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Stark Racial Divisions in Reactions to Ferguson Police Shooting

Blacks and whites have sharply different reactions to the police shooting of an unarmed teen in Ferguson, Mo., and the protests and violence that followed. Blacks are about twice as likely as whites to say that the shooting of Michael Brown “raises important issues about race that need to be discussed.” Wide racial differences also are evident in opinions about of whether local police went too far in the aftermath of Brown’s death, and in confidence in the investigations into the shooting.

The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Aug. 14-17 among 1,000 adults, finds that the public overall is divided over whether Brown’s shooting raises important issues about race or whether the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves: 44% think the case does raise important issues about race that require discussion, while 40% say the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.

By about four-to-one (80% to 18%), African Americans say the shooting in Ferguson raises important issues about race that merit discussion. By contrast, whites, by 47% to 37%, say the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.

Whites Divided in Views of Police Response to Ferguson ShootingFully 65% of African Americans say the police have gone too far in responding to the shooting’s aftermath. Whites are divided: 33% say the police have gone too far, 32% say the police response has been about right, while 35% offer no response.

Racial Divide in Confidence in Investigations of Brown ShootingWhites also are nearly three times as likely as blacks to express at least a fair amount of confidence in the investigations into the shooting. About half of whites (52%) say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the investigations, compared with just 18% of blacks. Roughly three-quarters of blacks (76%) have little or no confidence in the investigations, with 45% saying they have no confidence at all.

Reactions to last week’s events in Ferguson divide the public by partisan affiliation and age, as well as by race. Fully 68% of Democrats (including 62% of white Democrats) think the Brown case raises important issues about race that merit discussion. Just 21% of Democrats (including 25% of white Democrats) say questions of race are getting more attention than they deserve. Among Republicans, opinion is almost the reverse – 61% say the issue of race has gotten too much attention while 22% say the case has raised important racial issues that need to be discussed.

Most Republicans Say Race Is Getting Too Much Attention in Teen ShootingBy a wide margin (55% to 34%), adults under 30 think the shooting of the unarmed teen raises important issues about race. Among those 65 and older, opinion is divided: 40% think the incident raises important racial issues while about as many (44%) think the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.

Republicans also are more likely than Democrats to view the police response to the Ferguson shooting as appropriate and to express confidence in the investigations into the incident. More Republicans think the police response has been about right (43%) than say it has gone too far (20%); 37% have no opinion. Democrats by 56% to 21% say the police response has gone too far (23% have no opinion). Nearly two-thirds of Republicans (65%) have at least a fair amount of confidence in the investigations into the shooting, compared with 38% of Democrats.

Comparing Reactions to Ferguson and Trayvon Martin

Fewer Whites Think Race Is Getting Too Much Attention than After Trayvon Martin Verdict  While on balance whites think that the issue of race is getting too much attention in the Ferguson shooting, a higher percentage of whites expressed that view last year after a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. After the Zimmerman verdict, 60% of whites said race received more attention in that case than it deserved; today, fewer whites (47%) say that about the shooting of the unarmed teen in Ferguson.

Partisan reactions to the two incidents are similar. Majorities of Republicans think that in both the Brown (61%) and Trayvon Martin (68%) cases, the issue of race receives too much attention. Majorities of Democrats say both cases raise important issues of race that need to be discussed (68% Brown, 62% Martin).

The Week’s News

In Busy News Week, No Single Story Stands Out for PublicRoughly one-in-four (27%) very closely followed news last week about the police shooting of African American teenager Michael Brown and subsequent protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Several other stories garnered similar interest, including the death of actor Robin Williams (27%) and news about the Ebola outbreak in Africa (25%). Similar shares also tracked news about U.S. airstrikes in Iraq (23%) and the situation between Russia and Ukraine (22%).

Blacks Show Most Interest in Ferguson NewsNews interest in Trayvon Martin’s death in 2012 and George Zimmerman’s trial in 2013 was large for several weeks. In March 2012, a few weeks after Martin’s death, 35% of the public followed that story very closely, including 70% of blacks and 30% of whites. Public interest in the Ferguson events was similar to interest in the April 2001 Cincinnati riots after a police officer killed black teenager Timothy Thomas (24%).

Interest last week about Ferguson was highest among non-Hispanic blacks. Fully 54% closely followed news about the shooting and protests, compared with 25% of non-Hispanic whites and 18% of Hispanics.

Death of Robin Williams Similarly Followed Across Age GroupsAs is typically the case, adults ages 65 and older paid closer attention than younger adults to many of the week’s news stories. Interest was somewhat similar, however, in regard to Robin Williams’ death. One-in-four adults 18-29 (25%) closely followed his death, compared with 34% of adults 65 and older.

One-in-five young adults (20%) closely followed news from Ferguson, less than the share of those 50-64 (34%) and 65 and older (33%). For the three international stories—Ebola outbreak, Iraq, and Russia-Ukraine—older adults’ interest also was much greater than that of younger adults.

About the Survey

The analysis in this report is based on telephone interviews conducted August 14-17, 2014 among a national sample of 1,000 adults 18 years of age or older living in the continental United States (500 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 500 were interviewed on a cell phone, including 274 who had no landline telephone). The survey was conducted by interviewers at Princeton Data Source and SSI under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. A combination of landline and cell phone random digit dial samples were used; both samples were provided by Survey Sampling International. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. Respondents in the landline sample were selected by randomly asking for the youngest adult male or female who is now at home. Interviews in the cell sample were conducted with the person who answered the phone, if that person was an adult 18 years of age or older. For detailed information about our survey methodology, see:

The combined landline and cell phone sample are weighted using an iterative technique that matches gender, age, education, race, Hispanic origin and region to parameters from the 2012 Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and population density to parameters from the Decennial Census. The sample also is weighted to match current patterns of telephone status, based on extrapolations from the 2013 National Health Interview Survey. The weighting procedure also accounts for the fact that respondents with both landline and cell phones have a greater probability of being included in the combined sample and adjusts for household size among respondents with a landline phone. Sampling errors and statistical tests of significance take into account the effect of weighting.

The following table shows the unweighted sample sizes and the error attributable to sampling that would be expected at the 95% level of confidence for different groups in the survey:

About the Survey 8-18-14

Sample sizes and sampling errors for other subgroups are available upon request. In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

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White House tracking website visitors with online ‘fingerprinting’

Published time: July 23, 2014 22:51

A screenshot from

A screenshot from

The White House is tracking visitors to its website, despite proudly promising that complies with federal privacy laws and does not use cookies. The AddThis tracker is present on every page on the site, according to EFF.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) studied the White House site for the new type of online tracking system after a new report by ProPublica found that the website contained the secretive spyware.

As RT previously reported, at least five percent of the internet’s top 100,000 websites are using canvas fingerprinting, a new kind tracking technology that is nearly impossible to block using conventional privacy tools.

Although there is more than one type of canvas fingerprinting, the most widely used software – and the type used by the White House – is developed by AddThis, and is reportedly employed on popular websites like online dating site PlentyOfFish, CBS, and even YouPorn. (A list of known sites using the software can be found here.)

Here’s how it works: When you visit a website that features such tracking technology, the site asks your browser to “draw a hidden image.” Since every computer renders the image in a different way, that drawing is used to label your device with a unique number that allows trackers to keep an eye on your browsing activity across the internet.

An AddThis spokesperson said that the company did not inform the websites in question when it put its tracking technology in place. After ProPublica’s original article was published, a YouPorn spokesperson said the website was unaware the app was tracking its users and has since removed the AddThis functionality.’s cookie policy promises, “We do not knowingly use third-party tools that place a multi-session cookie prior to the user interacting with the tool.” However, EFF found that the site lists AddThis as being present on some of its pages (but does not identify which ones). “We have yet to find one without AddThis, whether open or hidden,” EFF wrote on its Deeplinks blog.

Since canvas fingerprinting can’t be blocked by normal cookie management techniques or erased when users delete other cookies, the White House use of AddThis “is inconsistent with the White House’s promise that ‘Visitors can control aspects of website measurement and customization technologies used on’,” EFF wrote.

Tracking users in this way is nothing new. In October 2000, a congressional review found that, despite a prohibition against the practice, 13 government agencies were secretly using technology that tracks the internet habits of people visiting their websites, and in at least one case providing the information to a private company, the Associated Press reported. In August 2009, President Barack Obama announced plans to reverse a nine-year-old federal policy banning the use of web technologies to track and compile personal information of online visitors to federal internet sites, according to Judicial Watch.

AddThis said it does not use any data it gathers from government websites. So far, it claims to have only used data for “internal research and development.”

But relying on the promise from AddThis “is not the best privacy assurance,” said Princeton computer science professor Arvind Narayanan, who helped lead the research team responsible for uncovering the system.

To prevent canvas fingerprinting from being effective, EFF recommends using its Privacy Badger add-on, saying it “blocks spying ads and invisible trackers.” Other options include downloading theTor browser, which helps users avoid numerous types of online tracking, or blocking JavaScript from loading in your browser, which ProPublica notes could make many websites not work properly.

There’s also a browser in the works calledChameleon, which is specifically designed to block fingerprinting – but at this stage is only recommended for “tech-savvy users.”

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Modi anti-visa pressure came from multiple sources


U.S. Congressmen felt granting a visa to him would be contradictory to international law.

Lobbying by U.S. lawmakers, concern over extra-judicial deaths in Gujarat and the tenth anniversary of the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in the state combined into a multi-year wave of pressure against any possibility of the White House revising its decision to deny Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi an entry visa, according to U.S. State Department cables and other documents obtained by The Hindu through a Freedom of Information.

U.S. lawmakers pressed for sustained visa denial

In part, the Department’s close tracking of the legal challenges facing Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi stemmed from, and was used to compile a response to, pressure from domestic political constituencies that were intent on keeping the visa ban against Mr. Modi intact.

Between 2005 and 2008, at least 30 U.S. Congressmen wrote to the administration asking that Mr. Modi “should once again be denied admission to the U.S… [because] granting a visa to [him] would be contradictory to international law and would only serve to validate the Chief Minister’s abhorrent policies and actions.”

Most of the lawmakers focused on reports by the State Department and others that the Gujarat police in 2002 “were criticised for failing to stop the violence, and in some cases participating or encouraging it,” some referencing the 2003 Indian Supreme Court finding that “The state government of Gujarat led by Mr. Modi, had actively supported the anti-Muslim violence and ordered the police not to interfere.”

Of those who petitioned the State Department in this regard, 28 were Republicans, many Tea Party members, who made references to continuing tensions facing the Christian minority community in Gujarat.

Two members Keith Ellison and André Carson were from the Democratic Party, and drew attention to the fate of Muslims during the riots, including “the rape, gang-rape, and molestation of hundreds of Muslim women.”

In their responses to the Congressmen’s letters the State Department made a candid comment about Mr. Modi: “The Department of State is extremely sensitive to your concerns and we are cognisant of the human rights abuses Mr. Modi has committed.”

According to reports the Department said in its reply to the Congressmen’s letters that at the time no visa application for Mr. Modi had been located in their system and should one arrive it would be “adjudicated in strict accordance with the Immigration and Naturalisation Act,” including restrictions for those who violated religious freedom laws.

Concern over extra-judicial killings

Further, in 2011, several cables hinted at Washington’s concern surrounding extra-judicial killings in the state – notably the Ishrat Jahan ‘encounter killing’ case and the Haren Pandya whistleblower assassination episode.

Regarding the former, a U.S. cable dated April 2013 (DTG: 021156Z APR 13; CONFIDENTIAL, SENSITIVE) commented upon the arrest of five senior Gujarat police officers between February 21 and March 6 2013, on charges stemming from the 2004 killing of four Muslims, including a teenaged girl, Ishrat Jahan.

The officers had allegedly killed the innocent youths and falsified evidence to make them appear to be terrorists, the cable explained, adding, “Critics of… Modi say that these fake encounters were not the work of rogue officers but were an official state policy designed to instil fear [in] Muslims.”

Not only did the cable go on to quote retired police officer R.B. Sreekumar, former head of the Gujarat state intelligence during April-September 2002 corroborating this view, but the diplomatic mission directly spoke to those familiar with the matter to obtain further details.

Quoting a person whose name had been redacted the cable said, “… told ConGen Staff in March that the accused police officers feel they are scapegoats for implementing an official state policy to carry out extra-judicial killings. He added that the officers believe that the state government abandoned them after the SIT report was submitted… [and] have decided to vigorously contest the charges and to prove they were not ultimately responsible.”

The cable also cited a Tehelka magazine report, which said that during 2002-06 the Ahmedabad police, “killed approximately 17 individuals they then alleged were terrorists.”

The second aspect of extra-judicial killings that drew the attention of the U.S. was the 2003 “mysterious assassination” of Haren Pandya, whom a cable dated September 2011 (DTG: 090413Z SEP 11; UNCLAS, SENSITIVE) described as “a vocal critic of… Modi.” Further, Pandya’s family believed that “his murder was a deeper political conspiracy by Modi to silence Pandya,” the cable said.

The case came up again in 2011 after the Gujarat high court reversed the earlier conviction of 12 Muslims accused of murdering Mr. Pandya, and the cable said that the re-opening of the case could “bring to light new information regarding Pandya’s killing and potentially cause political and legal headaches for… Modi as he prepares for the 2012 state elections.”

The cable appeared particularly seized of the fact that the Gujarat High Court had criticised the Central Bureau of Investigation for accepting the Gujarat police theory that Mr. Pandya’s killing was “Muslim revenge for the 2002 anti-Muslim violence.” Accepting the verdict, the CBI has indicated that it would re-open the murder investigation, the cable underscored.

Riots anniversary

Finally the tenth anniversary of the 2002 Gujarat riots was a rallying point for those who criticised the slowness in the delivery of justice to the victims, according to the cables.

In a cable dated March 2012 (DTG: 010723Z MAR 12; SENSITIVE, UNCLAS) to Washington the Mumbai consulate said that commemoration events in Gujarat passed peacefully, with victims highlighting not only their painful experiences, but also the lack of compensation and rehabilitation for Muslims whose homes and businesses were destroyed during the violence.

“Ten years later, not everyone is convinced that Gujarat has moved on, and the riots remain Modi’s biggest obstacle to his national political ambitions,” the cable said.

In the face of public comments by Arun Jaitley, then the BJP’s leader in the Rajya Sabha, that “Gujarat has had a riot-free decade,” and that Mr. Modi’s opponents were using NGOs and media, the U.S. documented remarks by a name-redacted contact in Gujarat who said to them privately, “When you have succeeded in killing people and putting Muslims in ghettos, then there is no need for communal violence.”

The cable seemed to suggest that the U.S. was convinced that justice had not yet been served to riot survivors. It noted that an estimated 200,000 Muslims fled their homes after the riots, approximately 30,000 still lived in relief colonies, and more than 70,000 relocated to Muslim ghettos after selling their properties and businesses in previously mixed neighbourhoods to Hindu neighbours.

Additionally, given that the Gujarat government had not at the time compensated victims for property loss and “refused to rebuild places of worship and denied building permissions when communities wanted to rebuild on their own,” the cable posited, “the taint of the 2002 riots will continue to linger on into the 2014 national election campaign, when Modi will be angling to be the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister.”


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Nobel Peace Laureates Slam Human Rights Watch’s Refusal to Cut Ties to U.S. Government

Human Rights Watch’s affiliation with ex-CIA and NATO officials generates perverse incentives and undermine its reputation for independence.
Mairead Maguire et al.

July 8, 2014  |
In a May 12 letter published on AlterNet, two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and over 100 scholars, journalists and human rights activists called on Human Rights Watch to close its revolving door to the U.S. government. On June 3, HRW published a response from executive director Kenneth Roth on its website, arguing that their “concern is misplaced.” In a June 11 debate on Democracy Now!, HRW Counsel and Spokesman Reed Brody similarly rejected their recommendations. Now, Nobel Laureates Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel join fellow signatories Richard Falk (United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories from 2008-14) and Hans von Sponeck (UN Assistant Secretary General from 1998-2000) in demanding that their proposals be taken seriously, and additionally, that HRW remove former NATO Secretary General Javier Solana from its Board of Directors.

Dear Kenneth Roth,

While we welcome your stated commitment to Human Rights Watch’s independence and credibility, we are dismayed by your rejection of our common-sense suggestion for strengthening them: bar those who have crafted or executed U.S. foreign policy from serving as HRW staff, advisors or board members—or, at a bare minimum, mandate lengthy “cooling-off” periods before and after any associate moves between HRW and the foreign-policy divisions of the U.S. government.

Before addressing your letter’s objections to the three instances of HRW’s advocacy that suggest a conflict of interest, we would like toreiterate that they were “limited to only recent history,” and that other cases could have been raised as well. One obvious example of HRW’s failure to appropriately criticize U.S. crimes occurred after the 2004 coup d’état against the democratically elected government of Haiti. The U.S. government essentially kidnapped Haiti’s president;thousands of people were killed under the ensuing coup regime; and deposed officials of the constitutional government were jailed.

In the face of what were likely the worst human rights abuses of any country in the Western hemisphere at the time, HRW barely lifted a finger. HRW never hosted a press conference criticizing the coup or post-coup atrocities. In contrast to HRW’s appeals to the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Democratic Charter for Venezuelaand Cuba, HRW never publicly invoked the Charter in the case of Haiti, even as Articles 20 and 21 afforded multilateral measures “in the event of an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime.” HRW never placed an op-ed about the overthrow in a prominent newspaper. (In 2004 The New York Times alone published at least five HRW opinion pieces and four HRW letters on other subjects.) It is reasonable for outside observers to question whether this lack of response from HRW to such large-scale human rights violations had anything to do with U.S. foreign-policy priorities.

The very existence of such questions regarding HRW’s advocacy should be reason enough to impose sharp restrictions on HRW’s close ties to the U.S. government. Given the impact of global perceptions on HRW’s ability to carry out its work, simply the appearance of impropriety can impede HRW’s effectiveness. Closing HRW’s revolving door would be an important first step to allaying or preempting concerns that HRW’s priorities are compromised.

Concrete evidence of a revolving-door phenomenon between HRW and the U.S. government renders crucially incomplete your admission that “it is true that some served in the US government before or after their involvement with Human Rights Watch.” We provided examples of those who served in the U.S. government both before and after their involvement with HRW, a norm widely recognized to generate perverse incentives and undermine an institution’s reputation for independence.

For instance, you may disagree with our view that a former official of the Central Intelligence Agency—one of the world’s greatest institutional human rights violators over the past half-century—has no standing to advise on human rights issues for your organization. Surely you must concede, however, that a conflict of interest was raised when Miguel Díaz, the ex-CIA analyst in question, exploited the eight years of experience and relationships he accumulated within HRW’s advisory committee for his subsequent role as the U.S. State Department’s “interlocutor between the intelligence community and non-government experts.”

Your colleague, HRW Counsel and Spokesperson Reed Brody, seemed to misunderstand the nature of our proposal, arguing in a June 11 debate on Democracy Now! that “Miguel Díaz never worked at Human Rights Watch,” and that the organization is “a big tent—we’ve got people on the right; we’ve got people on the left.” In fact, our letter suggested prohibitions or cooling-off periods for “any associate,” including advisory-committee members like Díaz. Secondly, our proposals would not impact political diversity; rather, they would make it more difficult for those previously employed by human rights-abusing organizations like the CIA from adversely influencing HRW’s priorities or damaging HRW’s reputation.

It is important to further clarify our request, as Brody made two mutually irreconcilable claims: that “there is no revolving door,” and that “this revolving-door policy, if we implemented it, would have changed one person at Human Rights Watch.” Both statements are untrue. A cooling-off period, which all HRW associates would accept, would have prevented both Díaz and former HRW Washington director Tom Malinowski from almost immediately entering the U.S. State Department (Malinowski is now Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor), and would have also applied to Nik Steinberg, a senior researcher in HRW’s Americas division as of May 2014.

Just one week after you received our May 12 letter, Mr. Steinbergannounced that he was leaving HRW to take a position with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, which he described as an “extraordinary opportunity.” This is disturbing from a human rights perspective, because Ms. Power’s July 17, 2013confirmation hearing was riddled with provocative comments, including her evidence-free claim of an Iranian “nuclear weapons program,” her promise to “never apologize for America,” and her commitment to “work tirelessly to defend” Israel. After assuming her post, she advocated in favor of a U.S. strike against Syria in 2013, defending it as “legitimate” while tacitly acknowledging its illegality. She later declared that the United States has “nothing to apologize for” in Afghanistan, despite its record of numerous atrocities. Most recently, Ms. Power engaged in a coordinated media event with Henry Kissinger, whom Mr. Brody once referred to as a war criminal.

HRW’s proximity to Ms. Power damages HRW’s stated independence in light of her declarations that “the United States is the greatest country on Earth,” “the leader in human rights,” and “the leader in human dignity.” Shortly after leaving HRW, Malinowski similarly lauded the “bipartisan consensus for America’s defense of liberty around the world” and the “exceptional” nature of the United States at his own September 24, 2013 confirmation hearing.

Mr. Roth, we are deeply worried that Mr. Steinberg’s announced transition to Ms. Power’s office—a week after your receipt of our letter—is just one of many more revolving-door episodes that will continue to create perverse incentive structures within the organization. How can we expect HRW associates to be completely unafraid to hold human rights violators in the U.S. government accountable for their offenses and crimes when they are hoping to work for some of these very same functionaries immediately upon leaving HRW? That is the question that you must answer, Mr. Roth, in light of the transitions of Malinowski, Díaz and Steinberg to the U.S. State Department.

If you nevertheless object to prohibiting the involvement of U.S. foreign-policy officials at HRW or instituting cooling-off periods for them, we suggest, in parallel, an even narrower proposal: bar the participation at HRW of those who bear a direct responsibility for violating international humanitarian law. Javier Solana, currently a member of HRW’s board of directors, served as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Secretary General during its 1999 military campaign in Yugoslavia. NATO’s use of cluster munitions and its bombing of civilian targets in Yugoslavia led HRW itself to concludethat the organization “committed violations of international humanitarian law.”

Solana is therefore a poor choice for HRW’s board of directors. His removal from your board would signal HRW’s good-faith effort to bolster its independence and credibility as an advocate for human rights. When Mr. Brody was asked on Democracy Now! to respond to the argument that “those who bear direct responsibility for human rights violations should not be on the board of directors of an independent human rights organization,” Mr. Brody said, “I would agree with that.” We hope you concur with your colleague.

We will now address in turn your responses to the three cases of problematic HRW advocacy mentioned in our letter:

First, you objected to our concerns over the 2009 statements made by Tom Malinowski as HRW’s Washington director to the LA Times. He contended that “under limited circumstances” there was a “legitimate place” for renditions. You argue that our letter “mistakenly claims he was supporting unlawful CIA renditions,” and that “Malinowski was certainly not endorsing the CIA’s illegal rendition program, which entailed transferring individuals without due process protections to countries where they faced torture.” You further define renditions as simply “the transfer of a person in custody from one jurisdiction to another, which is legal under certain circumstances,” and cite extraditions as a legitimate form of rendition.

We appreciate your attempt to clarify Malinowski’s statement, which at the time provoked public consternation from law professors specializing in constitutional law and international law, such as Darren Hutchinson and Kenneth Anderson. This reaction arose because theLA Times article in question focused exclusively on CIA renditions and President Barack Obama’s executive order, which preserved them through a redefinition that allowed the transfer of suspects on a “short-term, transitory basis.” All CIA renditions, whether long- or short-term, whether they lead to torture or not, deny suspects the right to legal proceedings in which they can challenge their transfer from the country in question. Unlike commonplace extraditions, CIA renditions—extraordinary or otherwise—do not guarantee the detainees’ right to legal counsel or access to the court system of the country where they are seized.

In our previous letter to you, we cited Obama’s “preservation of renditions” as a serious human rights concern, and hyperlinked to a widely cited Open Society Justice Initiative report from 2013 which observed that Obama’s 2009 “executive order did not repudiate extraordinary rendition,” and that “it appears that the Obama administration did not end extraordinary rendition.” In light of this and the fact that the LA Times solely focused on an executive order pertaining to CIA renditions, Malinowski’s comment on their “legitimate place” was troubling and remains so, especially given his now-senior position within the Obama administration. Controversy around the practice persists, as exemplified by the headline of a 2013 Washington Post news article: “Renditions continue under Obama, despite due-process concerns.”

Malinowski’s subsequent statement to the LA Times was perhaps even more dubious, for additional reasons. As HRW’s Washington director, he paraphrased the Obama administration’s claim that designing an alternative to “people being sent to foreign dungeons to be tortured” was “going to take some time,” without questioning whether a gradual approach to ending such abuses was justifiable or even legal. For an organization that operates under the principle that human rights are absolute rights, not rights to be traded away for expediency or other political goals—which is the only way that a credible human rights organization can or should operate—such a statement should be deeply alarming. In fact, the Obama administration did proceed to “take some time,” sustaining the use of such “foreign dungeons” for years—likely up to the present day.

Numerous eye-witness testimonies led to articles by Der Spiegel in 2009 and the BBC in 2010 that reported on torture conducted under Obama’s presidency at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, where detainees have had no right to habeas corpus. A 2011 Nationinvestigative piece detailed the conditions of an underground “secret prison” in Somalia used by the CIA, which serves as a destination for U.S.-assisted renditions. U.S. officials are said to conduct joint “debriefings,” or interrogations, at the site. The report’s author, Jeremy Scahill, found that the prisoners were unable to be seen by the Red Cross, and “they are not ever presented with charges.”

We note with interest that none of the HRW reports on rendition that you listed and hyperlinked to in your letter refer to torture, CIA renditions, or long-term detention without due process that have occurred under the Obama administration. While we welcome HRW’s call for criminal investigations regarding Bush-era human rights abuses, it appears that HRW has not advocated for criminal investigations into any of these Obama-era abuses. In fact, two HRWresearchers have publicly fretted over the U.S. handover of the Bagram base to the Afghan government due to concerns over Afghanistan’s use of torture, without ever mentioning Obama-era, U.S.-directed torture at the same base. There may be some legitimate reason for HRW’s very different positions regarding the two administrations, but combined with the existence of HRW’s revolving door, they reinforce a reasonable suspicion that Malinowski’s inappropriate comments in 2009 as an HRW employee were influenced by his intention to serve in the Obama administration, and that HRW’s decidedly more muted position today on Obama’s policies is perhaps related to its ties to the administration.

Your second point pertains to our argument that in light of HRW’s 2012 letter to President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela questioning the country’s suitability as a candidate for the UN Human Rights Council, HRW had reason to write a similar letter to President Obama expressing reservations over the U.S. position in the same council. In our previous letter to you, we cited the U.S. record of human rights abuses that include a secret, global assassination program and theillegal detention of individuals at Guantánamo Bay. You have countered by avoiding a discussion of comparative abuses between the two countries, and have instead argued that for HRW, a “central concern on council membership is whether a government takes the council and its special procedures seriously,” and that Venezuela, unlike the United States, does not.

However, under no objective standard was this a “central concern” of the 2012 letter to Chávez signed by your colleagues José Miguel Vivanco and Peggy Hicks that we originally cited. After asserting in their introduction that “Venezuela currently falls far short of acceptable standards” in “promoting and protecting human rights,” Vivanco and Hicks outlined specific “policies and practices of [the Chávez] administration” and argued for their reversal. Their letter then dedicated the next 10 paragraphs to arguing that Venezuela has failed in the areas of judicial independence, media freedom and civil society. Before concluding their letter, Vivanco and Hicks devoted only one paragraph to “cooperation with the Human Rights Council.”

Given the broad scope of the content and priorities of HRW’s letter to Chávez, HRW simply has no tenable justification for its continued support of the U.S. presence on the UN Human Rights Council. Aside from its far grimmer human rights record than Venezuela, “[t]he United States is the only country to vote against all the Council’s resolutions focusing on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories,” admits HRW. “The US rejection of any resolution focusing on Israel and the [Occupied Palestinian Territories] and Israel [sic] exposes its double standards.” HRW’s own finding,coupled with the U.S. role in blocking the implementation of the Council’s recommendations of the Goldstone Report on Israeli war crimes during the Gaza attack of 2008-09, certainly weakens your letter’s claim that “on balance, the United States has played a constructive role at the Human Rights Council.”

It is not too late for HRW to demonstrate its independence from the U.S. government by writing a letter to President Obama outlining the most egregious U.S. human rights violations that should be reversed in order for the country to serve as a credible member of the UN Human Rights Council. HRW’s letter could demand an end to the Obama’s extrajudicial “kill list,” an authoritarian U.S. policy for which a Venezuelan analogue is nonexistent and inconceivable, and the letter could also condemn U.S. intransigence within the Council, particularly toward Palestinian human rights.

Our third and final example questioned HRW’s lack of opposition to Obama’s consideration of a missile strike on Syria in 2013—a violation of the UN Charter’s prohibition on the unilateral “threat or use of force” in international affairs. We appreciate your clarification of HRW’s mandate, “which is to monitor governments’ adherence to international human rights and humanitarian law.” We would urge HRW to consider expanding its purview to adopt the UN Charter as a foundation for its legal determinations due to the inevitable human rights violations that occur as a result of a war of aggression, considered the “supreme international crime” by the Nuremberg Tribunal.

We express our concern, however, that HRW’s stated neutrality on matters of war and peace is compromised by your public statements of questionable judgment. At the height of intense pressure for a U.S. bombing campaign on Syria in late August of 2013, you all but advocated military intervention on social media, while maintaining plausible deniability in the context of a climate of warmongering. Asampling of your tweets include:

  • To justify #Syria inaction, top US general trots out age-old ethnic animosities line. Heard that B4? Bosnia.
  • Top general suggests US is more interested in a geopolitical partner in #Syria than saving civilians from
  • It took chemical attack to convince Obama/Kerry that Assad isn’t interested in negotiated solution!? No more
  • If the appalling slaughter in #Syria won’t get Obama to act, maybe ridicule will:
  • If Obama decides to strike #Syria, will he settle for symbolism or do something that will help protect civilians?

Such behavior is unbecoming for the head of a major human rights organization and runs counter to the spirit of HRW’s official neutralitytoward the impending intervention in Syria. We encourage you to demonstrate greater tact and responsibility in light of the near-inevitability that U.S. missile strikes would have led to violations of international humanitarian law, including the killing, maiming, and displacement of many innocent civilians—as shown by the U.S. bombings of Yugoslavia in 1999, and of Iraq during the 2003 invasion and subsequent years of war.

HRW’s official abstention from endorsing or opposing wars also appeared to be broken by Tom Malinowski’s March 27, 2011 article in The New Republic on NATO’s Libya intervention. The piece wasoriginally titled “Why Isn’t Obama Getting Credit For Stopping An Atrocity?” and contended that “NATO acted more quickly [than in Bosnia] to stop atrocities in Kosovo.” In the case of Kosovo, “we could see and feel the difference Clinton and NATO had made.” Malinowski then celebrated NATO’s intervention in Libya as “the most rapid multinational military response to an impending human rights crisis in history” for which “we should be grateful.”

As Washington director for HRW at the time of the article, Malinowski offered no disclosure of his previous responsibilities in foreign-policy speechwriting as the Senior Director of the White House’s National Security Council during Clinton’s bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. Nor did his sanitized portrayal of those actions include his own organization’s inconvenient conclusion that “NATO committed violations of international humanitarian law.” Malinowski’s piece also omitted the clearly unconstitutional nature of Obama’s military intervention in Libya. Furthermore, he excluded evidence that the NATO coalition quickly had moved away from the scope of the civilian-protection mandate provided in UN Resolution 1973 and toward the aim of regime change, which conformed with Obama’s comments weeks prior that “it’s time for Qaddafi to go.”

More egregiously, the following year—months after your organization’s report, “Unacknowledged Deaths: Civilian Casualties in NATO’s Air Campaign in Libya,” examined eight NATO strikes that killed 72 civilians—Malinowski offered unalloyed praise for the NATO intervention. He argued that “Barack Obama’s administration made its most unequivocal stand on behalf of an Arab Spring uprising” in Libya, where the destabilizing consequences of the administration’s support in arming rebel forces continue to be felt. Completely ignoring the issue of civilian deaths at the hands of NATO (confirmed by HRW itself), Malinowski claimed in this October 2, 2012 Foreign Policy article that “recent events have reinforced, not weakened, the rationale for supporting political change in the Arab world.”

Advocacy divorced from HRW’s own empirical findings, unconditionally applauding U.S.-NATO military actions in Libya and endorsing their suitability elsewhere, is a predictable outcome for a former Clinton official who became HRW’s chief lobbyist in Washington, and who may have aspired to a position in the Obama administration as he wrote such statements. However, such advocacy is unhelpful to HRW’s stated concerns over NATO’s airstrikes and its failure “to acknowledge these casualties or to examine how and why they occurred.”

We are heartened, Mr. Roth, by your expressed willingness to “speak out, as we have done” in Kosovo and elsewhere. But HRW’s track record for holding NATO accountable for its violations of international humanitarian law is wholly inadequate. Javier Solana initiated a war inviolation of the UN Charter in 1999 and presided over the deliberate NATO bombing of a Serbian television station, a may that killed 16 civilians including a make-up artist, a cameraman, an editor, and a program director.

In your May 1999 letter to Solana, which mentioned that bombing, you urged that “these issues be scrutinized promptly and rigorously,” and that “disciplinary or criminal investigations be launched.” NATO implemented none of your suggestions and has held no one to account for that atrocity or for any other crime in Yugoslavia. And yet Solana was awarded a position on HRW’s board in 2011. It is hard to escape the conclusion that HRW’s admonishments of NATO’s behavior are toothless, and that Solana’s subsequent leadership role at HRW signals to former and future NATO leaders who violate international law that they should be undeterred by HRW’s objections and inquiries.

Finally, you responded to our emphasis on HRW’s ties to the United States by mentioning the involvement of former government officials of Mexico, Peru, South Africa, and other countries at HRW. But our focus is HRW’s ties to the foreign-policy divisions of the U.S. government, which, unlike the foreign-policy arms of many of the governments you cite, are continuously engaged in massive human rights abuses. This is a consequence of the status of the United States as the world’s sole military superpower, which frequently violates international law with impunity, and, as in the case of its invasion of Iraq, is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. As a recent poll showed, the rest of the globe sees the United States as “the greatest threat to peace in the world today” by a wide margin, so HRW’s unabashed closeness to that government is understandably viewed as an extremely political decision.

One of us would be delighted to meet with you whenever convenient at your New York offices to discuss these matters further and to personally deliver a petition signed by over 15,500 people so far along with their individual comments in support of the following demand:

The credibility of a global human-rights organization depends on its independence. Human Rights Watch has done important, critical work, but it can do better. It should implement at least a five-year “cooling-off” period before and after its associates move between HRW and the U.S. government’s foreign-policy divisions. Human Rights Watch associates should concentrate on protecting human rights. They should not have conflicts of interest with past or future careers in branches of the U.S. government that may themselves be involved in human-rights violations.

We eagerly await your reply, and believe that HRW’s implementation of cooling-off periods for its associates and its removal of Solana from its board of directors will represent valuable first steps toward greater independence. Thank you for engaging with us on issues that we believe are essential to the pursuit of human rights throughout the world.


Mairead Maguire – Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (1977)

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel – Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (1980)

Richard Falk – United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 (2008-14)

Hans von Sponeck – United Nations Assistant Secretary General (1998-2000)

Keane Bhatt – activist, writer

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Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown

Social science is being militarised to develop ‘operational tools’ to target peaceful activists and protest movements
Pentagon Building in Washington

The Pentagon is funding social science research to model risks of “social contagions” that could damage US strategic interests. Photograph: Jason Reed/REUTERS

A US Department of Defense (DoD) research programme is funding universities to model the dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world, under the supervision of various US military agencies. The multi-million dollar programme is designed to develop immediate and long-term “warfighter-relevant insights” for senior officials and decision makers in “the defense policy community,” and to inform policy implemented by “combatant commands.”

Launched in 2008 – the year of the global banking crisis – the DoD ‘Minerva Research Initiative’ partners with universities “to improve DoD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US.”

Among the projects awarded for the period 2014-2017 is a Cornell University-led study managed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research which aims to develop an empirical model “of the dynamics of social movement mobilisation and contagions.” The project will determine “the critical mass (tipping point)” of social contagians by studying their “digital traces” in the cases of “the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2011 Russian Duma elections, the 2012 Nigerian fuel subsidy crisis and the 2013 Gazi park protests in Turkey.”

Twitter posts and conversations will be examined “to identify individuals mobilised in a social contagion and when they become mobilised.”

Another project awarded this year to the University of Washington “seeks to uncover the conditions under which political movements aimed at large-scale political and economic change originate,” along with their “characteristics and consequences.” The project, managed by the US Army Research Office, focuses on “large-scale movements involving more than 1,000 participants in enduring activity,” and will cover 58 countries in total.

Last year, the DoD’s Minerva Initiative funded a project to determine ‘Who Does Not Become a Terrorist, and Why?’ which, however, conflates peaceful activists with “supporters of political violence” who are different from terrorists only in that they do not embark on “armed militancy” themselves. The project explicitly sets out to study non-violent activists:

“In every context we find many individuals who share the demographic, family, cultural, and/or socioeconomic background of those who decided to engage in terrorism, and yet refrained themselves from taking up armed militancy, even though they were sympathetic to the end goals of armed groups. The field of terrorism studies has not, until recently, attempted to look at this control group. This project is not about terrorists, but about supporters of political violence.”

The project’s 14 case studies each “involve extensive interviews with ten or more activists and militants in parties and NGOs who, though sympathetic to radical causes, have chosen a path of non-violence.”

I contacted the project’s principal investigator, Prof Maria Rasmussen of the US Naval Postgraduate School, asking why non-violent activists working for NGOs should be equated to supporters of political violence – and which “parties and NGOs” were being investigated – but received no response.

Similarly, Minerva programme staff refused to answer a series of similar questions I put to them, including asking how “radical causes” promoted by peaceful NGOs constituted a potential national security threat of interest to the DoD.

Among my questions, I asked:

“Does the US Department of Defense see protest movements and social activism in different parts of the world as a threat to US national security? If so, why? Does the US Department of Defense consider political movements aiming for large scale political and economic change as a national security matter? If so, why? Activism, protest, ‘political movements’ and of course NGOs are a vital element of a healthy civil society and democracy – why is it that the DoD is funding research to investigate such issues?”

Minerva’s programme director Dr Erin Fitzgerald said “I appreciate your concerns and am glad that you reached out to give us the opportunity to clarify” before promising a more detailed response. Instead, I received the following bland statement from the DoD’s press office:

“The Department of Defense takes seriously its role in the security of the United States, its citizens, and US allies and partners. While every security challenge does not cause conflict, and every conflict does not involve the US military, Minerva helps fund basic social science research that helps increase the Department of Defense’s understanding of what causes instability and insecurity around the world. By better understanding these conflicts and their causes beforehand, the Department of Defense can better prepare for the dynamic future security environment.”

In 2013, Minerva funded a University of Maryland project in collaboration with the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to gauge the risk of civil unrest due to climate change. The three-year $1.9 million project is developing models to anticipate what could happen to societies under a range of potential climate change scenarios.

From the outset, the Minerva programme was slated to provide over $75 million over five years for social and behavioural science research. This year alone it has been allocated a total budget of $17.8 million by US Congress.

An internal Minerva staff email communication referenced in a 2012 Masters dissertation reveals that the programme is geared toward producing quick results that are directly applicable to field operations. The dissertation was part of a Minerva-funded project on “counter-radical Muslim discourse” at Arizona State University.

The internal email from Prof Steve Corman, a principal investigator for the project, describes a meeting hosted by the DoD’s Human Social Cultural and Behavioural Modeling (HSCB) programme in which senior Pentagon officials said their priority was “to develop capabilities that are deliverable quickly” in the form of “models and tools that can be integrated with operations.”

Although Office of Naval Research supervisor Dr Harold Hawkins had assured the university researchers at the outset that the project was merely “a basic research effort, so we shouldn’t be concerned about doing applied stuff”, the meeting in fact showed that DoD is looking to “feed results” into “applications,” Corman said in the email. He advised his researchers to “think about shaping results, reports, etc., so they [DoD] can clearly see their application for tools that can be taken to the field.”

Many independent scholars are critical of what they see as the US government’s efforts to militarise social science in the service of war. In May 2008, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) wrote to the US government noting that the Pentagon lacks “the kind of infrastructure for evaluating anthropological [and other social science] research” in a way that involves “rigorous, balanced and objective peer review”, calling for such research to be managed instead by civilian agencies like the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The following month, the DoD signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the NSF to cooperate on the management of Minerva. In response, the AAA cautioned that although research proposals would now be evaluated by NSF’s merit-review panels. “Pentagon officials will have decision-making power in deciding who sits on the panels”:

“… there remain concerns within the discipline that research will only be funded when it supports the Pentagon’s agenda. Other critics of the programme, including the Network of Concerned Anthropologists, have raised concerns that the programme would discourage research in other important areas and undermine the role of the university as a place for independent discussion and critique of the military.”

According to Prof David Price, a cultural anthropologist at St Martin’s University in Washington DC and author of Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State, “when you looked at the individual bits of many of these projects they sort of looked like normal social science, textual analysis, historical research, and so on, but when you added these bits up they all shared themes of legibility with all the distortions of over-simplification. Minerva is farming out the piece-work of empire in ways that can allow individuals to disassociate their individual contributions from the larger project.”

Prof Price has previously exposed how the Pentagon’s Human Terrain Systems (HTS) programme – designed to embed social scientists in military field operations – routinely conducted training scenarios set in regions “within the United States.”

Citing a summary critique of the programme sent to HTS directors by a former employee, Price reported that the HTS training scenarios “adapted COIN [counterinsurgency] for Afghanistan/Iraq” to domestic situations “in the USA where the local population was seen from the military perspective as threatening the established balance of power and influence, and challenging law and order.”

One war-game, said Price, involved environmental activists protesting pollution from a coal-fired plant near Missouri, some of whom were members of the well-known environmental NGO Sierra Club. Participants were tasked to “identify those who were ‘problem-solvers’ and those who were ‘problem-causers,’ and the rest of the population whom would be the target of the information operations to move their Center of Gravity toward that set of viewpoints and values which was the ‘desired end-state’ of the military’s strategy.”

Such war-games are consistent with a raft of Pentagon planning documents which suggest that National Security Agency (NSA) mass surveillance is partially motivated to prepare for the destabilising impact of coming environmental, energy and economic shocks.

James Petras, Bartle Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University in New York, concurs with Price’s concerns. Minerva-funded social scientists tied to Pentagon counterinsurgency operations are involved in the “study of emotions in stoking or quelling ideologically driven movements,” he said, including how “to counteract grassroots movements.”

Minerva is a prime example of the deeply narrow-minded and self-defeating nature of military ideology. Worse still, the unwillingness of DoD officials to answer the most basic questions is symptomatic of a simple fact – in their unswerving mission to defend an increasingly unpopular global system serving the interests of a tiny minority, security agencies have no qualms about painting the rest of us as potential terrorists.

Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is an international security journalist and academic. He is the author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It, and the forthcoming science fiction thriller, ZERO POINT


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Shubha Mudgal threatened in the US for her anti modi stance #WTFnews

By Bharati Dubey|Posted 07-Jun-2014


Just before her performance, an irate NRI verbally attacked Shubha Mudgal for her anti-Modi stance


Vocalist Shubha Mudgal, who is currently touring in the USA, was apparently threatened by a board member of the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple. While the audience was looking forward to Shubha Mudgal and Bombay Jayshree’s performance at the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple’s auditorium area, one board member insisted on meeting and talking to Shubha Mudgal.

Shubha Mudgal 

A source says, “As soon as she stepped aside, the man began to intimidate Shubhaji, criticising her for her ‘anti-Modi, anti-Hindu and antinational’ stand. He told her that he will not ‘tolerate this’ and he went to threaten her with dire consequences if she continued to maintain her stand on the issue.’’

It seems that the organisers of the- show — members of the Kalalaya and Bay Area Telugu Association – stood quietly as the man continued his verbal attack. “Tabla maestro Aneesh Pradhan, who is Shubhaji’s husband, came rushing to the scene only to find this man completely out of control. It was only after all the artistes protested that security was called in to ensure order,” says the source.

Ashima Yadav, a San Francisco-based photographer recounts the incident. “His objection to Shubha Mudgal performing at the temple, which he clearly treated as his fiefdom, are an indication of how bold these right-wing thugs have become since the recent elections. This is in no way representative of the Bay Area community which welcomes and honours artistes from India no matter what their political persuasions.’’

While Shubha’s in-laws in Mumbai said they were unaware of any such issue, the singer confirmed that a problem had occurred via email. She wrote, “I am safe but I did face a problem on June 1. I am currently in transit and about to board a flight. I feel it would be best if I shared the details of my experience with you on my return to India.”

It may be pointed out that Mudgal, along with a host of other artistes, had signed an appeal to fellow Indians to choose secular candidates during the general elections that were held in April-May.

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Greenpeace USA’s new leader: ‘You don’t have to chain yourself to something’

From the Story of Stuff to heading Greenpeace USA, Annie Leonard, talks about the challenges of building the environment movement in America

veteran environmental campaigner Annie Leonard has been named as the new Executive Director of Greenpeace USA on May 6, 2014 in San Francisco, California.
Annie Leonard, a veteran environmental campaigner, is taking over as the new head of Greenpeace USA. Photograph: Erin Lubin/Greenpeace

One of the first things Annie Leonard was asked on being named the new leader of Greenpeace USA this month was: are you willing to get arrested?

“I said: ‘Absolutely! I just need to figure out who is going to drive the car pool’,” Leonard told The Guardian. “It’s going to be interesting being a single mum doing this,” she said.

The last time Leonard worked for Greenpeace, over 20 years ago, the campaign group was known – only half-jokingly – as “boys and their boats”, because of its reputation for dangerous, high-visibility actions.

She returns to lead the group after having made a name for herself by producing a series of web videos – Story of Stuff – that reached beyond the usual white, male and privileged supporters of environmental causes.

The first of her videos on throwaway culture went viral, making her one of the country’s most effective messengers on climate change.

While US President Barack Obama receives the Nobel Peace Prize, activists demonstrate on the streets of Oslo.  Activists hold signs that read
 Greenpeace activists on the streets of Oslo urges US president Barack Obama to show strong leadership in Copenhagen climate talks. Photograph: Christian Slund/Greenpeace

Now, 40 million views later, her biggest job will be to transfer that broad outreach to Greenpeace, and turn climate change into a pressing, mainstream concern.

Environmental groups in America are still undergoing a painful post-mortem of their failure to pass climate change legislation during the early years of Obama presidency – when Democrats controlled the White House and both houses of Congress.

That crushing defeat has since seen the birth of new activist groups such as and Bold Nebraska which are trying to block the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project, and of movements to ban fracking in towns from Texas to Pennsylvania.

But in Washington environmental groups continue to soul-search about how toreach out to a broader audience – and how to overcome the well-funded climate misinformation campaign.

Leonard said her work would focus on climate change and exposing the influence of money in politics – furthering Greenpeace investigations into the Koch oil billionaires and other funders of the climate denial effort.

She will also work to activate the organisation’s base, including members who’ve left.

“That is the only way to mainstream these issues, if we had all the Greenpeace members around the country talking about these issues,” she said.

Greenpeace Climate and Policy Analyst Kyle Ash holds a photo album at the State Department in Washington with activists dressed as cheerleaders as they call on Secretary of State John Kerry to step up and protect the Arctic from oil drilling and the effects of climate change. Kerry will represent the United States at the Arctic Council meeting in May. The photo album is a collection of images from April 20 I Heart Arctic events across the United States on a global day of action.
 Greenpeace climate and policy analyst Kyle Ash, centre, and activists dressed as cheerleaders at the state department in Washington call onsecretary of state John Kerry to protect the Arctic from oil drilling. Photograph: Tim Aubry/Greenpeace

Getting arrested is not a prerequisite for engagement. “It’s like an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord,” she said. “You don’t have to sleep in the park. You don’t have to chain yourself to something.”

The organisation had to be receptive to all forms of activism, she said.

“There has been a bit of a hierarchy of the people who chain themselves to the fence or go on the big TV talk shows are somehow of higher stature and are more important than the people who make sandwiches. But making sandwiches for the protesters is really important too. We have to figure out a way for them to plug in too.”

Making that shift would help transform a movement where the biggest and best-funded establishment groups are still predominantly led by white males from privileged backgrounds.

Community-based and environmental justice groups are more representative of the US population. Once Leonard formally takes up her job, in August, all three Greenpeace organisations in North America will be led by women.

A police officer questions a Greenpeace activist dressed as
 A police officer questions a Greenpeace activist dressed as ‘Barbie’ outside Mattel headquarters where other activists dressed as ‘Ken’ dolls posted a giant banner with the message: ‘Barbie, it’s over. I don’t date girls that are into deforestation.’ Photograph: David McNew/Greenpeace

Leonard arrives at her position via her Story of Stuff videos. The videos, which debuted in late 2007, were deceptively simple: just Leonard, looking like and sounding like a perky suburbanite with her brown pony tale and button down shirt, and animated stick figures against a white backdrop.

She spoke at high speed and in plain English about how production, distribution and the inevitable waste involved in a consumer-driven economy was harming the planet – and made a connection to Americans who were ordinarily unmoved by conventional environmental campaigners.

At the time, the messaging was a shift for the fact-based, jargon-laced arguments environmental groups had been making on climate change. Leonard said she realised during making the videos and during the constant touring since that it was less important to dispense data about the problem of consumerism gone wild than to give people the sense they could do something to change it.

 The Story of Stuff, a ’20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns’

That realisation was 20 years in the making. The videos were a culmination of the work Leonard began at Greenpeace International in the late 1980s, travelling to Bangladesh and India to track the export of hazardous waste from rich consumer countries to the developing world.

Investigations by Leonard and others were instrumental in the passage of an international treaty, the Basel Convention, which cracked down on the trade.

Her memories of Greenpeace from that time was of an organisation that celebrated macho adventure.

“When I worked at Greenpeace in the late 1980s hardly any people had kids and the few people who had kids left at five and we thought they were total losers. We scorned them,” she said. “Not only did they leave at 5 they didn’t sit around and chat at the coffee machine. They worked and we thought: “ God, they were so uptight’.”

But times – and Leonard’s own circumstances – have changed.

Annie Leonard began her career at Greenpeace International in 1988 and is returning now to help the organization inspire and mobilize millions of people to take action to create a more sustainable future together.
 Annie Leonard began her career at Greenpeace International in 1988 and is returning now as its head in the US. Photograph: Erin Lubin/Greenpeace

Leonard said she could not have taken the job if Greenpeace had not agreed to let her work from her home on the West Coast.

She lives in Berkeley, with her 14-year-old daughter, in what sounds like a modern-day, middle-class version of a commune. Over the years, a group of long-term friends have bought up six neighbouring houses, knocking down fences to make one big backyard, sharing power tools and a pick-up truck and – when there is a crisis – child care.

She said the environmental movement had grown more welcoming to parents like herself over the years – but there was still some distance to go.

“No more eco-martyrs thinking that the earth can’t sustain us taking a vacation or leaving the office at six to have dinner with the kids!” she wrote in a follow-up email. “We still have distance to go in making the work accessible to working parents and single parents. I’d like to see child care more routinely provided at meetings, stipends for single parents who have to travel and other structural changes that remove barriers to full participation even for those carrying a heavy load at home,” she went on.

“Building a movement really does require all kinds of people, so it is our job to make this work accessible and relevant to all kinds of people.”


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Why and how we make election endorsements

The Economist explains

Why and how we make election endorsements

The Economist hopes that Narendra Modi, India’s new prime minister, will reform his country’s economy and help his impoverished countrymen. But we did not support him in India’s election: we worried that his Hindu nationalism would prove divisive and dangerous. Among our Indian readers this opinion was, to say the least, controversial—not just our verdict but the fact that we advanced it at all. We ought, some readers told us, to mind our own business (or words to that effect). We should refrain from such neo-imperialist intrusions into other countries’ affairs; we are, after all, based in London, not Delhi.

An equally pertinent objection might be that we are a newspaper, not a person, and have no right to vote anywhere, including Britain. All the same, by longstanding tradition we frequently offer endorsements of our favoured candidates in important elections. The tradition is more longstanding for some countries than for others: it stretches to the 1950s for British general elections but only to 1980 for the United States (with gaps in 1984 and 1988). For other countries the practice is more recent and sometimes irregular; still, we have endorsed parties or candidates in national elections in France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Canada, Egypt, Israel, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil and Chile. Occasionally we have offered views on referenda and local elections, too, such as the mayoral contests in London and New York. Beyond Britain and America, we tend to pronounce on races where there is a competitive field and a lot at stake, normally because we believe one of the main candidates would be either redemptive or disastrous. In autocratic places where elections are a charade, such as Russia, we see no point in endorsing anyone.

We do not think this habit is presumptuous or neo-colonial. After all, The Economist routinely writes about the politics and economies of all of these countries, both in our reporting and our leader section; it seems coy to affect indifference when their elections come around. We do not expect all of our eligible readers to follow our advice—and we aim to provide enough impartial analysis for them to make up their own minds—let alone that our opinion will sway the outcome. We fail to get our way on many issues, from America’s gun laws to the legalisation of narcotics, but we advance those views nevertheless. In most cases we select one of the plausible winners, considering it quixotic to nominate a rank outsider: like most voters we choose between the actual candidates rather than ideal ones. Our support is sometimes grudging (as it was for Barack Obama in 2012, though not in 2008), a recommendation of the least bad option rather than an actively appealing one. Again, we think this reflects the grim, real-world dilemmas that voters tend to face.

Our record is not partisan: in party-political terms, we are erratic. In Britain we have often preferred the Conservatives, but switched to Tony Blair’s Labour Party at two general elections. We backed George W. Bush in 2000 but ditched him for John Kerry in 2004. Our methodology, however, is consistent. The Economist’s basic creed—which promotes  free markets, small government and social liberalism—provides part of our criteria, but so does a pragmatic reckoning of which candidate is likely to better his compatriots’ lot. In that judgment an incumbent’s past record counts for less than his likely impact in the future. Occasionally there is a moral consideration, too, as in the (very different) cases of our opposition to Mr Modi and to Silvio Berlusconi. Ultimate responsibility for these choices always rests with the editor, but opinions are solicited from the entire editorial staff, which usually supplies several correspondents with relevant expertise. Sometimes the resulting endorsements turn out to be misguided: like actual voters, we are only human. But they are always made with the interests of those voters, be they British or Indian, American or Egyptian, in mind.

Dig deeper:
India deserves better than Narendra Modi, a man still associated with sectarian hatred (April 2014)
America should take a chance and make Barack Obama the next leader of the free world (October 2008)
Forget the hypotheticals and look at the policies: the Conservatives deserve to govern Britain (April 2010)

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30 Murders by Firearm in England 2012 (equiv. 164), vs. 8,855 in US

By Juan Cole

The mentally imbalanced individual who hunted down UC Santa Barbara students and knifed three and shot 6 of them to death, wounding with gunfire 7 more, on Saturday, used a semi-automatic handgun. The most popular such weapon is a Glock. It is not an automatic weapon, meaning you have to squeeze the trigger each time to fire. But it is much easier to get off many shots one after another than in the case of a traditional pistol. The magazine for the Glock 17 has 17 rounds; one can get a high capacity magazine of 33 rounds. High capacity magazines and some semi-automatic weapons were banned in the Clinton era. But the gun manufacturers have bought Congress, so that that ban could no longer be implemented.

Let us not pretend that this is about hunters and hunting, folks. Anyone who shoots deer with a Glock should be denied sex the rest of their lives the way the Santa Barbara shooter complained he was. Having a hand gun in the house also does not make anyone safer; family members shoot each other with them or commit suicide with them when temporarily depressed; and burglars wrestle them away and shoot the owners with their own weapon, or the owners end up being charged with murder for shooting an unarmed burglar. Plus people are not well. I figure at least 20 percent of the US population has mood disorders or other mental problems such that you really wouldn’t want to see a gun in their hands. Nor is it about the actual, historical, 2nd Amendment. Our current legislative program in the US is “a semi-automatic high capacity weapon in the hands of every mentally unstable person.” But since Congress is also determined to pump 50 billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in the next decade, which will pretty much sink us, the mania about everyone having guns is not the most dangerous hysteria currently gripping our country.

The United States continues to be peculiar in handing out powerful magazine-fed firearms to almost anyone who wants one and not requiringbackground checks on private purchases even if these are made at gun shows. 80% of civilian-owned firearms world-wide are in the US, and only Yemen vaguely competes with us for rates of firearm ownership; Yemen is a violent mess with Shiite insurgencies, al-Qaeda taking over cities from time to time, tribal feuding, southern separatism and US drone strikes. And even it has fewer guns per person than the USA.

It has gotten to the point where the increasing epidemic of mass shootings now threatens the US military, the most powerful military in the world.

The US is downright weird compared to civilized Western Europe orAustralia (which enacted gun control after a mass shooting in 1996 and there have been no further such incidents).

Number of Murders by Firearms, US, 2012: 8,855

Percentage of all Murders that were committed by firearms in US: 69.3

Suicides in US 2011: 38,285

Gun Suicides in US, 2011: 19,766

Number of Murders by firearms, England and Wales, 2012-2013: 30
(equivalent to 164 US murders).

Percentage of all murders in England and Wales that were committed by firearm: 5.4 percent.

Number of suicides in England and Wales, 2011: 4871 (equivalent to about 25,818 in US or 31% lower)

Number of suicides by Firearam in England and Wales, 2011: 84

For more on murder by firearms in Britain, see the BBC.

The US has the highest gun ownership in the world and the highest murder rate in the developed world.

There is some correlation between high rates of gun ownership and high rates of violent crime in general, globally (and also if you compare state by state inside the US):

h/t Christopher Majka

In the case of Britain, firearms murders are 53 times fewer than in the US per capita. [Don’t bother with flawed citations of Switzerland or Israel, where most citizens are the equivalent of military reservists.]

Do hunters really need semi-automatic AR-15 assault weapons? Is that how they roll in deer season? The US public doesn’t think so.


Related video:

AFP: “Guns in the US”

Read mor ehere-


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These 7 People Were Pardoned AFTER They Were Executed #AbolishDeathPenalty


As many as 300 U.S. inmates sentenced to death over a 30-year period were probably innocent, according to a recent study in the Proceedings of theNational Academy of Sciences.

The courts converted many of their death sentences to life, the study found. The U.S. judicial system, however, has actually killed innocent people.

While doubt exists in many past executions, seven people have received official pardons after their executions in prison. Read their stories below.

Joe Arridy

Executed for the rape and murder of a 15-year-old Colorado girl, Joe Arridy died by lethal gas in 1939. As his last request, the 23-year-old asked for lots of ice cream and his toy train, the Denver Westward reported. With an IQ of 46, Arridy couldn’t quite grasp the concept of death.

Arridy confessed to attacking Dorothy Drain and her 12-year-old sister, Barbara, with a hatchet in 1936. (Barbara survived the attack.) Decades later,overwhelming evidence proved his innocence. He wasn’t in town at the time of the killing, and someone else even admitted to the crime.

Police coerced Arridy’s confession, the state said when it finally pardoned him. Aside from the fact that he was innocent, imposing the death penalty on someone as intellectually disabled as Arridy would also be considered unconstitutional today.

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter officially pardoned Arridy in 2011. “Pardoning Mr. Arridy cannot undo this tragic event in Colorado history,” Ritter said. “It is in the interest of justice and simple decency, however, to restore his good name.”

Thomas Griffin and Meeks Griffin

Thomas and Meeks Griffin, relatively wealthy black farmers, were electrocuted in 1915 for killing a 73-year-old white Civil War veteran named John Q. Lewis.

A prominent legal historian’s recent research, however, revealed Lewis was having an affair with a much younger black woman, CNN reported. That woman and her husband may have actually committed the murder.

One hundred years after South Carolina executed the Griffin brothers, the state issued its first posthumous pardon in a unanimous vote. The Griffins’ grandnephew, nationally syndicated radio host Tom Joyner, spurred research into the case after Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. traced his family history and discovered the double-execution.

“It’s good for the community. It’s good for the nation. Anytime that you can repair racism in this country is a step forward,” Joyner told CNN.

Lena BakerAP Photo/Georgia Department of Corrections, File

Lena Baker, the only woman Georgia ever executed


Lena Baker

The only woman executed in Georgia, a 44-year-old black maid named Lena Baker, died in the electric chair in 1945 for killing her employer, Ernest Knight.

At her trial, Baker told the all-white, all-male jury Knight had imprisoned her and threatened to shoot her if she tried to leave, The Guardian reported. She finally grabbed a gun and shot him when he held up a metal bar to strike her, she testified.

Baker and Knight had a sexual relationship that sparked outrage in the community, and his son had threatened her and beat her multiple times.

Sixty years after her death in 2005, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles granted her family an official proclamation, pardoning her. While the board didn’t find her not guilty, it called the decision to refuse her clemency a “grievous error,” according to The New York Times.

John Snowden

The murder of a pregnant naval officer’s wife in Maryland sent John Snowden, a 29-year-old black man, to the gallows in February of 1919. He professed his innocence until the day he hanged. Even given one last chance to confess, he said, “I could not leave this world with a lie in my mouth.”

Snowden had a loose connection to the victim, Lottie Brandon: He drove an ice truck in her neighborhood. Yet he endured hours of questioning and abuse from the police.

Two of the main trial witnesses eventually recanted their testimony, according to a report distributed through the Death Penalty Information Center. The jurors who convicted him even became convinced of his innocence: 11 of the 12 wrote the state government, asking it to commute Snowden’s sentence.

In 2001, then-Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening finally gave John Snowden a full pardon.

“The more I looked into it, the more I said, ‘Something’s just not right here,'” Glendening told the Baltimore Sun.

William Jackson MarionNebraska State Historical Society

William Jackson Marion at the gallows


William Jackson Marion

Four years after William Jackson Marion was hanged in 1887 for supposedly killing his railroad co-worker, James Cameron, the “murdered” man turned up alive and well.

Days before Cameron disappeared, he and Marion made a business agreement that clearly benefitted Marion. Cameron’s mother also told police she suspected Marion’s involvement in her son’s disappearance.

About 11 years later, a dead body, wearing clothes similar to Cameron’s, was found on a Native American reservation. After a mistrial, a jury eventually found Cameron guilty of the murder and sent him to the gallows.

Cameron – who showed up alive and well four years after the execution – explained to authorities he’d fled for Mexico to avoid a shotgun wedding in Kansas. On the centennial anniversary of Marion’s execution in 1987, Nebraska Governor Bob Kerrey granted Marion a full posthumous pardon.

Jack Kehoe death warrant Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Jack Kehoe’s death warrant, signed by the governor


Jack Kehoe

Jack Kehoe – leader of an anti-Civil War group called the Molly Maguires –was hanged by the state of Pennsylvania in 1878 for the murder of a dissenting coal miner named Frank Langdon.

Police first charged Kehoe’s group with threatening to kill Langdon, and when he turned up dead days later, they handcuffed Kehoe first.

Despite no physical evidence linking Kehoe to the scene of the crime, a mining big-wig at the time named Franklin Gowan rallied for Kehoe to be put to death.

In 1978, Kehoe’s great-grandson asked for his pardon. He claimed Gowan stacked the jury, some of whom didn’t even speak English, against Kehoe, among other stilted circumstances, the Beaver County Times reported.

In 1979, then-Gov. Milton J. Shapp issued a full pardon to Kehoe, proclaiming him innocent.

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