Amy Goodman's Blog

February 11, 2016

By Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan

Super Bowl 50 was perhaps the most political in pro football's history. Not for the game itself, but rather the remarkable halftime show with its powerful performance by musical superstar Beyonc��. This sporting extravaganza, more than any other, sits at the apex of U.S. commercialized sports and celebrity, with an estimated 110 million viewers around the world. Beyonc�� brought to that huge audience a tour de force of political song and dance that far outshined the game itself. The song she performed, "Formation," has already been heralded as an anthem of black power for a new generation, confirming for any who wondered that the Black Lives Matter movement endures, with renewed vigor.

Beyonc�� was not the headliner of the show. The top billing went to British band Coldplay, whose pop tunes from earlier years were saccharine in contrast to what followed. Amidst pyrotechnic explosions, clad in a black military-style jacket and fishnet stockings, Beyonc�� erupted into center field accompanied by about 25 backup dancers, African-American women dressed with similar outfits and black berets, evoking memories of the Black Panthers of the 1960s. Driving home the symbolism, her dancers formed into a large "X" on the field, as if to commemorate the black-power icon Malcolm X, assassinated in 1965.

The Super Bowl was on Feb. 7. Beyonc�� released the song on video the day before, and on Feb. 5, which would have been the 21st birthday of Trayvon Martin, the African-American high-school student killed by white vigilante George Zimmerman four years ago, Beyonc�����s husband, Jay Z, announced that his streaming music service, Tidal, would be donating $1.5 million to a foundation for distribution to a number of social-justice organizations that are inspired by or support the aims of the Black Lives Matter movement.

"People should watch the video. There are more indelible images in the five minutes of this video than any Hollywood film I've seen in memory," sports journalist Dave Zirin told us on the "Democracy Now!" news hour. "It's radically audacious. ... This is a video that's rooted in Southern black experience, and it's not only about the Black Lives Matter movement, it is about hundreds of years of black women resisting state violence with a centered approach that's about mothers protecting their children and also about queer black women stepping up to be able to say, ���We are here. We matter, too.'"

The video of "Formation" includes images of a flooded city, reminiscent of New Orleans after Katrina, with Beyonc�� singing atop a partially submerged police car. The video ends with a camera panning to a wall graffitied with the words "Stop shooting us." Zirin lauded Zandria Felice Robinson, a professor of sociology at the University of Memphis, for her explanation of the imagery in the video: "Layered in and through the landscape of a black New Orleans still rigorous and delightful, past and present, the black southern signifiers and simulacra are unrelenting here," Zandria wrote in "New South Negress," her blog. Beyonc��, she continues, "becomes every black southern woman possible for her to reasonably inhabit, moving through time, class, and space."

The Super Bowl was founded in 1966, the same year as the Black Panther Party. The championship game has thrived, growing to be the signature event of the NFL, which has annual profits estimated at more than $7 billion. The Black Panthers, conversely, were targeted by the FBI in its notorious COINTELPRO program, its members harassed, arrested, imprisoned and, in some cases, killed. COINTELPRO was the FBI's "counterintelligence program" that engaged in illegal activity under the direct supervision of the FBI's director, J. Edgar Hoover. This is the same program that sought to undermine Martin Luther King Jr. by manufacturing evidence of infidelity, then pressuring him to commit suicide to avoid embarrassment.

After Beyonc�����s groundbreaking performance, Black Lives Matter activists managed to give a handmade sign to several of her dancers. The sign read, "Justice 4 Mario Woods." A video and photo of the dancers holding the sign, with their fists upraised in the black-power salute, went viral. Mario Woods was an African-American resident of San Francisco who was shot and killed by San Francisco police on Dec. 2, 2015. Police claimed he was armed with a knife and lunged at them, a claim which was debunked by eyewitness cellphone video of the shooting. In response to community outrage after no charges were filed against any of the officers involved, the U.S. Justice Department is launching an "independent and comprehensive review."

Amidst the unrelenting commercial fanfare surrounding Super Bowl 50, a raw and undiluted expression of a powerful social movement made its way onto center field. Echoes of another era found artistic rebirth, reaffirming, in this election year, that Black Lives Matter.

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Published on February 11, 2016 07:15 • 2 views

February 4, 2016

By Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan

Less than one month after the attacks of Sept. 11, a senior FBI official, Ronald Dick, told the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, ���Due to the vital importance of water to all life forms ... the FBI considers all threats to attack the water supply as serious threats.��� In 2003, a UPI article reported that an al-Qaida operative ���(does not rule out) using Sarin gas and poisoning drinking water in U.S. and Western cities.������ Where the terrorists have failed to mount any attack on a water supply, the Michigan state government has succeeded. In the city of Flint, lead-poisoned water has been piped into homes and offices since 2014, causing widespread illness and potentially permanent brain damage among its youngest residents.

Michigan has one of the most severe ���emergency manager��� laws in the country, allowing the governor to appoint an unelected agent to take over local governments when those locales or institutions have been deemed to be in a ���financial emergency.��� Republican Gov. Rick Snyder pushed for and obtained two bills that strengthened the law, and has used it aggressively to impose his version of fiscal austerity on cities like Detroit, Benton Harbor, several large school districts and, now most notoriously, on Flint. In every case but one, the emergency manager has taken over cities that are majority African-American. The emergency manager is granted sweeping powers to override local, democratically elected governments and to make cuts to budgets, sell public property, cancel or renegotiate labor contracts and essentially govern like a dictator.

In April 2014, Darnell Earley, the fourth of five Flint emergency managers appointed by Snyder, unilaterally decided to switch Flint���s water source from Detroit���s water system, with water from Lake Huron that they had been using for 50 years, to the long-contaminated Flint River. Flint residents immediately noticed discoloration and bad smells from the water, and experienced an array of health impacts, like rashes and hair loss. In October 2014, General Motors decided it would no longer use Flint city water in its plants, as it was corroding metal car parts. Later, trihalomethanes, a toxic byproduct of water treatment, were found in the water. Despite that, the water was declared safe by officials. At the same time, as revealed in an email later obtained by Progress Michigan, the state began shipping coolers of clean, potable water to the state office building in Flint. This was more than a year before Gov. Snyder would admit that the water was contaminated.

Ongoing activism by Flint residents whose children were sick attracted the involvement of water researchers from Virginia Tech, who found that 10,000 residents had been exposed to elevated lead levels. It took out-of-state researchers from Virginia to travel all the way to Michigan to conduct the comprehensive tests needed. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha then got involved. She is the director of the pediatric residency program at Hurley Children���s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics at Michigan State University. She discovered an alarming connection between rising blood lead levels in Flint���s children with the switch to the Flint River as a water source.

���The percentage of children with elevated lead levels doubled in the whole city, and in some neighborhoods, it tripled,��� she told us on the ���Democracy Now!��� news hour. ���And it directly correlated with where the water lead levels were the highest.���

Rather than going after the problem she identified, the state went after her. ���We were attacked,��� she recalled. ���I was called an ���unfortunate researcher,��� that I was causing near hysteria, that I was splicing and dicing numbers, and that the state data was not consistent with my data. And as a scientist ... when the state, with a team of 50 epidemiologists, tells you you���re wrong, you second-guess yourself.��� Within weeks, state authorities were forced to admit she was right. Soon after, she was standing at the governor���s side, and has just been appointed to run a new public health initiative to help those exposed to the contamination.

A chorus of Flint residents and allies are demanding immediate action to ensure safe, clean water to the people of Flint. Many are calling for Gov. Snyder to resign, or even to be arrested. The FBI and the Justice Department are now investigating to see if any laws were broken. This week, the House held a hearing on the crisis, during which Houston Congressmember Sheila Jackson Lee compared the poisoning of Flint residents to the 1978 mass suicide and murder in Jonestown, Guyana. There, cult leader Jim Jones ordered his 900 followers, 300 of them children, to drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. Those victims died instantly. In Flint, the tragedy will unfold over decades.

Amy Goodman is the host of ���Democracy Now!,��� a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,300 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan, of ���The Silenced Majority,��� a New York Times best-seller.

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Published on February 04, 2016 06:49 • 3 views

January 28, 2016

By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan

PARK CITY, Utah ��� This week, a Houston grand jury returned a surprise indictment. It was tasked with investigating videos that purported to expose Planned Parenthood for selling the body parts of aborted fetuses. The grand jury found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, but instead charged the video producers David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt from the anti-abortion group The Center for Medical Progress, with tampering with a government record, a felony.

Meanwhile, another video was released this week, this one an accurate depiction of the threat to women���s reproductive rights around the country. ���TRAPPED��� is a moving documentary that premiered Sunday night at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. It demonstrates how access to safe, legal abortions has come under assault in the U.S., as state after state passes restrictive ���TRAP��� laws, or ���Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers.��� These laws, which have proliferated since the Tea-Party sweep of state legislatures in 2010, purport to protect the health of women, but actually result in the closure of women���s health clinics. The film is being released nationally as a woman���s right to choose faces a crucial challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 2.

Dawn Porter is the award-winning filmmaker who wrote, directed and produced ���TRAPPED.��� While in Mississippi shooting an earlier film, she learned that the state had only one remaining clinic where abortions were available. She went there to meet Dr. Willie Parker, an obstetrician/gynecologist.

Appearing on ���Democracy Now!��� early in the morning after the premiere of ���TRAPPED,��� Dr. Parker told me: ���I���ve been an OB-GYN for 21 years, a doctor for 25. And when it became clear to me ... that one in three women need abortion care in their reproductive lives and that disproportionately poor women and women of color were not having those services, it became important to me to guarantee access to these very important health services by moving back to my hometown in Birmingham and to provide services in the South.���

The film follows Dr. Parker and several other abortion providers in Alabama, where TRAP laws have been passed that mandate onerous changes to clinics where abortions are provided. Most of these laws are based on model legislation drafted by an anti-choice group called Americans United for Life. They force safe, legally functioning abortion service providers to make costly and unnecessary improvements to their facilities. In scores of cases, the clinics cannot afford to make the changes, and have to shut down.

In one scene of the film ���TRAPPED,��� Dr. Parker is shown with a patient. He is relaying to her information that is required by Alabama���s TRAP law:

���I���m required by law to tell you that by having an abortion, it can increase your risk for breast cancer. There is no scientific evidence to support that. Now, the state requires me to tell you that if you were having this procedure, there is the risk of complications. I think that���s a good thing to know, the risk. The state requires me to tell you that you can have heavy bleeding that can be life-threatening, and it could require you to be transferred to the hospital and need a blood transfusion. If you���re having a bleeding that can only be controlled with removing your uterus, you���d have to have a hysterectomy, and you���d lose your ability to have babies in the future. Those are all the risks associated, but guess what. Those are the exact same risks that���s associated with having a baby. It is to say that you���re not taking any extra health risk. So abortion is extremely safe.���

In Texas, the TRAP law, known as HB2, passed in 2013. Before HB2 became law, there were 40 operating abortion clinics in Texas. Only 19 remain. A San Antonio clinic filed a lawsuit opposing HB2���s restrictions. That case, Whole Woman���s Health v. Hellerstedt (formerly v. Cole), will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 2, with a decision expected by June.

The doctored videos that were created to take down Planned Parenthood failed in their goal; their creators face years in prison. While ���TRAPPED��� will be airing in June on the PBS documentary series ���Independent Lens,��� it also will be shown in movie theaters, with concurrent community screenings. Dawn Porter hopes her latest film will engage, persuade and mobilize people across the country as this critical health-care issue is decided by the Supreme Court.

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Published on January 28, 2016 10:49 • 3 views

January 21, 2016

By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan

On a recent snowy January night in upstate New York, a grandmother turned herself in to the Jamesville Correctional Facility, to serve a six-month sentence. Her crime? Taking photos. Mary Anne Grady Flores was photographing eight others protesting at the gates of Hancock Field Air National Guard Base outside Syracuse, N.Y. The group, the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars, gathered there on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, protesting the weaponized drones used in the Obama administration���s targeted killing program. It was only one of many of the group���s peaceful vigils.

“It was Ash Wednesday, it���s a day of atonement in our tradition ... as Catholic workers,��� Grady Flores told me on the ""Democracy Now! news program, hours before turning herself in. "It���s really important to get the word out of what���s going on at the base, which are war crimes." Hancock Field is the home of the 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard, which operates a fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones, "a persistent hunter-killer of emerging targets," in the U.S. Air Force���s own words.

Grady Flores stood away from the vigil, taking photos, in part because a judge had issued an "order of protection" against her and other protesters as the result of a 2012 protest, when the group managed to block three entrances to the base for an hour. The order was issued at the request of the 174th Attack Wing���s Mission Support Group commander, Col. Earl A. Evans. Violation of the order to stay away from Evans��� home, school or "business" is considered a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison. Grady Flores learned upon her arrest that the base���s property reached well beyond the gate, across the road to where she was standing.

"Taking photographs, of course, is a First Amendment-protected activity. Demonstrating is a First Amendment-protected activity," Jonathan Wallace told us, appearing with Grady Flores on our program. Wallace is an attorney who has worked extensively with the drone resistance movement. "These orders of protection are a pre-printed form with blanks that police and prosecutors fill out every day to protect battered spouses and witnesses who are assaulted."

Another colonel weighed in on the case. Col. Ann Wright served in the military for 29 years, then as a high-level State Department official. In 1997, she was given the State Department Award for Heroism for helping evacuate thousands during the civil war in Sierra Leone. She was deputy chief of mission when the U.S. embassy reopened in Afghanistan in 2001. In 2003, she resigned her post to protest the war in Iraq. ���I find it quite embarrassing and ludicrous that a U.S. military commander decided that his personal security is so threatened by peaceful, nonviolent protesters of the drone policies of the U.S.,��� Wright wrote in support of Grady Flores. ���I would have expected a U.S. commander to have had the courage to meet with the group of concerned citizens rather than obtaining a cowardly order of protection.���

Two months after the Ash Wednesday protest where Grady Flores was charged with violating the order, on May 23, 2013, President Barack Obama delivered a speech at the National Defense University defending his drone program: ���Before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured���the highest standard we can set.��� Despite his pledges, the civilian death toll from U.S. drone strikes continues to climb.

We all too rarely learn the names of these victims. On Oct. 24, 2012, for example, the CIA launched a drone strike in North Waziristan, Pakistan. Mamana Bibi, a 67-year-old grandmother who was picking okra, was killed. Bibi���s grandson, 12-year-old Zubair Rehman, and his 8-year-old sister, Nabila, were among the injured. After multiple surgeries, Zubair and Nabila came to the United States with their father, Rafiq, a schoolteacher, to testify before Congress. After they testified, they made their way to our studios in New York City, where we interviewed them. In his congressional testimony, little Zubair said: "I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer gray skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are gray. ... When the skies brighten, though, the drones return, and so, too, does the fear."

Mary Anne Grady Flores was wearing a scarf on the day she went to prison���but not for protection from the snow. "I���m wearing a blue scarf today, and the kids from Afghanistan were the ones that sent this bolt of cloth," she told us, so "that someday we could live with the vision of the future of blue skies, of peace."

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Published on January 21, 2016 09:41 • 3 views

January 14, 2016

By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan

President Barack Obama delivered his final State of the Union address Tuesday night before an almost-full joint session of Congress. Almost full because of the empty seat next to first lady Michelle Obama. The White House stated, "We leave one seat empty in the First Lady's State of the Union Guest Box for the victims of gun violence who no longer have a voice���because they need the rest of us to speak for them. To tell their stories. To honor their memory."

That symbol, the empty chair, creates a moment to reflect on who else wasn't seated in that august gallery in the Capitol, like the undocumented immigrants rounded up in the New Year's raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Hundreds, if not thousands (the number is not known), of people, mostly from the Central American nations of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, have been arrested in raids across the country. Entire families, single mothers with children and individuals, many of whom fled for their lives from violence in their home countries, now are being swept up by armed federal agents and prepared for deportation.

I asked Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards, now running for the Senate, about the ICE raids. "I think it's irresponsible," she told me. "this sort of extreme enforcement in communities that, in the congressional district that I represent, is causing so much great fear–children not going to school, people not going to work, being afraid to be seen and visible in their communities." Her sentiments have been echoed on the campaign trail by both Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The raids have provoked protests across the country. Last Friday, seven people were arrested in New York City in front of the local ICE headquarters, chaining themselves together and blocking traffic. Among those arrested was Claudia Palacios. Her story is remarkable. She was born in Texas and served for five years in the U.S. Marines, with two years in Okinawa and several years around the world deployed with a Marine Expeditionary Unit. Even though she served her country honorably, this U.S.-born military veteran has documentation issues of her own.

Her mother was undocumented. Like many pregnant women in her situation, she was afraid to go to the hospital. Claudia was born with the help of a midwife in a trailer park. It was the midwife who signed her birth certificate. "That birth certificate was recognized by the military in order for me to join the service," she told us on the "Democracy Now!" news hour. "Once I was an active-duty service member, I applied with the Department of State for a passport, and they failed to recognize my birth certificate." Now, out of the Marines without her U.S. military I.D. badge and no passport, "I'm basically stateless," she explained. "I can't leave my country."

The empty chair was on the first lady's right. On her left sat decorated war veteran Oscar Vazquez. The same White House press statement that described the symbolism of the chair said that Vasquez "came to the United States as a child in search of a better life. From age 12 when he moved from Mexico to Phoenix, Arizona, Oscar excelled in the classroom. ... But without legal status, he couldn't secure a job to provide for his new wife and newborn child." After receiving a green card, his biography continued, "Oscar enlisted in the Army to serve the country he loves and calls home. Oscar served one tour in Afghanistan and is now a proud U.S. citizen."

Claudia Palacios was not satisfied: "I think it's a mockery to have him be a guest, an honored guest, at the State of the Union," she explained, "and then not even initiate the conversation of immigration and how we are going to deal with this or how we're going to create sanctuaries for people that are being targeted."

The victims of gun violence deserve a seat, they deserve to have their stories told, and the president is to be commended for taking that stand. But the people in this country who have fled gun violence, whether from Central America, or Syria or Afghanistan or Iraq, they, too, deserve a seat and a place of sanctuary. That will make the state of the union strong.

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Published on January 14, 2016 06:25 • 3 views

January 7, 2016

By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan

In the quaint tourist town of Harbert, Michigan sits an unassuming restaurant that has been owned and operated by a man who is considered a pillar of his community. Cafe Gulistan is owned by Ibrahim Parlak. He is, by almost all appearances, a classic example of the immigrant success story. There is just one problem: The U.S. government is trying to deport him to Turkey, where he has a well-founded fear of imprisonment, torture and possibly death. After a quarter of a century here in the United States, he now has about 75 days left to fight deportation.

Parlak is Kurdish, born in the region of Turkey called Anatolia, in 1962. His childhood was marred by increasing government repression of Turkey's Kurdish ethnic minority. Turkey banned the Kurdish language, Kurdish cultural expression, and attempted to forcibly assimilate the Kurdish people to destroy their heritage. Resistance to that assimilation included protests and grass-roots organizing, but also, by the 1980s, armed resistance from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. In the late 1970s, Parlak, as a teenager, was jailed for three months for engaging in peaceful protests. He then moved to Germany to avoid further repression from the Turkish government. He remained active in the movement for Kurdish autonomy, hosting cultural events and raising funds for the political, nonmilitary wing of the PKK, known as the National Front for the Liberation of Kurdistan. After seven years in Germany, Parlak decided he could better support the Kurdish cause back home.

He decided to cross back into his Kurdish homeland, he said, to "[g]o back to people, go to my family, go back where I [was] born and where I grow up, just reunite with my own." Turkey had revoked his passport, so he decided to sneak into the Kurdish region of Turkey directly from Syria. As the group he was with was crossing the border, they were fired on. In the ensuing firefight, two Turkish soldiers were killed. Months later, he was arrested by Turkish authorities and charged with "separatism," although he was never charged with killing the two soldiers. Turkish authorities confirm that he did not shoot that night.

"I was captured and put in jail, for a month, mistreated, tortured. And it's just-you know, it's not a memory you want to revisit," Ibrahim Parlak told us on the "Democracy Now!" news hour. It visibly pains him to recall the experience. A description that appears in a federal appeals court filing here in the U.S. from 2007 is chilling: "the Turkish gendarme shocked him with electrodes, beat his genitalia, hung him by the arms, blindfolded him and deprived him of sleep, food, water and clothing, and anally raped him with a truncheon over the course of almost a month." Ultimately, he was imprisoned for close to a year and a half.

Parlak eventually fled to the United States, where he received asylum and began the long process of building a life. He received his green card, and in 1999 applied for citizenship. By this time, the PKK had been designated a terrorist organization by the US State Department, so the mention of the group in his file delayed his application. After Sept. 11, 2001, the process for gaining citizenship transformed. Eager bureaucrats from the newly minted Department of Homeland Security were looking for terrorists in mosques, parks, schools, you name it. Ibrahim Parlak fit their bill just fine, and the American dream he had built came crashing down.

He was arrested and jailed while awaiting deportation. Community support for Parlak was incredible. A former FBI counterterrorism lawyer volunteered to represent him. People he had worked with for years and even local police testified to his character. After 10 months in a county jail, a federal judge ordered his release, stating, "He has been a model immigrant. ... He is not a threat to anyone nor a risk of flight. He has strong ties to the community."

Since then, he has been on "deferred action" for deportation, meaning he can be grabbed at any time and deported to Turkey. He has support from Republican Congressman Fred Upton, and had the support of Sen. Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, until Levin retired last year. His supporters are asking Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, both Democrats, to file a bill protecting Parlak, but to date, neither has. The dean of the University of Chicago Law School has asked for President Barack Obama to pardon Parlak.

Turkey, meanwhile, has escalated its military assault on the Kurds, and has imposed harsh curfews and intense censorship of any dissent. Many are concerned of the grave danger that Parlak faces if he is deported to Turkey. His lawyer, Rob Carpenter, told us that Parlak has received "private Facebook threats of modes of torture that were never made public before, indicating it must be one of several guards who tortured him during those seventeen months before he fled to the United States."

Ibrahim Parlak is back at his Cafe Gulistan, his future uncertain. The U.S. government contends he is a terrorist, although he has never been found guilty of committing a violent act. Deporting him, however, would be an act of terror in itself.

Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,300 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan, of "The Silenced Majority," a New York Times best-seller.

(c) 2015 Amy Goodman

Distributed by King Features Syndicate

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Published on January 07, 2016 09:03 • 7 views

December 31, 2015

By Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan

As the clock counts down to the New Year and the world welcomes 2016, another clock will continue ticking, counting the days, hours, minutes and seconds since May 23, 2013, the day President Barack Obama promised to free all those prisoners at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay who have been cleared for release. That clock was created by independent journalist Andy Worthington, and is on the Internet at Jan. 22, will mark the seventh anniversary of the day Obama signed Executive Order 13492, ordering the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison within one year. As Obama���s time in the White House winds down, the prospects of closing the notorious gulag grow bleaker. Currently there are 107 men imprisoned there, 48 of whom have been cleared for release for almost six years. While the Republican-led Congress has long thwarted efforts to close the island prison, Reuters recently reported that the Pentagon itself, which is supposed to be under the civilian control of Commander-in-Chief Obama, may be resisting the order to close Guantanamo.

Obama���s executive order in 2009 created the Guantanamo Review Task Force, chaired by then Attorney General Eric Holder. It included representatives from the departments of Justice, Defense, State, Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. All prisoners cleared for release have received unanimous consent from those authorities. While some of those prisoners have been released, it shocks the conscience to think that scores of men are suffering indefinite detention with no charges against them, many held for more than a decade.

Tariq Ba Odah is one of those men who was cleared for release. ���He was assigned to Guantanamo in February of 2002. He���s nearing the 14-year mark of indefinite detention, nearly nine years of that time on hunger strike and detained in solitary confinement,��� his attorney, Omar Farah of the Center for Constitutional Rights, told us on the Democracy Now! news hour. ���The president has to insist that the Department of Defense and all other agencies fall in line behind what he says is his objective and ensure that Mr. Ba Odah is released immediately.���

The hunger strike Farah described has reduced Tariq Ba Odah to a shadow of his former self. ���I visited Mr. Ba Odah in March and April of this year and found him in utterly disastrous physical condition,��� Omar Farah said. ���According to the government, not me, Mr. Ba Odah is just 74 and a half pounds, and that���s 56 percent of his safe body weight.��� Ba Odah is forcibly fed twice daily through a nose tube. The force with which the U.S. military jailers insert the tube causes extreme pain, and has been deemed torture by the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

Tariq Ba Odah is from Yemen, but, because of the civil war there, the Obama administration will not release Yemenis directly to their home nation. Farah told us: ���There is a foreign country, a third country, ready to accept him and help provide him medical care and rehabilitate him. This is a person who���s desperately, desperately ill. And the last step of that negotiated release, it seems, is the simple task of forwarding his medical records.��� The Pentagon refuses to release his medical records, citing privacy rules. ���That���s a lie. And it���s a bad lie,��� Farah told us. ���I sat with Mr. Ba Odah while he provided his informed written consent to release his medical records to me as his counsel and also for the specific purpose of negotiating his release.���

Reuters reporters Charles Levinson and David Rohde (the former New York Times reporter who was held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan for seven months, until he escaped) cite Ba Odah���s case in their latest article, writing, ���Pentagon officials have been throwing up bureaucratic obstacles to thwart the president���s plan to close Guantanamo.���

While the Pentagon says it will release the first of 17 prisoners in January, you never know. However, what you can be sure of, like clockwork, peace activists from Witness Against Torture, wearing orange jumpsuits like the Guantanamo prisoners, will vigil as they do every Jan. 22 to mark the anniversary of Obama���s executive order to close Guantanamo.

Last Thanksgiving, a delegation from Witness Against Torture went to Cuba, within view of the U.S. base, to hold a symbolic ���Forced-Feeding, Not Feasting at Guantanamo.��� They described their action: ���Twelve persons, all fasting for the day, sat at a table in front of empty plates to represent the terrible pain endured by hunger strikers, past and present, at Guantanamo. At the head of the table, one member dressed as a detained man sat in front of the terrible apparatus of forced feeding.��� They also wore orange jumpsuits, and each spoke about their reasons for coming. After each speaker, the group sang:

���Courage, Muslim brother

You do not walk alone

We will walk with you

And sing your spirit home.���

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Published on December 31, 2015 03:53 • 2 views

December 24, 2015

By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan

As dusk settled over Denver on Dec. 22, the first day of winter, Clarence Moses-EL walked out of the county jail, free for the first time in 28 years. The shortest day of the year would be the end of the longest nightmare of his life. It was all because of a dream.

Moses-EL was charged with rape in 1987. Initially, the rape victim named the three men she had been drinking with as her possible attackers. Then, a day and a half later, she dreamed that her neighbor, Clarence Moses-EL, was the attacker. She told the police, and they arrested him. The three men she first named were never investigated. There was no physical evidence linking Moses-EL to the crime. The dream was the only piece of "evidence" offered against him.

There was, however, real evidence available to the prosecution: the victim���s rape kit, along with bedsheets and the victim���s clothing. These items were never tested for DNA. In 1995, after years in prison, Moses-EL won a court order mandating the forensic analysis of the evidence, which could have freed him. He managed to raise $1,000 from fellow inmates to pay for the tests. The judge instructed the Denver Police to turn over the evidence. The police marked the evidence box "Do Not Destroy," then, inexplicably, threw it into a dumpster.

"I literally broke down in the cell," he said. "I was blown away. Broken," Moses-EL told Denver Post investigative journalists Susan Greene and Miles Moffeit in 2007. "They broke their own rules and threw out the only key to my freedom." Greene and Moffeit wrote about Moses-EL and other prisoners across the U.S. who had potentially exculpatory DNA evidence destroyed. They were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for their series "Trashing the Truth." Greene has since become the editor of The Colorado Independent news website, and has never stopped reporting on Moses-EL���s case.

Clarence Moses-EL languished in prison until, in 2012, he received a handwritten letter from another Colorado prisoner, L.C. Jackson. Jackson was one of the three men initially named as a suspect by the rape victim, until she gave Moses-EL���s name following her dream. Jackson wrote: "I really don���t know what to say to you. But let���s start by bringing what was done in the dark into the light. I have a lot on my heart. I don���t know who���s working on this. But have them come up and see me. It���s time. I���ll be waiting." Jackson is serving two life sentences for a double rape of a mother and her 9-year-old daughter, a crime which bore many similarities to the rape for which Moses-EL was convicted.

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey sat on Jackson���s confession for close to two years. Moses-EL and his legal team were eventually able to obtain a court hearing to introduce Jackson���s confession and other new evidence. Two weeks ago, a Colorado judge vacated Moses-EL���s convictions, ordering the DA to either retry the case or drop the charges. At a bond hearing on Tuesday, the DA asked for a trial date, which the judge set for June. Several hours later, Moses-EL walked out of prison, no longer incarcerated, but still not truly free.

Mitch Morrissey is stepping down as district attorney after 10 years in office. So far, two of the candidates who are running to replace him, Beth McCann and Michael Carrigan, have said they would drop all charges against Moses-EL, should either win the November election.

As he walked out of the Denver jail, Moses-EL told the gathered media: "It���s wonderful. I waited a long time for this." When asked what kept him going all those years in prison, he replied, "My spirituality, and my innocence." Clarence Moses-EL expresses no vindictiveness. At a small celebration at a supporter���s home that followed his release, Moses-EL said: "There���s still some days in front of me. I know things are going to turn out in my favor. I never doubted, even though I felt like at times I was under a ton of bricks, couldn���t breathe."

Clarence Moses-EL is eager to get to work, to give back. "I want to be instrumental in the community, in programs, wherever I could be to share my experience, my wisdom, my talent, my creativity." Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey says he represents the people. Now is the time for the people of Denver to demand that the charges be dropped against Clarence Moses-EL.

Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,300 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan, of "The Silenced Majority," a New York Times best-seller.

(c) 2015 Amy Goodman

Distributed by King Features Syndicate

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Published on December 24, 2015 03:11 • 4 views

December 17, 2015

By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan

On Dec. 12, nearly 200 nations approved the "Paris Agreement." The 32-page document spells out humanity���s new, official plan to confront the crisis of climate change. The accord was negotiated in a secure facility in the Paris suburb of Le Bourget. Public demonstrations across France were banned under the "state of emergency" imposed after the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. Activists defied the ban, saying that same phrase, "state of emergency," describes the planet���s climate. Protests, at times violently repressed by police, occurred throughout the two-week United Nations summit, as people from around the world demanded a fair, ambitious and binding climate treaty to avert the worst consequences of global warming.

"What I see is an agreement with no timetables, no targets, with vague, wild aspirations," British journalist George Monbiot told me two days after the talks ended. "I see a lot of back-slapping, a lot of self-congratulation, and I see very little in terms of the actual substance that is required to avert climate breakdown."

Monbiot���s position contrasts with many in the environmental movement, who see the negotiation results as a positive development. "Just about every country in the world made a commitment to either cut their own carbon or to peak the growth in their emissions," Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, countered. "There was also an explicit acknowledgment that what was committed to is not nearly enough, and so there was a process that was established to take stock of the progress that���s being made and then to commit to continuous reductions in the years ahead."

The conference opened with the largest gathering of heads of state in history. Dr. Hoesung Lee, chair of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of almost 2,000 scientists that publishes the world���s scientific consensus on climate change, addressed the leaders, saying: "The climate is already changing, and we know it���s due to human activity. If we carry on like this, we risk increasingly severe and irreversible impacts: rising seas, increasingly severe droughts and floods, food and water shortages, increased immigration from climate refugees, to name just a few." Just about everywhere on the planet, climate science is accepted as fact. It is only in the United States, the largest polluter in world history and home to some of the wealthiest and most politically influential fossil-fuel corporations, that climate-science deniers are given credence.

Climate scientists at the IPCC have provided different global-warming scenarios, describing what the world might look like if the planet warms to varying temperatures. We have already warmed 1 degree Celsius over preindustrial levels, with devastating impacts. The Paris Agreement���s central tenet is the pledge to hold "the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) above preindustrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) above preindustrial levels."

These seemingly small differences matter. With a rapid decarbonization of the global economy, with a rapid shift to nonpolluting renewable energy, we could limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. In this scenario, small island nations can survive the expected sea-level rise. At 2 degrees Celsius, polar ice melts, water warms and thus expands, and global sea levels rise more than 3 feet. Several small island nations, like the Maldives or the Marshall Islands, will be completely submerged and will disappear. The 1.5 degree goal was included in the Paris Agreement, but, as George Monbiot noted, "it���s almost as if it���s now safe to adopt 1.5 degrees centigrade as their aspirational target now that it is pretty well impossible to reach."

Author and activist Naomi Klein said the deal will "steamroll over crucial scientific red lines ... it is also going to steamroll over equity red lines." She added, "We know, from doing the math and adding up the targets that the major economies have brought to Paris, that those targets lead us to a very dangerous future. They lead us to a future between 3 and 4 degrees Celsius warming."

Asad Rehman, of Friends of the Earth, explained that equity red line as "support for the most vulnerable, the poorest people, who are really losing their lives and livelihoods and who are going to deal with ever-increasing climate impacts, mostly because of the responsibility of rich, developed countries who have grown fat and rich from carbon pollution." In the Paris Agreement, this support is called "loss and damage," meaning financial payments from the rich countries to poor countries suffering severe impacts of climate change. "Rich countries, who are responsible for this crisis ... now want to shift the burden of responsibility from the rich to the poor,��� Rehman added. "Unfortunately, the legacy President Barack Obama will leave here is a poison chalice to the poor, to actually make them pay for the impacts of climate change."

A broad coalition of climate action organizations has promised an aggressive year of direct action to hasten the end of the fossil-fuel era. As Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace told me, "Most of us in civil society never said ���the road to Paris,' we always said ���the road through Paris.'"

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Published on December 17, 2015 07:42 • 12 views

December 10, 2015

By Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan

On the outskirts of the northern French town of Calais, a massive, makeshift refugee camp called ���The Jungle��� grows daily, swelling with asylum-seekers fleeing war in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Sudan and beyond. Their countries of origin are a map of the targets of U.S. bombing campaigns. More than 6,000 people in this, France���s largest refugee camp, hope for a chance to make the last, dangerous leg of their journey through the nearby channel tunnel to England. Wind whips off the North Sea, blasting the shelters made of tarps, tents, plastic sheeting and scrap lumber in this sprawling, ramshackle end of the line. The roads in the camp are muddy; the portable toilets are filthy. The charity health clinic had been closed since mid-November. The main entrance to the camp is below a freeway, with several police vans parked with lights flashing and armed officers stationed above.

Most who arrive here have endured arduous journeys of thousands of miles, hoping to cross to the United Kingdom. The channel tunnel offers asylum-seekers a way to make it to the U.K. without risking a dangerous crossing of the English Channel, by stowing away on either a high-speed passenger train or a freight train. Accessing either type of train involves significant risk, and accidental deaths occur almost weekly when people leap onto moving trains or stumble under truck tires.

A few days before we visited the camp, a Sudanese man named Joseph was killed when he was run over by a car on the highway. Camp residents were protesting that the police had not stopped the driver, holding signs reading ���We are Humans, Not Dogs��� and ���Do survivors of war not have the right to live in peace?��� We asked a young man named Majd from Damascus, Syria, why he fled his country: ���I escaped from the war. I don���t want to die. This war is not my war.��� We asked him who was attacking his country. He said: ���Who? Everyone. Russia and America and Iran���everyone.���

Days before we met Majd, the British Parliament voted to attack Syria, and began bombing immediately. In the few months prior, the British government built multiple layers of high, razor-wire-topped fences in Calais, sealing off the tunnel entrance and the rail line for miles before the tunnel, as well as the staging area where freight trucks line up to drive onto the rail cars that will carry them through the tunnel. Each truck also is subjected to an infrared scan to look for stowaways. Before the enhanced security, scores of asylum-seekers might get through the tunnel nightly. Now, it is almost impossible. The more the West bombs their countries, the more it shuts out those who flee its wars.

In the Afghan section of the refugee camp, Sidiq Husain Khil was eager to speak about the 14-year-old U.S. war in Afghanistan���the longest war in U.S. history. Like many, he did not want his face to be filmed. We asked him about the effects of U.S. bombing and drone strikes on Afghanistan. He replied: ���If they are killing one person or 10 persons, 100 of them are joining the group of Taliban. ... The war is not the solution for finishing terrorism. They have to talk face to face.���

As we roamed the camp, pulling our coats tightly around us in the cold, we looked for a woman who would be willing to speak. We met Dur, an Afghan professor of English, who also did not want her face shown. She traveled more than 3,000 miles with her four children, by car, bus, horse, foot and boat. In almost perfect English, her 12-year-old daughter described their unimaginable route: ���First we go to Nimruz province of Afghanistan. Then we went to Pakistan. Then we walked to Saravan, Balochistan. Then Iranshahr, Kerman, Shiraz, Tehran, Kurdistan and Turkey. Then we start walking in mountains. Then we went to Istanbul, Izmir. Then we arrived to the sea.��� Dur hired a smuggler to take them in a leaky boat from Turkey to Greece. She told me, ���When I saw that boat ... I called all my children and I start to cry ... I spent all my money to buy them death.��� Miraculously, they survived. Whether they make it to their destination, Britain, is another question.

As we left the camp, Dur���s relative, Najibullah, raced up to us. An Afghan who worked with the U.S. Marines as a translator, he applied for a special visa for Afghans who put themselves at risk by working for the U.S. He said he was turned down because he hadn���t worked for the Marines for a full year. ���Working with the U.S. government ... just one day or a year ... it doesn���t matter to the Taliban,��� he told me. ���As long as you work with them just one hour, you���re condemned to death.���

���Today, Joseph. Tomorrow, who?��� read one of the many signs at the protest earlier that day. These refugees are the roadkill of war.

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Published on December 10, 2015 03:29 • 42 views

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