Speakout http://www.truth-out.org Sat, 30 Jul 2016 01:18:52 -0400 en-gb Justice and the Beloved Community http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37035-justice-and-the-beloved-community http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37035-justice-and-the-beloved-community

I spent 13 years in Arizona's punishment system. Though I completed all of the terms of my sentence and earned a master's degree and Ph.D., I remain unable to fully contribute to or participate in society. I have struggled to find employment, housing, I am unable to vote and I live under the constant threat of social rejection, all of which impacts my two children. The reality is that the impact of a conviction history cannot be neutralized -- at least not without amending our collective moral imagination that equates justice with punishment.   

I spent 13 years in Arizona's punishment system. Though I completed all of the terms of my sentence and earned a master's degree and Ph.D., I remain unable to fully contribute to or participate in society. I have struggled to find employment, housing, I am unable to vote and I live under the constant threat of social rejection, all of which impacts my two children. The reality is that the impact of a conviction history cannot be neutralized -- at least not without amending our collective moral imagination that equates justice with punishment.   

In 2014, more than 2.3 million people were held in US jails and prisons. The National Employment Law Project estimated that 70 million American adults have an arrest or criminal record. Contact with the criminal legal system has lifelong and intergenerational health and financial consequences for partners, children and neighbors of formerly incarcerated/convicted people. With 5.85 million Americans ineligible to vote due to a felony record the United States model of supervision, punishment and control have produced an entire underclass of people.

At the center of our adversarial justice system is the moral claim that there are "worthy" and "unworthy" people. However, the consequence of such social classifications is that people are reduced to an abstraction, which bleeds into the social imaginary and impacts the way returning community members are received (or not) post-incarceration. 

Transitioning back into the world is difficult; there are the demands of supervision including fines, court-mandated counseling and community service. These are anticipated, but what is impossible to prepare for is social banishment. One man's story illustrates this challenge.

Lyle Daychild is from the Hualapai reservation in Northern Arizona. As a 16-year-old child, Lyle was tried as an adult and sentenced to 15 years in prison for his involvement in a fight that resulted in another person's death. He was released in 1997 and has spent the last two decades cycling in and out of the system. 

At the time of our conversation, Lyle was preparing to graduate with his bachelors degree in social work from Arizona State University. He talked about his professional aspirations, which were tempered by the barriers he faces in securing employment. He said, 

[People] don't know how humiliating and demeaning that little box [on job applications] is, and how you're viewed once you check that box. Not too long ago, I was fired from a job because I didn't put down the homicide I was involved in at the age of 15. I wanted to make it; I was working hard to be successful on the outside. I walked to work every day, I was getting there on time and doing my job well. One day my supervisor called me in, and I knew what it was, I thought I was gonna get a chance to explain and they were like 'Nah, you never put it down so you gotta go.' The bottom line is that I was embarrassed to put things down, but what alternative did I have? So there I was again, in the same defeated position. When I got paid, I was like 'fuck it … just drink. I can't get a job.' I don't want that life, but you're labeled forever. There has to be some type of reprieve. There has to be.

In part, Lyle's story demonstrates the weight of stigmatized labels such as "ex-con," "ex-offender" and "felon." And it also reveals how people who have been through the criminal legal system are constructed as inherently "bad." These supercharged labels have the effect of setting people up for a lifetime of social, economic and political exclusion.  

Placing people in positions of permanent precarity does not increase public safety, nor does it translate into justice. People and communities that lack -- or only have provisional access to -- life-giving resources such as food, housing, education, employment and health care are vulnerable. Policy and informal social exclusions reproduce vulnerability, making life untenable for people like Lyle, which in turn increases the probability of going back into the 

As people with conviction histories, we live as outsiders in our communities and as subordinated citizens in society -- and we constitute a significant portion of the public. According to the Sentencing Project, "As many as one in three Americans have some type of criminal record." The effect of a record extends to the entire family, limiting earning ability and overall stability. Recent data compiled by the Center for American Progress estimates that up to "36.5 million children in the United States -- nearly half of U.S. children -- now have at least one parent with a criminal record." Our criminal legal policies and social practices set people, families and communities up for a lifetime of incapacitation. 

Moving away from a punishment-as-justice paradigm requires diverse approaches that include changing the social/political discourse, systematically attacking persistent racial disparities, and penal and social policy reforms that do not expand the reach and power of the punishment system. However, statutory and paradigmatic changes will be impossible without a sustained people's movement. 

Transformative shifts require an informed and empowered community that is motivated by justice. Thus, to modify the structure, power and flow of resources, we need to work toward cultivating caring communities by fostering connectedness, and (re)humanizing both the harmed and the person who harmed -- because both are our neighbors.  

The immediate goal is not merely accomplishing a set of reforms; it is creating a more just nation that embraces complexity, redemption, compassion, love and hope.

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Speakout Fri, 29 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Striking a Deadly Blow Against ISIS http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37034-striking-a-deadly-blow-against-isis http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37034-striking-a-deadly-blow-against-isis

The United States and its allies are striking a deadly blow against ISIS (also known as Daesh). While much of the press coverage in the United States focuses on the horrors inflicted by ISIS throughout Iraq, Syria and the rest of the world, the United States and its allies are waging a massive military assault that has left tens of thousands of people dead.

The United States and its allies are striking a deadly blow against ISIS (also known as Daesh). While much of the press coverage in the United States focuses on the horrors inflicted by ISIS throughout Iraq, Syria and the rest of the world, the United States and its allies are waging a massive military assault that has left tens of thousands of people dead.

In early June 2016, State Department official Brett McGurk provided some indication of the extent of the assault. Speaking at the White House, McGurk indicated that the United States and its allies had caused significant harm to ISIS. "We assessed back in December of 2014 they had as many as about 31,000 fighters in their ranks," McGurk explained. "It's now down, it's at the lowest historic point we've seen." The current number ranges "between 19,000 and 25,000, and it's continuing to shrink quite rapidly."

A few days later, State Department official Antony J. Blinken provided more details. In a public speech, Blinken explained that the United States and its allies had killed tens of thousands of ISIS fighters. "We have eliminated tens of thousands of its fighters, and hundreds of senior leaders," Blinken stated.

At the same time, US officials have strongly defended their actions. Despite the fact that they have been conducting one of the most deadly military assaults in the world, US officials have insisted that they must take lethal action to eliminate ISIS.

When McGurk first called attention to the extent of the killing, he presented the basic logic. Standing before a map that showed various areas under ISIS control, McGurk explained that "we have to wipe them off this map."

During a press briefing in early July 2016, US Col. Christopher Garver made a similar argument. Certainly, "we must defeat these monsters here and now," Garver explained. After all, ISIS is a "gang of thugs and murderers that have killed and injured so many."

In fact, US officials have begun to insist that they are achieving great success in their mission. Since they have killed so many ISIS fighters and reclaimed significant amounts of territory, US officials have found much to celebrate.

When Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter addressed US soldiers during his visit to Iraq on July 11, 2016, he praised their "great success" in the fight against ISIS. The military accomplishments have been "extremely impressive," Carter stated. The military campaign "has progressed remarkably" and there has been "amazing military progress."

Of course, US officials have also provided some reasons to think otherwise. Not only have they killed tens of thousands of ISIS fighters, but they have also committed serious abuses.

In the first place, US officials have not always known who they are killing. For example, US officials have indicated on two separate occasions that they have killed the ISIS leader Omar al-Shishani.

In March 2015, Pentagon officials first announced that they had killed Shishani. Currently, "it's our assessment that that was a successful strike and that he was killed in that strike," Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook stated.

More recently, US officials have provided a different story. On July 14, 2016, the same Pentagon official explained that the previous airstrike had not actually killed Shishani, and that a more recent airstrike had probably killed him. So "it's fair to say that he was the target of this most recent strike?" a journalist asked. "Yes," Cook replied, "that would be fair."

Furthermore, US officials have taken more extreme actions. As they have willingly targeted individuals without knowing their identities, US officials have also placed large numbers of civilians at risk.

Earlier this year, US officials accepted the possibility that one of their airstrikes would result in a large amount of civilian casualties. "US commanders had been willing to consider up to 50 civilian casualties from the airstrike due to the importance of the target," CNN reported.

More recently, coalition forces have continued to place civilians at risk. On July 19, 2016, Reuters reported that a series of airstrikes appeared to have killed a large number of civilians in Syria. "At least 56 civilians were reported killed," Reuters reported.

In spite of the costs, US officials have remained determined to continue with their military operations. Whether they conducted airstrikes without clear knowledge of the identities of their targets, accepted high numbers of civilian casualties, or continued with their massive military assault against ISIS fighters, US officials have intended to do everything in their power to wipe ISIS off the map.

In the end, "we need to destroy the fact and the idea that there can be a state based upon this ideology," the Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter explained. "That has to be done in Syria and Iraq."

Indeed, US officials made it clear that they would continue directing a massive military assault against ISIS. Ultimately, "we're going to strike a heavy blow," the Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed.

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Speakout Fri, 29 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Could a Hillary Clinton Presidency Lead to War With Russia? http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37014-could-a-hillary-clinton-presidency-lead-to-war-with-russia http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37014-could-a-hillary-clinton-presidency-lead-to-war-with-russia

In 2011, the United States led a NATO military intervention in Libya, overthrowing the regime of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. "We came, we saw, he died," Hillary Clinton boasted in an interview with "60 Minutes." The decision for the United States to overthrow another government while currently tangled in costly wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan was a marginal decision within the Obama administration. Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon opposed it, while Hillary Clinton tipped the balance in favor of going forward with the intervention.

In 2011, the United States led a NATO military intervention in Libya, overthrowing the regime of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

"We came, we saw, he died,"Hillary Clinton boasted in an interview with "60 Minutes." The decision for the United States to overthrow another government while currently tangled in costly wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan was a marginal decision within the Obama administration. Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon opposed it, while Hillary Clinton tipped the balance in favor of going forward with the intervention. In an April 2016 interview with Fox News, President Obama cited the aftermath of Libya as the greatest mistake of his presidency. A political vacuum was created in the wake of Gaddafi's overthrow, where Libya is now a safe haven for various terrorist organizations.

Recently, the United States and NATO have begun plans and movements to reinforce NATO's eastern flank, consisting of former Soviet Union states allied with the West, yet weary of Russian military assaults. At the NATO summit in Poland on July 8 and 9, President Obama agreed to send 1,000 more troops to Poland to aide in this reinforcement. "Although not deemed sufficient to stop a determined Russian assault, the four battalions would act as a 'tripwire,' thrusting soldiers from numerous NATO countries into the line of fire and so ensuring a full-scale, alliance-wide response," wrote Michael T. Klare in an article for The Nation. "This, it is claimed, will deterRussiafrom undertaking such a move in the first place or ensure its defeat should it be foolhardy enough to start a war."

As with Libya, the United States plays the largest influence in these initiatives. Russian officials in Moscow demanded explanation for the NATO reinforcement decisions. The move is another calculated play in the increasing war games between the United States and Russia that have resulted from deteriorating relations between the two countries. Both US and Russian warships have been flirting with dangerously close approaches to one another in the Mediterranean Sea the past few weeks, and the conflict in Syria both countries are involved with has become more about asserting political dominance than achieving stability and peace.

Hillary Clinton is likely to continue this trend in abrasive relations between the United States and Russia if she is elected president. In 2014, Clinton compared Putin to Adolf Hitler. Regarding Russia's involvement with conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, Clinton has called for "a concerted effort to really up the costs on Russia and in particular on Putin," during a speech she gave at the Brookings Institute in September of 2015. In the context of fighting ISIS (also known as Daesh) in Syria, Hillary Clinton supports a no-fly zone, despite Daesh having no planes to fly. Both President Obama and Sen. Bernie Sanders oppose the idea, because its intangible without causing further strains to relations with Russia. According to a 2013 New York Times interview with General Martin E. Dempsey, imposing a no-fly zone would require 70,000 US servicemen to dismantle Syria's anti-aircraft system and then enforce it with a 24-hour watch on the country. That estimate would likely be higher due toRussianot getting directly involved until 2015. "A no-fly zone over Syria, as all parties understand, is a tacit declaration of war not only against Syria, but also against their longtime ally Russia, whose air force is currently flying over Syria to defend the government of Bashar al-Assad against both ISIL and various rebel groups, some overtly or covertly backed by the United States," wrote Adam Johnson in a December 2015 article for Al-Jazeera. "There's little reason to believeRussiawould sell out their only ally in the Middle East, and they're certainly not going to assist the US in bombing this ally's air defense and warplanes." Johnson added a no-fly zone increases the potential for US forces shooting down Russian jets, which could likely serve as a catalyst for a war with Russia.

In terms of a US-led NATO build-up to prepare for potential future conflicts withRussia, the Pentagon increased spending on their "European Reassurance Initiative" from $789 million in 2016 to $3.4 billion in 2017. NATO also recently concluded Anakonda 2016, the largest military exercise in Eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War, involving more than 30,000 troops, many of which were from the US. As more signs of aggression are conducted by each side, acts of counter-aggression will be justified due to the increasing risk posed by the other side, untilRussianand US aggression returns to a Cold War situation.

Based on Hillary Clinton's record of foreign policy as overwhelmingly favoring intervention and aggression over diplomacy and pragmatic restraint, tensions with Russia are only likely to worsen under her presidency. Hillary Clinton's presidency will continue the unending war Bill Clinton's presidency set the stage for in the 1990s. During the Kosovo Conflict, Bill Clinton circumvented the House of Representatives' vote against him taking military action, and ordered bombing missions anyway. In 1998, he signed the Iraq Liberation Act, making it official US policy to support regime change in Iraq, laying the foundations for the Iraq War in 2003, which Hillary Clinton voted for in the Senate. During Clinton's service as secretary of state, she promoted regime change in Syria, Libya and Honduras with disastrous results, and presided over the resurgence of the Cold War with Russia. A return to Bill Clinton's warmongering foreign policies through a Hillary Clinton presidency will likely result in at the very least, increased tensions with Russia, and at the worst, the next World War.

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Speakout Thu, 28 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
With the Clinton Coronation Underway, Did Sanders Actually Win the Primary? http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37013-with-the-clinton-coronation-underway-did-sanders-actually-win-the-primary http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37013-with-the-clinton-coronation-underway-did-sanders-actually-win-the-primary

Accusations of election fraud have been rampant throughout the 2016 primary. Recent WikiLeaks revelations about collusion by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) against Bernie Sanders have reignited cries of foul play. As the Democratic National Convention heads to its climax, the question remains, "Did Hillary win fair and square?" When contesting an election, many want absolute proof of fraud. But unequivocal evidence is hard to find. It often requires painstaking work of many teams and substantial resources. Questions about fraud often begin with just a hunch, but only the dedicated few follow it up with an investigation.

Accusations of election fraud have been rampant throughout the 2016 primary. Recent WikiLeaks revelations about collusion by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) against Bernie Sanders have reignited cries of foul play. As the Democratic National Convention heads to its climax, the question remains, "Did Hillary win fair and square?"

When contesting an election, many want absolute proof of fraud. But unequivocal evidence is hard to find. It often requires painstaking work of many teams and substantial resources. Questions about fraud often begin with just a hunch, but only the dedicated few follow it up with an investigation.

Alas, where politics is involved, attempts are usually made to stifle any inkling of moving to an actual investigation phase. Even widely held, logical hunches are delegitimized by the establishment-biased media as mere "conspiracy theories." That is how seemingly credible analysis by the likes of Greg Palast are dismissed out of hand, leaving the entire question of fraud -- by all accounts a very serious issue -- in the hands of comics like Lee Camp, who are apparently a few of the only ones still allowed a voice on the matter.

On the other end of the scale, once suspicions creep in, it can be easy to assume everything is evidence of fraud, and that makes it hard to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Yet, whatever one believes about the election, there is too much at stake to dismiss the charges without as much as a nominal consideration of the evidence. With that in mind, and in the hope of bringing some clarity to issues raised, a brief overview is provided of some of the more prominent claims -- and counterclaims -- that underlie assertions of possible fraud in the Democratic primary.

Exit Polls

There has been considerable uproar by Sanders supporters about large disparities between exit polls and actual results in 11 states -- all favoring Clinton. However, the legitimacy of exit polls as a tool for verifying elections is a matter of some dispute.

For example, James Carter IV (Jimmy Carter's grandson) has monitored multiple elections in other countries and supported other monitoring groups from the Carter Center for 17 years. He cannot recall exit polls being mentioned once as a factor in judging elections. Indeed, his experience indicates the US government will accept any election result, regardless of fraud, if the outcome is to their liking.

In contrast to Carter, election specialist Brad Friedman of TheBradBlog says the United States has used exit polls to monitor elections abroad. USAID, International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI) are some examples.

Friedman feels exit polls here can be used as possible red flags, but believes too much emphasis has been placed on them. His reasoning is that exit polls in the US are not designed to detect fraud like they are in other countries. Rather, they are meant to gather demographic data about who voted and why, so the press will have something to report before early results are in.

Joe Lenski, executive vice president of Edison Research who conducted exit polls for the 2016 primary, agrees. Lenski says that in order to detect errors in vote count, many more respondents would need to be approached to minimize sampling errors, whereas Edison only polled about 200 voters per location. Furthermore, the length of the questionnaire would have to be shortened to maximize response rate. In addition, hundreds of sample polling locations would be needed, rather than the 20 to 45 Edison polled in each state.

Election analyst Josh Mitteldorf disagrees on this last point, stating that a smaller number of precincts may be all that is needed for an election verification poll. He asserts that results could be made more reliable if compared precinct-by-precinct, instead of aggregating them statewide.

Unfortunately, this kind of analysis cannot be done at this time because Edison will not release polling locations or raw data. According to Lenski, Edison adjusts exit poll data throughout the day and reports results three times -- in the morning, mid-afternoon and post polls' closure time. Once all the polls close, the data is further adjusted, sometimes several times.

Edison's reluctance to disclose the raw data or the precincts polled naturally gives rise to questions about lack of transparency. Lenski cites respondent privacy as the principal reason for maintaining the confidentiality of raw data. Yet, as polling analyst Jonathan Simon asserts, this reasoning by itself is unconvincing since anonymous preference responses and basic demographics would not be traceable out of hundreds of precincts.

As for Lenski's argument that precincts are not revealed in order to prevent outside groups from trying to unduly influence voters, Simon raises the counter-argument that just by changing polling locations post-election, any extra voter outreach efforts could be avoided as campaigns would not know which precinct to target.

Given their lack of transparency, it is not surprising that a lawsuit has been filed (by attorney Bob Fitrakas) aiming to force Edison Research and The Media Consortium to provide access to the raw data.

Aside from problems doing analysis given Edison's secrecy around key data, many feel that exit polls here can still be useful indicators of possible fraud. As activist Bev Harris of Black Box Voting quips, "It seems incredibly presumptuous for the media to make predictions and even announce winners based on exit polls, if they are not even designed to predict results."

Election analyst Richard Charnin also dismisses any notion that Edison polls cannot detect fraud. He points out that any poll designed to detect fraud asks one simple question, "Who did you vote for?" Since Edison asks this question, if we had access to the raw data, he reasons it would tell us what we need to know.

Charnin believes exit polls have been exposed in this election as a major issue, because so many have taken notice of their value in detecting fraud through people like him. Charnin has become rather well-known due to shows like "Redacted Tonight." Host Lee Camp's interview of Charnin garnered 50,000 views.

Charnin feels that the spotlight on poll disparities coupled with a racketeering lawsuit recently announced by attorney Cliff Arnebeck is what led to Edison canceling their exit polls in California and other remaining states during the June cycle.

Margin of Error Theories

Although there were a large number of exit poll disparities skewed in Clinton's favor, some argue that this alone does not prove fraud. There may be many reasons for such disparities, one being early or absentee votes.

Edison combines exit polls and pre-election telephone polls in states with 20-25 percent (or more) early voting. Pre-election telephone polls of absentee and early voters were conducted in eight states (Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Michigan, Florida, North Carolina and Ohio), using random digital samples where anyone with a landline or cell may be called seven to 10 days prior to an election. Edison interviews those stating they already voted or will definitely vote prior to election day.

As analyst Richard Hayes Phillips explains, incorporating phone polls may contaminate the raw data. Exit polls have often been touted as being more reliable than pre-election polls because they are sampling people who have already voted vs. those who have not voted yet and who may still change their mind. Therefore, combining both into a single sample, effectively muddies the water.

Other factors can skew polls as well. A common theory proposed to explain the numerous disparities between exit polls and actual results, all favoring Clinton, is that Sanders voters were more enthusiastic, thereby increasing the response rate. James Carter also posits that youth voters known for being pro-Sanders were more likely to vote in groups, so if only one in 20 lied due to peer pressure, that would skew results by as much as 10 percent (5 percent in either direction).

Although Lenski agreed with the enthusiasm factor possibly introducing some bias in favor of Sanders, he seemed to discount the likelihood of this occurring by explaining that Edison adjusts for age and tries to factor for enthusiasm as they evaluate the data. At least one analysis found that the enthusiasm theory does not hold up when applied to states with lower youth turnout. In addition, Lenski said that exit polls are not conducted verbally, eliminating the peer pressure factor.

Despite various reasons for disparities beyond the margin of error, many analysts feel exit polls are important for identifying questionable results. Ultimately most agree that it is only by doing hand counts or audits that fraud -- or honest mistakes -- can be proven. But examining discrepancies provides another layer of checks and balances to help us know where to investigate.

Unfortunately, each state has a different voting system and only some have a paper trail that can be audited or hand counted. It is for this reason that Bev Harris asserts that since computerized voting does not allow verification of vote, it is impossible for anyone to categorically state there was no fraud in the primary. She likened it to doing a financial audit where the auditors say there is no evidence of fraud, but were not allowed to see the books.

Oklahoma, New York, Arizona, California

In addition to the issue of exit poll disparities, there are a number of states that have raised questions about the fairness of the elections.

Oklahoma is one of them. Jonathan Simon points out that Oklahoma was the one state where the disparity was skewed in Sanders' favor, but also happened to be the only one where state officials rather than private vendors programmed the computers.

Simon has several hypotheses for why this happened:

1.) The votes were counted accurately because a rigger did not have easy access to the programming

2.) Edison began building in a bias towards Clinton in an effort to stop getting the primaries wrong, which could be rationalized by having to account for such things as the purported enthusiasm gap, and

3.) Edison's adjustment to polls upweighting women, and/or African Americans and/or older voters backfired in Oklahoma where the elections were not rigged, so the margin of error disparity was reversed.

New York and Arizona both received widespread press for other perceived irregularities which seemed to point to voter suppression and purging tactics. Although James Carter believes election fraud exists in the United States, he saw no evidence of it in either New York or Arizona:

The voter purge in NY happened in a heavily pro-Hillary area, and there is no way that some vote rigger would have known who to purge. People purged who were planning to vote Bernie were the ones we heard from, though. Has anyone actually tried to figure out who the rest of those voters were planning to vote for? In Arizona … Hillary's campaign signed on to the DNC's lawsuit against the county before Bernie's did. Again there's no evidence that it was an anti-Bernie conspiracy…. There is evidence of huge problems in our election system that should be discussed more regularly and that need to be fixed. It is not fraud, however.

Brad Friedman also does not see evidence of fraud in either New York or Arizona -- and he is quick to say, "And I'm no fan of Hillary."

He cites a study by New York Public Radio (WNYC) analyzing 122,454 people purged from the Brooklyn voter rolls. The study found that a disproportionate percentage were Latino. Friedman reasons since Latinos tended to favor Clinton, the purge probably hurt her more than Sanders. (Median age purged was 53).

California, on the other hand, is receiving a lot of scrutiny for other reasons. Bev Harris thinks the difference between early and late counted votes warrants investigation, "It doesn't really pass the sniff test."

Harris feels that the early count does not match the enthusiasm by Sanders voters. It was initially reported that Clinton had 63 percent of the vote in California. Harris felt that this was a staggering number, and over time, we have seen a trend reversal where late votes went 75 percent for Sanders, which she thinks signals a red flag. She also notes a similar pattern in Oregon, which was 100 percent vote by mail.

Harris hypothesizes there is a simple way this could be done. Vote by mail ballots go down a conveyer belt where a camera photographs the barcodes and signatures for voter authentication. If the signature does not match the one on file, the ballot gets diverted so it can be checked by humans later. It would be easy to have a database that flags Clinton vs. Sanders ballots. A higher level of scrutiny could be set for the signature verification on Sanders ballots so they are disproportionately diverted. When ballots are delayed from being included in original count, there is a greater chance they'll be tampered with, lost or discarded.

Harris postulates early/late vote differences were part of a pattern to prematurely present Clinton as the winner. She says it has been documented for decades that there is a huge pressure to get candidates to concede early so nobody cares about final vote tally. The Associated Press declared Clinton the winner of the Democratic primary 24 hours before voting even began on June 7, and said 100 percent precincts had reported -- despite millions of uncounted ballots. (The AP says 100 percent precincts have reported when any votes have been registered. It is more accurate to say 100 percent precincts have "checked in"). So on election night, viewers were led to believe vote count was complete, when in fact it was not.

Reporter Greg Palast has also been analyzing early and late votes in California. He says Bernie Sanders actually won the state. Palast said that most of the late mailed-in ballots were No Party Preference (NPP) and estimates that 3 to 1 went for Sanders. This assumption is based on previous polls showing Sanders at about 3 to 1 amongst NPP voters. Palast says most provisional ballots were NPP voters, so even conservatively estimating half the votes went for Sanders, the number of late votes would have put him over the edge.

Some feel Palast was premature in making such a strong statement, which was based on certain theoretical assumptions. However, Palast's initial statements were part of an interview rather than an official article, and he did say there were more details to come.

The Black Vote and Absentee/Early Ballot Discrepancies

Richard Hayes Phillips is conducting a nationwide analysis of voting results. So far, he is seeing a noteworthy trend with disparities between absentee votes compared with poll votes.

Michigan is a prime example. In Detroit, Clinton won 69.1 percent to 30.0 percent at the polls, but 86.9 percent to 11.2 percent with absentee ballots. In neighboring Oakland County, Clinton lost 51.9 percent to 47.4 percent at the polls, but won among absentee voters 67.9 percent to 25.5 percent. Absentee ballots made up 21.05 percent of total ballots in Detroit and 19.18 percent in Oakland. Phillips feels these kinds of large differences between absentee ballots and poll results warrant audits.

Phillips is also seeing questionable trends with African American votes. The presidential preference of African Americans was reported in 21 states -- 10 of which were in the South. Clinton reportedly received 80 percent to 91 percent of the Black vote in Southern states, whereas she got 67 percent to 75 percent of the Black vote elsewhere.

African American votes appear to have been adjusted upward in the final exit polls in 15 of 19 states. Phillips thinks this trend raises questions about whether Sanders really got less than half the African American vote in the South, or whether vote counts may have been altered.

This cursory summary is by no means comprehensive. It does not even begin to address caucus states such as Iowa, Wyoming and Nevada, as just a few examples. Nevertheless, the various election integrity experts raise a lot of legitimate questions. It leaves voters wondering, "If there's so much smoke, could there be fire?" The WikiLeaks emails showed that at the very least, the election was rigged in favor of Hillary Clinton. But what we don't know is if there was actual fraud. We may never know the answer, but the question will remain an indelible stain on the Democratic Party.

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Speakout Thu, 28 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Breaking Ground at Cinema Hebron http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37000-breaking-ground-at-cinema-hebron http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/37000-breaking-ground-at-cinema-hebron

Virtually every Palestinian shop in H2 has been closed and their doors welded shut by the army. Because the Palestinian residents of Shuhadah St. are not allowed to walk on the road, they must enter and exit through the rear of homes because they cannot leave their own front doors. Because of these measures -- and the ongoing harassment and violence at the hands of Jewish settlers -- what was once the busting commercial center of Hebron has become a ghost town. 42% of its Palestinian homes are empty and 70% of its Palestinian business have been shut down.

On July 15, I had the honor to participate in an incredible, unprecedented mass action of civil disobedience in the H2 section of Hebron -- in the heart of Israel's unjust and illegal occupation.

I'll start with a little bit of history:

In 1968, a year after Israel conquered the West Bank, a group of radical religious settlers led by Rabbi Moshe Levinger, led a group of followers to a hotel in Hebron -- with the government's support -- to observe a Passover seder. When it was over, they refused to leave; and following a negotiation with the government, they were allowed to create a settlement to the east of Hebron that they named Kiryat Arba.  Since that time, Jewish settlers gradually moved into Hebron proper. Over the years tension gradually increased in Hebron. Things changed drastically in 1995 after Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Muslim worshippers in the Ibrahimi mosque. Fearful of reprisals, the IDF imposed increasing curfews and restriction of movement on the Palestinian population.

In 1996, as part of the Oslo agreement, Hebron was divided into two sections: H1 and H2. H1 is locally governed by the Palestinian Authority and is home to approximately 120,000 Palestinians. Tens of thousands of Palestinians live in H2 along with 600 Jewish settlers. Since the Second Intifada, Israel increased their security crackdown on this part of the city, blocking off major streets to Palestinians -- most notably the main commercial road, Shuhadah Street. (The army refers to them as "sterile roads").

Virtually every Palestinian shop in H2 has been closed and their doors welded shut by the army. Because the Palestinian residents of Shuhadah St. are not allowed to walk on the road, they must enter and exit through the rear of homes because they cannot leave their own front doors. Because of these measures -- and the ongoing harassment and violence at the hands of Jewish settlers -- what was once the busting commercial center of Hebron has become a ghost town. 42% of its Palestinian homes are empty and 70% of its Palestinian business have been shut down.

We visited Hebron earlier this week and it was a truly chilling experience. Our group went on a tour led by Breaking the Silence, an organization of Israeli army veterans who are speaking out about the abuses the IDF are committing in Hebron. I did a BTS tour in 2008 during my first real foray into the reality of contemporary Hebron. Today, the situation there is even more dire if such a thing is possible.

With Colm Toibin in Hebron.With Colm Toibin in Hebron.Before we started our tour, we witnessed an incident in which a settler attacked an Israeli photographer and damaged his camera. As it turned out the photographer was the celebrated photojournalist Oren Ziv. who was accompanying a private BTS tour for Irish author Colm Tóibín. The incident was captured on film by a member of our delegation. He gave a copy of the video to Ziv so he could press charges against the settler for damages. (We never found out whether or not he actually succeeded).

As we walked down Shuhadah St., the intimidating presence of the settlers was impossible to ignore. At one point we saw Tóibín and his tour guide on the side of the road. A car with two settlers drove up and the driver proceeded to scream obscenities at them for ten minutes.

Hebron's settlers are truly the most brutal, ideologically extreme and heavily armed of the entire settler movement. They walk and drive the streets with impunity and full protection of the IDF.  As is the case throughout the West Bank, Jews are governed by Israeli civil law -- and as a result the army cannot and does not intervene when settlers harass Palestinians. However, since Palestinians are subject to military law, they face dual oppression from soldiers and settlers alike.

After our BTS tour we walked to the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron to meet with Issa Amro, founder/director of Youth Against the Settlements. YAS is an increasingly powerful and important Palestinian nonviolent organization; among other things, it sponsors the annual Open Shuhadah Street campaign and regularly organizes/empowers the youth of Hebron.

Issa is truly a visionary leader in the Palestinian popular resistance movement. He has been arrested and detained countless times for his activism but has clearly become well known throughout Hebron as force to be reckoned with. Palestinian activists such as Issa tend to infuriate the Israeli military because their principled commitment to nonviolence cannot be quelled militarily. Although he and his comrades have been arrested and detained numerous times, YAS has come to represent a ray of hope for the Palestinian residents of Hebron.

We met Issa in the YAS center, which has an interesting history all its own. Originally Palestinian-owned, the building was taken over by settlers several years ago. But through a methodical campaign of legal pressure and nonviolent resistance, the settlers were eventually evicted and it was turned into YAS's central headquarters. Last November, the center was raided by the IDF and temporarily declared a "closed military zone" (I'll get back to this term later). Still, Issa and YAS remain steadfast. 

With Issa Amro of Youth Against the Settlements.With Issa Amro of Youth Against the Settlements.On Thursday, July 14, we prepared to return to Hebron for our nonviolent direct action, which had been almost two years in the planning by YAS and the Israeli anti-occupation collective All That's Left. The Center for Jewish Nonviolence was invited to be part of this action as well so that its message could be strengthened through the solidarity of diaspora Jewry. CJNV has cultivated a strong relationship with both YAS and ATL and other Israeli/Palestinian partners on the ground. It is truly a sign of the times that diaspora Jews are joining this increasingly broad-based solidarity movement.

The goal of the action was to begin the process of turning an old metal factory in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron into a movie theater: Cinema Hebron.YAS chose to build a movie theater so that the isolated, segregated Palestinian residents of H2 could have a place to come together in community -- to experience even a little slice of normalcy in this intensely abnormal, unjust environment. It was also designed to be a statement to the settler community that the Palestinian residents of Hebron will continue to resist the theft of their property -- and that Jews from around the world are ready to stand in solidarity with them.

The factory is owned by Jawad Abu Aisha, the patriarch of a prominent family in Tel Rumeida. As was the case with the YAS center, Jewish settlers were gradually encroaching toward this particular property -- and based on past history, it seemed it was only a matter of time before it was taken it over completely. Tel Rumeida is heavily desired by settlers and has long been one of the tensest areas of Hebron. (This past March, Tel Rumeida made the news after a solider was filmed shooting a wounded Palestinian in the head while he was lying in the street.)

We spent all day that Thursday preparing for the action, which was prepared down to the most minute detail. Our plan was to go to the old, cluttered site, begin the process of cleaning it up and announce our intention to turn it into Cinema Hebron to the press. Inevitably the IDF and police would show up and eventually declare it a "closed military zone" -- their standard operating procedure when dealing with protests.

Legally speaking, the military needs to get a signed order to declare a closed military zone, but they often dispense with that pretense. Our plan was to keep cleaning up the site until the soldiers returned with their order. In the meantime, we would put up a mock marquee, pass out Cinema Hebron popcorn, give interviews to press, chant and sing, and do our best to clean up the site before they soldiers and police ordered us out.

There were 60 participants all told -- 40 from CJNV and another twenty from Youth against the Settlements and All That's Left. Our group split up into three "pods" -- Green (those who would work until the soldiers returned but would not take an arrest), Yellow (those who would would be willing to be arrested if it was deemed necessary by our leaders) and Red (those who would stay until they were arrested.)

2016 0727so 3As an extra precautionary measure, we drove to the site in separate vans to the site. Unfortunately, the military was somehow tipped off that there was some kind of action being planned for Hebron that day -- and the van coming with ATF activists from Jerusalem was stopped en route. Our CJNV delegation all made it in safely, however. We gathered in an old metal warehouse until we were given the word that our tools had arrived. Then we put up the marquee and got to work.

The site was heavily overgrown with high weeds and all kinds of scrap metal everywhere. As we started raking, hauling, piling junk we sang a every Jewish song and civil rights chant we knew. In short order settlers started to gather, peering at us through the front gate. The IDF and police arrived soon as well -- we worked for about an hour or an hour and a half before they actually entered the site. They began arguing with the Palestinian owners and after some back and forth, they eventually fell back and we continued with our work.

After another hour or so, they returned and announced that the area was closed military zone. At this point, the some members of our delegation left and the rest of us sat down in the middle of the site, continuing to chant and sing. A police officer came up to us and told us that our presence on the site was illegal and if we did not leave in two minutes, we would be arrested (below). When our two minutes were up, they started to physically remove us (see the clip at the top of this post). They shoved us to the back of the site, gathered us together and ordered to take out our passports. They then asked the six Israelis from our delegation to take out their identity cards and led them away. We were sent out in the other direction and told to leave the site.

Photo: A. Daniel Roth Photo: A. Daniel Roth – http://allthesedays.org

At that point we gathered together and discussed what to do next. It seemed clear to us that the Israelis were targeted because they were easier to process -- and that the authorities likely wanted to avoid the bad publicity of arresting internationals. When we received word from our lawyers that our six friends had been taken to the police station in Kiryat Arba, we decided to walk there together and demand their release.

After walking for only ten minutes or so we were stopped by five soldiers who told us we couldn't continue because the area was (you guessed it) a closed military zone. We refused to leave and said we simply wanted to visit our friends in the police station. Thus began a stand off, during which the lead soldier called his commander four or five times. They clearly had never dealt with a group like ours and were somewhat bewildered that we wouldn't leave when ordered. Finally Issa arrived and argued loudly with the soldiers. I'm not sure how he managed it but we were finally told we could continue along a detoured route.

2016 0727so 5

We eventually made it to Shuhadah St., continued down the road, passed the Ibrahimi Mosque and headed up a hill that led us in the direction of Kiryat Arba. As we walked in, we were joined by soldiers who silently walked alongside us. It quickly became clear to me that they weren't there to impede us but rather to protect us from angry settlers. (I'm fairly sure this was the first time the residents of Kiryat Arba had ever witnessed a group of singing diaspora Jews walking down the street wearing "Occupation in Not Our Judaism" T-shirts ).

2016 0727so 6Photo: A. Daniel Roth – http://allthesedays.org

We finally arrived at a gated area and faced yet another gauntlet of soldiers. After yet another round of back and forth, we were sent around to the front gate. Then we walked down a residential community to the end of the street where the police station was located. We talked to the guard at the front gate and explained we wanted to see our friends inside. After other policemen gathered we were told that our six friends were indeed inside but that we would not be allowed to see them. At this point, increasing numbers of residents from the neighborhood had come to mock and taunt us. Many of them filmed us with their cell phones. Eventually we sat down on the ground in front of the station gate and began to sing and chant once more.

The leaders of our delegation were in cell phone contact with the lawyers and our friends inside, who told us they could actually hear us singing and calling out their names. They were in the process of being interrogated by the police one by one but were otherwise fine. By this point quite a crowd had started to gather around us. We kept on singing as more police cars arrived. The original officer came back to us and told us that this was an illegal assembly -- and that we had two minutes to disperse before they arrested us.

Photo credit: Jewish ForwardPhoto credit: Jewish Forward

After talking with our lawyers, we decided against taking an arrest. They told us they believed our friends would likely be released in several hours, adding that our arrest would not help their cause and might even hinder it. So after spending an hour at the station we got up, walked together down the street and gathered near the front gate. As Shabbat was getting closer, we sang Shalom Aleichem and Lecha Dodi together with our other songs. Then together, we walked to a YAS home in H1 to meet up with the rest of our crew, eat a late lunch, debrief, share stories and nap after our physically/emotionally exhausting experience. Eventually we boarded our bus and returned to Susiya, in the South Hebron Hills where we would spend our Shabbat.

That evening just after a gorgeous sunset, we made a circle on a rocky hill and I began to lead our Shabbat service. As I prepared to lead Lecha Dodi, the prayer that welcomes the Shabbat bride, I heard someone shout. I looked up and saw two cars pulling up. Our six friends got out, grinning ear to ear as we cheered their arrival. After lots of hugs and laughter, we all continued with our service.

Shabbat had arrived.

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Speakout Wed, 27 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Yes, Food Can Be Entertainment for Low-Income People http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36998-yes-food-can-be-entertainment-for-low-income-people http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36998-yes-food-can-be-entertainment-for-low-income-people

I woke up yesterday hungry. Since my last shopping trip four days before, I'd not eaten much, saving most of the food for my younger daughter, who is two. I also woke up with a bank account that was overdrawn, and was waiting on a paycheck that was a week overdue. My diet is small and not varied compared to what my daughters eat. While I subsist off of eggs, chicken, frozen veggies, hummus, and apples with nut butters, they eat an assortment of fresh fruit. I love waking up and making them pancakes and bacon, cutting up strawberries and plums, and setting the table to watch them eat.

I woke up yesterday hungry. Since my last shopping trip four days before, I'd not eaten much, saving most of the food for my younger daughter, who is two. I also woke up with a bank account that was overdrawn, and was waiting on a paycheck that was a week overdue.

My diet is small and not varied compared to what my daughters eat. While I subsist off of eggs, chicken, frozen veggies, hummus, and apples with nut butters, they eat an assortment of fresh fruit. I love waking up and making them pancakes and bacon, cutting up strawberries and plums, and setting the table to watch them eat.

For a long time -- about five years while I worked and put myself through college -- it was rare that I felt pride in setting the table full of good food. My older daughter was thin, sometimes so thin I worried that our food insecurity was the cause. I hovered over her when she ate, stressing over any food she left that would go to waste.

Whenever we came into some unexpected money, like a grocery store gift certificate that I won once as a door prize, I asked Mia what we should buy. Mia, age seven at the time, exclaimed "Blueberries!" and "Raspberries!" and other fruits we normally couldn't afford.

When birthdays came, I used food stamps to buy treats like cupcakes or take-and-bake pizza. This was our life for so long.

I love watching my toddler eat to her heart's content. I love that she has a belly that sticks out. I love that she is visibly well-fed.

But for several months now, despite a recent dip in funds, I have been able to purchase our food without food stamps. Being able to eat good quality food has brought me joy. I love watching my toddler eat to her heart's content. I love that she has a belly that sticks out. I love that she is visibly well-fed.

So this morning, when a friend of mine shared this blog post with me, I was deeply affected by it. The lead image is of a white man, sitting by a stove with a pot on it. He is dressed in overalls, holding a cigarette, and looks to be from the Depression-era. In the post, Joshua Fields Milburn, one of "The Minimalists," writes of dropping from 240 to 160 pounds. He suggests that he lost the weight because he no longer looks to food for entertainment: "The difference is I don't turn to food to entertain me, to comfort me, or to 'get me through tough times.'"

He writes this below the photograph of the man who looks to be living in dire straits, and most-likely is hungry. That person is not unlike many people in America who live in extreme poverty, who sometimes have to sell their food stamps for cash to pay for utilities and shelter while donating blood plasma for income because they cannot find jobs to support their families. Is Milburn drawing a parallel between the choices he makes about food, and the choices of those who are struggling in poverty?

For me the piece plays right into the hands of politicians, who judge and try to control how people who are struggling spend what little we have. These politicians push for laws to keep the poor from purchasing "luxury items" like high-end meats, seafood, and cakes, as if we are frivolous. They point to unhealthy eating habits as the cause of obesity among those trying to make ends meet, but it is not because people are choosing junk food over fruit. It is because they are walking into a store with $50 to last a family of three an entire week, and looking for the cheapest food, with the highest caloric content, that is easiest to prepare after a day of working long hours at a minimum wage job. It is because they are growing up, like my older daughter did, pressured to eat what is served because there isn't enough to get through the month. It is because they are gorging on rare sugary treats when they are available.

Milburn's post spurred in me a deep sadness and anger. For many food insecure people, the ability to serve their family a nice meal is indeed a source of comfort, their only entertainment, and a moment of pride.

Yesterday, when I checked the mail, I found not one, but two paychecks. As soon as those payments were deposited in the bank, I went straight to the grocery store. I bought strawberries and plums. I bought the crackers my daughter loves. When I picked her up from daycare, I told her about my trip to the store, and what I could feed her when we got home. I cut up an apricot, cooked up a package of bacon, and let her eat all the fruit she wanted. She went to sleep sticky with syrup from pancakes, greasy from bacon, and dyed red from strawberries.

It is just the three of us in our little family. In our town, and the nation, it feels as if people are struggling more. The times feel uncertain, unsafe, and sometimes overwhelming. But, despite all that, I can provide my girls a home. I can give them a space where they feel loved, valued, and most importantly, well-fed. Doing that -- feeding them the food they love -- is what gets me through the really hard times.

And that's not just entertainment.

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Speakout Wed, 27 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Newt Gingrich Wants a Muslim Test -- Okay, Here's What It Would Look Like http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36982-newt-gingrich-wants-a-muslim-test-okay-here-s-what-it-would-look-like http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36982-newt-gingrich-wants-a-muslim-test-okay-here-s-what-it-would-look-like

In the aftermath of the ISIS-claimed attack in Nice, France, that killed more than 80 people and wounded over 200 more, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich proposed a solution: "We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported." By Sharia, Gingrich is apparently referring to a diverse body of Islamic prescriptions that cover personal, group and state behavior which vary according to region and scholar.

In the aftermath of the ISIS-claimed attack in Nice, France, that killed more than 80 people and wounded over 200 more, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich proposed a solution: "We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported." By Sharia, Gingrich is apparently referring to a diverse body of Islamic prescriptions that cover personal, group and state behavior which vary according to region and scholar.

As The Atlantic noted the morning after his statement, "Sharia" doesn't mean what Gingrich thinks it means. But if Gingrich wants to explore what it would mean for the United States to enact such a policy, it's a worthy thought experiment to perform, since the former Speaker of the House has been promised a spot in a potential Trump administration.

First, we'd need to determine who is to handle such a feat. Presumably, this would be a matter for the Department of Homeland Security; deporting as many as 3.3 million peaceful American Muslims would be tough, but they could handle it with enough firepower.

But then who designs the test? According to Gingrich, Sharia is incompatible with "Western civilization," so presumably the test would need questions about both Sharia and Western philosophy. But Sharia is complex, so one would need to recruit experts to make sure the test contained the necessary questions. One might ask, though, "What if these scholars were of 'a Muslim background'?" What test do they take, before they're permitted to help the US combat terrorism? Otherwise, one could rely on discredited hatemongers like Robert Spencer, who draws sweeping and dangerous conclusions about Islam, despite no academic training.

His questions might be wrong, but who cares? The goal is to remove them anyway.

But the test won't be enough. Remember, the goal here is to root out potential ISIS operatives. If a person can be so evil as to behead Americans or slaughter 49 people, presumably that person can also lie on a 15-question multiple-choice exam being administered to over 3 million Muslims en masse. Luckily, the Republican party still favors legislation such as the Patriot Act, which opened the door for mass surveillance and the violation of rights of Muslim and Arab Americans.

Moreover, Donald Trump has openly advocated for the surveillance of mosques and a Muslim registry. Perhaps one could justify passing forward the names of Muslims who "barely" pass, or suspiciously pass with flying colors. We could also foster a Nazi Germany-esque policy of "denunciation," compelling or encouraging non-Muslims to give up Muslim neighbors. If the game is safety, and we're already waiving the constitutional rights of Muslim Americans, why not make sure we covered all of our bases?

Gingrich might ask, though, "What about the children?" After all, what if a child's parents are both designated for deportation? Perhaps it makes sense to deport them, too, or subject them to some measure of conversion therapy like the GOP has advocated for gay and transgender children.

But there is one major problem, which may require some governmental creativity: To where, exactly, are Muslim Americans to be deported? Do we send them all to one spot, perhaps to a rural area in Egypt or Iran? Or does each go back to where their ancestors came from? Do we drop a third-generation Syrian-American into one of the worst humanitarian crises of the modern day? What if she doesn't know the native dialects? What if a person is of Navajo descent, and converted? Would he be sent to New Mexico? Or, Gingrich and Trump could follow the intellectual ancestors of this way of thinking: just intern them within the US in mass camps, like we did to Japanese Americans during World War II. Or we could follow the Auschwitz model and intern them outside our borders so that they don't revolt and take over.

There is another solution, in lieu of this absurdity sweeping over the GOP: ceasing the dangerous, McCarthyist rhetoric and actually obeying the Constitution you swore to uphold as a member of the United States House of Representatives. Perhaps that will be too much to ask in Trump's America.

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Speakout Tue, 26 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Reframing Justice: Counter-Storytelling and Social Transformation http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36984-reframing-justice-counter-storytelling-and-social-transformation http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36984-reframing-justice-counter-storytelling-and-social-transformation

Stories are a powerful mechanism for social change; entire nations are built and maintained by stories and sharing stories is a way of building community, of shaping identity and constructing meaning. However, the stories and voices of people directly impacted by the criminal punishment system, are routinely excluded from policy and reform efforts. This exclusion is the opening to create alternative sites to bridge understanding, knowledge production and impact public and penal policy.

[People] don't know how humiliating and demeaning that little box is, and you're viewed once you check that box. I've been fired because I didn't put down the homicide I was involved in at the age of 15. And honestly, I felt like shit. I wanted to make-it, I was working hard to be successful on the outside. I walked to work every day, I was getting there on time and doing my job. [My supervisor] called me in, and I knew what it was, I thought I was gonna get a chance to explain and they were like 'Nah, you never put it down so you gotta go.' The bottom line is that I was embarrassed to put things down and I got punished for it. But what alternative did I have? So there I was again, in the same defeated position. When I got paid, I was like fuck it, I'm already … just drink. I can't get a job. But I don't want that, this crap has to end, you're labeled for life, there has to be some type of reprieve. There has to be. -- Lyle

Stories are a powerful mechanism for social change; entire nations are built and maintained by stories and sharing stories is a way of building community, of shaping identity and constructing meaning. However, the stories and voices of people directly impacted by the criminal punishment system, are routinely excluded from policy and reform efforts. This exclusion is the opening to create alternative sites to bridge understanding, knowledge production and impact public and penal policy.

People who have conviction histories frequently lose control over their own story- the story about who they are, where they have been, what they deserve is interpreted through their rap sheet. Their story begins and ends with their entrance into the criminal punishment system. In the process, people are reduced to one-dimensional characters -- "inmate," "offender," "felon"-- monsters who deserve permanent banishment.

American Friends Service Committee's Reframing Justice Project is a multimedia storytelling initiative with incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, convicted people and their loved ones. We are using video, photo-essay, short essay and live storytelling. The stories collected from a specialized body of knowledge about the state of Arizona, justice, unfreedom and the afterlife of the criminal punishment system on individuals, families and communities. The goal of Reframing Justice is twofold 1.) Influence public discourse around incarceration issues and 2.) Develop a cadre of leaders who can lead a movement against mass incarceration.

The project began by reflecting on the role of story in the judicial system and the idea of legitimacy. We asked, "Who gets to tell what stories, to whom, and under what conditions about the criminal punishment system in Arizona?" The result is stories that challenge the normativity of the narrative of justice as punishment and redirects the story to center justice as radical love and connectedness.

The stories of people who have been system involved are a tremendous resource. Society frequently forgets data, but rarely forgets the human face behind the story. Kini's Story, the first video in this series, touches on many of the common pathways into the criminal punishment system for women.

Kini's Video Story

Reframing Justice from Creative Narrations on Vimeo.

Kini's story illustrates the devastating impact of social marginalization and abandonment. Certain populations- namely poor, people of color, mentally ill, substance addicted, and children suffering from parental incarceration- are not readily viewed as "victims" even though they may well be, and as a result they are excluded from services that could disrupt the incarceration cycle.

Our first photo-essay, "What No One Wants to Hear," by Michele Keller, draws attention to the challenges facing people returning to their communities post-incarceration. Her essay highlights the importance of support networks, treatment, and education for returning community members.

What No One Wants to Hear

While I was incarcerated at Marana State Prison, another inmate gave me a poem she wrote called "What No One Wants to Hear." It's a pretty heavy poem- it captures a lot of the emotion of being incarcerated- anger, sadness, isolation, and inhumanity. I had been in and out of the system starting at the age of 26, each time as a consequence of my addiction to cocaine and crack. When I first read the poem I felt its truth. It illustrates how we feel as formerly incarcerated people as we try to enter back into society, and describes how others see us.

2016.7.26.Speakout.1Poem: "What No One Wants to Hear"

When I got out this last time, what I found most challenging was that I had no family support. My mom had passed away in 2004, which was my breaking point in life. I say "her death brought me life" because her death helped me to pursue sobriety. For a long time, my life in Arizona was about doing/selling drugs.

2016.7.26.Speakout.2Michele and her mother, Shirley.

I say "her death brought me life" because her death helped me to pursue sobriety. For a long time, my life in Arizona was about doing/selling drugs. That was actually a barrier to reentry for me- I didn't have a community of support to return to when I got out. Ultimately, what helped me overcome and rebuild my life was the support and resources I gained from the counselors in the Women in Recovery program I attended at Southern Arizona Correctional Release Center (SACRC), which no longer exists.

Video Story: SACRC

Reframing Justice: Southern Arizona Correctional Release Center- Tucson, AZ. from grace gamez on Vimeo.

Now I work as a Behavioral Health Tech and Senior Instructional Specialist. In my work, I am able to make a difference in the lives of people who are struggling with issues that are familiar to those I have been through myself. I feel fortunate to be able to make a positive impact in people's lives. My life is different now, I am sober, I have gone to school, I own my own home, and my own car. My daughter is excelling at a great school -- these are all things that make me proud. However, even though I've been out nine years I still sometimes get judged because of my past.

2016.7.26.Speakout.3Michele's new home.

2016.7.26.Speakout.4Michele and her youngest child.While inside, much of the time you are referred to by your prison number, which makes it easy to lose your sense of self. I've held on to this poem for all of these years because it reminds me of how I don't want to be seen as a "number."

The poem reminds me not to judge others because of their past poor choices. It helps me remember where I have been, and what I don't want to go back to. It reminds me that I am blessed to have gotten to the place I am at today. Because of my experiences I am committed to doing everything I can do to help others in their journey to recovery.

***

Ultimately, the stories in the Reframing Justice Project force us to think deeply about what "justice" means and to consider a human justice system that deals with the complex and fragile social problems that lead people into the criminal legal system.

For more information about AFSC's Reframing Justice Project, and other work on issues of mass incarceration, please visit www.afscarizona.org/reframing-justice/.  

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Speakout Tue, 26 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Fourteen Movies That Illustrate Problem With Law Enforcement http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36967-fourteen-movies-that-illustrate-problem-with-law-enforcement http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36967-fourteen-movies-that-illustrate-problem-with-law-enforcement

Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are yet another set of names we won't forget. The consequent polarity of media representation regarding isolated events threatens to intercept an honest conversation about the institutional bias of law enforcement. The pattern is at once endemic and global. Here is a list of 14 movies that have sought to illuminate the deeper problem with police, racism and systemic abuse -- on a global scale.

Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are yet another set of names we won't forget. The consequent polarity of media representation regarding isolated events threatens to intercept an honest conversation about the institutional bias of law enforcement. The pattern is at once endemic and global. Here is a list of 14 movies that have sought to illuminate the deeper problem with police, racism and systemic abuse -- on a global scale.

1. Ciutat Morta; 2014, 123 minutes

Poetic injustice and Kafkaesque absurdity set foot in Spain on February 4, 2006, when a police officer was injured during an attempt to disassemble a street party. Judicial drama followed, with the sole purpose of placing responsibility on five young people -- none of whom were present at the scene. Procedural twists and turns climaxed when one of the suspects committed suicide. Patricia Heras' death awakened the community's collective memory of decades of structural abuse. This documentary asks: Who is meant to hold power accountable?

2. The Glass Shield; 1994, 109 minutes

Maestro Charles Burnett paints the oblique structures of law enforcement with meditative strokes. There's no fanfare. Corruption and racism are perceived as matter-of-fact capitalist inevitability. The film went into production shortly after the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

See also: El bonaerense; 2000.

3. Once Upon A Crime: U.S. Police Brutality; 2016, 26 minutes

If harm and injury are measured in punitive terms, why does the distribution of guilt lapse when its bearer is in uniform? The film does not have many answers at all. Its short format plays off the immediate reactions to losing someone to violent, senseless means -- grief, confusion, heartache -- but does give an inkling of more fundamental issues with police brutality.

See also: Fruitvale Station; 2013.

4. The FBI's War on Black America; 1990, 50 minutes

COINTELPRO -- a Hoover government program for FBI surveillance strategy in the '60s and '70s -- undercut the civil rights movement's turbulent aspirations, and consequently drafted institutional mistreatment that's plaguing activists and minorities today.

5. Distrust of Crisis: Police and Community in Toronto; 2014, 29 min

A diverse, sobering array of interviews shine light on police processes such as racial profiling which disrupt communities and trivialise trust.

See also: Profiling Race - Mike Higgins; 2016.

6. Ônibus 174; 2002, 150 minutes

On June 12, 2000, Sandro Rosa do Nascimento robbed a Rio bus. It became one of the tensest hostage situations in the history of Brazil. Years earlier, the young man had survived the harrowing Candelária massacre in which eight street children were murdered by the police. The journey of one scarred man was really a portrait of the systematic failure of a government.

7. Shenandoah; 2013, 24 minutes

This immaculately shot documentary cuts into the heart of a small community amidst the cover-up of a hate crime murder of a Mexican immigrant.

8. Killing Them Safely; 2015, 100 minutes

Taser's brutal statistical footprint is strongly in conflict with its engineered reputation as a harmless stunning device. Killing Them Safely points its camera right where two modern evils -- branding and systemic abuse -- overlap.

9. The Murder of Fred Hampton; 1971, 88 minutes

This chronicle of the leader of the Illinois branch of Black Panther Party became an epitaph as he was murdered by Chicago police during the movie's production.

See also: The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975; 2011 & Let The Fire Burn; 2013.

10. Injustice; 2001, 130 minutes

The documentary penetrates the British legal system's slanted conjuncture when dealing with deaths in police custody.

11. Ferguson: A Report from Occupied Territory; 2015, 53 minutes

Ferguson upset and its social media manifestation paved the way for just about every subsequent on- and offline discourse about the meeting point of discrimination and law enforcement.

See also: No Justice No Peace; 2013.

12. 3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets; 2015, 98 minutes

There is no direct link to police brutality in this documentary. Instead, its tragedy unfolds between regular citizens caught in the crosshairs of casual hostility, enforced by stand-your-ground-laws.

13. Four Days of Death in December; 2011, 12 minutes

Protests and other public expressions of resistance often solicit the application of fists by the law enforcement. Cairo filmmakers, the Mosireen collective, keep a finger on the pulse of the Egyptian revolution, showering the web with video material, so as not to let the voice of the people quench. The Square, a similar Netflix production, also deserves a mention, even though it presents a more sanitised look into the unfinished revolution.

14. The Life and Death of Steve Biko; 1977, 26 minutes

Steve Biko was not the first nor the last to die at the hands of the police. However, the death of this South African anti-apartheid activist made waves, and documentaries like this celebrate the revolutionary aim which justify the often tragic means.

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Speakout Mon, 25 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Former Guantánamo Prisoners Convicted in Belgium http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36948-former-guantanamo-prisoners-convicted-in-belgium http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/36948-former-guantanamo-prisoners-convicted-in-belgium

Two former Guantánamo prisoners were convicted in Belgium by the Brussels Criminal Court on Monday, July 18, 2016, one on terrorism-related charges. The two men, Moussa Zemmouri, 38, a Belgian national, and Soufiane Abbar Huwari, 46, an Algerian national, were arrested on July 23, 2015. Huwari was arrested with three other men during an attempted armed burglary in Hoboken, near the city of Antwerp, where Zemmouri lives.

Two former Guantánamo prisoners were convicted in Belgium by the Brussels Criminal Court on Monday, July 18, 2016, one on terrorism-related charges.

The two men, Moussa Zemmouri, 38, a Belgian national, and Soufiane Abbar Huwari, 46, an Algerian national, were arrested on July 23, 2015. Huwari was arrested with three other men during an attempted armed burglary in Hoboken, near the city of Antwerp, where Zemmouri lives. The victim was an alleged drug dealer with the proceeds of the theft likely to raise around $770,000 for the perpetrators.

The arrests, however, were carried out by counterterrorism police: Reported to have spent time in Syria in 2013-2014, Huwari was allegedly raising funds for terrorist activities in Syria. Zemmouri, who was at home at the time in Antwerp, where he was born, was arrested later. At the time of his arrest, his lawyer stated that Zemmouri had nothing to do with the burglary or terrorism in Syria. He stated that he had only come into contact with Huwari, who came to Belgium in 2014, shortly before his arrest when an American TV crew asked to interview them both for a documentary.

At the time of the arrest, Huwari was also accused of recruiting fighters for the war in Syria; Belgium is the European country that has had the most mercenary fighters travel to Syria. A senior counterterrorism official told CNN "We have dismantled a serious recruiting network for Syria." This was not mentioned later.

The case involved nine defendants, three of whom were charged with terrorism-related offenses. One of the three was acquitted in full. Huwari was sentenced to 12 years in prison for running a terrorist group. One other person was sentenced for membership of a terrorist organization. Other sentences, including Zemmouri's for conspiracy, related to the thwarted burglary only.

Reporting of the case has been contradictory and patchy. The Belgian authorities did not initially identify Huwari, referring to him only as "Soufiane A.," placing the focus on Zemmouri, who is better known to the Belgian media. Zemmouri was placed in solitary confinement after his arrest. He was given a 40-month suspended sentence.

Huwari's name only emerged when the case went to trial in June 2016; he became the main suspect. In a country where there is a constant threat of terrorism the case has surprisingly attracted little attention. From the few details made public, the case is rather peculiar.

A number of the co-defendants were illegal immigrants allegedly recruited by Huwari. With no statements or explanation of their motives offered by the defendants or their lawyers, it may well be the case that most of them had inadequate legal representation. The fact that two of the defendants were once held at Guantánamo seems to have trumped the need to provide public evidence for the case or the convictions.

Neither Zemmouri nor Huwari were ever charged or tried at Guantánamo. Huwari was held there from 2003 to 2008 after having been captured in Georgia, allegedly by the local Mafia, and sold to the CIA, at a time when Georgia was reportedly "under pressure from the United States" to capture and transfer foreign suspects to US custody. He was then rendered to Afghanistan where he was held in secret CIA prisons for a year, including the Salt Pit, before being taken to Guantánamo.

Back in Algeria, he was sentenced in absentia to 35 years in jail on the basis of claims he was a member of a terrorist organization made by the US military. Due to such arbitrary actions by the Algerian authorities, concerns were raised about the return of other Algerian prisoners to the country. He is then reported to have left the country and travelled to a number of other countries, including Syria, before arriving and settling in Laeken, Brussels, legally in 2014.

With convictions from the 1990s for illegal entry into France and the risk he is said to pose, one can only question why Belgium would have allowed him to enter the state in the first place, even if, as it claims, he was placed under considerable police surveillance immediately after. Huwari is reported to have also been involved in ordinary criminal activity and other burglaries. The terrorism link appears to be predicated on his arbitrary detention at Guantánamo.

Aside from having also been held at Guantánamo, Zemmouri's story is quite different. He was kidnapped in Pakistan in 2001 and sold to the US military. He was held at Guantánamo from 2002 to 2005, when he was released with another Belgian national. The US accused him of having ties to a Moroccan terrorist organization and the Belgian authorities later accused him of ties to its Belgian cell, when it went on trial in 2006.

In 2009 charges were dropped against him and the other returnee due to insufficient evidence. He wrote a book about his experiences entitled Innocent in Guantánamo and in 2010, lawyers brought a case against the Belgian state: "Belgium should have intervened in his case, but it reacted far too slowly." Since his return to Belgium, he has been under heavy surveillance by the authorities.

In spite of various attempts to tie him to terrorist organizations and plots, this is the first time he has been linked to such a case. According to his lawyer Walter Van Steenbrugge, he remains "a thorn in the side of the Belgian judicial system" and has been the subject of a witch-hunt by the authorities.

Continuing persecution after prisoners take legal action against their detention at Guantánamo is not unusual. A week after the Belgian trial in June, another trial was held in Spain involving former Guantánamo prisoner Lahcen Ikassrien, a Moroccan national. He denied charges of being the ringleader of a terrorist cell raising funds in Madrid for the Islamic State militant group.

Extradited to Spain after his release without charge from Guantánamo in 2005, all charges against him in Spain were dropped in 2006. He resumed a normal life and did not come to the attention of the authorities until his arrest in 2014. During the trial, he condemned terrorist acts. No judgment has yet been made.

Months before his arrest, a complaint he had filed, along with several other former prisoners, in 2009 against George Bush for his illegal detention and torture was reopened by the Spanish judiciary.

Years after release, former Guantánamo prisoners, who have never been charged, remain pawns in other people's games. Used to justify extralegal activity by the Bush administration, the US and its allies continue to use them for similar purposes today. Former Guantánamo prisoners are tenuously linked to current conflicts to justify illegal and disproportionate responses to them; the cases cited are not exceptional. With foreign states, particularly in Europe, increasingly involved in the persecution of former Guantánamo prisoners, it is an endorsement by them of the practices there and a means for them to justify the ongoing erosion of the rule of law worldwide in so-called efforts to combat terrorism.

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Speakout Fri, 22 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400