Monthly Archives: March 2016

With Underwater Blasting Plans, ‘Unacceptable Risk’ Awaits Atlantic Marine Life

Though Obama administration dropped plans for Atlantic offshore drilling, possibilty of dangerous seismic airgun blasting remains

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. published 3-30-2016

North Atlantic right whales. (Photo: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, NOAA Research Permit # 665-1652)

North Atlantic right whales. (Photo: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, NOAA Research Permit # 665-1652)

When the Obama administration announced earlier this month that it was reversing its plans to open the mid- and south-Atlantic to oil and gas drilling, environmental groups cheered.

But, as a new set of maps from ocean conservation group Oceana shows, “entire marine communities” in those waters from Delaware to Florida are still under threat. Continue reading

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Former Bush Official Just Confirmed That Our Wars Are for Corporate Interests

By Claire Bernish. Published 3-29-2016 by The Anti-Media

A Blackwater Security Company MD-530F helicopter in Baghdad, Iraq, 2004. Photo by Master Sgt. Michael E. Best (Public Domain)

A Blackwater Security Company MD-530F helicopter in Baghdad, Iraq, 2004. Photo by Master Sgt. Michael E. Best (Public Domain)

“I think Smedley Butler was onto something,” Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former George W. Bush administration heavyweight, told Salon in an exclusive interview.

Major General Smedley Butler earned the highest rank in the U.S. Marine Corps, accumulating numerous accolades as he helped lead the United States through decades of war. He later became an ardent critic of such militarism and imperialism.

“War is a racket,” Butler famously said, and Wilkerson — who has also turned critical of U.S. imperialist policy — agrees with and admires the esteemed Marine. Continue reading

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We love being Lakota

“The Native and the Refugee” documentary project explores the similarities between the struggles and experiences of Native Americans and Palestinians.

By Matt Peterson and Malek Rasamny. Published 4-12-2015 by ROAR Magazine

Wounded Knee, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota. Entrance gate to cemetery. Photo: Napa (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Wounded Knee, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota. Entrance gate to cemetery; the location of the Hotchkiss gun used during Wounded Knee Massacre and later a mass grave for the victims. Photo: Napa (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

In December 2014, we visited the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in what is now South Dakota. We chose to begin our project at the archetypal site of struggle for land, sovereignty and autonomy among natives in the United States. It was the Lakota people, including warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, who put up some of the most historic fights against the US military forces in the nation’s expansion westward.

In the 1876-1877 Black Hills War, the US intervened militarily on behalf of settlers searching for gold in the Lakota’s most sacred site, now known as the Wind Cave National Park. It was in this context that the Battle of Little Bighorn took place, when the Lakota famously defeated George Armstrong Custer’s Battalion of the 7th Cavalry. Pine Ridge was later the site of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre, in which that same 7th Cavalry killed hundreds of Lakota in its struggle to disarm and forcibly relocate them to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Continue reading

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Fourth World: Why America Won’t Be a First World Country For Long

By Chris “Kikila” Perrin. Published 3-19-2016 by Underground Reporter

Photo: Stan Wechers/Flickr

Photo: Stan Wechers/Flickr

Before George Manuel published The Fourth World: An Indian Reality, the idea that any real differences existed among population groups in fully developed countries was still taboo. At the time, Indigenous rights were still something of a political non-issue, a blemish on a relatively clean looking statistical sheet that First World countries paid lip service to all too infrequently. Since then, an increasing amount of scholarship seeks to understand the differences between Fourth World populations living inside First World countries.

The Fourth World, basically, are populations living within a state who have little or no representation by that state. These populations, from the standpoint of the First World, are generally impoverished and would not fit the criteria for a “First World” country. They are, essentially and literally, the oppressed. It is what we see as the Third World when we are looking at Africa and South America, hidden within the First World just outside our doors. Unfortunately, the Fourth World is growing. Continue reading

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Chomsky, Snowden, Greenwald on Privacy in the Age of Surveillance

Panel discussion challenges the rhetoric that national security requires that governments can access individual communications.

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-26-2016

Photo via Facebook

Photo via Facebook

What is privacy and what is an individual’s right to it?

That is the question that renowned linguist and MIT professor Noam Chomsky, National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, and Intercept co-founding editor Glenn Greenwald sought to answer on Friday evening as the three (virtually) shared a stage for a panel discussion at the University of Arizona in Tuscon.

Coming amid the FBI’s public battle against Apple as well as days after the bombings in Brussels last week, which have spurred another round of calls for heightened security and surveillance, the conversation challenged the rhetoric that national security requires that governments can access individual communications. Continue reading

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Whispers of War in North Kurdistan — a photo essay

Many Kurdish towns across Turkey lie in ruin, but Yüksekova — a bulwark of the PKK — has so far escaped destruction. Still the war is always present

By Alex Kenman. Published 3-8-2016 by ROAR Magazine

Egid called me today to tell me that the situation in his hometown is rapidly deteriorating. It’s been nine months since I last saw him in Yüksekova, or Gever in Kurdish, in southeastern Turkey.

Egid is a positive man. Despite the hardships he and his people face on a daily basis, he has the capacity to enjoy life to the fullest wherever he is. Actually, it may well be that it is precisely because of those hardships that he is so positive, as a sort of self-preservation mechanism. Violence, repression and uncertainty are common themes in his daily life.

On July 20, 2015, Süleyman, a 25-year-old teacher, was killed together with 32 other primarily Kurdish activists in the Suruç suicide attack. Two days later, when his body was brought to Yüksekova, the whole city shut down. Hundreds of cars filled the main highway to show their respect and thousands of people attended the funeral.

I often envy him for his positive attitude. With him, any ordinary situation would turn into something special; whether we would be secretly drinking beers at night in his cousin’s van, or simply having a chat over a cigarette in the kitchen. He has learned to appreciate and accept life the way it is.

Egid often calls me to cheer me up, when by all means it ought to be the other way around. He tells me how I should feel blessed to live in such fortunate circumstances.

But this time it was different.

He called to say he had lost all hope. He seemed upset, explaining that while he and his family are okay right now, he doesn’t know what will happen in a few weeks’ time. They are expecting the Turkish military to come soon, after the snow has melted, to do to Yüksekova what they already did to Cizre, Sur, Sirnak, Nusaybin and all those other places: “To wipe out all terrorists.” They fear they will be trapped inside their houses, with no food, medical care, media, or observers, and that they will risk getting killed whenever they step outside. In English this situation is translated as a “curfew”, but that’s not the right word to describe the situation. It’s a military siege.

Op het verspreiden of bezitten van PKK propaganda staan zware straffen, desondanks zijn ze populair in Yüksekova. Een centrum van PKK aanhangers.

The distribution or possession of PKK magazines like this may lead to imprisonment and terrorist charges. Nevertheless, they remain popular throughout Yüksekova, a center of resistance.

Yüksekova, just like Cizre, is one of those towns infamous for its decades-long resistance. The PKK has always been very popular here, and it still is. Referring to Yüksekova and the surrounding Hakkari province, Abdullah Öcalan once said, “This is where we are strongest.” Indeed, beyond the military outposts this territory is ruled, or at least strongly contested, by the PKK.

From here, Qandil — where the guerrilla’s headquarters are based — is only a stone’s throw away, on the other side of the border between Turkey and Iraq. Traditionally, Spring is when the fighting starts, as the snow-capped mountains become a little bit more accessible, both for the Turkish army and the PKK.

It is in Hakkari where one can come to a true understanding of what the Kurdish struggle is all about. The ever-present conditions of the ongoing war are impossible to ignore, and it inevitably maneuvers its way into all aspects of daily life.

05 Hakkari, Alex Kemman

This sports hall was set on fire during a protest. Governmental buildings are often set on fire as they are easier targets than police and military buildings.

Yüksekova has thus far escaped the fate of many other towns and cities across Bakur, or North Kurdistan. Egid’s family’s house is still safe, for now, but guarantees are a scarce commodity in these critical times. If the Turkish military attacks, the people of Yüksekova will resist fiercely, that much is sure.

Back in 2013, Egid feared that if the peace process were to come to an end, the war would erupt like never before. He saw the youth around him, the next generation, and realized that they were much more radicalized than him. So much so that these youngster appeared to be willing to fight to the very end. This is what the region has witnessed with the YDS, the so-called “Civil Protection Units”, made up of heavily armed and radicalized youths.

In the people’s experience, the situation now is worse than it was at the height of the conflict in the 1990s. People are desperate, and every time it seems impossible for things to get worse, the conflict is escalated to a whole new level.

12 Hakkari, Alex Kemman

A VICIOUS CYCLE OF VIOLENCE

One night in August we sat in front of Cihan’s house, one of Egid’s friends. We smelled the teargas and tried to discern the different loud bangs in the distance. Were they explosions, gunfire, or something else? We tried to figure out what was going on, but with the internet not working and the media silenced, this proved an impossible task. Cihan said that things hadn’t been this bad in years, that there’s often the sound of gunfire but not for three hours straight, as happened that particular evening.

Some say there are so few birds left in Yüksekova because they all died from the teargas, which fills the air of the town on a regular basis. Ironically this has created a metal recycling business among kids to earn some money.

We were lucky this time, because the fighting often takes place right next to the house. The traditional thick walls of the house have too often proven their necessity as bulletproof entrenchment.

The sound of gunfire and whiffs of teargas that reached us were only the whispers of the war that was taking place around us, but they carried with them the fear for the well-being of friends and family elsewhere in the town.

Cihan is from a politicized family. His younger brother has just been released after five years in jail. His father had been in prison for ten years, and many of his uncles and cousins are still locked up, while others are with the guerrilla forces in the mountains.

14 Hakkari, Alex Kemman

Sahit never says goodbye. He isn’t accustomed to it, because in prison you never leave. He was imprisoned at the age of 15, as a preventive measure. It would be 17 years before he was eventually released. “The world changed. It was a new world, I felt like aliens had landed. When I left there were one or maybe two televisions in the whole city. Now everyone had one. Most of all, I left as a child, but I didn’t realize I had grown up. Society had changed and I didn’t know how to cope with it.”

15 Hakkari, Alex Kemman

Rojda’s family originally came from Iran, their grandfather was a famous revolutionary who fought the Shah in Iranian Kurdistan. They fled when her husband would risk a death sentence in Iran. In Turkey he was betrayed, and served a long time in jail. Her youngest son has been in prison too. When he went on hunger strike together with many fellow Kurdish prisoners in 2012 to ask for more rights, she joined in solidarity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cihan’s brother tells about the first night of their father’s imprisonment. They put him in a certain position, one thumb bound to the ceiling in such a way that he could just reach the floor with his toes. The prison guards laughed “Welcome! This is just your first night, we’ll be easy on you”. Cihan’s father still has a problem with that thumb.

They tortured the man for a month. For ten years he was imprisoned. When he came back he was a mere shadow of the man he used to be. He would not join family dinners, and although his smile never left his face he became a very distant person. His world consists of the house and the front yard — the outside world is something he can’t handle.

08 Hakkari, Alex Kemman

“We love enough to die for the sake of life.” Above, Mehmet Hayri Durmuş, Kemal Pir, Akif Yılmaz, Ali Çiçek started a hunger strike until death in 1982 in Diyarbakir prison. The people at the bottom row were also on long hunger strikes.

Each of the rooms in the house has a television. At least one was always on. Apparently it eased his mind. However, when the situation throughout Turkey started to escalate, Cihan’s father became more restless. The news was all about the latest clashes and the question that was on everyone’s mind: “Will there be war?”

The present situation that has been going on for so long is about whole generations and entire cities being traumatized; about daughters and sons getting killed, brothers and sisters imprisoned. Despite all that, even while for a moment even Egid lost his hope, he picked himself up and said: “It doesn’t matter, we will win. We will teach them the reality is right, unavoidable. You were there! You are my friend and you took all these pictures. Maybe one day you will show them.”

portraits

They came at midnight. First they went to the wrong house. We were away doing construction work, and came home late in the night. They took him violently. We don’t know when he will be released. My oldest son is a guerrilla, he joined at his seventeenth, he is 22 years old now. I haven’t seen him for almost six years. My imprisoned son was photographed at a protest. It was unfair.


They came through the garden in the middle of the night, and broke our door and windows. They aimed a gun at my daughter’s head. They searched everything and then took my son. They beat him with sticks, they beat him in front of us. They tortured him for eight days, until he had a heart attack. He had to go to the hospital.
He was 18 or 19 when they took him. It’s been ten months now. They accused him of killing three soldiers. The thing is, it’s all a lie. The killers have already been arrested, and the court says he’s not guilty. Still, they keep him. Next month there will be another court case.


We were still awake as we just came back from work. Around 3am the special forces came. They tried to break open the door. I opened it and asked what they wanted. They just rushed in and aimed their gun at my little boy. When I shouted “don’t do that!” they put me on the floor, face down, and broke my finger. They also attacked my neighbor and broke three of his teeth.
My son was sleeping, they arrested him. Later they came back with him, they wanted the gun. There wasn’t a gun. I swear to allah, we do not have a gun. They started beating my son. My son was very angry. They kept beating him. We can actually forgive them. We just want our son back.

Alex Kemman

Alex Kemman is a criminologist, anthropologist and photographer. Presently he is working on a book that combines personal experiences and people’s stories in a context of state repression in the Hakkari province. Visit his website at alexkemman.org

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Amid Crackdown on Dissent, Nobel Laureates Demand Freedom for Turkish Journalists

Case of Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, who face life in prison, demonstrates “the sorry state of freedom of expression in Turkey”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-24-2016

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. (Photo: public domain)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. (Photo: public domain)

In a letter denouncing the “the increasing climate of fear and censorship and the stifling of critical voices in Turkey,” over 100 noted international writers including Nobel laureates urge Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to free two journalists facing potential life sentences.

Signatories to the PEN International letter, dated Thursday, include Margaret Atwood, J.M. Coetzee, Monica Ali, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Yann Martel.

“In recent years,” the letter states, “the Turkish authorities have made extraordinary efforts to silence critics and dissent, as documented in PEN’s recent report on free expression in the country. This has had an impact on all areas of Turkish society, from the harsh repression of peaceful protesters in Gezi Park; to the increasing crackdown on freedom of expression online; to the arrest and detention of dozens of writers, journalists and academics.” Continue reading

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‘Hands Off My Birth Control’: Activists Demand US Supreme Court Protect Women’s Health

‘Denying any woman the healthcare she needs and is guaranteed by law is discrimination, plain and simple’

By Nika Knight, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-23-2016

'The question is, will the Court sanction the use of religion to discriminate?' wonders an American Civil Liberties Union legal expert. (Photo: Planned Parenthood/Twitter)

‘The question is, will the Court sanction the use of religion to discriminate?’ wonders an American Civil Liberties Union legal expert. (Photo: Planned Parenthood/Twitter)

The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on Wednesday in Zubik v. Burwell, a reproductive rights case with high stakes and implications “far beyond the realm of reproductive healthcare,” as ProPublica observed.

In a case reminiscent of Hobby Lobby’s successful suit that permitted the for-profit corporation to refuse its employees healthcare coverage for birth control, in Zubik v. Burwell religious organizations argue that allowing their female employees to access birth control—even birth control provided by a third party—violates their religious rights. Continue reading

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As Climate Records Shatter, Lights Dim Worldwide in ‘Call to Switch on Our Collective Power’

Earth Hour 2016 ‘reminds us that we are also witnessing mounting momentum to change climate change’

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-20-2016

Paris takes part in Earth Hour 2016 turning off lights at the Eiffel Tower. (Photo: Yann Caradec/flickr/cc)

Paris takes part in Earth Hour 2016 turning off lights at the Eiffel Tower. (Photo: Yann Caradec/flickr/cc)

Cities worldwide turned off their lights for an hour Saturday night to mark this year’s Earth Hour and highlight the pressing need for global climate action.

According to the Earth Hour movement’s website, 2016’s celebration—the tenth time the annual event has taken place—was the biggest ever, with an “unprecedented 178 countries and territories” taking part,” and including “1.23 million individual climate actions, from petitions to on-the-ground activities.

“Every light switch turned off represents a call to switch on our collective power and be the first line of defense for our planet as we form the frontlines of climate change,” said Siddarth Das, Executive Director of Earth Hour Global. Continue reading

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If Trump’s Racism Shocks You, So Too Should AIPAC’s

By Samantha Brotman. Published 3-21-2016 by Common Dreams

Reuven Rivlin, president of Israel, meeting senior managers of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), January 14 2015. Photo: Mark Nayman, Government Press Office, Israel - מארק ניימן, לע"מ [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Reuven Rivlin, president of Israel, meeting senior managers of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), January 14 2015. Photo: Mark Nayman, Government Press Office, Israel – מארק ניימן, לע”מ [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The 2016 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference is currently underway in Washington, DC. The conference is no small affair; as is the case every year, there is a star-studded speakers list. This year, nearly all of the American presidential candidates are scheduled to speak, each no doubt hoping to convince conference goers that they love Israel more than their competitors in the presidential race.

All of this would be business as usual were it not for the controversy stirred up by Donald Trump’s participation in the conference. Many Jewish and non-Jewish groups and individuals plan to protest Trump at AIPAC this week because he does not reflect their values. Trump’s flagrantly racist statements and violent and exclusionary rhetoric are deeply troubling to many across the political spectrum. But it is important to note that AIPAC inviting Trump is not an aberration, it is in line with AIPAC’s mission to support Israel regardless of how illegal and repressive its policies are. Continue reading

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