Thursday, August 31, 2006
The Art of Not Being Offended
by Jodi Shams Prinzivalli
There is an ancient and well-kept secret to happiness and well-being
that the Great Ones rarely talk about but frequently utilize, and is
one which is fundamental to good mental health. This secret is called
The Fine Art of Not Being Offended. In order to truly be a master of
this art, one must be able to see that every statement, action and
reaction of another human being is the sum result of their total life
experience to date. In other words, the majority of people in our
world say and do what they do from their own set of fears,
conclusions, defenses and attempts to survive. Most of it, even when
aimed directly at us, has nothing to do with us. It usually has more
to do with all the other times and in particular the first few times
that this person experienced a similar situation, usually when they
were young. Yes, this is psychodynamic. But let's face it, we live in
a world where psychodynamics are what make the world go around.
An individual who wishes to live successfully in the world as a
spiritual person really needs to understand the psychology is as
spiritual as prayer. In fact, the word psychology literally means,
the study of the soul. Those of us who are either ignorant of this
fact or who believe this is not true often tend to have unnecessary
suffering where there could be joy.
All of that said, almost NOTHING is personal. Nothing. Even with our
closest loved ones and beloved partners and children and friends. We
are all swimming in the projections and filters of each other's life
experiences and often we are just the stand-ins, the chess pieces of
life to which our loved ones have their own built-in reactions. This
is not to dehumanize life or take the intimacy out of our
relationships, but mainly for us to know that almost every time we
get offended, we are actually just in a misunderstanding. The true
embodiment of this idea actually allows for more intimacy and less
suffering throughout all of our relationships. When we know that we
are the one who happens to be standing in the right place at the
right psychodynamic time for someone to say or do what they are
doing, we don't have to take life personally. If it isn't us, it will
likely be someone else. This frees us to be a little more detached to
the reactions of people around us. How often do we react to a
statement of another by being offended rather than seeing that the
other might actually be hurting? In fact, every time we get offended,
it is actually an opportunity to extend kindness to one who may be
suffering - even if they themselves do not appear that way on the
surface. All anger, all acting out, all harshness, all criticism, is
in truth a form of suffering. When we provide it no velcro for it to
stick, something changes in the world. We do not even have to say a
thing. In fact, it is usually better not to say a thing. People who
are suffering are usually not keen on the fact of someone pointing it
out. We do not have to be our loved one's therapist. We need only
understand the situation and move on. In the least, we ourselves
experience less suffering and at best, we have the chance to make the
world a better place.
This is also not to be confused with allowing ourselves to be hurt,
neglected or taken advantage of. True compassion does not allow harm
to ourselves either. But when we know that nothing is personal, a
magical thing also happens. All the seeming abusers of the world
start to leave our lives. Once we are conscious, so-called abuse can
only happen if we believe what the other is saying. When we know
nothing is personal, we also do not end up feeling abused. We can
say, "Thank you for sharing," and carry on. We are not hooked by what
another says, does or believes, we can take the world a little less
seriously. And if necessary, we can just walk away without creating
more misery for ourselves.
The great challenge of our world is to live a life of contentment
regardless of what other people do, say, think or believe. The fine
art of not being offended is one of many options for being a
practical mystic. Yet I suspect it is the task of a lifetime. It
certainly is for me.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
"THE JERUSALEM DECLARATION ON CHRISTIAN ZIONISM"
- Statement by the Patriarch and Local Heads of Churches In Jerusalem
(From The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem Website)
"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." (Matthew 5:9)
Christian Zionism is a modern theological and political movement that embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism, thereby becoming detrimental to a just peace within Palestine and Israel. The Christian Zionist programme provides a worldview where the Gospel is identified with the ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism. In its extreme form, it laces an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than living Christ's love and justice today.
We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.
We further reject the contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organizations with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States that are presently imposing their unilateral pre-emptive borders and domination over Palestine. This inevitably leads to unending cycles of violence that undermine the security of all peoples of the Middle East and the rest of the world.
We reject the teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support these policies as they advance racial exclusivity and perpetual war rather than the gospel of universal love, redemption and reconciliation taught by Jesus Christ. Rather than condemn the world to the doom of Armageddon we call upon everyone to liberate themselves from the ideologies of militarism and occupation. Instead, let them pursue the healing of the nations!
We call upon Christians in Churches on every continent to pray for the Palestinian and Israeli people, both of whom are suffering as victims of occupation and militarism. These discriminative actions are turning Palestine into impoverished ghettos surrounded by exclusive Israeli settlements. The establishment of the illegal settlements and the construction of the Separation Wall on confiscated Palestinian land undermines the viability of a Palestinian state as well as peace and security in the entire region.
We call upon all Churches that remain silent, to break their silence and speak for reconciliation with justice in the Holy Land.
Therefore, we commit ourselves to the following principles as an alternative way:
We affirm that all people are created in the image of God. In turn they are called to honor the dignity of every human being and to respect their inalienable rights.
We affirm that Israelis and Palestinians are capable of living together within peace, justice and security.
We affirm that Palestinians are one people, both Muslim and Christian. We reject all attempts to subvert and fragment their unity.
We call upon all people to reject the narrow world view of Christian Zionism and other ideologies that privilege one people at the expense of others.
We are committed to non-violent resistance as the most effective means to end the illegal occupation in order to attain a just and lasting peace.
With urgency we warn that Christian Zionism and its alliances are justifying colonization, apartheid and empire-building.
God demands that justice be done. No enduring peace, security or reconciliation is possible without the foundation of justice. The demands of justice will not disappear. The struggle for justice must be pursued diligently and persistently but non-violently.
"What does the Lord require of you, to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)
This is where we take our stand. We stand for justice. We can do no other. Justice alone guarantees a peace that will lead to reconciliation with a life of security and prosperity for all the peoples of our Land. By standing on the side of justice, we open ourselves to the work of peace - and working for peace makes us children of God.
"God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation." (2 Cor 5:19)
His Beattitude Patriarch Michel Sabbah
Latin Patriarchate, Jerusalem
Archbishop Swerios Malki Mourad,
Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem
Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal,
Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East
Bishop Munib Younan,
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
August 22, 2006
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Friday, August 25, 2006
Viruses Approved for Treating Food
By The Associated Press
posted: 21 August 2006
10:23 am ET
WASHINGTON (AP)—A mix of bacteria-killing viruses can be safely sprayed on cold cuts, hot dogs and sausages to combat common microbes that kill hundreds of people a year, federal health officials said Friday in granting the first-ever approval of viruses as a food additive.
The combination of six viruses is designed to be sprayed on ready-to-eat meat and poultry products, including sliced ham and turkey, said John Vazzana, president and chief executive officer of manufacturer Intralytix Inc.
The special viruses called bacteriophages are meant to kill strains of the Listeria monocytogenes bacterium, the Food and Drug Administration said in declaring it safe to use on ready-to-eat meats prior to their packaging.
The viruses are the first to win FDA approval for use as a food additive, said Andrew Zajac, of the regulatory agency's office of food additive safety.
The bacterium the viruses target can cause a serious infection called listeriosis, primarily in pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems. In the United States, an estimated 2,500 people become seriously ill with listeriosis each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 500 die.
Luncheon meats are particularly vulnerable to Listeria since once purchased, they typically aren't cooked or reheated, which can kill harmful bacteria like Listeria, Zajac said.
The preparation of bacteriophages—the name is Greek for "bacteria-eater''—attacks only strains of the Listeria bacterium and not human or plant cells, the FDA said.
"As long as it used in accordance with the regulations, we have concluded it's safe,'' Zajac said. People normally come into contact with phages through food, water and the environment, and they are found in our digestive tracts, the FDA said.
Consumers won't be aware that meat and poultry products have been treated with the spray, Zajac added. The Department of Agriculture will regulate the actual use of the product.
The viruses are grown in a preparation of the very bacteria they kill, and then purified. The FDA had concerns that the virus preparation potentially could contain toxic residues associated with the bacteria. However, testing did not reveal the presence of such residues, which in small quantities likely wouldn't cause health problems anyway, the FDA said.
"The FDA is applying one of the toughest food-safety standards which they have to find this is safe,'' said Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group. "They couldn't approve this product if they had questions about its safety.''
Intralytix, based in Baltimore, first petitioned the FDA in 2002 to allow the viruses to be used as a food additive. It has since licensed the product to a multinational company, which intends to market it worldwide, said Intralytix president Vazzana. He declined to name the company but said he expected it to announce its plans within weeks or months.
Intralytix also plans to seek FDA approval for another bacteriophage product to kill E. coli bacteria on beef before it is ground, Vazzana said.
Scientists have long studied bacteriophages as a bacteria-fighting alternative to antibiotics.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Grabbed from Center for Media and Democracy
Publishers of PR Watch
As Father Time faded into history with the end of 2005, he was spinning out of control.
The coveted Falsies AwardsOver the past twelve months, the ideal of accurate, accountable, civic-minded news media faced nearly constant attack. Fake news abounded, from Pentagon-planted stories in Iraqi newspapers to corporate- and government-funded video news releases aired by U.S. newsrooms. Enough payola pundits surfaced to constitute their own basketball team -- Doug Bandow, Peter Ferrara, Maggie Gallagher, Michael McManus and Armstrong Williams. (They could call themselves the "Syndicated Shills.")
Then there were the public relations campaigns that sought to redefine reality itself. The oil and nuclear industries could be greenwashed! Rights-abusing governments and labor-abusing companies could be whitewashed! Junk food companies could be nutriwashed and genetically-modified foods poorwashed! The only limitations were PR flacks' imaginations -- and their expense accounts.
Viewed in sum, the extensive pollution of last year's information environment could either make you cynical or have you convinced that two plus two really does equal five.
Here at the Center for Media and Democracy, we realized that sorting through a year's worth of outrageous spin to bestow this year's Falsies Awards was no small task. We asked our readers for help, and 846 people answered the call, filling out our Falsies Awards Survey.
Here, then, are the winners of the second annual Center for Media and Democracy Falsies Awards, followed by our Readers' Choice Falsies. Lastly, we recognize groups and individuals who used information, reason, independent media and community organizing to counter 2005's flack attacks with the Center's first ever Win Against Spin Awards.
And the Falsies Awards Winners Are...
The coveted Gold Falsies Award of 2005 goes to the video news release industry (with a nod to their accomplices in television newsrooms).
In March, the New York Times reported, "At least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years. ... Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgment of the government's role." Video and radio segments from the U.S. Agriculture Department's Broadcast Media & Technology Center, which the Times called "one of the most effective public relations operations inside the federal government," are very one-sided. A Center for Media and Democracy review found pieces deriding public safety concerns about mad cow disease as "nothing but media hype" and promoting the Central American Free Trade Agreement as "very good for agriculture."
It does make a twisted sort of sense, though. These video news releases (VNRs) and audio news releases (ANRs) are produced by public relations firms (or PR staff within companies or government agencies) to advance a client's agenda. They're just like advertisements -- except that listeners or viewers think they're independently-reported news segments. Too bad for them, but it's great propaganda for the corporate and government entities behind the fake news. Everyone knows that ads lie, but who would guess that a report on a company was actually produced by that company?
Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of fake news comes from companies, not governments. During a March teleconference of public relations executives, the CEO of Medialink, one of the largest VNR companies, cautioned his peers, "Let's remember this debate, from everything I've seen, read, heard, and talked to, is purely the government. ... I don't hear anybody issuing a healing cry over the stuff that we do day-in and day-out; it's really government. And I'm glad the story is kind of focused there, because I would hate to see it broaden." Sure thing, Larry -- we won't tell a soul!
The Silver Falsies Award goes to the mainstream media and the Bush administration, for "Not Counting the Dead."
In March, a survey of more than 200 U.S. media personnel by American University's School of Communications found that "many media outlets self-censored their reporting on Iraq," often out of fear of offending their audience. One participant in the survey wrote, "The real damage of war on the civilian population was uniformly omitted." Indeed, U.S. media ignored or downplayed an October 2004 medical study that estimated nearly 100,000 Iraqi civilians had died since the U.S. invasion. The study, which erred on the side of caution by leaving Fallujah's high mortality rates out of its final projections, was widely praised by public health professionals.
In October, the Pentagon began periodically releasing "enemy body counts ... to show the impact of some counterinsurgency operations" in Iraq, reported the Washington Post. In response to a question at a December talk, President Bush broke his silence on civilian casualties to say that "30,000 Iraqis, more or less, have died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence." This newfound candor came as Bush's approval ratings for "handling his job, Iraq, terrorism and the economy" were "all at career-lows," according to ABC News polls. Bush's lowball estimation of civilian deaths was welcomed as "a more realistic tone" by international media and was quickly overshadowed by Iraq's parliamentary elections, held just days later.
The debate about Iraqi civilian casualties mirrors earlier, and similarly marginalized, questions about civilian deaths following the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Based on multiple news reports of each casualty, U.S. academic Mark Herold arrived at a conservative estimate of 3,767 Afghan civilians killed by December 2001. Yet U.S. military operations there continued in 2005. Human Rights Watch also claims that U.S. arrest and detention practices are "endangering the lives of Afghan civilians" and "undermining efforts to restore the rule of law in Afghanistan." But what do they know about, um, human rights?
In January, the Pentagon increased media training for forces going to Iraq, making "one or two hours of briefings by public-affairs specialists" mandatory for Army troops, and distributing wallet-sized "talking point" cards to soldiers. One talking point was, "We are not an occupying force," reported the North Carolina News & Observer.
Apparently, U.S. officials spent much of 2005 in linguistic debates. Initially, opponents in Iraq were called "dead-enders" or "Baathist holdouts." When the dead end started looking more like a long slog, they became "former regime loyalists." That changed to "former regime elements," to avoid the positive connotations of the word "loyalty." In November, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had "an epiphany." "This is a group of people who don't merit the word 'insurgency,'" he said, since that implies that they have "a legitimate gripe." (Remember, there are no occupying forces in Iraq.) Rumsfeld's half-joking re-re-re-naming suggestion was "enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government."
In June, the Pentagon awarded up to $300 million over five years to SYColeman, Inc., Lincoln Group and Science Applications International Corporation, to "inject more creativity into ... psychological operations efforts to improve foreign public opinion about the United States, particularly the military," reported the Washington Post. At the time, the military contractors' work was described as developing "radio and television spots, documentaries, or even text messages, pop-up ads on the Internet, podcasting, billboards or novelty items."
That could be accurate -- if Pentagon officials consider foreign news media to be novelty items. ("Happy birthday! Put on your Al Jazeera party hat!") In November, the Los Angeles Times outed the Lincoln Group for covertly paying Iraqi newspapers to print stories written by U.S. information operations forces. The planted stories were described as "basically factual," although -- like their VNR and ANR cousins -- they presented "only one side of events." But in December, strategy documents obtained by ABC News suggested that the Lincoln Group's description of the November 2004 assault on Fallujah as a joint Iraqi and U.S. military operation was inaccurate. "Marines and reporters said the Iraqis were only minimally involved," reported ABC.
Falsies Awards Dishonorable Mentions go to President Bush, for "Support Our Props," and U.S. Representative Tom DeLay, for "The Mug Shot Mug."
In October, President Bush held a videoconference with U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq that was billed as a "back-and-forth with the troops." However, a premature satellite feed showed Allison Barber, a senior Pentagon official and former president of the PR firm Sodenta, rehearsing the "spontaneous" conversation with the soldiers. Oops! One of the Iraq troops presented as someone with on-the-ground knowledge, Master Sgt. Corine Lombardo, was also a flack. According to David Axe, who reported from Iraq for the Village Voice, Lombardo's "job when I was with the 42nd Infantry Division included taking reporters to lunch. She lives in a fortified compound in Tikrit and rarely leaves."
The same month, U.S. Representative and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay reported to the Harris County, Texas sheriff's office after being indicted for campaign finance conspiracy and money laundering. He was fingerprinted and posted a $10,000 bond, but, apparently, he felt great. In his mug shot, DeLay grinned widely, wearing a dapper suit with his House pin on the lapel. Also unlike your typical mug shot, the picture did not include booking information. Reporters conjectured that DeLay's advisors "urged him to grin so that Democrats won't be able to use a dour mug shot in future ad campaigns," according to Slate. But maybe DeLay follows the advice of Billy Crystal's Saturday Night Live character, Fernando: "It's not how you feel; it's how you look. And you look mah-velous!"
And the Readers' Choice Falsies Winners Are...
Many of our readers sent in their own Falsies Awards nominations. Some were for groups, people or trends whose spinning ways the Center for Media and Democracy has been tracking for some time. For instance:
* The American Chemistry Council, which, as one Falsies Awards Survey respondent noted, "recently launched a major PR campaign ... that promotes the economic contributions of toxics producers who are lobbying to weaken the right-to-know annual Toxics Release Inventory report";
* The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a "trade/lobbying group" that "continues to insist that reimportation of their drugs from third countries such as Canada is dangerous," another respondent wrote. "Meanwhile, they're offshoring jobs";
* The American Beverage Association, for "announcing a bogus voluntary policy for soda in schools at the National Conference of State Legislatures when Coke and Pepsi lobby against state bills";
* Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, for, as one respondent put it, promoting "her refusal to testify before the grand jury investigating the outing of a CIA operative as a principled First Amendment cause, but, in reality, she played a lead role in the disinformation campaign to prime public support for a war of aggression"; and
* "Cause marketing," such as the widespread pink ribbon ad campaigns playing on the serious health threat of breast cancer. "I am a survivor and I feel Falsies sums it up," one respondent told us. "We wouldn't really need them if we had a cure."
Other readers urged the Center for Media and Democracy to adopt a more global approach to the Falsies Awards. International nominees of note include:
* British Prime Minister Tony Blair received several write-ins, for the "oh-so-dodgy dossier," his "persuasive" oratories about Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction, and for "lying to the people and the Parliament of the UK" about the Iraq war;
* The Downing Street Memos (and scant media coverage of them), as "a double-edged sword" that sliced through both "the false Iraq war claims" and the "last shred of credibility" of the mainstream media;
* Ahmed Chalabi, who one respondent called "a one-man PR machine," for having "lied to the Iraqis, lied to the Jordanians, and last but least lied to the Americans." Perhaps his poor showing in December's elections in Iraq is not-so-instant karma?;
* The CanWest Global Communications Corporation, "Canada's leading international media company," for owning a broadcasting network that "reaches more than 94% of English-speaking Canada," as well as "10 major metro dailies and 23 smaller daily, weekly, and community papers," among the many other holdings listed on their website. One respondent wrote, "We no longer have anything close to a free press in Canada except for small alternative publications which have trouble surviving"; and
* The National Coalition for Haitian Rights - Haiti, for engaging in what one respondent called a "partisan campaign to discredit the ousted Aristide government," adding, "Prior to the coup, NCHR ... directly link[ed] police abuses to the government. ... Post-coup, NCHR now refers to killings of civilians by Haitian police as 'collateral damage.'"
And the Win Against Spin Awards Winners Are...
The public relations industry is pervasive, well-funded and highly skilled -- but not insurmountable. Indeed, the Center for Media and Democracy was founded because deceptive PR only works when it remains unquestioned. Once exposed to public scrutiny, front groups, hollow claims and other media perversions lose their power. Then, debates on important issues can take place on a more level playing ground.
For their work to overcome misleading spin and reclaim the media, the following groups and people earned the Center's 2005 Win Against Spin Awards:
* The California Labor Federation, California Nurses Association and Service Employees International Union, for winning their lawsuit against the use of video news releases by Governor Schwarzenegger's administration, to promote workplace rule changes. A Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled that the VNRs gave "the misleading impression that the regulations are unopposed by any segments of the public and are not subject to criticism, thereby discouraging any further questioning or investigation of the matter by the public";
* Marla Ruzicka, who founded the group CIVIC (the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict) to document civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq as a result of U.S.-led wars and lobbied Congress to provide assistance to families harmed during military operations. Tragically, this is a posthumous award, as Ruzicka was killed by a car bomb in Baghdad in April;
* U.S. Representative Frank Wolf, for questioning the propriety of lobbying contracts between U.S. firms and the foreign governments of China, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. Wolf also upbraided the U.S. State Department for granting the lobbying firm C/R International an exemption to the ban on U.S. companies doing business with Sudan;
* Voters in Switzerland, three California counties and nearly 100 New England towns who passed resolutions opposing the unregulated use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or placing a moratorium on the commercial release or cultivation of GMOs. These victories for local food sovereignty and the precautionary approach were won despite massive lobbying and PR campaigns from biotech companies and major farm groups, and attempts to deny communities the right to vote on such matters; and
* Citizen journalists - especially those who risk harassment, imprisonment or worse for using the Internet "to expose violations by their governments and provide the outside world with information," as Amnesty International noted in its tribute to blogs on World Press Freedom Day. In the United States, local news websites and distributed journalism projects (like our own SourceWatch) made significant contributions.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
The following is excerpts from an interview about widespread sexual harassment and rape by military recruiters:
AMY GOODMAN: Martha Mendoza joins us now. She is the Pulitzer Prize-winning A.P. reporter who conducted this investigation into military recruiting and sexual misconduct. We invited a representative of the Pentagon to join us, but they did not respond to the request. Martha Mendoza, welcome to Democracy Now!
MARTHA MENDOZA: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you lay out your findings?
MARTHA MENDOZA: Yes. It took about six months for us to do enough Freedom of Information Act work, as well as interviews. We read journals from a victim who had been victimized by a recruiter. During this time, what we found was more than 80 military recruiters had been disciplined in 2005 for sexual misconduct with potential enlistees. These cases were across all the branches of the military, and it took place all over the country.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk specifically about the numbers? You start your piece by talking about a hundred women. Talk about the time frame. Talk about the cases we know and what you suspect about the cases we don't know.
MARTHA MENDOZA: Sure, there was a hundred young women. Most of them were between 16 to 18 years old. One important thing to point out here is that this is a rate of one out of every 200 frontline recruiters who was disciplined for this, not just charged. What we found in our review is that these were mostly students, high school or college students. Most of them were thinking about recruiting, and that the misconduct usually took place either in recruiting stations, in recruitersÂ apartments, or in government vehicles. It's a unique relationship, where recruiters are allowed to be alone in a closed room or closed car with a young woman. It's rare in the world of counseling and coaching and teaching that you would find that.
AMY GOODMAN: The level of military response to the complaints?
MARTHA MENDOZA: Most of the cases are handled administratively, almost all of them, so that recruiters can be demoted, they can get letters of reprimand, they can be fined. On occasion, civilian courts, civilian prosecutors will step in and also take cases, and there are a small percentage of court martial and severe penalties imposed in some of these cases.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us more about the first clip we played? That's Barry Vogel, representing a 17-year-old teen.
MARTHA MENDOZA: Yes, in this case there was a recruiting station in Northern California, where there was several recruiters who have since been charged and taken out of the Marines for what appeared to be a pattern in that office of sexual misconduct with potential recruits. And in that case, things got so bad that at one point there were three recruiters having sex in the front recruiting room office with three young women, all potential recruits. Many of the victims in that area said that they were being told if they wanted to join the Marines, they were going to have to have sex with these recruiters.
AMY GOODMAN: And how did you learn this?
MARTHA MENDOZA: I came across this entire story by talking to an attorney who was representing two young women who claimed to have been raped by recruiters, and he said he felt that there was more than just these two cases.
AMY GOODMAN: And what does it take for a young person to come forward and talk about their experience? I mean, you're talking about the end there, where they're suing.
MARTHA MENDOZA: They're extremely traumatized. In fact, this morning I'm planning to interview another young woman who was victimized in this way. They are traumatized for years. They are frightened of authority. The young women who do come forward and do something about this are courageous. They are preventing it from happening to someone else, and they mostly live in small communities, where if this plays in their local paper, even if their name is not included, it's tough to protect their anonymity.
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Martha Mendoza. She is a Pulitzer Prize-winning A.P. reporter, national investigative reporter, who has come out with an expose on military recruiters and the increasing incidence of sexual misconduct. Can you tell us about Shedrick Hamilton, the man we just saw and heard in prison now? I think his sentence is 15 months. Tell us about his case.
MARTHA MENDOZA: He was charged with a handful of counts of rape. He was from Upstate New York. He was a recruiter who had been serving in the Marines for seven years. In this case, the charges were reduced to a third degree rape, and he says he's very, very remorseful about what happened. He realizes that his life has been ruined, his military career, his family. And he also says that he's very sad about what became -- what happened to his victim, who was a 16-year-old girl at the time.
AMY GOODMAN: How do these recruiters meet these young women?
MARTHA MENDOZA: Well, under the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, public schools have to provide lists of all the names and phone numbers of their students, and in many cases, emails as well and cell phones as well, to the military recruiters. If they don't provide these lists, then the schools do not get federal funds. And unless the parents or the students go through a special process to opt out of being included on this list, the recruiters have unprecedented access to young people right now. And they are on high school and college campuses, of course, just like any other employers allowed on a high school or college campus.
And they develop relationships with the young person they're trying to recruit. They learn at recruiting school to build trust and develop a close relationship. It's very hard on the recruiters, who are working teenage hours, and I want to be clear that there's many good recruiters out there who are doing their jobs as diligently as they can. Right now is a very tough time to be a military recruiter, because of the war in Iraq. It's making it less likely that people are going to want to enlist.
AMY GOODMAN: Looking at the Indianapolis Star, they did a report how in Indiana, six female high school recruits were sexually assaulted by a recruiter in 2002, 2003. Indiana National Guard Sergeant Eric Vetesy, quote, "picked out teens and young women with backgrounds that made them vulnerable to authority. As a military recruiter, he had access to personal information, making the quest easier.Â The local prosecutor noted that, of the victims, young women between the ages of 17 and 21, Âmost were in single-parent families with no father figure. Because Vetesy assembled [the] background information on each recruit [Â ] he was able to target those he most likely could coerce."
MARTHA MENDOZA: Sergeant -- it's pronounced Vetsy -- has not had his trial yet. It's going to be in early 2007. The charges are by far the most egregious of any of the cases I came across. He was charged with throwing girls up on counters and being very forcible and very rough with very young girls. His case is remarkable in that there were 31 different counts, and that the prosecutor, in addition to charging rape and sexual assault, is charging a racketeering charge, because they're saying he abused his position of official power.
One thing that is also interesting about Eric Vetesy's case is that Indiana Army National Guard didn't just sit on their hands and say, this is a problem. They have instituted what I believe is the only program in the country called "No One Alone." Male recruiters cannot be alone in offices, cars or anywhere else, with female enlistees. If they are, they risk immediate disciplinary action. They will also be disciplined if they hear of another recruiter's misconduct and don't report it. And the director of the Indiana Army National Guard says that just a year into this program, they're having a lot fewer problems. He said it's almost like we're changing the culture in our recruiting.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about how you get information, Martha Mendoza? I mean, you're talking about the Army, the Marine Corps, the Navy, the Air Force. How centralized is this information about the number of cases of sexual abuse?
MARTHA MENDOZA: Well, I thought it was going to be easier to get the information than it was. I began with very routine Freedom of Information Act requests to the Defense Department, which immediately told me they don't oversee and coordinate recruiter misconduct or any type of these cases. I then sent out individual Freedom of Information Act requests to the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force, and found that part of the problem here may be that nobody is tracking these cases.
So, in the end, I did dozens of Freedom of Information Act requests and found myself having to track down who might have pieces of information about court martials, which are kept in one area, and disciplinary reprimands, in another area, and myself provide the Freedom of Information Act researchers in those branches of the military with who they should contact within their own military organization to get me the numbers that I was requesting.
So, a big piece of this story was getting the numbers. I went into it wondering, well, were there two cases that this attorney is suing over and that had been played out in a military court, or were there more? It surprised me to find 80 military recruiters disciplined in 2005. That was a much higher number than I think anyone had anticipated.
But in addition to the numbers, it was a case of trying to get people to talk to me about it. I wanted to understand from a victim's perspective how this could happen, and I wanted to understand from recruiters' perspectives, as well. So I spent time following recruiters at their work, and, as you saw, I interviewed recruiters who have been charged and disciplined. I spent a good deal of time talking to victims, as well, and to sexual assault experts about these cases.
AMY GOODMAN: And how does this affect the recruitment of young women into the military?
MARTHA MENDOZA: Well, I don't know. That will come to pass. You mean, in terms of young women who are being victimized during the process?
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, and then others who hear about it. In fact, a GAO report came out on this, Government Accountability Office report, talking about just one of these stories and how it infects the whole community.
MARTHA MENDOZA: Yeah, I think certain recruiting offices and certain recruiting officers do get reputations. It's hard for me to quantify what it is that's making it very difficult for recruiters these days to meet their numbers that they're supposed to be meeting. One interesting number I came across was that half of the 16 to 24-year-olds in this country are not eligible to be signed up for the military at this point, due to their test scores or to their education, so the recruiters have a much smaller pool to even seek from right now. I should mention that the GAO report you talked about there came out last week, and what it showed was that overall recruiter misconduct, and that's signing people up and not telling them the truth when they're doing it and other types of wrongdoing, has increased from 400 cases in 2004 to 630 cases in 2005.
AMY GOODMAN: We're hearing about increasing number of women who have suffered. On June 15, police in Eugene, Oregon, arrested a 21-year-old Army specialist for refusing to return to fight in Iraq. You may be familiar with this case. The soldier is named Suzanne Swift. She served in Iraq for a year but decided this time she could not return. Like thousands of other soldiers, she went AWOL. Not only did she feel that the war lacked purpose, but she said her superiors repeatedly sexual assaulted and harassed her while she served in Iraq. She ultimately remained AWOL until June, when the Eugene police knocked on her mother's front door. It was 10:30 at night. Suzanne was arrested, taken to the county jail. Then she was transferred to Fort Lewis in Washington, forced to return to her unit, but barred from leaving the base. Do you know the story of Suzanne Swift, now trying to get out of the military, accusing her superiors of harassment?
MARTHA MENDOZA: Yeah, I am familiar with her case. I haven't done any reporting into it. I have done a fair bit of reporting into people who are trying to get out of the military right now and how those numbers are increasing -- the conscientious objectors, as well as people who are getting out for other types of reasons: weight, drugs, alcohol. Her case is unique in that I'm not sure she made an attempt to get out through one of the official channels. I think she was victimized and traumatized, and I -- you know, I don't -- I haven't interviewed her, and I haven't read the case files on it.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you going to follow up this A.P. expose with another?
MARTHA MENDOZA: Well, that's my job, luckily. I'm very fortunate at the A.P. to have a role where I get to do a lot of investigative reporting, and on this story I believe the follow-up, the next step, is going to be that in Congress there's people calling for increased penalties for sexual misconduct by military recruiters now, as well as members who are saying we need to look at the entire recruiting process and figure out what's going wrong. So I believe that's where the initial follow-ups are going to come.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Martha Mendoza, I want to thank you very much for being with us, won the Pulitzer Prize writing for A.P., now has done this expose on sexual harassment by military recruiters.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Homeland Security Contracts for Vast New Detention Camps
News Analysis/Commentary, Peter Dale Scott,
New America Media, Feb 08, 2006
Editor's Note: A little-known $385 million contract for Halliburton subsidiary KBR to build detention facilities for "an emergency influx of immigrants" is another step down the Bush administration's road toward martial law, the writer says.
BERKELEY, Calif.--A Halliburton subsidiary has just received a $385 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security to provide "temporary detention and processing capabilities."
The contract -- announced Jan. 24 by the engineering and construction firm KBR -- calls for preparing for "an emergency influx of immigrants, or to support the rapid development of new programs" in the event of other emergencies, such as "a natural disaster." The release offered no details about where Halliburton was to build these facilities, or when.
To date, some newspapers have worried that open-ended provisions in the contract could lead to cost overruns, such as have occurred with KBR in Iraq. A Homeland Security spokesperson has responded that this is a "contingency contract" and that conceivably no centers might be built. But almost no paper so far has discussed the possibility that detention centers could be used to detain American citizens if the Bush administration were to declare martial law.
For those who follow covert government operations abroad and at home, the contract evoked ominous memories of Oliver North's controversial Rex-84 "readiness exercise" in 1984. This called for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to round up and detain 400,000 imaginary "refugees," in the context of "uncontrolled population movements" over the Mexican border into the United States. North's activities raised civil liberties concerns in both Congress and the Justice Department. The concerns persist.
"Almost certainly this is preparation for a roundup after the next 9/11 for Mid-Easterners, Muslims and possibly dissenters," says Daniel Ellsberg, a former military analyst who in 1971 released the Pentagon Papers, the U.S. military's account of its activities in Vietnam. "They've already done this on a smaller scale, with the 'special registration' detentions of immigrant men from Muslim countries, and with Guantanamo."
Plans for detention facilities or camps have a long history, going back to fears in the 1970s of a national uprising by black militants. As Alonzo Chardy reported in the Miami Herald on July 5, 1987, an executive order for continuity of government (COG) had been drafted in 1982 by FEMA head Louis Giuffrida. The order called for "suspension of the Constitution" and "declaration of martial law." The martial law portions of the plan were outlined in a memo by Giuffrida's deputy, John Brinkerhoff.
In 1985, President Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive 188, one of a series of directives that authorized continued planning for COG by a private parallel government.
Two books, James Mann's "Rise of the Vulcans" and James Bamford's "A Pretext for War," have revealed that in the 1980s this parallel structure, operating outside normal government channels, included the then-head of G. D. Searle and Co., Donald Rumsfeld, and then-Congressman from Wyoming Dick Cheney.
After 9/11, new martial law plans began to surface similar to those of FEMA in the 1980s. In January 2002 the Pentagon submitted a proposal for deploying troops on American streets. One month later John Brinkerhoff, the author of the 1982 FEMA memo, published an article arguing for the legality of using U.S. troops for purposes of domestic security.
Then in April 2002, Defense Dept. officials implemented a plan for domestic U.S. military operations by creating a new U.S. Northern Command (CINC-NORTHCOM) for the continental United States. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called this "the most sweeping set of changes since the unified command system was set up in 1946."
The NORTHCOM commander, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced, is responsible for "homeland defense and also serves as head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).... He will command U.S. forces that operate within the United States in support of civil authorities. The command will provide civil support not only in response to attacks, but for natural disasters."
John Brinkerhoff later commented on PBS that, "The United States itself is now for the first time since the War of 1812 a theater of war. That means that we should apply, in my view, the same kind of command structure in the United States that we apply in other theaters of war."
Then in response to Hurricane Katrina in Sept. 2005, according to the Washington Post, White House senior adviser Karl Rove told the governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, that she should explore legal options to impose martial law "or as close as we can get." The White House tried vigorously, but ultimately failed, to compel Gov. Blanco to yield control of the state National Guard.
Also in September, NORTHCOM conducted its highly classified Granite Shadow exercise in Washington. As William Arkin reported in the Washington Post, "Granite Shadow is yet another new Top Secret and compartmented operation related to the military's extra-legal powers regarding weapons of mass destruction. It allows for emergency military operations in the United States without civilian supervision or control."
It is clear that the Bush administration is thinking seriously about martial law.
Many critics have alleged that FEMA's spectacular failure to respond to Katrina followed from a deliberate White House policy: of paring back FEMA, and instead strengthening the military for responses to disasters.
A multimillion program for detention facilities will greatly increase NORTHCOM's ability to respond to any domestic disorders.
Scott is author of "Drugs, Oil, and War: The United States in Afghanistan, Colombia, and Indochina" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003). He is completing a book on "The Road to 9/11."
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Graphic from Andy Davey's cartoons and caricatures
The following is an excerpt from an interview with Seymour Hersh, veteran investigative journalist from the New York Times. The entire interview can be read at http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/08/14/1358255
AMY GOODMAN: Hi. Can you just start off by telling us what you know at this point of what Washington's interests in Israel's war are?
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, when you say Washington, you have to talk about Dick Cheney. I can tell you pretty firmly that it's his office. I guess you could say it's sort of the home of the neoconservative thinking in Washington -- some of his aides and the people close to him in the White House: Elliott Abrams, David Wurmser, others.
What I understand is this: our military, our Air Force has been trying for a year to get plans for a major massive bombing assault on Iran pushed through the Pentagon, pushed through the process. And there's been sort of an internecine fight inside the Pentagon over just basically the idea of strategic war against Iran. They're very dug in Iran. The Persians have been digging in for -- what? -- centuries and centuries. And the Marines and the Navy and the Army have said, No way we're going to start bombing, because it will end up with troops on the ground. So there's been a stalemate. I've written a lot about it.
And in this spring, as part of the stalemate, the American Air Force approached the Israeli Air Force, which as you know is headed by General Dan Halutz, who is an Air Force -- I think the first IDF commander, the commander of the Israeli Defense Forces, to be an Air Force guy, and another believer of strategic war, and the two had a lot of interests. And so, out of these meetings in the spring became an agreement, you know, sort of we'll help you, you help us, and it got to Cheney's attention, this idea of Israel planning a major, major strategic bombing campaign against Hezbollah. And for -- I can't tell you where Bush is, but you have to assume he’s right with him. Obviously everything he's done makes that clear.
Cheney's idea was this, that we sort of -- it's like a three-for. We get three for one with this. One, here we're having this war about the value of strategic bombing, and the Israeli Air Force, whose pilots are superb, can go in and -- if they could go in and blast Hezbollah out of their foxholes or whatever they are, their underground facilities, and roll over them, as everybody in the White House and I'm sure everybody in the Israeli Air Force thought they could do, that would be a big plus for the ambitions that I think the President and Cheney have for Iran. I don't think this president, our president, is going to leave office with Iran being, as he sees it, a nuclear threat.
The second great argument you have, of course, is if you are going to do Iran, you're going to need -- you can't attack Iran without taking care of the Hezbollah missiles or rockets. They're really rockets. They're not independently guided. Even their long-range rockets that go a few hundred kilometers, you cannot attack Iran without taking them out, because obviously that's the deterrent. You hit Iran, Hezbollah then bombs Tel Aviv and Haifa. So that's something you have to clean out first.
And thirdly, of course, is if you get rid of Hezbollah and Nasrallah, why, you get rid of a terror -- a man who’s considered to be, as somebody famously said, Richard Armitage, the “A-Team of terrorism.”
So on that basis, there was a tremendous interest in Israel going ahead. There were meetings. There were an enormous amount of contacts. I should add, Amy, that of course -- and this is reflected in the story -- Israel doesn't need the United States to know they have a problem with Hezbollah. And so, they were going to do something anyway. But it's a question of timing, and that's one of the big issues.
This summer, earlier this summer, there was -- and late, I guess after the Israelis began their reoccupation -- occupation of Gaza, after the first Israeli soldier was captured, a soldier named Shalit, I think, June 28th, after he was captured, the traffic, the signals traffic that the Israeli signals community gets showed an enormous amount of talk about doing something on the northern border. That is, on the border between Syria -- I mean between Lebanon and Israel.
And so, on that basis, it was clear this summer, the next time Hezbollah made a move, and there's been a cat-and-mouse game between Israel and Hezbollah for about six years, since the Israelis were kicked out or driven out by Nasrallah in 2000. It’s been cat-and-mouse. Both sides have been going against each other, nickel-dime stuff. And the next time Hezbollah made a move, the Israeli Air Force was going to bomb, the plan was going to go in effect. The move came very quick. It came about ten days after or twelve days after the first Israeli soldier was captured.
Friday, August 11, 2006
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Monday, August 07, 2006
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Bush Grants Self Permission To Grant More Power To Self
August 1, 2006 Issue 42•31
WASHINGTON, DC—In a decisive 1–0 decision Monday, President Bush voted to grant the president the constitutional power to grant himself additional powers.
President Bush announces announcement of the new power-granting announcement.
"As president, I strongly believe that my first duty as president is to support and serve the president," Bush said during a televised address from the East Room of the White House shortly after signing his executive order. "I promise the American people that I will not abuse this new power, unless it becomes necessary to grant myself the power to do so at a later time."
The Presidential Empowerment Act, which the president hand-drafted on his own Oval Office stationery and promptly signed into law, provides Bush with full authority to permit himself to authorize increased jurisdiction over the three branches of the federal government, provided that the president considers it in his best interest to do so.
"In a time of war, the president must have the power he needs to make the tough decisions, including, if need be, the decision to grant himself even more power," Bush said. "To do otherwise would be playing into the hands of our enemies."
Added Bush: "And it's all under due process of the law as I see it."
In addition, the president reserves the right to overturn any decision to allow himself to increase his power by using a line-item veto, which in turn may only be overruled by the president.
Senior administration officials lauded Bush's decision, saying that current presidential powers over presidential power were "far too limited."
"Previously, the president only had the power to petition Congress to allow him to grant himself the power to grant more power to himself," Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez said shortly after the ceremony. "Now, the president can grant himself the power to interpret new laws however he sees fit, then use that power to interpret a law in such a manner that in turn grants him increased power."
In addition, a proviso in the 12th provision of the new law permits Bush the authority to waive the need for any presidential authorization of power in a case concerning national security, although legal experts suggest it would be little exercised.
Despite the president's new powers, the role of Congress and the Supreme Court has not been overlooked. Under the new law, both enjoy the newly broadened ability to grant the president the authority to increase his presidential powers.
Though public response to the new law has been limited, there has been an unfavorable reaction among Democrats, who are calling for restrictions on Bush's power to allow himself to grant the president more powers that would restrict the powers of Congress.
"This is a clear case of President Bush having carte blanche to grant himself complete discretion to enact laws to increase his power," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said. "The only thing we can do now is withhold our ability to grant him more authority to grant himself more power."
"Unless he authorizes himself to strip us of that power," Reid added.
Despite criticism, Bush took his first official action under the new law Tuesday, signing an executive order ordering that the chief executive be able to order more executive orders.
In addition, Republicans fearful that the president's new power undermines their ability to grant him power have proposed a new law that would allow senators to permit him to grant himself power, with or without presidential approval.
© Copyright 2006, Onion, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Onion is not intended for readers under 18 years of age.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Murray Bookchin Tribute
Murray Bookchin, visionary social theorist, dies at 85
A tribute by Brian Tokar.
(From the Institute For Social Ecology)
Murray Bookchin, the visionary social theorist and activist, died during the early morning of Sunday, July 30th in his home in Burlington, Vermont. During a prolific career of writing, teaching and political activism that spanned half a century, Bookchin forged a new anti-authoritarian outlook rooted in ecology, dialectical philosophy and left libertarianism.
During the 1950s and ‘60s, Bookchin built upon the legacies of utopian social philosophy and critical theory, challenging the primacy of Marxism on the left and linking contemporary ecological and urban crises to problems of capital and social hierarchy in general. Beginning in the mid-sixties, he pioneered a new political and philosophical synthesis—termed social ecology—that sought to reclaim local political power, by means of direct popular democracy, against the consolidation and increasing centralization of the nation state.
From the 1960s to the present, the utopian dimension of Bookchin’s social ecology inspired several generations of social and ecological activists, from the pioneering urban ecology movements of the sixties, to the 1970s’ back-to-the-land, antinuclear, and sustainable technology movements, the beginnings of Green politics and organic agriculture in the early 1980s, and the anti-authoritarian global justice movement that came of age in 1999 in the streets of Seattle. His influence was often cited by prominent political and social activists throughout the US, Europe, South America, Turkey, Japan, and beyond.
Even as numerous social movements drew on his ideas, however, Bookchin remained a relentless critic of the currents in those movements that he found deeply disturbing, including the New Left’s drift toward Marxism-Leninism in the late 1960s, tendencies toward mysticism and misanthropy in the radical environmental movement, and the growing focus on individualism and personal lifestyles among 1990s anarchists. In the late 1990s, Bookchin broke with anarchism, the political tradition he had been most identified with for over 30 years and articulated a new political vision that he called communalism.
Bookchin was raised in a leftist family in the Bronx during the 1920s and ‘30s. He enjoyed retelling the story of his expulsion from the Young Communist League at age 18 for openly criticizing Stalin, his brief flirtation with Trotskyism as a labor organizer in the foundries of New Jersey, and his introduction to anarchism by veterans of the immigrant labor movement during the 1950s. In 1974, he co-founded the Institute for Social Ecology, along with Dan Chodorkoff, then a graduate student at Vermont’s Goddard College. For 30 years, the Institute for Social Ecology has brought thousands of students to Vermont for intensive educational programs focusing on the theory and praxis of social ecology. A self-educated scholar and public intellectual, Bookchin served as a full professor at Ramapo College of New Jersey despite his own lack of conventional academic credentials. He published more than 20 books and many hundreds of articles during his lifetime, many of which were translated into Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Turkish and other languages.
During the 1960s - ‘80s, Bookchin emphasized his fundamental theoretical break with Marxism, arguing that Marx’s central focus on economics and class obscured the more profound role of social hierarchy in the shaping of human history. His anthropological studies affirmed the role of domination by age, gender and other manifestations of social power as the antecedents of modern-day economic exploitation. In The Ecology of Freedom (1982), he examined the parallel legacies of domination and freedom in human societies, from prehistoric times to the present, and he later published a four-volume work, The Third Revolution, exploring anti-authoritarian currents throughout the Western revolutionary tradition.
At the same time, he criticized the lack of philosophical rigor that has often plagued the anarchist tradition, and drew theoretical sustenance from dialectical philosophy—particularly the works of Aristotle and Hegel; the Frankfurt School—of which he became increasingly critical in later years—and even the works of Marx and Lenin. During the past year, even while terminally ill in Burlington, Bookchin was working toward a re-evaluation of what he perceived as the historic failure of the 20th century left. He argued that Marxist crisis theory failed to recognize the inherent flexibility and malleability of capitalism, and that Marx never saw capitalism in its true contemporary sense. Until his death, Bookchin asserted that only the ecological problems created by modern capitalism were of sufficient magnitude to portend the system’s demise.
Murray Bookchin was diagnosed several months ago with a fatal heart condition. He will be remembered by his devoted family members—including his long-time companion Janet Biehl, his former wife Bea Bookchin, his son, daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter—as well as his friends, colleagues and frequent correspondents throughout the world. There will be a public memorial service in Burlington, Vermont on Sunday, August 13th. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.