From the News Wires

Jean Grae's New Video Features All of Your Favorite Things

Race Wire - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 10:10am

The only thing that's better than the fact that Jean Grae teamed up with a band called "The Everybody's Pregnant" for a new EP is the new video for their single "underneathu." The video for the song is a hilarious ode to public television, featuring award-winning author Adam Mansbach in a bonkers intro and Ms. Grae herself slithering around on stage. This isn't quite what we've come to expect from the longtime MC, but it looks like so much fun.

(h/t Okayplayer)

Cleveland Police Union President Says Tamir Rice Killing Justified

Race Wire - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 10:08am

In an MSNBC interview sparked by a Cleveland Browns player's T-shirt protest, the head of Cleveland's police union called Tamir Rice's killing justified. Jeffrey Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association also tells substitute host Ari Melber that if the 12-year-old had been 20 and with a gun--as the officers thought (and were told by dispatch)--"we're not sitting here today." The video shows an officer firing at Rice within two seconds of their car arriving on scene. When asked whether the video "clearly shows [Rice] was an imminent lethal threat to the officers," Follmer says, "Oh, absolutely. I don't know if you didn't see it but absolutely." The five-minute interview is yet another unvarnished look at police perspectives on policing and accountability--and how they may differ markedly from communities they serve.

Follmer is demanding an apology from Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins who wore a Tamir Rice-John Crawford T-shirt during warm-ups before Sunday's NFL game. In the five-minute interview he defends police officers involved in the Rice and Crawford fatal shootings and advises the nation:

Listen to police officers commands. Listen to what we tell you and just stop. I think that eliminates a lot of the problem. [Like Hawkins] I have kids too. They know how to respect the law. They know what to do when a police officer comes up to them. I think the nation needs to realize that when we tell you to do something, do it. And if you're wrong [pause] you're wrong. If you're right then the courts will figure it out.

Watch the rest on "All In With Chris Hayes."

'Did the Torture Work?' is the Wrong Question

Race Wire - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 7:32am

On this past Sunday's "Meet the Press," Dick Cheney doubled down on his defense of the CIA's brutal post-9/11 detainment and interrogation program detailed in the Senate Intelligence Committee report released last week. When the former vice president was asked if he was troubled by the fact that 25 percent of the men alleged to be Islamic terrorists were found to be innocent, he pointed to the efficacy of the program: "I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective. Our objective [was] to get the guys who did 9-11 and it [was] to avoid another attack against the United States. ... And [the program] worked," he said. "...I'd do it again in a minute."

Cheney, a chief architect of the War on Terror, isn't alone in framing the CIA's use of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" as a question of success. The report itself finds that the agency's torture tactics were "not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation." Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the Intelligence Committee, declared that "the big finding is that torture doesn't work and shouldn't be employed by our country."

Mainstream media have also explored whether torture methods such as waterboarding, rectal feeding and sleep deprivation do the job. For example, under the headline "Does Torture Work?" The New York Times ran a case-by-case analysis to answer the question. PBS NewsHour ran a debate between a former CIA official and a former Guantanamo Bay prison prosecutor. The Hill tapped a former DEA interrogator to provide his expert opinion on the matter.

Even critics of torture have attempted to address this argument head-on by making an empirical argument about torture's inefficacy.

The constant framing of the issue around torture's effectiveness supports the efforts of people like Cheney and CIA Director John Brennan to redirect attention from detainees' experiences in Guantanamo Bay prison and secret American prisons all over the world. Such deflection allows people to avoid seeing the torture from the perspective of the victims who remain largely invisible to the public.

While all of these men have been presented to the American public as Muslim terrorists, the vast majority of them have not had a chance to make their case in a fair trial. The situation we are left with today is the result of their voices going unheard, of being muffled callously in the name of national security. We would rather not be reminded of the illegal, indefinite detention of dozens of people all over the world in our name.

David Remes, a human rights lawyer representing 18 detainees currently being held at Guantanamo Bay prison, says the gruesome details of the report shouldn't be a revelation. "I haven't discussed the report with my clients. They are the very victims whose torture the report described," he says. "They already know what's in the report. The only people who don't know what's in the report are the American people."

Abu Zubaydah is one such prisoner. He was accused of being a high-ranking member of al Qaeda and in 2002 the CIA shot and apprehended him in Faisalabad, Pakistan. Over the past 12 years, he was reportedly transferred between secret CIA prisons in Thailand, Poland, Morocco, Lithuania, and possibly others, before being indefinitely incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay prison.

Zubaydah has never even been charged with a crime.

According to the Associated Press, Zubaydah served as a guinea pig for torture techniques. He was repeatedly waterboarded (83 times in August 2002), subjected to other forms of physical violence and confined in what the AP calls a "coffin-size box" for extended periods of time.

After the Justice Department approved water-boarding the detainee, the sessions became so extreme that some C.I.A. officers were "to the point of tears and choking up," and several said they wanted to be transferred out of the prison, reported ABC News. After days of persistent torture, officials described him as being "completely unresponsive with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth."

When we are left to debate whether such tactics-and many more-were effective in extracting information, we close ourselves off from the visceral human empathy that gripped even the tearful CIA officers witnessing and committing such acts of torture. On this note, President Obama has frequently noted: "That's not who we are." Yet his calls for introspection fail to come to terms with the condition of the tortured detainees. Not only should we ask ourselves who we are and what we've become, but who are these detainees and why have they been caged for over a decade?

The last time the detainees themselves received widespread news coverage was in April when most of the 166 men in Guantanamo Bay prison conducted a hunger strike. Force-feeding came into focus as some detainees lost more than 30 pounds, and at least 17 had feeding tubes inserted through their noses.

Majid Khan, is detainee who has participated in multiple hunger strikes and self-mutilation beginning in March 2004. In 2006, CIA personnel took radical measures to force-feed Khan, administering a "lunch tray" of pureed hummus, raisins and pasta through his rectum. The procedure, described as "rectal hydration" and "rectal feeding," have been roundly criticized by government officials, but not by the CIA.

In a Daily Beast op-ed, Baher Azmy, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights reported that one detainee that her group represented, Tariq Ba Odah, had been strapped into a chair and force-fed. "I was tortured in the restraining chair when they fill my belly with Ensure," Odah has reportedly said. "All my limbs are restrained and my clothes soaked from vomiting the formula mixed with water and laxatives."

When asked about their goal, the detainees on this year's hunger strike and their legal counsel pointed to President Obama's failure to fulfill a 2008 campaign promise that he would close Guantanamo Bay prison and end indefinite detention without charge or trial.

Obama has largely positioned himself as a mindful centrist caught between national security officials and the remnants of the loose anti-war coalition that helped propel him into office. True to form, the president has agreed that some of the tactics described in the Senate Intelligence Committee report amounted to torture, but he has avoided holding past or present officials responsible. "Rather than another reason to refight old arguments," Obama said in an official statement, "I hope that today's report can help us leave these techniques where they belong--in the past."

Today, 40 percent of Guantanamo's now 136 detainees are eligible for a review, but the process has been stalled. At the current rate, it will take at least six years to complete the first review. Still, it's unclear how long it will take these detainees to be released. Sixty who are currently held at the prison are cleared for release but still remain behind bars.

As graphic as the Senate Intelligence Committee's 6,000-word torture report is, the question of program's success must not trump the details.

Attorney Remes, for one, isn't waiting for a great American awakening: "I'm pessimistic about what the report will accomplish," he says. "Congress won't reign the CIA in. Our government is not going to prosecute the individuals who authorized and committed these least some police officers get prosecuted. Those who authorized and committed torture will never be prosecuted."

Waleed Shahid is a freelance writer living in Philadelphia.

Pakistan School Attack, Skype Translator, Greenland's Vanishing Ice Sheet

Race Wire - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 7:04am

Here's what I'm reading up on this morning:

Yurok tribe hopes California's cap-and-trade can save a way of life.

Climate Change News (Offsite) - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 6:00am
This winter, Yurok tribe forestry crews will be four-wheeling down muddy fire roads, hiking through steep, slippery brush and trekking across more than 20,000 acres of forest to count and measure trees.

California’s smart climate policies righting historic wrongs in Oakland.

Climate Change News (Offsite) - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 6:00am
It is an undisputed reality: Communities of color and low-income neighborhoods have long been used as environmental dumping grounds, sites for the sorts of facilities that wealthier communities don’t want. Oakland is no exception. (Part 1 of 2).

Climate change takes a village.

Climate Change News (Offsite) - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 6:00am
Looking at the long-term reality facing the island, Shishmaref’s residents voted to pack up and move the town elsewhere. Twelve years later, they’re still here.

At UN climate talks, a crack in rich-poor barrier.

Climate Change News (Offsite) - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 6:00am
A last-minute deal that salvaged U.N. climate talks from collapse early Sunday sends a signal the rich-poor divide that long held up progress can be overcome with a year to go before a landmark pact is supposed to be adopted in Paris.

Keeping the show on the road.

Climate Change News (Offsite) - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 6:00am
Haggling in Peru shows how difficult accord in Paris will be.

Climate accord struck in Lima; key decisions postponed.

Climate Change News (Offsite) - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 6:00am
In the early hours of Sunday morning, bleary-eyed dealmakers from nearly 200 countries and the European Union set a framework for an agreement that would take an unprecedented approach to slowing climate change.

People's Summit demands justice for Ecuador in Chevron.

Climate Change News (Offsite) - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 6:00am
The People's Summit on Climate Change, as part of its official declaration, has called for justice for Ecuadoreans struggling against Chevron's contamination in the Ecuadorean Amazon.

UN climate talks: lost and damaged?

Climate Change News (Offsite) - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 6:00am
One good reason why U.N. climate talks in Lima have dragged on into Saturday far longer than their planned Friday finish time is the thorny issue of loss and damage.

Call for climate change to become human rights issue.

Climate Change News (Offsite) - Sat, 12/13/2014 - 6:00am
The International Bar Association says climate change should become a human rights issue able to be challenged in a court of law. It says the judiciary is inadequate for those suffering injustice because of global warming.

Climate change and inequalities: How will they impact women?

Climate Change News (Offsite) - Sat, 12/13/2014 - 6:00am
Among all the impacts of climate change, from rising sea levels to landslides and flooding, there is one that does not get the attention it deserves: an exacerbation of inequalities, particularly for women.

Lima climate talks agree on just one paragraph of deal with 24 hours left.

Climate Change News (Offsite) - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 6:00am
Negotiators working on a deal to fight climate change have agreed on just a single paragraph of text, casting a shadow over the prospects for a strong outcome in Lima.

Thalidomide: How men who blighted lives of thousands evaded justice.

The dark shadow of thalidomide is still with us. The original catastrophe maimed 20,000 babies and killed 80,000: it remains the greatest manmade global disaster. Now evidence has been uncovered that the pharmaceutical outrage – it is nothing less – was compounded by a judicial scandal that has suppurated all these years.

Reservation residents have to solve water contamination issues without county.

To outsiders, Leslie Stump's 40 acres of scruffy land in the alkali flats south of Toppenish might not look like much, but for her and her children, it's their own little piece of paradise. Now, she's afraid that's changing.

Drivers remove devices that cut deadly diesel pollution.

Britain's air quality is facing a new threat from diesel engine emissions following the emergence of a backstreet industry that removes anti-pollution devices from lorries and buses.

Town That Thrived on Logging Is Looking for a Second Growth

NY Times Environmental News - Sat, 11/15/2014 - 2:58pm
In a town in Oregon that long relied on logging, the old jobs are long gone and the food bank has a more secure future than remaining industry.

Oil Dispute Takes a Page From Congo’s Bloody Past

NY Times Environmental News - Sat, 11/15/2014 - 1:05pm
Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo has become a battleground pitting economic development against environmentalism.

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