Truthout Stories Tue, 04 Aug 2015 03:34:16 -0400 en-gb Keystone XL Hits New Turbulence as South Dakota Permit Hearing Implodes

Holes too big to fix were poked in TransCanada's narrative that its Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will be the safest pipeline ever built. And questions were raised about the company's financial dealings during hearings in South Dakota last week, where state regulators are tasked to decide if the company is capable of following the rules.

Also see: TransCanada's Keystone XL Permit Renewal Hearing Sheds Light on Serious Pipeline Risks

Holes too big to fix were poked in TransCanada's narrative that its Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will be the safest pipeline ever built. And questions were raised about how the pipeline company's financial dealings are set up during Public Utilities Commission hearings in Pierre, South Dakota last week where state regulators are tasked to decide if the company is capable of following the rules the state set when the original Keystone pipeline permit was granted in 2010.

A team of lawyers representing Native American tribes and the grassroots group Dakota Rural Action took the upper hand during the proceedings as they tried to have a TransCanada executive's testimony impeached. The proceedings took on a circus-like atmosphere when TransCanada was unable to prevent lines of questioning it didn't like. 

The commissioners seemed unsure of its own procedures. At one point, Commissioner Gary Hanson expressed frustration that he was having trouble drawing a distinction between TransCanada's evidence and its advertising statements.

The testimony of TransCanada's key witness, Corey Goulet, president of Keystone Pipeline Projects, turned out to be an important centerpiece of the hearing.

In pretrial testimony filed by Goulet, he stated the company would have no problem meeting the Commission's amended conditions.

However, TransCanada's promises to build safe pipelines have been called into question with several high-profile incidents involving its existing pipelines, particularly the corrosion problems with the Keystone 1 pipeline. 

A TransCanada 'root cause analysis' document, made available online by DeSmog on Tuesday, shed troubling light on the external corrosion encountered on the Keystone 1.

"Root Cause Analysis" Document Creates Headaches, Questions for TransCanada

When Goulet was questioned about the significant corrosion discovered on the Keystone 1 pipeline in Missouri in 2012 - when the pipeline's wall had corroded in one spot to the thickness of a dime - he downplayed the incident, claiming that none of the defects were close to rupturing. 

"None of the defects, in my experience in 30 years of pipelines, would be injurious from the perspective of being close to rupturing. Therefore the only problem would have been the depth of corrosion," Goulet testified. (Audio of Goulet testimony, relevant corrosion section at ~ 32:45 – 33:40)   

Bruce Ellison, one of the lawyers for the interveners, had handed Goulet a copy of the company's root cause analysis report of the incident, before pointing out the corrosion area was much larger than Goulet had described. One of the defects involved a section of pipe where the wall had eroded 96.8 percent, which Ellison noted was close to a rupture incident.

TransCanada lawyers objected to any reference to the report because Goulet claimed he had never seen it and that it was classified. But since the report had already been entered into evidence, the interveners' lawyers were allowed by the Commission to continue questioning him. 

In the course of discovery, TransCanada provided the report in question as part of the unclassified documents, and therefore could not exclude the report from evidence, the Commission said.

After that dispute was settled, Goulet admitted he knew the location of sites where the pipeline had been dug up for inspection and repair. 

As indicated in the 'root cause' report, Site 5 was only 200 feet from the Mississippi River, the primary drinking water source for 18 million Americans, as well as agricultural water for crop production. 

Image of Site 5 defect from TransCanada's report pg. 22. (Photo: Courtesy of Julie Dermansky)Image of Site 5 defect from TransCanada's report, page 22. (Photo: Courtesy of Julie Dermansky)

Evan Vokes, former TransCanada employee turned whistleblower, and an expert witness for the interveners, told DeSmog he has never seen a pipeline coating corroded as badly as the failed coating of the Keystone 1. It looked as if "it had been gnawed at by rats," he told DeSmog.

Another former TransCanada employee reviewed the report and found it shocking. The fact that damaged sections of the pipe were repaired instead of replaced concerned him greatly. "We cut out better pipe than what I've seen in those pictures," he told DeSmog. 

TransCanada's Tax Revenue Calculations Off by a Lot

Goulet testified that the considerably lower amount of taxes TransCanada paid was less than had been estimated before construction - although the tax rate has since increased. 

While he stated he didn't know the technical details of how the taxes are applied, he went on to testify that "TransCanada Pipeline LP is the owner of the Keystone XL pipeline," explaining that it is a wholly owned subsidiary of TransCanada Corporation. While TransCanada Corporation has assets in excess of $50 billion, not all of that value would be assessed for tax purposes. Only the subsidiary's assets would, Goulet explained. While TransCanada estimated that Keystone 1 would deliver at least $45 million in tax revenue to communities, Goulet admitted that the company has only paid $18.4 million over the first 5 years of the pipeline's operation. That's roughly a third of what TransCanada had estimated as the benefit it would deliver in tax revenue to affected communities.

Goulet cited higher capital and operating costs for the discrepancy, blaming regulatory delays, technical changes, and inflation were responsible for the costs ballooning to nearly $2 billion for the Keystone 1 project. (Audio of hearing, relevant section on taxes at ~ 1:22:15 – 1:32:00)

The tax revenue discrepancies could have real impacts on communities that bank on the future of the Keystone pipeline.

"In Harding County a bond was passed and a new school was built on the premise that TransCanada's pipeline taxes would help pay for it," Bret Clanton, a member of Dakota Rural Action said.

TransCanada Bullish on Building Keystone XL Despite Oil Price Slump

In afternoon testimony (audio from ~1:48:00 on), David Diakow, TransCanada's Vice President, Commercial, Liquids Pipelines, opened the door to information that related to TransCanada's business dealings related to the project.  

Diakow revealed that the company intends to build the pipeline no matter how low the price of oil goes. (audio ~ 1:54:40 – 1:57:15)

Robin Martinez, a lawyer for the interveners, described what came next as unusual in an email to DeSmog,

"Paul Blackburn, one of the attorneys for the intervenors in the proceedings, started to question Mr. Diakow about market demand for the KXL pipeline. He began inquiring as to whether TransCanada's customers were demanding changes to their contracts, which TransCanada objected to, claiming their contracts and communications with customers were highly confidential. TransCanada then argued that Mr. Blackburn's questions relating to market demand for the pipeline were not relevant to the question of whether or not TransCanada could meet the conditions imposed by the Commission when it granted the original permit in 2010. However, by placing Mr. Diakow's written testimony into the record they opened the door to full cross-examination of him under the applicable administrative procedure rules. Apparently not wanting to have him questioned, TransCanada withdrew him as a witness and asked the Commission to strike his testimony from the record."

The Commission limited the scope of all further testimony for both parties to be pertinent to the amended conditions of the original 2010 permit, strictly limiting evidence presented for the remainder of the trial.

Peter Caposella, the lawyer representing the Rock Sioux Tribe said in all his years as an attorney, he had never seen a plaintiff remove their own witness in such a manner.  

As the near failure of the Keystone 1 line proved, the consequences of siting TransCanada's bitumen-carrying export lines so close to drinking water supplies is a risk we can ill afford to accept in an age of water scarcity and climate disruption. 

Even if President Obama denies the permit for the pipeline to cross international borders, the next administration could reverse that decision. 

However, if the South Dakota Public Utility Commission decides TransCanada isn't up to the job, TransCanada will have to start the entire re-permitting process again.

News Mon, 03 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Pro-Choice for Christ

Rev. Debra Haffner is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister. She is also the cofounder and president of the Religious Institute, a multi-faith organization that advocates for sexual health and education - including abortion and contraception access - in religious communities and beyond. The Religious Institute is just one of numerous organizations advocating for contraceptive access, abortion rights and LGBT rights.

Comforting hands(Image: Comforting hands via Shutterstock)

"When I introduce myself, I tell people I'm a sexologist and a minister. The most likely response is that people laugh," says Reverend Debra Haffner. "They see those terms as oxymorons, kind of like 'jumbo shrimp.'" 

Haffner, the jumbo shrimp in question, is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister. She is also the co-founder and president of the Religious Institute, a multi-faith organization that advocates for sexual health and education - including abortion and contraception access - in religious communities and beyond.

In a political landscape that seems destined to pit bibles against birth control for as long as the culture wars shall persist (see: Hobby Lobby), the Religious Institute is just one of numerous organizations advocating for contraceptive access, abortion rights, and LGBT rights motivated by - and not despite - Christian faith.

Considering where most Americans stand, this makes sense.

According to most major polls, a slim majority of American adults support abortion rights: 51 percent of American adults think that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 43 percent think it should be illegal in all or most cases.

Yet some research suggests that Americans' thinking on abortion is more complicated than this simple binary - and that more people than previously thought support the right to choose. Only a small minority of the public believes abortion should never be legal, and large majorities think that if a woman gets an abortion, the experience should be supportive, comfortable, and non-judgmental. .

Americans' stances on abortion are more complicated than the political rhetoric may lead us to believe. Our understanding of religion and reproductive rights should follow suit.

The majority of Americans are religious. Over 70 percent of Americans identify as Christian, while 22.8 percent don't identify with any particular religion at all. And despite the growth of these so-called "nones," over 90 percent of Americans still believe in God.

It's a statistical inevitability: Many, if not a majority of, Christians in this country support reproductive rights. Of Christians, 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women have used some kind of contraception at one point or another. Over three fourths of Catholics believe that the church should permit birth control, while 53 percent of white Catholics, and 43 percent of Latino Catholics, think abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Why do I find this so surprising?

"The American public by and large on some level has bought the myth of the far right," Haffner says, in answer to my unvoiced skepticism. She's referring, of course, to the myth that religion and reproductive justice are mortal enemies. "The reality is that the majority of people of faith in this country support all of those things."

In fact, Haffner says, religious peoples' advocacy for reproductive rights is almost as old as modern birth control itself. "It might surprise you to know that the very first denominational statement on reproductive health and birth control was in 1929," she tells me.

It does and here's why: I'm Catholic. Well, okay - I was raised Catholic. Italian Catholic from New Jersey.

In a red town where "It's Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve" was still considered a clever punchline, we were Black Sheep Catholics, cultural-heritage Catholics, Kerry-and-Obama Catholics, the Catholics the nuns didn't like. My mother, a feminist physician who attended Catholic school, was known to get into "disagreements" with church people about contraceptive access, abortion rights, and the War in Iraq.

During mass, I learned to mouth - not say - the prayers for the little aborted fetuses. I learned I would not be permitted marriage in the Church. I learned that I had to choose between my rights as a woman and a queer person, and my belief in God.

So, like youths from time immemorial, I flipped God the bird and pulled my pants down.

Reverend Harry F. Knox says there are a lot of people like me. Knox, president and CEO of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) - a coalition of faith organizations that promotes reproductive health and education access - has a slow, gentle voice with a twang.

"It often surprises people when Christians are pro-choice," Knox tells me. "This normally comes from folks whose particular faith backgrounds have a narrow view of reproductive health and rights." This narrow view, says Knox, can sometimes make it difficult for people in the secular reproductive rights movement - people like, you know, feminist journalists - to collaborate with people of faith.

In some ways that's understandable. When right-wing politicians affront our rights under the guise of "religious liberty," it can be easy to see politics as a rumble between Obamacare-covered progesterone and, well, God. "We have a few partners who sometimes have trouble allowing the faith voice to be heard because of the very real hurt that has been done in the name of religion to women over the years," Knox says of this tension. "One of the roles that RCRC plays in the larger movement for reproductive health, rights, and justice is a bridge role in helping our allies deal with that pain."

Knox would know. First denied ordination in two denominations for being gay, Knox, finally ordained in the Metropolitan Community Church, served for years in justice ministry for LGBT people. He came to reproductive rights work through what he calls an "abortion crisis" in his own family.

"The Christian church often seeks to control people through shame," says Knox. Part of his job, then, he says, is to help people "tell their own stories about sexuality, about their own experience as spiritual people who are also sexual beings, fully embodied, and made in the image of God."

And Haffner and Knox tell me that Protestants aren't the only pro-choice Christians. There are, my mother will be delighted to know, Catholics in the game, too. "We say that good Catholics do and can use reproductive healthcare services," says Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe, Domestic Program Director at Catholics for Choice.

Catholics for Choice educates and advocates for sexual health - including, yep, abortion rights - both in religious organizations and government.

Ratcliffe, and Catholics for Choice's materials in general, put a lot of emphasis on conscience: The idea that decisions about the morality of abortion, contraception, and other sexual matters must be decided in - as they used to say in mass - "the silence of our hearts." This line of thinking comes with a real anti-authoritarian streak vis-à-vis the Church authorities. Their very sassy mission statement reveals some of this tension, calling out the "Catholic hierarchy" for "punish[ing] and publically sham[ing]" pro-choice Catholics.

Ratcliffe elaborates: "As Catholics, we actually have a right to dissent from teachings." She identifies this as a mission of religious liberty."The idea that someone would tell you what you can and cannot believe, or what you can and cannot access because of what they believe, is anathema to Catholics."

How did I not know about this group as a little gay kid?

Probably because - to no one's surprise - both the American and Canadian Conference of Bishops have denounced the organization. (A choice excerpt from the denouncement: "CFFC is, practically speaking, an arm of the abortion lobby.")

Indeed, the group's been ruffling papal feathers ever since its beginnings. In the seventies, a woman leader of the group had herself crowned Pope, and a member priest baptized a child who had been forbidden baptism by the Archbishop of Boston because his mother was pro-choice. In 1984, the group took out a full-page New York Times ad calling for the Church to accept pro-choice Catholics. It was co-signed by, among others, two priests, two brothers, and 27 nuns.

Which brings us to the nuns themselves. Lay people aren't the only Catholics advocating for reproductive freedom - there's also the nun contingent.

Here's how the most prominent among them got their start. In 1969, a group of women religious with the Catholic Church - many of them radicalized by the women's movement - created the National Coalition of American Nuns (NCAN), whose support for abortion and contraception rights and belief in the ordination of women continue to fly in the face of official church teachings.

The organization has been headed for the last few decades by Sister Donna Quinn, herself an activist with a much-storied history. Quinn has been a vocal spokesperson for reproductive rights in (or adjacent to) the Catholic Church for years. A photo of her in an abortion "Clinic Escort" vest is iconic.

NCAN was active most recently in the midst of the Hobby Lobby hullaballoo. The coalition of came out in support of the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate and a "Stand with the Nuns" petition garnered signatures from over 12,000 pro-contraceptive rights people of faith.

"The institutional church men forget that we are women who are educated, articulate, seekers of truth and very, very holy," said Quinn in a 2012 article in Reuters of her and her fellow pro-choice sisters' work.

While remaining active in contemporary debates, however, many activist nuns like Quinn are aging, and according to some a new generation of nuns is less inclined to ruffle feathers.

At the same time, the overall Church's influence may also be waning, as more and more Millennials leave the church.

Still, with 65 percent of Millennials identifying as religiously affiliated, the question of religiosity and support for reproductive rights is far from obsolete. And it's more complicated than the political debate would have us believe, with more young people than ever - even religious ones - supporting causes that have traditionally been met with religious opprobrium, like marriage equality.

For Haffner, the continued relevance of these questions reflects our collective need for meaning.

When Haffner tells me that the majority of Americans attend worship services (at least a couple times a year) I let out an involuntary "Wow."

Right, because it's not your friends, she says.

It's true. I'm a writer for a feminist blog and my voice over the phone sounds twenty-two years old, suburb-raised and Ivy-educated, all of which I am. Two of my four college roommates were presidents of the atheist club. I've got "friends are non-church-going" written all over me.

But when I was researching this article - pouring over the Religious Institute's website or the nuns' social justice writings - I found myself crying. Not hard, not uncontrollably, but I kept getting this lump in my throat.

And then it occurred to me, washed over me like a watercolor, all weepy and treble clef - like, oh, duh - that I am actually, in a lot of ways, a very religious person. And I think that the polarization of faith and reproductive justice that the contemporary political landscape so naturalizes does us all a big disservice.

Don't get me wrong. I still think we are all fortuitous conglomerations of cells and St. Teresa was having an orgasm. I don't think that every sperm is sacred or that a guy named Jesus had a sadistic father and a redemptive run-in with the Romans (too soon?).

But I was raised by a family raised on Vatican II, on Sacco and Vanzetti, on the Beatitudes, and every time someone starts talking about the inherent dignity of humankind, and social justice, and mercy, and compassion, I want to weep.

Because I know that my grandmother votes Democrat and is mad about police violence and thinks I should have abortion rights and loves me as a feminist and loves me as a lesbian because she loves God. And God loves the most vulnerable.

Haffner, of course, is onto me.

"An anecdote that is really interesting to me is the number of weddings and memorials and baby christenings I've done since I became a minister in the reproductive health field," Haffner says. "People call me because they still need somebody to marry them, they still need somebody to bury their mother."

Yeah, you might no longer go to church, she seems to be telling me. You might have forgotten the Nicene Creed when the mass was re-translated from Latin and you might only take the Eucharist at Christmas because you think when you cross yourself and your cleavage jiggles you look like Madame Bovary.

But you know what? You may be back. You may be back because all those things you believe in, all those things about humanity and dignity and choice? Yeah, Haffner seems to be saying. We're working on that.

"People return," she says.

News Mon, 03 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Will New Film Force US to Acknowledge Role in 1965 Indonesian Genocide?

October 1 marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the 1965 genocide in Indonesia that left over one million people dead. Human rights groups are circulating petitions calling for the US government to acknowledge its role in the genocide and to release CIA, military and other governmental records related to the mass killings. The United States provided the Indonesian army with financial, military and intelligence support at the time of the mass killings. Today we look at the pursuit of one Indonesian man confronting his brother's killers. In 1965, Adi Rukun's older brother was killed by the Komando Aksi, a paramilitary organization in Aceh. Adi Rukun's pursuit is the focus on Joshua Oppenheimer's new documentary, The Look of Silence. In 2012, Oppenheimer released a companion film titled The Act of Killing, in which he interviewed the Indonesian death squad leaders and worked with them to re-enact the real-life killings. The film was nominated for an Academy Award.


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

AMY GOODMAN: We spend the hour today with the award-winning filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer. In 2012, his debut feature film, The Act of Killing, stunned audiences by unmasking the perpetrators of the mid-1960s genocide in Indonesia, when the military and paramilitary slaughtered up to a million Indonesians after overthrowing the government. That military was backed by the United States and led by General Suharto, who would rule Indonesia for decades. Joshua Oppenheimer spent more than eight years interviewing the Indonesian death squad leaders and worked with them to re-enact the real-life killings. The film went on to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary.

In his new film, The Look of Silence, Oppenheimer revisits the scenes of the crimes while focusing on the victims of the genocide. The film follows one family as it attempts to confront the murderers, many of whom are still in power since there has been no official reconciliation process in Indonesia. This is the trailer for The Look of Silence.

UNIDENTIFIED: [translated] No, I don't think it's a big problem.

ADI RUKUN: [translated] But a million people were killed.

UNIDENTIFIED: [translated] That's politics.

ADI RUKUN: [translated] Mom, how do you feel living, surrounded by your son's killers? In our village, the mayor, the teachers, they were all killers. Are your neighbors afraid of you?

INONG SUNGAI ULAR: [translated] They're scared of me. They know they're powerless against me.

ADI RUKUN: [translated] My story is, my brother was killed, too.

AMIR SIAHAAN: [translated] Adi, where did your brother live?

ADI RUKUN: [translated] I'm sorry, I won't tell you.

AMIR SIAHAAN: [translated] Just tell me. It's OK.

UNIDENTIFIED: [translated] If you keep making an issue of the past, it will definitely happen again.

ADI RUKUN: [translated] If I came to you like this during the military dictatorship, what would you have done to me?

AMIR SIAHAAN: [translated] You can't imagine what would have happened.

AMY GOODMAN: That's the trailer for The Look of Silence. The Oscar-nominated director Joshua Oppenheimer was in New York for the release of the movie. He came by the Democracy Now! studio on the day The Look of Silence was released. I started by asking him about the title of the film.

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: The Look of Silence really defines a project, for me, which was to show what this invisible thing, silence, a silence born of fear, looks like. What is it like for human beings to have to live for 50 years afraid? Trying to give vision to that silence and to that fear was what kind of defined the film's project. And I had the title long before I had the title The Act of Killing, in fact. And then, of course, there's this other layer of meaning, because it follows one survivor of the killings, Adi Rukun, the main character in the film, as he goes and visits the men who killed his brother, still in power, and tries to get them to take responsibility for what they've done, while testing their eyes. And so emerges - he's an optometrist. And so emerges this kind of metaphor for blindness, which was also there for me in the title. The men are willfully blind to the meaning of what they've done, and he's trying to help them see.

AMY GOODMAN: So now let's step back, and give us the political context to this story. Talk about Indonesia.

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: So, in 1965, there was a military coup, sponsored and supported by the West - the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan - with the United States taking a key role. And there was the charismatic first president of Indonesia, a populist, left-leaning populist, named Sukarno, and the founder of the Non-Aligned Movement, the movement within the - during the Cold War that was trying to chart a kind of third way, an independent path neither aligned with the Soviet Union nor the West. He's the president, Sukarno, who - the president who led Indonesia out from Dutch colonialism. He's the founding father of Indonesia. He was overthrown in a military coup where, within like six months, somewhere between half a million and three million people were killed. Every opponent of the new - or potential opponent of the new military dictatorship - trade union leaders, intellectuals, teachers, the ethnic Chinese, members of the farmers' cooperative, leaders of the Indonesian women's movement - were rounded up, put in concentration camps, and then a great many of them dispatched out to be killed.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about your first film, what you covered there, and what you're covering with this film.

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: So, in 2003, I began my work on the 1965 genocide and, more importantly, its present-day legacy. It's the current regime of fear and thuggery and corruption. And I began that work, actually, in collaboration with Adi Rukun and his family, the family at the center of The Look of Silence. And they would gather survivors to tell me their stories. Some of them had never talked before about what they had been through. And when they would come to tell me their stories, they would arrive crying already, just at the thought of speaking about what they'd experienced. And they would, in this very vulnerable state, share with me what they had been through.

But after three weeks, the army came and threatened all of the survivors not to participate in the film. And Adi responded by calling me to a midnight meeting in his parents' house and saying, "Please don't give up. Try to film the perpetrators." I went, afraid at first, to approach the perpetrators, but when I did, I found that they were open - not just open, but they were immediately boastful about the worst details of what they'd done. When I showed this back to Adi, he said, "Continue to film the perpetrators." And then, so did the rest of the Indonesian human rights community, saying, "Film the perpetrators and expose the terrible the scent that the genocide hasn't really ended, because the perpetrators are still in power and millions of people's lives are still being destroyed by fear and silence." And so, I then spent seven years working with the perpetrators.

And what begins with them taking me to their places where they killed and launching into spontaneous demonstrations of how they killed gradually evolved into something much more surreal, maybe even a much vaster project, where to try and understand why they're boasting, why they're open, for whom they're boasting, how they want to be seen, how they really see themselves, I gave them the chance - or I asked them to dramatize what they had done, in whatever ways they wish, in order to show essentially the lies, the fantasies, the stories that the perpetrators tell themselves so they can live with themselves, and the terrible consequences of these lies on the whole society.

AMY GOODMAN: Joshua Oppenheimer, talking about his new film, The Look of Silence. We'll be back with him in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, as we continue our conversation with the award-winning filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer, director of the new film, The Look of Silence, about the US-backed genocide in Indonesia during the 1960s that led to the deaths of more than a million Indonesians. I asked Oppenheimer about his first feature film, The Act of Killing, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary.

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: The Act of Killing, my first film, follows one death squad leader, who killed a thousand people, perhaps, as he sets about dramatizing his memories, his experiences of genocide as a way of somehow desperately trying to cling to the lies that this whole regime has told and imposed on the whole society. And as he goes through that process, gradually he comes to see, through his own dramatizations, that these are lies. And he has this wrenching confrontation with his own conscience. And as all of Anwar's personal lies collapse, for Indonesia, the national lie, that this was heroic, also collapses.

AMY GOODMAN: Let's go to a trailer from The Act of Killing.

HERMAN KOTO: [translated] Cut! Cut! Cut! You acted so well, but you can stop crying now.

ADI ZULKADRY: [translated] "War crimes" are defined by the winners. I'm a winner.

SURYONO: [translated] Have mercy on me!

ANWAR CONGO: [translated] Honestly, I never expected it to look this brutal.

I can't do that again.

UNIDENTIFIED: [translated] Kill!

ANWAR CONGO: [translated] I did this to so many people. Have I sinned?

AMY GOODMAN: That's the Oscar-nominated film, The Act of Killing. And, Joshua, I mean, the danger in doing what you have done - yes, the perpetrators spoke to you, the victims spoke to you. Talk about the chronology. You made The Act of Killing. All of these killers participated and were proud of what they did. And what did you do in the wake of this?

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: Then I went - I returned to make, in a sense, the film that I set out to make at the beginning, at least thematically, a film that explores what does it do - what is it like for the survivors to have to live in the midst of the still-powerful killers, in fear. And when I returned, I had no idea that I would be filming a survivor as he goes and confronts the men who killed his brother. When Adi proposed that, he said to me, "Joshua, I've spent seven years watching your footage with the perpetrators, and it's changed me. I need to go and meet the men who killed my brother." At first, reflexively, instantly, I said, "Absolutely not. It's too dangerous. There has never been a film where survivors confront perpetrators who are still in power. It's never been done before. We cannot do it."

And Adi explained to me that he was hoping to visit - he was hoping that if he could visit the perpetrators, and if they could take responsibility for what they've done, he would somehow be able to reconcile himself with his neighbors, that they would - that the men who killed his brother, the men who had been terrorizing his family for half a century, would welcome his arrival as this chance to make peace with their neighbors and to take - and to find forgiveness from one of their victims' families. I was doubtful that that would happen, but I realized that if we could show why we failed, if we could show what I thought would happen, which is that the perpetrators get defensive and angry and fearful and threaten us, and if we could somehow do this safely, we would be able to show how torn this society is, how urgently truth, reconciliation and justice are needed.

And we realized that because I had made The Act of Killing, but it had not yet screened, because I was - I was therefore believed to be close to some of the most powerful men in the country and some of the most powerful perpetrators in the country: the vice president of the country, who's in The Act of Killing; leaders of the paramilitary - national leaders of the paramilitary movement that committed the killings with the army; ministers in the cabinet. I was believed - people thought, because they hadn't seen The Act of Killing yet, but they knew I had made this film with them, that these were my friends. And we realized that because of that, the men Adi wanted to confront are regionally powerful, not nationally powerful, and they would be unlikely to detain us, and certainly, let alone physically attack us, and that this was what would allow us to do this unprecedented thing of confronting the perpetrators while they still hold power.

AMY GOODMAN: So you made the film after The Act of Killing, but before it was shown around the country.

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: That's right. We had this window after we finished editing The Act of Killing. We knew that we wouldn't be able to return again after it - we wouldn't be able to return safely after the film came out, so we had to shoot the second film in the interim.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us who Adi is and who his brother, Romli, is.

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: So, Romli was the leader of the - the village head of a farmers' cooperative. And just for that, he was seen as a likely opponent to the new dictatorship and was killed.

AMY GOODMAN: And where did he live?

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: In this small village in North Sumatra in the middle of a vast area of oil palm and rubber plantations. And what was unique about his murder was not so much his - what was unique about him, about his story, was not so much his position, but the fact that his was one of the only murders that had witnesses. Tens of thousands of other people from that region had been taked to rivers, killed, and their bodies allowed to drift out to see, and their families were never told what happened. Like the relatives of the disappeared in Latin America, they then were unable to grieve, unable to mourn. They couldn't even say that their loved ones had died. All they could say is they hadn't come home yet, belum pulang in Indonesian, which meant that they were - they lived in this prison of cognitive dissonance, where they knew their loved - that the person must be dead, but couldn't say it. And a small part of that grief, they could articulate by talking about Romli. So, over the decades, from 1965 until I first arrived in 2003 and started working on this, over the decades, Romli became a kind of synonym for the genocide as a whole.

And when I started this work, I was introduced to his family. Romli's mother and father immediately wanted me to meet Adi. They said, "He's Romli's replacement." We were - Romli's mother said, "I was going crazy after Romli was murdered. And because I had Adi, I was able to somehow continue to live." And she said, "He talks like Romli, looks like Romli, acts like Romli. You must meet him." She called into the village, and I met this young man, born after the killings, not as afraid as the rest of his family, because he hadn't experienced the killings firsthand, who was desperate to understand what happened. All he knew was the government propaganda justifying what had happened, and he knew the story of Romli's murder, which he would hear again and again and again from his mother. She couldn't stop telling the story. It was like an echo, he would say, that would never fade. And he wanted to understand what happened to his mother, to his father, to his village, and so he latched on to my filmmaking as a way of answering these questions.

AMY GOODMAN: Introduce this first clip of Adi's mother.

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: So, in this first scene, we see here Adi asking his mother, while she's cutting tamarind fruits in her garden, what it's like to be surrounded by the men who killed her son, Romli, and what it's like to live in a space of silence and fear, haunted by the ghosts of the unburied dead, really.

AMY GOODMAN: The Look of Silence.

ROHANI: [translated] They stole from their victims. Now they are rich. They killed the husband and took the wives.

ADI RUKUN: [translated] How do you feel living surrounded by your son's killers and see them every day?

ROHANI: [translated] It's horrible. When we meet in the village, we don't speak. I hate them.

AMY GOODMAN: That is a clip of The Look of Silence, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer. So that is Adi's mother being questioned by Adi, her son. What happened to Romli, her older son?

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: Well, Romli was taken from the prison, the holding prison from which people were dispatched out to be killed, where in fact he was guarded, we found out - we find out during the film, by his own uncle, by his mother's brother, something the family didn't know.

AMY GOODMAN: Until you made the film.

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: Until we were actually - one day Adi decided he would go and visit his uncle and test his eyes as a favor that he'd promised, and started asking about what - because I was there, started asking what his uncle remembered of that time. And his uncle just volunteered it.

So he was dispatched out from the prison with a truckload of other people to be taken to North Sumatra's Snake River and killed, a spot where 10,500 people were killed. And on the way, the truck had to pass the turnoff to his family's home, and he panicked, because he realized what was happening and perhaps also because he was passing the road to his home. And there was a commotion on the truck. And because of that, two people escaped and survived. Everybody else, apart from Romli, was killed right there. Romli was injured and managed to crawl home through rice fields about a mile to the house, to his parents' home, where his mother took him in and tried desperately to keep him alive.

Two hours later, the death squad came with the army to pick him up, and clearly threatening to kill the whole family if Rohani, Romli's mother, didn't turn him over. And to sort of make it easier for her, but in a terrible way, ultimately making it much harder, the death squad leader said, "We're taking him to the hospital." And she knew it was a lie, but in order to do what she had to do in that moment, which was to give up her son, she had to somehow believe it was true in that moment, terribly making her a kind of, in her own mind, a collaborator in that moment. And that story has therefore, I think, never faded. It's just - she repeats it like a mantra, like a - not like a mantra, like something - just this horrible thing that she can't - that she needs to have heard and she can't let go of, all the time.

AMY GOODMAN: And what did they do to him?

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: They took him from the house. They brought him to a nearby river, because day was breaking and the official site for killing had closed for the night. And they took him to a nearby stream. They hacked him up, left him for dead. He wasn't dead. He was calling for help. A crowd gathered. So they came back. They fished him out of the river, took him into the palm plantation and killed him. And his father's co-workers - his father worked on the plantation - saw the body the next day and informed the family where the body was. And so now there's a grave, a small grave, there.

AMY GOODMAN: His father is also a key figure in your film, though he is not really speaking.

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: Yeah, he becomes - in fact, it was part of how Adi persuaded me that we ought to film, that we ought to confront the perpetrators. When I said, "No, it's not possible," Adi showed me a - "because it's too dangerous," Adi showed me a scene that he shot with a small camera I had given him to use as a kind of notebook to look for images that might inspire the making of this film a couple years earlier. And he showed me this scene where his father is lost in his own home. It's the only scene in the film that Adi shot.

He's crawling through his own home, lost, calling for help. And Adi told me that - thinking he's in a stranger's house and could be beaten up. And Adi told me that his father - that, essentially, his father had forgotten the son whose murder destroyed his life and his family's life, but he hadn't forgotten the fear. He's trapped in a kind of prison of fear, because he can't - and he'll never be able to heal, because he can't remember what happened. He'll never be able to work through it. He'll never be able to move beyond it. And so he's like a man locked in a room, who can't find the door even, let alone the key. And he said to me, "You see, if I can only meet the perpetrators, they will - and if they can accept what they've done is wrong, and I could forgive them, then my children will not have to grow up afraid of their neighbors."

And I understood two things then. I understood that the perpetrators won't apologize. In The Act of Killing, I worked for five years with the main character, Anwar Congo, and at the end of that process, he's retching over his own guilt, but he's still, in the uncut version of the film, the so-called director's - what's out in the United States on Netflix as the director's cut, but which is the version that came out in Indonesia and around the world outside the United States, while he's retching, he's still saying - he's still saying, "My conscience told me they had to be killed." He's still lying to himself. And I had this feeling that if Anwar, after five years, even while he's retching, can't admit what he did was wrong, somehow these men will not get there in an hour and a half with Adi, the men Adi wants to meet. So I realized that we wouldn't get the apology. But if I could show the human - complex human reactions that are inevitable when you go into someone's home and say, "You've killed my brother. Can you take responsibility?" - the shame, the guilt, the fear of their own guilt, and then the defensiveness, the anger, the threats - if I can show that, then I can show, essentially, the previously invisible abyss dividing every Indonesian from each other.

And I also realized, from this clip that Adi showed me of his father, that this must be much more than just a film about impunity and survivors living side by side with perpetrators who are still in power. It must also be a kind of poem about memory and oblivion, about - a poem composed in perhaps in memoriam to all that's destroyed, not just the dead, who can't be wakened, but the lives that have been destroyed by 50 years of fear and silence that can never be made whole again.

AMY GOODMAN: So let's go to the second clip that we have in The Look of Silence. Adi is going to the man who killed his brother, Romli.

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: Yeah, here we meet Adi confronting the commander of the death squads that were operating in Snake River, a man who told me that he deserves a cruise to America, because it was America who taught him to hate and kill the communists. Then Adi goes and visits him and asks him to take responsibility for what he's done. And we'll see a moment of that.

ADI RUKUN: [translated] You were leader of Komando Aksi in this region, so you were responsible for the mass killing here. Do people around here know that?

AMIR SIAHAAN: [translated] Yes, they do.

ADI RUKUN: [translated] The thing is, I - my older brother, he was killed, because you commanded the killings.

AMIR SIAHAAN: [translated] It wasn't really me.

ADI RUKUN: [translated] You were responsible as leader of Komando Aksi.

AMIR SIAHAAN: [translated] There were many Komando Aksi groups.

ADI RUKUN: [translated] But you were the top leader.

AMIR SIAHAAN: [translated] Komando Aksi was the people united with the army. And we had commanders above us. And we were protected by the government. So you can't say I'm responsible.

ADI RUKUN: [translated] Every killer I meet, none of them feel responsible.

AMY GOODMAN: That's a clip of The Look of Silence. And explain exactly who this man is.

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: This man is the head of the civilian - was the head of the civilian death squads that were killing at Snake River. It's a - working, recruited by the army. He's from the same paramilitary group that's at the center of my first film, The Act of Killing. His name is Amir Siahaan. And he would sign off the lists of people every night who had to be killed. And between him and his deputies, 10,500 people were killed in this one spot. He personally signed off, he says, about 600 people, but that's only because it wasn't normally his job to do that. There were many more killed there. After Adi tells him - and we saw a glimpse of this in the trailer, the beginning, a little earlier - after Adi says, "I think you're not taking responsibility," he becomes very angry and starts asking, "Well, where do you live?" And Adi won't tell him. And Adi then says, "Well, what would you have done to me if I came during the military dictatorship?" And he says, "You can't imagine it," and then says, "You see, the real danger is not the known communists, who have been under surveillance and terrorized for decades, and therefore unlikely to speak out. The real dangers are the secret communists, and perhaps this film is a secret communist activity." And he says, "Just continue," threateningly, "continue with your secret communist activity. Go on."

AMY GOODMAN: And this is actually Adi's neighbor.

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: Yeah, it's - their houses are within minutes of each other.

AMY GOODMAN: Oscar-nominated filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer, director of the new film, The Look of Silence, which has opened around the country. It's being called a masterpiece. This is Democracy Now! We'll be back with Oppenheimer in a moment.


AMY GOODMAN: "Arum Bandung," here on Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, as we continue my conversation with the Oscar-nominated filmmaker, director Joshua Oppenheimer. I asked him to talk about the dangers of making his new film, The Look of Silence. In both The Look of Silence, which is about the victims of the US-backed Indonesian genocide, as well as the film The Act of Killing, about the perpetrators, the credits all are listed - many of them are listed as anonymous.

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: Yeah, throughout the shooting of the film and the editing of the film and then the release of the film, we knew we were prepared to stop, after every scene. Adi - in preparation for the scenes with the highest-ranking commanders, we would have a second car available to use as a getaway vehicle, so we'd be harder to follow, should we have to flee. Adi's family would be at the airport, ready to evacuate if there was any sign of threat that would persist after we left. And about six months before the film had its first screening at the Venice Film Festival, we met with Adi, his family, the whole team that released The Act of Killing, human rights activists and my crew in Thailand, because I could already no longer safely return to Indonesia, to watch a rough cut of the film and discuss whether we shouldn't bring the film out at all until the perpetrators have died or until there's real change in Indonesia, or whether we should bring the film out, but Adi's family should move to Europe for a while, which is where I'm based.

In the end, we decided - in the end, Adi's family saw the film and said, "This film must come out now," because there was such momentum from The Act of Killing for change in this area. The government of Indonesia had already, as a - in response to The Act of Killing's Oscar nomination, had said, "Look, we know what happened in 1965 was a crime against humanity. We know we need reconciliation. We don't need a film to push us into this. We'll do it in our own time." But it was a wonderful moment, because it was the first time they had admitted it was wrong. The media and the public were now talking openly about the genocide as a genocide. And it was time -

AMY GOODMAN: But The Act of Killing, you first had these underground showings in Indonesia.

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: Yes, it began in secret, but by - once the media embraced the film, the screenings quickly became public. And by this point, when we were screening The Look of Silence for Adi's family in Thailand, there had been thousands of public showings. We had already made the film available for free for all Indonesians online. It had been downloaded tens of millions of times.

AMY GOODMAN: And the government actually had showings?

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: Not of The Act of Killing, no.

AMY GOODMAN: No, no, of The Look of Silence.

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: The Look of Silence, and entered that space. And actually, it's distributed by two government bodies: the National Human Rights Commission and the Jakarta Arts Council - something unimaginable if - were it not for The Act of Killing. The first screening in Jakarta was held in the largest theater in Indonesia. There were billboards around the city announcing the screening. Three thousand people turned up. The theater only could hold 1,500. They put on two screenings. Adi came for both and received a 15-minute standing ovation. The next month, the film came out across the country. On the first day, International Human Rights Day, there were 500 public screenings. And over the coming weeks, we reached 3,500 screenings. The film has prompted this national conversation now about how urgently truth and reconciliation and some form of justice are needed. The government has introduced a truth and reconciliation bill, woefully inadequate, but it's a milestone, and it's something for activists in the human rights community to try to improve.

In any case, because of all of this momentum, Adi's family, upon seeing the film, said, "It must come out now. We're ready to move to Europe." The team in Indonesia said, "I think we can - if we can assemble a team and the resources to relocate the family to another part of Indonesia, that should be possible. We should be able to protect the family's safety, because we think the new climate, in part opened by The Act of Killing, will be protective, and Adi will be seen by many as a national hero after the film comes out." In fact, the first screening was on National Heroes Day and trending on Twitter in Indonesia. Indonesia is the largest Twitter-using country in the world. So, trending on Twitter, actually, around the world that day was "Today we have a new national hero, and his name is Adi." And so, all of this meant that Adi's family was able to move a few thousand kilometers from where they were from to another part of the country. They're surrounded by a more supportive community of human rights lawyers, critical journalists, filmmakers, progressive politicians, all of whom are closely monitoring whatever threats there may be. But Adi's family is OK.

AMY GOODMAN: But they're not living where they - he grew up.

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: They're not. And for a man who's only trying to have forgiveness with his neighbors, it's a sign of the extent to which Indonesia is not a democracy. A democracy, of course, requires rule of law. And the most powerful in Indonesia are not subject to the same laws as the weakest - as the weakest. And in that sense - and if there's no rule of law, it's not a democracy. We have the same problem, of course, here in the United States, maybe to a slightly lesser extent, that you don't - and not only - not only that, the fact that - at the same - because of this lack of rule of law, you have a shadow state built around the military of oligarchs, of gangsters, of paramilitaries, who - and intelligence services, formally above the law. The military is immune to civilian law. If a military commander were to order the massacre of a whole village, he could not be put on trial in civilian courts. It would be - the military would have to convene its own tribunal for him, which means the military is beyond the law.

AMY GOODMAN: Which brings me to - back to the perpetrator, one of them, the one that Adi confronts, saying that "I am a product of the United States." Talk more, for those who are not familiar with the history of Indonesia, the modern history of Indonesia, back to the '60s, what the US role was.

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: The United States provided aid, weapons, money to the military so that they could carry out this genocide. They may have been involved with masterminding or conspiring to create the events that were used as a trigger for the genocide, the excuse for the genocide, which was the murder of six army generals by other members of the armed forces. But those whatever - all of the CIA job documents pertaining to this period in Indonesia remain classified, and we're pushing to have those released. Senator Tom Udall introduced a "sense of the Senate" resolution on the day of the film's release in Indonesia, saying it's time for the United States to declassify and to take responsibility for its role in these crimes and to declassify its records.

We know - what we already know is damning enough. We know that, for example, embassy officials were compiling lists of thousands of names of public - of public figures in Indonesia - US Embassy officials - and handing these to the army and saying, "Kill everybody on these lists and check off the names as you go, and give the lists back to us when you're done." I spoke to one of those men, a man named Robert Martens, early in my journey here, and he talked about how this was crucial intelligence he was giving. But these were public figures. And the United States had already funded and trained the Indonesian army and advised the Indonesian army to be deployed into every village in the country, so they were useless for national defense. They were deployed for internal repression and mass murder. And if you are, like an octopus, with your tentacles, reaching into every village, of course you know - of course you know who a local public figure is - a journalist, an intellectual, a trade union leader - who might be opposed to the military government. So this wasn't intelligence. This was incitement. This was saying - the United States saying, "Kill everybody. We want this new regime to stick. Kill every possible opponent." The US also provided the radios, deliberately, that allowed the - for the purpose of the military coordinating the massacres across the vast archipelago of 17,000 islands that Indonesia is.

And in The Look of Silence, we also see an NBC News report that celebrates the genocide, more or less, right afterwards. And we see, most chillingly, that Goodyear, a major multinational corporation, is on the rubber plantations, where they're harvesting the latex for our tires and our condoms. Goodyear is using slave labor drawn from death camps to harvest their rubber. This is, of course, what German corporations did on the periphery of Auschwitz a mere 20 years earlier. But here it's being broadcast on American TV and celebrated as good news, as a victory for freedom and democracy. It should give every viewer of The Look of Silence pause, leading us to wonder whether this was really done - whether the real reason for US participation was the so-called - the struggle of the so-called free world against the communist world, or whether that was a ruse, a pretext, an excuse, for murderous corporate plunder.

AMY GOODMAN: And this was all about the rise of the US-backed dictator Suharto.

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: That's right. This is how Suharto came to power. And he remained in power for 35 years. And while in power, he - the US continued to aid that government and to encourage further abuses, including the invasion and occupation of East Timor, which led to its own genocide, where a third of the population of East Timor was killed. This was all to the tune of billions and billions of dollars aid was showered upon the Suharto dictatorship. And that aid started flowing while the rivers were still choked with bodies.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I want to end with two points. One is what happens with the crew who made this film, that you work with. But first, the very touching scene where Adi is talking to his son, and you see his son in school, and what his children are learning today.

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: Still in Indonesia when we shot the film, and it's maybe starting to change as a result of the film, but still in Indonesia, the government teaches the students, teaches children, that the genocide was heroic, something to be - was the heroic extermination of the Indonesian left, and that the victims were sort of monstrous and deserved what they got, and the perpetrators were heroes. And you see Adi's young son hearing this and hearing that because - that the relatives, the grandchildren of victims shouldn't be allowed decent employment, that they shouldn't be allowed to join the police or get a job in the government, or that they have to be monitored closely, because their grandparents were these terrible people. And we see this stigma being passed on from generation to generation. And, of course, we see essentially the soil being sown for the genocide's recurrence. In the film, we hear again and again, "Let the past be past." But survivors always say it out of fear, and perpetrators always say it as a threat, which means the past is not past, it's right there. It's open. It's a gaping wound. And what's keeping it alive is, of course, the teaching of propaganda in the schools.

And Adi, in many ways, responded to that, the unbearable sense that his children were being stigmatized for their own family's oppression - something that we know all too well in this country, with our own - with our unresolved histories of - the unresolved wounds of race and the Native American genocide. We are - this should not be seen as something unfamiliar to us. And, of course, American - insofar as this is America's genocide, too, this is also part of our history. If America is an empire, what goes on in the far-flung corners of America has everything to do with our life at home and the consumer economy that we perhaps are at least told we should be enjoying at home. So, this is about all of us, too.

AMY GOODMAN: And the credits, the people who worked with you, who cannot still be named, even when this film, The Look of Silence, is being supported by the Indonesian government in its distribution around the archipelago?

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: That's right. Because of the shadow state of the military and the gangsters and the paramilitaries, even if parts of the government are supporting the film, that doesn't mean that it's safer for my team. And it's taken a team of 25 people, five working full time, to ensure the safety of Adi and his family. And we still have a plan B where they evacuate if there's any sign of threat. With my - the same risks are there for my crew, and so my crew, on both films, remains completely anonymous. The credit scrolls on both - it's kind of the finale of both films, is to see that everybody who made the film who's Indonesian is anonymous. These are people who gave 10 years of their lives, some of them, changing their careers from journalists, from human rights lawyers, from university professors, filmmakers, heads of NGOs. They stopped what they were doing, thinking initially they were taking a six-month sabbatical, but would find that actually the project would go on, would get deeper and deeper, and they would decide to continue working on it, risking their safety, knowing they couldn't take credit for their work, until there is real political change. And there's nothing - because they felt it was that important. And there's nothing I'd rather do, really, then to be able to cut the credit scrolls off each film and put on new credits with everybody's name.

AMY GOODMAN: The new president, Jokowi, has he seen this film?

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: We gave him the film months ago. We gave him a letter from me a few weeks ago about the film. There's rumors of a presidential apology to the victims and the families of the victims in the next State of the Union address, but there's already - which is in August. But there's already a backlash. We already have paramilitary groups calling him a communist, calling him a traitor, talking about impeachment proceedings. So, there's - we don't know whether he's seen the film. He received a copy of the film, though, from his - from a relative of his in his mother's living room. And we have a photograph of him holding the film in his mother's living room.

AMY GOODMAN: How many people were killed in 1965, '66, '67 in Indonesia by the Indonesian military and paramilitaries?

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: Almost certainly more than a million, perhaps up to three.

AMY GOODMAN: Oscar-nominated filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer, director of The Look of Silence, which has just been released around the United States. October 1st marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the 1965 genocide in Indonesia. Participant media and human rights groups are circulating petitions calling for the United States to declassify and release its CIA, its military, its government, its corporate records about the killings in Indonesia and to acknowledge the US role in the genocide.

News Mon, 03 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Japan's "Sacred" Rice Farmers Brace for Pacific Trade Deal's Death Sentence

In small wet rice fields, or suiden, across Japan, farmers don rubber boots to slosh through the fields and check their plantings. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away in tropical Hawaii, negotiators are in the final stages of talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement that farmers fear will disrupt the rhythm of their even-metered life.

Rice is one of the five sacred areas of Japanese agriculture (with pork and beef, wheat, barley and sugarcane). To many, especially those living in rural areas, it remains the primary ingredient of the Japanese identity. As one farmer here said, "without rice, there is no Japan; the culture is a rice culture, it is the most basic element."

Japan's rice farmers have long been the backbone of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. But lately, as their numbers dwindle along with a declining population and demand for rice, this key cultural constituency seems to have lost the strength it once had to demand the government's support.

There are now around 2 million rice farmers in Japan, down from 4 million in 1990 and as many as 12 million in 1960. Some farm part-time, while for others it's their entire livelihood and passion.

Japanese negotiators in Maui, who only a few months ago seemed intent on protecting rice growers by maintaining current import quotas, appear to be bending to American pressure in exchange for allowing more Japanese autos into the US. The tit for tat of trade negotiations, along with the geopolitics of countering China, now threatens this ancient way of life.

I recently spent part of the summer doing fieldwork in Japan and discussing this issue with rice farmers and others in the agriculture industry to learn how the TPP will affect them.

"I'm a simple man. I love farming and just want to farm," a rice grower in Toyama prefecture told me. "Foreign rice is a problem. I'm worried about the TPP and the future of these fields."

Lifting Limits on Rice Imports

The TPP includes 11 nations (Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and Japan) with the United States. The agreement has a goal of eliminating thousands of current tariffs that exist among these countries and to serve as a template for future trade agreements in the region.

Currently rice farmers are shielded by Japan's limit on rice imports. The US is pushing Japan to increase its duty-free imports of American rice and related products from 10,000 tons a year to 215,000 tons. The US also wants Japan to open up its lands to foreign investment.

Per-capita rice consumption in Japan has declined 15% over the past two decades, according to the University of Arkansas. Back in April, Japan's agriculture minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, cited this declining consumption in arguing the country must hold the line on rice imports to protect the farmers.

But that firm stance seems to have softened, though the details remain secret, and that's bad news for Japan's rice farmers.

The Decline of Nokyo

Most of these farmers live a country lifestyle, in a region naturally suited to rice growing because the rice paddies here get water from the melting mountain snow. Farmers in these small villages hundreds of miles from Tokyo on the other side of the Japanese Alps said they are most worried about the impact of the TPP on their ability to compete with foreign rice and foreign ownership of agricultural land.

Rice is grown in small plots (less than an acre). Currently, it is difficult for outside companies to own land because of legal measures. The TPP would allow for foreign land ownership as a form of investment in Japan's rice market.

Past trade agreements have already led to a decline in Japanese agricultural cooperatives, known as nokyo, they said, because competition from foreign rice has made farming more difficult. Other reasons for the decline include the fact that fewer young people are taking on these family farms (Japanese farmers are on average in their 70's).

A young female soybean farmer in Joge, outside of Hiroshima, reminisced about a time when active farms and their bright shades of green marked the neighborhood.

"One by one they stopped farming, the farms are gone," she said, and now the land has transformed to weeds.

This has meant declining influence in the latest trade round. Although the national agriculture union has staged protests, the farmers I spoke with noted the inability of this and other such groups to help and protect farmers.

TPP and the US Pivot

The rice issue is one of the stickiest wickets that negotiators have had to deal with as they try to seal a deal. Getting an agreement rests largely upon the decisions made between the US and Japan, by far the biggest economies in the deal whose shared trade is seen as a building block of the partnership.

And at the moment, the plight of the rice farmers is being overshadowed by much bigger geopolitical issues that are dominating the trade negotiations. Most notably, the Obama administration views the TPP as a key element in its "pivot" or "rebalancing" toward Asia as it seeks to counter China. And by Asia, in terms of partners, it really means Japan, because of the strong US Japan alliance (or nichibei, in Japanese) dating from the end of WWII.

A report prepared by the Congressional Research Service on key TPP negotiation issues notes the US presence in Asia has declined, while America remains "distracted" by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus, the TPP is increasingly about the US-China rivalry, and the concerns of rice farmers and other citizens are unlikely to derail it.

End of a Way of Life

In some respects, the TPP is an attempt to get around the recent failure of developed and developing countries to achieve meaningful results at the World Trade Organization Doha round of negotiations that began in 2001 but collapsed in in 2008.

If negotiations are successful this week in Hawaii, Japan will not only open up its rice market to more US competition but will also allow for foreign investment and corporate land ownership through its investment protection measure. Foreign investment and corporate ownership mean larger plots of land and high mechanization. Small farms simply can't compete with this intensive large-scale production.

Mr Saito (who like many Japanese goes only by his last name) fears an influx of foreign rice and landowners and says the TPP and the changes it brings will crush a way of life, and young farmers like him will be unable to survive.

"Farmers working by hand can't compete," he said. "We are lost."

The Conversation

News Mon, 03 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Trans Liberation Doesn't Come From a Military Uniform

Military recruiters Master Sgt. Anthony Henry, center, and Staff Sgt. Chris Cano, left, speak with a woman about joining the Marines at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center on the fist day of the end of "don't ask, don't tell," in Tulsa, Okla., Sept. 20, 2011. (Michael Stravato/The New York Times)Military recruiters Master Sgt. Anthony Henry, center, and Staff Sgt. Chris Cano, left, speak with a woman about joining the Marines at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center on the fist day of the end of "don't ask, don't tell," in Tulsa, Oklahoma, September 20, 2011. (Michael Stravato/The New York Times)

Transgender people in the US have a long history of being ignored by the mainstream LGBT rights movement. This movement, built off the struggle of trans activists and organizers in the 1960's and quickly co-opted by white, middle- to upper-class gay men and women, has long fixated on assimilation, marriage, normality, and equality, but not justice.

However, after the Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage in June 2015, the movement has been echoing a new line: time for transgender rights.

But which rights?

The "transgender rights" that the mainstream LGBT rights movement seeks - transgender military inclusion one of many - are steeped in the same assimilationist rhetoric that drives its other successes.

After the repealing of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," a policy that banned gay, lesbian and bisexual troops from openly serving in the armed forces in 2011, the inclusion of only three out of four letters in the well-known LGBT acronym made it clear that transgender soldiers were left in the dust. As many as 15,500 transgender individuals may currently be on active duty, or serving on the Guard or Reserve Forces.

These individuals face numerous difficulties in the armed forces due to highly restrictive and outdated policies that restrict the expression of their identities: the threat of dishonorable discharge if their trans identities are made known, the inability to wear the gendered uniform and be addressed using the name and pronouns of their choice and potential harassment and discrimination due to their gender identity or expression.

Updating military policy to allow trans people to openly enlist and serve in the military would ostensibly both reduce the stress that trans soldiers face and increase the effectiveness of the military.

The above argument is not an unfamiliar one, especially to the mainstream LGBT movement.

Advocating for inclusion into society's most revered institutions - whether they be marriage or the military - is a tactic that the mainstream LGBT movement has employed with great success. It hinges on demonstrating "normality," on proving that LGBT people are just like everyone else, on ultimately assimilating so that privileged (wealthy, white and cisgender) lesbians and gays can reap the same benefits from society as their equally privileged straight friends.

In the case of the military, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter ordered the formation of a working group to study whether transgender inclusion would cause an "adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness." But everyone knows what that working group will conclude. Transgender soldiers are just as able to hold guns. Transgender soldiers are just as able to follow orders. Transgender soldiers are just as able to murder on behalf of the state.

As a trans woman of color, I find it particularly ironic that soon I will be able to serve the same country that brutalizes my black and brown sisters on the streets and in prisons by brutalizing black and brown people elsewhere.

I find it more ironic that to the mainstream LGBT movement, this is a victory.

While transgender inclusion in the military in the near future is almost a certainty, gaining the right to participate in America's war machine does not help trans people.

Assimilating into oppressive systems invested in the continued occupation of countries around the world, the so-called "War on Terror" that has itself terrorized communities in the Middle East and contributed to Islamophobia at home, and an aggressive neoliberalism that uses the military as a tool for rampant economic gain is no victory.

No amount of rhetoric that emptily repeats the same patriotism and nationalism on behalf of trans people can erase the reality that the US military is complicit in global injustice.

Inclusion campaigns do not help those of us who are already systematically excluded from society due to our other identities. For trans people of color, trans women, disabled and neurodivergent trans people, non-binary trans people and many others, transgender military inclusion is an almost entirely irrelevant issue.

This is not to say that I wish to advocate against it - I am almost sure it will happen. But true victories lie not in claiming seats at an already broken table, but in deconstructing oppressive systems and building alternatives in our communities.

True victories lie not in pinkwashing but in affordable health care and housing, and an end to deportation, criminalization and police brutality. The common response to these demands from moderate progressives is always some variation of, "We'll get to that next! One thing at a time!" And trans people are never surprised.

While trans activists and organizers have been advocating for those issues that would most help their communities for decades, the mainstream LGBT rights movement has tried especially hard to focus on every issue it can find that isn't liberation - because what about liberation could possibly benefit wealthy white gay men and women and their corporate sponsors? It makes sense that a movement invested more in Bud Light and Airbnb sponsoring their pride parades than the suffering of queer and trans people of color would invest in finding distractions.

Trans military inclusion is, at best, one of these distractions. One of those causes that is bound to resolve in due time, that the mainstream LGBT movement can rally behind and then take credit for. For what it's worth, military inclusion will help transgender troops who are currently forced to hide their identities to live their lives a little more free of fear and discomfort. I am sure that these policy changes will make serving in the military a little less dangerous for trans service members, and that is by all accounts a good thing.

However, on a grander scheme the real work - prison abolition, Black Lives Matter, living wages, affordable health care and housing - is elsewhere. Dedicated trans activists, organizers, and communities have been engaged in this work with or without the support or even knowledge of wealthy, white gay people.

If it is committed to the same visions of justice and liberation as the rest of us, the LGBT movement that has been so focused on assimilation needs to take a step back, look at the work already being done, and either repurpose their resources or be part of the problem. 

Opinion Mon, 03 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Corporate Tribunals Pose Biggest Hurdle to Europe's Vote on Transatlantic Trade Pact

July marked the second anniversary of negotiations between the US and European Union over the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), but for the millions of European citizens opposed to the trade deal it was not a month to celebrate.

One of the main points of contention remains the debate about whether to include investor-state dispute settlements (ISDS) in the trade pact. The mechanism would allow corporations to sue governments if legislation is put in place, or altered, that could in any way negatively impact a company's profits. This could include environmental protection laws, health and safety standards, workers rights or private services being made public.

So much public concern and controversy was raised over ISDS that the European Commission suspended talks on the investor protection rules in order to open a public consultation in spring of 2014. Considerations of ISDS are still suspended in the US-EU negotiations - the 10th round of which took place earlier this month in Brussels, following a European Parliament vote that recommended the European Commission reassess the role of ISDS in the Transatlantic pact.

The Vote on ISDS-lite

Rather than a straight Yes/No vote on whether to include the corporate tribunals in TTIP, as some MEPs had proposed, the European Parliament voted on an amendment proposed by the Socialists and Democrats that claims to "replace the ISDS system with a new system for resolving disputes between investors and states."

The recommendation to the European Commission called for a more "transparent" process, with "publicly appointed, independent professional judges in public hearings" to be used rather than private arbitration panels.

In a statement following the vote, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said that "TTIP will not in any way affect EU public services, nor will it in any way undermine the power of EU or national Parliaments. And it will certainly not undercut core EU legislation in areas such as food safety or environmental protection."

Campaigners said the proposed changes - which passed with 436 in favor, 241 against and 32 abstentions - would be an improvement on "standard" ISDS practice, though the core aspects of ISDS would remain.

"These reforms are purely cosmetic," said Anne Dänner of the campaign group Stop TTIP. "In essence, foreign investors are still to receive substantial additional rights compared with domestic companies and a parallel justice system to domestic courts to enforce these rights."

Although the vote is non-binding, it has sent a clear message to the European Commission that MEPs believe this revised form of ISDS is acceptable to the citizens they represent. Yet 97% of the 150,000 EU citizens surveyed during the consultation process rejected the idea of including any version of ISDS in TTIP - not to mention 2.3 million people signing a petition to halt the negotiations altogether. So whose side are the politicians on?

The Rise of ISDS, Going Back Decades

ISDS agreements are already a part of many international trade deals around the world. They were initially established in the 1950s to ensure that companies were protected against unfair trials in countries with weak or corrupt legal systems, thereby encouraging foreign investment.

Many argue that ISDS would be unnecessary under TTIP since the US and EU legal systems are already sufficient to deal with such cases. There's also little evidence to show that a lack of ISDS has impacted investment between the two continents so far. If companies want further protections, they can purchase political-risk insurance that insures investments against future laws or regulations that could effect business.

For decades the inclusion of ISDS was seen as a diplomatic gesture of goodwill between the countries involved, and few claims were made. However, in the late 1990s the number of ISDS cases started increasing as lawyers saw the potential for companies to profit and change legislation in their favor.

With an ever growing set of regional trade treaties being signed, the number of ISDS cases has leapt more dramatically in recent years. According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, by the end of 2014 a total of 608 known ISDS cases had been initiated. Among those, there were 58 in 2012, 57 in 2013 and 42 in 2014 - meaning a quarter of all ISDS cases ever started were in the past three years.

Of the 356 total concluded cases, 37% have been decided in favor of states, while 25% sided with investors and 28% settled. Meanwhile, legal costs for governments have amounted to an average of $4.5 million per case, funded with taxpayer money. Governments cannot sue companies in the same way, so the best they can hope for is not to lose.

If ISDS gets included in TTIP - which would create the largest single free trade zone in the world - the instances of companies suing governments will likely increase further still.

What Could Happen?

Recent cases highlight some of the impacts that ISDS could have on the US and European states if included in TTIP:

1. Deterring legislation that benefits people over profit. The government of Peru decided to shut down a metal smelter in La Oroya, one of the most polluted towns in the world, after US company Renco Group delaying environmental improvements. However, the possibility of an ISDS case against them led the Peruvian government to allow the smelter to restart its zinc operations in 2012.

2. An advantage for foreign companies. Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, the German government decided to phase out nuclear power. As a result, Swedish state-owned energy company Vattenfall sued the German government for loss of profits, based on two nuclear power stations the firm co-owns with the German energy company E.ON. As a foreign company, Vattenfall could sue the German state using ISDS whereas E.ON could not, despite both companies losing potential profits.

3. A lose-lose financial situation for governments. In 2004, Canadian mining company Pacific Rim applied to dig for gold in El Salvador. But with 90% of the country's surface water already contaminated, the application was rejected and in 2008 the state introduced a moratorium on new mining permits. Pacific Rim has since claimed for a $301 million loss of potential profit, with a verdict expected later this year. The sum would amount to roughly 2% of El Salvador's GDP. Even if the case is called in favor of the state, it has cost the government $13 million to date - almost as much as the country's entire environment and natural resources budget.

Next Steps

Such cases have fueled widespread and growing opposition to TTIP across Europe. Along with negative public response to the recent consultation on ISDS, demonstrations have occurred throughout the continent since negations began. Yet when given the chance to voice citizen concerns, European politicians have often been seen as doing the opposite. "The European Parliament failed citizens in the TTIP vote," said Anne Dänner of Stop TTIP. "They were completely ignored."

The 11th round of TTIP negotiations are set to take place in the fall, when discussions of ISDS inclusion are expected to begin again and perhaps will take into consideration the recent vote. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said: "Parliament's call for a new system must be heard, and it will be." But campaigners along with millions of European citizens will be hoping that ISDS, if not TTIP itself, is instead dropped altogether.

News Mon, 03 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Dealing With Mass Killings in the US: Funding Our Children, Not Our Wars

Imagine that you're in the FBI and you receive a tip - or more likely, pick up information through the kind of mass surveillance in which the national security state now specializes. In a series of tweets, a young man has expressed sympathy for the Islamic State (ISIS), al-Qaeda, or another terrorist group or cause. He's 16, has no criminal record, and has shown no signs that he might be planning a criminal act. He does, however, seem angry and has demonstrated an interest in following ISIS's social media feeds as they fan the flames of youth discontent worldwide. He's even expressed some thoughts about how ISIS's "caliphate," the Islamic "homeland" being carved out in Syria and Iraq, might be a place where people like him could find meaning and purpose in an otherwise alienated life.

A quick search of his school records shows that his grades, previously stellar, are starting to fall. He's spending more time online, increasingly clicking on jihadist websites. He has, you discover, repeatedly read news stories about mass killings in the US. Worse yet, his parents own legally registered guns. A search of his medical records shows that he's been treated by a psychiatrist.

As a member of law enforcement, what exactly do you do now? You know that in recent years, mass killings have become an all-too-frequent part of American life. There were the Chattanooga military recruitment office shootings; the Charleston church killings; the abortive attack on a Mohammed cartoon contest in Garland, Texas; the Boston marathon bombing; the Sandy Hook school slaughter; and the movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado, and most recently, in Lafayette, Louisiana. Loners, losers, jihadis, racists - label the killers as you will - as a law enforcement agent, you feel the pressure to prevent such events from happening again.

Given the staggering array of tools granted to the national security state domestically since 9/11, it's a wonder (not to say a tragic embarrassment) that such killings occur again and again. They are clearly not being prevented and at least part of the reason may lie in the national security state's ongoing focus on "counterterrorism," that is, on Islamic extremism. For the most part, after all, these mass murders have not been committed by Islamic extremists. From the more than 100 deaths of this sort since the Aurora shooting three summers ago, only eight were killed by individuals inspired by Islamic radicalism.

Soon after the attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft declared an all-out, no-holds-barred policy of terrorism "prevention." Another 9/11 was to be avoided at all costs and a "global war on terror" was quickly set in motion.

Domestically, in the name of prevention, the government launched a series of measures that transformed the American landscape when it came to both surveillance and civil rights. Yet despite the acquisition of newly aggressive powers of every sort, law enforcement has a woeful record when it comes to catching domestic mass murderers before the damage is done. In fact, a vanishingly small number of them have even shown up on the radar of the national security state.

The ability to collect all phone metadata from all Americans has not deterred these attacks, nor has the massive surveillance of Muslim communities in the US, nor did the use of FBI informants to encourage often disturbed, trash-talking individuals towards jihadist crimes. In short, the government's strategy of preventing attacks by individuals we've now come to call "lone wolves" has failed, despite the curtailing of the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of association, religion, and speech and the Fourth Amendment's guarantee of freedom from warrantless surveillance.

Time for a Change

As someone who has followed the development of the national security state carefully in the post-9/11 era and spent a fair amount of time talking publicly and privately with law enforcement agents and officials, I can see that many of them are aware of such problems and frustrated with the old approach. They know something's not working and that it's time for a change - and a change is, in fact, coming. Whether it's the change that's needed is the question.

Aware of the legacy of the Bush years, the Obama White House, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI have spent much time and effort rethinking previous policies and have designed what they are calling a "new" approach to security. It's meant to partner prevention - the dominant strategy of the past - with a new word that has come into favor: "intervention." The goal is to intervene with youth attracted to extremism before violence can occur. As with so many attempts at government redesign, the new policy already has its own name and acronym. It's labeled "Countering Violent Extremism," or CVE. It's meant to marry the post-9/11 law enforcement and intelligence-driven profiling of potential terrorists with an approach borrowed from non-law-enforcement programs like those designed to help individuals deal with and break the pattern of drug or alcohol abuse.

The new CVE program will theoretically rely on a three-pronged strategy: building awareness of the causes of radicalization, countering extremist narratives (especially online), and emphasizing community-led intervention by bringing together law enforcement, local service providers, outreach programs, local governments, and academics. It is, in other words, meant to be a kinder, gentler means of addressing potential violence before it occurs, of coming to grips with that 16-year-old who's surfing jihadist websites and wondering about his future.

The White House recently convened a "summit" on this "new" strategy, with law enforcement officials, Muslim community leaders, and others, and Congress is now considering a bill that would create a new government agency to implement it. It sounds good. After all, who's against keeping the country safe and reducing violent extremism? But just how new is it really? In essence, the national security state will be sending more or less the same line-up of ideas to the plate with instructions to potentially get even more invasive, taking surveillance down to the level of disturbed kids and community organizations. Why then should we expect the softer-nicer version of harder-tougher to look any better or prove any more effective? Coming up with a new name and an acronym is one thing, genuinely carrying out a different program involving a new approach is another.

With that in mind, here are five questions based on past errors that might help us all judge just how smart (or not so smart) the CVE program will turn out to be:

  1. Will the program's focus (rather than its rhetoric) be broader than radical Islam? As the numerous mass shootings of recent years have shown, radical Islam is only a modest slice of a much larger story of youth violence.In fact, as a recent report from Fordham's Center on National Security makes clear, even the individuals alleged to be inspired by ISIS in the past two years defy profiling in terms of ethnicity, family, religion, or race. Yet the new strategy - not so surprising, given the cast of characters who will carry it out - looks like it's already trapped in the Muslim-centric policies of the past. In this vein, civil libertarians worry that the new strategy continues to "threaten freedoms of speech, association, and religion," as a recent letter signed by 49 civil liberties organizations put it. In practical terms, the odds are that the usual focus means that detecting the sort of shooters who have dominated the headlines for the past couple of years, domestically, is extremely unlikely. 
  2. Can the kinds of community outreach on which CVE interventionism is theoretically based crack the reality of lone-wolf killers? By definition, "lone wolves" are on their own. Yet the new CVE program expects to rely on what it calls "community-led intervention" to detect signs of radicalization or disturbance among the young. We know, however, that lone-wolf killers interact little with such communities or often even other individuals. They tend to be deeply alienated and startlingly unattached. Deputizing community organizations - be they mosques, churches, community centers, or schools - to interact with law enforcement agencies in developing greater awareness of individuals faltering in life and in danger of turning to violence belies the reality that such young men are generally cut off from almost everyone.  (A special danger of such an approach is that its focus may, in fact, fall not on potential future criminals and killers, but on oddballs, loners, and those with ideas critical of the society in which they live.  In other words, the very people who may in maturity become our innovators, inventors, and artists could soon become targets of the national security state in a desperate attempt to find future mass murderers and terrorists.) 
  3. Will CVE focus on the crucial role that youthful despair and depression play in such cases and on the absence of adequate psychological intervention for such figures? Aurora shooter James Holmes had lost his girlfriend and his job, was failing out of school, and had just received a speeding citation.  Chattanooga shooter Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez had lost one job - at a nuclear facility no less - was in danger of losing another, was facing bankruptcy, and had had a recent run-in with law enforcement.  Both Holmes and Abdulazeez were increasingly unstable and had a history of substance abuse that they were unable to break, despite help from family and doctors. Both were undoubtedly depressed.  Even if the government could find such individuals before they lash out, what role has it imagined for counseling in any intervention process? 
  4. Will the CVE program take on America's gun lobby?  This is, of course, the elephant in the room. Any strategy that ignores the ready availability of guns, legal and otherwise, in this country and the striking absence of gun control laws is whistling in a hurricane. While deterring individuals from violence may be an essential focus for any new program, overlooking the striking lethality of what they kill with and the ready availability of weapons like assault rifles honed to mass slaughter is a strange way to go. Chillingly enough, recent shooters have tended to collect whole arsenals of weaponry. Once a top student with a 3.9 grade point average in college, the increasingly disturbed James Holmes managed to purchase two Glock 22s, one semi-automatic rifle, and 1,000 rounds of ammunition, all of it legally. The Chattanooga shooter possessed four guns, three of which - a handgun and two rifles - were on him at the time of the shooting. If gun control protections had been in place in the United States, it's possible that neither of these young men would have been able to carry out a mass killing, whatever their mental states and desires. 
  5. Will the CVE program have any regard for the bright line between law enforcement and civil society? The record of the national security state since 9/11 on this subject remains dismal indeed.  Can the government's CVE strategy, seeking public-private partnerships between law enforcement and local communities, refrain from again crossing so many lines?  In reality, such a strategy of intervention would undoubtedly best be served by an independent effort on the part of organizations in civil society.  Perhaps rather than creating yet another new security outfit, new civilian organizations are what's really needed. What about a new version of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America geared to the age of terror? What about a teen-oriented version of the Head Start program that gave children the resources they needed to be more productive at school and helped redirect them when they failed? What about more support for programs that oppose bullying? What about a resource center for parents confused about what is expected of their children in today's world?

To be fair, there are some small signs of a desire for change in the law enforcement community. In recent cases involving teenagers attracted to ISIS, the FBI has shown a less punitive approach, indicating a desire not to arrest them or at worst to charge them in ways that would avoid the outrageously long sentences that have become the new norm of the post-9/11 years. The courts, too, may be starting to show signs of a new sense of restraint. In Minneapolis, for instance, a federal judge is putting teens charged with terrorism crimes in halfway houses or letting them out on bail, highly unusual for such cases.

It's easy enough to blame Islamic fundamentalism for luring lost American children into violent networks of jihadism by offering meaning in lives that feel meaningless and individualized attention (on the Internet) for young people who feel ignored and invisible. It's harder to face the fact that the country is faltering when it comes to providing constructive remedies across racial and religious lines for those who retreat into violence in reaction to hopelessness and isolation.

In reality, it probably matters little how the government tries to create predictive metrics for individuals who might someday turn to mass violence, or what groups it targets, or how it deploys law enforcement to "solve" this problem. Too many youths experience periods of doubt, depression, anxiety, anger, and instability to predict which few will turn to acts of violence. What's needed instead is a less law-enforcement-oriented style of thinking and the funding of a far less punitive style of interventionism that would actually provide young people at risk with support services, constructive outlets, and reasons to feel that a rewarding life might someday be theirs. Isn't it time, in other words, to put as many resources and as much innovative thinking into our children as into our wars?

Opinion Mon, 03 Aug 2015 10:23:06 -0400
Bullhorn Politics ]]> (Lauren Walker) Art Mon, 03 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400 Workplace Diversity Still Lacking in Most US Newsrooms

United Nations - Although the United States as a whole is becoming more ethnically diverse, newsrooms remain largely dominated by white, male reporters, according to a recent investigation by The Atlantic magazine.

It found that just 22.4 percent of television journalists, 13 percent of radio journalists, and 13.34 percent of journalists at daily newspapers came from minority groups in 2014.

Another new census, by the American Society of News Editors (ASNE), found just 12.76 percent minority journalists at US daily newspapers in 2014.

While the percentage of minority groups in the US has been steadily increasing, reaching a recent total of 37.4 percent of the US population, the number of minority journalists, by contrast, has stayed at a constant level for years.

This is particularly true for the share of minority employment at newspapers, which has been staggeringly low - between 11 and 14 percent for more than two decades, as illustrated in a graphic by the Pew Research Center and ASNE.

Many say it is a major problem for a field that strives to represent and inform a diverse public, and worrisome for a medium that has the power to shape and influence the views and opinions of mass audiences.

"Journalism must deliver insight from different perspectives on various topics and media must reflect the public they serve. The risk is that by limiting media access to ethnic minorities, the public gets a wrong perception of reality and the place ethnic minorities have in society," Pamela Morinière, Communications and Authors' Rights Officer at the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), told IPS.

Under-representation of minority journalists has negative effects on the quality of reporting.

Speaking to IPS, Alfredo Carbajal, managing editor of Al Dia (The Dallas Morning News) and organiser for the ASNE Minority Leadership Institute, said, "The consequence [of ethnic minority groups' under-representation] is that news coverage lacks the perspectives, expertise and knowledge of these groups as well as their specific skills and experiences because of who they are."

ASNE President Chris Peck added: "If newsrooms cannot stay in touch with the issues, the concerns, hopes and dreams of an increasingly diverse audience, those news organisations will lose their relevance and be replaced."

Commenting on the underlying reasons, both Carbajal and Peck underscored the lack of opportunities for minority students compared to their white counterparts.

"Legacy journalism organisations have relied too long on an established pipeline for talent. It's a pipeline dominated by white, mostly middle class and upper middle class connections - schools, existing journalism leaders, media companies. It's something of a self-perpetuating cycle that has been slow to evolve," Peck said.

This argument is echoed in a recent analysis by Ph.D. student Alex T. Williams published in the Columbia Journalism Review. Confronted with the claim that newspapers cannot hire more minority journalists due to the lack of university graduates, Williams took a closer look at graduate and employment statistics provided by Grady College's Annual Graduate Surveys.

He found that minorities accounted for 21.4 percent of graduates in journalism or communication between 2004 and 2013 - a number that is "not high" but "still not as low as the number of minority journalists working in newsrooms today.".

The more alarming trend, he says, is that only 49 percent of graduates from minority groups were able to find full-time jobs after their studies. Numbers of white graduates finding employment, by contrast, amounted to 66 percent. This means the under-representation of ethnic minorities in journalism must be traced back to recruitment rather than to graduation numbers, he concluded.

A main reason why minority graduates have difficulty finding jobs, according to Williams, is that most newsrooms look for specific experiences such as unpaid internships that many minority students cannot afford. Also, minority students are more likely to attend less well-appointed colleges that might not have the resources to keep a campus newspaper or offer special networking opportunities.

Another reason is linked to newspapers' financial constraints. Peck told IPS: "There is a challenge within news organisations to keep a diverse workforce at a time when the traditional media are economically challenged, even as new industries are actively looking to hire away talent that represents the changing American demographic."

Further, union contracts favour unequal employment, according to Doris Truong, a Washington Post editor and acting president of Unity, who was quoted in the 2013 article in The Atlantic.

"One piece of this puzzle is layoff policies and union contracts that often reward seniority and push the most recent hires to leave first. Many journalists of color have the least protected jobs because they're the least senior employees."

Different ideas and initiatives have been put forth to increase the representation of minority journalists.

Amongst the ideas expressed by Pamela Morinière are the inclusion of diversity reporting in student curricula, dialogues in newsrooms on the representation of minority groups, making job offers available widely and adopting equal opportunity and non-discrimination policies.

Chris Peck emphasises the importance of "home-grown talent": "Identifying local students who have an interest in journalism and that have a connection to a specific locale will be a critical factor in the effort to diversify newsrooms. It's a longer term effort to cultivate local talent. But it can pay off."

"Second, I think it is important to tap social media to explain why journalism is still a dynamic field and invite digital natives to become part of it," he said.

Civil society organisations such as UNITY Journalists for Diversity, a strategic alliance of several minority journalist associations, aim at increasing the representation of minority groups in journalism and promoting fair and complete coverage about diversity, ethnicity and gender issues.

The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) is part of the alliance. It seeks to advance specifically Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) journalists. Its president, Paul Cheung, told IPS: "AAJA believes developing a strong pipeline of talents as well as diverse sources are key to increase representation."

"2015 will mark some significant milestones in AAJA's history. AAJA will be celebrating 15 years of training multi-cultural high school students through JCamp, 20th anniversary of […] our Executive Leadership programmes and 25 years of inspiring college students to enter the field of journalism through VOICES."

Ethnic minority journalists are not the only under-represented group at news outlets in the US and around the world. The Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media states that women represent only a third of the journalism workforce in the 522 companies in nearly 60 countries surveyed for the study. Seventy-three percent of the top management jobs are held by men, while only 27 percent are occupied by women.

"When it comes to women's portrayal in the news, the situation is even worse," Pamela Mornière told IPS.

"Women make up only 24 percent of people seen, heard or read about. They remain quite invisible, although they represent more than half of the world's population. And when they make the news they make it too often in a stereotypical way. The impact of this can be devastating on the public's perception of women's place and role in society. Many women have made their way on the political and economic scene. Media must reflect that."

Edited by Kitty Stapp.

News Mon, 03 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400
After Threatening to Strike, Airport Workers Win Agreement, Will Push for $15

Laguardia Airport. (Photo via Shutterstock)LaGuardia Airport. (Photo: rthoma /

Twelve hundred workers at New York's John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports may soon be negotiating a union contract after pressuring management with the threat of a strike. On July 22, Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced that the workers' employer, Aviation Safeguards, has agreed to remain neutral as they seek to join the SEIU through a "card check" recognition process.

The day before the agreement, employees had vowed to walk off the job and potentially strike. The subcontracted baggage handlers, security guards and wheelchair attendants have been fighting for higher wages and better working conditions for years. In February, a number of Aviation Safeguards baggage handlers went on strike at JFK, despite a threat of termination. Rahim Akhbarally, who has worked for 21 years at the company, told CNN, "We fight, we win. If we don't fight, we're not going to win."

"The agreement with Aviation Safeguards last week shows the power that airport workers have when they come together and fight for good jobs," 32BJ President Hector Figueroa told In These Times. "This agreement brings the number of subcontracted airport workers who have won, or are on a path to win, 32BJ recognition to almost 7,000 in the New York City area - a majority of subcontracted workers at the airports. … The fight isn't over, but this victory shows worker solidarity is still a force for change in this country. Airport workers across the country are fighting for better wages and we have seen them win significant wage increases, including a raise up to $12 an hour in Philadelphia and soon an increase to $11 an hour in Boston. And the fight continues for good jobs and respect for all workers at airports across the US."

Figueroa is referring to a massive nationwide campaign to organize subcontracted airport employees, who have won a number of workplace victories against what they often allege are horrible working conditions. In addition to the examples of Philadelphia and Boston that Figueroa mentioned, airport workers in cities like Minneapolis and Los Angeles have seen wins.

In a June In These Times story about Logan Airport workers striking in Boston, Eugenio H. Villasante, Regional Communications Manager for New England's 32BJ SEIU, also pointed out that the struggle is a nationwide one.

"This is very much same fight throughout the country," he said. "These are workers helping people getting people from point A to point B. … Our country depends on them."

According to the union, negotiations for a union contract are expected to begin this fall (assuming a majority of workers choose to join the union). Workers will be seeking a wage of at least $15 an hour and affordable health care.

News Mon, 03 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400