“Burn all of them down, but first nail the doors and windows shut.”
”If you want to achieve the full effect, wait until the house is full of people.”
These are just two examples of the several thousand remarks left by Sweden Democrats’ online following the most recent case of arson; an incident that left a home sheltering 14 refugees destroyed. One Internet thread detailed the various recipes and necessary ingredients to make napalm.
The formerly obscure and enfeebled Sweden Democrats (SD) – a far right, anti-immigrant, nationalist party whose roots are in neo-Nazism – has been transformed into one of the most potent political forces in Sweden. By transmogrifying immigrants into villains – enemies of both the welfare state and Swedish values – the party has gleaned over 25 percent of the popular vote. Continue reading →
“The lines of demarcation in TTIP are between the mutually exclusive interests of transnational big business and people and the planet; if the deal passes, the former wins and the latter lose,” writes Mark Dearn. (Photo: Global Justice Now/flickr/cc)
Amid warnings that the proposed TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) could undermine global attempts to rein in runaway climate change, new documents reveal that EU trade officials gave U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil access to confidential negotiating strategies considered too sensitive to be released to the European public.
The documents, obtained by the Guardian, offer “an extraordinary glimpse into the full degree of collusion between the European commission and multinational corporations seeking to use TTIP to increase U.S. exports of fossil fuels,” said John Hilary, the director of the UK organization War on Want. “The commission is allowing the oil majors to write the proposed energy chapter of TTIP in their favor.” Continue reading →
In the last 48 hours of the news cycle, two stories have emerged that specifically point to one of the causes of rising xenophobia sweeping across the country.
Image source: Fox News/screenshot from November 23, 2015.
In Minneapolis, the press described the perpetrators of violence as “white supremacists” when a protest of the Black Lives Matters movement witnessed 5 participants being wounded.
Most recently, a shooting at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs described the person as a “perpetrator,” “shooter,” or “suspect.”
When the attacks in Paris occurred on November 13, all news accounts accurately identified those involved in the attack as “terrorists.”
Terror is not a term that depicts culture, race or ethnicity. It is a term that defines the intent of those who use its tactics as a weapon: violence that is committed by a person, group, or government in order to frighten people and achieve a political goal.
All three of these stories are clearly incidents of terror taken from recent headlines. Yet, only once are the criminals described as terrorists. This refusal depicts a deeper divide in the way in which stories are reported: “Us vs. Them” is western white civilization against everyone except western white civilization. The last time the term “terrorist” was applied to a white caucasian was in the cases of Timothy McVeigh and Erich Rudolph, prior to 9/11.
Never before have we seen a public shift in opinion as quickly as we have seen on this issue. At the end of August, when a 3-year-old Kurdish boy’s body washed up on the shores of the Aegean Sea, the photo went viral and the international outcry was to help the Syrian refugees. After the Paris attacks, those same doors that had just been flung open were slammed shut in the faces and hopes of refugees with no where to go and no one to protect them.
In America, presidential candidates talked about ankle bracelets, arm bands and “centralized camps” for Muslims, and a requirement to register in a national database. America threw all Constitutional rights, human rights and history out the window with the bathwater in the clamor to “one-up” the last attack on Muslims, all to make a political point. And the result has been to create an atmosphere of total fear in every Muslim community in America possible.
Muslims in America fear ISIS and now fear those that believe they are part of ISIS just as much. This misconception is brought about in part by a western news media that continuously describes attacks by Muslim extremists as terror and acts by caucasian terrorists as anything but a terror attack carried out by a terrorist.
Until we call them what they truly are, terrorists will win by virtue of the way we report their crimes. Don’t call a terrorist a shooter, lone wolf, perpetrator, mentally ill person, white supremacist, gunman, suspect, or by any other name used to soften the impact on the society in which the crime occurred.
The only other choice is to strike the word terror or terrorist from usable words to describe violence that is committed by a person, group, or government in order to frighten people and achieve a political goal.
Come to think of it, isn’t that what these candidates are actually doing?
Retail giant Walmart enlisted the help of a private military contractor and the FBI to spy on workers pushing for a $15 hourly wage and organizing Black Friday protests in 2012 and 2013, newly released documents (pdf) reveal.
“We are fighting for all workers to be paid a fair wage and enough hours to put food on the table and provide for our families,” said Mary Pat Tifft, a Wisconsin Walmart employee of 27 years. “To think that Walmart found us such a threat that they would hire a defense contractor and engage the FBI is a mind-blowing abuse of power.”
A document made public Tuesday by worker organization OUR Walmart reveals company testimony to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in January stating that Walmart had enlisted the help of arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin and the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force to monitor workers who were organizing for higher wages and the right to unionize. OUR Walmart workers said they were illegally fired and disciplined for taking part in the “Ride for Respect” strike during Walmart’s shareholder meeting in June of 2013.
But the surveillance had long been in progress. Walmart executives mobilized the so-called “Delta” emergency response team in 2012 when they first got wind of plans for a nationwide Black Friday worker strike. As Bloomberg explained in an investigative piece published Tuesday, “the stakes were enormous.” In addition to the NLRB testimony, the new reporting states, “The details of Walmart’s efforts during the first year it confronted OUR Walmart are described in more than 1,000 pages of e-mails, reports, playbooks, charts, and graphs.”
“Any attempt to organize its 1 million hourly workers at its more than 4,000 stores in the U.S. was an existential danger,” Bloomberg‘s Susan Berfield wrote. “Operating free of unions was as essential to Walmart’s business as its rock-bottom prices.”
During that time, about 100 workers were actively involved in recruiting for OUR Walmart, but employees (or associates, as they’re called at Walmart) across the company were watched; the briefest conversations were reported to the “home office,” as Walmart calls its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.
[….] Walmart’s aim isn’t only to watch 100 or so active members of OUR Walmart, says Kate Bronfenbrenner, a lecturer at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. “They are looking for the thousands who are supportive so they can intimidate them.” Walmart declined to comment on her statement.
The FBI came on the scene next, after the company heard about plans for the Ride for Respect demonstration, which brought a caravan of striking workers to Bentonville for the shareholder meeting, during which 14,000 Walmart managers, investors, and hand-picked associates joined the founding Walton family for a week of events, including an Elton John performance.
A Delta team began operations. When global security heard that members of the Occupy movement might join the protests at corporate headquarters, they began working with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces. The documents from the NLRB hearing don’t provide any details about the collaboration or indicate whether it was unusual for Walmart to bring in the FBI. The bureau had worked with local police forces across the country as they dealt with Occupy protesters.
“With some assistance from LM [Lockheed Martin] we have created the attached map to track the caravan movements and approximate participants,” Kris Russell, a risk program senior manager, wrote to colleagues on May 30.
OUR Walmart brought the case after Walmart allegedly retaliated against Ride for Respect strikers by disciplining 70 participants and firing almost 20 of them. Walmart said it was simply enforcing its attendance policy.
Tifft, of the group’s Wisconsin chapter, said elected officials “should launch an official investigation and hold [Walmart] accountable. Instead of wasting their giant profits on every deceptive tactic under the sun to track low-wage workers going hungry, they should pay us what we earn and treat us with respect.”
As the nationwide movement for a $15 federal minimum wage claims more and more victories, workers are not backing down from their plans for this year’s protests.
“This Black Friday, we stand united in telling Walmart—enough is enough!” Tifft said.
It’s been nearly 400 years since the Wampanoag people encountered the starving, cold pilgrims in Plymouth Bay. With an already thriving agricultural model in fertile Massachusetts, the Indigenous tribe taught the uneducated British settlers how to cultivate their own food, eventually culminating in a three-day-long shared meal celebrating the harvest — and securing the future of colonial expansion in the United States.
That historical event, which will be memorialized at Thanksgiving tables across the country this week, reflects the fact that Native American tribes were once the most agriculturally prosperous groups of people in the U.S. But a lot has changed over the past several centuries. Continue reading →
Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has warned Turkey of ‘serious consequences’ after a Russia fighter jet was shot down close to Turkey’s border with Syria. Putin described the incident as a “stab in the back” and accused Turkey of siding with Islamic State militants in Syria. (Photo: Screenshot/Anadolu Agency)
Turkey has taken responsibility for shooting down a Russian fighter jet near the border with neighboring Syria on Tuesday, as both Moscow and Ankara put forth conflicting narratives about what led to the incident which has sparked an emergency meeting of NATO allies and strong rebuke from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Though some factual details remain contested, Reutersreports how this marks “the first time a NATO member’s armed forces have downed a Russian or Soviet military aircraft since the 1950s and Russian and Turkish assets fell on fears of an escalation between the former Cold War enemies.”
Early reports indicated that both Russian pilots had been able to eject from the plane before it crashed, but subsequent information has diverged about whether both, only one, or neither survived.
Officials in Turkey have said the plane was shot down by a Turkish F-16 after the Russian pilots ignored repeated warnings to leave Turkish airspace. One Turkish official was quoted as saying:”This isn’t an action against any specific country: Our F-16s took necessary steps to defend Turkey’s sovereign territory.”
Russian officials, however, have disputed the plane was in violation and slammed Turkey’s behavior. Putin, speaking from the city of Sochi ahead of a scheduled meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, called the incident a “stab in the back” and said the Russian plane was flying over Syrian territory when it was brought down.
“The loss today is a stab in the back, carried out by the accomplices of terrorists. I can’t describe it in any other way,” Putin said. “Our aircraft was downed over the territory of Syria, using air-to-air missile from a Turkish F-16. It fell on the Syrian territory 4km from Turkey. Neither our pilots nor our jet threatened the territory of Turkey. This is obvious.”
Turkey has made no secret that it dislikes how Russia has come to the aid of embattled Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and has repeatedly made warnings about Russian fighters jets crossing into its airspace and condemned the targeting of Syrian Turkmen and other rebel forces fighting against Assad who it views as allies. Following the incident and a request by Turkey, an emergency NATO meeting in Brussles has now been scheduled for all member states .
Footage of what is said to be the Russian SU-24 fighter going down and then bursting into flames just before impact was released on Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency:
Putin voiced disgust with the situation even as he said his government would assess all information before taking action. “We will analyse everything,” Putin said, “and today’s tragic event will have significant consequences, including for Russia-Turkish relations. We have always treated Turkey as a friendly state. I don’t know who was interested in what happened today, certainly not us. And instead of immediately getting in contact with us, as far as we know, the Turkish side immediately turned to their partners from Nato to discuss this incident, as if we shot down their plane and not they ours.”
The latest incident highlights the grave risks of clashes of arms between the various international forces that have intervened in Syria. A coalition led by the US is conducting an campaign against Isis in the country, and American and Russian officials have worked on ensuring there are no clashes between their forces as they pursue their separate campaigns.
But the shooting down of the Russian plane is an escalation that leaves open the possibility of a clash between a Nato member and Russia, whose intervention shows an increasing assertiveness in international affairs.
The so-called “corporate inversion” would allow Pfizer to profit from a lower corporate tax rate in Allergan’s home country of Ireland. (Photo: Chris Potter/flickr/cc)
Big Pharma just became Huge Pharma.
Creating the world’s largest drugmaker—and paving the way for higher pharmaceutical prices—Viagra-maker Pfizer Inc. and Allergan PLC, which manufactures Botox, said Monday that they would merge in a so-called inversion deal worth up to about $155 billion.
The takeover “would be the largest inversion ever,” according to the Wall Street Journal, allowing Pfizer to profit from a lower corporate tax rate in Allergan’s home country of Ireland.
The LA Timesreported that the deal “is likely to fuel critics’ concerns that consumers would pay even more for drugs as competition declines among manufacturers, insurers and retailers.”
As Gustav Ando, research director for the business information and consulting company IHS Life Sciences, told the Washington Post: “This merger isn’t meant to benefit patients, it isn’t meant to innovate in any kind of way…and certainly the benefits won’t be passed on to consumers.”
Addressing this aspect of the deal, presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Monday that the merger “would be a disaster for American consumers who already pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.”
What’s more, Sanders added, “[i]t also would allow another major American corporation to hide its profits overseas.”
While Pfizer cried poor in an effort to justify the merger—saying the U.S. corporate tax regime was forcing it to compete against foreign rivals “with one hand tied behind our back”—the coalition Americans for Tax Fairness showed earlier this month that the company had in fact “dramatically overstated its corporate tax rates” and was already enjoying a significant competitive advantage over those who pay their fair share.
And a Citizens for Tax Justice report released last month found that Pfizer has a stunning 151 subsidiaries in known foreign tax havens—more than all but five other Fortune 500 corporations.
As U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said in a speech on corporate tax reform last week, “Only one problem with the over-taxation story: It’s not true. There is a problem with the corporate tax code, but that isn’t it. It’s not that taxes are far too high for giant corporations, as the lobbyists claim. No, the problem is that the revenue generated from corporate taxes is far too low.”
On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department unveiled new rules aiming to curb tax-lowering inversion deals. But even at the time, analysts said “there was scarce evidence they would stop the biggest inversion of them all, between Pfizer Inc and Allergan Plc.” The Obama administration has said Congressional action is necessary to eliminate corporate inversions for good.
The discovery that several of the Paris attackers were European nationals has fueled concern about Muslim immigrants becoming radicalized in the West.
Some politicians have expressed views that the best way to avoid homegrown terrorists is to shut the door.
The refugee migration debate turned even more contentious after authorities found a Syrian passport at the scene of the attack. Poland is now turning back refugees, more than half of American governors have vowed to refuse Middle Easterners seeking a new beginning, and US House Speaker Ryan has asked for a “pause” on the federal Syrian refugee program.
Fearful reactions to terrorist violence are nothing new. Incidents of extremist activity are often followed by anti-Islam protests or hate crimes. Reports of ISIS luring Western Muslims abroad are followed by a tightening of homeland security policy. Just after the attacks in Paris, presidential hopeful Donald Trump said that he would be willing to close mosques in the US.
Such displays of intolerance can make Muslims feel like they don’t belong in Europe or the United States.
Our research, forthcoming in Behavioral Science and Policy, and in partnership with the World Organization for Resource Development and Education, shows that making Muslims feel this way can fuel support for radical movements. In other words, many Western policies that aim to prevent terrorism may actually be causing it.
In our research, we asked hundreds of Muslims in Germany and the US to tell us about their experiences as religious and cultural minorities, including their feelings of being excluded or discriminated against on the basis of their religion. We also asked how they balance their heritage identities with their American or German identities. We wanted to know if these kinds of experiences were related to their feelings toward radical groups and causes.
There are a lot of practical and ethical barriers to studying what makes someone become a terrorist.
We normally don’t know who terrorists are until after they’ve committed an attack. By then, we can only rely on after-the-fact explanations as to what motivated them. We can’t perform a controlled laboratory study to see who would participate in an act of terrorism. In surveys, we can’t ask someone straightforwardly how much they would like to join a radical movement, because most people who are becoming radicalized would not answer honestly.
Instead, we measured a couple of indicators of support for radicalism. We asked people how willing they would be to sacrifice themselves for an important cause. We also measured the extent to which participants held a radical interpretation of Islam. For example, we asked whether it’s acceptable to engage in violent jihad. Finally, we asked people to read a description of a hypothetical radical group and tell us how much they liked the group and how much they would want to support it. This hypothetical group consisted of Muslims in the US (or Germany, in the German study) who were upset about how Muslims were treated by society and would stop at nothing to protect Islam.
Overall, support for these indicators of extremism was very low, which is a reminder that the vast majority of Muslims do not hold radical views.
But the responses of some people showed they felt marginalized and identified with neither the culture of their heritage nor the culture of their adopted country.
We described people as “culturally homeless” when they didn’t practice the same customs or share the same values as others in their adopted culture, but also felt different from other people of their heritage.
We found that people who said they were torn between cultures also reported feeling ashamed, meaningless and hopeless. They expressed an overall lack of significance in their lives or a feeling that they don’t really matter. The more people’s sense of self worth was threatened, the more they expressed support for radicalism.
Our findings are consistent with a theory in psychology that terrorists are looking for a way to find meaning in their lives. When people experience a loss to their sense of personal significance – for example, through being humiliated or disrespected – they seek out other outlets for creating meaning.
Extremists know and exploit these vulnerabilities, targeting Muslims whose sense of significance is low or threatened. Radical religious groups give these culturally homeless Muslims a sense of certainty, purpose and structure.
For people who already feel culturally homeless, discrimination by the adopted society can make matters worse. In our data, people who said they had been excluded or discriminated against on the basis of their religion experienced a threat to their self-esteem. The negative effects of discrimination were the most damaging for people who already felt culturally homeless.
Our results suggest that cultivating anti-immigrant or anti-Islamic sentiment is deeply counterproductive. Anti-immigrant discourse is likely to fuel support for extremism, rather than squelch it.
Integration the goal
To decrease the risk of homegrown radicalization, we should work to improve integration of Muslim immigrants, not further isolate them. This means welcoming Syrian refugees, not excluding them. It means redefining what it means to be American or German in a way that is inclusive and doesn’t represent only the majority culture. It means showing interest in and appreciation for other cultural and religious traditions, not fearing them.
According to our data, most Muslims in the United States and in Germany want to blend their two cultures. But it is difficult to do this if either side pressures them to choose.
We should not confuse integration with assimilation.
Integration means encouraging immigrants to call themselves American, German or French and to take pride in their own cultural and religious heritage.
Our data suggest that policies that pressure immigrants to conform to their adopted culture, like France’s ban on religious symbols in public institutions or the “burqa ban,” are likely to backfire, because such policies are disrespectful of their heritage.
In the United States, the pressure to conform comes in the implicit meaning of the “melting pot” metaphor that underlies our cultural ethos. This idea encourages newcomers to shed their cultural uniqueness in the interest of forging a homogeneous national identity. In comparison, the “mixed salad” or “cultural mosaic” metaphors often used in Canada communicate appreciation for cultural differences.
In Germany, immigrants without sufficient German language skills are required to complete an integration course, which is essentially a tutorial on how to be German. Interestingly, we found that the more German Muslim participants perceived that Germans wanted them to assimilate, the less desire they had to do so. We also see these identity struggles in Muslim communities in France, where “being French” and “being Muslim” are thought to be mutually exclusive.
Our findings point to a strategy for reducing homegrown radicalization: encouraging immigrants to participate in both of their cultures plus curbing discrimination against Muslims. This strategy is better for both immigrants’ well-being and adopted cultures’ political stability.
For an example of how this can be done successfully, look to a jihadist rehabilitation program in Aarhus, Denmark, where the police work with the Muslim community to help reintegrate foreign fighters and find ways for them to participate in Danish society without compromising their religious values.
Communities can make it harder for terrorists to recruit by helping the culturally homeless feel more at home.
The National Security Agency (NSA) secretly replaced its program monitoring Americans’ emails and moved it overseas before the operation was exposed by Edward Snowden in 2013, according to new reporting.
NSA officials responded to Snowden’s leaks by stating that the email records program had shut down in 2011—and in a way, it had. But newly released documents show the agency had simply created a “functional equivalent” that analyzed Americans’ emails without collecting bulk data from U.S. telecommunications companies, the New York Times reported on Friday. Continue reading →
The 24/7 coverage, marked by speculation and sensationalism, is only helping the media conglomerates. (Image: CNN Screenshot)
Just as they did in the wake of 9/11, corporate media outlets—led by cable news networks—are spreading hysteria, fueling anti-immigrant sentiment, and beating the drum for war by providing “context-free coverage of terror,” as one analyst put it this week.
The 24/7 coverage of Friday’s attacks in Paris and their aftermath, marked by speculation and sensationalism, is only helping the media conglomerates.
According to Deadline: “Fox News Channel and CNN both logged their biggest primetime crowds of the year, excluding presidential debates, when viewers tuned in to learn about the attacks in Paris on Friday that killed at least 129 people and injured hundreds more. The two cable news networks traded hourly wins in the news demo that night.”
(Image: FOX News Screenshot)
But wall-to-wall “analysis”—bereft of actual facts or nuance—does little for the viewer, wroteJim Naureckas of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) on Tuesday. And it’s part of a historical pattern that only perpetuates war and conflict.
“The outpouring of no-context, ahistorical sympathy after 9/11 helped pave the way for a violent reaction that killed in Iraq alone roughly 150 times as many people as died in Lower Manhattan that day—an opportunistic catastrophe that did more to mock than avenge those deaths,” Naureckas argued.
Political analyst and media critic Heather Digby Parton, writing at Salon on Tuesday, agreed that the media has been complicit in pushing problematic foreign policy.
“It was well documented that during the run-up to the Iraq war there was tremendous pressure coming from the executive suite of the news networks to cheerlead for the administration,” she argued. “Those who resisted were marginalized and fired if they refused to go along. It’s unlikely that the word went forth on Saturday that reporters should get on a war footing and issue demands that the president use ‘the greatest military in the world’ to ‘take out these bastards.’ But they don’t have to say it explicitly do they? Everyone knows the drill.”
“There is no doubt the Republicans are getting ready to launch a full blown campaign of paranoid bloodlust which, if successful, would have devastating consequences,” Parton concluded. “The media were willing recruits in their cause fifteen years ago. Let’s hope they gather their wits about them before they take us down that dangerous road again.”
(Image: CNN Screenshot)
And it’s not just cable news networks that are the culprits.
While he praised a New York Times editorial on Wednesday that “mercilessly shames the despicable effort by U.S. government officials to…exploit the Paris attacks to advance long-standing agendas,” The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald criticized the Times‘ overall news coverage for failing to address how:
… particularly after a terror attack, large parts of the U.S. media treat U.S. intelligence and military officials with the reverence usually reserved for cult leaders, whereby their every utterance is treated as Gospel, no dissent or contradiction is aired, zero evidence is required to mindlessly swallow their decrees, anonymity is often provided to shield them from accountability, and every official assertion is equated with Truth, no matter how dubious, speculative, evidence-free, or self-serving.
“Like many people, I’ve spent years writing about the damage done by how subservient and reverent many U.S. media outlets are toward the government officials they pretend to scrutinize,” Greenwald continued. “But not since 2003 have I witnessed anything as supine and uncritical as the CIA-worshipping stenography that has been puked forward this week. Even before the Paris attacks were concluded, a huge portion of the press corps knelt in front of the nearest official with medals on their chest or who flashes covert status, and they’ve stayed in that pitiful position ever since.”
He added: “The leading cable news networks, when they haven’t been spewing outright bigotry and fear-mongering, have hosted one general and CIA official after the next to say whatever they want without the slightest challenge. Print journalists, without the excuse of the pressures of live TV, have been even worse: article after article after article does literally nothing other than uncritically print the extremely dubious claims of military and intelligence officials without including any questioning, contradiction, dissenters, or evidence that negates those claims.”
(image: MSNBC Screenshot)
Without real analysis and historical context, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past, said Rania Masri, associate director of the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship at the American University in Beirut, on Oregon’s KBOO radio this week.
“With that knowledge and understanding that we should look at what the French president is saying when he calls for—and I quote—a ‘pitiless war’,” she said. “Who will die next….given that it seems that the French government is unfortunately going to follow in the footsteps of the U.S. government?”
“Hundreds upon hundreds of Iraqis have been dying in Iraq every month since the U.S. invasion in 2003,” she said. “That recognition is criticial. Because we need to understand ISIS was born out of Iraq. ISIS was not born out of Syria. It was born from the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. It was that anger, that humiliation, that destruction of Iraq, that fueled the environment that led to ISIS.”
What these times demand, Masri declared, is the “liberation of the mainstream press from the corporate press…so that the media can return to its original objective, which is to inform, so we can become a more educated populace—not to entertain us and not to create more sensational journalism to empower our xenophobia.”