic version of events given by the officer, I could not distance myself from whatever actions Prince Jones had taken in that case. I had to imagine myself followed through three jurisdictions by somebody who did not identify themself as a police officer, who was literally dressed to appear as a criminal. And I had to think about all the fears that I had to have, you know, as I was going through the neighborhood here in Baltimore and all the fears that Prince must have had, going to visit my fiancée and worrying about her, and seeing this dude pull a gun out on me and claim to be a police. Well, I don't know if you're a police officer. And once I got into his shoes, it was very, very easy for me to see myself how I could have been killed in much the same way. And this was horrifying. And so, for normal Americans, you know, once they rise up and get out of certain neighborhoods or go certain places, you know, they feel a kind of safety that black people never feel. Fear is one of the dominant emotions of the black experience. Fear. And it does - no amount of money you can earn can ever take you away from that. You can be president of the United States, and you can be afraid for your body. You can be the first lady of the United States, and you can be afraid for your body. You can be afraid for the bodies of your two little girls. It does not go away. There's no escape from that.

Well, Prince's story stayed with me for a number of years, and I wrote about it in little places, but I couldn't get like his mom out of my head. I kept wondering, because I knew this woman had done all this, and I couldn't get her out of my head, and I wondered, like, how she lived. I wondered how she carried that. And I reached out, and I made contact with her, and I was able to go see her. And so the portion of the book I'm going to read tonight tells the story about our conversation. As I said, Between the World and Me is written as a letter to my son, so all of the yous and all of the sort of, you know, things, it's me addressing him, who is not here right now. He's somewhere in the middle of Vermont right now. This story, you know, goes a lot of places. It goes to Howard University, goes to Paris, France. It moves quite a bit. But at this point, we're at the end, and we're trying to get some sort of resolution or some sort of conclusion on everything we've seen. So I'll go ahead and read.

"In the years after Prince Jones died, I thought often of those who were left to make their lives in the shadow of his death. I thought of his fiancée and wondered what it meant to see the future upended with no explanation. I wondered what she would tell his daughter, and I wondered how his daughter would imagine her father, when she would miss him, how she would detail the loss. But mostly I wondered about Prince's mother, and the question I mostly asked myself was always the same: How did she live? I searched for her phone number online. I emailed her. She responded. Then I called and made an appointment to visit. And living she was, just outside of Philadelphia in a small gated community of affluent homes. It was a rainy Tuesday when I arrived. I had taken the train in from New York and then picked up a rental car. I was thinking of Prince a lot in those months before. You, your mother, and I had gone to Homecoming at The Mecca, and so many of my friends were there, and Prince was not.

"Dr. Jones greeted me at the door. She was lovely, polite, brown. She appeared to be somewhere in that range between forty and seventy years, when it is difficult to precisely ascertain a black person's precise age. She was" - whenever I read that in front of white people, nobody laughs. "She was well composed, given the subject of our conversation, and for most of the visit I struggled to separate how she actually felt from what I felt she must be feeling. What I felt, right then, was that she was smiling through pained eyes, that the reason for my visit spread sadness like a dark quilt over the whole house. I seem to recall music - jazz or gospel - playing in the back, but conflicting with that I also remember a deep quiet overcoming everything. I thought that perhaps she had been crying. I could not tell for sure. She led me into her large living room. There was no one else in the house. It was early January. Her Christmas tree was still standing at the end of the room, and there were stockings bearing the name of her daughter and her lost son, and there was a framed picture of him - Prince Jones - on a display table. She brought me water in a heavy glass. She drank tea. She told me that she was born and raised outside Opelousas, Louisiana, that her ancestors had been enslaved in that very same region, and that as a consequence of that enslavement, a great fear echoed down through the ages. 'It first became clear when I was four,' she told me.

My mother and I were going into the city. We got on the Greyhound bus. I was behind my mother. She wasn't holding my hand at the time and I plopped down in the first seat I found. A few minutes later my mother was looking for me and she took me to the back of the bus and explained why I couldn't sit there. We were very poor, and most of the black people around us, who I knew were poor also, and the images I had of white America were from going into the city and seeing who was behind the counter in the stores and seeing who my mother worked for. It became clear that there was a distance.

"This chasm makes itself known to us in all kinds of ways. A little girl wanders home, at age seven, after being teased in school and asks her parents, 'Are we niggers and what does this mean?' Sometimes it is subtle - the simple observation of who lives where and works what jobs and who does not. Sometimes it is all at once. I have never asked you how you became personally aware of the distance. Was it Michael Brown? I don't think I want to know. But I know that it has happened to you already, that you have deduced that you are privileged and yet still different from other privileged children, because you are the bearer of a body more fragile than any other in this country. What I want you to know is that it is not your fault, even if it is ultimately your responsibility. It is your responsibility because you are surrounded by the Dreamers. It has nothing to do with how you wear your pants or how you style your hair. The breach is as intentional as policy, as intentional as the forgetting that follows. The breach allows for the efficient sorting of the plundered from the plunderers, the enslaved from the enslavers, sharecroppers from landholders, cannibals from food.

"Dr. Jones was reserved. She was what people once referred to as 'a lady,' and in that sense reminded me of my grandmother, who was a single mother in the projects but always spoke as though she had nice things. And when Dr. Jones described her motive for escaping the dearth that marked the sharecropper life of her father and all the others around her, when she remembered herself saying, 'I'm not going to live like this,' I saw the iron in her eyes, and I remembered the iron in my grandmother's eyes. You must barely remember her by now - you were six when she died. I remember her, of course, but by the time I knew her, her exploits - how, for instance, she scrubbed white people's floors during the day and went to school at night - were legend. But I still could feel the power and the rectitude that propelled her out of the projects and into homeownership.

"It was the same power I felt in the presence of Dr. Jones. When she was in second grade, she and another child made a pact that they would both become doctors, and she held up her end of the bargain. But first she integrated the high school in her town. At the beginning she fought the white children who insulted her. At the end they voted her class president. She ran track. It was 'a great entrée,' she told me, but it only brought her so far into their world. At football games the other students would cheer the star black running back, and then when a black player on the other team got the ball, they'd yell, 'Kill that nigger! Kill that nigger!' They would yell this sitting right next to her, as though she really were not there. She gave Bible recitations as a child and she told me the story of her recruitment into this business. Her mother took her to audition for the junior choir. Afterward the choir director said, 'Honey, I think you should talk.' She was laughing lightly now, not uproariously, still in control of her body. I felt that she was warming up. As she talked of the church, I thought of your grandfather, the one you know, and how his first intellectual adventures were found in the recitation of Bible passages. I thought of your mother, who did the same. And I thought of my own distance from an institution that has, so often, been the only support for our people. I often wonder if in that distance I've missed something, some notions of cosmic hope, some wisdom beyond my mean physical perception of the world, something beyond the body, that I might have transmitted to you. I wondered this, at that particular moment, because something beyond anything I have ever understood drove Mable Jones to an exceptional life.

"She went to college on full scholarship. She went to med school at Louisiana State University. She served in the Navy. She took up radiology. She did not then know any other black radiologists. I assumed that this would have been hard on her, but she was insulted by the assumption. She could not acknowledge any discomfort, and she did not speak of herself as remarkable, because it conceded too much, because it sanctified tribal expectation when the only expectation that mattered should be rooted in an assessment of Mable Jones. And by those lights, there was nothing surprising in her success, because Mable Jones was always pedal to the floor, not over or around, but through, and if she was going to do it, it must be done to death. Her disposition toward life was that of an elite athlete who knows the opponent is dirty and the refs are on the take, but also knows that the championship is one game away.

"She called her son - Prince Jones - 'Rocky' in honor of her grandfather, who went by 'Rock.' I asked about his childhood, because the fact is that I had not known Prince all that well. He was among the people I would be happy to see at a party, whom I would describe [to] a friend as 'a good brother,' though I could not really account for his comings and goings. So she sketched him for me so that I might better understand. She said that he once hammered a nail into an electrical socket and shorted out the entire house. She said that he once dressed himself in a suit and tie, got down on one knee, and sang 'Three Times a Lady' to her. She said that he'd gone to private school his entire life - schools filled with Dreamers - but he made friends wherever he went, in Louisiana and later in Texas. I asked her how his friends' parents treated her. 'By then I was the chief of radiology at the local hospital,' she said. 'And so they treated me with respect.' She said this with no love in her eye, coldly, as though she were explaining a mathematical function.

"Like his mother, Prince was smart. In high school he was admitted to a Texas magnet school for math and science, where students acquire college credit. Despite the school drawing from a state with roughly the population of Angola, Australia, or Afghanistan, Prince was the only black child. I asked Dr. Jones if she had wanted him to go to Howard. She smiled and said, 'No.' And then she added, 'It's so nice to be able to talk about this.' This relaxed me a little, because I could think of myself as something more than an intrusion. I asked where she had wanted him to go for college. She said, 'Harvard. And if not Harvard, Princeton. And if not Princeton, Yale. And if not Yale, Columbia. And if not Columbia, Stanford. He was that caliber of student.' But like at least one third of all the students who I knew who came to Howard, Prince was tired of having to represent to other people. These Howard students were not like me. They were the children of the Jackie Robinson elite, whose parents rose up out of the ghettos, and the sharecropping fields, went out into the suburbs, only to find that they carried the mark with them and they could not escape. Even when they succeeded, as so many of them did, they were singled out, made examples of, transfigured into parables of diversity. They were symbols and markers, never children or young adults. And so they come to Howard to be normal - and even more, to see how broad the black normal really is.

"Prince did not apply to Harvard, nor Princeton, nor Yale, nor Columbia, nor Stanford. He only wanted The Mecca. I asked Dr. Jones if she regretted Prince choosing Howard. She gasped. It was as though I had pushed too hard on a bruise. 'No,' she said. 'I regret that he is dead.'

"She said this with great composure and greater pain. She said this with all of the odd poise and direction that the great American injury demands of you. Have you ever taken a hard look at those pictures from the sit-ins in the '60s, a hard, serious look? Have you ever looked at the faces? The faces are neither angry, nor sad, nor joyous. They betray almost no emotion. They look out past their tormentors, past us, and focus on something way beyond anything ever known to me. I think they are fastened to their god, a god whom I cannot know. But, god or not, the armor is all over them, and it is real. Or perhaps it is not armor at all. Perhaps it is life extension, a kind of loan allowing you to take the assaults heaped upon you now and pay down the debt later. Whatever it is, that same look I see in those pictures, noble and vacuous, that was the look I saw in Mable Jones. It was in her sharp brown eyes, which welled but did not break. She held so much under her control, and I was sure the days since her Rocky was plundered, since her lineage was robbed, had demanded nothing less.

"And she could not lean on her country for help. When it came to her son, Dr. Jones's country did what it does best - it forgot him. The forgetting is habit, it is yet another necessary component of the Dream. They have forgotten the scale of theft that enriched them in slavery; the terror that allowed them, for a century, to pilfer the vote; the segregationist policy that gave them their suburbs. They have forgotten, because to remember would tumble them out of the beautiful Dream and force them to live down here with us, down here in the world. I am convinced that the Dreamers, at least the Dreamers of today, would rather live white than live free. In the Dream they are Buck Rogers, Prince Aragorn, an entire race of Skywalkers. To awaken them is to reveal that they are an empire of humans and, like all empires of humans, are built on the destruction of the body. It is to stain their nobility, to make them vulnerable, fallible, breakable humans."

AMY GOODMAN: Ta-Nehisi Coates, speaking at the Union Baptist Church in Baltimore on the launch of his new best-seller, Between the World and Me, a book that's based on a letter to his teenage son. We come back to the speech in a moment.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, as we go back to the speech of Ta-Nehisi Coates, the best-selling author whose new book is called Between the World and Me, based on a letter to his teenage son. He was speaking at the Union Baptist Church in Baltimore.

TA-NEHISI COATES: "Dr. Jones was asleep when the phone rang. It was 5 A.M. and on the phone was a detective telling her she should drive to Washington. Rocky was in the hospital. Rocky had been shot. She drove with her daughter. She was sure he was still alive. She paused several times as she explained this to me. She went directly to the ICU. Rocky was not there. A group of men with authority - doctors, lawyers, detectives, perhaps - took her into a room and told her he was gone. She paused again. She did not cry. Composure was too important now.

"'It was unlike anything I had felt before,' she told me. 'It was extremely physically painful. So much so that whenever a thought of him would come to mind, all I could do was pray and ask for mercy. I thought I was going to lose my mind and go crazy. I felt sick. I felt like I was dying.'

"I asked if she expected that the police officer who had shot Prince would be charged. She said, 'Yes.' Her voice was a cocktail of emotions. She spoke like an American, with the same expectations of fairness, even fairness belated and begrudged, that she took into medical school all those years ago. And she spoke like a black woman, with all the pain that undercuts those exact feelings.

"I now wondered about her daughter, who'd been recently married. There was a picture on display of this daughter and her new husband. Dr. Jones was not optimistic. She was intensely worried about her daughter bringing a son into America, because she could not save him, she could not secure his body from the ritual violence that claimed her son. She compared America to Rome. She said she thought the glory days of this country had long ago passed, and even those glory days were sullied, because they had been built on the bodies of others. 'And we can't get the message,' she said. 'We don't understand that we are embracing our deaths.'

"I asked Dr. Jones if her mother was still alive. She told me her mother passed away in 2002, at the age of eighty-nine. I asked Dr. Jones how her mother had taken Prince's death, and her voice retreated into an almost-whisper, and Dr. Jones said, 'I don't know that she did.'

"She alluded to 12 Years a Slave. 'There he was,' she said, speaking of Solomon Northup. 'He had means. He had a family. He was living like a human being. And one racist act took him back. And the same is true of me. I spent years developing a career, acquiring assets, engaging responsibilities. And one racist act. It's all it takes.' And then she talked again of all that she had, through great industry, through unceasing labor, acquired in the long journey from grinding poverty. She spoke of how her children had been raised in the lap of luxury - annual ski trips, jaunts off to Europe. She said that when her daughter was studying Shakespeare in high school, she took her daughter to England. And when her daughter got her license at sixteen, a Mazda 626 was waiting out front. I sensed some connection to this, some desire to give and the raw poverty of her youth. I sensed that it was all as much for her as it was for her children. She said that Prince had never taken to material things. He loved to read. He loved to travel. But when he turned twenty-three, she bought him a jeep. She had a huge purple bow put on it. She told me that she still could see him there, looking at the jeep and simply saying, Thank you. Without interruption she added, 'And that was the jeep he was killed in.'

"After I left, I sat in the car for a few minutes. I thought of all that Prince's mother had invested in him, and all that was lost. I thought of the loneliness that sent him to The Mecca, and how The Mecca, how we, could not save him, how we ultimately cannot save ourselves. I thought back on the sit-ins, the protestors with their stoic faces, the ones I'd once scorned for hurling their bodies at the worst things in life. Perhaps they had known something terrible about the world. Perhaps they so willingly parted with the security and sanctity of the black body because neither security nor sanctity existed in the first place. And all those old photographs from the 1960s, all those films I beheld of black people prostrate before clubs and dogs, were not shameful, indeed were not shameful at all - they were just true. We are captured, brother, surrounded by the majoritarian bandits of America. And this has happened here, in our only home, and the terrible truth is that we cannot will ourselves to an escape on our own. Perhaps that was, is, the hope of the movement: to awaken the Dreamers, to rouse them to the facts of what their need to be white, to talk like they are white, to think that they are white, which is to think that they are beyond the design flaws of humanity, has done to the world.

"You, Samori, you cannot arrange your life around them and the small chance of them coming into consciousness. Our moment is too brief. Our bodies are too precious. And you are here now, and you must live - and there is so much out there to live for, not just in someone else's country, but in your own home. The warmth of dark energies that drew me to The Mecca, that drew out Prince Jones, the warmth of our particular world, is beautiful, no matter how brief and breakable.

"I think back to our trip to Homecoming. I think back to the warm blasts rolling over us. We were at the football game. We were sitting in the bleachers with old friends and their children, caring for neither fumbles nor first downs. I remember looking toward the goalposts and watching a pack of alumni cheerleaders so enamored with Howard University that they donned their old colors and took out their old uniforms just a little bit so they'd fit. I remember them dancing. They'd shake, freeze, shake again, and when the crowd yelled 'Do it! Do it! Dooo it!' a black woman two rows in front of me, in her tightest jeans, stood and shook as though she was not somebody's momma and the past twenty years had barely been a week. I remember walking down to the tailgate party without you. I could not bring you, but I have no problem telling you what I saw - the entire diaspora around me - hustlers, lawyers, Kappas, busters, doctors, barbers, Deltas, drunkards, geeks, and nerds. The DJ hollered into the mic. The young folks pushed toward him. A young man pulled out a bottle of cognac and twisted the cap. A girl with him smiled, tilted her head back, imbibed, laughed. And I felt myself disappearing into all of their bodies. The birthmark of damnation faded, and I could feel the weight of my arms and I could feel the heave in my breath and I was not talking then, because there was no point.

"That was a moment, a joyous moment, beyond their Dream - a moment imbued by a power more gorgeous than any voting rights bill. This power, this black power, originates in a view of the American galaxy taken from a dark and essential planet. Black power is the dungeon-side view of Monticello - which is to say, the view taken in struggle. And black power births a kind of understanding that illuminates all the galaxies in their truest colors. Even the Dreamers - lost in their great reverie - feel it, for it is Billie that they reach for in sadness, and Mobb Deep is what they holler in boldness, and Isley is what they hum in love, and Dre is what they yell in revelry, and Aretha is the last sound they hear before dying. We have made something down here. We have taken the one-drop rule of Dreamers and flipped them. They made us into a race. But we made ourselves into a people. Here at The Mecca, under the pain of selection, we have made a home. As do black people on summer blocks marked with needles, vials, and hopscotch squares. As do black people dancing it out at rent parties, as do black people at their family reunions where we are regarded like the survivors of catastrophe. As do black people toasting their cognac and German beers, passing their blunts and debating MCs. As do all of us who have voyaged through death, to life upon these shores.

"That was the love power that drew Prince Jones. The power is not just divinity but a deep knowledge of how fragile everything - even the Dream, especially the Dream - really is. Sitting in that car I thought of Dr. Jones's predictions of national doom. I had heard such predictions all my life from Malcolm and all his posthumous followers who hollered that the Dreamers must reap what they sow. I saw the same prediction in the words of Marcus Garvey who promised to return in a whirlwind of vengeful ancestors, an army of Middle Passage undead. No. When I left The Mecca, I knew that that was all too pat, and knowing that the Dreamers should reap what they had sown, we would reap it right along with them. Plunder has matured into habit, and habit into addiction; and the people who could author the mechanized death of our ghettos, the mass rape of private prisons, and then engineer their own forgetting, must inevitably plunder much more. This is not a belief in prophecy, it is a belief in the seductiveness of cheap gasoline.

"Once, the Dream's parameters were caged by technology and by the limits of horsepower and wind. But the Dreamers have improved themselves, and the damming of seas for voltage, the extraction of coal, the transmuting of oil into food, have enabled an expansion, a plunder with no known precedent. And this revolution has freed the Dreamers to plunder not just the body of black humans but the body of the Earth itself. The Earth is not our creation. It has no respect for us. It has no use for us. And its vengeance is not the fire in the cities but the fire in the sky. Something more fierce than Marcus Garvey is riding on the whirlwind. Something more awful than all of our African ancestors is rising with the seas. The two phenomena are known to each other. It was the cotton that passed through our chained hands that inaugurated this age. It is the flight from us that sent them sprawling into their subdivided woods. And the methods of transport through these new subdivisions, across the sprawl, is the automobile, the noose around the neck of the earth, and ultimately, the Dreamers themselves.

"I drove away from the house of Mable Jones thinking of all of this. I drove away, as always, thinking of you. I do not believe we can stop them, Samori, because they must ultimately stop themselves. And still I urge you to struggle. Struggle for the memory of your ancestors. Struggle for wisdom. Struggle for the warmth of The Mecca. Struggle for your grandmother and grandfather, struggle for your name. But do not struggle for the Dreamers. Hope for them. Pray for them, if you are so moved. But do not pin your struggle on their conversion. The Dreamers will have to learn to struggle themselves, to understand that the field for their Dream, the stage where they have painted themselves white, is the deathbed of us all. The Dream is the same habit that endangers the planet, the same habit that sees our bodies stowed away in prisons and ghettos. I saw these ghettos driving from Dr. Jones's home. They were the same ghettos I had seen in Chicago all those years ago, the same ghettos where my mother was raised, where my father was raised. Through the windshield I saw the mark of these ghettos - the abundance of beauty shops, churches, liquor stores, and crumbling housing - and I felt the old fear. Through the windshield I saw the rain coming down in sheets."

Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me, based on a letter to his teenage son. He was speaking on the launch of the book at the Union Baptist Church in Baltimore. If you'd like to get a copy of today's show, you can go to our website at When we come back, a conversation with Ta-Nehisi Coates.

News Fri, 27 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
From Paris to Raqqa

This podcast discusses the Paris terror attacks prompting lawmakers on Capitol Hill to take aim at refugees and encryption; the latest development on criminal legal reform; Bernie Sanders on Democratic Socialism; and, prize-winning author and reporter Chris Woods of is on to talk about the ongoing air campaign against the Islamic State.

News Fri, 27 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
People Tied Up "Like Animals" on UK Deportation Flights

A woman being deported from the UK to Pakistan was compliant and cooperative throughout the process. Still, the commercial contractor Tascor, working for the UK Home Office, strapped the woman into a waist restraint belt until after the plane had taken off.

One man on suicide watch was strapped into a waist restraint belt even though there was no evidence that he posed a risk to others. Another man, who refused to board a deportation flight, was belted continuously for eight long hours. His wrists swelled. He was examined by a paramedic.

These cases have come to light in two new reports by HM Inspectorate of Prisons. The inspectors also found that waist restraint belts were used six times on three flights to Pakistan, and that approaches to security were "unduly indiscriminate in some respects."

Government advisers have described the waist belt as "a custom-designed piece of restraint equipment, manufactured from manmade fibres and using plastic snap-locks and Velcro fasteners, designed to be worn around the subject's waist. Soft cuffs, with plastic snap-lock and Velcro fasteners, are attached to the belt by retractable cords."

They said: "In the 'free' position, although still connected to the belt, the cords are long enough to allow the subject relatively free movement of his arms and hands (for example, for eating). In the 'retracted' position, the subject's hands are pulled in to the front of the belt, where they can be further secured by a snap-lock fastened mesh."

Inspectors described the waist belt as "almost equivalent … to the most extreme and very rarely used" restraint equipment in prisons.

The belts were introduced by the Home Office as part of a new training program for deportation staff, that was prompted by the unlawful killing of Angolan deportee Jimmy Mubenga by G4S guards in 2010.

The independent panel that advised on the use of the new equipment warned last year that "indiscriminate use of the restraint belt was not justifiable ethically or legally." It said ministers would have to approve its introduction and it should only be used as "an exceptional measure."

The coroner who presided over the inquest into Mubenga's death wrote in a Prevention of Future Deaths Report in July 2013: "It goes without saying that the use of a body-cuff would constitute a significant interference in the bodily integrity of any person to whom it is applied. Dignity and bodily integrity are matters in which close regard must be had in determining what new techniques are to be introduced."

Yet HM Inspectorate of Prisons has found that the waist restraint belts "were now embedded in practice" and that they risked "being overused." On three flights to Nigeria and Ghana, the belts were used ten times. Inspectors said that "the justification for several of these uses was not explicit in the records" which they examined. On another flight, the belt was used on eight passengers, even though five of them did not resist being put on the flight. Inspectors said: "while risk factors were used to justify each case, the evidence was sometimes minimal."

Some authorisation forms for using restraints "did not indicate what specific risk factors might have existed," and lacked sufficient detail, the inspectors noted. This appears to falls short of the Home Office's own guidance on the use of these belts, which requires a senior manager to record "whether the restraint was reasonable, proportionate and necessary."

Two detainees arrived at the airport "in a small van that had been contaminated with their urine." The men were then kept in the van for several hours, which, according to the inspectors, was "unacceptable treatment."

The inspectors noted that one man, who was on suicide watch, had lived in Britain for 15 years and was being taken away from his mother who was very ill in hospital here. Another man who was placed in one of the waist restraint belts had been on suicide watch for the previous six months in a series of detention centres.

The investigative organisation Corporate Watch tracked down one detainee who was on the same deportation flight as the man on suicide watch mentioned in the inspectors' report.

Speaking under the condition of anonymity, the witness described the scene on board: "A lot of people were tied up, in like a vest on your tummy and arms," he said. "They tightened up the back so you cannot move and you have pain in your back. You cannot move your hands. They put people on that plane like animals."

Corporate Watch spoke to one former detainee who claims he was recently restrained by guards in a device which sounds similar to the new belts. He says it blocked his airflow and caused him to pass out. He spoke anonymously, fearing reprisals from the Home Office:

"The guards tried to pin me down with their legs and their knees. After some time they put a belt from under my my armpit down to my abdomen. They started tightening it and I was screaming and screaming 'This is too tight for me!'"

He went on: "After some time I passed out - there was no air. Someone shouted that they should put me in the recovery position. I was in panic and hyperventilating. They held my head and tried to force a tablet into my mouth. I was choking and gagging for 30 minutes."

Despite his passing out, the guards continued trying to deport him, the man claimed. "They put me in a wheelchair and moved me into the deportation van. On the way to the airport my condition deteriorated and they called an ambulance on the motorway and I went to hospital for some hours."

He says he was taken to hospital in handcuffs, despite the new Home Office policy. "I was still handcuffed on the way to hospital. The handcuffs cut the bone of my wrist and I'm having pain in the scrotum and lower back from the assault," he said.

In the days before one of the deportation flights featured in the inspection reports, volunteers at the Unity Centre in Glasgow spoke to many of the men facing deportation. Among them were fathers leaving behind their partners and young children. The sense of fear and desperation was strong.

One young man, Fred (not his real name), scaled the fence at Harmondsworth detention centre. The inspectors said this caused "considerable delay" in taking people to the airport. Whenever Home Office officials tried to come near him, Fred threatened to jump. A mattress was placed underneath him. The flight left without him, and at  the end of the night he came down from the fence.

One week later Corporate Watch visited Fred in detention. He said he was born in Sierra Leone, where his father, an aid worker with the British Red Cross, was killed during the civil war. He had lived in the UK since he was 11 years old with his surviving family. He said all the detainees were talking about not wanting to go on the flight, "but no one was doing anything. So I got up the fence and they couldn't touch me." 

At 24, he had spent the past two years of his life in detention, apart from one brief spell when he was released on tag, and required to walk miles each day to report to the Home Office.

His face was vacant and expressionless. Detention was sucking the life out of him. He was being deported on the basis of police 'intelligence,' not evidence or convictions, of association with a London gang. Operation Nexus allows the Met Police to bar people from the UK if officers believe someone is not conducive to the public good. Despite Fred's desperate resistance, he was later deported to Sierra Leone.

Another deportation flight for dozens of Nigerians from London to Lagos, is scheduled for Tuesday 24th November. Campaigners from Movement for Justice rallied outside the Nigerian High Commissioner on Wednesday 18th, and women in Yarl's Wood detention centre published a statement opposing the flight, saying "we refused to be slaves to the British government."

News Fri, 27 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory Campaign Cashes in on Anti-Refugee Animus

Since the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris by Islamic State operatives, at least 31 governors across the US have said they don't want to allow any more refugees fleeing the war in the Syria into their states, including most governors in the South.

These state leaders, almost all of them Republicans, claim the Obama administration's plan to accept at least 10,000 refugees from the Islamic State stronghold of Syria over the next year presents an unacceptable security risk for their citizens - despite the fact that there is an intensive vetting process for refugees, that no refugees who've come to the US since 9/11 have been arrested on domestic terrorism charges, and that governors don't have the authority to block refugees from their states.

Gov. Pat McCrory (R) of North Carolina joined their ranks on Monday afternoon, when he held a press conference where he said he was "requesting that the president and the federal government cease sending refugees from Syria to North Carolina" and until he is "satisfied" with the effectiveness of federal vetting of refugees coming to the United States.

"My primary duty as governor is to protect the citizens of North Carolina, which is why I am taking the steps I have outlined today," McCrory said.

McCrory apparently also believes the issue makes for winning politics. The same day the governor called for a halt to Syrian refugees being resettled in his state, his re-election committee posted an appeal to its Facebook page calling for "NO SYRIAN REFUGEES IN NC" and linking to the campaign's contribution page:

Lagging in polls and fundraising against his leading Democratic challenger, Attorney General Roy Cooper, the McCrory campaign appears eager to tap what the head of Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) called an "increased xenophobic streak" among the US public.

A recent survey by the group found that 46 percent of Americans say immigrants are a burden on the country while 56 percent believe the values of Islam are at odds with American values. Republicans in particular have issues with the foreign-born, PRRI found, with 66 percent of GOP respondents saying immigrants are a burden.

The PRRI poll also found that Americans' perceptions of Islam have grown more negative over the past few years - and it was conducted before the Paris attacks, which have sparked an outpouring of anti-refugee sentiment.

In Florida, for example, two mosques received bomb threats over the weekend and a Muslim family found bullet holes in their garage door, while in Texas someone splattered feces in front of a mosque along with pages torn from the Quran. In North Carolina, an Uber driver reports being beaten and threatened by a passenger who used anti-Muslim slurs. The driver is an Ethiopian immigrant and a Christian.

Of the estimated 3.8 million Syrians who have fled their country's civil war, 1,854 Syrian refugees have been admitted to the US since 2012. Of those, 59 have settled in North Carolina. They include people like the Al Haj Kasem family, who fled Syria after the bakery where Hussein, the father, worked was ransacked in the fighting. The family settled in Greensboro, and Hussein got a job in a nearby Ralph Lauren packaging plant.

McCrory may think that closing his state to people like the Al Haj Kasems will help him win an election, but it's drawing condemnation from human rights advocates. The NC Justice Center said McCrory's move "sends all the wrong signals - both to refugees here, and to people overseas who may perceive this move as hostility toward helping Muslims, even those in the most desperate of situations."

The Southeast Immigrant Rights Network said that, given that only the federal government has the power to admit refugees, "it is clear that these governors are exploiting the horrible tragedy in Paris to instill fear and hatred at a time when we most need to welcome and reach out to our sisters and brothers from Syria who are seeking refuge and risking everything in order to save their loved ones."

Human Rights Watch also issued a statement condemning the governors' anti-refugee reaction. "Resettled refugees from Syria have fled persecution and violence, and undergone rigorous security screening by the US government," said Alison Parker, co-director of the group's US Program. "The governors' announcements amount to fear-mongering attempts to block Syrians from joining the generous religious groups and communities who step forward to welcome them."

Another voice speaking out against the governors' anti-refugee reactions is that of Farris Barakat, whose brother Deah was shot to death in Chapel Hill earlier this year in what appeared to be an anti-Muslim hate crime. Barakat is the son of Syrian immigrants who came to the US in the 1980s, and his family is currently helping relatives who are refugees settle in Europe.

"I think it's really important that they understand that the reason these people are seeking refuge in this country is because ISIS destroyed theirs," Farris Barakat told Buzzfeed. "We're fighting the same enemy."

France, meanwhile, has announced that it would honor its commitment to take in more refugees, with President Francois Hollande saying it is his country's "humanitarian duty."

News Fri, 27 Nov 2015 00:00:00 -0500