OAKLAND, Calif.–On New Year’s Day, nearly 100 people gathered at the Fruitvale BART station to remember Oscar Grant III and other victims of police brutality.
Grant died in the early morning of January 1, 2009, after he was shot in the back by BART cop Johannes Mehserle. The incident was caught on several cell phone videos that showed that Grant was face down on the ground, with his hands behind his back, and was unarmed when he was shot.
“Two years ago Oscar Grant was murdered up there,” said Jack Bryson, father of Grant’s friends who witnessed the shooting. My spirits are low since the courts passed the unjust sentence.”
Since Grant’s death, a deeply committed movement has pressed for justice–with mixed results. Following a public outcry, Mehserle was arrested and charged with murder. After the trial was moved to Los Angeles County, Mehserle became the first California officer convicted of a wrongful on-duty shooting. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, and sentenced to two years with credit for time served.
He will most likely be released within the next few months.
“You always hope your children will bury you, you never imagine you’d bury your children,” said Wanda Johnson, Grant’s mother. “I hope there will be no more cover ups and the police take responsibility. My heart bleeds everyday.”
As if to remind us that Oscar’s murder was not an isolated event by a “bad apple” (the story advanced by the media and local politicians), five people have been shot to death by Bay Area police in the past two months.
In November, Oakland police shot and killed a local barber named Derrick Jones. Despite early claims by police, Derrick was unarmed and was shot from the front.
The killing sparked outrage by the community and led to several protests. Members of the Jones family attended the vigil to support the family of Oscar Grant.
“We’re trying to make people more aware about what has happened with these murders,” said Frank Jones, Derrick’s father. “We have to stop the killings, that’s the number one thing. We are waiting for city hall but nothing concrete has happened.”
Relations between police and the community are severely strained. The public’s expectation of police accountability is so low that Police Chief Anthony Batts actually asked the FBI to investigate the shooting of Jones. If federal investigators step in, they will join investigations already underway in the Oakland’s internal affairs unit, homicide team and the district attorney’s office.
In another case, an unarmed woman recently was shot dead by San Leandro police in Oakland following a car chase. Police said that they were pursuing a stolen car which led to a crash in a residential neighborhood. Allegedly, the woman was shot for fear she would use the car to assault officers and escape.
However, a witness interviewed by the San Jose Mercury News said, “They [the police] crashed the car and right away he said, ‘Get out, get out,’ two times, and then he started dumping the whole clip on her. He actually reloaded when he was done.”
Despite Johannes Mesherle’s wrist-slap punishment, the recent string of shootings by police and a heavy police presence at the New Year’s Day vigil (including over a dozen patrol cars and an armored personnel carrier), everyone in the crowd stood firm in their commitment to achieve justice.
“We’re gathered here to remember…and celebrate life,” said Cephus Johnson, Oscar Grant’s uncle. “This is a time of celebration, reflection, and to embrace each other.”
A common message that most speakers related at the vigil is their optimism that the struggle will continue.
“It’s good we still got people out here,” said Bryson. “We won’t let things fade away.”
Cephus Johnson added, “[The] community still standing gives us the strength to keep fighting.”
Brutal Reprisals Against Peaceful GA Inmate Strikers Confirmed, Was One Victim Hidden For Weeks By Prison Authorities?
Black, brown and white inmates in 6 Georgia prisons nonviolently locked themselves in their cells for several days beginning December 9, demanding wages for work, educational opportunities, adequate food and medical care, just parole decisions and access to their families. The peaceful inmate strikers, as we reported the following day, were already victims of brutal retaliation on the part of correctional officials, ranging from cutoffs of heat and hot water to unprovoked assaults by correctional employees upon prisoners.
It now appears that at least one inmate, Terrance Dean of Bibb County GA was brutally assaulted by staff at Macon State Prison on or about December 16 was so severely injured prison officials secretly evacuated him to a hospital in Atlanta without bothering to inform his family. It’s not known at this time which Department of Corrections officials authorized the secret evacuation, who decided not to notify Dean’s family of either his injuries or his whereabouts, or whether the prisoner was transported the roughly 130 miles to Atlanta via ground or air ambulance. The first word the prisoner’s family received of either the beating or Dean’s whereabouts was when they were contacted December 30 or 31 by the friends and associates of other prisoners on the outside. Neither the Department of Corrections nor Atlanta Medical Center, where the prisoner was held for about two weeks, has released any information about the extent of the prisoner’s injuries, his current medical condition, or how he was injured.
The morning of Friday, December 31, Dean’s sister, along with ACLU attorney Chara Jackson and GA state NAACP chief Ed DuBose representing the Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoner’s Rights showed up at the Atlanta Medical Center demanding to see the injured prisoner or at least have his whereabouts confirmed. After several hours of delay, correctional officials said his mother and sister, along with the attorney would be allowed to visit him at Jackson State Prison Sunday, January 2, but they offered no explanation of the reasons for his secretive transfer. Hospital officials also refused to offer any information on Dean’s injuries, even to his family, on grounds of doctor-patient confidentiality.
“We assume that state officials have a written policy requiring them to inform family members in the event of the serious injury of their loved ones in prison,” said the Georgia Green Party’s Hugh Esco. “If Georgia corrections personnel did brutally beat Terrance Dean, transfer him secretly more than a hundred miles from the scene of the crime scene and neglect to inform his family about his injuries or whereabouts they could be parties to a criminal conspiracy. The Green Party has written a letter to the outgoing and incoming governors asking them to look carefully at the events surrounding the case of Mr. Dean. We also note that the Department of Corrections promised access to the 37 prisoners whom it transferred as a result of the inmate strike that began on December 9. We hope this is a promise they keep, so that the public can get a complete and accurate picture of what goes on behind those walls.”
Dean’s sister, attorney Chara Jackson, and the NAACP’s Ed DuBose briefed the press at Atlanta Medical Center, including representatives from at least one local TV station repeatedly beginning at noon on Friday, and assured Black Agenda Report that they will attempt to see Terrance Dean at Jackson State Prison on Sunday, January 2. But as of nearly 24 hours later, on the morning of January 1, 2011 no corporate news outlet is publicly asking or answering any of the key questions around the assault on Terrance Dean, or what look for all the world like official attempts to conceal it from his family and the public.
“This is no surprise,” offered BAR executive editor Glen Ford. “For corporate journalists, a story without input from government or corporate officials is no story at all. For these so-called reporters, the story has a big hole in it as long as state officials decline to comment, even though official misconduct on the part of government IS the story. If the state declines to comment until Sunday or Monday, they will sit on the story till then. Establishment journalists are nothing if not disciplined and well-trained.”
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, based in Marietta GA, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. Both Black Agenda Report and the Georgia Green Party are members of the Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoner’s Rights.
And related video report:
Savaged by dogs, Electrocuted With Cattle Prods, Burned By Toxic Chemicals, Does such barbaric abuse inside U.S. jails explain the horrors that were committed in Iraq?
They are just some of the victims of wholesale torture taking place inside the U.S. prison system that we uncovered during a four-month investigation for the UK’s Channel 4 originally aired in 2005.
Listening to the frenzied accusations of “disinformation”, “shill”, “stooge”, “cointelpro”, “propagandist” that activists and journalists are wont to hurl at each other, I decided to jot down some of the markers that set off my BS detector.
Obviously, these are only very rough indicators and due diligence is also needed. But off the top of my head here are some things that will help you figure out whether a writer is reliable or not.
1. Look at the writer’s track-record. With so much writing now on the web, it’s easy to research a writer and find out where they were standing on issues years ago. How does their performance stack up? You don’t need Nostradamus, but the conclusions of a good writer/researcher will tend to be borne out most of the time. If someone had told you in 2003 that the Iraq war was going to be a cake-walk, had told you in 2006 to buy a bigger house for less money down, and encouraged you to sell gold short in 2009, you might be forgiven if, in 2010, you’d come to suspect his intelligence or motives…or both.
2. Look for details that you know about and see if the writer is accurate. If she isn’t and there is no good reason, then be wary. What’s a good reason? Well, if a Scottish writer isn’t a Sinologist and doesn’t pretend to be one, a mistake about Chinese history can be put down to error. If he is a Sinologist, then he should know better. If it is a one time mistake or a very minor one, put it down to sloppiness or human error. If it’s big and repeated, it’s not an error. It’s a sign of incompetence or disinformation.
3. Suspect cuing and stage whispers. When everyone in the blogosphere points you to certain sources over and over, be cautious. Sometimes it’s only a well-meaning attempt to help the public. Mostly, however, it’s a way to control the debate. New and interesting research/analysis pops up all the time, from all sorts of people. Even alternative voices shouldn’t be set up as final authorities. I am especially suspicious when mainstream sources like the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post point to certain bloggers as more reliable. These are efforts to co-opt or channel genuinely free, popular debates.
4. Follow writers for a while, before you make up your mind. Making up your mind about the reliability of a source from one article is not only silly, it’s impossible. You need to read writers consistently for a long time on many different issues before you can assess their reliability. You should read as much as you can by a writer before coming to a judgment. Even then, it’s always wise to hold off dismissing someone entirely or buying into them completely.
5. Realize that there are constraints on everyone who writes publicly. There is no such thing as perfectly open or transparent writing. Sometimes writers don’t touch on certain topics because they might distract, not because they are “covering up.” Or they might fear libel suits. Or they might feel they don’t know enough to comment. Or they might think they aren’t the right people to comment. An immigrant might feel diffident about discussing questions about national security. A heterosexual male might not want to corner a debate on female experiences of rape. Some writers won’t touch material that is controversial not because they are careerists, but because they have family members who might be vulnerable to harassment. Give people a break. Put yourself in their shoes – how much would you write if someone was threatening you or blackmailing you or warning you you’d lose your job?
6. Pay attention to style and tone. Credible sources rely on logic, reason, facts and evidence. They are likely to be cautious in interpreting events until they have researched them personally. If they are passionate, it is genuine emotion, not cheap rhetoric, personal attacks and vulgarities. When confronted with a mistake, they are reasonable enough to acknowledge it and make corrections or retractions. They compare and evaluate their sources and admit when they don’t know something. They apologize, if necessary. They tend to be personally polite, even if they are critical or sharp in their general tone. Denunciation of monetary policy is not the same thing as calling someone a buffoon and a liar because he disagrees with your way of thinking.
7. Study the main logical fallacies (red herrings, straw men, hasty generalizations – you know, all the stuff in English 101) and check whether a writer is prone to making them or not. Repeated use of ad hominem is one of the surest signs of a propagandist. However, make sure you know the difference between ad hominem and criticism that is warranted and related to the target’s professional conduct. If you don’t know the difference, study and find out.
You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned anything about credentials, prizes, fame, peer recognition, or publishing record. This isn’t because I think those things are irrelevant. But I don’t any more think they are good guides to a source’s reliability. There are well-credentialed people who are reliable and there are people who have no recognizable credentials who are. There are prize-winning highly-paid journalists who are great. And there are unpaid bloggers who are too.
As for peer review, some of the best information comes to writers in the form of anonymous links and tips. Or on forums that the mainstream won’t touch with a barge-pole. Or from insiders who don’t want their names in the press. Even scholars work in herds.
8. Check your gut reaction. Truth-telling on controversial matters is usually a lonely business or done with only the company of other loners. Once the crowd gets in on the act, even the best popular movements go awry. The reason is most people automatically tailor their thoughts to please others. It’s part of man’s inherently social nature. White lies are natural to even the best of us. And when we’re not lying to others, we’re busy soothing our egos with more lies.
And that’s why the most important tip I can give you is one that doesn’t even have to do with other people. It’s to do with yourself.
It is simple. Look inside and do some truth-telling there as well.
The more honest and truthful you are, the more you will recognize it in others.
Lila Rajiva is a freelance journalist and the author of The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the US Media (Monthly Review Press, 2005) and Mobs, Messiahs and Markets (with Bill Bonner-Wiley, September 2007). She has also contributed chapters to One of the Guys (Ed., Tara McKelvey and Barbara Ehrenreich, Seal Press, 2007), an anthology of writing on women as torturers, and to The Third World: Opposing Viewpoints (Ed., David Haugen, Greenhaven, 2006). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Lila’s website.
TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli activists who participate in protests against their country’s separation barrier came under state attack on Wednesday, with special forces entering homes in Tel Aviv.
Israeli special police forces showed up outside one home in central Tel Aviv, shared by a number of left-wing activists. After spending some time outside the residence, forces attempted to enter and conduct a search. Activists said that they were not shown a search permit and refused to submit to the search.
A spokeswoman for the activists, who requested not to be identified, quoted a witness to the incident, who said “there was an aggressive attempt to do a search without a search warrant,” and speculated that the attempt may have been connected to those involved in a protest outside the residence of the US ambassador on 1 January. Protesters gathered outside the building in protest of what were reported to be US-made tear-gas canisters whose fumes killed a Palestinian protester the day before.
“It’s not clear whether it was in connection to the episode at the embassy or if it was the private initiative of the [israeli] police. Their excuse was that they suspected [someone in the house] of holding drugs,” the witness said.
The move comes amidst a general crackdown on left-wing activities. In recent weeks, the Shabak, Israel’s internal security service, has been calling protesters asking them to come in for “friendly chats.” All those who have reported receiving the calls have refused, since by law they are not required to comply with the requests unless they receive an official summons from the police.
Last week, a Tel Aviv court sentenced the prominent left-wing activist Johnathan Pollak to three months in jail for his role in a small, non-violent protest held in Tel Aviv against the Israeli siege on Gaza. Pollak was the only protester who was arrested for the demonstration, which was held in 2008, leading many observers to believe that Pollak is being singled out and punished for his continuing activism, and role as the spokesman for the West Bank’s Popular Organizing Committee, which issues news and testimony from the village of Bil’in.
Earlier in December 2010, Matan Cohen, an Israeli who is active in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and is studying in the United States, was detained for several hours in Ben Gurion International Airport upon return to Israel. His luggage was searched and officials told him he was suspected of being involved in “hostile terrorist activities.”
Cohen reported that while he has been questioned briefly upon leaving the country he has never been detained upon arrival.
“This is definitely a step up in the level of political repression against anti-apartheid activists in general, and BDS activists in particular,” Cohen remarked.
India’s Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry says Iran’s oil exports to the country will not be affected as alternative payment routes have been put in place.
“There has been no disruption in supply since [Reserve Bank of India] RBI issued new payment guidelines. A cargo for delivery on January 8 and 9 is currently being loaded in Iran and we have no problems sourcing crude from Iran,” India Today quoted India’s Petroleum Secretary S. Sundareshan as saying on Tuesday.
He also said that the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) is willing to accept payments from Indian oil firms through the Europaisch-Iranische Handelsbank (EIH Bank) in Hamburg, Germany.
Oil companies working with Iran like Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) and Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL) will make payments to NIOC’s EIH Bank account in Hamburg via the State Bank of India (SBI).
According to Sundareshan, the two central banks will meet in Tehran from January 14 to 16 to find a permanent solution to the matter.
Part of the meeting will involve choosing a payment currency, such as the Iranian Rial, Dirham and Yen, which are not susceptible to US pressure.
The problem arose when the Indian Central Bank said import payments to Iran would have to be settled outside the existing Asian Clearing Union (ACU) mechanism.
Under the ACU mechanism, every two months imports by the nine member-nations are settled by every member paying for its import surplus.
Watch this Charlie Rose episode from last night to hear Rashid Khalidi soberly explain reality: Palestinians were promised a state 63 years ago and the check is still in the mail; and meantime, there is only one sovereign political entity between the river and the sea and it is or will be majority Palestinian but ruled by Jews. Palestinian statehood without the ability to keep Israeli soldiers from entering any one’s home in the West Bank whenever they like is meaningless. Ramallah is an “excrescence” on Palestine, it is a bubble of prestige and sink of international dollars where, yes, you can get a cappucino for $12.
Also watch it to see
Aluf Benn of Haaretz say at 11:00 or so that rumor has it that Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Orgs went to Syria at the behest of Netanyahu to negotiate with the Syrians… Hoenlein has admitted going to Syria and meeting President Assad but said that it was not at the behest of Netanyahu, a humanitarian mission. I imagine there could be an issue of needing to register the Conference of Presidents under the Foreign Agents Registration Act?
Then read the official transcript at Charlie Rose, the name Malcolm Hoenlein does not appear in the transcript, though it’s in the interview. Nor the name Ron Lauder. Despite my headline, I don’t know if there’s a rat here. These transcripts are not all that great. Note that the transcriber dropped some other language later in the answer, of a trivial character. Transcript, with dropped words in [BRACKETS]:
CHARLIE ROSE: My understanding and my impression is notwithstanding everything you just said that very recently there’s been some suggestion that they’re prepared to do [Turkey is prepared to play intermediary role between Israel and Syria]–
ALUF BENN: They’re always prepared to do it. Israel is not so happy about that, but, again, unless there’s something secret going on that we don’t know about, Prime Minister Netanyahu to this day has not shown signs of taking the Syrian threat seriously. Every other week there’s a story about a messenger. Only tonight [IT WAS PUBLISHED THAT MALCOLM HOENLEIN] one of the American Jewish leaders went to Damascus and met Syrian officials and obviously the rumor is that he was sent by Netanyahu in a similar way to — an [THAT RONALD LAUDER, ANOTHER] American Jewish leader[,] mediated 12 years ago. But it takes time to see these things are serious. But there is strong voice, especially among the Israeli security establishment which says the [BEST WAY AND THE SHORTEST WAY AND] surest way around Israel’s strategic problems is making peace with Syria.
Pretoria – If Karima Brown is correct in her evaluation of President Jacob Zuma’s canny ability to gain ascendancy despite teetering on the brink, would it be an unreasonable expectation to have him propel South Africa to take a more hands-on approach regarding apartheid Israel?
I raise this question in respect of what is generally perceived to be South Africa’s weak and indecisive foreign policy that, barring occasional censure of Israeli conduct, seems to be largely silent and ineffective.
Brown, a highly respected journalist and commentator, in reviewing Zuma’s troubled past, points out how he bounces back to not only providing leadership to a fractured alliance, but also to effectively marginalize threats from a variety of internal threats.
Nevertheless, this otherwise fine analysis lacks a significant dimension: Zuma’s foreign policy!
Given that our advocacy work revolves around issues of Islamophobia and a number of themes related to the “war on terror” and the manner whereby rogue states such as Israel exploit these to shield their cowardly oppression from public scrutiny, the Media Review Network has always maintained that South Africa’s foreign policy initiatives to assist Palestine have been inadequate.
Current developments in the region along with the right-wing Netanyahu regime’s to scuttle America’s “peace” endeavours, makes an independent intervention by the Zuma presidency imperative and urgent.
Some cynics may think it ridiculous to imagine Zuma succeeding while powerful America cannot! Others may argue that it’s unthinkable for any developing country to arouse the wrath of Zionist lobbies that wield significant clout in the corporate environment. Yet other skeptics may wonder why on earth South Africa would venture into territory that may result in severe backlash not only from Israel, but also from so-called “frontline” Arab states whose frontline status derives from capitulating to the apartheid regime!
Notwithstanding the mythical creation of a wide array of convoluted and complex issues, I am convinced that a greater number of people require South Africa’s political, business and religious leadership – along with civil society and social movements – to reaffirm their collective moral authority by demanding the end of Israel. Indeed by being categorical in this demand insist too that all the inhabitants of Israel, the Occupied Territories and the millions of Palestinian refugees reclaim their right to live in equality and dignity within a single democratic state.
It’s a paradigm unique to South Africa and thus easier for leadership to undertake. After all it required the end of South Africa during the apartheid era for a new country to emerge wherein a Bill of Rights and Constitution guarantee life, liberty and more to all its citizens.
Demanding that Israel de-links from ideological values as abhorrent as apartheid and abandons Bantustan strategies whereby Palestinians are hostage to perpetual oppression could be an elementary, yet essential initial step. If it’s true that today one cannot find any South African who rationalizes apartheid’s legitimacy, then surely it ought not be difficult for Zuma to speak on behalf of the entire country in denouncing apartheid Israel and her repugnant human rights violations!
If anti-apartheid campaigns were initiated in Europe and elsewhere by the African National Congress [ANC] to successfully isolate racism and punish its perpetrators through sporting and cultural boycotts, it is nor far-fetched to advocate that similar campaigns be orchestrated and led against Israel today by the ruling party being the ANC.
During 1996, two years into the Nelson Mandela presidency, Edward Said expressed hope that the unworkability of Oslo embodied the end of the two-state solution. The challenge he identified was to find a peaceful way in which Jews, Muslims and Christians could coexist as equal citizens in the same land.
Fourteen years later, with Zuma having consolidated his leadership, it is an opportune time for him to chart a decisive foreign policy designed to urgently end repressive Israeli conduct and restore justice for Palestinians.
As Said would say: “The time has come to put Palestine back in the center as an ideal for individual action and individual commitment to principle in the same way that Mandela’s actions and principles inspired the anti-apartheid movement”.
Indeed, capitulation by the Obama administration has signaled that the time for South Africa to adopt a new policy towards Palestine has arrived.
– Iqbal Jassat is chairperson of the Media Review Network (MRN), an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: http://www.mediareviewnet.com.
TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel’s airforce struck two areas in the Gaza Strip overnight, in what a statement said was a “response to this morning’s firing of a Qassam Rocket,” which allegedly hit outside Ashkelon on Tuesday.
According to the military, the sites targeted were a “Hamas terror activity center” in the central Gaza Strip and a smuggling tunnel in the south near Rafah.
While the military said “Direct hits were confirmed,” there have been no reports of injuries.
No resistance faction has claimed to have launched a projectile toward Israel since the evening of January 2.
In its statement, Israel noted that it “holds the Hamas terrorist organization solely responsible for maintaining the calm in the Gaza Strip and for any terrorist activity emanating from it,” and added that its forces would “continue to respond harshly to any attempt to use terror against the State of Israel.”
Reports in the Israeli media last week said a meeting between factions in Gaza resulted in a decision to stem the flow of projectiles fired toward Israel.
Israeli officials have reported an increase in projectile launches toward Israeli targets from within the Gaza Strip, while a report from the country’s intelligence office said the number of projectile attacks by Gaza militants had sharply fallen in 2010.
Thousands of Britons have convened a protest in the Forest of Dean against the British government’s plans to sell off some of the country’s forests to the private sector.
More than 3,000 people, backed by celebrities, bishops, leading conservationists and politicians, attending the rally vowed to defend “the people’s” trees from a corporate land grab, the daily Guardian said in a report.
Based on a bill, expected to be debated in the House of Lords within three weeks, to become law, developers, charities and power companies could apply for the entire 650,000-acre forestry commission estate in England.
The government claims it wants more land to be forested and is hoping local communities will buy and manage much of the acreage put up for sale.
But protesters believe the sell-off is short-sighted and fear that woods will be bought by developers and energy companies who will limit access to trails and seek to fell as many trees as possible for a quick profit.
“It is extraordinary that one of the country’s most ancient forests – a place of great beauty that is enjoyed by so many people – is also one of its least protected. The Forest of Dean … should continue to be managed as a whole for the widest public benefit,” said the writer Bill Bryson, president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
“The green heart of Britain is not for sale,” said conservationist David Bellamy.
Today, more than 110,000 people had signed a petition against the coalition’s proposed sale of all Forestry Commission land in England.
Opposition to the sale of nearly 20 percent of all England’s wooded area is fiercest in Gloucestershire where yellow ribbons and posters have been tied around thousands of trees.
More than 30 other crown forests as well as large areas of heathland and bogs currently managed by the Forestry Commission in England are expected to be sold.
“There are no guarantees that income from sales will be used to support forestry,” said Hilary Allison, policy director of the Woodland Trust.
“No decisions have been taken on any particular sites. We will not compromise the protection of our most valuable and bio-diverse forests”, said a spokesman for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).